The Project Gutenberg EBook of Mexico, Aztec, Spanish and Republican Vol.
1 of 2, by Brantz Mayer

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Title: Mexico, Aztec, Spanish and Republican Vol. 1 of 2
       A Historical, Geographical, Political, Statistical and
              Social Account of That Country From the Period of the
              Invasion by the Spaniards to the Present Time; With a View
              of the Ancient Aztec Empire and Civilization; A Historical
              Sketch of the Late War; And Notices of New Mexico and

Author: Brantz Mayer

Release Date: October 31, 2011 [EBook #37887]
[Last updated: July 25, 2015]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


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Hernando Cortéz and signature




















Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1850, by


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Connecticut.


29 Gold-st., N. Y.      



My Dear Sir:

I take the liberty to inscribe these volumes to you as a testimonial of personal gratitude. In the midst of engrossing cares you have often been pleased to turn aside for a while to foster those who were following the humbler and quieter walks of literature; and it is, naturally, their delight to offer for your acceptance, upon every suitable occasion, an acknowledgment of cordial thankfulness.

Allow me, then, as the only tribute I can tender, to present a work designed to illustrate the history and resources of one of those American States which were summoned into the brotherhood of nations by your sympathy and eloquence.

I am, with the greatest respect,
    Your friend and servant,


Baltimore, July, 1850.

[Pg 1]


The people of the United States have always felt a deep interest in the history and destiny of Mexico. It was not only the commercial spirit of our citizens that awakened this sentiment. In former times, when the exclusive policy of Spain closed the door of intercourse with her American colonies, the ancient history of Peru and Mexico attracted the curiosity of our students. They were eager to solve the enigma of a strange civilization which had originated in the central portions of our continent in isolated independence of all the world. They desired, moreover, to know something of those enchanted regions, which, like the fabled garden of the Hesperides, were watched and warded with such jealous vigilance; and they craved to behold those marvelous mines whose boundless wealth was poured into the lap of Spain. The valuable work of Baron Humboldt, published in the early part of this century, stimulated this natural curiosity; and, when the revolutionary spirit of Europe penetrated our continent, and the masses rose to cast off colonial bondage, we hailed with joy every effort of the patriots who fought so bravely in the war of liberation. Bound to Mexico by geographical ties, though without a common language or lineage, we were the first to welcome her and the new American Sovereignties into the brotherhood of nations, and to fortify our continental alliance by embassies and treaties.

After more than twenty years of peaceful intercourse, the war of 1846 broke out between Mexico and our Union. Thousands, of all classes, professions and occupations,—educated and uneducated—observers and idlers,—poured into the territory of the invaded republic. In the course of the conflict these sturdy adventurers traversed the central and northern regions of Mexico, scoured her coasts, possessed themselves for many months of her beautiful Capital, and although they returned to their homes worn with the toils of war, none have ceased to remember the delicious land, amid whose sunny valleys and majestic mountains they had learned, at least, to admire the sublimity of nature. The returned warriors did not fail to report around their firesides the marvels they witnessed during their campaigns, and numerous [Pg 2] works have been written to sketch the story of individual adventure, or to portray the most interesting physical features of various sections of the republic. Thus by war and literature, by ancient curiosity and political sympathy, by geographical position and commercial interest, Mexico has become perhaps the most interesting portion of the world to our countrymen at the present moment. And I have been led to believe that the American people would not receive unfavorably a work designed to describe the entire country, to develop its resources and condition, and to sketch impartially its history from the conquest to the present day.

It has been no ordinary task to chronicle the career of a nation for more than three centuries, to unveil the colonial government of sixty-two Viceroys, to follow the thread of war and politics through the mazes of revolution, and to track the rebellious spirit of intrigue amid the numerous civil outbreaks which have occurred since the downfall of Iturbide. The complete Viceroyal history of Mexico is now for the first time presented to the world in the English language, while, in Spanish, no single author has ever attempted it continuously. Free from the bias of Mexican partizanship, I have endeavored to narrate events fairly, and to paint character without regard to individual men. In describing the country, its resources, geography, finances, church, agriculture, army, industrial condition, and social as well as political prospects, I have taken care to provide myself with the most recent and respectable authorities. My residence in the country, and intimacy with many of its educated and intelligent patriots, enabled me to gather information in which I confided, and I have endeavored to fuse the whole mass of knowledge thus laboriously procured, with my personal, and, I hope, unprejudiced, observation.

I have not deemed it proper to encumber the margin of my pages with continual references to authorities that are rarely consulted by general readers, and could only be desired by critics who would often be tantalized by the citation of works, which, in all likelihood, are not to be found except in private collections in the United States, and some of which, I am quite sure, exist only in my own library or in the Mexican Legation, at Washington. Such references, whilst they occupied an undue portion of the book, would be ostentatiously and tediously pedantic in a work of so little pretension as mine. I may state, however, that no important fact has been asserted without authority, and, in order to indicate the greater portion of my published sources of reliance, I have subjoined a list of the principal materials consulted and carefully verified in the composition of these volumes. Nevertheless, I have perhaps failed sometimes to procure the standard works that are accessible to native or permanent residents of the country, and thus, may have fallen accidental into error, whilst honestly seeking to shun misstatement. If those whose information [Pg 3] enables them to detect important mistakes will be kind enough to point them out candidly and clearly, I will gladly correct such serious faults if another edition should ever be required by an indulgent public.

Baltimore, August, 1850.




Cartas de Cortéz ed. Lorenzana.

Historia Verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva España—Bernal Diaz.

Peter Martyr.

Conquista de Mejico, by De Solis.

Veytia. Herrera.

Robertson's History of America.

Clavigero—Historia Antigua de Mejico.

Prescott's History of the Conquest of Mexico.

Cavo y Bustamante—Tres Siglos de Mejico.

Alaman—Disertaciones sobre la Historia de Mejico.

Father Gage's America.

Ternaux-Compans's History of the Conquest.

Recopilacion de las leyes de las Indias.

Mendez—Observaciones sobre las leyes, &c., &c.

N. American Review, vol. XIX.

Transactions of the American Ethnological Society, in the Articles on Mexico, by Mr. Gallatin.

Researches, Philosophical and Antiquarian, concerning the Aboriginal History of America, by J. H. McCulloh.

Pesquisia contra Pedro de Alvarado y Nuño de Guzman.

Lives of the Viceroys in the Liceo Mejicano.

Notas y esclarecimientos à la historia de la Conquista de Mejico, por José F. Ramirez.—2d vol. of Mexican translation of Prescott.

Zavala—Revoluciones de Mejico desde 1808, hasta 1830.

Don Vicente Pazo's Letters on the United Provinces of South America.

Robinson's Memoirs of the Mexican Revolution.

Ward's Mexico in 1827, &c.

Foote's History of Texas.

Tejas in 1836.

Memorias para la Historia de la Guerra de Tejas, por General Vicente Filisola.

Forbes's California.

Greenhow's Oregon and California.

American State Papers.

Ranke—Fursten und Volker.

Dr. Dunham's History of Spain and Portugal.

General Waddy Thompson's Recollections of Mexico.

Apuntes para la historia de la guerra entre Mejico y los Estados Unidos.

Lectures on Mexican history, by José Maria Lacunza, Professor in the College of San Juan de Letran.

Constituciones de Mejico y de los Estados Mejicanos.

Thirteen octavo volumes of documents published by the Congress of the United States, relative to our intercourse and war with Mexico, collected by myself.

Tributo à la Verdad,—Vera Cruz 1847.



Humboldt, Essai Politique sur la Nouvelle Espagne.

Poinsett's Notes on Mexico.

Bullock's Mexico.

Lieut. Hardy's Journey in Mexico.

Ward's Mexico in 1827.

Folsom's Mexico in 1842.

Mühlenpfordt—Die Republik Mejico.

Mejico en 1842, por Luis Manuel de Rivero.

Mexico as it Was and as it Is, 1844.

Ensayo sobre el verdadero estado de la cuestion social y politica que se agita en la Republica Mejicana, por Otero, 1842.

Madame Calderon de la Barca's Life in Mexico.

Kennedy's Texas.

Emory, Abert, Cooke and Johnston—Journals in New Mexico and California—1848.

Frémont's Expeditions, 1842-'3-'4.

Frémont's California, 1848.

T. Butler King's Report on California, 1850.

W. Carey Jones's   do.         do.         1850.

Executive documents in relation to California, 1850.

Forbes's California.

Bryant's        do.

Kendall's Santa Fé Expedition.

Wilkes's Exploring Expedition.

Wise—Los Gringos.

Ruxton's Travels in Mexico, &c.

Norman's Rambles in Yucatan.

      "              "        in Mexico.

Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies.

Dr. Wislizenius's Memoir on New Mexico.

Stephens's Central America.

      "          Yucatan.

Gama—Piedras Antiguas de Mejico.

El Museo Mejicano.

Isidro R. Gondra's Notes on Mexican Antiquities, in the 3rd vol. (with plates) of the Mexican translation of Prescott.

Nebel—Voyage Arquéologique et Pittoresque en Mexique.

Memoir of the Mexican Minister of Foreign and Domestic Affairs on the condition of the country in 1846.

Idem in 1849.

Memoir of the Mexican Minister of War, 1844.

Idem in 1846.

Idem in 1849.

Memoir of the Mexican Minister of Finance on the condition of the Treasury, 1841.

Idem in 1846.

Idem in 1848.

Idem in 1849.

Memoir on the Agriculture and Manufactures of Mexico, by Don Lucas Alaman, 1843.

Memoir on the Liquidation of the National Debt, by Alaman, 1845.

Noticias Estadisticas del Estado de Chihuahua, 1834.

Noticias Estadisticas sobre el Departamento de Querétaro, 1845.

Nos. 1, 2, 3, Boletin del Instituto Nacional de Geografia y Estadistica, 1839–1849.

Collecion de documentos relativos al departamento de Californias, 1846.

El Observador Judicial de Mejico.

Semanario de la Industria Mejicana.

El Mosaico Mejicano.

Journal des Economistes.

Lyell's Geology.

Lerdo—Consideraciones sobre la condicion social y politica de la Republica Mejicana en 1847.

[Pg 5]



CHAPTER I.—Discoveries of Cordova and Grijalva—Cortéz appointed by Velasquez—Biographical notice of Cortéz—Cortéz Captain General of the Armada—Equipment of the Expedition—Quarrel of Velasquez—Firmness of Cortéz—Expedition departs under Cortéz, 13
CHAPTER II.—Olmeda preaches to the Indians—Aguilar and Mariana—interpreters—Cortéz lands—interview with the Aztecs—Diplomacy—Montezuma's presents—Montezuma refuses to receive Cortéz, 22
CHAPTER III.—Cortéz founds La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz—Fleet destroyed—March to Mexico—Conquest of Tlascala—Cholula—Slaughter in Cholula—Valley of Mexico—Cortéz enters the Valley—Gigantic Causeway—Lake of Tezcoco—Reception by Montezuma—Spaniards enter the capital, 28
CHAPTER IV.—Description of the City of Tenochtitlan—Montezuma's way of life—Market-place—Cortéz at the Great Temple—Description of it— Place of Sacrifice—Sanctuaries—Huitzilopotchtli—Tezcatlipoca—Danger of Cortéz—Montezuma seized—Montezuma a prisoner—his submissiveness—Arrival of Narvaez—Cortéz's diplomacy—Cortéz overcomes Narvaez, and recruits his forces, 35
CHAPTER V.—Cortéz returns to the Capital—Causes of the revolt against the Spaniards—Cortéz condemns Alvarado—his conduct to Montezuma—Battle in the city—Montezuma mediates—Fight on the Great Temple or Teocalli—Retreat of the Spaniards—Noche Triste—Flight of the Spaniards to Tacuba, 44
CHAPTER VI.—Retreat to Otumba—Cortéz is encountered by a new army of Aztecs and auxiliaries—Victory of the Spaniards at Otumba—Proposed re-alliance of Aztecs and Tlascalans—Forays of Cortéz—reduction of the eastern regions—Cortéz proposes the reconquest—sends off the disaffected—Cortéz settles the Tlascalan succession, 50
CHAPTER VII.—Death of Cuitlahua—he is succeeded by Guatemozin—Aztecs learn the proposed reconquest—Cortéz's forces for this enterprise—Cortéz at Tezcoco—his plans and acts—Military expeditions of Cortéz in the Valley—Operations at Chalco and Cuernavaca—Xochimilco—return to Tacuba—Cortéz returns to Tezcoco and is reinforced, 56
CHAPTER VIII.—Cortéz returns—conspiracy among his men detected—Execution of Villafaña—Brigantines launched—Xicotencatl's treason and execution—Disposition of forces to attack the city—Siege and assaults on the city—Fight and reverses of the Spaniards—Sacrifice of captives—Flight of allies—Contest renewed— Starvation, 62
CHAPTER IX.—Aztec prediction—it is not verified—Cortéz reinforced by fresh arrivals—Famine in the city—Cortéz levels the city to its foundation—Condition of the capital—Attack renewed—Capture of Guatemozin—Surrender of the city—Frightful condition of the city, 70
CHAPTER X.—Duty of a historian—Motives of the Conquest—Character and deeds of Cortéz—Materials of the Conquest—Adventurers—Priests—Indian allies—Historical aspects of the Conquest, 75
[Pg 6] CHAPTER XI.—Discontent at not finding gold—Torture of Guatemozin—Results of the fall of the capital—Mission from Michoacan—Rebuilding of the capital—Letters to the King—Intrigues against Cortéz—Fonseca—Narvaez—Tapia—Charles V. protects Cortéz and confirms his acts, 80
CHAPTER XII.—Cortéz commissioned by the Emperor—Velasquez—his death—Mexico rebuilt—Immigration—Repartimientos of Indians—Honduras—Guatemozin—Mariana—Cortéz accused—ordered to Spain for trial—his reception, honors and titles—he marries—his return to Mexico—resides at Tezcoco—Expeditions of Cortéz—California—Quivara—returns to Spain—death—Where are his bones? 84
CHAPTER XIII.—Archbishop Zumarraga's destruction of Mexican monuments, writings, documents—Mr. Gallatin's opinion of them—Traditions—two sources of accurate knowledge—Speculations on antiquity—Aztecs—Toltecs—Nahuatlacs—Acolhuans, &c.—Aztecs emigrate from Aztlan—settle in Anahuac—Tables of emigration of the original tribes—Other tribes in the empire, 92
CHAPTER XIV.—Difficulty of estimating the civilization of the Aztecs—Nations in Yucatan—Value of contemporary history—The Aztec monarchy—elective—Royal style in Tenochtitlan—Montezuma's way of life—Despotic power of the Emperor over life and law—Theft—intemperance—marriage—slavery—war—Military system and hospitals—Coin—Revenues—Aztec mythology—Image of Teoyaomiqui—Teocalli—Two kinds of sacrifice—Why the Aztecs sacrificed their prisoners—Common Sacrifice—Gladitorial Sacrifice—Sacrificial Stone—Aztec Calendar—week, month, year, cycle—Procession of the New Fire—Astronomical Science—Aztec Calendar—Tables, 99


CHAPTER I.—Colonial system—Early grants of power to rulers in Mexico by the Emperor Charles V.—Abuse of it—Council of the Indies—Laws—Royal audiences— Cabildos—Fueros—Relative positions of Spaniards and Creoles—Scheme of Spanish colonial trade—Restrictions on trade—Alcabala—Taxes—Papal Bulls—Bulls de Cruzada—de Defuntos—of Composition—Power of the Church—its property— Inquisition—The acts of the Inquisition—Repartimientos—Indians—Agriculturists—Miners—Mita—Excuses for maladministration, 127
CHAPTER II.—Founding of the Viceroyalty of New Spain—New Audiencia— Fuenleal—Mendoza—Early acts of the first Viceroy—Coinage—Rebellion in Jalisco—Viceroy suppresses it—Council of the Indies on Repartimientos—Indian Servitude—Quivara—Expeditions of Coronado and Alarcon—Pest in 1546—Revolution—Council of Bishops—Mines—Zapotecs revolt—Mendoza removed to Peru, 139
CHAPTER III.—Velasco endeavors to ameliorate the condition of the Indians—University of Mexico established—Inundation—Military colonization—Philip II.—Florida—Intrigues against Velasco—Philipine Isles—Death of Velasco—Marques de Falces—Baptism of the grand-children of Cortéz—Conspiracy against the Marques del Valle—his arrest—execution of his friends—Marques de Falces—charges against him—his fall—Errors of Philip II.—Fall of Muñoz and his return—Vindication of the Viceroy, 148
CHAPTER IV.—Almanza Viceroy—Chichimecas revolt—Jesuits— Inquisition—Pestilence—No Indian tribute exacted—Almanza departs—Xuares Viceroy—Weak Administration—Increase of commerce—Pedro Moya de Contreras Viceroy—Reforms under a new Viceroy—His power as Viceroy and Inquisitor—Zuñiga Viceroy—Treasure— Piracy—Cavendish—Drake captures a galeon—Zuñiga and the Audiencia of Guadalajara—His deposition from power, 160
[Pg 7] CHAPTER V.—Luis de Velasco II. becomes Viceroy—Delight of the Mexicans—Factories reopened—Chichimecas—Colonization—Alameda—Indians taxed for European wars—Composition—Fowls—Acebedo Viceroy—Expedition to New Mexico—Indian ameliorations—Death of Philip II.—New scheme of hiring Indians—California—Montesclaros Viceroy—Inundation—Albarrada, 170
CHAPTER VI.—Second administration of Don Luis Velasco—His great work for the Drainage of the Valley—Lakes in the Valley—Danger of Inundation—History of the Desague of Huehuetoca—Operations of the engineers Martinez and Boot—The Franciscans—Completion of the Desague—La Obra del Consulado—Negro revolt—Extension of Oriental trade—Guerra Viceroy—De Cordova Viceroy—Indian revolt—Cordova founded, 178
CHAPTER VII.—Marques de Gelves Viceroy—his reforms—Narrative of Father Gage—Gelves forestalls the market—The Archbishop excommunicates Mexia, his agent—Quarrel between Gelves and the Archbishop—Viceroy excommunicated—Archbishop at Guadalupe—he is arrested at the altar—sent to Spain—Mexia threatened—Mob attacks the Palace—it is sacked—Viceroy escapes—Retribution, 187
CHAPTER VIII.—The Audiencia rules in the interregnum—Carillo Visitador—Inquisitorial examination—Acapulco taken—Attacks by the Dutch—Removal of the Capital proposed—Armendariz Viceroy—Escalona Viceroy—Palafox's conduct to the Viceroy—Palafox Viceroy—His good and evil, 195
CHAPTER IX.—Sotomayor Viceroy—Escalona vindicated—Monastic property—Bigotry of Palafox—Guzman Viceroy—Indian insurrection—Revolt of the Tarahumares—Success of the Indians—Indian wars—Duke de Alburquerque Viceroy—Attempt to assassinate him—Count de Baños Viceroy—Attempt to colonize—Escobar y Llamas and De Toledo Viceroys—Depredations of British cruisers—Nuño de Portugal Viceroy, 201
CHAPTER X.—Rivera Viceroy—La Cerda Viceroy—Revolt in New Mexico—Success of the Indians—Colony destroyed—Efforts of the Spaniards to reconquer—Vera Cruz sacked—Count Monclova Viceroy—Count Galve Viceroy—Tarrahumaric revolt—Indians pacified—Texas—Hispaniola attacked—Insurrection—Burning of the Palace—Famine—Earthquake, 212
CHAPTER XI.—Montañez Viceroy—Spiritual Conquest of California—Valladares Viceroy—Fair at Acapulco—Spanish monarchy—Austria—Bourbon—Montañez Viceroy—Jesuits in California—La Cueva Viceroy—Duke de Linares Viceroy—British slavery treaty—Colonization—Nuevo Leon—Texas—Operations in Texas—Alarcon—Aguayo—Casa-Fuerte's virtuous administration—Louis I.—Oriental trade—Spanish jealousy—The King's opinion of Casa-Fuerte—his acts, 221
CHAPTER XII.—Vizarron and Eguiarreta Viceroy—Eventless government—Salazar Viceroy—Colonial fears—Fuen-Clara Viceroy—Galeon lost—Mexico under Revilla-Gigedo I.—Ferdinand VI.—Indians—Taxes—Colonies in the north—Famine—Mines at Bolaños—Horcasitas—Character of Revilla-Gigedo—Villalon Viceroy—Charles III.—Cagigal Viceroy, 232
CHAPTER XIII.—Marques de Cruillas Viceroy—Charles III. proclaimed—Havana taken by the British—Military preparations—Peace—Pestilence—Galvez Visitador—Reforms—Tobacco monopoly—De Croix Viceroy—The Jesuits—their expulsion from Spanish dominions—their arrival in Europe—banished—Causes of this conduct to the order—Origin of the military character of Mexico, 240
CHAPTER XIV.—Bucareli y Ursua Viceroy—Progress of New Spain—Gold placers in Sonora—Mineral wealth at that period—Intellectual condition of the country—Line of Presidios—Mayorga Viceroy—Policy of Spain to England and her colonies—Operations on the Spanish Main, &c.—Matias Galvez Viceroy—his acts, 248
[Pg 8] CHAPTER XV.—Bernardo de Galvez Viceroy—Chapultepec—Galvez dies—his daughter—Haro Viceroy—Corruption of Alcaldes—Flores Viceroy—his system of ruling the northern frontier—Mining interests—II. Revilla-Gigedo Viceroy—Charles IV.—Revilla-Gigedo's colonial improvements—his advice as to California Anecdotes of his police regulations—The street of Revilla-Gigedo—Arrest of fugitive lovers—Punishes the culprits, 255
CHAPTER XVI.—Branciforte Viceroy—his grasping and avaricious character—Corruption tolerated—Persecution of Frenchmen—Encampments—Branciforte's character—Azanza Viceroy—Effect of European wars on colonial trade and manufactures—Threatened revolt—Marquina Viceroy—Revolt in Jalisco—Iturrigaray Viceroy—Godoy's corruption—War—Defences against the United States—Miranda— Humboldt—Mexico taxed for European wars—Ferdinand VII.—Napoleon in Spain—King Joseph Bonaparte—Iturrigaray arrested—Garibay Viceroy, 267


