Page:The Story of Mexico.djvu/358

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sight of his highest aim in conquering New Spain, which was in all sincerity to plant the cross upon its soil. The impulse given by his determination lasted a long time, but in another century this had lost its force, while with the decline of the power of the Church at home, the ambassadors from Spain had less religious fervor. In the last century all institutions of the Church had deteriorated to a degree fatal to her interests, as well as to those of the country.

By this time so much of the wealth of Mexico had come into the possession of the Church that this locking up of capital really blocked the channels of trade. Money accepted, or extorted, by the priests stopped circulating, and was lost in the coffers of churches, or converted into superb ornaments for altars. The practical thought of the time, in the stress for money required to pursue the war, turned to the scheme of converting all this splendor into funds for the equipment of armies.

The clergy became alarmed at the first sound of such proposals, and used all their powerful influence against them. For this course they were accused by the government journals of want of patriotism, of aiding and abetting the monarchists, and fomenting the discords which were daily becoming more dangerous.

This was not without reason, for although the priests feared and hated the "Northern heretics," as they called the enemy, they feared and hated still more the loss of their property. The monarchical preferences of the great dignitaries of the Church