Guatimala or the United Provinces of Central America in 1827-8/18

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Guatimala or the United Provinces of Central America in 1827-8  (1828)  by Henry Dunn
Part III, Chapter IV: Aboriginal Population, -Conquests of Alvarado, -Utatlan, -Palaces, &c. of the King of Quiché, -Languages, -Establishment of the Roman Religion, -Las Casas and the Dominicans, -Population, -Employment, -Mode of Life and Customs, -Taxes, -Physiognomy, -Bodily Construction, -Mental Capacities, -Means of Civilization.


Aboriginal Population,—Conquests of Alvarado,—Utatlan,—Palaces, &c. of the King of Quiché,—Languages,—Establishment of the Roman Religion,—Las Casas and the Dominicans,—Population,—Employment,—Mode of Life and Customs,—Taxes,—Physiognomy,—Bodily Construction,—Mental Capacities,—Means of Civilization.

Whether Guatimala was originally peopled from Mexico, or whether at any remote period of its history it was tributary to that power, are questions involved in too much obscurity to permit a positive conclusion. The dim and imperfect records of these semi-civilized kingdoms leave us in perfect ignorance as to the source from whence the tribes of which they were composed issued, and consequently cannot be expected to inform us in detail of the course which the stream of population took, or in what instances the springs of it might be considered independent one of another.

The invaluable researches of the Baron de Humboldt have thrown considerable light on the first of these questions. He supposes America to have been peopled by the migration of various tribes from the eastern parts of Asia, and argues, that “in order to conceive that Asiatic tribes established on the table land of Chinese Tartary should pass from the old to the new continent, it is not necessary to have recourse to a transmigration at very high latitudes. A chain of small islands stretches from Corea and Japan to the southern cape of the peninsula of Kamschatka, between 33° and 51° of north latitude. The great island of Tchoka, connected with the continent hy an immense sand bank (under the parallel of 52°) facilitates communication between the mouths of the Amour and the Kurile islands. Another archipelago by which the great basin of Behring is terminated on the south, advances from the peninsula of Alaska four hundred leagues towards the west. The most western of the Aleutian islands—is only 144 leagues distant from the eastern coast of Kamschatka; and this distance is also divided into two nearly equal parts by the Behring and Mednoi islands, situated under latitude 55°. Asiatic tribes might have gone by means of these islands from one continent to the other, without going higher on the continent of Asia than the parallel of 55°, and by a passage of not more than twenty-four or thirty-six hours. The north-west winds, which during a great part of the year blow in these latitudes, favour the navigation from Asia to America, between latitudes 50° and 60° north.”[1]

The question of the early independence of Guatimala has been defended by Don Domingo Juarros with considerable zeal; and he has brought forward various arguments to prove that his country never was subjected to the Mexican sovereigns, although he acknowledges that a very considerable emigration took place from that kingdom at a very early period. Leaving this unimportant question to be decided by those who take more interest in the matter than strangers can be expected to feel, we shall try to gather from the early chronicles of Guatimala the true state of civilization at the period of the conquest. In this inquiry the researches of the worthy priest above alluded to, will be found highly valuable.

The romantic history of the noble Incas of Peru, and the sympathy which, notwithstanding the tyrannical character of the man, has been excited for the fate of the unhappy Montezuma, has thrown a more than common interest about the aborigines of the new continent, which makes us anxious to know how far the degree of advancement to which they had arrived, was local or universal. In point of civilization the Indians of Guatimala do not seem to have been far removed from their northern or more southern neighbours

It appears that while Cortes was pursuing his conquests in Mexico, civil war was raging in Guatimala between two of the most powerful nations of the country, the Kachiquels, and the Zutugils. The fame of his exploits having spread far and wide, the king of the Kachiquels sent deputies to him, asking his assistance. and offering submission to Spain. Cortes immediately despatched Pedro Alvarado, with three hundred Spaniards, and a large body of Mexican auxiliaries to subdue the kingdom, and render it tributary to the Spanish crown. He arrived in the beginning of the year 1524, and immediately commenced an attack upon the Quichés, the most numerous and warlike of the thirty tribes, which at this time inhabited the kingdom. These different nations like their Mexican countrymen, were too jealous of each other, to unite against the common enemy, and one by one fell under the “heroic Spaniards unrelenting sword.” Notwithstanding this disunion, the resistance made in some parts was very formidable, and if the accounts of the numbers engaged be not grossly exaggerated, Alvarado and his troops performed feats, equal to any that marked the career of Cortes. We are told that the king of the Quichés, joined by various other states, mustered on the plain of Tzaccaha 232,000 warriors, who defended by entrenchments, and surrounded by fosses, lined with poisoned stakes, were completely routed by the comparatively insignificant force of the Spaniards, and in six successive actions were defeated with tremendous slaughter.

