Mexico, as it was and as it is/Letter 29

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Mexico, as it was and as it is  (1847)  by Brantz Mayer
LETTER XXIX.




LETTERS


ON THE


TERRITORY, POPULATION, COMMERCE, MANUFACTURES,

ARMY, NAVY, REVENUES, CHURCH, MINES,

COINAGE, EDUCATION, POLITICAL

HISTORY, &c. &c. &c.


OF

MEXICO.




LETTER XXIX.

TERRITORY. POPULATION AND DEPARTMENTS. RATIO OF CASTES AND EDU-

CATION. SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES. PERIODICALS.

According to the best authorities, the territory of the Mexican Republic contains an area of 1,650,000 square miles, and the United States of America, 2,300,000. If we allow, as is calculated, that the square mile will maintain, under ordinary careful cultivation, a population of 200 persons, we shall have the sum of 330,000,000 for the total ultimate capability of the Mexican soil, and 460,000,000 for the United States,—or, 130,000,000 less in Mexico than in our Union.

It may be well for us to continue this comparative statement somewhat further. In the year—

1753 our Population was estimated at - - - - - -

1,051,000

1790  "  " - - - - - -

3,999,827

1800  "  " - - - - - -

5,305,995

1810  "  " - - - - - -

7,939,814

1820  "  " - - - - - -

9,638,131

1830  "  " - - - - - -

12,854,880

1840  "  " - - - - - -

17,069,453


I regret that there are not equally correct data for the statistics of population in Mexico. The census has been carelessly made at several periods, and I will endeavor to present you with what are deemed the most accurate estimates.

In 1793, according to the report made to the King of Spain by the Conde de Revellagigedo, the population of New Spain, exclusive of the Intendencies of Vera Cruz and Guadalaxara. was as follows:

Indians, - - - - 2,319,741
Europeans, - - - - 7,904
White Creoles, - - - - 677,458
Different castes, - - - - 1,478,496
4,483,599
To which add the population of Vera Cruz and Guadalaxara,
according to the estimates of 1803, 786,500
Total population in 1793 - - - - - 5,270,029

The Baron Humboldt estimates it to have been in the year 1803, 5,837,100; and Mr. Poinsett, in 1824, (from the best data of the period,) 6,500,000.

In 1830, Mr. Burkhardt, an accurate German traveller, rates the several classes of Mexicans thus:

Indians, 4,500,000
Whites, 1,000,000
Negroes, 6,000
Mestizos, and other castes  2,490,000
 Total 7,996,000

Another estimate in 1839, reduces the sum to 7,065,000, and gives eight inhabitants to the square mil; but the most complete, and; probably, the most accurate of the recent calculations, is the one which was made by the Government itself, (without special enumeration,) and served as a basis for the call of a Congress to form a new Constitution, under the plan of Tacubaya in 1842.

Department. Population.
Mexico, 1,389,590
Jalisco, 679,311
Puebla, 661,903
Yucatan, 580,948
Guanajuato, 519,606
Oajaca, 500,278
Michoacan, 497,906
San Luis Potosi, 321,340
Zacatecas, 373,575
Vera Cruz, 354,380
Durango, 163,618
Chihuahua, 147,600
Sinaloa, 147,000
Chiapas, 141,306
Sonora, 134,000
Queretaro, 130,560
Nuevo Léon, 101,108
Tamaulipas, 100,068
Coahuila, 75,340
Aguas Calientes, 69,698
Tabasco, 63,580
Nuevo Mexico, 57,096
Californias, 33,439
  Total in 1842, 7,015,509

Since the year 1830, the population of the Republic has been dreadfully ravaged by smallpox—measles and cholera. In the Capital alone, it is estimated that about 5000 died of the first named of these diseases. 2000 of the second, and from 15,000 to 20,000, of the third. The mortality must have been in a corresponding ratio throughout the territory.

