« VorigeDoorgaan »
cruelty are well known; they have long excited the indignation of all candid and generous minds; but if we dare caft an eye of conjecture into the dark receffes of futurity, the time, we fear, is coming, when every violation, even the moft unprovoked, of honour, juftice, equity and good faith, will be contemplated without horror, as ordinary things. We have only to open our eyes on the shameless perfidy of the fame court that murdered the Mexicans, and the frontlefs iniquity of the Gallic Carthaginian, of whom that court has been fo often the dupe, and we fhall then fee that this conjecture is not entirely groundlefs.
However that may be, the relation of Cortes, notwithstanding the infamous celebrity of the facts which it contains, is truly interefting. It is comprehended in three letters, written to Charles V. without any answer from that Prince; fo that M. de Flavigny, to whom the Public is much indebted for their publication, has rather improperly called them a Correfpondence. Nothing, indeed, can furpafs the modefty and fimplicity with which thefe letters are compofed. Their manner is a fentimental proof of the veracity of their Author. It does not appear that he had the fmalleft reflex view turned towards himself in the course of his relation; it does not even appear that he either altered facts, or modified circumstances, to redeem his name from the execration of fucceeding ages. His accounts of murders, affaffinations, and perfidious ftratagems, his enumeration of the victims that fell in Mexico, to the thirst of gold, covered with a bloody veil of religion, are minute, accurate, infernal. In a word, thefe letters are intitled to a place among the valuable records of history and literature. They were four in number, but the first has been miflaid; fo that M. de Flavigny could only tranflate the three laft, which, alone, have been publifhed in Spain, by the Archbishop of Toledo, who was formerly Archbishop of Mexico. A few extracts will give our Readers fome idea of the contents and manner of these letters.
It is well known, that, without the affiftance of the vile Indians of Ttlafcala (which our Author calls Tafcalteta), who perfevered in their fidelity and attachment to Cortes, the Spaniards would never have finished the conqueft of Mexico. The noble refolution of that unfortunate people (the Mexicans) to perifh, rather than furvive their defeat and outlive their independence, appears from the following paffage in one of these letters: I reprefented to them, fays Cortes, that every day my troops killed many of them, and deftroyed a part of their city,that in cafe they perfevered in their obftinacy, I would not order hoftilities to ceafe, until their city and its inhabitants were totally deftroyed. They acknowledged the truth of what I faid, but at the fame time declared, that they were all determined to die, in order to put an end to us; they told me that I might 003
fee, how their terraffes, their streets, and their public places fwarmed with people, and that they had reckoned, that by facrificing five and-twenty thousand Mexicans to procure the death of one Spaniard, we should be the firft deftroyed. They obferved farther, that, all the roads that led to Mexico being ruined, and rendered impaffable, we should be obliged to retreat by water-that we fhould foon want provifions, and fresh water, and thus, if we escaped from the dangers of war, would perish by hunger and thirst.'
Their notion was not groundless: in a little time famine deftroyed a confiderable number of Spaniards whom the sword had fpared. But Cortes perfevered; and no obftacle or difcouraging circumstance, not even objects the most naturally adapted to infpire terror and difmay, could vanquish his conftancy of mind, or turn him from the execution of his purpose. Mexico had charms every way proper to inflame the luft of avarice, rapine and conqueft. Thefe letters of Cortes give us ftill a more pompous idea of the opulence and luxury of Mexico and its Emperor, than we receive from the descriptions of the late eminent hiftorian of America and his predeceffors. We may judge of this by the following defcription of the court of Mon
← Montezuma's court was every morning frequented by fix hundred Caciques or Lords, whofe attendants filled several of the inner courts, and even the great street which was terminated by the palace. When the Emperor dined, the whole court was entertained at the fame time, and every attendant or fervant received his portion: there were lodges open for all who were inclined to eat or drink. Four hundred different dishes were ferved up at the Emperor's table every day; all the productions of land and water were fought after with ardour, that his Majefty might be regaled with unexampled profufion. As the country is cold, each difh had its particular chafing-dish, and they were all ferved up at once in a spacious room magnificently bung and furnished, Montezuma placed himself at one end of the room in a small arm-chair of leather, of exquifite workmanfhip;-he fent a portion of every difh, of which he ate himfelf, to five or fix old lords, whofe table was ferved in another apartment; the dishes, pans, and chang-difhes, which had been once ufed, never made their appearance a fecond time. The Emperor changed his clothes four times a day, and never put on the fame twice.'