The mind sickens, at following the bloody track of these remorseless conquerors, and shrinks from the contemplation of the multitude of these poor wretehes, who unaccustomed to the use of gunpowder, were penned up as sheep for the slaughter, and mown down by thousands. The rest of the war consisted only of a repetition of similar scenes, and by the middle of the year the country might be considered as subdued.

The account of the city of Utatlan, the capital of the Quiché kingdom, quoted by Juarros from Fuentes, an ancient historian, would if it may be depended upon, lead us to believe that the Indians of Guatimala were little if at all inferior to those of Mexico or Peru.

He describes the city as being “surrounded by a deep ravine, that formed a natural fosse, leaving only two very narrow roads or entrances to it, both of which were so well defended by the castle, as to render the city impregnable. The centre was occupied by the royal palace, which was surrounded by the houses of the nobility; the extremities were inhabited by the plebeians. The streets were very narrow, but the place was so populous as to enable the king to draw from it alone, no less than 72,000 combatants, to oppose the Spaniards. It contained many very sumptuous edifices. The most superb of them was a seminary, where between five and six thousand children were educated; these were all maintained and provided for, at the expense of the royal treasury, and their instruction was superintended by seventy masters, and professors.” The grand palace surpassed every other edifice, and in the opinion of Torquemada, it could compete in opulence with that of Montezuma, or of the Incas. According to his account, it contained distinct apartments and divisions for troops, for the king, for the queen and concubines, and for the royal family with saloons, baths, gardens and menageries, all in a shape of sumptuous magnificence. From him we learn that their traditions extended during a line of twenty monarchs, before the arrival of the Spaniards; that the crown was hereditary; that a council existed of twenty four grandees; that the principal towns were governed by lieutenents, and that every office was filled by nobles, the greatest care being taken to preserve noble blood unsullied; to prevent mixture, it was decreed that if any cacique or noble, should marry one of plebeian blood, he should be degraded for ever, and all his descendants be rendered incapable of bearing office. By the penal laws the king could be tried by his nobles. High treason, adultery and rape, were punished with death. Murder by being thrown from a high rock, robbery by fine, and arson by death, because says the law fire has no bounds. Sacrilege subjected to death and degradation of the family. Prisoners if they confessed were immediately sentenced, but if the charge was denied they were subjected to cruel torture.

From all these statements, allowing for a certain portion of fiction which may have been mixed up with facts, it is at least evident that at the period of the conquest, the inhabitants were far more advanced in the state of moral being, than the grade they now occupy. It is equally evident from the numbers brought into the field, that they must have been far more numerous than at present; since by a census taken by order of the king of Spain in 1778, the whole population only amounted to 797,214.

In the variety of its languages, Guatimala presents a still more singular phenomenon than Mexico; not less than twenty-five, according to Juarros, being still spoken. The exact correctness of this statement it is difficult to prove; but it is certain that a very considerable variety exists, differing so widely, that the people of one tribe cannot understand those of another. That some of the twenty-five are only corrupted dialects of the same language, there can be little doubt, having perhaps as near a resemblance to their parent, as some years ago those of Lancashire and Derbyshire bore to the English tongue; but in how many instances this may be the case, it is impossible to say. Of the Kachiquel and Quiché, manuscript grammars have been prepared by different friars,—but they appear to be very imperfect, and without lexicons are useless. The Spaniards have taken considerable pains to make Castilian the general medium of communication among the Indians, and have succeeded to a very considerable extent; almost; all of them being able to explain themselves in that tongue, although considerably corrupted by the mixture of Indian words.

The whole of the native languages are exceedingly guttural in their pronunciation, and in their construction are formed by what Humboldt terms “aggregation,” having no inflexion of the root. He says, “nothing strikes Europeans more, than the excessive length of the words. This length does not always depend on their being compounded as in the Greek, the German and the Sanscrit,—but on the manner of forming the substantive, the plural or the superlative. A kiss is called in the Mexican language, Tetennamiquiliztli; a word formed from the verb tennamiqui to embrace, and the additive particles te and litzli. The most remarkable example he adds, I have met with of a real composition of words, is found in the word amatlacuilolitquitcatlaxtlahuilli which signifies, the reward given to the messenger who carries a paper on which is painted tidings. This word which forms by itself an Alexandrine line, contains Amatl, paper (of the Agave,) cuiloa to paint or trace hieroglyphics; and tlaxtlahuilli, the wages or salary of a workman.”