I am, however, by no means satisfied that the estimates of both Poinsett and Burkhardt are not too high; yet, assuming the statements of 1842 and of 1793 to be nearly accurate, we find in 49 years an increase of only 1,774,111 in the entire population. Again, if we assume the population to have been 6,000,000 in 1824, (the year, in fact, of the establishment of the Republic,) we find that in the course of 18 years of liberty and independence, the increase has not been greater than 1,044,140.

In the United States of America, with only 650,000 more of square miles of territory now, and not so large a space at the achievement of our independence, the increase of our population during the first twenty years of freedom, cannot have been less than two millions and a half, while, in the course of the last thirty years, it has averaged an increase of rather more than 33 per cent, every ten.

The several castes and classes of Mexicans may be rated in the following manner:


Indians, - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 4,000,000
Whites, - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1,000,000
Negroes, - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 6,000
All other castes, such as Zambos, Mestizos Mulattoes, &c. 2,009,509
7,015,509


It appears, therefore, that the Indian and Negroes amount to 4,006,000, and the whites, and all other castes, to 3,009,509. A very respectable and aged resident of Mexico, who is remarkable for the extent and accuracy of his observations, estimates that of the former (or Negroes and Indians,) but two per cent, can read and write, while of the latter, at a liberal estimate, but about 20 per cent.

If we take this computation to be correct, as I believe from my own observation it is,—and using the estimate of the decree of 1842 for the basis of the population, we shall have:


Of Indians and Negroes who can read, 80,120
Of Whites and all others, 607,628
To be able to read and write out of a population of 7,000,000  687,748


This would appear to be a startling fact in a Republic the basis of whose safety is the capacity of the people for an intellectual self-government. Let us, however, carry this calculation a little further. If we suppose that out of the 1,000,000 of Whites 500,000, or the half only, are males, and of that half million, but 20 per cent., or but 100,000 can read and write; we will no longer be surprised that a population of more than seven millions has been hitherto controlled by a handful of men, or that, with the small means of improvement afforded to the few who can read, the selfish natures of the superior classes, who wield the physical and intellectual forces of the nation, have forced the masses to become little more than the slaves of those whose wit gives them the talent of control.

In addition to this, you will observe how little has been done hitherto for the cause of learning by the Government, when you examine a table of the expenses of the nation, by which it will be seen, that in the year 1840, while $180,000 were spent for hospitals, fortresses, and prisions and $8,000,000 for the army, (without a foreign war) only $110,000 were given to all the institutions of learning in Mexico.[1]


I learn, however, with pleasure, that under the new scheme of national regeneration which has recently been put in action, the subject of Education has engaged the especial attention of the existing powers, and that they design to foster it by every means in their power.

In every one of the parishes into which the city is divided, there is established a school for boys, and another for girls, supported by the Ayuntamiento or Town Council. In these establishments the pupils are taught, without charge, to read, write, and calculate, and are besides instructed in religious and political catechisms. In the schools for girls, in addition to these branches, they learn sewing and other occupations suitable for their sex. Books and stationery are furnished gratis.

There is another establishment called the Normal School, supported by the Government, and devoted to the instruction of the soldiers of the army in the rudiments of learning. Advancement and improvement in this school are suitably rewarded by ranks in the army. Besides this, there is, also, a Lancasterian Company, which, commencing its labors in the Capital, is spreading its branches all over the country. It is devoted to primary instruction, and is protected by all the citizens of the Republic who are remarkable either for their wealth, education, or social position. The contribution is a dollar monthly. I am glad to learn that, since I left Mexico, the usefulness of this Company has been so apparent to the people, that schools upon its plan have not only been established in the principal cities and towns, but that they are now being founded in almost every village of importance, and even upon extensive haciendas or plantations, where the laboring population is numerous and ignorant.