CHAPTER I.—Lianza Viceroy—Audiencia—Venegas Viceroy—True sources of the Revolution—Creoles loyal to Ferdinand—Spaniards in favor of King Joseph—Mexican subscriptions for Spain—Secret union in Mexico against Spaniards—Hidalgo—Allende—First outbreak—Guanajuato sacked—Las Cruces—Mexico menaced—Indian bravery at Aculco—Marfil—Massacre at Guanajuato—Calleja—Insurgents defeated—Execution of Hidalgo, 279
CHAPTER II.—Venegas Viceroy—Rayon—Junta in 1811—its willingness to receive Ferdinand VII.—Proclamation by the Junta—Morelos—Acapulco taken—Successes of the insurgents—Siege of Cuautla—Izucar—Orizaba—Oaxaca—Chilpanzingo—Calleja Viceroy—Iturbide—Reverses of insurgents—Morelos shot, 287
CHAPTER III.—Apodaca Viceroy—Spanish constitution of 1812 proclaimed in Mexico—Condition of the revolutionary party—Victoria—Mina lands at Soto la Marina—his efforts—Los Remedios—Guerrillas—he is shot—Padre Torres—Iturbide—Apodaca selects him to establish absolutism—Iturbide promulgates the Plan of Iguala—Army of the Three Guaranties, 293
CHAPTER IV.—O'Donoju Viceroy—Conduct of Iturbide—Novella—Revolt—Treaty of Cordova—First Mexican Cortes—Iturbide Emperor—his career—exiled to Italy—Iturbide returns—arrest—execution—his character and services, 301
CHAPTER V.—Review of the condition of Mexico and the formation of parties—Viceroyal government—The people—The army—The church—Constitution of 1824—Echavari revolts—Victoria President—Escocesses—Yorkinos—Revolts continued—Montayno—Guerrero—Gomez Pedraza President—is overthrown—Federalists—Centralists—Guerrero President—Abolition of Slavery in Mexico, 307
CHAPTER VI.—Conspiracy against Guerrero by Bustamante—Guerrero betrayed and shot—Anecdote—Revolt under Santa Anna—he restores Pedraza and becomes President—Gomez Farias deposed—Church—Central Constitution of 1836—Santa Anna—his Texan disgrace—Mexia—Bustamante President—French at Vera Cruz Revolts in the north and in the capital—Bustamante deposed—Santa Anna President, 316
CHAPTER VII.—Reconquest of Texas proposed—Canalizo President ad interim—Revolution under Paredes in 1844—Santa Anna falls—Herrera President—Texan revolt—Origin of war with the United States—Texan war for the Constitution of 1824—Nationality recognized—Annexation to the United States—Proposition to Mexico—Herrera overthrown—Paredes President—Our minister rejected—Character of General Paredes, 326
[Pg 9] CHAPTER VIII.—General Taylor ordered to the Rio Grande—History of Texan boundaries—Origin of the war—Military preparations—Commencement of hostilities—Battles of Palo Alto and Resaca—Matamoros—Taylor's advance—Fall of Monterey, 334
CHAPTER IX.—General Wool inspects and musters the western troops—Army of the Centre—New Mexico—Kearney—Macnamara—California— Frémont—Sonoma—Californian independence—Possession taken—Sloat—Stockton—A revolt—Pico—Treaty of Couenga—Kearney at San Pascual—is relieved—Disputes—San Gabrielle—Mesa—Los Angeles—Frémont's character, services, trial, 342
CHAPTER X.—Valley of the Rio Grande—Santa Anna at San Luis—Scott commander-in-chief—Plan of attack on the east coast—General Scott's plan—Doniphan's expedition—Bracito—Sacramento—Revolt in New Mexico—Murder of Richie—Selection of battle ground—Description of it—Battle of Angostura or Buena Vista—Mexican retreat—Tabasco—Tampico, 350
CHAPTER XI.—Santa Anna's return—changes his principles—Salas executive—Constitution of 1824 restored—Paredes—Plans of Salas and Santa Anna—his letter to Almonte—his views of the war—refuses the Dictatorship—commands the army—State of parties in Mexico—Puros—Moderados—Santa Anna at San Luis—Peace propositions—Internal troubles—Farias's controversy with the church—Polko revolution in the capital—Vice Presidency suppressed—Important decree, 358
CHAPTER XII.—General Scott at Lobos—Landing at and siege of Vera Cruz—Capitulation and condition of Vera Cruz—Condition of Mexico—Alvarado, etc., captured—Scott's advance—Description of Cerra Gordo—Mexican defences and military disposal there—Battle of Cerro Gordo—Peroté and Puebla yield—Santa Anna returns—Constitution of 1824 readopted—Mexican politics of the day—War spirit—Guerillas—Peace negotiations—Santa Anna's secret negotiations, 370
CHAPTER XIII.—Scott at Puebla—Tampico and Orizaba taken—Scott's advance—Topography of the Valley of Mexico—Routes to the capital—El Peñon—Mexicalzingo—Tezcoco—Chalco—Outer and inner lines around the city—Scott's advance by Chalco—The American army at San Augustin, 381
CHAPTER XIV.—Difficulties of the advance—The Pedregal—San Antonio—Hacienda—Relative position of American and Mexican armies—Path over the Pedregal to Contreras—Valencia disconcerts Santa Anna's plan of battle—American advance and victory at Contreras—San Antonio turned by Worth—Battle of Churubusco—Battle at the Convent and Tete de Pont—Their capture, 391
CHAPTER XV.—Why the city was not entered on the 20th—Condition of the city—Deliberation of the Mexican cabinet and proposals—Reasons why General Scott proposed and granted the armistice—Deliberations of commissioners—Parties against Santa Anna—Failure of the negotiation—Mexican desire to destroy Santa Anna, 400
CHAPTER XVI.—Military position of the Americans at the end of the armistice—Mexican defences—Plan of attack—Reconnoissances of Scott and Mason—Importance of Mexican position at Molino del Rey—Scott's scheme of capturing the city—Battle of Molino del Rey—Reflections and criticism on this battle—Preparations to attack Chapultepec—Storming of Chapultepec and of the city Gates of San Cosmé and Belen—Retreat of the Mexican army and government—American occupation of the city of Mexico, 408
CHAPTER XVII.—Attack of the city mob on the army—Quitman Governor—Peña President—Congress ordered—Siege of Puebla—Lane's, Lally's, and Childs's victories—Guerrilleros broken up—Mexican politics—Anaya President—Peace negotiations—Scott's decree—Peña President—Santa Anna and Lane—Santa Anna leaves Mexico for Jamaica—Treaty entered into—Its character—Santa Cruz de Rosales—Court of Inquiry—Internal troubles—Ambassadors at Querétaro—Treaty ratified—Evacuation—Revolutionary attempts—Condition of Mexico since the war—Character of Santa Anna—Note on the military critics, 420

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1511 TO 1519.


There is perhaps no page in modern history so full of dramatic incidents and useful consequences, as that which records the discovery, conquest and development of America by the Spanish and Anglo Saxon races. The extraordinary achievements of Columbus, Cortéz, Pizarro, and Washington, have resulted in the acquisition of broad lands, immense wealth, and rational liberty; and the names of these heroes are thus indissolubly connected with the physical and intellectual progress of mankind.

In the following pages we propose to write the history, and depict the manners, customs and condition of Mexico. Our narrative begins with the first movements that were made for the conquest of the country; yet, we shall recount, fully and accurately, the story of those Indian princes,—the splendor of whose courts, and the misery of whose tragic doom, enhance the picturesque grandeur and solemn lessons that are exhibited in the career of Hernando Cortéz.

[Pg 14] Cuba was the second island discovered, in the West Indies; but it was not until 1511, that Diego, son of the gallant admiral, who had hitherto maintained the seat of government in Hispaniola, resolved to occupy the adjacent isle of Fernandina,—as it was then called,—amid whose virgin mountains and forests he hoped to find new mines to repair the loss of those which were rapidly failing in Hispaniola. [1]

For the conquest of this imagined El Dorado, he prepared a small armament, under the command of Diego Velasquez, an ambitious and covetous leader, who, together with his lieutenant, Narvaez, soon established the Spanish authority in the island, of which he was appointed Governor.


Columbus, after coasting the shores of Cuba for a great distance, had always believed that it constituted a portion of the continent, but it was soon discovered that the illustrious admiral had been in error, and that Cuba, extensive as it appeared to be, was, in fact, only an island.

In February, 1517, a Spanish hidalgo, Hernandez de Cordova, set sail, with three vessels, towards the adjacent Bahamas in search of slaves. He was driven by a succession of severe storms on coasts which had hitherto been unknown to the Spanish adventurers, and finally landed on that part of the continent which forms the north-eastern end of the peninsula of Yucatan, and is known as Cape Catoché. Here he first discovered the evidence of a more liberal civilization than had been hitherto known among his adventurous countrymen in the New World. Large and solid buildings, formed of stone;—cultivated fields;—delicate fabrics of cotton and precious metals,—indicated the presence of a race that had long emerged from the semi-barbarism of the Indian Isles. The bold but accidental explorer continued his voyage along the coast of the peninsula until he reached the site of Campeché; and then, after an absence of seven months and severe losses among his men, returned to Cuba, with but half the number of his reckless companions. He brought back with him, however, numerous evidences of the wealth and progress of the people he had fortuitously discovered on the American main; but he soon died, and left to others the task of completing the enterprise he had so auspiciously begun. The fruits of his discoveries remained to be gathered by Velasquez, who at once equipped four vessels and [Pg 15] entrusted them to the command of his nephew, Juan de Grijalva, and on the 1st of May, 1518, this new commander left the port of St. Jago de Cuba. The first land he touched on his voyage of discovery, was the Island of Cozumel, whence he passed to the continent, glancing at the spots that had been previously visited by Cordova. So struck was he by the architecture, the improved agriculture, the civilized tastes, the friendly character and demeanor of the inhabitants, and, especially, by the sight of "large stone crosses, evidently objects of worship," that, in the enthusiasm of the moment, he gave to the land the name of Nueva España-or New Spain,—a title which has since been extended from the peninsula of Yucatan to even more than the entire empire of Montezuma and the Aztecs.

Grijalva did not content himself with a mere casual visit to the continent, but pursued his course along the coast, stopping at the Rio de Tabasco. Whilst at Rio de Vanderas, he enjoyed the first intercourse that ever took place between the Spaniards and Mexicans. The Cacique of the Province sought from the strangers a full account of their distant country and the motives of their visit, in order that he might convey the intelligence to his Aztec master. Presents were interchanged, and Grijalva received, in return for his toys and tinsel, a mass of jewels, together with ornaments and vessels of gold, which satisfied the adventurers that they had reached a country whose resources would repay them for the toil of further exploration. Accordingly, he despatched to Cuba with the joyous news, Pedro de Alvarado, one of his captains,—a man who was destined to play a conspicuous part in the future conquest,—whilst he, with the remainder of his companies, continued his coasting voyage to San Juan de Ulua, the Island of Sacrificios, and the northern shores, until he reached the Province of Panuco; whence, after an absence of six months, he set sail for Cuba, having been the first Spanish adventurer who trod the soil of Mexico.

But his return was not hailed even with gratitude. The florid reports of Pedro de Alvarado had already inflamed the ambition and avarice of Velasquez, who, impatient of the prolonged absence of Grijalva, had despatched a vessel under the command of Olid in search of his tardy officer. Nor was he content with this jealous exhibition of his temper; for, anxious to secure to himself all the glory and treasure to be derived from the boundless resources of a continent, he solicited authority from the Spanish crown to prosecute the adventures that had been so auspiciously begun; [Pg 16] and, in the meanwhile, after considerable deliberation, resolved to fit out another armament on a scale, in some degree, commensurate with the military subjugation of the country, should he find himself opposed by its sovereign and people. After considerable doubt, difficulty and delay, he resolved to entrust this expedition to the command of Hernando Cortéz; "the last man," says Prescott, "to whom Velasquez,—could he have foreseen the results,—would have confided the enterprise."


It will not be foreign to our purpose to sketch, briefly, the previous life of a man who subsequently became so eminent in the history of both worlds. Seven years before Columbus planted the standard of Castile and Arragon in the West Indies, Hernando Cortéz, was born, of a noble lineage, in the town of Medellin, in the Province of Estremadura, in Spain. His infancy was frail and delicate, but his constitution strengthened as he grew, until, at the age of fourteen, he was placed in the venerable university of Salamanca, where his parents, who rejoiced in the extreme vivacity of his talents, designed to prepare him for the profession of law, the emoluments of which were, at that period, most tempting in Spain. But the restless spirit of the future conqueror was not to be manacled by the musty ritual of a tedious science whose pursuit would confine him to a quiet life. He wasted two years at the college, and, like many men who subsequently became renowned either for thought or action, was finally sent home in disgrace. Nevertheless, in the midst of his recklessness, and by the quickness of his genius, he had learned "a little store of Latin," and acquired the habit of writing good prose, or of versifying agreeably. His father,—Don Martin Cortéz de Monroy, and his mother, Doña Catalina Pizarro Altamirano,—seem to have been accomplished people, nor is it improbable, that the greater part of their son's information was obtained under the influence of the domestic circle. At college he was free from all restraint,—giving himself up to the spirit of adventure, the pursuit of pleasure, and convivial intercourse,—so that no hope was entertained of his further improvement from scholastic studies. His worthy parents were, moreover, people of limited fortune, and unable to prolong these agreeable but profitless pursuits. Accordingly, when Cortéz attained the age of seventeen, they yielded to his proposal to enlist under the banner of Gonsalvo of Cordova, and to devote himself, heart and soul, to the military life which seemed most suitable for one of his wild, adventurous and resolute disposition. [Pg 17] It was well for Spain and for himself, that the chivalric wish of Cortéz was not thwarted,—and that one of the ablest soldiers produced by Castile at that period, was not dwarfed by parental control into a bad lawyer or pestilent pettifogger.

The attention of our hero was soon directed towards the New World,—the stories of whose wealth had now for upwards of twenty years been pouring into the greedy ear of Spain,—and he speedily determined to embark in the armament which Nicolas de Ovando, the successor of Columbus, was fitting out for the West Indies. This design was frustrated, however, for two years longer, by an accident which occurred in one of his amours; nor did another opportunity present itself, until, at the age of nineteen, in 1504, he bade adieu to Spain in a small squadron bound to the Islands.

As soon as Cortéz reached Hispaniola, he visited the Governor, whom he had formerly known at home. Ovando was absent, but his secretary received the emigrant kindly, and assured him "a liberal grant of land." "I come for gold," replied Cortéz, sneeringly, "and not to toil like a peasant!" Ovando, however, was more fortunate than the secretary, in prevailing upon the future conqueror to forego the lottery of adventure, for no sooner had he returned to his post, than Cortéz was persuaded to accept a grant of land, a repartimiento of Indians, and the office of notary in the village of Açua. Here he seems to have dwelt until 1511, varying the routine of notarial and agricultural pursuits by an occasional adventure, of an amorous character, which involved him in duels. Sometimes he took part in the military expeditions under Diego Velasquez for the suppression of Indian insurrections in the interior. This was the school in which he learned his tactics, and here did he study the native character until he joined Velasquez for the conquest of Cuba.

As soon as this famous Island was reduced to Spanish authority, Cortéz became high in favor with Velasquez, who had received the commission of Governor. But love, intrigues, jealousy and ambition, quickly began to chequer the wayward life of our hero, and estranged him from Velasquez, for the new Governor found it difficult to satisfy the cravings of those rapacious adventurers who flocked in crowds to the New World, and, in all probability, clustered around Cortéz as the nucleus of discontent. It was soon resolved by these men to submit their complaints against Velasquez to the higher authorities in Hispaniola, and the daring Cortéz was fixed on as the bearer of the message in an open boat, [Pg 18] across the eighteen intervening leagues. But the conspiracy was detected,—the rash ambassador confined in chains,—and only saved from hanging by the interposition of powerful friends.

Cortéz speedily contrived to relieve himself of the fetters with which he was bound, and, forcing a window, escaped from his prison to the sanctuary of a neighboring church. A few days after, however, he was seized whilst standing carelessly in front of the sacred edifice, and conveyed on board a vessel bound for Hispaniola, where he was to be tried. But his intrepidity and skill did not forsake him even in this strait. Ascending cautiously from the vessel's hold to the deck, he dropped into a boat and pulled near ashore, when dreading to risk the frail bark in the breakers, he abandoned his skiff,—plunged boldly into the surf,—and landing on the sands, sought again the sanctuary, whence he had been rudely snatched by the myrmidons of the Governor.

One of the causes of his quarrel with Velasquez had been an intrigue with a beautiful woman, in whose family the Governor was, perhaps, personally interested. The fickle Cortéz cruelly abandoned the fair Catalina Xuares at a most inauspicious moment of her fate, and was condemned for his conduct by all the best people in the Island; but now, under the influence of penitence or policy, his feelings suddenly experienced a strange revulsion. He expressed a contrite desire to do justice to the injured woman by marriage, and thus, at once obtained the favor of her family and the pardon of the Governor, who becoming permanently reconciled to Cortéz, presented him a liberal repartimiento of Indians together with broad lands in the neighborhood of St. Jago, of which he was soon made alcalde.

The future conqueror devoted himself henceforth to his duties with remarkable assiduity. Agriculture,—the introduction of cattle of the best breeds,—and the revenues of a share of the mines which he wrought,—soon began to enrich the restless adventurer who had settled down for a while into the quiet life of a married man. His beautiful wife fulfilled her share of the cares of life with remarkable fidelity, and seems to have contented the heart even of her liege lord, who declared himself as happy with his bride as if she had been the daughter of a duchess.


At this juncture Alvarado returned with the account of the discoveries, the wealth, and the golden prospects of continental adventure which we have already narrated. Cortéz and Velasquez were alike fired by the alluring story. The old flame of enterprise [Pg 19] was rekindled in the breast of the wild boy of Medellin, and when the Governor looked around for one who could command the projected expedition, he found none, among the hosts who pressed for service, better fitted for the enterprise by personal qualities and fortune, than Hernando Cortéz, whom he named Captain General of his Armada.

The high office and the important task imposed on him seem to have sobered the excitable, and heretofore fickle, mind of our hero. His ardent animal spirits, under the influence of a bold and lofty purpose, became the servants rather than the masters of his indomitable will, and he at once proceeded to arrange all the details of the expedition which he was to lead to Mexico. The means that he did not already possess in his own coffers, he raised by mortgage, and he applied the funds, thus obtained, to the purchase of vessels, rations, and military stores, or to the furnishing of adequate equipments for adventurers who were too poor to provide their own outfit. It is somewhat questionable whether Velasquez, the Governor, was very liberal in his personal and pecuniary contributions to this expedition, the cost of which amounted to about twenty thousand gold ducats. It has been alleged that Cortéz was the chief support of the adventure, and it is certain, that in later years, this question resulted in bitter litigation between the parties.


Six ships and three hundred followers were soon prepared for the enterprise under Cortéz, and the Governor proceeded to give instructions to the leader, all of which are couched in language of unquestionable liberality.

The captain of the Armada was first to seek the missing Grijalva, after which the two commanders were to unite in their quest of gold and adventure. Six Christians, supposed to be lingering in captivity in Yucatan, were to be sought and released. Barter and traffic, generally, with the natives were to be encouraged and carried on, so as to avoid all offence against humanity or kindness. The Indians were to be christianized;—for the conversion of heathens was one of the dearest objects of the Spanish king. The aborigines, in turn, were to manifest their good will by ample gifts of jewels and treasure. The coasts and adjacent streams were to be surveyed,—and the productions of the country, its races, civilization, and institutions, were to be noted with minute accuracy, so that a faithful report might be returned to the crown, [Pg 20] to whose honor and the service of God, it was hoped the enterprise would certainly redound.

Such was the state of things in the port of St. Jago, when jealous fears began to interrupt the confidence between Velasquez and Cortéz. The counsel of friends who were companions of the Governor, and his own notice of that personage's altered conduct, soon put the new Captain General of the Armada on his guard. Neither his equipment nor his crew was yet complete; nevertheless, he supplied his fleet with all the provisions he could hastily obtain at midnight; and, paying the provider with a massive chain which he had worn about his neck,—the last available remnant, perhaps, of his fortune,—he hastened with his officers on board the vessels.

On the 18th of November, 1518, he made sail for the port of Macaca, about fifteen leagues distant, and thence he proceeded to Trinidad, on the southern coast of Cuba. Here he obtained stores from the royal farms, whilst he recruited his forces from all classes, but especially from the returned troops and sailors of Grijalva's expedition. Pedro de Alvarado and his brothers; Cristoval de Olid, Alonzo de Avila, Juan Velasquez de Leon, Hernandez de Puerto Carrero, and Gonzalo de Sandoval, united their fortunes to his, and thus identified themselves forever with the conquest of Mexico. He added considerably to his stock by the seizure of several vessels and cargoes; and prudently got rid of Diego de Ordaz, whom he regarded as a spy of the estranged Velasquez.

At Trinidad, Cortéz was overtaken by orders for detention from his former friend and patron. These commands, however, were not enforced by the cautious official who received them; and Cortéz, forthwith, despatched Alvarado, by land, to Havana, whilst he prepared to follow with his fleet around the coast and western part of the island. At Havana he again added to his forces,—prepared arms and quilted armor as a defence against the Indian arrows,—and distributed his men into eleven companies under the command of experienced officers. But, before all his arrangements were completed, the commander of the place, Don Pedro Barba, was ordered, by express from Velasquez, to arrest Cortéz, whilst the Captain General of the Armada himself received a hypocritical letter from the same personage, "requesting him to delay his voyage till the governor could communicate with him in person!" Barba, however, knew that the attempt to seize the leader of such an enterprise and of such a band, would be [Pg 21] vain;—whilst Cortéz, in reply to Velasquez, "implored his Excellency to rely on his boundless devotion to the interests of his Governor, but assured him, nevertheless, that he and his fleet, by divine permission, would sail on the following day!"

Accordingly, on the 18th of February, 1519, the little squadron weighed anchor, with one hundred and ten mariners, sixteen horses, five hundred and fifty-three soldiers, including thirty-two crossbowmen and thirteen arquebusiers, besides two hundred Indians of the island and a few native women, for menial offices. The ordnance consisted of ten heavy guns, four lighter pieces or falconets, together with a good supply of ammunition.

With this insignificant command and paltry equipment, Hernando Cortéz, at the age of thirty-three, set sail for the conquest of Mexico. He invoked on his enterprise the blessing of his patron, Saint Peter;—he addressed his followers in the language of encouragement and resolution;—he unfurled a velvet banner on which was emblazoned the figure of a crimson cross amid flames of blue and white, and he pointed to the motto which was to be the presage of victory: "Friends, let us follow the Cross: and under this sign, if we have faith, we shall conquer!"


[1] In 1525, the gold washings of Hispaniola were already exhausted; and sugar and hides are alone mentioned as exports. Petri Mart: Ep. 806, Kal. Mart. 1525.

[Pg 22]



Soon after the adventurers departed from the coast of Cuba, the weather, which had been hitherto fine, suddenly changed, and one of those violent hurricanes which ravage the Indian Isles during the warm season, scattered and dismantled the small squadron, sweeping it far to the south of its original destination. Cortéz was the last to reach the Island of Cozumel, having been forced to linger in order to watch for the safety of one of his battered craft. But, immediately on landing, he was pained to learn that the impetuous Pedro de Alvarado had rashly entered the temples, despoiled them of their ornaments, and terrified the natives into promiscuous flight. He immediately devoted himself to the task of obliterating this stain on Spanish humanity, by kindly releasing two of the captives taken by Alvarado. Through an interpreter he satisfied them of the pacific purpose of his voyage, and despatched them to their homes with valuable gifts. This humane policy appears to have succeeded with the natives, who speedily returned from the interior, and commenced a brisk traffic of gold for trinkets.

