Nor seas alone the countless barks behold; Earth's inland realms their naval paths unfold. Her plains, long portless, now no more complain Of useless rills and fountains nursed in vain; Canals curve thro them many a liquid line, Prune their wild streams, their lakes and oceans join. Where Darien hills o'erlook the gulphy tide, Cleft in his view the enormous banks divide; Ascending sails their opening pass pursue, And waft the sparkling treasures of Peru. Moxoe resigns his stagnant world of fen, Allures, rewards the cheerful toils of men, Leads their long new-made rivers round his reign, Drives off the stench and waves his golden grain, Feeds a whole nation from his cultured shore, Where not a bird could skim the skies before.
From Mohawk's mouth, far westing with the sun, Thro all the midlands recent channels run, Tap the redundant lakes, the broad hills brave, And Hudson marry with Missouri's wave. From dim Superior, whose uncounted sails Shade his full seas and bosom all his gales, New paths unfolding seek Mackensie's tide, And towns and empires rise along their side; Slave's crystal highways all his north adorn, Like coruscations from the boreal morn. Proud Missisippi, tamed and taught his road, Flings forth irriguous from his generous flood Ten thousand watery glades; that, round him curl'd, Vein the broad bosom of the western world.
From the red banks of Arab's odorous tide Their Isthmus opens, and strange waters glide; Europe from all her shores, with crowded sails, Looks thro the pass and calls the Asian gales. Volga and Obi distant oceans join. Delighted Danube weds the wasting Rhine; Elbe, Oder, Neister channel many a plain, Exchange their barks and try each other's main. All infant streams and every mountain rill Choose their new paths, some useful task to fill, Each acre irrigate, re-road the earth, And serve at last the purpose of their birth.
Earth, garden'd all, a tenfold burden brings; Her fruits, her odors, her salubrious springs Swell, breathe and bubble from the soil they grace, String with strong nerves the renovating race, Their numbers multiply in every land, Their toils diminish and their powers expand; And while she rears them with a statelier frame Their soul she kindles with diviner flame, Leads their bright intellect with fervid glow Thro all the mass of things that still remains to know.
He saw the aspiring genius of the age Soar in the Bard and strengthen in the Sage: The Bard with bolder hand assumes the lyre, Warms the glad nations with unwonted fire, Attunes to virtue all the tones that roll Their tides of transport thro the expanding soul. For him no more, beneath their furious gods, Old ocean crimsons and Olympus nods, Uprooted mountains sweep the dark profound, Or Titans groan beneath the rending ground, No more his clangor maddens up the mind To crush, to conquer and enslave mankind, To build on ruin'd realms the shrines of fame, And load his numbers with a tyrant's name. Far nobler objects animate his tongue, And give new energies to epic song; To moral charms he bids the world attend, Fraternal states their mutual ties extend, O'er cultured earth the rage of conquest cease, War sink in night and nature smile in peace. Soaring with science then he learns to string Her highest harp, and brace her broadest wing, With her own force to fray the paths untrod, With her own glance to ken the total God, Thro heavens o'ercanopied by heavens behold New suns ascend and other skies unfold, Social and system'd worlds around him shine, And lift his living strains to harmony divine.
The Sage with steadier lights directs his ken, Thro twofold nature leads the walks of men, Remoulds her moral and material frames, Their mutual aids, their sister laws proclaims, Disease before him with its causes flies, And boasts no more of sickly soils and skies; His well-proved codes the healing science aid, Its base establish and its blessing spread, With long-wrought life to teach the race to glow, And vigorous nerves to grace the locks of snow.
From every shape that varying matter gives, That rests or ripens, vegetates or lives, His chymic powers new combinations plan, Yield new creations, finer forms to man, High springs of health for mind and body trace, Add force and beauty to the joyous race, Arm with new engines his adventurous hand, Stretch o'er these elements his wide command, Lay the proud storm submissive at his feet, Change, temper, tame all subterranean heat, Probe laboring earth and drag from her dark side The mute volcano, ere its force be tried; Walk under ocean, ride the buoyant air, Brew the soft shower, the labor'd land repair, A fruitful soil o'er sandy deserts spread, And clothe with culture every mountain's head.
Where system'd realms their mutual glories lend, And well-taught sires the cares of state attend, Thro every maze of man they learn to wind, Note each device that prompts the Proteus mind, What soft restraints the tempered breast requires, To taste new joys and cherish new desires, Expand the selfish to the social flame, And rear the soul to deeds of nobler fame.
They mark, in all the past records of praise, What partial views heroic zeal could raise; What mighty states on others' ruins stood, And built unsafe their haughty seats in blood; How public virtue's ever borrow'd name With proud applauses graced the deeds of shame, Bade each imperial standard wave sublime, And wild ambition havoc every clime; From chief to chief the kindling spirit ran, Heirs of false fame and enemies of man.
Where Grecian states in even balance hung, And warm'd with jealous fires the patriot's tongue, The exclusive ardor cherish'd in the breast Love to one land and hatred to the rest. And where the flames of civil discord rage, And Roman arms with Roman arms engage, The mime of virtue rises still the same, To build a Cesar's as a Pompey's name.
But now no more the patriotic mind, To narrow views and local laws confined, Gainst neighboring lands directs the public rage. Plods for a clan or counsels for an age; But soars to loftier thoughts, and reaches far Beyond the power, beyond the wish of war; For realms and ages forms the general aim, Makes patriot views and moral views the same, Works with enlighten'd zeal, to see combined The strength and happiness of humankind.
Long had Columbus with delighted eyes Mark'd all the changes that around him rise, Lived thro descending ages as they roll, And feasted still the still expanding soul; When now the peopled regions swell more near, And a mixt noise tumultuous stuns his ear. At first, like heavy thunders roll'd in air, Or the rude shock of cannonading war, Or waves resounding on the craggy shore, Hoarse roll'd the loud-toned undulating roar. But soon the sounds like human voices rise, All nations pouring undistinguisht cries; Till more distinct the wide concussion grown Rolls forth at times an accent like his own. By turns the tongues assimilating blend, And smoother idioms over earth ascend; Mingling and softening still in every gale, O'er discord's din harmonious tones prevail. At last a simple universal sound Winds thro the welkin, sooths the world around, From echoing shores in swelling strain replies, And moves melodious o'er the warbling skies.
Such wild commotions as he heard and view'd, In fixt astonishment the Hero stood, And thus besought the Guide: Celestial friend, What good to man can these dread scenes intend? Some sore distress attends that boding sound That breathed hoarse thunder and convulsed the ground. War sure hath ceased; or have my erring eyes Misread the glorious visions of the skies? Tell then, my Seer, if future earthquakes sleep, Closed in the conscious caverns of the deep, Waiting the day of vengeance, when to roll And rock the rending pillars of the pole. Or tell if aught more dreadful to my race In these dark signs thy heavenly wisdom trace; And why the loud discordance melts again In the smooth glidings of a tuneful strain.
The guardian god replied: Thy fears give o'er; War's hosted hounds shall havoc earth no more; No sore distress these signal sounds foredoom, But give the pledge of peaceful years to come; The tongues of nations here their accents blend. Till one pure language thro the world extend.
Thou know'st the tale of Babel; how the skies Fear'd for their safety as they felt him rise, Sent unknown jargons mid the laboring bands, Confused their converse and unnerved their hands, Dispersed the bickering tribes and drove them far, From peaceful toil to violence and war; Bade kings arise with bloody flags unfurl'd, Bade pride and conquest wander o'er the world, Taught adverse creeds, commutual hatreds bred, Till holy homicide the climes o'erspread. —For that fine apologue, writh mystic strain, Gave like the rest a golden age to man, Ascribed perfection to his infant state, Science unsought and all his arts innate; Supposed the experience of the growing race Must lead him retrograde and cramp his pace, Obscure his vision as his lights increast, And sink him from an angel to a beast.
Tis thus the teachers of despotic sway Strive in all times to blot the beams of day, To keep him curb'd, nor let him lift his eyes To see where happiness, where misery lies. They lead him blind, and thro the world's broad waste Perpetual feuds, unceasing shadows cast, Crush every art that might the mind expand, And plant with demons every desert land; That, fixt in straiten'd bounds, the lust of power May ravage still and still the race devour, An easy prey the hoodwink'd hordes remain, And oceans roll and shores extend in vain.
Long have they reign'd; till now the race at last Shake off their manacles, their blinders cast, Overrule the crimes their fraudful foes produce, By ways unseen to serve the happiest use, Tempt the wide wave, probe every yielding soil, Fill with their fruits the hardy hand of toil, Unite their forces, wheel the conquering car, Deal mutual death, but civilize by war.