Like the rest of their countrymen, the Indians of Guatimala were idolaters, which soon excited in the minds of the bigoted Spaniards the same chivalric spirit that had distinguished their course in Mexico, while fighting for the honour of the Virgin Mary, and the extension of the Roman apostacy. The Pope and the mass book floated along the stream of blood, and superseded idolatries more harmless perhaps than their own, to substitute the forms of a worship dazzling to the eye, and eminently dangerous, inasmuch as the corruptions of truth are infinitely more difficult to eradicate than errors founded on pure ignorance without system or object. Crowds of monks followed the track of the conquerors, and gradually rivetted the chains which had been thrown over the land at the point of the sword.

No tradition exists which leads to the supposition that human victims were ever offered here to idols, and the general mildness of the people would seem to repel the thought. Philip II. ordered a correct narrative of the habits and peculiarities of the inhabitants while in a state of idolatry, to be written by the resident priests, but no traces now exist of such a work if it ever was prepared.

But while shuddering at the barbarities exercised under the name of religion, it is pleasant to record a noble and enlightened exception. According to Remesal, Bartholemew Las Casas and others of the Dominican order settled in Guatimala in the year 1536. “Las Casas who was vicar of the convent, had some years before written a treatise which he called 'De unico vocationis modo,' in which he attempted to prove, and with great erudition, that divine providence had instituted the preaching of the gospel as the only means of conversion to the christian faith; and that to harass by wars, those whose conversion is sought for, is the means of preventing rather than accomplishing the desired object. This reasoning was deemed fallacious and laughed at, and the author advised to put in practice what he had preached in theory. Las Casas unhesitatingly accepted the proposal, and fixed upon a province from which the Spaniards had been three times driven back in their attempts to conquer it. This region was afterwards called Vera Paz, because while the Spaniards were unable to subdue it by their arms, it yielded to the mild persuasion of a few zealous ecclesiastics. Las Casas previous to commencing his undertaking entered into an agreement with the governor that no Spaniard should reside in the provinces subdued for five years.

This arrangement concluded, the Dominicans composed hymns in the language of the natives, in which they described the creation of the world, the fall of Adam, the redemption of mankind, and the principal mysteries of the life, passion and death of the Saviour,” (Remesal lib. 3. cap. 15, 18.) “These were learned by some converted Indians, who traded with the provinces they wished to subdue. The chief cacique of the country having heard them sung, asked those who had repeated them to explain more in detail the meaning of things so new to him. The Indians excused themselves on account of their inability to perform it correctly, saying they could be explained only by the fathers who had taught them; and these were so kind, that if he would send for them, they would gladly come and instruct them in every thing. The cacique was pleased with the information, and sent one of his brothers with many presents to entreat that they would come to make him acquainted with every thing contained in the songs of the Indian merchants. The Fathers received the ambassador with great kindness and much satisfaction to themselves, and determined that one of their number should return with him to the cacique. The chief went to the entrance of the village to meet the missionary, treated him with great veneration, and after having been made to comprehend the mysteries of the new faith, he fervently adopted it, burnt his idol, and became a preacher to his own subjects.”

After this glorious triumph of peaceful persuasion, over force and cruelty, the fathers returned to Guatimala, and the following year resumed their operations with similar results. In numerous instances they succeeded in collecting the Indians into villages, and brought them to form themselves into societies, and submit to be governed by reasonable laws.

Impatient of this slow though certain process, the Spanish governor despatched troops to the neighbouring provinces, and in some instances subdued the natives; but in others the instant the troops were withdrawn, the villages were abandoned, and the roads blocked up by the Indians. who concealed themselves in the woods and mountains.

Of the more recent labours of the college, appointed for the conversion of infidels (Coll. Prop. de Fid.) we have no account. At the present day, by far the greater part of the natives are under the spiritual dominion of the Romish church; but on the coasts several tribes still remain entirely unsubdued. In many parts of the interior also, the Indians have not embraced Christianity, and as soon as they are visited in one place, to avoid further importunity they remove their wives, children, canoes, &c. to another, where they remain until again assaulted by similar solicitations. Even among those who profess subjection, idols are very often concealed and adored in secret, and all the exertions of the clergy have been unable to eradicate their affection for them.