We have no circumftantial account, in these letters, of the death of Montezumą. Cortes only tells us, that this unfortunate Prince, when he became his prifoner, and his friend too, at least in appearance, went out by his order to fupprefs the mutiny of the revolted Indians, and the very moment he had
addreffed himself to them from the battlements of his palace, he received a blow of a stone, which was fo violent, that in three days it put an end to his life. The fcenes of carnage that followed upon this were terrible. Defpair feized upon the Mexicans, and the Spanish tygers redoubled their barbarous efforts to fubdue them. It appears that Cortes fuffered deeply during this odious fcene; and if any thing can hinder us from detefting a man that led on these tygers to fuch abominable exploits, it must be the fentiments he discovers, in the paffage of these letters that follows:
We reduced them (the Mexicans) to fuch an extremity, that they had no fculking-place or retreat but behind the dead bodies of their fellow-citizens.-The Indians who were our friends, made fuch a dreadful flaughter among them, both by land and water, that there were above forty thoufand Mexicans killed, or taken prifoners. On that day the piercing cries of the women and children were heard at a distance, and were sufficient to melt the hardest heart: we were more intent on restraining the barbarity of the Indians our auxiliaries, than in combating the enemy. After prefenting to your fancy all the cruel abominations of which a depraved nature is capable, your Imperial Majefty would ftill be as unable to comprehend, as I am to defcribe, the effects of the barbarity of those American nations. Our allies made, that day, a horrible carnage and a confiderable booty: we could neither prevent the maffacre nor the plunder; for we were scarcely nine hundred Spaniards against an hundred and fifty thousand Indians. I forefaw what actually happened, and our inability to prevent it. I had retarded the execution of our design to proceed by ftorm, as I apprehended nothing fo much as the confequences of taking the place by force.'
If the Reader is defirous to know, what opinion Cortes (who with all his faults was a man of veracity and honour) had of the Spanish Bishops of his times, who differed little, if at all, from those of the prefent age, he will find it given with frankness to the Spanish Monarch in the following terms: If your Majefty. (fays Cortes to Charles V.) fends us Bithops, they will employ themselves intirely in heaping donations on their creatures: they will grafp at employments for their children (natural we fuppofe from what follows, rather than fpiritual); they will fquander away their riches in vain pomp, and in the irregularities of a fcandalous and licentious life; their manners will difqualify them from converting to the faith thofe Mexicans who reflect, and compare the conduct of our Priefts and Ecclefiaftics, with the aufterity, the self-denial, and regular lives of the Minifters of the American idols, who punish with death the members of their fraternity for the smallest faults. If the Mexicans knew, that they, whom we call Minifters of the living God,
are chargeable with intemperance, profanation, and with going the moft licentious and indecent lengths in the gratification of their paffions, they would certainly defpife our holy religion, as well as its minifters: it would lofe, in their eyes, a great part of its divine majefty, and excite ideas very different from those which the epifcopal envoys would preach and inculcate.-Inftead therefore of fending bishops into New-Spain, which, how. ever, had been the first opinion of Cortes, he advised the emperor to defire the pope to chufe legates from among the Francifcans and Dominicans, and to give them the moft extenfive powers for the exercise of their miniftry in thofe countries.
Grammatica Indoftana a mais Vulgar que fe Practica no Imperio do Grand Mogol, offerecida aos Muitos Reverendos Padres Miffionarios, &c.— A Grammar of the Language of Indoltan, as it is spoken in the Empire of the Grand Mogul, prefented to the Reverend Fathers the Miffionaries in that Empire. 8vo. Rome. 1778.
