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torrid zones. Extending for 1200 miles along the seaboard of the Atlantic, and 900 miles along the coast of the Pacific, Mexico contains an area three times larger than France, situated between the two great oceans of the world, and presenting in its southern portion a route well fitted to become a highway between them. Mexico contains within herself all the material elements of a great empire. All that is wanted is to regenerate her people-to revive in them the energies which they, both Indians and Spaniards, once exerted gloriously in the olden time—and thereby make them fit to profit by the extraordinary natural resources with which they are surrounded.
On either side Mexico is bordered by a narrow low-lying coastregion, abounding in heat and moisture, where vegetation presents the full luxuriance of the tropics. The interior of the country, on the other hand, consists of a vast tableland, as level as the sea, of an average height of 7000 feet above the coast; and out of this great plain rise chains of mountains rich in minerals, and lofty isolated peaks, like snow-capped Popocatepetl, the breezes from which cool down the summer heat. Here and there, especially on its outskirts, this great plain is seamed by profound valleys or glens, bounded by precipitous walls of rock; and standing on the temperate table-land, the stranger beholds with amazement the gorgeous scenery of tropical vegetation which opens upon him in glowing colours in the val
ley beneath. Mexico is rich in indigenous plants and flowers. On the plains, the strange - looking stems of the cactus, like grotesque vegetable pillars, silent and unbending to the wind, rise to the height of twenty feet, gorgeous with scarlet or yellow blossoms.* The air is perfumed by the wild and profusely-growing convolvuli, with their graceful bell-flowers. And the vanilla plant, whose pods yield an expensive luxury, grows spontaneously in the coast-regionivy-like climbing the loftiest trees, while its large white flowers, striped with red and yellow, fill the forest with their rare and delicious odour. The coffee-tree is indigenous, and can be most successfully cultivated in the region above the reach of the malaria, on the comparatively temperate mountain - slopes between four and five thousand feet above the sea. The cocoa-shrub also is indigenous, but requires the damp and sultry warmth of the coastregion. In such districts it is amazingly productive. Humboldt, in his Tropical World,' says he never should forget the deep impression made upon him by the luxuriance of tropical vegetation on first seeing a cocoa plantation. "After a damp night, large blossoms of the theobroma issue from the root at a considerable distance from the trunk, emerging from the deep black mould. A more striking example of the productive powers of life could hardly be met with in organic nature." Tobacco, indigo, flax, and hemp grow wild, and amply repay cultivation.
* "On nearing the towns, vast fields are seen covered with clumps of aloes arranged in the quincunx form, to which the similar plants found in Europe, whether in the open air or in the greenhouse, are not to be compared. This is the maguey, whose juice (pulque) delights the Mexican palate and enriches the treasury. The maguey and the cactus are the two plants characteristic of the Mexican table-land. In uncultivated districts there are immense tracts offering nothing to the eye but aloes and cactus, standing solitary or in scattered groups--a strange and melancholy vegetation that stands insensible to the whistling of the wind instead of replying to it, as do our waving forests, with a thrill of animation. The silent inflexibility of the aloes and cactus might make the traveller fancy, as he loses sight of the villages, that he is traversing one of those countries he has been told of in fairy tales, where an angry genie has turned all nature to stone."-Chevalier's 'Mexico' (English Edition), vol. i. p. 23.
The vegetable productions which supply the necessaries of life are numerous and remarkably productive. Maize, which of all the indigenous productions of the New World has been of the greatest value to Europe, yields about two hundred-fold, and on the best cultivated land five hundred-fold; and in the coast-region, sometimes three crops of it are raised within the year. The banana, the most prolific of all vegetables, likewise abounds in Mexico, and might support a population of unusual density. Planted with the banana, a piece of land will yield a weight of fruit a hundred and thirty times greater than if planted with wheat, and fifty times greater than if planted with potatoes. Wheat and barley, introduced from Europe, thrive in the temperate region, and, owing to the natural fertility of the soil, yield large returns. The sugarcane of Mexico, famed for its unrivalled abundance of saccharine matter, is cultivated not only in the coast-region, but on the adjoining mountain-slopes, above the noxious influence of the terra caliente. The cotton plant, though yielding its finest qualities in the moist coastregion, can be cultivated on the higher grounds, especially as the Mexican plant is capable of resist ing the effects of frost. In truth, the vegetable productions, as well as the mineral wealth of Mexico, are almost unrivalled in the world; and in course of time, when foreign capital has been introduced, and when the population has increased alike in energy and in numbers, it will become a great exporting country, and will rise in prosperity while benefiting the world at large.