Dear-bought the experiment and hard the strife Of social man, that rear'd his arts to life. His Passions wild that agitate the mind, His Reason calm, their watchful guide designed, While yet unreconciled, his march restrain, Mislead the judgment and betray the man. Fear, his first passion, long maintain'd the sway, Long shrouded in its glooms the mental ray, Shook, curb'd, controll'd his intellectual force, And bore him wild thro many a devious course. Long had his Reason, with experienced eye, Perused the book of earth and scaled the sky, Led fancy, memory, foresight in her train, And o'er creation stretch'd her vast domain; Yet would that rival Fear her strength appal; In that one conflict always sure to fall, Mild Reason shunn'd the foe she could not brave, Renounced her empire and remained a slave.
But deathless, tho debased, she still could find Some beams of truth to pour upon the mind; And tho she dared no moral code to scan, Thro physic forms she learnt to lead the man; To strengthen thus his opening orbs of sight, And nerve and clear them for a stronger light. That stronger light, from nature's double codes, Now springs expanding and his doubts explodes; All nations catch it, all their tongues combine To hail the human morn and speak the day divine.
At this blest period, when the total race Shall speak one language and all truths embrace, Instruction clear a speedier course shall find, And open earlier on the infant mind. No foreign terms shall crowd with barbarous rules The dull unmeaning pageantry of schools; Nor dark authorities nor names unknown Fill the learnt head with ignorance not its own; But wisdom's eye with beams unclouded shine, And simplest rules her native charms define; One living language, one unborrow'd dress Her boldest flights with fullest force express; Triumphant virtue, in the garb of truth, Win a pure passage to the heart of youth, Pervade all climes where suns or oceans roll, And warm the world with one great moral soul, To see, facilitate, attain the scope Of all their labor and of all their hope.
As early Phosphor, on his silver throne, Fair type of truth and promise of the sun, Smiles up the orient in his dew-dipt ray, Illumes the front of heaven and leads the day; Thus Physic Science, with exploring eyes, First o'er the nations bids her beauties rise, Prepares the glorious way to pour abroad Her Sister's brighter beams, the purest light of God. Then Moral Science leads the lively mind Thro broader fields and pleasures more refined; Teaches the temper'd soul, at one vast view, To glance o'er time and look existence thro, See worlds and worlds, to being's formless end, With all their hosts on her prime power depend, Seraphs and suns and systems, as they rise, Live in her life and kindle from her eyes, Her cloudless ken, her all-pervading soul Illume, sublime and harmonize the whole; Teaches the pride of man its breadth to bound In one small point of this amazing round, To shrink and rest where nature fixt its fate, A line its space, a moment for its date; Instructs the heart an ampler joy to taste, And share its feelings with each human breast, Expand its wish to grasp the total kind Of sentient soul, of cogitative mind; Till mutual love commands all strife to cease, And earth join joyous in the songs of peace.
Thus heard Columbus, eager to behold The famed Apocalypse its years unfold; The soul stood speaking thro his gazing eyes, And thus his voice: Oh let the visions rise! Command, celestial Guide, from each far pole, John's vision'd morn to open on my soul, And raise the scenes, by his reflected light, Living and glorious to my longing sight. Let heaven unfolding show the eternal throne, And all the concave flame in one clear sun; On clouds of fire, with angels at his side, The Prince of Peace, the King of Salem ride, With smiles of love to greet the bridal earth, Call slumbering ages to a second birth, With all his white-robed millions fill the train, And here commence the interminable reign! Such views, the Saint replies, for sense too bright, Would seal thy vision in eternal night; Man cannot face nor seraph power display The mystic beams of such an awful day. Enough for thee, that thy delighted mind Should trace the temporal actions of thy kind; That time's descending veil should ope so far Beyond the reach of wretchedness and war, Till all the paths in nature's sapient plan Fair in thy presence lead the steps of man, And form at last, on earth's extended ball, Union of parts and happiness of all. To thy glad ken these rolling years have shown The boundless blessings thy vast labors crown, That, with the joys of unborn ages blest, Thy soul exulting may retire to rest, But see once more! beneath a change of skies, The last glad visions wait thy raptured eyes.
Eager he look'd. Another train of years Had roll'd unseen, and brighten'd still their spheres; Earth more resplendent in the floods of day Assumed new smiles, and flush'd around him lay. Green swell the mountains, calm the oceans roll, Fresh beams of beauty kindle round the pole; Thro all the range where shores and seas extend, In tenfold pomp the works of peace ascend. Robed in the bloom of spring's eternal year, And ripe with fruits the same glad fields appear; O'er hills and vales perennial gardens run, Cities unwall'd stand sparkling to the sun; The streams all freighted from the bounteous plain Swell with the load and labor to the main, Whose stormless waves command a steadier gale And prop the pinions of a bolder sail: Sway'd with the floating weight each ocean toils, And joyous nature's full perfection smiles.
Fill'd with unfolding fate, the vision'd age Now leads its actors on a broader stage; When clothed majestic in the robes of state, Moved by one voice, in general congress meet The legates of all empires. Twas the place Where wretched men first firm'd their wandering pace; Ere yet beguiled, the dark delirious hordes Began to fight for altars and for lords; Nile washes still the soil, and feels once more The works of wisdom press his peopled shore.
In this mid site, this monumental clime, Rear'd by all realms to brave the wrecks of time A spacious dome swells up, commodious great, The last resort, the unchanging scene of state. On rocks of adamant the walls ascend, Tall columns heave and sky-like arches bend; Bright o'er the golden roofs the glittering spires Far in the concave meet the solar fires; Four blazing fronts, with gates unfolding high, Look with immortal splendor round the sky: Hither the delegated sires ascend, And all the cares of every clime attend.
As that blest band, the guardian guides of heaven, To whom the care of stars and suns is given, (When one great circuit shall have proved their spheres, And time well taught them how to wind their years) Shall meet in general council; call'd to state The laws and labors that their charge await; To learn, to teach, to settle how to hold Their course more glorious, as their lights unfold: From all the bounds of space (the mandate known) They wing their passage to the eternal throne; Each thro his far dim sky illumes the road, And sails and centres tow'rd the mount of God; There, in mid universe, their seats to rear, Exchange their counsels and their works compare: So, from all tracts of earth, this gathering throng In ships and chariots shape their course along, Reach with unwonted speed the place assign'd To hear and give the counsels of mankind.
South of the sacred mansion, first resort The assembled sires, and pass the spacious court. Here in his porch earth's figured Genius stands, Truth's mighty mirror poizing in his hands; Graved on the pedestal and chased in gold, Man's noblest arts their symbol forms unfold, His tillage and his trade; with all the store Of wondrous fabrics and of useful lore: Labors that fashion to his sovereign sway Earth's total powers, her soil and air and sea; Force them to yield their fruits at his known call, And bear his mandates round the rolling ball. Beneath the footstool all destructive things, The mask of priesthood and the mace of kings, Lie trampled in the dust; for here at last Fraud, folly, error all their emblems cast. Each envoy here unloads his wearied hand Of some old idol from his native land; One flings a pagod on the mingled heap, One lays a crescent, one a cross to sleep; Swords, sceptres, mitres, crowns and globes and stars, Codes of false fame and stimulants to wars Sink in the settling mass; since guile began, These are the agents of the woes of man.
Now the full concourse, where the arches bend, Pour thro by thousands and their seats ascend. Far as the centred eye can range around, Or the deep trumpet's solemn voice resound, Long rows of reverend sires sublime extend, And cares of worlds on every brow suspend. High in the front, for soundest wisdom known, A sire elect in peerless grandeur shone; He open'd calm the universal cause, To give each realm its limit and its laws, Bid the last breath of tired contention cease, And bind all regions in the leagues of peace; Till one confederate, condependent sway Spread with the sun and bound the walks of day, One centred system, one all-ruling soul Live thro the parts and regulate the whole.
Here then, said Hesper, with a blissful smile, Behold the fruits of thy long years of toil. To yon bright borders of Atlantic day Thy swelling pinions led the trackless way, And taught mankind such useful deeds to dare, To trace new seas and happy nations rear; Till by fraternal hands their sails unfurl'd Have waved at last in union o'er the world.
Then let thy steadfast soul no more complain Of dangers braved and griefs endured in vain, Of courts insidious, envy's poison'd stings, The loss of empire and the frown of kings; While these broad views thy better thoughts compose To spurn the malice of insulting foes; And all the joys descending ages gain, Repay thy labors and remove thy pain.
Tho it would be more convenient to the reader to find some of these notes, especially the shorter ones, at the bottom of the pages to which they refer, yet most of them are of such a length as would render that mode of placing them disadvantageous to the symmetry of the pages and the general appearance of the work. It seemed necessary that these should be collected at the end of the Poem; and it was thought proper that the others should not be separated from them.
