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mason, the weaver, the goldsmith, the painter, and of several other crafts, were carried on by different persons. Each was regularly inftru&ed in his calling. To it alone his industry was confined; and by affiduous application to one object, together with the persevering patience peculiar to Americans, their artizans attained to a degree of peatness and perfection in work, far beyond what could have been expected from the rude tools which they employed. Their various productions were brought into commerce; and by the exchange of them in the stated markets held in the cities, their mutual wants were supplied, k) in such orderly intercourse as characterizes an improv: ed state of society,
The diftin&ion of ranks,
The distinction of ranks established in the Mexican empire is the next circumstance that merits attention. In furveying the savage tribes of America, we obferved, that consciousness of quality, and impatience of fubordination, are sentiments natural to man in the infancy of civil life. During peace, the authority of a superior is hardly felt among them, and even in war it is but little acknowledged.
Strangers to the idea of property, the difference in condition resulting from the inequality of it is unknown,
b) Cortes Relat, ap. Ramus. iii. 239, &c. Gom. Cron. C. 79.
Torquem. lib. xiii, C. 34. Herrera, dec, 2. lib. vii. c. 15, &C.
Birth or titles confer no preeminence; it is only by personal merit and accomplishments that diftinction can be acquired. The form of society was very different among the Mexicans. The great body of the people was in a most humiliating ftate. A considerable number, known by the name of Mayeques, nearly resembling in condition those peasants who under various denominations, were considered, during the prevalence of the feudal system, as instruments of Jabour attached to the soil. The Mayeques could not change their place of residence without permission of the superior. on whom they depended. They were conveyed, together with the lands on which they were settled, from one proprietor to another; and were bound to cultivate the ground, and to perform several kinds of servile work. 1) Others were reduced to the lowest form of subjection, that of domestick fervitute, and felt the utmost rigour of that wretched state. Their condition was held to be so vile, and their lives deemed to be of so little value, that a person who killed one of those slaves was not subjected to any punishment, m) Even those considered . as freemen were treated by their haughty lords as beings of an inferior species. The nobles, poffefsed of ample terri. tories, were divided into various claffes, to each of which peculiar titles of honour belong
ed. Some of these titles like their lands, descended from father to fon in perpetual fucceffion. Others were annexed to particular offices, or conferred during life as marks of personal diftinction. n) The monarch, exalted above all, enjoyed extensive power, and supreme dignity. Thus the distinction of ranks was completely established, in a line of regular subordination, reaching from the highest to the lowest member of the cummunity. Each of these knew what he could claim, and what he owed. The people, who were not allowed to wear a dress of the fame fashion, or to dwell in houses of a form similar to those of the nobles, accosted them with the most submissive reverence. In the p
e presence of their sovereign, they durft not lift their eyes from the ground, or look him in the face.o) The nobles themselves, when admitted to an audience of their sovereign, entered bare, footed, in mean garments, and, as his flaves, paid him homage approaching to adoration, This respect due from inferiors to thofe above them in rank, was established with such ceremonious aócuracy, that it incorporated with the language, and influenced ,its genius and idiom. The Mexican tongue abounded in expressions of reverence and courtesy. The file and appellations, used in the intercourse between equals, would have been fo unbecoming in the mouth
n) Herrera, dec. 3. lib. iv, c. 15. Corita, MS. 0) Herrera, dec. 3. lib, ii, c. 14.
of one in a lower sphere, when he accofted a person in higher rank, as to be deemed an insult. p) It is only in societies, which time and the institution of regular government have moulded into form, that we find such an orderly ar, rangement of men into different ranks, and fuch nice attention paid to their various rights,
Their political constitution,
The fpirit of the Mexicans, thus familia, rized and bended to subordination, was prepared for submitting to monarchical governinent. But the descriptions of their policy and laws, by the Spaniards who overturned them, are so inaccurate and contradictory, that it is difficult to delineate the form of their conftitution with any precision.
Sometimes they represent the monarchs of Mexico as abfolute, deciding according to their pleasure , with respect to every operation of the state. On other occasions , discover the traces of established customs and laws, framed in order to circumscribe the power of the crown, and we meet with rights and privileges of the nobles which seem to be oppofed as barriers against its encroachments. This appearance of inconsistency has arisen from inattention to the innovations of Montezuma upon the Mexican policy. His afpiring ambition subverted the original system of government, and introduced a pure defpotism,
He difregarded p) Sec NOTE XXII,
the ancient laws, violated the privileges held most facred, and reduced his subjects of every order to the level of slaves. r) The chiefs, or nobles of the first rank, submitted to the yoke with such reluctance, that, from impatience to shake it off, and hope of recovering their rights, many of them courted the protection of Cortes, and joined a foreign power against their domeftick oppretřor. s) It is not then under the dominion of Montezuma, but under the government of his predecessors, that we can discover what was the original form and genius of Me. xican policy. From the foundation of the monarchy to the election of Montezuma, it seems tn have subsisted with little variation. That body of citizens, which may be distinguished by the name of nobility, formed the chief and most respectable order in the state.. They were of various ranks, as has already been observed, and their honours were acquired and transmitted in different manners. Their number secms to have been great. According to an author accustomed to examine with attention what he relates, there were in the Mexican empire thirty of his order, each of whom had in his territories about a hundred thousand people, and fubordinate to there, there were about three thousand nobles of a lower class. t) The tera
5) Herrera, dec. 3. lib. ii. c. 14. Torquem. lib. ij. c. 69. s) Herrera, dec. 2. lib. v. c. 10, II. Torquem, lib. iv. c. 49. t) Herrera, dec. 2. lib. viii, 6. 12.