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took possession of it in the night, and received the submission of the inhabitants. After defeating the machinations of his enemies, Cortes advanced upon Mexico : the emperor offered tribute or any thing the Spaniards might require, if they would not approach the imperial city. But Cortes was not to be diverted from his purpose; he boldly went forward, his army increasing as he marched. When the Spaniards first landed on the continent, they found the nations bordering on the coast rude and barbarous: their astonishment must, therefore, have been great, to behold the cities they now passed through having houses built of stone, and defended by walls and towers! The city of Amaquemaca contained twenty thousand houses ; and the king of that place, who was subject to Montezuma, feasted them daintily and plentifully, and gave his guests 3,000 castellanes of gold and jewels, and 40 slaves.” Every step they took presented new wonders to their admiring sight. The city of Irtapalapa was situated partly in a salt lake and partly on the land, access being had by means of a stone causeway
“ two spears' length in breadth,” and about two leagues in length, yet perfectly straight.
“ Two cities, founded partly in the water, join to one side of that bridge. On the other side standeth one, whereof the first they meet with, who go that way, is called Mesiqualcingo; the second is Coluacana, and the third is called Vuichilabasco. They say the first consisteth of more than 3,000 houses, the second of 6,000, and the third of 4,000, all of them furnished with turreted and sumptuous idol temples.”
The city of Tenusutau, the capital of Montezuma, contained sixty thousand houses, placed in the centre of a salt lake, and, every way, about two leagues from the main land.
“ The lake, day and night, is plyed with boats going and returning. For they go by stone bridges made by hand, four leagues, as from the four sides, for the most part joined together and solid, yet, for a long space, open and divided, with beams laid over those parts, underpropped by posts, whereby the flowing and ebbing waters may have a passage, and whereby they may easily be drawn up if any danger appear.
By this causeway, a thousand men came from the city to meet Cortes, and saluted him, touching the earth with the right hand, and then kissing that part which had touched the earth, in token of reverence. Here may immediately be traced the salaam of the Asiatic.
“ All these were noblemen of the court; behind them the king himself, so much desired, cometh now at length. The king went in the middle of the bridge, and the rest of the people on the sides, orderly following in equal distances one from another, and all barefooted. Two princes, whereof the one was his brother, the other, one of the peers, lord of Irtapalapa, taking the king, Montezuma, drew him by the arms, not that he needed such help, but it is their manner so to reverence their kings, that they may seem to be upheld and supported by the strength of the nobility.
Cortes dismounted from his horse to embrace the king, but was prevented by the princes, as they considered it “an heinous matter to touch the king.” The whole retinue gave the Spaniards the accustomed salutation, and then again fell into their ranks.
“ Cortes turning to the king, took a chain from his own neck, (which he wore), of small value, and put it about the king's neck. For they were counterfeits of glass, of divers colours, partly diamonds, partly pearl, and partly carbuncles and all of glass, yet the present liked Montezuma well. Montezuma requited him with two other chains of gold and precious stones, with shells of gold, and golden crevises, hanging at them.”
The ceremony of meeting finished, the whole party, accompanied by the Spaniards, returned to the city and passed by the towers of sacrifice where human victims were offered to the idols. At length, they came to the palace “ finely decked with princely ornaments.” There, Cortes was placed on a throne of gold by the king, who commanded that his followers should be fed with every delicacy and comfortably lodged. Soon after, Montezuma sent, as a present, six thousand garments intermixed with gold and most lively colours of Gossampine cotton, and a considerable quantity of gold and silver. Here, again, we find a similitude to the customs of the Asiatics, in giving “ changes of raiment." Montezuma resigned his kingdom and its dependencies into the hands of the victorious Spaniard ; but Cortes, fearing the multitude that surrounded him, contrived to get the king into his power and bound him with fetters.
The indignity offered to the person of the monarch bowed his spirit, and though he was shortly relieved from his chains yet he conceived himself unworthy of again resuming the sovereignty of the people, and, therefore, took up his abode with the haughty Spaniard. The descriptions of the power and state of Montezuma, together with the commercial habits of the people, their immense wealth, idolatrous worship, and great progress
in the arts and sciences, would excite doubts whether they were not the exaggerations of the Spaniards to enhance the value of their conquest, had they not been attested by many impartial witnesses; and proofs, even to this day, are not wanting to the accuracy of their statements. Some of their buildings were of so great an extent, and erected with such perfect regularity, that no palace in Spain could be compared to the meanest of seventy stone or marble houses, built by the curious art of Mexican architects, with variegated pavements, and pillars of jasper-stone, or white transparent marble. The chief temple is described as large as a town of 500 houses, fortified with high stone walls and compassed about with many towers, built after the manner of a strong castle. Every district or parish had its temple appropriated to the service of a particular idol, in the same manner as churches in Catholic countries are dedicated to one of the saints; and these idols were propitiated by yearly offerings of human flesh, according to the ability or wealth of the sacrificer. At the coronation of Montezuma, it is said that thirty thousand victims were immolated before the great marble idol.
“ These sacrifices are not slain by cutting of the throat, but by thrusting a knife through the short ribs near unto the heart, so that their heart is pulled out to be sacrificed while they be yet living, and behold their own miserable condition ; with the blood which is next unto the heart they anoint their god's lips, but burn the heart itself, who thereby suppose the displeasure of their gods to be appeased, and this prodigious act the priests persuade the people to be acceptable service to their idols. But many will demand, and that rightly, what they do with the flesh and members of those miserable sacrifices ? Oh wicked, yawning, and gaping, oh loathsome provocation to vomit; as the Jews sometimes eat the lambs which were sacrificed by the old law, so do they eat man’s flesh, casting only away the hands, feet, and bowels.”