Nor is it to be wondered at. With them idolatry, and freedom are synonymous, while Christianity is associated only with slavery and despotism. Conversion to the catholic faith, requires no change of heart; a willingness to resign old for new ceremonies, and to substitute an image of the Virgin in the room of one equally senseless, is all that is asked, and if a few prayers can be recited, popery is content to leave the superstition of the heart undisturbed, and Satan's throne unmolested. But from the confession of their own bishops even this is with difficulty accomplished. One of them says, “he found the neophytes so little improved in their knowledge of the Christian faith, as scarcely to be able to repeat the prayers in an intelligible manner.” Their Latin as might well be expected, was difficult to understand, and he says, “the natives made it half Latin, half romance.”

In the review of these strange proceedings, the mind is struck with admiration at the noble and dignified conduct of Las Casas and his dominican brethren. At a time when persecution was the error of the age, they boldly rose above the prejudices of education, and reverting at once to the simplest principles of Christianity, preached, and practised doctrines which many of their successors even in the nineteenth century have yet to learn. Nor did they do it without cost. To effect their labour of love they endured hardships, suffering famine, sickness and injuries, and in many cases sighing for martyrdom, cheerfully resigned themselves to a cruel death. Of such may it not be said, that erecting on a good foundation, “wood, hay, stubble,” when in the day that shall be revealed “the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is,” though theirs may be burnt and the builders suffer loss, yet, “they themselves shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” The absence of all statistical details, renders it impossible to state with any degree of correctness, the proportion which the unmixed Indians bear to the coloured or white population. It differs considerably in the different provinces; and as no data exists, on which a calculation could be founded, conjecture would be idle. Probably the proportion will not differ widely from that of Mexico, where they form in some provinces two-fifths, and in others, three-fifths of the whole population. The greater proportion of these live in villages, built after the Spanish manner, with the church in the centre, before it the square, with the cabildo or town house, and thes streets crossing each other at right angles: these employ themselves in various ways; some grow maize and vegetables for the markets, others manufacture mats and baskets, or are employed mechanically, while others gain trifling sums as porters or carriers in the neighbouring towns.

A second portion live on haciendas or farms; some regularly employed in trapíches, or in agriculture, and others dwelling on the estate by permission of the owner, where they cultivate a little maize for their own subsistence, and pay a species of rent, in produce, for the use of the land, besides which they are bound to render occasional gratuitous services to the owner. A third division may be said to consist of those who are scattered over the face of the country, living either in solitary ranchos or huts, or in long and straggling villages; these grow sufficient maize for their own use, which with plantains supplies their necessities, and permits them to remain in a state of barbarism altogether secluded from society.

A fourth class answer to the “lazzaroni” of Italy, sleeping at night under the piazzas of the squares, and lounging in idleness and wretchedness a great part of the day; these also, although a considerable body, find occasional employment as porters, since every white, and almost every coloured man, would think himself degraded by carrying a burden. The two first classes are governed by officers chosen from among themselves, who have the power of imprisonment, and not unfrequently grossly abuse their trust, by making their authority an instrument of oppression. The two latter from their roving life, are under no system of government, and unless they commit some notorious crime, are unmolested.

At a first glance, the whole body would seem involved in the deepest wretchedness, but this is more apparent than real. The only dress of the men consists of a cloth round the middle made of pita,[2] and the women merely wear a light cotton dress, from the middle downwards. Their houses are destitute of all furniture, excepting it be a mat, or at the best a small hammock; the greater part of them sleep on the floor, with the head covered and the feet bare, and if they use any thing for a pillow, it is seldom better than a brick or a stone. Their food, generally maize prepared in different ways, and sometimes a little meat, seasoned with chile, a kind of pepper, is always spread upon the ground, and eaten with their hands. The children know no better cradle than the ground, and when they are not slung at the back of the mother, crawl or run naked about the hut or fields.

Thus ignorant not only of the luxuries, but even of what would seem the commonest necessaries of life, they know no wants, and however poor and miserable they appear to an European eye, having their hut, their maize, and especially if to this they can add a little spirits, they consider themselves abundantly rich. When oppressed by the alcalde, they fly to the priest, who hears all their grievances, and generally sees them redressed. The women suckle their children with great care, and rarely trust them with another, carrying them at their backs whenever they have occasion to go out.

