Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

torrid zones. Extending for 1200 ley beneath. Mexico is rich in inmiles along the seaboard of the digenous plants and flowers. On Atlantic, and 900 miles along the the plains, the strange - looking coast of the Pacific, Mexico con stems of the cactus, like grotesque tains an area three times larger than vegetable pillars, silent and unFrance, situated between the two bending to the wind, rise to the great oceans of the world, and pre- height of twenty feet, gorgeous senting in its southern portion a with scarlet or yellow blossoms.* route well fitted to become a high- The air is perfumed by the wild way between them. Mexico con- and profusely-growing convolvuli, tains within herself all the material with their graceful bell-flowers. elements of a great empire. All And the vanilla plant, whose pods that is wanted is to regenerate her yield an expensive luxury, grows people—to revive in them the ener- spontaneously in the coast-regiongies which they, both Indians and ivy-like climbing the loftiest trees, Spaniards, once exerted gloriously while its large white flowers, striped in the olden time — and thereby with red and yellow, fill the forest make them fit to profit by the ex with their rare and delicious odour. traordinary natural resources with The coffee-tree is indigenous, and which they are surrounded.

can be most successfully cultivated On either side Mexico is bor- in the region above the reach of the dered by a narrow low-lying coast- malaria, on the comparatively temregion, abounding in heat and perate mountain - slopes between moisture, where vegetation presents four and five thousand feet above the full luxuriance of the tropics.

the sea.

The cocoa-shrub also is The interior of the country, on the indigenous, but requires the damp other hand, consists of a vast table and sultry warmth of the coastland, as level as the sea, of an aver region. In such districts it is age height of 7000 feet above the amazingly productive. Humboldt, coast; and out of this great plain in his “Tropical World,' says he rise chains of mountains rich in never should forget the deep imminerals, and lofty isolated peaks, pression made upon him by the like snow-capped Popocatepetl, the luxuriance of tropical vegetation breezes from which cool down the on first seeing a cocoa plantation. summer heat. Here and there, After a damp night, large blosespecially on its outskirts, this soms of the theobroma issue from great plain is seamed by profound the root at a considerable distance valleys or glens, bounded by pre- from the trunk, emerging from the cipitous walls of rock; and stand- deep black mould. A more striking ing on the temperate table-land, example of the productive powers the stranger beholds with amaze of life could hardly be met with in ment the gorgeous scenery of tropi- organic nature.” Tobacco, indigo, cal vegetation which opens upon flax, and hemp grow wild, and him in glowing colours in the val- amply repay cultivation.

sury.

*"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 trea

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 sugar

The vegetable productions which presents were brought to him-culsupply the necessaries of life are tivation, aided by irrigating canals, numerous and remarkably produc- overspread the plains and valleystive. Maize, which of all the in populous cities rose in his path. digenous productions of the New There was a well-ordered administraWorld has been of the greatest tive system, and a powerful priestvalue to Europe, yields about two hood. Immense teocallis,or pyramihundred-fold, and on the best cul dal temples, rose in stages to the tivated land five hundred-fold ; and height of 100 to 300 feet and morein the coast-region, sometimes three covering so much ground, that the crops of it are raised within the base of one of them, not remarkable year. The banana, the most prolific for its height, was twice as large of all vegetables, likewise abounds as that of the Great Pyramid of in Mexico, and might support a Ghizeh : while from their summits population of unusual density. perpetual fires blazed, lighting the Planted with the banana, a piece darkness of night with strange and of land will yield a weight of fruit lurid gleams. Under the Emperor a hundred and thirty times greater were Caciques, or great nobles (like than if planted with wheat, and the Daimios of Japan), ruling their fifty times greater than if planted provinces in unswerving and dewith potatoes. Wheat and barley, voted loyalty to the Emperor. There introduced from Europe, thrive in was a numerous and well-cared-for the temperate region, and, owing army, with orders of knighthood to the natural fertility of the soil, resembling those in Europe,--and yield large returns.

(remarkable fact) a Chelsea Hoscane of Mexico, famed for its un- pital or Hotel des Invalides, in rivalled abundance of saccharine which the veterans were cared for matter, is cultivated not only in the at the expense of the state. “It coast-region, but on the adjoining shall never be said,” wrote the mountain-slopes, above the noxious grave and circumspect Cortez to influence of the terra caliente. The Charles V., " that I have exaggercotton plant, though yielding its ated facts. I shall do what is posfinest qualities in the moist coast- sible to relate, as well as I can, a region, can be cultivated on the few, of which I have been an eyehigher grounds, especially as the witness, so marvellous that they Mexican plant is capable of resist- pass all belief, and for which we ing the effects of frost. In truth, cannot account to our own selves.' the vegetable productions, as well The wonder of the Spaniards was as the mineral wealth of Mexico, at its height when, after defiling are almost unrivalled in the world; through the mountain-passes, they and in course of time, when foreign entered the valley of Mexico, and capital has been introduced, and saw before them a great basin or when the population has increased plain seventy miles in diameter, alike in energy and in numbers, it bounded on all sides by lofty mounwill become a great exporting coun tains, and studded with great and try, and will rise in prosperity while populous cities, clustering around benefiting the world at large. the series of connected lakes which