To know what a country may become, we must know what it has been. When Cortez landed on the mainland of America, he heard from all quarters the fame of a great empire and a magnificent monarch; and when he began his memorable march inland from Vera Cruz, he soon met abundant proofs of the prosperity of the country and the power of its ruler. Superb
presents were brought to him-cultivation, aided by irrigating canals, overspread the plains and valleyspopulous cities rose in his path. There was a well-ordered administrative system, and a powerful priesthood. Immense teocallis, or pyramidal temples, rose in stages to the height of 100 to 300 feet and morecovering so much ground, that the base of one of them, not remarkable for its height, was twice as large as that of the Great Pyramid of Ghizeh while from their summits perpetual fires blazed, lighting the darkness of night with strange and lurid gleams. Under the Emperor were Caciques, or great nobles (like the Daimios of Japan), ruling their provinces in unswerving and devoted loyalty to the Emperor. There was a numerous and well-cared-for army, with orders of knighthood resembling those in Europe,-and (remarkable fact) a Chelsea Hospital or Hotel des Invalides, in which the veterans were cared for at the expense of the state. "It shall never be said," wrote the grave and circumspect Cortez to Charles V., "that I have exaggerated facts. I shall do what is possible to relate, as well as I can, a few, of which I have been an eyewitness, so marvellous that they pass all belief, and for which we cannot account to our own selves."
The wonder of the Spaniards was at its height when, after defiling through the mountain-passes, they entered the valley of Mexico, and saw before them a great basin or plain seventy miles in diameter, bounded on all sides by lofty mountains, and studded with great and populous cities, clustering around the series of connected lakes which lay in the centre of the_valley. Several of those cities, like Tezcuco and Cholula, had a population of 150,000; and the whole valley was richly cultivated. In the centre of the great lake, approached by three causeways from the mainland, rose the capital, Tenochtitlan (Mexico)— the Venice of the New Worldwith 300,000 inhabitants. There were the royal palaces of Monte
zuma, one-storeyed, but covering such large areas that one of them sufficed to contain the whole band of Cortez, including his Tlascalan allies. Pyramidal temples, in great numbers and of immense size, towered aloft, with their perpetual fires reflected in the waters; and the houses, coated with solid white stucco, gleamed in the brilliant sunshine as if constructed of the precious metals. Like Venice, the city was intersected with canals from the lake, forming watery highways, by which goods could be transported from the mainland into the heart of the city; and in the centre was the great marketplace, surrounded by porticoestwice as large as the city of Salamanca, said Cortez, and in which 60,000 persons could traffic with ease. "It is the most beautiful thing in the world," said Cortez, speaking of the capital, with bitter regret, when the heroic defence of the Aztecs compelled him to demolish it house by house. Around all was the great lake, crossed only by the three causeways, and dotted by artificial floating islets, bearing fruits
and flowers for the market of the capital, which struck the Spaniards alike with wonder and admiration.*
"I think there is no Soldan nor infidel prince known up to this time, who has himself waited upon with so much display and magnificence," said Cortez, when he reached Mexico and beheld the royalty of Montezuma. In the mouth of Cortez the phrase “Soldan" is a sort of superlative. Let us remember, too, that this was written to the Emperor Charles V., the greatest European monarch of his time. There were botanical gardens, too— before anything of the kind had been thought of in Europe-and menageries, and collections of birds. "Hanging gardens," rivalling those of Babylon, adorned the mountainsides, and the humblest of the people had a passion for flowers.† Nor was intellectual cultivation forgotten, and the monarch mingled with and took part in the assemblies of the men of letters, feeling that by so doing he added lustre to his royalty. Their books were collected in libraries, and were written on
* "Another curiosity existed in the chinampas, or floating gardens, scattered over the lakes. These artificial islets, of fifty to a hundred yards long, served for the cultivation of vegetables and flowers for the market of the capital. Some of these islets had consistency enough for shrubs of some size to grow on, or to bear even a hut of light material. They were at pleasure moved to the bank by poles, or were made to move over the waters with their floral treasures by the same means. This spectacle impressed the Spaniards greatly, and, according to Bernal Diaz, made them say that they had been transported into an enchanted region like those they had read of in the romance of Amadis de Gaul.'"-Chevalier's 'Mexico,' vol. i. p. 31.