The chief objection of Cortéz to the headlong destruction which Alvarado had committed in the temples, seems rather to have been against the robbery than the religious motive, if such existed in the breast of his impetuous companion. We have already said that the conversion of the heathen was one of the alleged primary objects of this expedition, for the instructions of the Governor of Cuba were full of zeal for the spread of Christianity; yet, in the diffusion of this novel creed among the aborigines, it sometimes happened that its military propagandists regarded the sword as [Pg 23] more powerful than the sermon. The idolatrous practices of the inhabitants of Cozumel shocked the sensibility of the commander, and he set about the work of christianization through the labors of the licentiate Juan Diaz and Bartolomé de Olmedo, the latter of whom,—who remained with the army during the whole expedition,—was, indeed, a mirror of zeal and charity. The discourses of these worthy priests were, however, unavailing;—the Indians, who of course could not comprehend their eloquent exhortations or pious logic, refused to abandon their idols; and our hero resolved at once to convince them, by palpable arguments, of the inefficiency of those hideous emblems, either to save themselves from destruction, or to bestow blessings on the blind adorers. An order was, therefore, forthwith given for the immediate destruction of the Indian images; and, in their place, the Virgin and her Son were erected on a hastily constructed altar. Olmedo and his companion were thus the first to offer the sacrifice of the mass in New Spain, where they, finally, induced numbers of the aborigines to renounce idolatry and embrace the Catholic faith.

In spite of this marauding crusade against their property and creed, the Indians kindly furnished the fleet with provisions, which enabled the squadron to sail in the ensuing March. But a leak in one of the vessels compelled the adventurers to return to port,—a circumstance which was regarded by many as providential,—inasmuch as it was the means of restoring to his countryman, a Spaniard, named Aguilar, who had been wrecked on the coast of Yucatan eight years before. The long residence of this person in the country made him familiar with the language of the inhabitants of that neighborhood, and thus a valuable interpreter,—one of its most pressing wants,—was added to the expedition.


After the vessels were refitted, Cortéz coasted the shores of Yucatan until he reached the Rio de Tabasco or Grijalva, where he encountered the first serious opposition to the Spanish arms. He had a severe conflict, in the vicinity of his landing, with a large force of the natives; but the valor of his men, the terror inspired by fire arms, and the singular spectacle presented to the astonished Indians by the extraordinary appearance of cavalry, soon turned the tide of victory in his favor. The subdued tribes appeased his anger by valuable gifts, and forthwith established friendly relations with their dreaded conqueror. Among the presents offered upon this occasion by the vanquished, were twenty female slaves;—and after one of the holy fathers had [Pg 24] attempted, as usual, to impress the truths of christianity upon the natives, and had closed the ceremonies of the day by a pompous procession, with all the impressive ceremonial of the Roman church, the fleet again sailed towards the empire Cortéz was destined to penetrate and subdue.


In Passion week, of the year 1519, the squadron dropped anchor under the lee of the Island or reef of St. Juan de Ulua. The natives immediately boarded the vessel of the Captain General; but their language was altogether different from that of the Mayan dialects spoken in Yucatan and its immediate dependencies. In this emergency Cortéz learned that, among the twenty female slaves who had been recently presented him, there was one who knew the Mexican language, and, in fact, that she was an Aztec by birth. This was the celebrated Marina or Mariana, who accompanied the conqueror throughout his subsequent adventures, and was so useful as a sagacious friend and discreet interpreter. Acquainted with the languages of her native land and of the Yucatecos, she found it easy to translate the idiom of the Aztecs into the Mayan dialect which Aguilar, the Spaniard, had learned during his captivity. Through this medium, Cortéz was apprised that these Mexicans or Aztecs were the subjects of a powerful sovereign who ruled an empire bounded by two seas, and that his name was Montezuma.


On the 21st of April the Captain General landed on the sandy and desolate beach whereon is now built the modern city of Vera Cruz. Within a few days the native Governor of the province arrived to greet him, and expressed great anxiety to learn whence the "fair and bearded strangers" had come? Cortéz told him that he was the "subject of a mighty monarch beyond the sea who ruled over an immense empire and had kings and princes for his vassals;—that, acquainted with the greatness of the Mexican emperor, his master desired to enter into communication with so great a personage, and had sent him, as an envoy, to wait on Montezuma with a present in token of his good will, and a friendly message which he must deliver in person." The Indian Governor expressed surprise that there was another king as great as his master, yet assured Cortéz that as soon as he learned Montezuma's determination, he would again converse with him on the subject. Teuhtle then presented the Captain General ten loads of fine cottons; mantles of curious feather work, beautifully [Pg 25] dyed; and baskets filled with golden ornaments. Cortéz, in turn, produced the gifts for the emperor, which were comparatively insignificant; but, when the Aztec Governor desired to receive the glittering helmet of one of the men, it was readily given as an offering to the emperor, with the significant request that it might be returned filled with gold, which Cortéz told him was "a specific remedy for a disease of the heart with which his countrymen, the Spaniards, were sorely afflicted!"

During this interview between the functionaries it was noticed by the adventurers that men were eagerly employed among the Indians in sketching every thing they beheld in the ranks of the strangers,—for, by this picture-writing, the Mexican monarch was to be apprised in accurate detail of the men, horses, ships, armor, force, and weapons of this motley band of invaders.

These pictorial missives were swiftly borne by the Mexican couriers to the Aztec capital among the mountains, and, together with the oral account of the landing of Cortéz and his demand for an interview, were laid before the Imperial Court. It may well be imagined that the extraordinary advent of the Captain General and his squadron was productive of no small degree of excitement and even tremor, among this primitive people; for, not only were they unnerved by the dread which all secluded races feel for innovation, but an ancient prophecy had foretold the downfall of the empire through the instrumentality of beings, who, like these adventurers, were to "come from the rising sun." Montezuma, who was then on the throne, had been elected to that dignity in 1502 in preference to his brothers, in consequence of his superior qualifications as a soldier and a priest. His reign commenced energetically; and whilst he, at first, administered the interior affairs of his realm with justice, capacity, and moderation, his hand fell heavily on all who dared to raise their arms against his people. But, as he waxed older and firmer in power, and as his empire extended, he began to exhibit those selfish traits which so often characterize men who possess, for a length of time, supreme power untrammelled by constitutional restraints. His court was sumptuous, and his people were grievously taxed to support its unbounded extravagance. This, in some degree, alienated the loyalty of his subjects, while continued oppression finally led to frequent insurrection. In addition to these internal discontents of the Aztec empire, Montezuma had met in the nominal republic of Tlascala,—lying midway between the valley of Mexico and the seacoast,—a brave and stubborn foe, whose civilization, unimpaired resources, [Pg 26] and martial character, enabled it to resist the combined forces of the Aztecs for upwards of two hundred years.

Such was the state of the empire when the news of Cortéz's arrival became the subject of discussion in Mexico. Some were for open or wily resistance. Others were oppressed with superstitious fears. But Montezuma, adopting a medium but fatal course, resolved, without delay, to send an embassy with such gifts as he imagined would impress the strangers with the idea of his magnificence and power, whilst, at the same time, he courteously commanded the adventurers to refrain from approaching his capital.

Meanwhile the Spaniards restlessly endured the scorching heats and manifold annoyances of the coast, and were amusing themselves by a paltry traffic with the Indians, whose offerings were generally of but trifling value. After the expiration of a week, however, the returned couriers and the embassy approached the camp. The time is seemingly short when we consider the difficulty of transportation through a mountain country, and recollect that the Mexicans, who were without horses, had been obliged to traverse the distance on foot. But it is related on ample authority,—so perfectly were the posts arranged among these semi-civilized people,—that tidings were borne in the short period of twenty-four hours from the city to the sea, and, consequently, that three or four days were ample for the journey of the envoys of Montezuma, upon a matter of so much national importance.

The two Aztec nobles, accompanied by the Governor of the province, Teuhtle, did not approach with empty hands the men whom they hoped to bribe if they could not intimidate. Gold and native fabrics of the most delicate character; shields, helmets, cuirasses, collars, bracelets, sandals, fans, pearls, precious stones; loads of cotton cloth, extraordinary manufactures of feathers, circular plates of gold and silver as large as carriage wheels, and the Spanish helmet filled with golden grains; were all spread out, as a free gift from the Emperor to the Spaniards!

With these magnificent presents, Montezuma replied to the request of Cortéz, that it would give him pleasure to communicate with so mighty a monarch as the king of Spain, whom he respected highly, but that he could not gratify himself by according the foreign envoy a personal interview, inasmuch as the distance to his capital was great, and the toilsome journey among the mountains was beset with dangers from formidable enemies. He could do no more, therefore, than bid the strangers farewell, [Pg 27] and request them to return to their homes over the sea with these proofs of his perfect friendship.

It may well be supposed that this naïve system of diplomacy could have but little effect on men who were bent on improving their fortunes, and whose rapacity was only stimulated by the evidences of unbounded wealth which the simple-minded king had so lavishly bestowed on them. Montezuma was the dupe of his own credulity, and only inflamed, by the very means he imagined would assuage the avarice or ambition of his Spanish visitors. Nor was Cortéz less resolved than his companions. Accordingly he made another pacific effort, by means of additional presents and a gentle message, to change the resolution of the Indian emperor. Still the Aztec sovereign was obstinate in his refusal of a personal interview, although he sent fresh gifts by the persons who bore to the Spaniards his polite but firm and peremptory denial.

Cortéz could hardly conceal his disappointment at this second rebuff; but, as the vesper bell tolled, whilst the ambassadors were in his presence, he threw himself on his knees with his soldiers, and, after a prayer, Father Olmedo expounded to the Aztec chiefs, by his interpreters, the doctrines of Christianity, and putting into their hands an image of the Virgin and Saviour, he exhorted them to abandon their hideous idolatry, and to place these milder emblems of faith and hope on the altars of their bloody gods. That very night the Indians abandoned the Spanish camp and the neighborhood, leaving the adventurers without the copious supplies of food that hitherto had been bountifully furnished. Cortéz, nevertheless, was undismayed by these menacing symptoms, and exclaimed to his hardy followers: "It shall yet go hard, but we will one day pay this powerful prince a visit in his gorgeous capital!"

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It is impossible, in a work like the present, which is designed to cover the history of a country during three hundred years, to present the reader with as complete a narrative of events as we would desire. Happily, the task of recording the story of the conquest, has fallen into the hands of the classic historians of Spain, England and America; and the astonishing particulars of that mighty enterprise may be found, minutely recounted, in the works of De Solis, Robertson and Prescott. We shall therefore content ourselves with as rapid a summary as is consistent with the development of the modern Mexican character, and shall refer those who are anxious for more explicit and perfect details to the writings of the authors we have mentioned.


Cortéz was not long idle after the withdrawal of the Aztec emissaries and the surly departure of the Indians, who, as we have related in the last chapter, quitted his camp and neighborhood on the same night with the ambassadors of Montezuma. He forthwith proceeded to establish a military and civil colony, of which he became Captain General and Chief Justice; he founded the Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz in order to secure a base on the coast for future military operation, by means of which he might be independent of Velasquez; and he formed an alliance with the Totonacos of Cempoalla, whose loyalty,—though they were subjects of Montezuma,—was alienated from him by his merciless exactions. We shall not dwell upon the skill with which he fomented a breach between the Totonacos and the ambassadors of Montezuma, nor upon the valuable gifts, and discreet despatches he forwarded to [Pg 29] the Emperor Charles V., in order to secure a confirmation of his proceedings. The most daring act of this period was the destruction of the squadron which had wafted him to Mexico. It was a deed of wise policy, which deliberately cut off all hope of retreat,—pacified, in some degree, the querulous conspirators who lurked in his camp,—and placed before all who were embarked in the enterprise the alternative of conquest or destruction. But one vessel remained. Nine out of the ten were dismantled and sunk. When his men murmured for a moment, and imagined themselves betrayed, he addressed them in that language of bland diplomacy which he was so well skilled to use whenever the occasion required. "As for me," said he, "I will remain here whilst there is one to bear me company! Let the cravens shrink from danger and go home in the single vessel that remains. Let them hasten to Cuba, and relate how they deserted their commander and comrades; and there let them wait in patience till we return laden with the spoils of Mexico!"

This was an appeal that rekindled the combined enthusiasm and avarice of the despondent murmurers; and the reply was a universal shout: "To Mexico! to Mexico!"


On the 16th of August, 1519, Cortéz set out with his small army of about four hundred men, now swelled by the addition of thirteen hundred Indian warriors and a thousand porters, and accompanied by forty of the chief Totonacs as hostages and advisers. From the burning climate of the coast the army gradually ascended to the cooler regions of the tierra templada, and tierra fria, encountering all degrees of temperature on the route. After a journey of three days, the forces arrived at a town on one of the table lands of the interior, whose chief magistrate confirmed the stories of the power of Montezuma. Here Cortéz tarried three days for repose, and then proceeded towards the Republic of Tlascala, which lay directly in his path, and with whose inhabitants he hoped to form an alliance founded on the elements of discontent which he knew existed among these inveterate foes of the central Aztec power. But he was mistaken in his calculations. The Tlascalans were not so easily won as his allies, the Totonacs, who, dwelling in a warmer climate, had not the hardier virtues of these mountaineers. The Tlascalans entertained no favorable feeling towards Montezuma, but they nourished quite as little cordiality for men whose characters they did not know, and whose purposes they had cause to dread. A deadly hostility to the Spaniards was consequently [Pg 30] soon manifested. Cortéz was attacked by them on the borders of their Republic, and fought four sharp battles with fifty thousand warriors who maintained, in all the conflicts, their reputation for military skill and hardihood. At length the Tlascalans were forced to acknowledge the superiority of the invaders, whom they could not overcome either by stratagem or battle, and, after the exchange of embassies and gifts, they honored our hero with a triumphal entry into their capital.


The news of these victories as well as of the fatal alliance which ensued with the Tlascalans, was soon borne to the court of Montezuma, who began to tremble for the fate of his empire when he saw the fall of the indomitable foes who had held him so long at bay. Two embassies to Cortéz succeeded each other, in vain. Presents were no longer of avail. His offer of tribute to the Spanish king was not listened to. All requests that the conqueror should not advance towards his capital were unheeded. "The command of his own emperor," said Cortéz, "was the only reason which could induce him to disregard the wishes of an Aztec prince, for whom he cherished the profoundest respect!" Soon after, another embassy came from Montezuma with magnificent gifts and an invitation to his capital, yet with a request that he would break with his new allies and approach Mexico through the friendly city of Cholula. The policy of this request on the part of Montezuma, will be seen in the sequel. Our hero, accompanied by six thousand volunteers from Tlascala, advanced towards the sacred city,—the site of the most splendid temple in the empire, whose foundations yet remain in the nineteenth century. The six intervening leagues were soon crossed, and he entered Cholula with his Spanish army, attended by no other Indians than those who accompanied him from Cempoalla. At first, the General and his companions were treated hospitably, and the suspicions which had been instilled into his mind by the Tlascalans were lulled to sleep. However, he soon had cause to become fearful of treachery. Messengers arrived from Montezuma, and his entertainers were observed to be less gracious in their demeanor. It was noticed that several important streets had been barricaded or converted into pitfalls, whilst stones, missiles and weapons were heaped on the flat roofs of houses. Besides this, Mariana had become intimate with the wife of one of the Caciques, and cunningly drew from her gossiping friend the whole conspiracy that was brewing against the adventurers. Montezuma, she learned, had stationed twenty thousand Mexicans near [Pg 31] the city, who, together with the Cholulans, were to assault the invaders in the narrow streets and avenues, as they quitted the town; and, thus, he hoped, by successful treachery, to rid the land of such dangerous visitors either by slaughter in conflict, or to offer them, when made captive, upon the altars of the sacred temple in Cholula and on the teocallis of Mexico, as proper sacrifices to the bloody gods of his country.

Cortéz, however, was not to be so easily outwitted and entrapped. He, in turn, resorted to stratagem. Concentrating all his Spanish army, and concerting a signal for co-operation with his Indian allies, he suddenly fell upon the Cholulans at an unexpected moment. Three thousand of the citizens perished in the frightful massacre that ensued; and Cortéz pursued his uninterrupted way towards the fated capital of the Aztecs, after this awful chastisement, which was perhaps needful to relieve him from the danger of utter annihilation in the heart of an enemy's country with so small a band of countrymen in whom he could confide.


From the plain of Cholula,—which is now known as the fruitful vale of Puebla,—the conqueror ascended the last ridge of mountains that separated him from the city of Mexico; and, as he turned the edge of the Cordillera, the beautiful valley was at once revealed to him in all its indescribable loveliness. [2] It lay at his feet, surrounded by the placid waters of Tezcoco. The sight that burst upon the Spaniards from this lofty eminence, in the language of Prescott, was that of the vale of Tenochtitlan, as it was called by the natives, "which, with its picturesque assemblage of water, woodland, and cultivated plains; its shining cities and shadowy hills, was spread out like some gay and gorgeous panorama before them. In the highly rarefied atmosphere of these upper regions, even remote objects have a brilliancy of coloring and a distinctness of outline which seems to annihilate distance. Stretching far away at their feet, were seen noble forests of oak, sycamore, and cedar; and beyond, yellow fields of maize and the towering maguey, intermingled with orchards and blooming gardens; for flowers, in such demand for their religious festivals, were even more abundant in this populous valley, than in other parts of Anahuac. In the centre of the great basin, were beheld the lakes, occupying then a much larger portion of its surface than at present; their borders thickly [Pg 32] studded with towns and hamlets, and, in the midst,—like some Indian empress with her coronal of pearls,—the fair city of Mexico, with her white towers and pyramidal temples reposing, as it were, on the bosom of the waters—the far-famed 'Venice of the Aztecs.' High over all rose the royal hill of Chapultepec, the residence of the Mexican monarchs, belted with the same grove of gigantic cypresses, which at this day fling their broad shadows over the land. In the distance, to the north, beyond the blue waters of the lake, and nearly screened by intervening foliage, was seen a shining speck, the rival capital of Tezcoco; and, still further on, the dark belt of porphyry, girdling the valley around, like a rich setting which Nature had devised for the fairest of her jewels."


Cortéz easily descended with his troops by the mountain road towards the plain of the valley; and as he passed along the levels, or through the numerous villages and hamlets, he endeavored to foster and foment the ill feeling which he found secretly existing against the government of the Mexican Emperor. When he had advanced somewhat into the heart of the valley he was met by an embassy of the chief lords of the Aztec court, sent to him by Montezuma, with gifts of considerable value; but he rejected a proffered bribe of "four loads of gold to the General, and one to each of his captains, with a yearly tribute to their sovereign," provided the Spanish troops would quit the country. Heedless of all menaced opposition as well as appeals to his avarice, he seems, at this period, to have cast aside the earlier and sordid motives which might then have been easily satisfied had his pursuit been gold alone. The most abundant wealth was cast at his feet; but the higher qualities of his nature were now allowed the fullest play, and strengthened him in his resolution to risk all in the daring and glorious project of subjecting a splendid empire to his control. Accordingly, he advanced though Amaquemecan, a town of several thousand inhabitants, where he was met by a nephew of the Emperor, the Lord of Tezcoco, who had been despatched by his vacillating uncle, at the head of a large number of influential personages, to welcome the invaders to the capital. The friendly summons was of course not disregarded by Cortéz, who forthwith proceeded along the most splendid and massive structure of the New World—a gigantic causeway, five miles in length, constructed of huge stones, which passed along the narrow strait of sand that separated the waters of Chalco from those of Tezcoco. The lakes were covered with boats filled with natives. Floating [Pg 33] islands, made of reeds and wicker-work, covered with soil, brimmed with luxuriant vegetation whose splendid fruits and odorous petals rested on the waters. Several large towns were built on artificial foundations in the lake. And, every where, around the Spaniards, were beheld the evidences of a dense population, whose edifices, agriculture, and labors denoted a high degree of civilization and intelligence. As the foreign warriors proceeded onwards towards the city, which rose before them with its temples, palaces and shrines, covered with hard stucco that glistened in the sun, they crossed a wooden drawbridge in the causeway; and, as they passed it, they felt that now, indeed, if they faltered, they were completely in the grasp of the Mexicans, and more effectually cut off from all retreat than they had been when the fleet was destroyed at Vera Cruz.

Near this spot they were encountered by Montezuma with his court, who came forth in regal state to salute his future conqueror. Surrounded by all the pageantry and splendor of an oriental monarch, he descended from the litter in which he was borne from the city, and, leaning on the shoulders of the Lords of Tezcoco and of Iztapalapan,—his nephew and brother,—he advanced towards the Spaniards, under a canopy and over a cotton carpet, whilst his prostrate subjects manifested, by their abject demeanor, the fear or respect which the presence of their sovereign inspired.

"Montezuma was at this time about forty years of age. His person was tall and slender, but not ill-made. His hair, which was black and straight, was not very long. His beard was thin; his complexion somewhat paler than is often found in his dusky, or rather copper-colored race. His features, though serious in their expression, did not wear the look of melancholy, or dejection, which characterizes his portrait, and which may well have settled on them at a later period. He moved with dignity, and his whole demeanor, tempered by an expression of benignity not to have been anticipated from the reports circulated of his character, was worthy of a great prince. Such is the picture left to us of the celebrated Indian Emperor in this his first interview with the white men." [3]


As this mighty prince approached, Cortéz halted his men, and, advancing with a few of his principal retainers, was most courteously welcomed by Montezuma, who, adroitly concealing his chagrin, diplomatically expressed the uncommon delight he experienced at this unexpected visit of the strangers to his capital. Our hero [Pg 34] thanked him for his friendly welcome and bounteous gifts,—and hung around his neck a chain set with colored crystal. Montezuma then opened his gates to the Spaniards and appointed his brother to conduct the General with his troops, to the city.

Here he found a spacious edifice, surrounded by a wall, assigned for his future residence; and, having stationed sentinels, and placed his cannon on the battlements so as to command all the important avenues to his palace, he proceeded to examine the city and to acquaint himself with the character, occupations, and temper of the people.[4]


[2] Between nine and ten thousand feet above the level of the sea, at this point of the road.

[3] Prescott.

[4] "The province which constitutes the principal territory of Montezuma," (says Cortéz in his letter to Charles the V.,) "is circular, and entirely surrounded by lofty and rugged mountains, and the circumference of it is full seventy leagues. In this plain there are two lakes which nearly occupy the whole of it, as the people use canoes for more than fifty leagues round. One of these lakes is of fresh water, and the other, which is larger, is of salt water. They are divided, on one side, by a small collection of high hills, which stand in the centre of the plain, and they unite in a level strait formed between these hills and the high mountains, which strait is a gun-shot wide, and the people of the cities and other settlements which are in these lakes, communicate together in their canoes by water, without the necessity of going by land. And as this great salt lake ebbs and flows with the tide, as the sea does, in every flood the water flows from it into the other fresh lake as impetuously as if it were a large river, and consequently at the ebb, the fresh lake flows into the salt.