The notes will probably be found too voluminous for the taste of some readers; but others would doubtless be better pleased to see them still augmented, as several of the philosophical subjects and historical references are left unexplained. Were I to offer apologies in this case, I should hardly know on which side to begin. I will therefore only say that in this appendage, as in the body of the work, I have aimed, as well as I was able, at blending in due proportions the useful with the agreeable.
One gentle guardian once could shield the brave; But now that guardian slumbers in the grave.
Book I. Line 105.
The death of queen Isabella, which happened before the last return of Columbus from America, was a subject of great sorrow to him. In her he lost his only powerful friend in Spain, on whose influence he was accustomed to rely in counteracting the perpetual intrigues of a host of enemies, whose rank and fortune gave them a high standing at the court of Valladolid. Their situation and connexions must havee commanded a weight of authority not easily resisted by an individual foreigner, however illustrious from his merit.
It was a grievous reflection for Columbus that his services, tho great in themselves and unequalled in their consequences to the world, had been performed in an age and for a nation which knew not their value, as well as for an ungrateful monarch who chose to disregard them.
As, awed to silence, savage lands gave place, And hail'd with joy the sun-descended race.
Book I. Line 243.
The original inhabitants of Hispaniola were worshippers of the sun. The Europeans, when they first landed there, were supposed by them to be gods, and consequently descended from the sun. See the subject of solar worship treated more at large in a subsequent note.
High lanterned in his heaven the cloudless White Heaves the glad sailor an eternal light;
Book I. Line 333.
The White Mountain of Newhampshire, tho eighty miles from the sea, is the first land to be discovered in approaching that part of the coast of North America. It serves as a landmark for a considerable length of coast, of difficult navigation.
Whirl'd from the monstrous Andes' bursting sides, Maragnon leads his congregating tides;
Book I. Line 365.
This river, from different circumstances, has obtained several different names. It has been called Amazon, from an idea that some part of the neighboring country was inhabited by a race of warlike women, resembling what Herodotus relates of the Amazons of Scythia. It has been called Orellana, from its having been discovered by a Spanish officer of that name, who, on a certain expedition, deserted from the younger Pizarro on one of the sources of this river, and navigated it from thence to the ocean. Maragnon is the original name given it by the natives; which name I choose to follow.
If we estimate its magnitude by the length of its course and the quantity of water it throws into the sea, it is much the greatest river that has hitherto come to our knowledge. Its navigation is said by Condamine and others to be uninterrupted for four thousand miles from the sea. Its breadth, within the banks, is sixty geographical miles; it receives in its course a variety of great rivers, besides those described in the text. Many of these descend from elevated countries and mountains covered with snow, the melting of which annually swells the Maragnon above its banks; when it overflows and fertilizes a vast extent of territory.
He saw Xaraycts diamond lanks unfold, And Paraguay's deep channel paved with gold.
Book I. Line 435.
Some of the richest diamond mines are found on the banks of the lake Xaraya. The river Paraguay is remarkable for the quantities of gold dust found in its channel. The Rio de la Plata, properly so called, has its source in the mountains of Potosi; and it was probably from this circumstance that it received its name, which signifies River of Silver. This river, after having joined the Paraguay, which is larger than itself, retains its own name till it reaches the sea. Near the mouth, it is one hundred and fifty miles wide; but in other respects it is far inferior to the Maragnon.
Soon as the distant swell was seen to roll, His ancient wishes reabsorb'd his soul;
Book I. Line 449.
The great object of Columbus, in most of his voyages, was to discover a western passage to India. He navigated the Gulph of Mexico with particular attention to this object, and was much disappointed in not finding a pass into the South Sea. The view he is here supposed to have of that ocean would therefore naturally recal his former desire of sailing to India.
This idle frith must open soon to fame, Here a lost Lusitanian fix his name,
Book I. Line 491.
The straits of Magellan, so called from having been discovered by a Portuguese navigator of that name, who first attempted to sail round the world, and lost his life in the attempt.
Say, Palfrey, brave good man, was this thy doom? Dwells here the secret of thy midsea tomb?
Book I. Line 627.
Colonel Palfrey of Boston was an officer of distinction in the American army during the war of independence. Soon after the war he proposed to visit Europe, and embarked for England; but never more was heard of. The ship probably perished in the ice. His daughter, here alluded to, is now the wife of William Lee, American consul at Bordeaux.
The beasts all whitening roam the lifeless plain, And caves unfrequent scoop the couch for man.
Book I. Line 753.
The color of animals is acquired partly from the food they eat, thro successive generations, and partly from the objects with which they are usually surrounded. Dr. Darwin has a curious note on this subject, in which he remarks on the advantages that insects and other small animals derive from their color, as a means of rendering them invisible to their more powerful enemies; who thus find it difficult to distinguish them from other objects where they reside. Some animals which inhabit cold countries turn white in winter, when the earth is covered with snow; such as the snowbird of the Alps. Others in snowy regions are habitually white; such as the white bear of Russia.
A different cast the glowing zone demands, In Paria's blooms, from Tombut's burning sands.
Book II. Line 97.
Paria is a fertile country near the river Orinoco; the only part of the continent of America that Columbus had seen. Tombut, in the same latitude, is the most sterile part of Africa. America embraces a greater compass of latitude by many degrees than the other continent; and yet its inhabitants present a much less variety in their physical and moral character. When shall we be able to account for this fact?
Yet when the hordes to happy nations rise, And earth by culture warms the genial skies,
Book II. Line 119.
Without entering into any discussion on the theory of heat and cold (a point not yet settled in our academies) I would just observe, in vindication of the expression in the text, that some solid matter, such for instance as the surface of the earth, seems absolutely necessary to the production of heat. At least it must be a matter more compact than that of the sun's rays; and perhaps its power of producing heat is in proportion to its solidity.
The warmth communicated to the atmosphere is doubtless produced by the combined causes of the earth and the sun; but the agency of the former is probably more powerful in this operation than that of the latter, and its presence more indispensable. For masses of matter will produce heat by friction, without the aid of the sun; but no experiment has yet proved that the rays of the sun are capable of producing heat without the aid of other and more solid matter. The air is temperate in those cavities of the earth where the sun is the most effectually excluded; whereas the coldest regions yet known to us are the tops of the Andes, where the sun's rays have the most direct operation, being the most vertical and the least obstructed by vapors. Those regions are deprived of heat by being so far removed from the broad surface of the earth; a body that appears requisite to warm the surrounding atmosphere by its cooperation with the action of the sun.
From these principles we may conclude that cultivation, in a woody country, tends to warm the atmosphere and ameliorate a cold climate; as, by removing the forests and marshes, it opens the earth to the sun, and allows them to act in conjunction upon the air.
According to the descriptions given of the middle parts of Europe by Cesar and Tacitus, it appears that those countries were much colder in their days than they are at present; cultivation seems to have softened that climate to a great degree. The same effect begins to be perceived in North America. Possibly it may in time become as apparent as the present difference in the temperature of the two continents.
A ruddier hue and deeper shade shall gain, And stalk, in statelier figures, on the plain.
Book II. Line 127.
The complexion of the inhabitants of North America, who are descended from the English and Dutch, is evidently darker, and their stature taller, than those of the English and Dutch in Europe.
Like Memphian hieroglyphs, to stretch the span Of memory frail in momentary man.
Book II. Line 287.
We may reckon three stages of improvement in the graphic art, or the art of communicating our thoughts to absent persons and to posterity by visible signs. First, The invention of painting ideas, or representing actions, dates and other circumstances of historical fact, by the images of material things, drawn usually on a flat surface, or sometimes carved or moulded in a more solid form. This was the state at which the art had arrived in Egypt before the introduction of letters, and in Mexico before the arrival of the Spaniards. The Greeks in Egypt called it hieroglyphic.
Second, The invention of painting sounds, which we do by the use of letters, or the alphabet, and which we call writing. This was a vast improvement; as it simplified in a wonderful degree the communication of thought. For ideas are infinite in number and variety; while the simple sounds we use to convey them to the ear are few, distinct and easy to be understood. It would indeed be impossible to express all our ideas by distinct and visible images. And even if the writer were able to do this, not many readers could be made to understand him; since it would be necessary that every new idea should have a new image invented and agreed upon between the writer and the reader, before it could be used. Which preliminary could not be settled without the writer should see and converse with the reader. And he might as well, in this case, convey his ideas by oral speech; so that his writing could be of little use beyond a certain routine of established signs.
The number of simple sounds in human language, used in discourse, is not above eighteen or twenty; and these are so varied in the succession in which they are uttered, as to express an inconceivable and endless variety of thought and sentiment. Then, by the help of an alphabet of about twenty-six letters or visible signs, these sounds are translated from the ear to the eye; and we are able, by thus painting the sound, to arrest its fleeting nature, render it permanent, and talk with distant nations and future ages, without any previous convention whatever, even supposing them to be ignorant of the language in which we write. This is the present state of the art, as commonly practised in all the countries where an alphabet is used. It is called the art of writing; and to understand it is called reading.