+"The Mexicans had a passion for flowers. They collected together in splendid gardens such as were remarkable for perfume or for brilliancy of colour. To these they added medicinal plants, methodically arranged-shrubs distinguished by their blossoms or their foliage, by the excellence of their fruit or their berries-and also trees of elegant or majestic appearance. They delighted in laying out their terraces and bowers on hilly slopes, where they looked as if suspended. Aqueducts brought thither water from a distance, which overflowed in cascades or filled spacious basins tenanted by the choicest fish. Mysterious pavilions were hidden among the foliage, and statues reared their forms amid the flowers. All the kinds of animals that we assemble in our gardens consecrated to science-such as the Jardin des Plantes at Paris, and the Zoological Gardens of London-contributed to the ornament or curiosity of these resorts of pleasure. Birds were there of beautiful plumage, kept in cages as large as houses; there also were wild beasts, animals of various kinds, and even serpents. Bernal Diaz there first beheld the rattlesnake, which he describes as having 'castanets in its tail.' One of the royal gardens, two leagues from Tezcuco, was formed on the side of a hill, whose summit was reached by an ascent of five hundred steps, and was crowned by a basin, whence, by an effort of hydraulic skill, water flowed in succession into three other reservoirs, adorned with gigantic statues. Cortez also mentions the gardens of a Cacique which were not less than two leagues in circumference."-See Chevalier's Mexico,' vol. i. p. 28-30.
leaves like ours, and not on rolls. Horses were unknown, but posts were established throughout the empire, with relays of runners, who with marvellous speed transmitted the orders of the Emperor. So fleet were these runners, and so admirably organised the system, that the fish which one day were swimming in the waters of the Pacific or Atlantic, were next day served up at the royal table in the capital. The beauty of their goldsmiths' work was praised as unrivalled by Cortez, even when sending the very articles to his Emperor, who would judge of them for himself. The cotton plant was cultivated, and its snowy pods were woven, and formed the clothing of the people. The vine was unknown, but they found a substitute in the sweet juices of the agave; while its pulp was converted into paper, and its fibres into rope. They had explored the mineral treasures of the mountains, and possessed gold, silver, copper, tin, and even iron. In astronomical science, also, they were well advanced; and to the astonishment of the Spaniards, they possessed a calendar more perfect than that of Greece and Rome, or even than that which prevailed in Europe under Francis I. and Charles V.
This spectacle of grandeur and prosperity which met the eyes of Cortez and the other chroniclers of the Conquest disappeared like a dream. The numerous and civilised population dwindled and sank into barbarism. The very face of the country became changed. It was not a Government studious to preserve civilisation and order that made the Conquest, but a band of bigoted and rapacious adventurers. The administrative system of the Aztec emperors fell into decay; the reign of order was succeeded by chaos and rapacity; cultivation was neglected, the people enslaved, the collections of science scattered, and the libraries of literature destroyed. "To the mines!" was the cry of the Spaniards. Their only thought, as Christians, was to obliterate and destroy the pagan past; their only
passion, as conquerors, was to possess themselves of the precious ores. The great nobles were killed or despoiled, the priesthood, the depositaries of the national learning and traditions, were persecuted and massacred; and the books were gathered together, and destroyed in the flames. The Indians were hurried off to work in gangs in the mines. The great cities were depopulated, and crumbled into ruins. The forests were felled or burnt, partly because they afforded shelter to the natives, partly in imitation of the treeless plains of Castile; and the soil, denuded of its natural covering, became arid and barren, and no longer attracted or retained as before the fertilising showers. The population is now probably not onethird of what it was in the time of Montezuma. And by partially draining the lakes of the valley, the Spaniards have only uncovered an expanse of salt-impregnated soila disfigurement to the eye, and utterly useless for cultivation.