"This great city of Temixtitlan, (meaning Tenochtitlan, Mexico,) is founded in this salt lake; and from terra firma to the body of the city, the distance is two leagues on whichever side they please to enter it.

"It has four entrances, or causeways, made by the hand of man, as wide as two horsemen's lances.

"The city is as large as Seville and Cordova. The streets (I mean the principal ones,) are very wide, and others very narrow; and some of the latter and all the others are one-half land and the other half water, along which the inhabitants go in their canoes; and all the streets, at given distances, are open, so that the water passes from one to the other; and in all their openings, some of which are very wide, there are very wide bridges, made of massive beams joined together and well wrought; and so wide that ten horsemen may pass abreast over many of them."—Letters of Cortéz to Charles V.

[Pg 35]



The city of Mexico, or Tenochtitlan, was, as we have already said, encompassed by the lake of Tezcoco, over which three solid causeways formed the only approaches. This inland sea was, indeed, "an archipelago of wandering islands." The whole city was penetrated throughout its entire length by a principal street, which was intersected by numerous canals, crossed by drawbridges; and, wherever the eye could reach, long vistas of low stone buildings rose on every side among beautiful gardens or luxuriant foliage. The quadrangular palaces of the nobles who Montezuma encouraged to reside at his court, were spread over a wide extent of ground, embellished with beautiful fountains which shot their spray amid porticoes and columns of polished porphyry. The palace of Montezuma was so vast a pile, that one of the conquerors alleges its terraced roof afforded ample room for thirty knights to tilt in tournament. A royal armory was filled with curious and dangerous weapons, and adorned with an ample store of military dresses, equipments and armor. Huge granaries contained the tributary supplies which were brought to the Prince by the provinces for the maintenance of the royal family, and there was an aviary in which three hundred attendants fed and reared birds of the sweetest voice or rarest plumage; whilst, near it, rose a menagerie, filled with specimens of all the native beasts, together with a museum, in which, with an oddity of taste unparalleled in history, there had been collected a vast number of human monsters, cripples, dwarfs, Albinos and other freaks and caprices of nature. [Pg 36] The royal gardens are described by eye-witnesses as spots of unsurpassed elegance, adorned with rare shrubs, medicinal plants, and ponds, supplied by aqueducts and fountains, wherein, amid beautiful flowers, the finest fish and aquatic birds were seen forever floating in undisturbed quiet. The interior of the palace was equally attractive for its comfort and elegance. Spacious halls were covered with ceilings of odoriferous wood, while the lofty walls were hung with richly tinted fabrics of cotton, the skins of animals, or feather work wrought in mosaic imitation of birds, reptiles, insects and flowers. Nor was the Emperor alone amid the splendid wastes of his palace. A thousand women thronged these royal chambers, ministering to the tastes and passions of the elegant voluptuary. The rarest viands, from far and near, supplied his table, the service of which was performed by numerous attendants on utensils and equipage of the choicest material and shape. Four times, daily, the Emperor changed his apparel, and never put on again the dress he once had worn, or defiled his lips twice with the same vessels from which he fed.

Such was the sovereign's palace and way of life, nor can we suppose that this refinement of luxury was to be found alone in the dwelling of Montezuma and his nobles. It is to be regretted that we are not more fully informed of the condition of property, wealth and labor among the masses of this singular empire. The conquerors did not trouble themselves with acquiring accurate statistical information, nor do they seem to have counted numbers carefully, except when they had enemies to conquer or spoil to divide. In all primitive nations, however, the best idea of a people is to be attained from visiting the market-place,—or rather the fair,—in which it is their custom to sell or barter the products of their industry; and, to this rendezvous of the Aztecs, Cortéz, with the astuteness that never forsook him during his perilous enterprise, soon betook himself after his arrival in the city.

The market of Tenochtitlan was a scene of commercial activity as well as of humble thrift. It was devoted to all kinds of native traffic. In the centre of the city the conqueror found a magnificent square surrounded by porticoes, in which, it is alleged, that sixty thousand traders were engaged in buying and selling every species of merchandize produced in the realm; jewels, goldware, toys, curious imitations of natural objects, wrought with the utmost skill of deception; weapons of copper alloyed with tin, pottery of all degrees of fineness, carved vases, bales of richly dyed cotton; beautifully woven feather-work, wild and tame animals, grain, fish, [Pg 37] vegetables, all the necessaries of life and all its luxuries, together with restaurateurs and shops for the sale of medical drugs, confectionery, or stimulating drinks. It was, in fact, an immense bazaar, which, at a glance, gave an insight into the tastes, wants and productive industry of the nation.

Satisfied with this inspection of the people and their talents, the next visit of the General was, doubtless, made with the double object of becoming acquainted with that class of men, who in all countries so powerfully influence public opinion, whilst, from the top of their tall temple, situated on their lofty central Teocalli or pyramid, he might, with a military eye, scan the general topography of the city.

This pyramidal structure, or Great Temple, as it is generally called, was perhaps rather the base of a religious structure, than the religious edifice itself. We possess no accurate drawing of it among the contemporary or early relics of the conquest, that have descended to us; but it is known to have been pyramidal in shape, over one hundred and twenty feet in altitude, with a base of three hundred and twenty. It stood in a large area, surrounded by a wall eight feet high, sculptured with the figures of serpents in relief. From one end of the base of this structure, a flight of steps rose to a terrace at the base of the second story of the pyramid. Around this terrace, a person, in ascending, was obliged to pass until he came to the corner immediately above the first flight, where he encountered another set of steps, up which he passed to the second terrace, and so on, continuously, to the third and fourth terraces, until, by a fifth flight, he attained the summit platform of the Teocalli. These spaces or terraces, at each story, are represented to have been about six feet in width, so that three or four persons could easily ascend abreast. It will be perceived that in attaining the top of the edifice it was necessary to pass round it entirely four times and to ascend five stairways. Within the enclosure, built of stone and crowned with battlements, a village of five hundred houses might have been built. Its area was paved with smooth and polished stones, and the pyramid that rose in its centre seems to have been constructed as well for military as religious purposes, inasmuch as its architecture made it fully capable of resistance as a citadel; and we may properly assume this opinion as a fact, from the circumstance that the enclosing walls were entered by four gates, facing the cardinal points, while over each portal was erected a military arsenal filled with immense stores of warlike equipments.


[Pg 38]

Restoring a pyramid



[Pg 39] When Cortéz arrived in front of this truncated pyramid, two priests and several caciques were in attendance, by order of Montezuma, to bear him in their arms to its summit. But the hardy conqueror declined this effeminate means of transportation, and marched up slowly at the head of his soldiers. On the paved and level area at the top, they found a large block of jasper, the peculiar shape of which showed it was the stone on which the bodies of the unhappy victims were stretched for sacrifice. Its convex surface, rising breast high, enabled the priest to perform more easily his diabolical task of removing the heart. Besides this, there were two sanctuaries erected on the level surface of the Teocalli; two altars, glowing with a fire that was never extinguished; and a large circular drum, which was struck only on occasions of great public concern.

Such was the Teocalli or House of God. There were other edifices, having the name of Teopan, or Places of God. Some writers allege that there were two towers erected on the great Teocalli of Tenochtitlan; but it may be safely asserted that there was at least one of these, which rose to the height of about fifty-six feet, and was divided into three stories, the lower being of stone, while the others were constructed of wrought and painted wood. In the basement of these towers were the sanctuaries, where two splendid altars had been erected to Huitzilopotchtli and Tezcatlipoca, over which the idol representatives of these divinities were placed in state.

Within the enclosure of the Teocalli there were forty other temples dedicated to various Aztec gods. Besides these, there were colleges or residences and seminaries of the priests, together with a splendid house of entertainment, devoted to the accommodation of eminent strangers who visited the temple and the court. All these sumptuous ecclesiastical establishments were grouped around the pyramid, protected by the quadrangular wall, and built amid gardens and groves.

Cortéz asked leave of the Emperor, who accompanied him on his visit, to enter the sanctuaries of the Aztec deities. In a spacious stuccoed saloon, roofed with carved and gilt timber, stood the gigantic idol of Huitzilopotchtli, the Mexican Mars. His countenance was harsh and menacing. In his hands he grasped a bow and golden arrows. He was girt with the folds of a serpent, formed of precious materials, whilst his left foot was feathered with the plumage of the humming-bird, from which he took his name. Around his throat hung suspended a massive [Pg 40] necklace of alternate gold and silver hearts; and on the altar before him, three human hearts which had recently been torn from living breasts, were still quivering and bleeding, fresh from the immolated victims.

In the other chamber, or sanctuary, were the milder emblems of Tezcatlipoca, who "created the world and watched it with providential care." The lineaments of this idol were those of a youth, whose image, carved in black and polished stone, was adorned with discs of burnished gold, and embellished with a brilliant shield. Nevertheless, the worship of this more benign deity was stained with homicide, for on its altar, in a plate of gold, the conqueror found five human hearts; and, in these dens of inhumanity, Bernal Diaz tells us, that the "stench was more intolerable than in the slaughter houses of Castile!"


Such is a brief summary of the observations made by the Spaniards during a week's residence in the city. They found themselves in the heart of a rich and populous empire, whose civilization, however, was, by a strange contradiction for which we shall hereafter endeavor to account, stained with the most shocking barbarity under the name of religion. The unscrupulous murder, which was dignified with the associations and practice of national worship, was by no means consolatory to the minds of men who were really in the power of semi-civilized rulers and bloody priests. They discovered, from their own experience, that the sovereign was both fickle and feeble, and that a caprice, a hope, or a fear, might suffice to make him free his country from a handful of dangerous guests by offering them as sacrifices to his gods. The Tlascalans were already looked upon with no kind feelings by their hereditary foes. A spark might kindle a fatal flame. It was a moment for bold and unscrupulous action, and it was needful to obtain some signal advantage by which the Spaniards could, at least, effect their retreat, if not ensure an ultimate victory.


News just then was brought to Cortéz that four of his countrymen, whom he left behind at Cempoalla, had been treacherously slain by one of the tributary caciques of Montezuma; and this at once gave him a motive, or at least a pretext, for seizing the Emperor himself, as a hostage for the good faith of his nation. Accordingly, he visited Montezuma with a band of his most reliable followers, who charged the monarch with the treachery of his [Pg 41] subordinate, and demanded the apprehension of the cacique to answer for the slaughter of their inoffensive countrymen. Montezuma, of course, immediately disavowed the treason and ordered the arrest of the Governor; but Cortéz would not receive an apology or verbal reparation of the injury,—although he professed to believe the exculpation of Montezuma himself,—unless that sovereign would restore the Spaniard's confidence in his fidelity by quitting his palace and changing his residence to the quarters of the invaders!

This was, indeed, an unexpected blow. It was one of those strokes of unparalleled boldness which paralyzed their victim by sheer amazement. After considerable discussion and useless appeals, the entrapped Emperor tamely submitted to the surprising demand, for he saw, in the resolved faces of his armed and steel-clad foes, that resistance was useless, if he attempted to save his own life, with the small and unprepared forces that were at hand.

For a while the most ceremonious respect was paid by the conqueror and his men to their royal prisoner, who, under strict surveillance, maintained his usual courtly pomp, and performed all the functions of Emperor. But Cortéz soon became his master. The will of an effeminate king was no match for the indomitable courage, effrontery and genius of the Spanish knight. The offending cacique of Cempoalla was burned alive, either to glut his vengeance or inspire dread; and when the traitor endeavored to compromise Montezuma in his crime, fetters were placed for an hour on the limbs of the imprisoned sovereign. Every day the disgraced Emperor became, more and more, the mere minister of Cortéz. He was forced to discountenance publicly those who murmured at his confinement, or to arrest the leading conspirators for his deliverance. He granted a province to the Castilian crown and swore allegiance to it. He collected the tribute and revenue from dependant cities or districts in the name of the Spanish king; and, at last, struck a blow even at his hereditary and superstitious faith by ordering the great Teocalli to be purged of its human gore and the erection of an altar on its summit, on which, before the cross and the images of the Virgin and her Son, the Christian mass might be celebrated in the presence of the Aztec multitude.


It was at this moment, when Cortéz tried the national nerve most daringly by interfering with the religious superstitions of a dissatisfied town, and when every symptom of a general rebellion [Pg 42] was visible, that the conqueror received the startling news of the arrival on the coast of Don Pamphilo de Narvaez, with eighteen vessels and nine hundred men, who had been sent, by the revengeful Velasquez, to arrest the hero and send him in chains to St. Jago.

A more unfortunate train of circumstances can scarcely be conceived. In the midst of an enemy's capital, with a handful of men,—menaced by a numerous and outraged nation, on the one hand, and, with a Spanish force sent, in the name of law by authorities to whom he owed loyal respect, to arrest him, on the other,—it is indeed difficult to imagine a situation better calculated to try the soul and task the genius of a general. But it was one of those perilous emergencies which, throughout his whole career, seem to have imparted additional energy, rather than dismay, to the heart of Cortéz, and which prove him to have been, like Nelson, a man who never knew the sensation of fear. Nor must it be imagined that difficulty made him rash. Seldom has a hero appeared in history more perfectly free from precipitancy after he undertook his great enterprise;—and, in the period under consideration, this is fully exhibited in the diplomacy with which he approached the hostile Spaniards on the coast who had been despatched to dislodge and disgrace him. He resolved, at once, not to abandon what he had already gained in the capital; but, at the same time, he endeavored to tranquilize or foil Narvaez if he could not win him over to his enterprise; for it was evidently the policy of the newly arrived general to unite in a spoil which was almost ready for division rather than to incur the perils and uncertainty of another conquest.

Accordingly Cortéz addressed a letter to Narvaez requesting him not to kindle a spirit of insubordination among the natives by proclaiming his enmity. Yet this failed to affect his jealous countryman. He then desired Narvaez to receive his band as brothers in arms, and to share the treasure and fame of the conquest. But this, also, was rejected; while the loyal tool of Velasquez diligently applied himself to fomenting the Aztec discontent against his countrymen, and proclaimed his design of marching to Mexico to release the Emperor from the grasp of his Spanish oppressor.

There was now no other opening for diplomacy, nor was delay to be longer suffered. Cortéz, therefore, leaving the mutinous capital in the hands of Pedro de Alvarado, with a band of but one hundred and fifty men to protect the treasure he had amassed,—departed for the shores of the Gulf with only seventy soldiers, but [Pg 43] was joined, on his way, by one hundred and twenty men who had retreated from the garrison at Vera Cruz. He was not long in traversing the plains and Cordilleras towards the eastern sea; and falling suddenly on the camp of Narvaez, in the dead of night, he turned the captured artillery against his foe, seized the general, received the capitulation of the army of nine hundred well equipped men, and soon healed the factions which of course existed between the conquerors and the conquered. He had acquired the prestige which always attends extraordinary success or capacity; and men preferred the chances of splendid results under such a leader to the certainty of moderate gain under a general who did not possess his matchless genius. Thus it was that the lordly spirit and commanding talents of Cortéz enabled him to convert the very elements of disaster into the means of present strength and future success!

[Pg 44]



Whilst Cortéz was beset with the difficulties recounted in our last chapter, and engaged in overcoming Narvaez on the coast, the news reached him of an insurrection in the capital, towards which he immediately turned his steps. On approaching the city, intelligence was brought that the active hostilities of the natives had been changed, for the last fortnight, into a blockade, and that the garrison had suffered dreadfully during his absence. Montezuma, too, despatched an envoy who was instructed to impress the conqueror with the Emperor's continued fidelity, and to exculpate him from all blame in the movement against Alvarado.

On the 24th June, 1520, Cortéz reached the capital. On all sides he saw the melancholy evidences of war. There were neither greeting crowds on the causeways, nor boats on the lake; bridges were broken down; the brigantines or boats he had constructed to secure a retreat over the waters of these inland seas, were destroyed; the whole population seemed to have vanished, and silence brooded over the melancholy scene.


The revolt against the lieutenant Alvarado was generally attributed to his fiery impetuosity, and to the inhuman and motiveless slaughter committed by the Spanish troops, under his authority, during the celebration of a solemn Aztec festival, called the "incensing of Huitzilopotchtli." Six hundred victims, were, on that occasion, slain by the Spaniards, in cold blood, in the neighborhood of the Great Temple; nor was a single native, engaged in [Pg 45] the mysterious rites, left alive to tell the tale of the sudden and brutal assault.

Alvarado, it is true, pretended that his spies had satisfactorily proved the existence of a well founded conspiracy, which was designed to explode upon this occasion; but the evidence is not sufficient to justify the disgraceful and horrid deed that must forever tarnish his fame. It is far more probable that rapacity was the true cause of the onslaught, and that the reckless companion of the conqueror, who had been entrusted with brief authority during his absence, miscalculated the power of his Indian foe, and confounded the warlike Mexican of the valley with the weaker soldiers, dwelling in more emasculating climates, whom he had so rapidly confounded and overthrown in his march to the capital.

It may well be supposed that this slaughter, combined with the other causes of discontent already existing among the Aztecs, served to kindle the outraged national feeling with intense hatred of the invaders. The city rose in arms, and the Spaniards were hemmed within their defences. Montezuma himself addressed the people from the battlements, and stayed their active assault upon the works of Alvarado; but they strictly blockaded the enemy in his castle, cut off all supplies, and entrenched themselves in hastily constructed barricades thrown up around the habitation of the Spaniards, resolved to rest behind these works until despair and famine would finally and surely throw the helpless victims into their power. Here the invaders, with scant provisions and brackish water, awaited the approach of Cortéz, who received the explanations of Alvarado with manifest disgust:—"You have been false to your trust," said he, "you have done badly, indeed, and your conduct has been that of a madman!"

Yet this was not a moment to break entirely with Alvarado, whose qualities, and perhaps, even, whose conduct, rendered him popular with a large class of the Spanish adventurers. The newly recruited forces of Cortéz gave the conqueror additional strength, for he was now at the head of no less than twelve hundred and fifty Spaniards, and eight thousand auxiliaries, chiefly Tlascalans. Yet, under the untoward circumstances, the increase of his forces augmented the difficulties of their support. Montezuma hastened to greet him. But the Spaniard was in no mood to trust the Emperor; and, as his Mexican subjects made no sign of reconciliation or submission, he refused the proferred interview:—"What have I," exclaimed he, haughtily, "to do with this dog of a king who suffers us to starve before his eyes!" He would [Pg 46] receive no apology from his countrymen who sought to exculpate the sovereign, or from the mediating nobles of the court:—"Go tell your master," was his reply, "to open the markets, or we will do it for him, at his cost!"

But the stern resistance of the natives was not intermitted. On the contrary, active preparations were made to assault the irregular pile of stone buildings which formed the Palace of Axayacatl, in which the Spaniards were lodged. The furious populace rushed through every avenue towards this edifice, and encountered with wonderful nerve and endurance, the ceaseless storm of iron hail which its stout defenders rained upon them from every quarter. Yet the onset of the Aztecs was almost too fierce to be borne much longer by the besieged, when the Spaniards resorted to the lingering authority of Montezuma to save them from annihilation. The pliant Emperor, still their prisoner, assumed his royal robes, and, with the symbol of sovereignty in his hand, ascended the central turret of the palace. Immediately, at this royal apparition, the tumult of the fight was hushed whilst the king addressed his subjects in the language of conciliation and rebuke. Yet the appeal was not satisfactory or effectual. "Base Aztec,"—shouted the chiefs,—"the white men have made you a woman, fit only to weave and spin!"—whilst a cloud of stones, spears and arrows fell upon the monarch, who sank wounded to the ground, though the bucklers of the Spaniards were promptly interposed to shield his person from violence. He was borne to his apartments below; and, bowed to the earth by the humiliation he had suffered alike from his subjects and his foes, he would neither receive comfort nor permit his wounds to be treated by those who were skilled in surgery. He reclined, in moody silence, brooding over his ancient majesty and the deep disgrace which he felt he had too long survived.


Meanwhile the war without continued to rage. The great Teocalli or Mound-Temple, already described, was situated at a short distance opposite the Spanish defences; and, from this elevated position, which commanded the invader's quarters, a body of five or six hundred Mexicans, began to throw their missiles into the Spanish garrison, whilst the natives, under the shelter of the sanctuaries, were screened from the fire of the besieged. It was necessary to dislodge this dangerous armament. An assault, under Escobar, was hastily prepared, but the hundred men who composed it, were thrice repulsed, and obliged finally to retreat with considerable loss. Cortéz had been wounded and disabled in [Pg 47] his left hand, in the previous fight, but he bound his buckler to the crippled limb, and, at the head of three hundred chosen men, accompanied by Alvarado, Sandoval, Ordaz and others of his most gallant cavaliers, he sallied from the besieged palace. It was soon found that horses were useless in charging the Indians over the smooth and slippery pavements of the town and square, and accordingly Cortéz sent them back to his quarters; yet he managed to repulse the squadrons in the court-yard of the Teocalli, and to hold them in check by a file of arquebusiers. The singular architecture of this Mound-Temple will be recollected by the reader, and the difficulty of its ascent, by means of five stairways and four terraces, was now increased by the crowds that thronged these narrow avenues. From stair to stair, from gallery to gallery, the Spaniards fought onward and upward with resistless courage, incessantly flinging their Indian foes, by main strength, over the narrow ledges. At length they reached the level platform of the top, which was capable of containing a thousand warriors. Here, at the shrine of the Aztec war-god, was a site for the noblest contest in the empire. The area was paved with broad and level stones. Free from all impediments, it was unguarded at its edges by battlements, parapets, or, any defences which could protect the assailants from falling if they approached the sides too closely. Quarter was out of the question. The battle was hand to hand, and body to body. Combatants grappled and wrestled in deadly efforts to cast each other from the steep and sheer ledges. Indian priests ran to and fro with streaming hair and sable garments, urging their superstitious children to the contest. Men tumbled headlong over the sides of the area, and even Cortéz himself, by superior agility, alone, was saved from the grasp of two warriors who dragged him to the brink of the lofty pyramid and were about to dash him to the earth.

For three hours the battle raged until every Indian combatant was either slain on the summit or hurled to the base. Forty-five of the Spaniards were killed, and nearly all wounded. A few Aztec priests, alone, of all the Indian band, survived to behold the destruction of the sanctuaries, which had so often been desecrated by the hideous rites and offerings of their bloody religion.

For a moment the natives were panic-struck by this masterly and victorious manœuvre, whilst the Spaniards passed unmolested to their quarters, from which, at night, they again sallied to burn three hundred houses of the citizens.

Cortéz thought that these successes would naturally dismay the Mexicans, and proposed, through Mariana,—his faithful interpreter, [Pg 48] who had continued throughout his adventures the chief reliance of the Spaniards for intercourse with the Indians,—that this conflict should cease at once, for the Aztecs must be convinced that a soldier who destroyed their gods, laid a part of their capital in ruins, and was able to inflict still more direful chastisement, was, indeed, invincible.

But the day of successful threats had passed. The force of the Aztecs was still undiminished; the bridges were destroyed; the numbers of the Spaniards were lessened; hunger and thirst were beginning to do their deadly work on the invaders; "there will be only too few of you left," said they in reply,—"to satisfy the revenge of our gods."