The sacrificial stone is still in being, as well as the most celebrated of the Mexican deities, before whom thousands of victims had been sacrificed in their horrid and sanguinary worship. This idol was recently dug up for the inspection of an English traveller : upwards of three hundred years had passed since its burial, during which time the Spanish clergy have been constantly endeavouring to impress upon the minds of the natives an abhorrence of their former rites, yet, on this occasion, chaplets fof flowers were placed on the disgusting figure by Indians, who had stolen thither unperceived in the darkness of the evening. Cortes commanded that the images should be thrown down and destroyed, and, in the course of a few years, scarcely any traces of them remained; nor was the demolition confined to the idols alone, for almost every statue and painting met with a similar fate. The foundation of the first Christian church which was erected in Mexico was composed entirely of idols and statues, and so eager were the Spaniards to remove idolatry from the view of the natives, that they made no distinction between the objects of worship and the innocent records of Mexican history; a bigotry highly to be deplored, as it demolished, at one stroke, all the existing documents which alone could lead to any knowledge of the origin of this wonderful empire. There is still, however, sufficient to strike the traveller with astonishment; and we do hope, that this interesting part of the world will not long remain unexplored by the eye of judicious and scientific men.
The destruction of their idols, with the usurpation of the Spaniards, raised the Mexicans to open rebellion, even to the killing of their king, and the Spaniards were driven from the city ; not, however, without a severe struggle for the mastery, during which, many of them were dragged to the sacrificial stone, and offered up as atonements to the idol. By the aid of other nations, and fresh assistance from Vera Cruz, Cortes once more gained possession of Mexico, and several hundred thousands of the natives perished in the contests which ensued, who were, it is said, chiefly buried in the stomachs of the auxiliary forces. The work of devastation commenced ; many of the cities that would not bend to the Spanish yoke were rased to the ground, and the inhabitants destroyed by fire and sword. Mexico, in the present day, is but a faint shadow of its former grandeur. treasures it once possessed have long been dissipated, and the magnificent palaces afford a striking contrast to the meanness of their internal decorations. This city was at the greatest height of its opulence and splendour about fifty years after its last conquest by the Spaniards. Every luxury that wealth could purchase was most abundant. The lives of the inhabitants were one perpetual struggle to
surpass each other in pompous display. The riches of the churches were immense, and the value of their massive ornaments of gold, silver, and jewels would almost exceed belief. But these times have passed away. The altars, candelabras, and other valuables have long since been melted down and circulated through the world. The parent state is now more impoverished than her late colonies. Unearned wealth brought luxury, and luxury indolence. Even the mines themselves, once the boast of Spain, are now becoming, in part, British property; while an attempt is, likewise, about to be made, at the expense of British merchants, to renew the pearl fishery.
But, to return to our volume: While Cortes was extending his power and authority over the neighbouring nations, the other parts of America, from north to south, were visited by adventurers from Europe. Magellan had succeeded in his voyage round the southern promontory of the continent, and
thus entered the South Sea. The numerous islands in the West Indies were also carefully examined, and colonies planted wherever the situation was any way inviting. The original inhabitants of Hispaniola, or, as it is now more generally called, San Domingo, were nearly exterminated by the cruelty of the Spaniards. The populous and fertile island of Cuba was equally ravaged ; and, in both together, upwards of two millions of human beings were destroyed, either through the demoniac spirit of the conquerors, who slew them for pastime, or from the incessant toil and fatigue in the mines. Many resorted to caves in the mountains, where they perished of hunger; and, in late years, several of these have been discovered, literally spread with human skeletons. In one instance, where the miners were miserably oppressed,
“ The king conceived such displeasure and anger, that, calling those miners into an house, to the number of ninety-five, he thus debateth with them : My worthy companions and friends, why desire we to live any longer, under so cruel servitude? Let us now go unto the perpetual seat of our ancestors ; for we shall there have rest from these intolerable cares and grievances, which we endure, under the subjection of the unthankful. Go ye before; I will presently follow you. Having spoken this, he held whole handfuls of those leaves which deprive life, prepared for the purpose, and giveth every one part thereof, being kindled, to suck up the flame; who, obeyed his command. The king, and a chief kinsman of his, a wise and pru dent man, reserved the last place for themselves to take up the fume. The whole pavement of the hall was now covered with dead carcases, so that an eager conflict arose between those two that were living, whether of them should kill himself first."
The king set the example; but his relative refused to follow it, and reported what' had occurred to the Spaniards. In another page, we read, that a Spanish captain, having cohabited with the daughter of one of the tributary kings of Cuba, and becoming suspicious of her fidelity, although she was in a state of
pregnancy, “ Fastened her to two wooden spits ; not to kill her, but to terrify her, and set her to the fire, and commanded her to be turned by the officers; the maiden, stricken with fear, through the cruelty thereof, and strange kind of torment, gave up the ghost."
The king, her father, understanding what had taken place, selected thirty of his men, and hastened to the house of the captain, who was absent,
“ And slew his wife, whom he had married after that wicked aet committed, and the women who were companions of the wife, and her