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to refine , adhere to systems of superstition founded on the crude conceptions of early ages, From the genius of the Mexican religion we may, however, form a moft just conclufion with respect to its influence upon the character of the people. The aspect of superftition in Mexico was gloomy and atrocious. Its divinities were clothed with terror, and delighted in vengeance. They were exhibited to the people under detestable forms, which created horror. The figures of serpents, of tygers, and of other destructive animals, decorated their temples. Fear was the only principle that inspired their votaries. Fasts, mortifications, and penances, all rigid, and many of them excruciating to an extreme degree, were the means employed to appease the wrath of their gods, and the Mexicans never approached their altars without sprinkling them with blood drawn from their own bodies. But, of all offerings, human facrifices were deemed the moft acceptable. This religious belief, mingling with the implacable spirit of vengeance, and adding new force to it, every captive taken in war was brought to the temple, was devoted as a victim to the deity, and sacrificed with rites no lefs folemn than cruel. x The heart and head were the portion consecrated to the gods;
x) Cort. Relat. ap. Ramus, iii. 240 , &c. B. Diaz, c. 82.
Acofta. lib. v. c. 13. &c. Herrera, dec. 3. lib. ii. 6. 15. &c. Gomara Chron, c. 80,'&c. See NOTE XXXI.
the warrior, by whose prowess the prisoner had been seized, carried off the body to 'feast upon it with his friends.
Under the impreffion of ideas so dreary and terrible, and accustomed daily to scenes of bloodshed rendered awful by religion, the heart of man must harden, and be steeled to every
sentiment of humanity. The spirit of the Mexicans was accordingly unfeeling, and the genius of their religion so far counterbalanced the influence of policy and arts, that, notwithstanding their progress in both, their manners, instead of softening became more fierce. To what circumstances it was owing that superstition assumed such a dreadful form among the Mexicans, we have not sufficient knowledge of their history to determine. But its influence is visible, and produced an effect that is fingular in the history of the human fpecies. The manners of the people in the New World who had made the greatest progress in the arts of policy, were the most ferocious, and the barbarity of fome of their customs exceeded even those of the sayage state.
Pretensions of Peru to an high antiquity uncertain.
The empire of Peru boafts of an higher antiquity than that of Mexico. According to the traditionary accounts collected by the Spaniards, it had subsifted four hundred years, under twelve fucceffive monarchs. But the knowledge of
their ancient story, which the Peruvians could communicate to their conquerors, must have been both imperfect and uncertain. z) Like the other American nations, they were totally unacquainted with the art of writing, and deftitute of the only means by which the memory of past transactions can be preserved with any degree of accuracy. Even among people to whom the use of letters is known,
the æra where the authenticity of history commences, is much posterior to the introduction of writing. That noble invention continues long subfervient to the common business and wants of life be. 'fore it was employed in recording events, with a view of conveying information from one age to another. But in no country did ever tradition alone carry down historick knowledge, in any full continued stream, during a period of half the length that the monarchy of Peru is said to have subfifted.
Defe&ts in their records by Quipos.
The Quipos, or knots on cords of different colours, which are celebrated by authors fond of the marvellous, as if they had been regular annals of the empire, imperfectly supplied the place of writing. According to the obscure de. scription of them by Acosta, a) which Garci
2) See NOTE XXXII. a) Hift. lib. vi. ¢, 8.
laffo de la Vega has adopted with little variation and no improvement, the Quipos seem to have been a device for rendering calculation more expeditious and accurate, By the various colours different objects were denoted, and by each knot a distinct number. Thus an account was taken, and a kind of register kept, of the inhabitants in each province, or of the several productions collected there for publick use. But as by these knots, however varied or combined, no moral or abstract idea, no operation or quality of the mind could be represented, they contributed little towards preserving the memory of ancient events and institutions. The Mexican paintings and symbols, rude as they were, conveyed more knowledge of remote tranfactions, than the Peruvians could derive from their boasted quipos. : Had the latter been even of more extensive use, and better adapted to supply the place of written records, they perished so generally, together with other monuments of Peruvian ingenuity, in the wreck occafioned by the Spanish conquest, and the civil wars fubfequent to it, that no accession of light or knowledge comes from them. All the zeal of Gar. cilafio de la Vega, for the honour of that race of monarchs from whom he descended, all the industry of his researches, and the superior ad. vantages with which he carried them on, operied no fource of information unknown to the Spanish authors who wrote before him. In his
Royal Commentaries, he confines himself to illustrate what they had related concerning the antiquities and institutions of Peru; b) and his illustrations, like their accounts, are derived entirely from the traditionary tales current among his countrymen.
Very little credit then is due to the minute details which have been given of the exploits , the battles, the conquests, and private character of the early Peruvian monarchs.
We can rest upon nothing in their story, as authentick, but a few facts, so interwoven in the system of their religion and policy, as preserved the memory of them from being loft; and upon the description of such customs and institutions as continued in force at the time of the conquest, and fell under the immediate observation of the Spaniards. By attending carefully to these, and endeavouring to seperate them from what appears to be fabulous, or of doubtful authori. ty , I have laboured to form an idea of the Peruvian government and manners.
Origin of their civil policy
The people of Peru, as I have already observed, c) had not advanced beyond the rudest form of savage life, when Manco Capac, and his confort Mama ocollo, appeared to instruct and civilize them. Who these extraor
b) Lib. i. c. Io. c) Book yi.