There was no longer time for diplomacy or delay, and, accordingly, Cortéz resolved to quit the city as soon as practicable, and prepared the means to accomplish this desirable retreat; but, on his first attempt he was unable to reach the open country through the easily defended highway of the capital or the enfilading canals and lanes. From house tops and cross streets, innumerable Indians beset his path wherever he turned. Yet it was essential for the salvation of the Spaniards that they should evacuate the city. No other resource remained, and, desperate as it was, the conqueror persevered, unflinchingly, amid the more hazardous assaults of the Mexicans, and all the internal discords of his own band, whom a common danger did not perfectly unite. He packed the treasure, gathered during the days of prosperous adventure, on his stoutest horses, and, with a portable bridge, to be thrown hastily over the canals, he departed from his stronghold on the dark and rainy evening which has become memorable in American history, as the noche triste, or "melancholy night." The Mexicans were not usually alert during the darkness, and Cortéz hoped that he might steal off unperceived in this unwatchful period. But he was mistaken in his calculations. The Aztecs had become acquainted with Spanish tactics and were eager for the arrival of the moment, by day or night, when the expected victims would fall into their hands. As soon as the Spanish band had advanced a short distance along the causeway of Tlacopan, the attack began by land and water; for the Indians assaulted them from their boats, with spears and arrows, or quitting their skiffs, grappled with the retreating soldiers in mortal agony, and rolled them from the causeway into the waters of the lake. The bridge was wedged inextricably between the sides of a dyke, whilst ammunition [Pg 49] wagons, heavy guns, bales of rich cloths, chests of gold, artillery, and the bodies of men or horses, were piled in heaps on the highway or rolled into the water. Forty-six of the cavalry were cut off and four hundred and fifty of the Christians killed, whilst four thousand of the Indian auxiliaries perished. [5] The General's baggage, papers, and minute diary of his adventures, were swallowed in the waters. The ammunition, the artillery, and every musket were lost. Meanwhile Montezuma had perished from his wounds some days before the sortie was attempted, and his body had been delivered to his subjects with suitable honors. Alvarado,—Tonatiuh, the "child of the sun," as the natives delighted to call him, escaped during the noche triste by a miraculous leap with the aid of his lance-staff over a canal, to whose edge he had been pursued by the foe. And when Cortéz, at length, found himself with his thin and battered band, on the heights of Tacuba, west of the city, beyond the borders of the lake, it may be said, without exaggeration, that nothing was left to reassure him but his indomitable heart and the faithful Indian girl whose lips, and perhaps whose counsel, had been so useful in his service.


[5] These numbers are variously stated by different authorities.—See Prescott, vol. 2d, p. 377.

[Pg 50]



After the disasters and fatigues of the noche triste, the melancholy and broken band of Cortéz rested for a day at Tacuba, whilst the Mexicans returned to their capital, probably to bury the dead and purify their city. It is singular, yet it is certain, that they did not follow up their successes by a death blow at the disarmed Spaniards. But this momentary paralysis of their efforts was not to be trusted, and accordingly Cortéz began to retreat eastwardly, under the guidance of the Tlascalans, by a circuitous route around the northern limits of lake Zumpango. The flying forces and their auxiliaries were soon in a famishing condition, subsisting alone on corn or on wild cherries gathered in the forest, with occasional refreshment and support from the carcase of a horse that perished by the way. For six days these wretched fragments of the Spanish army continued their weary pilgrimage, and, on the seventh, reached Otumba on the way from Mexico to Tlascala. Along the whole of this march the fainting and dispirited band was, ever and anon, assailed by detached squadrons of the enemy, who threw stones and rolled rocks on the men as they passed beneath precipices, or assaulted them with arrows and spears. As Cortéz advanced, the enemy gathered in his rear and bade him "Go on whither he should meet the vengeance due to his robbery and his crimes," for the main body of the Aztecs had meanwhile passed by an eastern route across the country, and placed itself in a position to intercept the Spaniards on the plains of Otumba. As the army of the conqueror crossed the last dividing ridge that overlooked the vale of Otompan, it beheld the levels [Pg 51] below filled, as far as eye could reach, with the spears and standards of the Aztec victors, whose forces had been augmented by levies from the territory of the neighboring Tezcoco. Cortéz presented a sorry array to be launched from the cliffs upon this sea of lances. But he was not the man to tremble or hesitate. He spread out his main body as widely as possible, and guarded the flanks by the twenty horsemen who survived the noche triste, and the disastrous march from Tacuba. He ordered his cavalry not to cast away their lances, but to aim them constantly at the faces of the Indians, whilst the infantry were to thrust and not to strike with their swords;—the leaders of the enemy were especially to be selected as marks; and he, finally, bade his men trust in God, who would not permit them to perish by the hands of infidels. The signal was given for the charge. Spaniard and Tlascalan fought hand to hand with the foe. Long and doubtfully the battle raged on both sides, until every Spaniard was wounded. Suddenly Cortéz descried the ensignia of the enemy's commanding general, and knowing that the fortunes of the day, in all probability, depended upon securing or slaying that personage, he commanded Sandoval, Olid, Alvarado, and Avila to follow and support him as he dashed towards the Indian chief. The Aztecs fell back as he rushed on, leaving a lane for the group of galloping cavaliers. Cortéz and his companions soon reached the fatal spot, and the conqueror driving his lance through the Aztec leader, left him to be dispatched by Juan de Salamanca. This was the work of a moment. The death of the general struck a panic into the combined forces of Tenochtitlan and Tezcoco, and a promiscuous flight began on all sides. At sunset, on the 8th of July, 1520, the Spaniards were victors on the field of Otumba, and gathering together in an Indian temple, which they found on an eminence overlooking the plain, they offered up a Te Deum for their miraculous preservation as well as for the hope with which their success reinspired them.[6]


The next day the invaders quitted their encampment on the battle field and hastened towards the territory of their friends, the Tlascalans. The Spaniards now presented themselves to the rulers of their allies in a different guise from that they wore when they first advanced towards Mexico. Fully equipped, mounted, and furnished with ammunition, they had then compelled the [Pg 52] prompt submission of the Tlascalans, and, assuring their alliance, had conquered the Cholulans, and obtained the control even of the capital and person of the Aztec Emperor himself. But now they returned defeated, plundered, unarmed, poor, scarcely clad, and with the loss of a large part of those Indian allies who had accompanied the expedition. There was reason for disheartening fear in the breast of Cortéz, had it been susceptible of such an emotion. But the Lord of Tlascala reassured him, when he declared that their "cause was common against Mexico, and, come weal, come woe, they would prove loyal to the death!"

The Spaniards were glad to find a friendly palace in Tlascala, in which to shelter themselves after the dreadful storms that had recently broken on their head. Yet, in the quiet of their retreat, and in the excitement of their rallying blood, they began to reflect upon the past and the disheartening aspect of the future. Murmurs, which were at first confined to the barrack, at length assumed public significance, and a large body of the men, chiefly the soldiers of Narvaez, presented to Cortéz a petition which was headed by his own secretary, demanding permission to retreat to La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz. Just at this moment, too, Cuitlahua, who mounted the throne of Mexico on the death of Montezuma, despatched a mission to the Tlascalans, proposing to bury the hatchet, and to unite in sweeping the Spaniards from the realm. The hours which were consumed by the Tlascalans in deliberating on this dread proposal were full of deep anxiety to Cortéz; for, in the present feeble condition of his Spanish force, his whole reliance consisted in adroitly playing off one part of the Indian population against another. If he lost the aid, alliance, or neutrality of the Tlascalans, his cause was lost, and all hope of reconquest, or perhaps even of retreat, was gone forever.

The promised alliance of the Mexicans was warmly and sternly supported in the debates of the Tlascalan council by some of the nobles; yet, after full and even passionate discussion, which ended in personal violence between two of the chiefs, it was unanimously resolved to reject the proposal of their hereditary foes, who had never been able to subdue them as a nation in battle, but hoped to entrap them into alliance in the hour of common danger. These discussions, together with the positive rejection by Cortéz of the Spanish petition, seem to have allayed the anxiety of the invaders to return to Vera Cruz. With the assured friendship of the Tlascalans they could rely upon some good turn in fortune, and, at length, the vision of the conquest might be realized under the [Pg 53] commander who had led them through success and defeat with equal skill.

Accordingly Cortéz did not allow his men to remain long in idle garrisons, brooding over the past, or becoming moody and querulous. If he could not conquer a nation by a blow, he might perhaps subdue a tribe by a foray, while the military success, or golden plunder, would serve to keep alive the fire of enterprise in the breasts of his troopers. His first attack, after he had recruited the strength of his men, was on the Tepeacans, whom he speedily overthrew, and in whose chief town of Tepeaca, on the Mexican frontier, he established his head quarters, in the midst of a flourishing and productive district, whence his supplies were easily gathered. Here he received an invitation from the cacique of Quauhquechollan,—a town of thirty thousand inhabitants, whose chief was impatient of the Mexican yoke,—to march to his relief. Olid was despatched on this expedition; but getting entangled in disputes and frays with the Cholulans, whose people he assaulted and took prisoners, Cortéz himself assumed command of the expedition. In fact, the conqueror was singularly unfortunate in the conduct of his subordinates, for all his disasters arose from confidence in men whose judgment or temper was unequal to the task and discipline of control. In the assault and capture of this town, Cortéz and his men obtained a rich booty. They followed up the blow by taking the strong city of Itzocan, which had also been held by a Mexican garrison; and here, too, the captors seized upon rich spoils, while the Indian auxiliaries were soon inflamed by the reports of booty, and hastened in numbers to the chief who led them to victory and plunder.


Cortéz returned to Tepeaca from these expeditions, which were not alone predatory in their character, but were calculated to pave the way for his military approach once more to the city of Mexico, as soon as his schemes ripened for the conquest. The ruling idea of ultimate success never for a moment left his mind. From Tepeaca he despatched his officers on various expeditions, and marched Sandoval against a large body of the enemy lying between his camp and Vera Cruz. These detachments defeated the Mexicans in two battles; reduced the whole country which is now known as lying between Orizaba and the western skirts of the plain of Puebla, and thus secured the communication with the seacoast. Those who are familiar with the geography of Mexico, will see at a glance, with what masterly generalship the dispositions [Pg 54] of Cortéz were made to secure the success of his darling project. Nor can we fail to recognize the power of a single indomitable will over masses of Christians and Indians, in the wonderful as well as successful control which the conqueror obtained in his dealings with his countrymen as well as the natives at this period of extreme danger. When Mexico was lost after the noche triste, the military resources of Cortéz were really nothing, for his slender band was deprived of its most effective weapons, was broken in moral courage and placed on an equality, as to arms, with the Indians. The successes he obtained at Otumba, Tlascala, Tepeaca, and elsewhere, not only re-established the prestige of his genius among his countrymen, but affected even the Indians. The native cities and towns in the adjacent country appealed to him to decide in their difficulties, and his discretion and justice, as an arbitrator, assured him an ascendancy which it is surprising that a stranger who was ignorant of their language could acquire among men who were in the semi-civilized and naturally jealous state in which he found the Aztec and Tlascalan tribes. Thus it is that, under the influence of his will and genius, "a new empire grew up, in the very heart of the land, forming a counterpoise to the colossal power which had so long overshadowed it."


In the judgment of Cortéz, the moment had now arrived when he was strong enough, and when it was proper, that he should attempt the reconquest of the capital. His alliance with the Tlascalans reposed upon a firm basis, and consequently he could rely upon adequate support from the Indians who would form the majority of his army. Nor were his losses of military equipments and stores unrepaired. Fortune favored him by the arrival of several vessels at Vera Cruz, from which he obtained munitions of war and additional troops. One hundred and fifty well provided men and twenty horses were joined to his forces by these arrivals.

Before his departure, however, he despatched the few discontented men from his camp and gave them a vessel with which they might regain their homes. He wrote an account of his adventures, moreover, to his government in Spain, and besought his sovereign to confirm his authority in the lands and over the people he might add to the Spanish crown. He addressed, also, the Royal Audiencia at St. Domingo to interest its members in his cause, and when he despatched four vessels from Vera Cruz for additional [Pg 55] military supplies, he freighted them with specimens of gold and Indian fabrics to inflame the cupidity of new adventurers.

In Tlascala, he settled the question of succession in the government; constructed new arms and caused old ones to be repaired; made powder with sulphur obtained from the volcano of Popocatopetl; and, under the direction of his builder, Lopez, prepared the timber for brigantines, which he designed to carry, in pieces, and launch on the lake at the town of Tezcoco. At that port, he resolved to prepare himself fully for the final attack, and, this time, he determined to assault the enemy's capital by water, as well as by land.


[6] We have no accurate estimate of the numbers engaged in this battle, or of the slain.

[Pg 56]



After a short and brilliant reign of four months, Cuitlahua, the successor of Montezuma, died of small pox, which, at that period, raged throughout Mexico, and he was succeeded by Guauhtemotzin, or, Guatemozin, the nephew of the two last Emperors. This sovereign ascended the Aztec throne in his twenty-fifth year, yet he seems to have been experienced as a soldier and firm as a patriot.

It is not to be imagined that the Aztec court was long ignorant of the doings of Cortéz. It was evident that the bold and daring Spaniard had not only been unconquered in heart and resolution, but that he even meditated a speedy return to the scene of his former successful exploits. The Mexicans felt sure that, upon this occasion, his advent and purposes would be altogether undisguised, and that when he again descended to the valley in which their capital nestled, he would, in all probability, be prepared to sustain himself and his followers in any position his good fortune and strong arm might secure to him. The news, moreover, of his firm alliance with the Tlascalans and all the discontented tributaries of the Aztec throne, as well as of the reinforcements and munitions he received from Vera Cruz, was quickly brought to the city of Mexico; and every suitable preparation was made, by strengthening the defences, encouraging the vassals, and disciplining the troops, to protect the menaced empire from impending ruin.


Nor was Cortéz, in his turn, idle in exciting the combined forces of the Spaniards and Indians for the last effort which it was probable he could make for the success of his great enterprise. [Pg 57] His Spanish force consisted of nigh six hundred men, forty of whom were cavalry, together with eighty arquebusiers and crossbowmen. Nine cannon of small calibre, supplied with indifferent powder, constituted his train of artillery. His army of Indian allies is estimated at the doubtless exaggerated number of over one hundred thousand, armed with the maquahuatil, pikes, bows, arrows, and divided into battalions, each with its own banners, insignia and commanders. His appeal to all the members of this motley array was couched in language likely to touch the passions, the bigotry, the enthusiasm and avarice of various classes; and, after once more crossing the mountains, and reaching the margin of the lakes, he encamped on the 31st of December, 1520, within the venerable precincts of Tezcoco, "the place of rest."


At Tezcoco, Cortéz was firmly planted on the eastern edge of the valley of Mexico, in full sight of the capital which lay across the lake, near its western shore, at the distance of about twelve miles. Behind him, towards the seacoast, he commanded the country, as we have already related, while, by passes through lower spurs of the mountains, he might easily communicate with the valleys of which the Tlascalans and Cholulans were masters.

Fortifying himself strongly in his dwelling and in the quarters of his men, in Tezcoco, he at once applied himself to the task of securing such military positions in the valley and in the neighborhood of the great causeway between the lakes as would command an outlet from the capital by land, and enable him to advance across the waters of Tezcoco without the annoyance of enemies who might sally forth from strongholds on his left flank. On his right, the chain of lakes, extending farther than the eye can reach, furnished the best protection he could desire. Accordingly, he first of all reduced and destroyed the ancient city of Iztapalapan,—a place of fifty thousand inhabitants, distant about six leagues from the town of Tezcoco,—which was built on the narrow isthmus dividing the lake of that name from the waters of Chalco. He next directed his forces against the city of Chalco, lying on the eastern extremity of the lake that bore its name, where his army was received in triumph by the peaceful citizens after the evacuation of the Mexican garrison. Such were the chief of his military and precautionary expeditions, until the arrival of the materials for the boats or brigantines which Martin Lopez, and his four Spanish assistant carpenters, had already [Pg 58] put together and tried on the waters of Zahuapan; and which, after a successful experiment, they had taken to pieces again and borne in fragments to Tezcoco.


Early in the spring of 1521, Cortéz entrusted his garrison at Tezcoco to Sandoval, and, with three hundred and fifty Spaniards, and nearly all his Indian allies, departed on an expedition designed to reconnoitre the capital. He passed from his stronghold northwardly around the head of the lakes north of Tezcoco,—one of which is now called San Cristoval,—and took possession of the insular town of Xaltocan. Passing thence along the western edge of the vale of Anahuac or Mexico, he reached the city of Tacuba, west of the capital, with which so many disastrous recollections were connected on his first sad exit from the imperial city. During this expedition the troops of the conqueror were almost daily engaged in skirmishes with the guerilla forces of the Aztecs; yet, notwithstanding their constant annoyance and stout resistance, the Spaniards were invariably successful and even managed to secure some booty of trifling value. After a fortnight of rapid marching, fighting and reconnoitering, Cortéz and his men returned to Tezcoco. Here he was met by an embassy from the friendly Chalcans and pressed for a sufficient force to sustain them against the Mexicans, who despatched the warriors of certain neighboring and loyal strongholds to annoy the inhabitants of a town which had exhibited a desire to fraternize with the invading Spaniards. Indeed, the Aztecs saw the importance of maintaining the control of a point which commanded the most important avenue to their capital from the Atlantic coast. The wearied troops of Cortéz were in no plight to respond to the summons of the Chalcans at that moment, for their hurried foray and incessant conflicts with the enemy had made them anxious for the repose they might justly expect in Tezcoco. Nevertheless, Cortéz did not choose to rely upon his naval enterprise alone; but, conscious as he was of holding the main key of the land as well as water, he despatched, without delay, his trusty Sandoval with three hundred Spanish infantry and twenty horse to protect the town of Chalco and reduce the hostile fortifications in its vicinity. This duty he soon successfully performed. But the Aztecs renewed the assault on Chalco with a fleet of boats, and were again beaten off with the loss of a number of their nobles, who were delivered by the victors to Sandoval whom Cortéz had sent back to support the contested town as soon as the news of the fresh attack reached him.

[Pg 59] By this time the brigantines were nearly completed, and the canal dug by which they were to be carried to the waters of the lake, for, at that time, the town of Tezcoco was distant from its margin. He dared not trust these precious materials for his future success beyond the shelter of his citadel in Tezcoco, since every effort had been already made by hostile and marauding parties to destroy them; and he was therefore obliged to undergo the trouble of digging this canal, about half a league in length, in order to launch his vessels when the moment for final action arrived.

Nor was his heart uncheered by fresh arrivals from the old world. Two hundred men, well provided with arms and ammunition, and with upwards of seventy horses,—coming most probably from Hispaniola,—found their way from Vera Cruz to Tezcoco, and united themselves with the corps of Cortéz.

In the meantime the Emperor again directed his arms against his recreant subjects of Chalco, which he seemed resolved to subdue and hold at all hazards, so as effectually to cut off the most important land approach to his capital. Envoys arrived in the Spanish camp with reports of the danger that menaced them, and earnest appeals for efficient support. This time, Cortéz resolved to lead the party destined for this service, and, on the 5th of April, set out with thirty horsemen, three hundred infantry and a large body of Tlascalans and Tezcocans, to succor a city whose neutrality, at least, it was important, as we have already shown, should eventually be secured. He seems to have effected, by his personal influence in Chalco and its neighborhood, what his lieutenant Sandoval had been unable to do by arms, so that, he not only rendered a large number of loyal Aztecs passive, but even secured the co-operation of additional auxiliaries from among the Chalcans and the tribes that dwelt on the borders of their lake.

Cortéz was not, however, content with this demonstration against his near neighbors, but, resolved, now that he was once more in the saddle, to cross the sierra that hemmed in the vale of Anahuac, on the south, and to descend its southern slopes on a visit to the warmer regions that basked at their feet. Accordingly he prosecuted his southern march through large bodies of harrassing skirmishers, who hung upon the rear and flanks of his troop, and annoyed it with arrows and missiles, which they hurled from the crags as his men threaded the narrow defiles of the mountains. Passing through Huaxtepec and Jauhtepec, he arrived on the ninth day of his march, before the strong town of Guauhnahuac, or Cuernavaca, as it is now known in the geography of Mexico. It [Pg 60] was the capital of the Tlahuicas, and an important and wealthy tributary of the Aztecs. Here too he encountered hostile resistance which he quickly overcame. His name as a successful warrior had preceded him among these more effeminate races, and the trembling lords of the territory soon submitted to his mercy. Departing from Cuernavaca, Cortéz turned again northwards, and ascending the sierra in a new direction re-entered the valley of Anahuac or Mexico, by the main route which now penetrates the southern portion of its rim. From the summits of these mountains, where the cool air of the temperate clime sings through the limbs and tassels of hardy pines, Cortéz swooped down upon Xochimilco, or the "field of flowers," where he was again encountered by guerillas and more formidable squadrons from the Aztec capital which was but twelve miles distant. Here, again, after several turns in the tide of fortune, the Spaniards were triumphant and obtained a rich booty. From Xochimilco the little band and the auxiliaries advanced, among continual dangers, around the western margin of the lakes, and, skirting the feet of the mountains, attained, once more, the town of Tacuba.


The conqueror had thus circled the valley, and penetrated the adjacent southern vale, in his two expeditions. Wherever he went, the strange weapons of his Spaniards, the singular appearance of his mounted men, and his uniform success, served to inspire the natives with a salutary dread of his mysterious power. He now knew perfectly the topography of the country,—for he was forced to be his own engineer as well as general. He had become acquainted with the state of the Aztec defences, as well as with the slender hold the central power of the empire retained over the tributary tribes, towns, and districts which had been so often vexed by taxation to support a voluptuous sovereign and avaricious aristocracy. He found the sentiment of patriotic union and loyalty but feeble among the various populations he visited. The ties of international league had every where been adroitly loosened by the conqueror, either through his eloquence or his weapons; and, from all his careful investigations, both of character and country, he had reason to believe that the realm of Mexico was at length almost within his grasp. The capital was now encircled with a cordon of disloyal cities. Every place of importance had been visited, conquered, subdued, or destroyed in its moral courage or natural allegiance. But Tacuba was too near the capital to justify him in trusting his jaded band within so dangerous a neighborhood. [Pg 61] Accordingly, he did not delay a day in that city, but, gathering his soldiers as soon as they were refreshed, he departed for Tezcoco by the northern journey around the lakes. His way was again beset with difficulties. The season of rain and storm in those lofty regions had just set in. The road was flooded, and the soldiers were forced to plough through mud in drenched garments. But as they approached their destination, Sandoval came forth to meet them, with companions who had freshly arrived from the West Indies; and, besides, he bore the cheering news that the brigantines were ready to be launched for the last blow at the heart of the empire.