It has been remarked, that it is very rare to meet with any instance of deformity amongst them, and the observation is correct; but whether this arises from any favourable conformation of body in the Indian, or whether it may not rather be attributed to the fact, that deformed children being generally weakly, seldom survive without a more tender treatment than savages can give, may be somewhat doubtful. The male children are chiefly employed in cutting and collecting wood, and as they grow up become tillers of the ground. All the Indians are exceedingly fond of bathing, especially in warm springs, in which many of them will immerse themselves several times a day. Others use what may be termed the hot air bath. This is a species of large round oven, into which, when heated, they creep, and soon obtain a profuse perspiration over the whole body; while in this state, they suddenly plunge themselves into the nearest cold stream, and appear to receive great pleasure from the shock, never suffering any injury by the practice.

Their marriages and funerals are conducted according to the rites of the Romish church, but to these they add various ceremonies of their own. A marriage is celebrated by savage dances to harsh and inharmonious music; and the funerals present a scene of nightly revel and drunkenness, somewhat similar to a wake among the lower orders of Irish. With any kind of procession they are highly delighted. When the holy oil is carried to the villages, it is preceded by a drum, and escorted by a troop of Indians. The feasts of the church are observed chiefly by dances, and the discharge of sky-rockets, and other fireworks, an amusement of which they are passionately fond; and as the manufacture of gunpowder is a government monopoly, the practice is of course not discouraged.

Some instances have occurred, in which Indians have died possessed of considerable property; but of late years they have not had opportunities for acquiring wealth, and seldom provide either for age or sickness. As buyers they are cautious, and very much afraid of being deceived, but as sellers they are exceedingly anxious to impose. The men who bring wood, or grass for the cattle, invariably ask three times as much as they mean to take, and I have seen a quantity of charcoal, for which twenty rials was obstinately demanded, at length purchased of the same individual for five rials.

During the Spanish government, a personal tax was imposed upon every Indian, of four rials; by the payment of which, they were exempted from all other imposts, and were not liable to serve in the army. At the revolution this tax was repealed, and they became subject to the duties imposed on the rest of the population. The poor creatures by no means approved the change, and for some time brought their rials as usual, requesting they might remain undisturbed. Whatever might be the intention of the repealers, the policy of the measure has certainly proved bad. The idle are now exempt from the annual tribute, and the more industrious who bring the produce of their gardens to market, are exposed to heavy contributions. Always suspicious, they dread every thing that is new, and when vaccination was attempted to be introduced amongst them, they resisted it most determinately, flying with their children to the woods and mountains. Every effort to persuade them it was harmless, was ineffectual; and the attempt was finally abandoned.

To describe the Indian either physiognomically or craniologically, is exceedingly difficult. With the exception of the copper coloured skin, the smooth and strong black hair, high cheek bone, and eye somewhat turned, which may be considered universal characteristics, the variations are innumerable. The forehead although never prominent like that of the negro, and generally very retiring, is in many spacious; and some of the women have by no means, what would be termed bad ones. The inclination of the facial line is widely different in individuals. Thick lips although general, can by no means be called universal; and while some of the men are altogether destitute of beard, others have a moderate proportion, and not unfrequently wear mustachios. An expression of countenance in which cunning and melancholy are singularly blended, gives a mysterious air to every look and movement,—but no symptom of ferocity is observable. The women generally look older than they really are, and are mostly given to volubility. The men on the other hand, excepting when under the influence of intoxication, are very silent, and do not show their years on the countenance. Some of them attain a very considerable age; and although the hair with the greater number does not change with years, I have seen instances where it has become nearly white. Their limbs are mostly nervous, and their bodily shape somewhat square and short. Although incapable of violent effort, they possess a toughness which enables them to endure fatigues that would soon kill the stoutest European. The loads they carry over the mountains for the most trifling remuneration, are truly surprising.