But this did not complete the tale of ruin which has befallen Mexico. In course of time evil days came for the Whites themselves, and they began to suffer disasters at their own hands, as if in divine vengeance for those which they had so ruthlessly inflicted on the natives. The Government of the mothercountry became oppressive to the Spanish population of Mexico, and when they threw it off, they only fell into worse evils. Revolution after revolution, each accompanied by a civil war, took place; and the country became a prey to military factions. Private adventurers set themselves in arms against the Government of the hour, and if their insurrection proved successful, their first care was to enrich themselves and their followers at the expense of the rest of the community. Peaceful industry went to the wall; wealthy citizens found themselves singled out for extortion; and commercial enterprise gradually became tinct. The profession_of_arms—if such a title can be applied to what was simply brigandage-was the
only one which prospered, and was eagerly followed by the whole scum of the population. Robbery and murder became even more common than revolts. The whole country was a prey to licentious marauders, and its whole strength was exhausted in internal commotions. half of its territory was given up to the encroaching ambition of the United States. Texas, with its prairies of exuberant fertility, and California, with its immense mines of gold, were wrung from Mexico by force of arms; and the vast territory now known as New Mexico was ceded to the overbearing Cabinet of Washington for a trifling sum of money. Mexico was fast disappearing from the map. The still-existing half of the country seemed ready to be absorbed as soon as the people of the United States felt the desire for further annexations. Mexico was perishing by her own sins, when, fortunately for her, some of her own sins gave rise to an intervention on the part of other Powers who had no selfish ambition to gratify at her expense, and which was converted by the Emperor Napoleon into a means of rescuing her from impending destruction.
When the Mexicans murdered and despoiled one another, they were not likely to be more tender towards foreign settlers. Several British and other foreign merchants and traders were murdered or despoiled of their goods; the debts due to foreign creditors were repudiated, and the claims of foreign Governments were contumeliously ignored. In these circumstancesapparently at the suggestion of the Emperor Napoleon-England, France, and Spain agreed to act in concert with a view to obtain redress for their wrongs. That the Emperor Napoleon meditated from the outset an intervention in the internal affairs of Mexico is obvious from the tenor of his instructions to Admiral Gravière. He foresaw that it was hopeless to expect redress from the Mexican Government as long as that Government
or rather that rule of anarchy-was
permitted to exist. He considered it probable, also, that the better classes in Mexico would avail themselves of the presence of the Allied expedition to establish a Government in accordance with their own wishes, and the requirements of civilisation. He did not avow his convictions on these points,—at least, not to England; but he trusted that, once fairly engaged in the enterprise, his allies would see the necessity of proceeding further than was originally agreed on. In truth the convention was a blunder if its terms were not to be exceeded. What cared a ruler like Juarez for a seizure of a seaport or two? And how ignoble would be the attitude of the three great Powers if their forces were simply to act as taxgatherers at Vera Cruz and Matamoros, while a full-blood Indian like Juarez refused all redress, and openly set them at defiance! But when the question of a direct intervention came to an issue, Spain, seeing that France would take the lead, withdrew in pique, and England patched up a useless treaty with Juarez, and recalled her squadron. But the Emperor adhered to his purpose. As usual, he had formed his plans and counted the cost beforehand, and he would not recede. He could not have reckoned that England would willingly engage in an intervention such as he designed, and so opposed to her principles of policy; but doubtless he did not expect to be left so summarily and entirely to his own resources. But the die was cast. The French troops could not be allowed to remain at Vera Cruz, exposed to the deadly malaria of the coast-region. They must either advance into the interior, or be withdrawn at once. The advance was ordered; the troops ascended to the edge of the table-land, where the climate was temperate and healthy; but there the march was stayed. The force was found quite inadequate to undertake a further advance; for some months the troops had a difficulty in maintaining their intrenched position at Orizaba;