Page images

Before he fat down, four of the most beautiful women of his feraglio prefented water to him to wash his hands, and continued ftanding all the time of his dinner, together with fix of his principal minifters, and his carver.’———

When he went abroad, he was carried on the fhoulders of the nobles, in a litter covered with a rich canopy, attended by a numerous retinue of courtiers, and wherever he paffed, every perfon ftopped, with their eyes fhut, as if they feared to be dazzled with the fplendour of Majefty. When he alighted from the litter to walk on foot, they spread carpets, that he might not touch the earth with his feet.

[ocr errors]

The grandeur and magnificence of his palaces, houfes of pleafure, woods, and gardens, were correfpondent to this majefty. The palace of his ufual refidence was a vaft edifice of ftone and lime, which had twenty doors to the public fquare and ftreets; three great courts, in one of which was a beautiful fountain, feveral halls, and more than one hundred chambers. Some of the apartments had walls of marble and other valuable kinds of tone. The beams were of cedar, cyprefs, and other excellent woods, well finished and carved. Among the halls, one was fo large, that, according to the teftimony of an eye-witnefs of veracity, it could contain three thoufand people. Beside this palace he had others both within and without the capital. In Mexico, befide the feraglio for his wives, there was lodging for all his minifters and counsellors, and all the officers of his houfehold and court, and alfo accommodation for foreign lords who arrived there, and particularly for the two allied kings.'

From this extract, though it is only a fmall part of the Author's account of the Mexican monarch's magnificence, our Readers may form fome idea of the grandeur of Montezuma's court, and confequently, of the wealth of the kingdom, at the time of the Spanish invafion.

In the fixth book, the Abbé Clavigero gives an account of the religious fyftem of the Mexicans. Their idols, priests, facrifices, aufterities, &c. are feparately treated. were grand and coftly, but their abominable rites, efpecially the The Temples facrificing their prifoners of war, and other acts of cruelty, are too fhocking to be related.

The feventh book chiefly treats of the manners of the people. Their mode of education is particularly defcribed, and an account is given of their public feminaries of learning. The beft information we can afford our Readers of this people, their morality, and their method of educating their children, is by tranfcribing the following exhortation of a Mexican to his fon.

My fon, who art come into the light from the womb of thy mother, like a chicken from the egg, and like it art preparing to fly through the world, we know not how long Heaven will grant to us the enjoyment of that precious gem which we poffefs in thee; but however fhort the period, endeavour to live exactly, praying God continually to affift thee. He created thee: thou art his property. He is thy father, and loves thee ftill more than I do; repofe in him


thy thoughts, and day and night direct thy fighs to him. Reverence and falute thy elders, and hold no one in contempt. To the poor and diftreffed be not dumb, but rather use words of comfort. Honour all perfons, particularly thy parents, to whom thou oweft obedience, refpect, and fervice. Guard againft imitating the example of those wicked fons, who, like brutes that are deprived of reafon, neither reverence their parents, liften to their inftruction, nor fubmit to their correction; becaufe whoever follows their fteps will have an unhappy end, will die in a defperate or fudden manner, or will be killed and devoured by wild beasts.

Mock not, my fon, the aged or the imperfect. Scorn not him whom you fee fall into fome folly or tranfgreffion, nor make him reproaches; but reftrain thyself, and beware left thou fall into the fame error, which offends thee in another. Go not where thou art not called, nor interfere in that which does not concern thee. Endeavour to manifeft thy good-breeding in all thy words and actions. In converfation, do not lay thy hands upon another, nor fpeak too much, nor interrupt or disturb another's difcourfe. When any one difcourfes with thee, hear him attentively, and hold thyself in an eafy attitude, neither playing with thy feet, nor putting thy mantle to thy mouth, nor fpitting too often, nor looking about you here and there, nor rifing up frequently if thou art fitting; for fuch actions are indications of levity and low-breeding.'He proceeds to mention feveral particular vices which are to be avoided, and concludes Steal not, nor give thy felf to gaming, otherwife thou wilt be a difgrace to thy parents, whom thou oughtelt rather to honour for the education they have given thee. If thou wilt be virtuous, thy example will put the wicked to fhame. No more, my fon; enough hath been faid in difcharge of the duties of a father. With thefe counfels I wish to fortify thy mind. Refufe them not, nor act in contradiction to them; for on them thy life, and all thy happiness, depend.'