But with all this capacity for endurance, the want of fire and a manly spirit, often makes them appear exceedingly pusillanimous. It is by no means uncommon to see them after a quarrel, weeping like children over the slightest wound,—while their timidity in any time of public alarm is excessive. This characteristic however, will not apply to the unsubdued natives on the coast; an energy sometimes frightful often distorts their features, while the countenance of the interior Indian is seldom disturbed by violent passions.—This striking difference, does not appear tochave been produced by any alteration in their mode of life since the conquest; it is evident that it belonged to them before that period. During the war carried on by the Spaniards, in their attempts to subdue the inhabitants of the coast, some instances of resistance occurred truly astonishing. In one part (after having entrenched themselves in strong places on a mountain which for some time, they defended with the greatest bravery) finding resistance hopeless, and being exhausted by fatigue, and want of provisions, the greatest part of them with their wives and children, precipitated themselves from the highest part of the rock, into the river below and perished. Nor is this account incredible, since a similar determination has been shown by some of the Indians, during the war of independence in Chili and Colombia, while acting as auxiliaries to the Spanish troops. The hatred of one tribe was so great towards the Patriots, that their extermination was determined upon by the independent army, and the whole of them, including women and children were put to the sword. Their resistance was most desperate, and in one instance, when the lance of a soldier had passed through the body of the Indian, he still continued fighting, and would have killed his opponent but for other assistance. Near these dwelt another tribe possessing similar feelings, and it was determined to send them to Peru, in the hope that they would make good soldiers, when away from their native hills; but from the time they were placed on board the transport, they refused to eat, and only said they were resolved to die. Owing to their repeated mutinies, great numbers of them were shot, while others threw themselves overboard, and scarcely any arrived at the place of their destination. The facts I have on the authority of an officer, who was engaged in the service and who was an eye witness to the first of these dreadful scenes.

Of the capacities the Indians may possess, for the improvement of a superior education, it is difficult to speak, because the experiment has not been fairly tried. In the convents may be found some who have entered as monks or nuns, and they display no inferiority to the others. At different times some who appeared to display talent, have been educated at the university, and it is said that they proved themselves equal, if not superior to any by whom they were surrounded, and two especially distinguished themselves by the quickness of their apprehension, and the solidity of their judgment, but after a few years all these became the victims of intoxication, under the influence of which, they quickly relapsed into barbarism.

In the imitative arts they certainly excel, and under proper direction, make valuable assistants both in plain building, and ornamental architecture, while the various waxen figures they mould and expose for sale, prove how closely they can copy any object they may have seen. Of imagination they appear to be totally destitute, and never leave the beaten track to form any thing novel or original, nor have they that taste for the beautiful, which the Mexicans so singularly possess.

It is said that ancient monuments, the ruins of their former greatness, still exist; but in situations remote from the capital, and at which in the present disturbed state of the country, it is difficult to arrive. Juarros gives descriptions of many of these from Fuentes, but it is evident that he had never seen them. The Spaniards and white creoles, appear to know little or nothing of their localities, and insist that a great part of Fuentes' descriptions are fictitious. Still the search would be interesting, and the report of an intelligent traveller valuable; inasmuch as the slightest ruin would in some degree tend to illustrate the true state of the arts at the time of the conquest, and prove how far the customs, and progress in civilization of the natives of Guatimala, and those of Mexico, were or were not analagous.

Interesting however as are these researches, a question far more important presents itself in the inquiry, what means are best calculated to raise the natives from their present depressed state, to that rank in society which they ought in justice to enjoy?—The present generation both by their degraded habits and utter ignorance, seem irremediably shut out from any considerable advancement;—but no such obstacle need impede the moral and intellectual progress of their successors. The universal diffusion of such a system of education amongst them, as should insure in their earliest years, the instilment of good moral principles; and the immediate removal of the numerous temptations to which they are exposed, by the multiplicity of spirit shops, are means simple and practicable, and in their etfects would prove powerful and effectual. Habit, which with regard to man, has been forcibly and correctly termed “the skin of the Ethiopian, the spot of the leopard, the despot of the soul,” becomes fixed and permanent, before his joints are knit, or his bones fashioned. It is necessary therefore, to secure its formation at the very earliest period; and then the very same process, which has hitherto tended to draw back those who in after life, have acquired some degree of civilization, to the wretched associations and practices of their younger years, would in an equal degree be exerted to strengthen the newly formed character, and to perpetuate the most valuable of impressions.

Hitherto no anxiety on this subject, has manifested itself on the part of those who are the lawful guardians of this unfortunate race. The tide of opposition to any effectual measures, will for some time necessarily run strong. In the prospect of such a result as is anticipated, petty tyranny sees its despotism overthrown; priestcraft trembles for its empire; while the fears and prejudices of well meaning individuals depict in connexion with it, the spread of a revolutionary and insubordinate spirit. But eventually its accomplishment is certain. The demon of darkness who has so long held with a firm hand, his empire over the finest portions of the New World, has at length received a mortal blow; every day his dying struggles become weaker, and betoken the near approach of that final convulsion which will end only in the silence and powerlessness of death.

  1. Humboldt's Political Essay, vol. ii. p. 343.
  2. The fibres of a plant, which when twisted into thread, resembles that made from hemp.