WOW far this Grammar will contribute to promote the cause of Christianity in the empire of the Mogul, we pretend not to determine; but its authors have undoubtedly done an important fervice to the cause of oriental literature, by facilitating the study of a language, which, before M. Bailly, placed the cradle of fcience in the Eaft, and was supposed to be the language of the first inftructors of mankind. This Grammar is the fruit of the long and united labours of several learned miffionaries, and is looked upon as more perfect in many respects than that which was publifhed fome years ago by the English East India Company. It is more especially preten led, that the declinations and conjugations are more amply and diftinctly pointed out in this new Grammar, and that the method of pronouncing the language of Indoftan is more clearly explained. It is alfo enriched with a catalogue of nouns, verbs, and particles, which may, in fome degree, fupply the place of a dictionary, and a list of seventeen emperors, including Mohamudxa, the prefent monarch,
F Vincents, Faffini O. P. in Pifano Athenao Sacrarum Literarum P. P. Divine Libri Apocalypfeos Au&toritatis Vindicia ex Monumentis Græcis, adverfus Nuperas Exceptiones Firmini Abauzitii, Genevenfis. 8vo. Pifa. 1778.
R. Abauzit, the worthy and learned librarian of Geneva, whom this more learned than candid Writer calls an infidel, because he was a friend to religious liberty, carried, rather too boldly, his pruning-knife into the vineyard of Reve
lation, when he endeavoured to cut off the apocalypfe of St. John from the canon of the Scriptures. Father FASSINI of the Oratory undertakes, in the work before us, to reflore. this myftical branch, which fome think ought not to be lightly rejected; for though hitherto, fay they, it has produced but very little fruit, it may yield an harveft of knowledge in fome future feafon. M. ABAUZIT alleged that the book in question was looked upon as the production not of St. John the Evangelift, but of fome other writer, for more than eight centuries, both by Grecian and oriental authors*. F. FASSINI Collecs all his erudition and critical prowess to invalidate this affertion; and in order to come forth in due order of battle against his adverfary, he divides his work into thirteen chapters. In the first, he endeavours to prove, that Papias, the difciple of St. John, was acquainted with the apocalypfe, being mentioned by Andrew archbishop of Cæfarea (an early writer, and alfo an expofitor of this myfterious book) as an undoubted witnefs of its authenticity. This teftimony is farther ftrengthened by that of Justin Martyr, who lived near the time of Papias, and who, in his famous controverfy with the Jew Triphon, acknowledges St. John as the author of the Revelation that bears his name. M. Abauzit, it is true, has prepoffeffed the inquirers into this fubject pretty strongly against the teftimony of Justin, on account of his credulity, and his attachment to the Millenarian fyftem but we really think that our Author has the advantage of him in appreciating the evidence of this celebrated Writer; for, on the principles of M. Abauzit, there will not be many cafes of any confequence in which the report of teftimony may be entirely depended upon. It is hard to fufpect a man of telling lies, when they are adapted to maintain his theological fyftem, if there be no other previous reafon to question his veracity. In the fecond, third, and fourth chapters, our Author comes down upon the heretic of Geneva with a cloud of witneffes, of the fecond century, fuch as Polycarp, Irenæus, Meliton bishop of Sardes, Theophilus of Antioch, Apollonius, Clement of Alexandria, &c. who all confider the Apocalypfe, or Revelation, as a work compofed by divine inspiration, and as coming from the pen of St. John the Evange lift. The teftimonies of the third century, among which Hippolytus, Origen, Dionyfius of Alexandria, and other men of eminence appear, are produced in the four following chapters; and the eighth contains a multitude of proofs in favour of the facred book under confideration, from the records of the fourth century, and the ecclefiaftical writers, that fwarmed like bees
* See an account of ABAUZIT's work in our Review for May #774, Vol. 59. p. 375.