To know what a country may lay in the centre of the valley. become, we must know what it has Several of those cities, like Tezcuco been. When Cortez landed on the and Cholula, had a population of mainland of America, he heard 150,000 ; and the whole valley was from all quarters the fame of a richly cultivated. In the centre of great empire and a magnificent the great lake, approached by three monarch ; and when he began his causeways from the mainland, rose memorable march inland from Vera the capital, Tenochtitlan (Mexico) Cruz, he soon met abundant proofs the Venice of the New Worldof the prosperity of the country with 300,000 inhabitants. There and the power of its ruler. Superb were the royal palaces of Monte

zuma, one-storeyed, but covering and flowers for the market of the such large areas that one of them capital, which struck the Spaniards sufficed to contain the whole band alike with wonder and admiration.* of Cortez, including his Tlascalan “I think there is no Soldan nor allies. Pyramidal temples, in great infidel prince known up to this numbers and of immense size, tower- time, who has himself waited upon ed aloft, with their perpetual fires re with so much display and magnififlected in the waters; and the houses, cence,” said Cortez, when he reached coated with solid white stucco, Mexico and beheld the royalty of gleamed in the brilliant sunshine as Montezuma. In the mouth of if constructed of the precious metals. Cortez the phrase “Soldan” is a Like Venice, the city was intersected sort of superlative. Let us rememwith canals from the lake, forming ber, too, that this was written to watery highways, by which goods the Emperor Charles V., the greatcould be transported from the main- est European monarch of his time. land into the heart of the city; and There were botanical gardens, tooin the centre was the great market- before anything of the kind had place, surrounded by porticoes- been thought of in Europe--and twice as large as the city of Salaman- menageries, and collections of birds. ca, said Cortez, and in which 60,000 “Hanging gardens," rivalling those persons could traffic with ease. "It of Babylon, adorned the mountainis the most beautiful thing in the sides, and the humblest of the peoworld,” said Cortez, speaking of the ple had a passion for flowers.t Nor capital, with bitter regret, when was intellectual cultivation forgotthe heroic defence of the Aztecs ten, and the monarch mingled with compelled him to demolish it house and took part in the assemblies of by house. Around all was the the men of letters, feeling that by great lake, crossed only by the so doing he added lustre to his three causeways, and dotted by ar- royalty. Their books were collected tificial floating islets, bearing fruits in libraries, and were written on

means.

* “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

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 reniarkable 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. passion, as conquerors, was to posHorses were unknown, but posts sess themselves of the precious ores. were established throughout the The great nobles were killed or deempire, with relays of runners, who spoiled,—the priesthood, the deposiwith marvellous speed transmitted taries of the national learning and the orders of the Emperor. So traditions, were persecuted and masfleet were these runners, and so ad- sacred; and the books were gathered mirably organised the system, that together, and destroyed in the the fish which one day were swim- flames. The Indians were hurried ming in the waters of the Pacific or off to work in gangs in the mines. Atlantic, were next day served up The great cities were depopulated, at the royal table in the capital and crumbled into ruins. The forThe beauty of their goldsmiths'ests were felled or burnt, partly bework was praised as unrivalled by cause they afforded shelter to the Cortez, even when sending the very natives, partly in imitation of the articles to his Emperor, who would treeless plains of Castile; and the judge of them for himself. The soil, denuded of its natural covercotton plant was cultivated, and its ing, became arid and barren, and snowy pods were woven, and formed no longer attracted or retained as the clothing of the people. The before the fertilising showers. The vine was unknown, but they found population is now probably not onea substitute in the sweet juices of third of what it was in the time the agave; while its pulp was con of Montezuma. And by partially verted into paper, and its fibres draining the lakes of the valley, the into rope. They had explored the Spaniards have only uncovered an mineral treasures of the mountains, expanse of salt-impregnated soiland possessed gold, silver, copper, a disfigurement to the eye, and tin, and even iron. In astronomi- utterly useless for cultivation. cal science, also, they were well ad But this did not complete the vanced ; and to the astonishment tale of ruin which has befallen of the Spaniards, they possessed a