Third, Another invention, which is still in its infancy, is the art of painting phrases, or sentences; commonly called shorthand writing. This is yet but little used, and only by a few dexterous persons, who make it a particular study. Probably the true principles on which it ought to be founded are yet to be discovered. But it may be presumed, that in this part of the graphic art there remains to the ingenuity of future generations a course of improvements totally inconceivable to the present; by which the whole train of impressions now made upon the mind by reading a long and well written treatise may be conveyed by a few strokes of the pen, and be received at a glance of the eye. This desideratum would be an abridgment of labor in our mental acquisitions, of which we cannot determine the consequences. It might make, in the progress of human knowledge, an epoch as remarkable as that which was made by the invention of alphabetical writing, and produce as great a change in the mode of transmitting the history of events.
One consequence of the invention of alphabetical writing seems to have been to throw into oblivion all previous historical facts; and it has thus left an immense void, which the imagination knows not how to fill, in contemplating the progress of our race. How many important discoveries, which still remain to our use, must have taken their origin in that space of time which is thus left a void to us! A vast succession of ages, and ages of improvement, must have preceded (for example) the invention of the wheel. The wheel must have been in common use, we know not how long, before alphabetical writing; because we find its image employed in painting ideas, during the first stage of the graphic art above described. The wheel was likewise in use before the mysteries of Ceres or those of Isis were established; as is evident from its being imagined as an instrument of punishment in hell, in the case of Ixion, as represented in those mysteries. The taming of the ox and the horse, the use of the sickle and the bow and arrow, a considerable knowledge of astronomy, and its application to the purposes of agriculture and navigation, with many other circumstances, which show a prodigious improvement, must evidently have preceded the date of the zodiac; a date fixed by Dupuis, with a great degree of probability, at about seventeen thousand years from our time. This epoch would doubtless carry us back many thousand years beyond that of the alphabet; the invention of which was sufficient of itself to obliterate the details of previous history, as the event has proved.
How far the loss of these historical details is to be regretted, as an impediment to our progress in useful knowledge, I will not decide; but in one view, which I am going to state, it may be justly considered as a misfortune.
The art of painting ideas, being arrested in the state in which the use of the alphabet found it, went into general disuse for common purposes; and the works then extant, as well as the knowledge of writing in that mode, being no longer intelligible to the people, became objects of deep and laborious study, and known only to the learned; that is, to the men of leisure and contemplation. These men consequently ran it into mystery; making it a holy object, above the reach of vulgar inquiry. On this ground they established, in the course of ages, a profitable function or profession, in the practice of which a certain portion of men of the brightest talents could make a reputable living; taking care not to initiate more than a limited number of professors; no more than the people could maintain as priests. This mode of writing then assumed the name of hieroglyphic, or sacred painting, to distinguish it from that which had now become the vulgar mode of writing, by the use of the alphabet. This is perhaps the source of that ancient, vast and variegated system of false religion, with all its host of errors and miseries, which has so long and so grievously weighed upon the character of human nature.
In noticing the distinction of the three stages in the graphic art above described, I have not mentioned the wonderful powers we derive from it in the language of the mathematics and the language of music. In each of these, though its effects are already astonishing, there is no doubt but great improvements are still to be made. Our present mode of writing in these, as in literature, belongs to the second or alphabetical stage of the graphic art. The ten ciphers, and the other signs used in the mathematical sciences, form the alphabet in which the language of those sciences is written. The few musical notes, and the other signs which accompany them, furnish an alphabet for writing the language of music.
The mode of writing in China is still different from any of those I have mentioned. The Chinese neither paint ideas nor sounds: but they make a character for every word; which character must vary according to the different inflections and uses of that word. The characters must therefore be insupportably numerous, and be still increasing as the language is enriched with new words by the augmentation and correction of ideas.
The English language is supposed to contain about twelve thousand distinct words, and the Italian about seventeen thousand, in the present state of our sciences. I know not how many the Chinese may contain; but if we were to write our languages in the Chinese method, it would be the business of a whole life for a man to learn his mother tongue, so as to read and write it for his ordinary purposes.
As the Chinese have not adopted an alphabet, but have adhered to an invariable state of the graphic art, which is probably more ancient by several thousand years than our present method, may we not venture to conjecture that the traces of their very ancient history have been, for that reason, better preserved? and that their pretensions to a very high antiquity, which we have been used to think extravagant and ridiculous, are really not without foundation? If so, we might then allow a little more latitude to ourselves, and conclude that we are in fact as old as they, and might have been as sensible of it, if we had adhered to our ancient method of writing; and not changed it for a new one which, while it has facilitated the progress of our science, has humbled our pride of antiquity, by obliterating the dates of those labors and improvements of our early progenitors, to which we are indebted for more of the rudiments of our sciences and our arts than we usually imagine.
It is much to be regretted, that the Spanish devastation in Mexico and Peru was so universal as to leave us but few monuments of the history of the human mind in those countries, which presented a state of manners so remarkably different from what can be found in any other part of the world. The pictorial writing of the Mexicans, tho sometimes called hieroglyphic, does not appear to merit that name, as it was not exclusively appropriated by the priests to sacred purposes. Indeed it could not be so appropriated till a more convenient method could be discovered and adopted for common purposes. For a thing cannot become sacred, in this sense of the word, until it ceases to be common.
No Bovadilla seize the tempting spoil, No dark Ovando, no religious Boyle,
Book II. Line 303.
Bovadilla and Ovando are mentioned in the Introduction as the enemies and successors of Columbus in the government of Hispaniola. They began that system of cruelty towards the natives which in a few years almost depopulated that island, and was afterwards pursued by Cortez, Pizarro and others, in all the first settlements in Spanish America.
Boyle was a fanatical priest who accompanied Ovando, and, under pretence of christianizing the natives by the sword, gave the sanction of the church to the most shocking and extensive scenes of slaughter.
He gains the shore. Behold his fortress rise, His fleet high flaming suffocates the skies.
Book II. Line 329.
The conduct of Cortez, when he first landed on the coast of Mexico, was as remarkable for that hardy spirit of adventure, to which success gives the name of policy, as his subsequent operations were for cruelty and perfidy. As soon as his army was on shore, he dismantled his fleet of such articles as would be useful in building a new one; he then set fire to his ships, and burnt them in presence of his men; that they might fight their battles with more desperate courage, knowing that it would be impossible to save themselves from a victorious enemy by flight. He constructed a fort, in which the iron and the rigging were preserved.
With cheerful rites their pure devotions pay To the bright orb that gives the changing day.
Book II. Line 421.
It is worthy of remark, that the countries where the worship of the sun has made the greatest figure are Egypt and Peru; the two regions of the earth the most habitually deprived of rain, and probably of clouds, which in other countries so frequently obstruct his rays and seem to dispute his influence. Tho in the rude ages of society it is certainly natural in all countries to pay adoration to the sun, as one of the visible agents of those changes in the atmosphere which most affect the people's happiness, yet it is reasonable to suppose that this adoration would be more unmixed, and consequently more durable, in climates where the agency of the sun appears unrivalled and supreme.
On the supposition that Greece and Western Asia, regions whose early traditions are best known to us, derived their first theological ideas from Egypt, it is curious to observe how the pure heliosebia of Egypt degenerated in those climates in proportion as other visible agents seemed to exert their influence in human affairs. Greece is a mountainous country, subject to a great deal of lightning and other meteors, whose effects are tremendous and make stronger impressions on rude savages than the gentle energies of the sun.
The Greeks therefore, having forgotten the source of their religious system, ceased to consider the sun as their supreme god; his agency being, in their opinion, subject to a more potent divinity, the Power of the air or Jupiter, whom they styled the Thunderer. So that Apollo, the god of light, became, in their mythology, the subject and offspring of the supreme god of the atmosphere. This religion became extremely confused and complicated with new fables, according to the temperature and other accidents of the different climates thro which it passed. The god of thunder obtained the supreme veneration generally in Europe: known in the south by the name of Jupiter or Zeus and in the north by that of Thor.
Europe in general has an uneven surface and a vapory sky, liable to great concussions in the lower regions of the atmosphere which border the habitation of man. There is no wonder that in such a region the god of the air should appear more powerful than the god of light. This disposition of the elements has given a gloomy cast to the mind, and in the north more than in the south. The Thor of the Celtic nations was more tremendous, more feared and less beloved, than the Jupiter of the Greeks and Romans; he was worshipped accordingly with more bloody sacrifices. But in all Europe, Western Asia and the northwestern coast of Africa, where the earth is uneven and the climate variable, their religion was more gloomy and their gods more ferocious than among the ancient Egyptians.