In the city of Mexico, this Company has formed a large number of schools for children of both sexes, upon the same footing as those established by the Ayuntamiento; that is to say, the pupils are taught without charge, and are furnished with the requisite stationery and books. There is a Night School for adults, very fully attended by citizens, whose occupation prevents them from devoting themselves to study during the day. In the women's and men's Prisons, and in the House of Correction for juvenile delinquents, I also learn that schools have been formed; and it is by no means a cheerless feature in this picture of dawning improvement, that the ladies of Mexico, most distinguished by talent, wealth, and cultivation, have gladly availed themselves of the opportunity to devote a portion of their time for the purpose of instructing their unfortunate sisters in the prisons.

Besides these establishments, (which you will observe, are all of a free and public character,) it is difficult to give any idea of the number of private schools for both sexes in the Capital and Departments. Many of them are conducted by foreigners as well as Mexicans, and although they generally instruct in French, English, grammar, reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, the rudiments of history, book-keeping, drawing, and music, I have reason to believe that none of them are remarkable for the regularity or perfection of their system.

In the city of Mexico, there are the collegiate establishments of El Seminario Conciliar, San Ildefonso, San Gregorio, and San Juan Lateran. The first of these is under the immediate supervision of the Archbishop, and supported by a portion of the ecclesiastical revenues. The other three are under the care of the Government. In almost all the Departments of the Republic, there are collegiate Institutes, and in some, even two or three.

The course of instruction in these establishments is alleged to be thorough and modern. The students who live within the walls, are expected to contribute for their education, while others, who only attend the lectures of the Professors, are exempt from all costs and charges, so that about two-thirds of the pupils of every College receive their literary education gratuitously.

If peace be now permitted to reestablish her beneficial sway over the country, and men's minds are allowed, in the general calm, to direct themselves to their own and their children's culture, these institutions cannot fail to afford the most rational hope to the well-wisher of Mexican prosperity and happiness. The regeneration of Mexico lies in her schools. Without their success she must not expect to drive léperos from the streets, or usurping Dictators from the Palace of her ancient Kings.

As an interesting Table connected with the diffusion of information, I insert, in conclusion, the following statement of the number of newspapers and periodicals published in the Republic:

In Chihuahua, - - - - 1
Coahuila, - - - - 1
Chiapas, - - - - 1
Colima, - - - - 1
Durango, - - - - 2
Guanajuato, - - - - 2
Guadalaxara, - - - - 2
Aguascalientes, - - - - 1
Lagos, - - - - 1
Mexico, - - - - 6
Morelia, - - - - 2
Monterey de N. Leon, - - - - 2
Matamoras, - - - - 2
Oaxaca, - - - - 2
Puebla, - - - - 2
Queretaro, - - - - 1
Tobasco, - - - - 1
Sonora, - - - - 1
Sinaloa, - - - - 1
Tampico, - - - - 2
Ciudad Victoria, - - - - 1
Jalapa, - - - - 1
Vera Cruz, - - - - 2
Yucatan, - - - - 2
Zacatecas, - - - - 2
San Luis Potosi, - - - - 2
 Total, - - - - 44

Note.—I subjoin, for the sake of comparison, the following statistics of the printing in the United States , according to the Census of 1840:

Number of Printing Offices - - - - 1,562
 " Binderies - - - - 447
 " Daily Papers - - - - 138
 " Weekly " - - - - 1,141
 " Semi and Tri-Weekly - - - - 125
 " Periodicals. - - - - 237
 " Men employed. - - - - 11,598
Amount of capital employed - - - - $5,873,815


  1. The United States Census for 1840, gives the following results — 
    Number of Universities and Colleges, - - - - 172
    Number of students in do. - - - - 16,288
    Academies and Grammar Schools, - - - - 3,302
    Students in do. - - - - 164,159
    Primary Common Schools - - - - 47,289
    Scholars in do. - - - - 1,845,244
    Scholars at public charge - - - - 428,294
    Total number of whites in the United States - - - - 14,129,188
    Total number of whites in the United States over the age of 20 who cannot read and write, 549,683