[Pg 62]



The return of Cortéz to his camp, after all the toils of his arduous expedition, was not hailed with unanimous delight by those who had hitherto shared his dangers and successes, since the loss of the capital. There were persons in the small band of Spaniards,—especially among those who had been added from the troops of Narvaez,—who still brooded over the disaffection and mutinous feelings which had been manifested at Tlascala before the march to Tezcoco. They were men who eagerly flocked to the standard of the conqueror for plunder; whose hearts were incapable of appreciating the true spirit of glorious adventure in the subjugation of an empire, and who despised victories that were productive of nothing but fame.

These discontented men conspired, about this period, under the lead of Antonio Villafaña, a common soldier; and it was the design of the recreant band to assassinate Sandoval, Olid and Alvarado, together with Cortéz, and other important men who were known to be deepest in the General's councils or interests. After the death of these leaders,—with whose fall the enterprise would doubtless have perished,—a brother-in-law of Velasquez, by name Francisco Verdugo, who was altogether ignorant of the designs of the conspirators, was to be placed in command of the panic-stricken troop, which, it was supposed, would instantly unite under the new general.

It was the project of these wretched dastards to assault and despatch the conqueror and his officers whilst engaged in opening [Pg 63] despatches, which were to be suddenly presented, as if just arrived from Castile. But, a day before the consummation of the treachery, one of the party threw himself at the feet of Cortéz and betrayed the project, together with the fact, that, in the possession of Villafaña, would be found a paper containing the names of his associates in infamy.

Cortéz immediately summoned the leaders whose lives were threatened, and, after a brief consultation, the party hastened to the quarters of Villafaña accompanied by four officers. The arch conspirator was arrested, and the paper wrested from him as he attempted to swallow it. He was instantaneously tried by a military court,—and, after brief time for confession and shrift, was swung by the neck from the casement of his quarters. The prompt and striking sentence was executed before the army knew of the crime; and the scroll of names being destroyed by Cortéz, the memory of the meditated treachery was forever buried in oblivion. The commander, however, knew and marked the men whose participation had been so unexpectedly revealed to him; but he stifled all discontent by letting it be understood that the only persons who suffered for the shameful crime had made no confession! He could not spare men from his thin ranks even at the demand of justice; for even the felons who sought his life were wanted in the toils and battles of his great and final enterprise.


It was on the 28th of April, 1521, amid the solemn services of religion, and in the presence of the combined army of Spaniards and Indians, that the long cherished project of launching the brigantines was finally accomplished. They reached the lake safely through the canal which had been dug for them from the town of Texcoco.

The Spanish forces, designed to operate in this last attack, consisted of eighty-seven horse and eight hundred and eighteen infantry, of which one hundred and eighteen were arquebusiers and crossbowmen. Three large iron field pieces and fifteen brazen falconets formed the ordnance. A plentiful supply of shot and balls, together with fifty thousand copper-headed arrows, composed the ammunition. Three hundred men were sent on board the twelve vessels which were used in the enterprise, for unfortunately, one of the thirteen that were originally ordered to be built, proved useless upon trial. The navigation of these brigantines, each one of which carried a piece of heavy cannon, was, of course, not difficult, for [Pg 64] although the waters of the lake have evidently shrunken since the days of the conquest, it is not probable that it was more than three or four feet deeper than at present. [7] The distance to be traversed from Tezcoco to the capital was about twelve miles, and the subsequent service was to be rendered in the neighborhood of the causeways, and under the protection of the walls of the city.

The Indian allies from Tlascala came up in force at the appointed time. These fifty thousand well equipped men were led by Xicotencatl, who, as the expedition was about to set forth by land and water for the final attack, seems to have been seized with a sudden panic, and deserted his standard with a number of followers. There was no hope for conquest without the alliance and loyal support of the Tlascalans. The decision of Cortéz upon the occurrence of this dastardly act of a man in whose faith he had religiously confided, although he knew he was not very friendly to the Spaniards, was prompt and terribly severe. A chosen band was directed to follow the fugitive even to the walls of Tlascala. There, the deserter was arrested, brought back to Tezcoco, and hanged on a lofty gallows in the great square of that city. This man, says Prescott, "was the only Tlascalan who swerved from his loyalty to the Spaniards."


All being now prepared, Cortéz planned his attack. It will be recollected that the city of Mexico rose, like Venice, from the bosom of the placid waters, and that its communication with the main land was kept up by the great causeways which were described in the earlier portion of this narrative. The object of the conqueror, therefore, was to shut up the capital, and cut off all access to the country by an efficient blockade of the lake, with his brigantines, and of the land with his infantry and cavalry. Accordingly he distributed his forces into three bodies or separate camps. The first of these, under Pedro de Alvarado, consisting of thirty horse, one hundred and sixty-eight Spanish infantry, and twenty-five thousand Tlascalans, was to command the causeway of Tacuba. The second division, of equal magnitude, under Olid, was to be posted at Cojohuacan, so as to command the causeways that led eastwardly into the city. The third equal corps of the Spanish army was entrusted to Sandoval, but its Indian force was to be drawn from native allies at Chalco. Alvarado and Olid were to proceed [Pg 65] around the northern head of the lake of Tezcoco, whilst Sandoval, supported by Cortéz with the brigantines, passed around the southern portion of it, to complete the destruction of the town of Iztapalapan, which was deemed by the conqueror altogether too important a point to be left in the rear. In the latter part of May, 1521, all these cavaliers got into their assigned military positions, and it is from this period that the commencement of the siege of Mexico is dated, although Alvarado had previously had some conflicts with the people on the causeway that led to his head quarters in Tacuba, and had already destroyed the pipes that fed the water-tanks and fountains of the capital.

At length Cortéz set sail with his flotilla in order to sustain Sandoval's march to Iztapalapan. As he passed across the lake and under the shadow of the "rock of the Marquis," he descried from his brigantines several hundred canoes of the Mexicans filled with soldiers and advancing rapidly over the calm lake. There was no wind to swell his sails or give him command of his vessels' motion, and the conqueror was obliged to await the arrival of the canoes without making such disposition for action as was needful in the emergency. But as the Indian squadron approached, a breeze suddenly sprang up, and Cortéz, widening his line of battle, bore down upon the frail skiffs, overturning, crushing and sinking them by the first blow of his formidable prows, whilst he fired to the right and left amid the discomfitted flotilla. But few of these Indian boats returned to the canals of the city, and this signal victory made Cortéz, forever after, the undisputed master of the lake.

The conqueror took up his head quarters at Xoloc, where the causeway of Cojohuacan met the great causeway of the south. The chief avenues to Mexico had been occupied for some time, as has been already related, but either through ignorance or singular neglect, there was the third great causeway, of Tepejacac, on the north, which still afforded the means of communication with the people of the surrounding country. This had been altogether neglected. Alvarado was immediately ordered to close this outlet, and Sandoval took up his position on the dyke. Thus far the efforts of the Spaniards and auxiliaries had been confined to precautionary movements rather than to decisive assaults upon the capital. But it soon became evident that a city like Mexico might hold out long against a blockade alone. Accordingly an attack was ordered by Cortéz to be made by the two commanders at the other military points nearest their quarters. The brigantines sailed [Pg 66] along the sides of the causeways, and aided by their enfilading fires, the advance of the squadrons on land. The infantry and cavalry advanced upon the great avenue that divided the town from north to south. Their heavy guns were brought up and soon mowed a path for the musketeers and crossbowmen. The flying enemy retreated towards the great square in the centre of the city, and were followed by the impetuous Spaniards and their Indian allies. The outer wall of the Great Temple, itself, was soon passed by the hot-blooded cavaliers, some of whom rushed up the stairs and circling corridors of the Teocalli, whence they pushed the priests over the sides of the pyramid and tore off the golden mask and jewels of the Aztec war-god. But the small band of invaders had, for a moment only, appalled the Mexicans, who rallied in numbers at this daring outrage, and sprang vindictively upon the sacrilegious assailants. The Spaniards and their allies fled; but the panic with which they were seized deprived their retreat of all order or security. Cortéz, himself, was unable to restore discipline, when suddenly, a troop of Spanish horsemen dashed into the thick of the fight, and intimidating the Indians, by their superstitious fears of cavalry, they soon managed to gather and form the broken files of their Spanish and Indian army, so that, soon after the hour of vespers, the combined forces drew off with their artillery and ammunition to the barrack at Xoloc.

About this period, the inhabitants of Xochimilco and some tribes of rude but valiant Otomies gave in their adhesion to the Spaniards. The Prince of Tezcoco, too, despatched fifty thousand levies to the aid of Cortéz. Thus strengthened, another attack was made upon the city. Most of the injuries which had been done to the causeways in the first onslaught had been repaired, so that the gates of the capital, and finally the great square, were reached by the Spaniards with nearly as great difficulty as upon their former attempt. But this time the invaders advanced more cautiously into the heart of the city, where they fired and destroyed their ancient quarters in the old palace of Axayacatl and the edifices adjoining the royal palace on the other side of the square. These incursions into the capital were frequently repeated by Cortéz, nor were the Mexicans idle in their systematic plans to defeat the Spaniards. All communication with the country, by the causeways was permanently interrupted; yet the foe stealthily, and in the night, managed to evade the vigilance of the twelve cruisers whose numbers were indeed insufficient to maintain a stringent naval blockade of so large a city as Mexico. But the [Pg 67] success of Cortéz, in all his engagements by land and water, his victorious incursions into the very heart of the city, and the general odium which was cherished against the central power of the empire by all the tributary tribes and dependant provinces, combined, at this moment, to aid the efforts of the conqueror in cutting off supplies from the famishing capital. The great towns and small villages in the neighborhood threw off their allegiance, and the camps of the Spanish leaders thronged with one hundred and fifty thousand auxiliaries selected from among the recreants. The Spaniards were amply supplied with food from these friendly towns, and never experienced the sufferings from famine that were soon to overtake the beleaguered capital.


At length the day was fixed for a general assault upon the city by the two divisions under Alvarado and Cortéz. As usual, the battle was preceded by the celebration of mass, and the army then advanced in three divisions up the most important streets. They entered the town, cast down the barricades which had been erected to impede their progress, and, with remarkable ease, penetrated even to the neighborhood of the market-place. But the very facility of their advance alarmed the cautious mind of Cortéz, and induced him to believe that this slack resistance was but designed to seduce him farther and farther within the city walls until he found himself beyond the reach of succor or retreat. This made him pause. His men, more eager for victory and plunder than anxious to secure themselves by filling up the canals and clearing the streets of their impediments, had rushed madly on without taking proper precaution to protect their rear, if the enemy became too hot in front. Suddenly the horn of Guatemozin was heard from a neighboring Teocalli, and the flying Indians, at the sacred and warning sound, turned upon the Spaniards with all the mingled feeling of reinspired revenge and religion. For a while the utmost disorder prevailed in the ranks of the invaders, Spaniards, Tlascalans, Tezcocans and Otomies, were mixed in a common crowd of combatants. From the tops of houses; from converging streets; from the edges of canals,—crowds of Aztecs swarmed and poured their vollies of javelins, arrows and stones. Many were driven into the lake. Cortéz himself had nigh fallen a victim in the dreadful melee, and was rescued with difficulty. Meanwhile, Alvarado and Sandoval had penetrated the city from the western causeway, and aided in stemming the onslaught of the Aztecs. For a while the combined forces served to check the [Pg 68] boiling tide of battle sufficiently to enable those who were most sorely pressed to be gradually withdrawn, yet not until sixty-two Spaniards and a multitude of allies, besides many killed and wounded, had fallen captives and victims in the hands of their implacable enemies.

It was yet day when the broken band withdrew from the city, and returned to the camps either on the first slopes of the hills, or at the terminations of the causeways. But sad, indeed, was the spectacle that presented itself to their eyes, as they gazed towards the city, through the clear atmosphere of those elevated regions, when they heard the drum sound from the top of the Great Teocalli. It was the dread signal of sacrifice. The wretched Spaniards, who had been captured in the fight, were, one after another, stretched on the stone in front of the hideous idols, and their reeking hearts, torn from their bosoms, thrown as propitiating morsels into the flames before the deities. The mutilated remains of the captives were then flung down the steep sides of the pyramid, to glut the crowds at its base with a "cannibal repast."


Whilst these repulses and dreadful misfortunes served to dispirit the Spaniards and elate the Aztecs, they were not without their signally bad effects upon the auxiliaries. Messages were sent to these insurgent bodies by the Emperor. He conjured them to return to their allegiance. He showed them how bravely their outraged gods had been revenged. He spoke of the reverses that had befallen the white men in both their invasions, and warned them that a parricidal war like this could "come to no good for the people of Anahuac." Otomies, Cholulans, Tepeacans, Tezcocans, and even the loyal Tlascalans, the hereditary enemies of the Montezumas and Guatemozins, stole off secretly under the cover of night. There were of course exceptions in this inglorious desertion; but it seems that perhaps the majority of the tribes departed for their homes with the belief that the tide had turned against the Spanish conqueror and that it was best to escape before it was too late, the scandal or danger of open treason against their lawful Emperor. But, amid all these disasters, the noble heart of Cortéz remained firm and true to his purpose. He placed his artillery again in position upon the causeways, and, never wasting his ammunition, contrived to husband it carefully until the assaulting Aztecs swarmed in such numbers on the dykes that his discharges mowed them down like grass as they advanced to attack him. It was a gloomy time, requiring [Pg 69] vigilance by day and by night—by land and by water. The brigantines were still secure. They swept the lake continually and cut off supplies designed for the capital. The Spaniards hermetically sealed the causeways with their cannon, and thus, at length, was the city that would not yield to storm given over to starvation.


[7] The writer sounded the lake in the channel from Mexico to Tezcoco in 1842, and did not find more than 2½1/2 feet in the deepest path. The Indians, at present, wade over all parts of the lake.

Ornamental ending

[Pg 70]



The desertion of numerous allies, which we have noticed in the last chapter, was not alone prompted by the judgment of the flying Indians, but was stimulated in a great degree by the prophecy of the Aztec priests, that, within eight days from the period of prediction, the beleaguered city would be delivered from the Spaniards. But the sun rose on the ninth over the inexorable foes still in position on the causeways and on the lake. The news was soon sent by the allies who had remained faithful, to those who had fled, and the deficient ranks were quickly restored by the numbers who flocked back to the Spanish standard as soon as they were relieved from superstitious fear.

About this time, moreover, a vessel that had been destined for Ponce de Leon, in his romantic quest of Florida, put into Vera Cruz with ammunition and military stores, which were soon forwarded to the valley. Thus strengthened by his renerved Indian auxiliaries, and reinforced with Spanish powder and guns, Cortéz was speedily again in train to assail the capital; for he was not content to be idle except when the most serious disasters forced him to endure the slow and murderous process of subduing the city by famine. There may, perhaps, be something noble and chivalrous in this feeling of the Castilian hero. His heart revolted at the sight of misery inflicted without a chance of escape, and it delighted in those conflicts which matched man with man, and gave the ultimate victory to valor and not to stratagem.

[Pg 71] Accordingly the conqueror resolved again to commence active hostilities. But, this time, he designed to permit no hazards of the moment, and no personal carelessness of his officers to obstruct his entry or egress from the city. As he advanced the town was to be demolished; the canals filled up; the breaches in the dykes perfectly repaired; and, as he moved onwards to the north and west, he determined that his path should be over a level and solid surface on which he might encounter none of the dangers that had hitherto proved so disastrous. The necessity of this course will be evident when it is recollected that all the houses were terraced with flat roofs and protecting parapets, which sheltered the assailants, whilst the innumerable canals bisecting the streets served as so many pitfalls for cavalry, footmen and Indians, when they became confused in the hurry of a promiscuous onset or retreat.


Meanwhile the Aztecs within the city suffered the pangs of famine. The stores that had been gathered for the siege were gone. Human bodies, roots, rats, reptiles, served for a season, to assuage the famished stomachs of the starving crowds;—when suddenly, Cortéz despatched three Aztec nobles to Guatemozin, who were instructed to praise his defence, to assure him he had saved the honor of himself and soldiery, and to point out the utter uselessness of longer delay in submitting to inevitable fate. The message of the conqueror was weighed by the court with more favor than by the proud and spirited Emperor, whose patriotic bosom burned at the disgraceful proposal of surrender. The priests turned the tide against the white men; and, after two days, the answer to the summons came in a warlike sortie from the city which well nigh swept the Spanish defenders from the dykes. But cannon and musketry were too strong for mere numbers. The vessels poured in their volumes of iron hail on the flanks, and the last dread effort of defensive despair expired before the unflinching firmness of the Castilian squadrons. At length, Cortéz believed that the moment for final action had arrived. He gave orders for the advance of the several corps of the army simultaneously by their several causeways; and although it pained him greatly to destroy a capital which he deemed "the gem of the world," yet he put into execution his resolve to raze the city to its foundation unless it surrendered at discretion. The number of laborers was increased daily by the hosts that flocked like vultures to the carcase of an expiring victim. The palaces, temples and dwellings were plundered, thrown down, and cast into the canals [Pg 72] The water was entirely excluded from the city. On all sides there was fast and level land. But the Mexicans were not mere idle, contemptible spectators of their imperial city's ruin. Day after day squadrons sallied from the remains of the capital, and engaged the harrassed invaders. Yet the indomitable constancy of the Spaniards was not to be resisted. Cortéz and Alvarado had toiled onward towards each other, from opposite sides, till they met. The palace of Guatemozin fell and was burned. The district of Tlatelolco, in the north of the city, was reached, and the great market-place secured. One of the great Teocallis, in this quarter, was stormed, its sanctuaries burned, and the standard of Castile placed on its summit. Havoc, death, ruin, starvation, despair, hatred, were every where manifest. Every hour added to the misery of the numerous and retreating Aztecs who were pent up, as the besieging circle narrowed and narrowed by its advances. Women remained three days and nights up to their necks in water among the reeds. Hundreds died daily. Others became insane from famine and thirst.

The conqueror hoped, for several days, that this disastrous condition of the people would have induced the Emperor to come to terms; but, failing in this, he resolved upon a general assault. Before he resorted to this dreadful alternative, which his chivalrous heart taught him could result only in the slaughter of men so famished, dispirited and broken, he once more sought an interview with the Emperor. This was granted; but, at the appointed time, Guatemozin did not appear. Again the appeal was renewed, and, again, was Cortéz disappointed in the arrival of the sovereign. Nothing, then, remained for him but an assault, and, as may readily be imagined, the carnage in this combined attack of Spaniards and confederate Indians was indescribably horrible. The long endurance of the Aztecs; their prolonged resistance and cruelty to the Spaniards; the dreadful sacrifice of the captives during the entire period of the siege; the memory of the first expulsion, and the speedy hope of golden rewards, nerved the arms and hearts of these ferocious men, and led them on, in the work of revenge and conquest, until the sun sunk and night descended on the tragic scene.

On the 13th of August, 1521, the last appeal was made by Cortéz to the Emperor for a surrender of his capital. After the bloody scenes of the preceding day, and the increased misery of the last night, it was not to be imagined that even insane patriotism or savage madness could induce the sovereign to refrain from [Pg 73] saving, at least, the unfortunate non-combatants who still were loyal to his throne and person. But the judgment of the conqueror was wrong. "Guatemozin would die where he was!" was the reply of the royal stoic.


Again the infuriate troops were let loose, and again were the scenes of the day before re-enacted on the bloody theatre. Many escaped in boats by the lake; but the brave or reckless Guatemozin, who seems, at the last moment, to have changed his mind as to perishing, was taken prisoner and brought, with his family, into the presence of Cortéz. As soon as his noble figure and dignified face were seen on the azotéa or terraced roof, beside the conqueror, the battle ceased. The Indians beheld their monarch captive! And she who had witnessed the beginning of these adventures,—who had followed the fortunes of the General through all their vicissitudes—the gentle but brave Indian girl—Mariana—stood by the intrepid Cortéz to act as his interpreter in this last scene of the splendid and eventful drama.


It was on the following day that the Mexicans who still survived the slaughter and famine, evacuated the city. It was a desert—but a desert covered with dead. The men who rushed in to plunder,—plundered as if robbing graves. Between one and two hundred thousand people perished during the three months' siege, and their festering bodies tainted the air. The booty, though considerable, was far beneath the expectations of the conquerors; yet there was doubtless enough to reward amply the stout men at arms who had achieved a victory unparalleled in the annals of modern warfare.

"What I am going to say is truth, and I swear, and say Amen to it!"—exclaims Bernal Diaz del Castillo, in his quaint style—"I have read of the destruction of Jerusalem, but I cannot conceive that the mortality there exceeded that of Mexico; for all the people from the distant provinces, which belonged to this empire, had concentrated themselves here, where they mostly died. The streets, and squares, and houses, and the courts of the Tlatelolco were covered with dead bodies; we could not step without treading on them; the lake and canals were filled with them, and the stench was intolerable.

"When all those who had been able, quitted the city, we went to examine it, which was as I have described; and some poor creatures were crawling about in different stages of the most offensive [Pg 74] disorders, the consequences of famine and improper food. There was no water; the ground had been torn up and the roots gnawed. The very trees were stripped of their bark; yet, notwithstanding they usually devoured their prisoners, no instance occurred when, amidst all the famine and starvation of this siege, they preyed upon each other. [8] The remnant of the population went, at the request of the conquered Guatemozin, to the neighboring villages, until the town could be purified and the dead removed."


[8] This fact, as stated by Bernal Diaz, is doubted by some other writers, and seems, unfortunately, not fully sustained by authority.

[Pg 75]



It is perhaps one of the most difficult duties of a historian, who desires to present a faithful picture of a remote age, to place himself in such a position as to draw the moral from his story with justice to the people and the deeds he has described. He is obliged to forget, not only his individuality and all the associations or prejudices with which he has grown up surrounded, but he must, in fact, endeavor to make himself a man and an actor in the age of which he writes. He must sympathize justly, but impartially, with the past, and estimate the motives of his fellow beings in the epoch he describes. He must measure his heroes, not by the standard of advanced Christian civilization under which he has been educated, but by the scale of enlightened opinion which was then acknowledged by the most respectable and intellectual classes of society.

When we approach the Conquest of Mexico with these impartial feelings, we are induced to pass lighter judgments on the prominent men of that wonderful enterprise. The love of adventure or glory, the passion of avarice, and the zeal of religion,—all of which mingled their threads with the meshes of this Indian web, were, unquestionably, the predominant motives that led the conquerors to Mexico. In some of them, a single one of these impulses was sufficient to set the bold adventurer in motion;—in others, perhaps, they were all combined. The necessary rapidity of our narrative has confined us more to the detail of prominent incidents than we would have desired had it been our task to disclose the wondrous tale of the conquest alone; but it would be wrong, even in [Pg 76] the briefest summary of the enterprise, to pass from the topic without awarding to the moving spirit of the romantic drama the fair estimate which his character and deeds demand.