A like difference is observed in the religions of the two countries in America where civilization was most advanced before the arrival of the Spaniards. Peru enjoyed a climate of great serenity and regularity. Of all the sensible agents that operated on the earth and air, the sun was apparently the most uniform and energetic. The worship of the sun was therefore the most predominant and durable; and it inspired a mildness of manners analogous to his mild and beneficent influence. In Mexico and other uneven countries, where storms and earthquakes were frequent, the sun, altho he was reckoned among their deities, was not considered so powerful as those of a more boisterous and maleficent nature. The Mexican worship was therefore addressed chiefly to ferocious beings, enemies to human happiness, who delighted in the tears and blood of their votaries. The difference in the moral cast of religion in Peru and Mexico, as well as in Egypt and Greece, must have been greatly owing to climate. Indeed in what else should it be found? since the origin of religious ideas must have been in the energies of those visible agents which form the distinctive character of climates.
Long is the tale; but tho their labors rest By years obscured, in flowery fiction drest,
Book II. Line 455.
The traditions respecting these founders of the Peruvian empire are indeed obscure; but they excite in us the same sort of veneration that we feel for the most amiable and distinguished characters of remote antiquity. The honest zeal of Garcilasso de la Vega in collecting these traditions into one body of history, as a probable series of facts, is to be applauded; since he has there presented us with one of the most striking examples of the beau ideal in political character, that can be found in the whole range of literature. He treats his subject with more natural simplicity, tho with less talent, than Plutarch or Xenophon, when they undertake a similar task, that of drawing traditional characters to fill up the middle space between fable and history.
With regard to the true position that the portrait of Manco Capac ought to hold in this middle space, how near it should stand to history and how near to fable, we should find it difficult to say, and perhaps useless to inquire. Plutarch has gravely given us the lives and actions of several heroes who are evidently more fabulous than Capac, and of others who should be placed on the same line with him. The existence of Theseus, Romulus and Numa is more doubtful and their actions less probable than his. The character of Capac, in regard to its reality, stands on a parallel with that of the Lycurgus of Plutarch and the Cyrus of Xenophon; not purely historical nor purely fabulous, but presented to us as a compendium of those talents and labors which might possibly be crowded into the capacity of one mind, and be achieved in one life, but which more probably belong to several generations; the talents and labors that could reduce a great number of ferocious tribes into one peaceable and industrious state.
Garcilasso was himself an Inca by maternal descent, born and educated at Cusco after the Spanish conquest. He writes apparently with the most scrupulous regard to truth, with little judgment and no ornament. He discovers a credulous zeal to throw a lustre on his remote ancestor Manco Capac, not by inventing new incidents, but by collecting with great industry all that had been recorded in the annals of the family. And their manner of recording events, tho not so perfect as that of writing, was not so liable to error as traditions merely oral, like those of the Caledonian and other Celtic bards, with respect to the ancient heroes of their countries.
His account states, that about four centuries previous to the discovery of that country by the Spaniards, the natives of Peru were as rude savages as any in America. They had no fixed habitations, no ideas of permanent property; they wandered naked like the beasts, and like them depended on the events of each day for a subsistence. At this period Manco Capac and his wife Mauna Oella appeared on a small island in the lake Titiaca, near which the city of Cusco was afterwards built. These persons, to establish a belief of their divinity in the minds of the people, were clothed in white garments of cotton, and declared themselves descended from the sun, who was their father and the god of that country. They affirmed that he was offended at their cruel and perpetual wars, their barbarous modes of worship, and their neglecting to make the best use of the blessings he was constantly bestowing, in fertilizing the earth and producing vegetation; that he pitied their wretched state, and had sent his own children to instruct them and to establish a number of wise regulations, by which they might be rendered happy.
By some uncommon method of persuasion, these persons drew together a few of the savage tribes, laid the foundation of the city of Cusco, and established what is called the kingdom of the Sun, or the Peruvian empire. In the reign of Manco Capac, the dominion was extended about eight leagues from the city; and at the end of four centuries it was established fifteen hundred miles on the coast of the Pacific ocean, and from that ocean to the Andes. During this period, thro a succession of twelve monarchs, the original constitution, established by the first Inca, remained unaltered; and this constitution, with the empire itself, was at last overturned by an accident which no human wisdom could foresee or prevent.
For a more particular detail of the character and institutions of this extraordinary personage the reader is referred to a subsequent note, in which he will find a dissertation on that subject.
In the passage preceding this reference, I have alluded to the fabulous traditions relating to these children of the sun. In the remainder of the second and thro the whole of the third book, I have given what may be supposed a probable narrative of their real origin and actions. The space allowed to this episode may appear too considerable in a poem whose principal object is so different. But it may be useful to exhibit in action the manners and sentiments of savage tribes, whose aliment is war; that the contrast may show more forcibly the advantages of civilized life, whose aliment is peace.
Long robes of white my shoulders must embrace, To speak my lineage of ethereal race;
Book II. Line 553.
As the art of spinning is said to have been invented by Oella, it is no improbable fiction to imagine that they first assumed these white garments of cotton as an emblem of the sun, in order to inspire that reverence for their persons which was necessary to their success. Such a dress may likewise be supposed to have continued in the family as a badge of royalty.
DISSERTATION ON THE INSTITUTIONS OF MANCO CAPAC.
For the end of Book II.
Altho the original inhabitants of America in general deserve to be classed among the most unimproved savages that had been, discovered before those of New Holland, yet the Mexican and Peruvian governments exhibited remarkable exceptions, and seemed to be fast approaching to a state of civilization. In the difference of national character between the people of these two empires we may discern the influence of political systems on the human mind, and infer the importance of the task which a legislator undertakes, in attempting to reduce a barbarous people under the control of government and laws.
The Mexican constitution was formed to render its subjects brave and powerful; but, while it succeeded in this object, it kept them far removed from the real blessings of society. According to the Spanish accounts (which for an obvious reason may however be suspected of exaggeration) the manners of the Mexicans were uncommonly ferocious, and their religion gloomy, sanguinary, and unrelenting. But the establishments of Manco Capac, if we may follow Garcilasso in attributing the whole of the Peruvian constitution to that wonderful personage, present the aspect of a most benevolent and pacific system; they tended to humanize the world and render his people happy; while his ideas of deity were so elevated as to bear a comparison with the sublime doctrines of Socrates or Plato.
The characters, whether real or fabulous, who are the most distinguished as lawgivers among barbarous nations, are Moses, Lycurgus, Solon, Numa, Mahomet, and Peter of Russia. Of these, only the two former and the two latter appear really to deserve the character of lawgivers. Solon and Numa possessed not the opportunity of showing their talents in the work of original legislation. Athens and Rome were considerably civilized before these persons arose. The most they could do was to correct and amend constitutions already formed. Solon may be considered as a wise politician, but by no means as the founder of a nation. The Athenians were too far advanced in society to admit any radical change in their form of government; unless recourse could have been had to the representative system, by establishing an equality of rank, and instructing all the people in their duties and their rights; a system which was never understood by any ancient legislator.
The institutions of Numa (if such a person as Numa really existed) were more effective and durable. His religious ceremonies were, for many ages, the most powerful check on the licentious and turbulent Romans, the greater part of whom were ignorant slaves. By inculcating a remarkable reverence for the gods, and making it necessary to consult the auspices when any thing important was to be transacted, his object was to render the popular superstition subservient to the views of policy, and thus to give the senate a steady check upon the plebeians. But the constitutions of Rome and Athens, notwithstanding the abundant applause that has been bestowed upon them, were never fixed on any permanent principles; tho the wisdom of some of their rulers, and the spirit of liberty that inspired the citizens, may justly demand our admiration.
Each of the other legislators above mentioned deserves a particular consideration, as having acted in stations somewhat similar to that of the Peruvian patriarch. Three objects are to be attended to by the legislator of a barbarous people: First, That his system be such as is capable of reducing the greatest number of men under one jurisdiction: Second, That it apply to such principles in human nature for its support as are universal and permanent, in order to insure the duration of the government: Third, That it admit of improvements correspondent to any advancement in knowledge or variation of circumstances that may happen to its subjects, without endangering the principle of government by such innovations. So far as the systems of such legislators agree with these fundamental principles; they are worthy of respect; and so far as they deviate, they may be considered as defective.
To begin with Moses and Lycurgus: It is proper to observe that, in order to judge of the merit of any institutions, we must take into view the peculiar character of the people for whom they were framed. For want of this attention, many of the laws of Moses and some of those of Lycurgus have been ridiculed and censured. The Jews, when led by Moses out of Egypt, were not only uncivilized, but having just risen to independence from a state of servitude they united the manners of servants and savages; and their national character was a compound of servility, ignorance, filthiness and cruelty. Of their cruelty as a people we need no other proof than the account of their avengers of blood, and the readiness with which the whole congregation turned executioners, and stoned to death the devoted offenders. The leprosy, a disease now scarcely known, was undoubtedly produced by a want of cleanliness continued for successive generations. In this view, their frequent ablutions, their peculiar modes of trial and several other institutions, may be vindicated from ridicule and proved to be wise regulations.