Such were the fentiments of a people whom the Popish miffionaries were fent to inftruct! Such were the doctrines of those unbaptifed heretics, whom the Spaniards fcarcely believed to be men, but rather fatyrs, or large apes, that might be murdered without remorfe or reproach!

It is with pleasure that we have perufed this volume, and we hefitate not to recommend it to readers of every defcription; many will derive from it much real information, and all will be greatly entertained by the variety of incidents, and the numerous anecdotes it contains.

The fecond volume commences with an account of the first voyages of the Spaniards to the coaft of Anahuac, in 1517. The Author enlarges on the expedition of Cortez, and his conqueft of Mexico. This part of the hiftory is well known, and the Abbé Clavigero relates the principal events in a manner nearly fimilar to former hiftorians. The cruelty of the European conqueror is highly unwarrantable and deteftable. After duly confidering the fituation of affairs on the firft interview

[blocks in formation]

between Montezuma and Cortez, it is evident, that the Spaa niards might have gained a quiet poffeffion of that vaft monarchy, had they conducted themselves with prudence; but a bigoted zeal for the propagation of the faith, joined with an infatiable defire of gold, and private emolument, urged Cortez and his companions to the most horrid and infamous tranfactions. Montezuma, in his firft addrefs to Cortez, acknowledged the fuperiority of Spanish arms, and offered himself, and all his kingdom, to the obedience of the king of Spain. After fuch a refignation, the imprisonment of Montezuma, the deftruction of a large and well-built city, ne maffacre of many thousand innocent natives, and the reduction of the reft to flavery, are juftiy deemed the effects of favage barbarity.

The hiftory of Mexico is continued no farther than to the taking of the capital, Auguft 13, 1521. It appears from the account here given, that above an hundred thoufand Mexicans were flain during the fiege, and that upward of fifty thou and perifhed by famine. The lofs on the fide of the Spaniards was only an hundred men.

The Abbé has added to this volume, nine differtations tending to illuftrate the ancient hiftory of Mexico, and to guard incautious readers from the mistakes and deceptions into which they might be led by the feveral modern European authors who have written on America.

The first differtation is on the population of America, but more especially that of Mexico. The Author examines the opinions of various writers on this fubject, relative to the period when, and the perfons by whom America was firft peopled; he then enquires, from what country, and by what means, the inhabitants and animals paffed to America, These are dark and intricate fubjects; and the Author very wifely declines giving his own opinion, otherwife than in the form of conjecture.

The fecond differtation is employed in afcertaining the principal epochs of the hiftory of Mexico, and in fhewing the correfpondence of the Mexican years with ours. The Mexican chronology is here determined.

In the third, the Author defcribes the country of Mexico, and refutes the affertions of Buffon, De Paw, and Voltaire, who have reprefented America as barren and unwholefome. With refpect to the deluge, of which the Americans have a traditional account, the Abbé thinks it can be no other than Noah's flood, and not a partial and recent inundation, as Buffon and De Paw fuppofe. The Mexicans, as their own hiftorians affirm, make no mention of a deluge, without commemorating also the confufion of tongues, and the fubiequent difperfion of the people. The fame tradition is alfo found among the Chiapanese, the Tlafcalans, the Michua.anefe, the inhabitants of Cuba, and other



polished Indian people, with the additional circumftance of a few men and other creatures having been faved in a large This curious fubject is fo well treated, that the philofophical reader will perufe it with pleasure.

The climate of Mexico next attracts the Abbé's attention, when he again fhews the errors of the French writers.

One of the arguments most infifted on by Buffon and De Paw, to illuftrate the unhappy nature of the American foil, and the malignity of its climate, is the pretended degeneracy of animals.

In the fourth differtation, the Author examines the proofs which these naturalifts bring to fupport their opinions, and detects many contradictions into which they have fallen. The natural History of America wants much improvement, and we think this differtation affords many hints for fuch improvement. Pointing out the errors of reputable authors, is the first step toward reformation; fubfequent obfervation of facts must then eftablish the true system.