Mexico. In course of time evil calendar more perfect than that of days came for the Whites themselves, Greece and Rome, or even than that and they began to suffer disasters at which prevailed in Europe under their own hands, as if in divine Francis I. and Charles V.

vengeance for those which they had This spectacle of grandeur and so ruthlessly inflicted on the natives. prosperity which met the eyes of The Government of the motherCortez and the other chroniclers of country became oppressive to the the Conquest disappeared like a Spanish population of Mexico, and dream. The numerous and civilised when they threw it off, they only population dwindled and sank into fell into worse evils. Revolution barbarism. The very face of the after revolution, each accompanied country became changed. It was by a civil war, took place; and the not a Government studious to pre- country became a prey to military serve civilisation and order that factions. Private adventurers set made the Conquest, but a band of themselves in arms against the Govbigoted and rapacious adventurers. ernment of the hour, and if their inThe administrative system of the surrection proved successful, their Aztec emperors fell into decay ; first care was to enrich themselves the reign of order was succeeded by and their followers at the expense of chaos and rapacity; cultivation was the rest of thecommunity. Peaceful neglected, the people enslaved, the industry went to the wall; wealthy collections of science scattered, and citizens found themselves singled the libraries of literature destroyed out for extortion; and commercial “To the mines !” was the cry of enterprise gradually became exthe Spaniards. Their only thought, tinct. The profession of arms—if as Christians, was to obliterate and such title can be applied to what destroy the pagan past; their only was simply brigandage-was the

only one which prospered, and was permitted to exist. He considered eagerly followed by the whole scum it probable, also, that the better of the population. Robbery and classes in Mexico would avail themmurder became even more common selves of the presence of the Allied than revolts. The whole country expedition to establish a Governwas a prey to licentious marauders, ment in accordance with their own and its whole strength was exhaust wishes, and the requirements of ed in internal commotions. One civilisation. He did not avow his half of its territory was given up convictions on these points, -at to the encroaching ambition of the least, not to England ; but he trustUnited States. Texas, with its ed that, once fairly engaged in the prairies of exuberant fertility, and enterprise, his allies would see the California, with its immense mines necessity of proceeding further than of gold, were wrung from Mexico was originally agreed on. In truth by force of arms; and the vast ter- the convention was a blunder if ritory now known as New Mexico its terms were not to be exceeded. was ceded to the overbearing Cabinet What cared a ruler like Juarez for of Washington for a trifling sum of a seizure of a seaport or two? And money. Mexico was fast disappear- how ignoble would be the attitude ing from the map. Th still-exist of the

ree great Powers if their ing half of the country seemed forces were simply to act as taxready to be absorbed as soon as the gatherers at Vera Cruz and Matapeople of the United States felt moros, while a full-blood Indian the desire for further annexations like Juarez refused all redress, and Mexico was perishing by her own openly set them at defiance ! But sins, when, fortunately for her, some when the question of a direct inof her own sins gave rise to an inter- tervention came to an issue, Spain, vention on the part of other Powers seeing that France would take the who had no selfish ambition to lead, withdrew in pique, and Enggratify at her expense, and which land patched up a useless treaty was converted by the Emperor with Juarez, and recalled her squadNapoleon into a means of rescuing ron. But the Emperor adhered to her from impending destruction.

his purpose.

As usual, he had When the Mexicans murdered formed his plans and counted the and despoiled one another, they cost beforehand, and he would not were not likely to be more tender recede. He could not have reckoned towards foreign settlers. Several that England would willingly enBritish and other foreign merchants gage in an intervention such as he and traders were murdered or de- designed, and so opposed to her spoiled of their goods; the debts principles of policy; but doubtless due to foreign creditors were re he did not expect to be left so sumpudiated, and the claims of foreign marily and entirely to his own reGovernments were contumeliously sources. But the die was cast. ignored. In these circumstances, The French troops could not be alapparently at the suggestion of lowed to remain at Vera Cruz, exthe Emperor Napoleon-England, posed to the deadly malaria of the France, and Spain agreed to act in coast-region. They must either adconcert with a view to obtain re vance into the interior, or be withdress for their wrongs. That the drawn at once. The advance was Emperor Napoleon meditated from ordered; the troops ascended to the outset an intervention in the the edge of the table-land, where internal affairs of Mexico is obvious the climate was temperate and from the tenor of his instructions healthy; but the the march was to Admiral Gravière. He foresaw stayed. The force was found quite that it was hopeless to expect re- inadequate to undertake a further dress from the Mexican Govern- advance; for some months the troops ment as long as that Government bad a difficulty in maintaining or rather that rule of anarchy-was their intrenched position at Orizaba;

« ElőzőTovább »