The Spartan lawgiver has been censured for the toleration of theft and adultery. Among that race of barbarians these habits were too general to admit of total prevention or universal punishment. By vesting all property in the commonwealth, instead of encouraging theft, he removed the possibility of the crime; and, in a nation where licentiousness was generally indulged, it was a great step towards introducing a purity of manners, to punish adultery in all cases wherein it was committed without the consent of all parties interested in its consequences.
Until the institution of representative republics, which are of recent date, it was found that those constitutions of government were best calculated for immediate energy and duration, which were interwoven with some religious system. The legislator who appears in the character of an inspired person renders his political institutions sacred, and interests the conscience as well as the judgment in their support. The Jewish lawgiver had this advantage over the Spartan: he appeared not in the character of a mere earthly governor, but as an interpreter of the divine will. By enjoining a religious observance of certain rites he formed his people to habitual obedience; by directing their cruelty against the breakers of the laws he at least mitigated the rancor of private hatred; by directing that real property should return to the original families in the year of Jubilee he prevented too great an equality of wealth; and by selecting a single tribe to be the interpreters of religion he prevented its mysteries from being the subject of profane and vulgar investigation. With a view of securing the permanence of his institutions, he prohibited intercourse with foreigners by severe restrictions, and formed his people to habits and a character disagreeable to other nations; so that any foreign intercourse was prevented by the mutual hatred of both parties.
To these institutions the laws of Lycurgus bear a striking resemblance. The features of his constitution were severe and forbidding; it was however calculated to inspire the most enthusiastic love of liberty and martial honor. In no country was the patriotic passion more energetic than in Sparta; no laws ever excluded the idea of separate property in an equal degree, or inspired a greater contempt for the manners of other nations. The prohibition of money, commerce and almost every thing desirable to effeminate nations, excluded foreigners from Sparta; and while it inspired the people with contempt for strangers it made them agreeable to each other. By these means Lycurgus rendered the nation warlike; and to insure the duration of the government he endeavored to interest the consciences of his people by the aid of oracles, and by the oath he is said to have exacted from them to obey his laws till his return, when he went into perpetual exile.
From this view of the Jewish and Spartan institutions, applied to the principles before stated, they appear in the two first articles considerably imperfect, and in the last totally defective. Neither of them was calculated to bring any considerable territory or number of men under one jurisdiction: from this circumstance alone they could not be rendered permanent, as nations so restricted in their means of extension must be constantly exposed to their more powerful neighbors. But the third object of legislation, that of providing for the future progress of society, which as it regards the happiness of mankind is the most important of the three, was in both instances entirely neglected. These symptoms appear to have been formed with an express design to prevent future improvement in knowledge or enlargement of the human mind, and to fix those nations in a state of ignorance and barbarism. To vindicate their authors from an imputation of weakness or inattention in this particular, it may be urged that they were each of them surrounded by nations more powerful than their own; it was therefore perhaps impossible for them to commence an establishment upon any other plan.
The institutions of Mahomet are next to be considered. The first object of legislation appears to have been better understood by him than by either of the preceding sages; his jurisdiction was capable of being enlarged to any extent of territory, and governing any number of nations that might be subjugated by his enthusiastic armies; and his system of religion was admirably calculated to attain this object. Like Moses, he convinced his people that he acted as the vicegerent of God; but with this advantage, adapting his religion to the natural feelings and propensities of mankind, he multiplied his followers by the allurements of pleasure and the promise of a sensual paradise. These circumstances were likewise sure to render his constitution durable. His religious system was so easy to be understood, so splendid and so inviting, there could be no danger that the people would lose sight of its principles, and no necessity of future prophets to explain its doctrines or reform the nation. To these advantages if we add the exact and rigid military discipline, the splendor and sacredness of the monarch, and that total ignorance among the people which such a system will produce and perpetuate, the establishment must have been evidently calculated for a considerable extent and duration. But the last and most important end of government, that of mental improvement and social happiness, was deplorably lost in the institution. There was probably more learning and cultivated genius in Arabia, in the days of this extraordinary man, than can now be found in all the Mahometan dominions.
On the contrary, the enterprising mind of the Russian monarch appears to have been wholly bent on the arts of civilization and the improvement of society among his subjects. Established in a legal title to a throne which already commanded a prodigious extent of country, he found the first object of government already secured; and by applying himself with great sagacity to the third object, that of improving his people, it was reasonable to suppose that the second, the durability of his system, would become a necessary consequence. He effected his purposes, important as they were, merely by the introduction of the arts and the encouragement of politer manners. The greatness of his character appears not so much in his institutions, which he copied from other nations, as in the extraordinary measures he followed to introduce them, the judgment he showed in selecting and adapting them to the genius of his subjects, and the surprising assiduity by which he raised a savage people to an elevated rank among European nations.
To the nature and operation of the several forms of government above mentioned I will compare that of the Peruvian lawgiver. I have observed in a preceding note that the knowledge we have of Manco Capac is necessarily imperfect and obscure, derived thro traditions and family registers (without the aid of writing) for four hundred years; from the time he is supposed to have lived, till that of his historian and descendant, Inca Garcilasso de la Vega. About an equal interval elapsed from the supposed epoch of the first kings of Rome to that of their first historians; a longer space from Lycurgus to Herodotus; probably not a shorter one from the time of the great Cyrus to that of Xenophon, author of the elegant romance on the actions of that hero.
I recal the reader's attention to these comparisons, not with a view of contending that our accounts of the actions ascribed to Capac are derived from authentic records, and that he is a subject of real history, like Mahomet or Peter; but to show that, our channels of information with regard to him being equally respectable with those that have brought us acquainted with the classical and venerable names of Lycurgus, Romulus, Numa and Cyrus, we may be as correct in our reasonings from the modern as from the ancient source of reference, and fancy ourselves treading a ground as sacred on the tomb of the western patriarch, as on those more frequented and less scrutinized in the east, consecrated to the demigods of Sparta, Rome and Persia.
It is probable that the savages of Peru before the time of Capac, among other objects of adoration, paid homage to the sun. By availing himself of this popular sentiment he appeared, like Moses and Mahomet, in the character of a divine legislator endowed with supernatural powers. After impressing these ideas on the minds of the people, drawing together a number of the tribes and rendering them subservient to his benevolent purposes, he applied himself to forming the outlines of a plan of policy capable of founding and regulating an extensive empire, wisely calculated for long duration, and well adapted to improve the knowledge, peace and happiness of a considerable portion of mankind. In the allotment of the lands as private property he invented a mode somewhat resembling the feudal system of Europe: yet this system was checked in its operation by a law similar to that of Moses which regulated landed possessions in the year of Jubilee. He divided the lands into three parts; the first was consecrated to the uses of religion, as it was from the sacerdotal part of his system that he doubtless expected its most powerful support. The second portion was set apart for the Inca and his family, to enable him to defray the expenses of government and appear in the style of a monarch. The third and largest portion was allotted to the people; which allotment was repeated every year, and varied according to the number and exigences of each family.
As the Incan race appeared in the character of divinities, it seemed necessary that a subordination of rank should be established, to render the distinction between the monarch and his people more perceptible. With this view he created a band of nobles, who were distinguished by personal and hereditary honors. These were united to the monarch by the strongest ties of interest; in peace they acted as judges and superintended the police of the empire; in war they commanded in the armies. The next order of men were the respectable landholders and cultivators, who composed the principal strength of the nation. Below these was a class of men who were the servants of the public and cultivated the public lands. They possessed no property, and their security depended on their regular industry and peaceable demeanor. Above all these orders were the Inca and his family. He possessed absolute and uncontrolable power; his mandates were regarded as the word of heaven, and the double guilt of impiety and rebellion attended on disobedience.
To impress the utmost veneration for the Incan family, it was a fundamental principle that the royal blood should never be contaminated by any foreign alliance. The mysteries of religion were preserved sacred by the high priest of the royal family under the control of the king, and celebrated with rites capable of making the deepest impression on the multitude. The annual distribution of the lands, while it provided for the varying circumstances of each family, was designed to strengthen the bands of society by perpetuating that distinction of rank among the orders which is supposed necessary to a monarchical government; the peasants could not vie with their superiors, and the nobles could not be subjected by misfortune to a subordinate station. A constant habit of industry was inculcated upon all ranks by the force of example. The cultivation of the soil, which in most other countries is considered as one of the lowest employments, was here regarded as a divine art. Having had no knowledge of it before, and being taught it by the children of their god, the people viewed it as a sacred privilege, a national honor, to assist the sun in opening the bosom of the earth to produce vegetation. That the government might be able to exercise the endearing acts of beneficence, the produce of the public lands was reserved in magazines, to supply the wants of the unfortunate and as a resource in case of scarcity or invasion.