In the fifth differtation, the Abbé treats of the phyfical and moral conftitution of the Mexicans. Here M. de Paw is ably refuted, both with refpect to what he advances concerning the corporeal and mental qualities of the Mexicans. The firft Europeans who eftablished themfelves in America, not lefs powerful than avaricious, defirous of enriching them felves to the detriment of the natives, kept them in a ftate of flavery, and confidered them as fatyrs. The miffionaries having, in fix years, baptized above a million of thefe large apes and garces, the bishop of Tlafcala was under the neceffity of obtaining a bull from the Pope, to make the Spaniards acknowledge the native Americans to be true men [veros homines]. A copy of the original bull is given in a note; it is dated 1537, 4to. non. Jun. Dr. Robertfon, who has in fome meafure adopted the opinions of M. de Paw, is alfo refuted by the Abbé.

The fixth treatife is on the culture [probably civilization] of the Mexicans. The greatest part of the inhabitants of the new continent confeffed a fupreme omnipotent Being, although their belief was, like that of the vulgar among other people, mixed with errors and fuperftitions. They had temples and priests, facrifices and rites for the uniform worship of the Divinity. They had a king, governors, and magiftrates. They had numerous cities, and an extenfive population. They took great care to enforce juftice and equity in commercial and civil contracts. Every individual was fecured in his property and poffeffions. They exercifed agriculture and other arts; not only thofe neceffary to life, but fuch alfo as contributed to luxury and pleasure. What more is neceffary to vindicate a nation from the imputation of being barbarous and favage? M. de


Paw deems them barbarous and favage, because they want
money they want iron-they are unfkilled in naval architec
ture-and several arts. The Author refutes each of these im-
putations with much ingenuity. With regard to money, any
portable property of value, of which there are various forts in
Mexico, anfwers all the purposes of coined or ftamped money.
The Athenians ufed oxen as money; as the Romans did fheep;
-the Lacedemonians had no money,—yet these were civilized
nations. As to the want of iron, the Americans had a species
of copper, to which they gave a temper as hard, we are told,
as the Europeans do to fteel.-The Abbé treats each objection
of De Paw nearly in the fame manner, and concludes this trea-
tife with a catalogue of writers in the American languages.
This catalogue, though not numerous (being only one hundred
and fourteen), is a fufficient proof of their languages being

The feventh differtation treats of the boundaries and popula
tion of Mexico. The former part of this treatife is merely
geographical, and the latter is intended to correct the mistakes
of fome French writers.

The eighth explains the religious fyftem of the Mexicans.
The Author, though he acknowledges fome of the rites to be
cruel, fhews, that the Mexicans were no more inhuman than
many highly civilized people of the old world.

[ocr errors]

In the laft differtation, the Author attempts to refute Aftruc,
and other writers on that fubject, by fhewing that the lues
venerea did not originally come from America, or any of its
iflands. He, however, does not decide with certainty on this
difputed point; he offers his opinion only as a conjecture, that
the contagion first came from Guinea, or fome other equinoxial|
country on the coaft of Africa. There is great probability that
this conjecture is right, and many learned phyficians have been
of the fame opinion.

From the extracts which we have given, our Readers will
be able to judge of the tranflator's ftyle; and we shall only
add, that we think he hath done his countrymen, who are
ignorant of the Italian language, a material fervice, by prefent-
ing them with the Abbé Clavigero's work in an English drefs.

ERRATA in this Volume.

P. 58, 1. 8 from bottom, for inconfiftent,' r. confiftent.


62, 1. 8, place a comma at them, and remove the comma from the next following
word,-which will restore the fenfe.

111, 1.7 from bottom, for capab e,' r.
1. able.

151, 1. 16, for founos,' r. found.

293, par. 3, 1. 2, put a comma after 'juft.

311, 1. 10, for fettled,' r. fifted,

330, 1. 17, read who fays he was on the fpot.'

456, in the title of Art. 58, for Elegy,' r. Effay.

« PreviousContinue »