We have ever regarded Hernando Cortéz as the great controlling spirit and embodiment of the conquest, regardless of the brilliant and able men who were grouped around him, all of whom, tempered and regulated by his genius, moved the military machine, step by step, and act by act, until the capital fell before the united armies of discontented Indians and invading Spaniards. It was in the mind of this remarkable personage that every scheme appears to have originated and ripened. This is the report of the most authentic contemporaries. He took counsel, it is true, of his captains, and heard the reports of Sandoval, Olid, and Alvarado; but whenever a great enterprise, in all the wonderful and varied combinations of this adventure, was to be carried into successful execution, it was Cortéz himself who planned it, placed himself at its head, and fought in its midst. The rash youth whom we saw either idling over his tasks at school, or a reckless stripling as he advanced in life, seems to have mellowed suddenly into greatness under the glow of Indian suns which would have emasculated a character of less rude or nervous strength. As soon as a project, worthy of the real power of his genius, presented itself to his mind and opened to his grasp, he became a sobered, steadfast, serious, discreet man. He was at once isolated by his superiority, and contrived to retain, by his wisdom in command, the superiority which was so perfectly manifested by this isolation. This alone, was no trifling task. His natural adroitness not only taught him quickly the value of every man in his command, but also rendered keener the tact by which he strove to use those men when their talents, for good or evil, were once completely ascertained. There were jealousies of Cortéz, but no rivalries. Men from the ranks conspired to displace him, but no leader ever ventured, or perhaps even conceived the idea, whilst under his orders, of superceding the hero of the Mexican conquest. The skill with which he won the loyal heart of that clever Indian girl—his mistress and companion through all the warfare,—discloses to us his power of attaching a sex which is always quickest to detect merit and readiest to discard conceit. We speak now of Cortéz during that period of his career when he was essentially the soul of the conquest, and in which the stern demands of war upon his intellect and heart, did [Pg 77] not allow him to sleep for a moment on his post, or to tamper with the elements upon which he relied for success. In all this time he made but few mistakes. The loss of the capital during the first visit is not to be attributed to him. The stain of that calamity must rest forever upon the escutcheon of Alvarado, for the irreparable harm was already done when Cortéz returned from the subjugation of Narvaez.

Nor is it alone as a soldier, at this time, that we are called on to appreciate the talents of our hero. Whilst he planned, fought, travelled, retreated, and diplomatised, he kept an accurate account of the adventures of his troop; and, in his celebrated letters to the Emperor, he has presented us a series of military memoirs, which, after three hundred years, furnish, in reality, the best, but least pretending, narrative of the conquest. Other contemporaries, looking upon the scenes from a variety of points, may serve to add interesting details and more copious illustration to the story; but they support without diminishing the value and truth of the despatches of Cortéz.

The conqueror, in truth, was one of those men whose minds seem to reach results intuitively. Education often ripens genius, as the genial sun and air mature the fruits of the earth which would languish without them. But we sometimes find individuals whose dealings on earth are to be chiefly in energetic and constant action with their fellow creatures, and who are gifted with a finer tact which enables them to penetrate the hearts of all they approach, and by this skilful detection of character are empowered to mould them to their purposes. There are, it is true, many subordinate qualities, besides the mere perceptive faculties, that are needful in such a person. He must possess self-control and discrimination in a remarkable degree. His courage and self-reliance must be unquestionable. He must be able to win by gentleness as well as to control by command or to rule by stratagem; for there are persons whom neither kindness, reason nor authority can lead, but who are nevertheless too important to be disregarded in such an enterprise as that of the conquest of Mexico.

Nor is our admiration of the characteristics we have endeavored to sketch, diminished when we examine the elements of the original army that flocked to the standard of Cortéz. The Spanish court and camps,—the Spanish towns and sea-ports,—had sent forth a motley band to the islands. The sedate and worthier portions of Castilian society were not wooed abroad by the alluring accounts of the New World and its prolific wealth. They did [Pg 78] not choose to leave hereditary homes and comfortable emoluments which made those homes the permanent abodes of contentment if not of luxury. But there were others in the dense crowds of Spain whose habits, disposition and education, fostered in them all the love of ease and elegance, without bestowing the means of gratifying their desires. These men regarded the New World as a short and easy road to opulence and distinction. There were others too, whose reckless or dissipated habits had wasted their fortunes and blasted their names in their native towns, and who could not bear to look upon the scenes of their youth, or the companions of their more fortunate days, whilst poverty and disgrace deprived them of the rights of free and equal social intercourse. These were the poor and proud;—the noisy and the riotous;—the soldier, half bandit, half warrior;—the sailor, half mutineer, half pirate;—the zealot whose bigotry magnified the dangers of Indian life into the glory of martyrdom; and the avaricious man who dreamed that the very sands of the Indian Isles were strewn with gems and gold. Among all this mass of wayward lust and ambition, there were some lofty spirits whose love of glory, whose passionate devotion to adventure, and whose genuine anxiety to spread the true word of God among the infidels, sanctified and adorned the enterprise, whilst their personal efforts and influence were continually directed towards the noble purpose of redeeming it from cruelty. These men recollected that posterity would set its seal upon their deeds, whilst many of them acted from a higher and purer Christian motive, devoid of all that narrow selfishness with which others kept their eyes fixed on the present and the future for the popular opinion that was to disgrace or dignify them on the pages of history.


Such were the Spanish materials of the armies with which Cortéz invaded Mexico; and yet, even with all the masterly genius he possessed to mould and lead such discordant elements, what could he have substantially effected, against the Aztec Empire, with his handful of men,—armed, mounted and equipped as they were,—without his Indian allies? These he had to conquer, to win, to control, to bind to him, forever, with the chains of an indestructible loyalty. He did not even know their language, but relied on the double interpretation of an Indian girl and a Spanish soldier. Nor is it less remarkable that he not only gained these allies, but preserved their fealty, not in success alone, but under the most disheartening disaster, when it was really their interest to [Pg 79] destroy rather than to sustain him, and when not only their allegiance but their religion invoked a dreadful vengeance on the sacreligious hands that despoiled their temples, overthrew their Gods, and made a jest of their most sacred rites. It was, indeed, not only a victory over the judgments, but over the superstitions, of an excitable, ardent and perhaps unreflective nation; and, in whatever aspect we regard the man who effected it solely by the omnipotence of his will, we are more and more forced to admire the majesty of his genius and the fortune or providence that made him a chosen and conspicuous instrument in the development of our continent.


The conquest of Mexico,—in its relation to the rest of the world,—has a double aspect, worthy of examination. The subsequent history and condition of the country, which we design to treat in the following pages, will develope one of these topics;—the condition of the country, at the period of the conquest, will disclose another, whilst it palliates, if it does not altogether apologize for the cruelties and apparent rapine by which the subjugation of the empire was effected.

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The capital had no sooner fallen and the ruins been searched in vain for the abundant treasures which the conquerors imagined were hoarded by the Aztecs, than murmurs of discontent broke forth in the Spanish camp against Cortéz for his supposed concealment of the plunder. There was a mingled sentiment of distrust both of the conqueror and Guatemozin; and, at last, the querulousness and taunts rose to such an offensive height, that it was resolved to apply the torture to the dethroned prince in order to wrest from him the secret hiding place of his ancestral wealth. We blush to record that Cortéz consented to this iniquity, but it was probably owing to an avaricious and mutinous spirit in his ranks which he was unable at the moment to control. The same Indian stoicism that characterised the unfortunate prince during the war, still nerved him in his hours of abject disaster. He bore the pangs without quivering or complaint and without revealing any thing that could gratify the Spanish lust of gold, save that vast quantities of the precious metal had been thrown into the lake,—from which but little was ultimately recovered even by the most expert divers.


The news of the fall of Mexico was soon spread from sea to sea, and couriers were despatched by distant tribes and princes to ascertain the truth of the prodigious disaster. The independent kingdom of Michoacan, lying between the vale of Anahuac or Mexico and the Pacific, was one of the first to send its envoys, [Pg 81] and finally even its king, to the capital;—and two small detachments of Spaniards returned with the new visitors, penetrating their country and passing with them even to the waters of the western ocean itself, on whose shores they planted the cross in token of rightful possession. They returned by the northern districts, and brought with them the first specimens of gold and pearls from the region now known as California.


It was not long, however, before Cortéz resolved to make his conquest available by the reconstruction of the capital that he had been forced reluctantly to mutilate and partly level during the siege. The ancient city was nearly in ruins. The massive relics of idolatry, and the huge stones of which the chief palaces had been constructed, were cast into the canals. The desolation was complete on the site of the ancient imperial residence. And the Indians, who had served in the work of dilapidation, were even compelled by their Spanish leader and his task masters to be the principal laborers in the toil of building up a city which should surpass in splendor the ancient pride of Anahuac.

Meanwhile the sagacious mind of Cortéz was not only busy with the present duties and occupations of his men in Mexico, but began to dwell,—now that the intense excitement of active war was over,—upon the condition of his relations with the Spanish Court and the government in the islands. He despatched to Castile, letters, presents, and the "royal fifth," together with an enormous emerald whose base was as broad as the palm of his hand. With the General's missives, went a letter from his army, commending the heroic leader, and beseeching its royal master to confirm Cortéz in his authority and to ratify all his proceedings. Quinoñes and Avila, the two envoys, sailed for home; but one of them, lucklessly, perished in a brawl at the Azores, whilst Avila, who resumed the voyage to Spain, after the loss of his companion, was taken by a French privateer, who bore the spoils of the Mexicans to the Court of Francis the First. The letters and despatches of Cortéz and his army, however, were saved, and Avila, privately and safely forwarded them to the Spanish sovereign.

At the Court of Charles the Fifth there were, of course, numerous intrigues against the successful conqueror. The hatred of Velasquez had not been suffered to slumber in the breast of that disappointed governor, and Fonseca, Bishop of Burgos, who was chief of the colonial department, and doubtless adroitly plied and stimulated by Velasquez, managed to obtain from the churchman, [Pg 82] Adrian, who was Regent whilst the Emperor resided in Germany, an order for the seizure of Cortéz and the sequestration of his property until the will of the court should be finally made known.

But, the avaricious Velasquez, the vindictive Fonseca, and the Veedor Cristoval de Tapia, whom they employed to execute so delicate and dangerous a commission against a man who at that moment, was surrounded by faithful soldiers and whose troops had been augmented by recent arrivals at Vera Cruz,—reasoned with but little judgment when they planned their unjust and ungrateful measures against Cortéz. The commissioner, himself, seems to have soon arrived at the same conclusion, for, scarcely had he landed, before the danger of the enterprise and the gold of the conqueror, persuaded him prudently to decline penetrating into the heart of the country as the bearer of so ungrateful a reply to the wishes of a hero whose genius and sword had given an empire, and almost a world, to Spain.


Thus, at last, was Cortéz, for a time, freed from the active hostility of the Spanish Court, whilst he retained his authority over his conquest merely by military right and power of forcible occupation. But he did not remain idly contented with what he had already done. His restless heart craved to compass the whole continent, and to discover, visit, explore, whatever lay within the reach of his small forces and of all who chose to swell them. He continually pressed his Indian visitors for information concerning the empire of the Montezumas and the adjacent territories of independent kings or tributaries. Wherever discontent lifted its head, or rebellious manifestations were made, he despatched sufficient forces to whip the mutineers into contrite submission. The new capital progressed apace, and stately edifices rose on the solid land which his soldiers had formed out of the fragments of ancient Mexico.

Whilst thus engaged in his newly-acquired domain, Narvaez, his old enemy, and Tapia, his more recent foe, had reached the Spanish Court, where, aided by Fonseca, they once more bestirred themselves in the foul labor of blasting the fame of Cortéz, and wresting from his grasp the splendid fruits of his valor. Luckily, however, the Emperor returned, about this period, from eastern Europe, and, from this moment the tide of intrigue seems to have been stayed if not altogether turned. Reviled as he had hitherto been in the purlieus of the court, Cortéz was not without staunch kinsmen and warm friends who stood up valiantly in his [Pg 83] behalf, both before councils and king. His father, Don Martin, and his friend, the Duke of Bejar, had been prominent among many in espousing the cause of the absent hero, even before the sovereign's return;—and now, the monarch, whose heart was not indeed ungrateful for the effectual service rendered his throne by the conqueror, and whose mind probably saw not only the justice but the policy of preserving, unalienated, the fidelity and services of so remarkable a personage,—soon determined to look leniently upon all that was really censurable in the early deeds of Cortéz. Whilst Charles confirmed his acts in their full extent, he moreover constituted him "Governor, Captain General and Chief Justice of New Spain, with power to appoint to all offices, civil and military, and to order any person to leave the country whose residence there might be deemed prejudicial to the crown."

On the 15th of October, 1522, this righteous commission was signed by Charles V., at Valladolid. A liberal salary was assigned the Captain General; his leading officers were crowned with honors and emoluments, and the troops were promised liberal grants of land. Thus, the wisdom of the king, and of the most respectable Spanish nobility, finally crushed the mean, jealous, or avaricious spirits who had striven to leave their slimy traces on the fame of the conqueror; whilst the Emperor, himself, with his own hand, acknowledged the services of the troops and their leader, in a letter to the Spanish army in Mexico.

Among the men who felt severely the censure implied by this just and wise conduct of Charles V., was the ascetic Bishop of Burgos, Fonseca, whose baleful influence had fallen alike upon the discoveries of Columbus, and the conquests of Cortéz. His bigoted and narrow soul,—schooled in forms, and trained by early discipline, into a querulousness which could neither tolerate anything that did not accord with his rules or originate under his orders,—was unable to comprehend the splendid glory of the enterprises of these two heroic chieftains. Had it been his generous policy to foster them, history would have selected this son of the church as the guardian angel over the cradle of the New World; but he chose to be the shadow rather than the shining light of his era, and, whether from age or chagrin, he died in the year after this kingly rebuff from a prince whose councils he had long and unwisely served.

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The royal commission, of which we have spoken in the last chapter, was speedily borne to New Spain, where it was joyfully received by all who had participated in the conquest or joined the original forces since that event. Men not only recognized the justice of the act, but they felt that if the harvest was rightfully due to him who had planted the seed, it was also most probable that no one could be found in Spain or the Islands more capable than Cortéz of consolidating the new empire. Velasquez, the darling object of whose latter years had been to circumvent, entrap or foil the conqueror, was sadly stricken by the defeat of his machinations. The reckless but capable soldier, whom he designed to mould into the pliant tool of his avarice and glory, had suddenly become his master. Wealth, renown, and even royal gratitude, crowned his labors; and the disobedience, the errors, and the flagrant wrongs he was charged with whilst subject to gubernatorial authority, were passed by in silence or forgotten in the acclamation that sounded his praise throughout Spain and Europe. Even Fonseca,—the chief of the council,—had been unable to thwart this darling of genius and good fortune. Velasquez, himself, was nothing. The great error of his life had been in breaking with Cortéz before he sailed for Mexico. He was straitened in fortune, foiled in ambition, mocked by the men whose career of dangerous adventure he had personally failed to share; and, at last, disgusted with the time and its men, he retired to brood over his melancholy reverses until death soon relieved him of his earthly jealousies and annoyances.

[Pg 85] Four years had not entirely elapsed since the fall of Mexico, when a new and splendid city rose from its ruins and attracted the eager Spaniards, of all classes, from the old world and the islands. Cortéz designed this to be the continental nucleus of population. Situated on the central plateau of the realm, midway between the two seas, in a genial climate whose heat never scorched and whose cold never froze, it was, indeed, an alluring region to which men of all temperaments might resort with safety. Strongholds, churches, palaces, were erected on the sites of the royal residences of the Aztecs and their blood-stained Teocallis. Strangers were next invited to the new capital, and, in a few years, the Spanish quarter contained two thousand families, while the Indian district of Tlatelolco, numbered not less than thirty thousand inhabitants. The city soon assumed the air and bustle of a great mart. Tradesmen, craftsmen and merchants, thronged its streets and remaining canals.

Cortéz was not less anxious to establish, in the interior of the old Aztec empire, towns or points of rendezvous, which in the course of time, would grow up into important cities. These were placed with a view to the future wants of travel and trade in New Spain. Liberal grants of land were made to settlers who were compelled to provide themselves with wives under penalty of forfeiture within eighteen months. Celibacy was too great a luxury for a young country. [9] The Indians were divided among the Spaniards by the system of repartimientos, which will be more fully discussed in a subsequent part of this work. The necessities and cupidity of the early settlers in so vast a region rendered this necessary perhaps, though it was promptly discountenanced but never successfully suppressed by the Spanish crown. The scene of action was too remote, the subjects too selfish, and the ministers too venal or interested to carry out, with fidelity, the benign ordinances of the government at home. From this apportionment of Indians, which subjected them, in fact, to a species of slavery, it is but just to the conquerors to state that the Tlascalans, upon whom the burden of the fighting had fallen, were entirely exempted at the recommendation of Cortéz.

Among all the tribes the work of conversion prospered, for the ceremonious ritual of the Aztec religion easily introduced the native worshippers to the splendid forms of the Roman Catholic. Agriculture and the mines were not neglected in the policy of [Pg 86] Cortéz, and, in fact he speedily set in motion all the machinery of civilization, which was gradually to operate upon the native population whilst it attracted the overflowing, industrious or adventurous masses of his native land. Various expeditions, too, for the purpose of exploration and extension, were fitted out by the Captain General of New Spain; so that, within three years after the conquest, Cortéz had reduced to the Spanish sway, a territory of over four hundred leagues, or twelve hundred miles on the Atlantic coast, and of more than five hundred leagues or fifteen hundred miles on the Pacific. [10]

This sketch of a brief period after the subjugation of Mexico developes the constructive genius of Cortéz, as the preceding chapters had very fully exhibited his destructive abilities. It shows, however, that he was not liable justly to the censure which has so often been cast upon him,—of being, only, a piratical plunderer who was seduced into the conquest by the spirit of rapine alone.


In a historical narrative which is designed to treat exclusively of Mexico, it might perhaps be considered inappropriate to relate that portion of the biography of Cortéz which is covered by his expedition to Honduras, whither he marched after he learned the defection of his lieutenant Olid whom he had sent to that distant region with a body of Spanish soldiers to found a dependant colony. It was whilst on this disastrous march that the report of a conspiracy to slay the Spaniards, in which Guatemozin was implicated, reached his ears, and that the dethroned monarch, together with several princes and inferior nobles, was hanged, by his orders, on the branches of a tree. There is a difference of opinion among contemporary writers as to the guilt of Guatemozin and the Aztec nobles; but it is probable that the unfortunate prince had become a dangerous and formidable captive and that the grave was a safer prison for such a personage, than the tents and bivouacs of a menaced army.

Another renowned character in this drama—the serviceable and gentle Indian girl Doña Mariana,—was no longer needed and was disposed of during this expedition, by marriage with Don Martin Xamarillo, to whom she brought a noble dowry of estates, which were assigned her by the conqueror in her native province, where, in all likelihood she ended her romantic career. Her son by Cortéz, named after his grand-father Don Martin, became distinguished [Pg 87] in the annals of the colony and of Spain, but in 1568, he was cruelly treated in the capital which had been won by the valor and fidelity of his parents.


From this digression in his Mexican career, Cortéz was suddenly recalled by the news of disturbances in the capital, which he reached after a tempestuous and dangerous voyage. His journey from the coast to the valley was a continued scene of triumphs; and, from Tezcoco, in June, 1526, he made his stately entrance into the city of Mexico amid brilliant cavalcades, decorated streets, and lakes and canals covered with the fanciful skiffs of Indians.

A month later, the joy of his rapturous reception was disturbed by the announcement that the Spanish Court had sent a commissioner to supercede him temporarily in the government. The work of sapping his power and influence had long been carried on at home; and false reports, involving Cortéz in extreme dishonesty not only to the subjects but to the crown of Spain itself, at length infused suspicions into the sovereign's mind. The Emperor resolved to search the matter fairly to its core, and, accordingly, despatched Don Luis Ponce de Leon, a young, but able nobleman to perform this delicate task, at the same time that he wrote with his own hand to the conqueror, assuring him that his sole design was not to distrust or deprive him of his honors, but to afford him the opportunity of placing his integrity in a clear light before the world.

De Leon, and the delegate chosen on his death bed, died within a few months, and were succeeded by Estrada, the royal treasurer, who was hostile to Cortéz, and whose malicious mismanagement of the investigation soon convinced even the Spanish court that it was unjust to leave so delicate and tangled a question in his hands. Accordingly the affair was transferred from Estrada to a commission styled the Audiencia Real de España, and Cortéz was commanded to hasten across the Atlantic in order to vindicate himself from the aspersions before this august body, which sat in the midst of his countrymen.

Cortéz resolved to go at once; and, loyal to the last, rejected all the offers that were made him to reassume the reins of power, independently of Spain. He carried with him a number of natives, together with specimens of all the natural and artificial products of his viceroyalty; nor did he forget a plentiful supply of gold, silver, and jewels, with which he might maintain, in the eyes of his luxurious countrymen, the state that was appropriate for one whose [Pg 88] conquests and acquisitions were so extensive. Sandoval and Tapia, too, departed with their beloved companion in arms, the former of whom, only, lived to land once more on his native land.


As he journeyed from the sea-port towards Toledo, the curious crowds poured out on the way side to behold and welcome the hero of the New World; and from the gates of the city a gallant crowd of cavaliers poured forth, with the Duke de Bejar and the Count de Aguilar, to attend him to his dwelling.

The Emperor received him with marked respect on the following day, and from the bountiful gifts and splendid titles which were showered upon Cortéz before the close of 1529, it seems that his sovereign was soon personally satisfied in his frequent and frank interviews with the conqueror, that the tales he had heard from across the sea were mere calumnies unworthy his notice. The title of "Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca" was bestowed on him. Lands in the rich province of Oaxaca, and estates in the city of Mexico and other places, were also ceded to him. "The princely domain thus granted him," says Prescott, "comprehended more than twenty towns and villages and twenty-three thousand vassals." The court and sovereign vied with each other in honoring and appreciating his services, and every privilege was no sooner demanded than granted, save that of again assuming the government of New Spain!

It was the policy of the Spanish court not to entrust the rule of conquered countries to the men who had subdued them. There was fancied, and perhaps real danger in confiding such dearly acquired jewels to ambitious and daring adventurers who might ripen into disloyal usurpers.

Cortéz bowed submissively to the will of the Emperor. He was grateful for what had been graciously conceded to his merits and services; nor was he unwilling to enjoy the luxury of careless repose after so many years of toil. His first wife,—wedded as we have related in the Islands,—died a short time after she joined him in the capital after the conquest. Cortéz was yet young, nor was he ill favored or indisposed to slight the charms of the sex. A fair relative of the Aguilars and Bejars, Doña Juana Zuñiga, at this moment attracted his attention and was soon won. Her dower of jewels, wrested from the Aztecs, and carved by their most skilful workmen, was indescribably magnificent, and, after her splendid nuptials, she embarked, in 1530, with the conqueror [Pg 89] and his aged mother to return to the Indian Islands, and finally to New Spain.

At Hispaniola he met an Audiencia Real, which was still to have jurisdiction of his case, if it ever came to trial, and at whose head was an avowed enemy of the conqueror, Nuño de Guzman. The evidence was taken upon eight scandalous charges against Cortéz, and is of so suspicious a character that it not only disgusts the general reader, but also failed in its effect upon the Spanish court by which no action was finally taken in regard to it.