These are the outlines of a government the most simple and energetic, and at least as capable as any monarchy within our knowledge of reducing great and populous countries under one jurisdiction; at the same time, accommodating its principle of action to every stage of improvement, by a singular and happy application to the passions of the human mind, it encouraged the advancement of knowledge without being endangered by success.
In the traits of character which distinguish this institution we may discern all the great principles of each of the legislators above mentioned. The pretensions of Capac to divine authority were as artfully contrived and as effectual in their consequences as those of Mahomet; his exploding the worship of evil beings and objects of terror, forbidding human sacrifices and accommodating the rites of worship to a god of justice and benevolence, produced a greater change in the national character of his people than the laws of Moses did in his; like Peter he provided for the future improvement of society, while his actions were never measured on the contracted scale which limited the genius of Lycurgus.
Thus far we find that altho the political system of Capac did not embrace that extensive scope of human nature which is necessary in forming republican institutions, and which can be drawn only from long and well recorded experience of the passions and tendencies of social man, yet it must be pronounced at least equal to those of the most celebrated monarchical law-givers, whether ancient or modern. But in some things his mind seems to have attained an elevation with which few of theirs will bear a comparison; I mean in his religious institutions, and the exalted ideas he had formed of the agency and attributes of supernatural beings.
From what source he could have drawn these ideas it is difficult to form a satisfactory conjecture. The worship of the sun is so natural to an early state of society, in a mild climate with a clear atmosphere, that it may be as reasonable to suppose it would originate in Peru as in Egypt or Persia; where we find that a similar worship did originate and was wrought into a splendid system; whence it was probably extended, with various modifications, over most of the ancient world.
Or if we reject this theory, and suppose that only one nation, from some circumstance peculiar to itself, could create the materials of such a system, and has consequently had the privilege of giving its religion to the human race; we may in this case imagine that the Phenicians (who colonized Cadiz and other places in the west of Europe, at the time when they possessed the solar worship in all its glory) must have had a vessel driven across the Atlantic; and thus conveyed a stock of inhabitants, with their own religious ideas, to the western continent.
The first theory is doubtless the most plausible. And the mild regions of Peru, for the reasons mentioned in a former note, became, like Egypt, the seat of an institution so congenial to its climate. But in more boisterous climates, where storms and other violent agents prevail, many different fables have wrought themselves into the system, as remarked in the same note; and the solar religion in such countries has generally lost its name and the more beneficent parts of its influence. Being thus corrupted, religion in almost every part of the earth assumed a gloomy and sanguinary character.
Savage nations create their gods from such materials as they have at hand, the most striking to their senses. And these are in general an assemblage of destructive attributes. They usually form no idea of a general superintending providence; they consider not their god as the author of their beings, the creator of the world and the dispenser of the happiness they enjoy; they discern him not in the usual course of nature, in the sunshine and in the shower, the productions of the earth and the blessing of society; they find a deity only in the storm, the earthquake and the whirlwind, or ascribe to him the evils of pestilence and famine; they consider him as interposing in wrath to change the course of nature and exercise the attributes of rage and revenge. They adore him with rites suited to these attributes, with horror, with penance and with sacrifice; they imagine him pleased with the severity of their mortifications, with the oblations of blood and the cries of human victims; and they hope to compound for greater judgments by voluntary sufferings and horrid sacrifices, suited to the relish of his taste.
Perhaps no single criterion can be given which will determine more accurately the state of society in any age or nation than their general ideas concerning the nature and attributes of deity. In the most enlightened periods of antiquity, only a few of their philosophers, a Socrates, Tully or Confucius, ever formed a rational idea on the subject, or described a god of purity, justice and benevolence. But Capac, erecting his institutions in a country where the visible agents of nature inspired more satisfactory feelings, adopted a milder system. As the sun, with its undisturbed influence, seemed to point itself out as the supreme controller and vital principle of nature, he formed the idea, as the Egyptians had done before, of constituting that luminary the chief object of adoration. He taught the nation to consider the sun as the parent of the universe, the god of order and regularity; ascribing to his influence the rotation of the seasons, the productions of the earth and the blessings of health; especially attributing to his inspiration the wisdom of their laws, and that happy constitution which was the delight and veneration of the people.
A system so just and benevolent, as might be expected, was attended with success. In about four centuries the dominion of the Incas had extended fifteen hundred miles in length, and had introduced peace and prosperity thro the whole region. The arts of society had been carried to a considerable degree of improvement, and the authority of the Incan race universally acknowledged, when an event happened which disturbed the tranquillity of the empire. Huana Capac, the twelfth monarch, had reduced the powerful kingdom of Quito and annexed it to his dominions. To conciliate the affections of his new subjects, he married a daughter of the ancient king of Quito, who was not of the race of Incas. Thus, by violating a fundamental law of the empire, he left at his death a disputed succession to the throne. Atabalipa, the son of Huana by the heiress of Quito, being in possession of the principal force of the Peruvian armies, left at that place on the death of his father, gave battle to his brother Huascar, who was the elder son of Huana by a lawful wife, and legal heir to the crown.
After a long and destructive civil war the former was victorious; and thus was that flourishing kingdom left a prey to regal dissensions and to the few soldiers of Pizarro, who happened at that juncture to make a descent upon the coast. In this manner he effected an easy conquest and an utter destruction of a numerous, brave, unfortunate people.
It is however obvious that this deplorable event is not to be charged on Capac, as the consequence of any defect in his institution. It is impossible that an original legislator should effectually guard against the folly of all future sovereigns. Capac had not only removed every temptation that could induce a wise prince to wish for a change in the constitution, but had connected the ruin of his authority with the change; for he who disregards any part of institutions deemed sacred teaches his people to consider the whole as an imposture. Had he made a law ordaining that the Peruvians should be absolved from their allegiance to a prince who should violate the laws, it would have implied possible error and imperfection in those persons whom the people were ordered to regard as divinities; the reverence due to characters who made such high pretensions would have been weakened; and instead of rendering the constitution perfect, such a law would have been its greatest defect. Besides, it is probable the rupture might have been healed and the suecession settled, with as little difficulty as frequently happens with partial revolutions in other kingdoms, had not the descent of the Spaniards prevented it. And this event, for that age and country, must have been beyond the possibility of human foresight. But viewing the concurrence of these fatal accidents, which reduced this flourishing empire to a level with many other ruined and departed kingdoms, it only furnishes an additional proof that no political system has yet had the privilege to be perfect.
On the whole it is evident that the system of Capac (if the Peruvian constitution may be so called) is one of the greatest exertions of genius to be found in the history of mankind. When, we consider him as an individual emerging from the midst of a barbarous people, having seen no example of the operation of laws in any country, originating a plan of religion and policy never equalled by the sages of antiquity, civilizing an extensive empire and rendering religion and government subservient to the general happiness of a great people, there is no danger that we grow too warm in his praise, or pronounce too high an eulogiurn on his character.
Bade yon tall temple grace their favorite isle, The mines unfold, the cultured valleys smile.
Book III. Line 5.
One of the great temples of the sun was built on an island in the lake Titiaca near Cusco, to consecrate the spot of ground where Capac and Oella first made their appearance and claimed divine honors as children of the sun.
His eldest hope, young Rocha, at his call, Resigns his charge within the temple, wall;
Book III. Line 29.
The high priest of the sun was always one of the royal family; and in every generation after the first, was brother to the king. This office probably began with Rocha; as he was the first who was capable of receiving it, and as it was necessary, in the education of the prince, that he should be initiated in the sacred mysteries.
A pearl-dropt girdle bound his waist below, And the white lautu graced his lofty brow.
Book III. Line 135.
The lautu was a cotton band, twisted and worn on the head of the Incas as a badge of royalty. It made several turns round the head; and, according to the description of Garcilasso, it must have resembled the Turkish turban.
It is possible that both the lautu and the turban had their remote origin in the ancient astronomical religion, whose principal god was the sun and usually represented under the figure of a man with the horns of the ram; that is, the sun in the sign of aries. The form of the lautu and of the turban (which I suppose to be the same) seems to indicate that they were originally designed as emblems or badges; and when properly twisted and wound round the head, as Turks of distinction usually wear the turban, they resemble the horns of the ram as represented in those figures of Jupiter Ammon where the horns curl close to the head.
There is an engraving in Garcilasso representing the first Inca and his wife, Capac and Oella; and the heads of both are ornamented with rams' horns projecting out from the lautu. Whether the figures of these personages were usually so represented in Peru previous to the Spanish devastation, would be difficult at this day to ascertain. If it could be ascertained that they were usually so represented there, we might esteem it a remarkable circumstance in proof of the unity of the origin of their religion with that of the ancient Egyptians; from which all the early theological systems of Asia and Europe, as far as they have come to our knowledge, were evidently derived.
