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nation, it is no less difficult to account either
· Fa&s which prove their progress in civilization,
But it is not by theory or conjectures that hiftory decides, with regard to the state or character of nations. It produces facts as the foundation of every judgment which it ventures to pronounce. In collecting those which must regulate our opinion in the present inquiry, fome occur that fuggeft an idea of confiderable progress in civilization in the Mexican empire, and others which seem to indicate that it had adyanced but little beyond the savage tribes around it. Both shall be exhibited to the view of the reader, that, from comparing them, he may determine on which fide the evidence preponderates.
The right of property fully establilhed.
The right of private property was perfectly understood, and established in its full extent, A mong several favage tribes, we have seen, that the idea of a title to the separate and exclusive possession of any object was hardly known; and that among all, it was extremely limited and ill-defined. But in Mexico, where agriculture and industry had made fome progress, the distinction between real and moveable poilessions ; between property in land and property in goods, had taken place.
Both might be transferred from one person to another by fale or barter; both might descent by inheritance. Every person who could be denominated a freeman had property in land. This, however, they held by various tenures. Some poffefsed it in full right, and it descended to their heirs. The title of others to their lands was derived from the office or dignity which they enjoyed; and when deprived of the latter, they lost possession of the former. Both these modes of occupying land were deemed noble, and peculiar to citizens of the highest class. The tenure, by which the great body of the people held their property, was very different. In every district a certain quantity of land was measured out, in proportion to the number of families. This was cultivated by the joint labour of the whole ; its produce was
deposited in a'common store-house, and divid. ed among them according to their respective exigencies. The members of the Calpullee, or associations, could not alienate their share of the common estate; it was an indivisible permanent property, destined for the support of their families. h) In consequence of this distribution of the territory of the state , every man had an interest in its welfare , and the happiness of the individual was connected with the publick security.
The number and greatness of their cities.
One of the most striking circumstances, which distinguishes the Mexican empire from those nations in America we have already described, is the number and greatness of its cities. While society continues in a rude state, the wants of men are so few, and they stand so little in need of mutual assistance, that their inducements to crowd together are extremely feeble. Their industry at the same time is so imperfect, that it cannot secure fublistence for any considerable number of families settled in one spot. They live dispersed, at this period, from choice as well as from neceffity, or at the utmost afsemble in small hamlets on the banks of the river which supplies them with food, or on the border of some plain left open by nature,
h) Herrera , dec. 3. lib. iv. C. 15. Torquem. Mon, Ind. lib
xiv. 6. 7. Corita, MS..
or cleared by their own labour. The Spaniards, accustomed to his mode of habitation among all the favage tribes with which they were then acquainted, were astonished, on entering New Spain, to find the natives residing in towns of such extent as resembled those of Europe. In the first fervour of their admiration, they compared Zempoalla , though a town only of the second or third size, to the cities of greatest note in their own coun. try. When, afterwards, they visited in suca ceffion Tlafcala, Cholula, Tacuba, Tezeuco, and Mexico itself, their amazement increased so much, that it led them to convey ideas of their magnitude and populousness bordering on what is incredible. Even when there is leisure for observation, and no interest that leads to deceive, conjectural estimates of the number of people in cities are extremely loose, and usually much exaggerated. It is not surprising then, that Cortes and his companions, little accustomed to such computations, and powerfully tempted to magnify, in order to 'exalt the merit of their own discoveries and conquests, should have been betrayed into this common error, and have raised their descriptions considerably above truth. For this reafon, fome confiderable abatement ought to be made from their calculation of the number of inha. bitants in the Mexican cities, and we may fix the standard of their population much lower than they have done; but still they will ‘ap
pear to be cities of such consequence, as are not to be found but among people who have made fome confiderable progress in the arts of social life. i) Mexico, the capital of the empire, seems to have contained fixty thousand inhabitants,
The separation of professions,
The feparation of professions among the Mexicans is a symptom of improvement no less remarkable. Arts, in the early ages of society are so few and fo fimple, that each man is fufficiently master of them all, to gratify every demand of his own limited desires. The savage can form his bow, point his arrows, rear his hut, and hollow his canoe, without calling in the aid of any hand more skilful than his own.
Tiine must have augmented the wants of men, and ripened their ingenuity, before the productions of art became so complicated in their structure, or fo curious in their fabrick, that a particular course of education was requisite towards forming the artificer to expertness in contrivance and workmanship. In proportion as refinement spreads, the diftinction of professions increases, and they branch out into more numerous and minute subdivi. fions. Among the Mexicans, this feparation of the arts necessary in life had taken place to a considerable extent. The functions of the
i) See NOTE XXI,