Receive, O dreadful Power, from feeble age. This last pure offering to thy sateless rage;
Book III. Line 181.
Garcilasso declares that the different tribes of those mountain savages worshipped the various objects of terror that annoyed the particular parts of the country where they dwelt; such as storms, volcanos, rivers, lakes, and several beasts and birds of prey. All of them believed that their forefathers were descended from the gods which they worshipped.
Held to the sun the image from his breast Whose glowing concave all the god exprest;
Book III. Line 273.
The historian of the Incas relates that, by the laws of the empire, none but sacred fire could be used in sacrifices; and that there were three modes in which it might be procured. First, the most sacred fire was that which was drawn immediately from the sun himself by means of a concave mirror, which was usually made of gold or silver highly polished. Second, in case of cloudy weather or other accident, the fire might be taken from the temple, where it was preserved by the holy virgins; whose functions and discipline resembled those of the vestals of Rome. Third, when the sacrifice was to be made in the provinces at an inconvenient distance from the temple, and when the weather was such as to prevent drawing the fire immediately from the sun, it was permitted to procure it by the friction of two pieces of dry wood.
The two latter modes were resorted to only in cases of necessity. Not to be able to obtain fire by means of the mirror was a bad omen, a sign of displeasure in the god; it cast a gloom over the whole ceremony and threw the people into lamentations, fearing their offering would not be well received.
This method of procuring fire directly from the sun, to burn a sacrifice, must have appeared so miraculous to the savages who could not understand it, that it doubtless had a powerful effect in converting them to the solar religion and to the Incan government.
Dim Paraguay extends the aching sight, Xaraya glimmers like the moon of night,
Book III. Line 321.
Xaraya is a lake in the country of Paraguay, and is the principal source of the river Paraguay. This river is the largest branch of the Plata.
The Condor frowning from a southern plain. Borne on a standard, leads a numerous train:
Book III. Line 421.
The Condor is supposed to be the largest bird of prey hitherto known. His wings, from one extreme to the other, are said to measure fifteen feet; he is able to carry a sheep in his talons, and he sometimes attacks men. He inhabits the high mountains of Peru, and is supposed by some authors to be peculiar to the American continent. Buffon believes him to be of the same species with the laemmer-geyer (lamb-vulture) of the Alps. The similarity of their habitations favors this conjecture; but the truth is, the Condor of Peru has not been well examined, and his history is imperfectly known.
So shall the Power in vengeance view the place, In crimson clothe his terror-beaming face,
Book III. Line 493.
It is natural for the worshippers of the sun to consider any change in the atmosphere as indicative of the different passions of their deity. With the Peruvians a sanguine appearance in the sun denoted his anger.
Thro all the shrines, where erst on new-moon days Swell'd the full quires of consecrated praise,
Book III. Line 687.
New-moon days were days of high festival with the Incas, according to Garcilasso. Eclipses of the sun must therefore have happened on solemn days, and have interrupted the service of the temple.
Las Casas. Valverde. Gasca.
Book IV. Line 17-27.
Bartholomew de las Casas was a Dominican priest of a most amiable and heroic character. He first went to Hispaniola with Columbus in his second voyage, where he manifested an ardent but honest zeal, first in attempting to instruct the natives in the principles of the catholic faith, and afterwards in defending them against the insufferable cruelties exercised by the Spanish tyrants who succeeded Columbus in the discoveries and settlements in South America. He early declared himself Protector of the Indians; a title which seems to have been acknowledged by the Spanish government. He devoted himself ever after to the most indefatigable labors in the service of that unhappy people. He made several voyages to Spain, to solicit, first from Ferdinand, then from cardinal Ximenes, and finalty from Charles V, some effectual restrictions against the horrid career of depopulation which every where attended the Spanish arms. He followed these monsters of cruelty into all the conquered countries; where, by the power of his eloquence and that purity of morals which commands respect even from the worst of men, he doubtless saved the lives of many thousands of innocent people. His life was a continued struggle agaiust that deplorable system of tyranny, of which he gives a description in a treatise addressed to Philip prince of Spain, entitled Brevissima Relacion de la Destruycion de las Yndias.
It is said by the Spanish writers that the inhabitants of Hispaniola, when first discovered by the Spaniards, amounted to more than one million. This incredible population was reduced, in fifteen years, to sixty thousand souls.
Vincent Valverde was a fanatical priest who accompanied Pizarro in his destructive expedition to Peru. If we were to search the history of mankind, we should not find another such example of the united efforts of ecclesiastical hypocrisy and military ferocity, of unresisted murder and insatiable plunder, as we meet with in the account of this expedition.
Father Valverde, in a formal manner, gave the sanction of the church to the treacherous murder of Atabalipa and his relations; which was immediately followed by the destruction and almost entire depopulation of a flourishing empire.
Pedro de la Gasca was one of the few men whose virtues form a singular contrast with the vices which disgraced the age in which he lived and the country in which he acquired his glory. He was sent over to Peru by Charles V without any military force, to quell the rebellion of the younger Pizarro and to prevent a second depopulation, by a civil war, of that country which had just been drenched in the blood of its original inhabitants. He effected this great purpose by the weight only of his personal authority and the veneration inspired by his virtues. As soon as he had suppressed the rebellion and established the government of the colony he hastened to resign his authority into the hands of his master. And tho his victories had been obtained in the richest country on earth he returned to Spain as poor as Cincinnatus; having resisted every temptation to plunder, and refused to receive any emolument for his services.
First of his friends, see Frederic's princely form Ward from the sage divine the gathering storm;
Book IV. Line 157.
Frederic of Saxony, surnamed the Wise, was the first sovereign prince who favored the doctrines of Luther. He became at once his pupil and his patron, defended him from the persecutions of the pope, and gave him an establishment as professor in the university of Wittemburgh.
By monarchs courted and by men beloved.
Book IV. Line 165.
Francis I, out of respect to the great learning and moderation of Melancthon, and disregarding the pretended danger of discussing the dogmas of the church, invited him to come to France and establish himself at Paris; but the intrigues of the cardinal de Tournon frustrated the king's intention.
If every leader of religious sects had possessed the amiable qualities of Melancthon, and every monarch who wished to oppose the introduction of new opinions had partaken of the wisdom of Francis, the blood of many hundreds of millions of the human species, which has flowed at the shrine of fanaticism, would have been spared. This circumstance alone would have made of human society by this time a state totally different from what we actually experience; and its influence on the progress of improvement in national happiness and general civilization must have been beyond our ordinary calculation.
While kings and ministers obstruct the plan, Unfaithful guardians of the weal of man.
Book IV. Line 529.
The British colonies in all their early struggles for existence complained, and with reason, of the uniform indifference and discouragement which they experienced from the government of the mother country. But it was probably to that very indifference that they owed the remarkable spirit of liberty and self-dependence which created their prosperity, by inducing them uniformly to adopt republican institutions. These circumstances prepared the way for that mutual confidence and federal union which have finally formed them into a flourishing nation.
Ministers who feel their power over a distant colony to be uncontrolled are so naturally inclined to govern too much, that it may be a fortunate circumstance for the colony to be neglected altogether. This neglect was indeed fatal to the first Virginia settlers sent out by Sir Walter Raleigh; and the companies who afterwards succeeded in their establishments at Jamestown in Virginia and at Plymouth in Massachusetts were very near sharing the fate of their predecessors. But after these settlements had acquired so much consistence as to assure their own continuance, it may be assumed as an historical fact, that the want of encouragement from government was rather beneficial than detrimental to the British colonies in general.
These establishments were in the nature of private adventures, undertaken by a few individuals at their own expense, rather than organised colonies sent abroad for a public purpose. They were companies incorporated for plantation and trade. All they asked of the mother country (after obtaining acts of incorporation enabling them to acquire property and exercise other civil functions, such as incorporated companies at home could exercise) was to give them charters of political franchise, ascertaining the extent and limits of their rights and duties as subjects of the British crown forming nations in parts of the earth that had been found in an uncultivated state, and far removed from the mother country.
As they could not in this situation be represented in the parliament of England, these charters stipulated their right of having parliaments or legislative assemblies of their own, with executive and judiciary institutions established within their territories.
The acknowledgment of these rights placed them on a different footing from any other modern colonies; and the restricting clause, by which their trade was confined to the mother country, rendered their situation unlike that of the colonies of ancient Greece. Indeed the British system of colonization in America differed essentially from every other, whether ancient or modern; if that may properly be called a system, which was rather the result of early indifference to the cries of needy adventurers, and subsequent attempts to seize upon their earnings when they became objects of rapacity. This singular train of difficulties must be considered as one of the causes of our ancient prosperity and present freedom.