Cortéz remained two months in the island before he set sail for Vera Cruz, in July 1530; and, in the meantime, the Bishop of San Domingo was selected to preside over a new Audiencia, inasmuch as the conduct of the late Audiencia, and of Guzman especially, in relation to the Indians, had become so odiously oppressive that fears were entertained of an outbreak. The bishop and his coadjutors were men of a different stamp, who inspired the conqueror with better hopes for the future prosperity of the Indian colonies.

So jealous was the home government of the dangerous influence of Cortéz,—a man so capable of establishing for himself an independent empire in the New World,—that he had been inhibited from approaching the capital nearer than thirty leagues. But this did not prevent the people from approaching him. He returned to the scene of his conquest, with all the personal resentments and annoyances that had been felt by individuals of old, softened by the lapse of time during his prolonged absence in Spain. He came back, too, with all the prestige of his Emperor's favor; and, thus, both by the new honors he had won at court, and the memory of his deeds, the masses felt disposed to acknowledge, at the moment of joyous meeting, that it was alone to him they owed their possessions, their wealth, their comfort, and their importance in New Spain.

Accordingly, Mexico was deserted by the courtiers, and Tezcoco, where he established his headquarters was thronged by eager crowds who came not only to visit but to consult the man whose wit and wisdom were as keen as his sword, and who revisited Mexico, ripened into an astute statesman.

Nevertheless, the seeming cordiality between the magistrates of the capital and the partly exiled Captain General, did not long continue. Occasions arose for difference of opinion and for disputes of even a more bitter character, until, at length, he turned his [Pg 90] back on the glorious valley,—the scene of his noblest exploits,—forever, and took up his abode in his town of Cuernavaca, which, it will be recollected, he captured from the Aztecs before the capital fell into his hands. This was a place lying in the lap of a beautiful valley, sheltered from the north winds and fronting the genial sun of the south, and here he once more returned to the cares of agriculture,—introducing the sugar cane from Cuba, encouraging the cultivation of flax and hemp, and teaching the people the value of lands, cattle and husbandry which they had never known or fully appreciated. Gold and silver he drew from Zacatecas and Tehuantepec; but he seems to have wisely thought that the permanent wealth and revenue of himself and his heirs would best be found in tillage.

Our limits will not permit us to dwell upon the agricultural, mineral and commercial speculations of Cortéz, nor upon his various adventures in Mexico. It is sufficient to say that he planned several expeditions, the most important of which, was unsuccessful in consequence of his necessary absence in Spain, whither he had been driven, as we have seen, to defend himself against the attacks of his enemies. Immediately, however, upon his return to Mexico, he not only sent forth various navigators, to make further discoveries, but departed himself for the coast of Jalisco, which he visited in 1534 and 1535. He recovered a ship, which had been seized by Nuño de Guzman; and having assembled the vessels he had commanded to be built in Tehuantepec, he embarked every thing needful to found a colony. The sufferings he experienced in this expedition were extraordinarily great; his little fleet was assailed by famine and tempests, and, so long was he unheard of, in Mexico, that, at the earnest instance of his wife, the viceroy Mendoza sent two vessels to search for him. He returned, at length, to Acapulco; but not content with his luckless efforts, he made arrangements for a new examination of the coasts, by Francisco de Ulloa, which resulted in the discovery of California, as far as the Isle de Cedros, and of all that gulf, to which geographers have given the name of the "Sea of Cortéz."

His expenses in these expeditions exceeded three hundred thousand castellanos of gold, which were never returned to him by the government of Spain. Subsequently, a Franciscan missionary, Fray Marcos de Niza, reported the discovery, north of Sonoma, of a rich and powerful nation called Quivara, whose capital he represented as enjoying an almost European civilization. Cortéz claimed his right to take part in or command an expedition which [Pg 91] the viceroy Mendoza was fitting out for its conquest. But he was baulked in his wishes, and was obliged to confine his future efforts for Mexico to works of beneficence in the capital.

That portion of the conqueror's life which impressed its powerful characteristics upon New Spain was now over. The rest of his story belongs rather to biography and the Old World than to a compressed narrative of Mexican history, for although he remained long in the country, and afterwards fought successfully under the Emperor's banner in other lands, it appears that he was unable to win the Spanish crown to grant him authority over the empire he had subdued. He died at Castilleja de la Cuesta, near Seville, on the 2d of December, 1547.

Cortéz provided in his will that his body should be interred in the place where he died, if that event occurred in Spain, and that, within ten years, his bones should be removed to New Spain and deposited in a convent of Franciscan nuns, which, under the name of La Concepcion, he ordered to be founded in Cuyoacan. Accordingly, his corpse was first of all laid in the convent of San Isidro, outside the walls of Seville, whence it was carried to Mexico and deposited in the church of San Francisco, at Tezcoco, inasmuch as the convent of Cuyoacan was not yet built. Thence the ashes of the hero were carried, in 1629, to the principal chapel of the church of San Francis, in the capital; and, at last, were translated, on the 8th of November, 1794, to the church of the Hospital of Jesus, which Cortéz had founded. When the revolution broke out, a vindictive feeling prevailed not only against the living Spaniards, but against the dead, and men were found, who invoked the people to tear these honored relics from their grave, and after burning them at San Lazaro, to scatter the hated ashes to the winds. But, in the government and among the principal citizens, there were many individuals who eagerly sought an opportunity to save Mexico from this disgraceful act. These persons secretly removed the monument, tablet, and remains of the conqueror from their resting place in the Church of Jesus, and there is reason to believe, that at length they repose in peaceful concealment in the vaults of the family in Italy. Past generations deprived him, whilst living, of the right to rule the country he had won by his valor. Modern Mexico has denied his corpse even the refuge of a grave. [11]


[9] Prescott 3d, 261.

[10] Prescott, vol. 3, 274.

[11] See Alaman, Disertaciones sobre la historia de la Republica Mexicana, vol. 2, p. 93 Appendix.

[Pg 92]



One of the most disgraceful destructions of property, recorded in history, is that which was accomplished in Mexico by the first Archbishop of New Spain, Juan de Zumarraga. He collected from all quarters, but especially from Tezcoco, where the national archives were deposited, all the Indian manuscripts he could discover, and causing them to be piled in a great heap in the market place of Tlatelolco, he burned all these precious records, which under the skilful interpretation of competent natives, might have relieved the early history of the Aztecs from the obscurity with which it is now clouded. The superstitious soldiery eagerly imitated the pious example of this prelate, and emulated each other in destroying all the books, charts, and papers, which bore hieroglyphic signs, whose import, they had been taught to believe was as sacrilegiously symbolic and pernicious as that of the idols they had already hurled from the Indian temples.

And yet, it may be questioned, whether these documents, had they been spared even as the curious relics of the literature or art of a semi-civilized people, would have enlightened the path of the historical student. "It has been shown," says Mr. Gallatin, "that those which have been preserved contain but a meagre account of the Mexican history for the one hundred years preceding the conquest, and hardly anything that relates to prior events. The question naturally arises—from what source those writers derived their information, who have attempted to write not only the modern history of Mexico, but that of ancient times? It may, without hesitation, be answered, that their information was traditional. The memory of important events is generally preserved and transmitted [Pg 93] by songs and ballads, in those nations which have attained a certain degree of civilization, and had not the use of letters. Unfortunately, if we except the hymns of the great monarch of Tezcoco, which are of recent date, and allude to no historical fact of an earlier epoch than his own times, no such Mexican remnants have been transmitted to us, or published. On the other hand the recollection and oral transmission of events may have been aided by the hieroglyphics imperfect as they were; thus, those of the significant names of a king and of a city, together with the symbol of the year, would remind the Mexicans of the history of the war of that king against that city which had been early taught him whilst a student in the temple." [12]

It is thus, perhaps, that the virtuoso rather than the historical student has been the sufferer by the superstitious conflagrations of Zumarraga and the Spanish soldiers. We have unquestionably lost most of the minute events of early Aztec history. We have remained ignorant of much of the internal policy of the realm, and have been obliged to play the antiquarian in the discussion of dates and epochs, whose perfect solution, even, would not cast a solitary ray of light upon the grand problem of this continent's development or population. But amid all this obscurity, ignorance, and diffuseness, we have the satisfaction to know that some valuable facts escaped the grasp of these destroyers, and that the grand historical traditions of the empire were eagerly listened to and recorded by some of the most enlightened Europeans who hastened after the conquest to New Spain. The song, the story, and the anecdote, handed down from sire to son in a nation which possessed no books, no system of writing, no letters, no alphabet,—formed in reality the great chain connecting age with age, king with king, family with family;—and, as the gigantic bond lengthened with time, some of its links were adorned with the embellishments of fancy, whilst others, in the dim and distant past, became almost imperceptible. Nor were the conquerors and their successors men devoted to the antiquities of the Mexicans with the generous love of enthusiasts who delight in disclosing the means by which a people emerged from the obscurity of a tribe into the grandeur of a civilized nation. In most cases the only object they had in magnifying, or even in manifesting the real character, genius and works of the Mexicans, is to be found in their desire to satisfy their country and the world that they had indeed conquered [Pg 94] an empire, and not waged exterminating war against naked but wealthy savages. It was, in fact, a species of self laudation; and it has, therefore, not been without at least a slight degree of incredulity that we read the glowing early accounts of the palaces, the state and the power of the Mexican emperors. The graphic works of Mr. Stephens on Yucatan and Central America, seem, however, to open new authorities upon this vast problem of civilization. Architecture never lies. It is one of those massive records which require too much labor in order to record a falsehood. The men who could build the edifices of Uxmal, Palenque, Copan and Chichen-Itza, were far removed from the aboriginal condition of Nomadic tribes. Taste and luxury had been long grafted on the mere wants of the natives. They had learned not only to build for protection against weather, but for permanent homes whose internal arrangements should afford them comfort, and whose external appearance should gratify the public taste. Order, symmetry, elegance, beauty of ornament, gracefulness of symbolic imagery, had all combined to exhibit the external manifestations which are always seen among people who are not only anxious to gratify others as well as themselves, but to vie with each other in the exhibition of individual tastes. Here, however, as in Egypt, the architectural remains are chiefly of temples, tombs and palaces. The worship of God,—the safety of the body after death,—and the permanent idea of loyal obedience to authority,—are symbolized by the temple,—tomb,—and the rock-built palace. The masses, who felt they had no constant abiding place on earth, did not in all probability, build for themselves those substantial and beautifully embellished homes, under whose influence modern civilization has so far exceeded the barren humanism of the valley of the Nile. It was useless, they deemed, to enshrine in marble whilst living, the miserable spirit that, after death, might crawl in a crocodile or burrow in a hog. Christianity, alone, has made the Dwelling paramount to the Tomb and the Palace.

We cannot leave the early history of Spanish occupation without naturally casting our eyes over the empire which it was the destiny of Cortéz to conquer. Of its geographical boundaries we know but little. The dominions of the original Aztecs covered but a small part of the territory comprehended in modern Mexico; and although they were enlarged during the empire, they did not even then extend beyond the eighteenth degree and the twenty-first on the Atlantic or Gulf, and beyond the fourteenth and nineteenth degree including a narrow slip on the Pacific.

[Pg 95] The seat and centre of the Mexican empire was in the valley of Mexico, in a temperate climate, whose genial mildness is gained by its elevation of over seven thousand feet above the level of the sea. The features of this region,—the same now as at the conquest,—will be more fully described hereafter in those chapters which treat of the geography and statistics of modern Mexico.

On the eastern or western borders of the lake of Tezcoco, facing each other, stood the ancient cities of Tenochtitlan or Mexico, and of Tezcoco. These were the capitals of the two most famous, flourishing and civilized states of Anahuac, the sources of whose population and progress are veiled in the general mystery that overhangs the early history of our continent.

The general, and best received tradition that we possess upon the subject, declares that the original inhabitants of this beautiful valley came from the north; and that perhaps the earliest as well as the most conspicuous in the legends, were the Toltecs, who moved to the south before the end of the seventh century, and settled at Tollan or Tula, north of the Mexican valley, where extensive architectural remains were yet to be found at the period of the conquest. This spot seems to have gradually become the parent hive of civilization and advancement; but, after four centuries, during which they extended their sway over the whole of Anahuac, the Toltecs are alleged to have wasted away by famine, disease, and the slow desolation of unsuccessful wars. This occurred about the year 1051, as the Indian tradition relates,—and the few who escaped the ravages of death, departed for those more southern regions now known as Yucatan and Guatemala, in which we perhaps find the present remains of their civilization displayed in the temples, edifices and tombs of Palenque and Uxmal. During the next century these valleys and mountains were nearly desolate and bare of population, until a rude and altogether uncivilized tribe, known as the Chichimecas, came from Amaquemecan, in the north, and settled in villages among the ruins of their Toltec predecessors. After eight years, six other Indian tribes called Nahuatlacs arrived, and announced the approach of another band from the north, known as the Aztecs, who, soon afterwards, entered Anahuac. About this period the Acolhuans, who are said to have emigrated from Teoacolhucan, near the original territories of the Chichimecas, advanced into the valley and speedily allied themselves with their ancient neighbors. These tribes appear to have been the founders of the Tezcocan [Pg 96] government and nation which was once assailed successfully by the Tepanecs, but was finally delivered from thraldom by the signal bravery and talents of the prince Nezahualcoyotl, who was heir of the crown, supported by his Mexican allies.

Our chief concern, however, in groping our way through the tangled labyrinth of tradition, is to ascertain the story of the Aztecs, whose advent has been already announced. It was about the year 1160, that they departed from Aztlan, the original seat of their tribe, on their journey of southern emigration. Their pilgrimage seems to have been interrupted by numerous halts and delays, both on their route through the northern regions now comprehended in the modern Republic of Mexico, as well as in different parts of the Mexican valley which was subsequently to become their home and capital. At length, in 1325, they descried an eagle resting on a cactus which sprang from the crevice of a rock in the lake of Tezcoco, and grasping in his talons a writhing serpent. This had been designated by the Aztec oracles as the site of the home in which the tribe should rest after its long and weary migration; and, accordingly, the city of Tenochtitlan, was founded upon the sacred spot, and like another Venice rose from the bosom of the placid waters.

It was near a hundred years after the founding of the city, and in the beginning of the fifteenth century, that the Tepanecs attacked the Tezcocan monarchy, as has been related in the previous part of this chapter. The Tezcocans and the Aztecs or Mexicans united to put down the power of the spoiler, and as a recompense for the important services of the allies, the supreme dominion of the territory of the royal house of Tezcoco was transferred to the Aztecs. The Tezcocan sovereigns thus became, in a measure, mediatized princes of the Mexican throne; and the two states, together with the neighboring small kingdom of Tlacopan, south of the lake of Chalco, formed an offensive and defensive league which was sustained with unwavering fidelity through all the wars and assaults which ensued during the succeeding century. The bold leaguers united in that spirit of plunder and conquest which characterizes a martial people, as soon as they are surrounded by the necessaries, comforts, and elegances of life in their own country, and whenever the increase of population begins to require a vent through which it may expand those energies that would destroy the state by rebellions or civil war, if pent up within the narrow limits of so small a realm as the valley of Mexico. Accordingly we find that the sway of this small tribe, which had but [Pg 97] just nestled among the reeds, rocks and marshes of the lake, was quickly spread beyond the mountain barrier that hemmed in the valley. Like the Hollanders, they became great by the very wretchedness of their site, and the vigilant industry it enforced. The Aztec arms were triumphant throughout all the plains that swept downward towards the Atlantic, and, as we have seen, even maintained dominion on the shores of the Pacific, or penetrated, under the bloody Ahuitzotl, the remotest corners of Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Such was the extent of Aztec power at the beginning of the 16th century, at the period of the Spanish incursion.

Note.—The discrepancies in the dates assigned by several writers as to the periods of the emigration of various tribes and the reigns of their sovereigns, are carefully presented in the following table, given by Albert Gallatin, in his essay on the Mexican nations—1 vol. Ethnol. Soc. Transac. 162.


Column Headings:
A: Alva.
B: Sahagun.
C: Veytia.
D: Clavigero.
  A B C D
Arrived at Huehuetlalpallan 387      
Departed from     do     596 544
They found Tula 498   713 720
Monarchy begins 510     667
Monarchy ends 959   1116 1051
Chichimecas and Acolhuans or Tezcocans.        
Xolotl, 1st King occupies the valley of Mexico 963   1120 about 1170
Napoltzin, 2d King ascends the throne 1075   1232 13 cen
Huetzin Tlotzin 3rd King, so called erroneously, ascends the throne 1107   1263 14 cen
Quinantzin, 4th King ascends the throne 1141   1298 14 cen
Tlaltecatzin 1st King according to Sahagun ascends the throne   1246    
Techotlalatzin 5th (2d, Sahagun) ascends the throne 1253 1271 1357 14 cen
Ixtlilxochitl 6th (3d, Sahagun)           "        "      " 1357 1331 1409 1406
Netzahual-Coyotzin 7th (4th, Sahagun) ascends the throne 1418 1392 1418 1426
Netzahual-Pilzintli 8th (5th, Sahagun) ascends the throne 1462 1463   1470
Netzahual-Pilzintli dies 1515 1516   1516
Tepanecs, or Tecpanecs of Acapulco.        
Acolhua arrives 1011   1158  
Acolhua 2d son of Acolhua 1st arrives     1239  
Tezozomac son according to D'Alva, grandson according to Veytia of the 1st Acolhua arrives 1299 1348 1343  
Maxtlan, son of Tezozomac arrives 1427   1427 1422
Mexicans or Aztecs.        
Mexicans leave Aztlan     1064 1160
      "         arrive at Huelcolhuacan       1168
      "            "     at Chicomotzoc     1168  
      "            "     at valley of Mexico 1141   1227 1216
      "            "     at Chapultepec     {1248


[Pg 98]

Column Headings:
A: Mendoza's Collection.
B: Codex Tellurianus.
C: Acosta.
D: Siguenza.
E: D'Alva.
F: Sahagun.
G: Veytia.
H: Clavigero.
Mexicans or Aztecs.                
  A B C D E F G H
Foundation of Mexico or Tenochtitlan 1324     1325 1220   1325 1325
Acamapichtli, elected King 1375 1399 1384 1361 1141 1384 1361 1352
Huitzilihuitl, accession 1396 1406 1424 1403 1353   1402 1389
Chimalpopoca 1417 1414 1427 1414 1357   1414 1409
Ytzcoatl 1427 1426 1437 1427 1427   1427 1423
Montezuma 1st 1440 1440 1449 1440 1440     1436
Acayacatl 1469 1469 1481 1468 1469     1464
Tizoc 1482 1483 1487 1481 1483     1477
Ahuitzol 1486 1486 1492 1486 1486     1482
Montezuma 2d 1502 1502 1503 1502 1503     1502
Duration of reigns of Mexican Kings.                
Acamapichtli 21 7 40 42 150 21 41 37
Huitzilihuitl 21 8 3 11 50 21 12 20
Chimalpopoca 10 12 10 13 70 10 13 14
Ytzcoatl 13 14 12 13 13 14   13
Montezuma 1st 29 29 32 28 29 30   28
Acayacatl 13 14 6 13 14 14   13
Tizoc 4 3 5 5 3 4   5
Ahuitzol 16 16 11 16 17 8   16
Montezuma 2d 17 17 16 17 17 19   17


The writers and documents cited in the preceding columns are esteemed the highest authority upon Mexican history and antiquities.

This is perhaps the best comparative table of Mexican Chronology,—up to the period of the conquest,—that has ever been compiled; and the great discrepancy between the dates assigned by various authorities, exhibits the guess work upon which the earlier Mexican history is founded.

In addition to the tribes or States enumerated in the preceding tables as constituting the nucleus of the Mexican empire under Montezuma, at the period of the Spanish conquest, it must be recollected that there were numerous other Indian States,—such as the Tlascalans, Cholulans, &c., whose origin is more obscure even than that of the Aztecs. Besides these, there were, on the territories now comprehended within the Mexican republic, the Tarascos who inhabited Michoacan, an independent sovereignty;—the barbarous Ottomies; the Olmecs; the Xicalancas; the Miztecas, and Zapotecas. The last named are supposed by Baron Humboldt to have been superior, in civilization, to the Mexicans, and probably preceded the Toltecs in the date of their emigration. Their architectural remains are found in Oaxaca. If we consider the comparatively small space in which the original tribes were gathered together in the valley of Mexico, which is not probably over two hundred and fifty miles in circumference, we cannot but be surprised that such remarkable results were achieved from such paltry beginnings and upon so narrow a theatre. The subjugation of so large a territory and such numerous tribes, by the Aztecs and Tezcocans is perhaps quite as wonderful an achievement, as the final subjugation of those victorious nations by the Spaniards. But in all our estimates of Spanish valor and generalship, in the splendid campaigns of Cortéz, we should never forget,—as we have remarked in the text,—the material assistance he received from his Indian allies—the Tlascalans.


[12] 1 vol. Trans. Am. Ethnol. Soc., p. 145. Art. Mexican Hist. Chron., &c. &c., by Albert Gallatin.

Their clothing and weapons


[Pg 99]



It is perhaps altogether impossible to judge, at this remote day, of the absolute degree of civilization, enjoyed at the period of the conquest, by the inhabitants not only of the valley of Mexico and Tezcoco, but also of Oaxaca, Tlascala, Michoacan, Yucatan, and their various dependencies. In studying this subject carefully, even in the classical pages of Mr. Prescott, and in the laborious criticisms of Mr. Gallatin, we find ourselves frequently bewildered in the labyrinth of historical details and picturesque legends, which have been carefully gathered and grouped to form a romantic picture of the Aztec nation. Yet facts enough have survived, not only the wreck of the conquest, but also the comparative stagnation of the viceroyalty, to satisfy us that there was a large class of people, at least in the capitals and their vicinity, whose tastes, habits, and social principles, were nearly equal to the civilization of the Old World at that time. There were strange inconsistences in the principles and conduct of the Mexicans, and strange blendings of softness and brutality, for the savage was as yet but rudely grafted on the citizen and the wandering or predatory habits of a tribe were scarcely tamed by the needful restraints of municipal law.

It is probable that the Aztec refinement existed chiefly in the city of Tenochtitlan or Mexico; or, that the capital of the empire, like the capital of France, absorbed the greater share of the genius and cultivation of the whole country. Our knowledge of Yucatan, and of the wonderful cities which have been revealed in its forests by the industry of Mr. Stephens, is altogether too limited to allow any conjectures, at this period, in regard to their [Pg 100] inhabitants. It is likely that they were offshoots from the same race as the Aztecs, and that they all owed the first germs of their separate civilizations to the Toltecs, who, according to the legends, were the great traditionary ancestors of all the progressive races that succeeded each other in emigrating from the north, and finally nestled in the lovely vale of Anahuac.

It is in the examination of such a period that we feel sensibly the want of careful contemporary history, and learn to value those narratives which present us the living picture of an age, even though they are sometimes tainted with the intolerance of religious sectarianism and bigotry, or by the merciless rancor of party malice. They give us, at least, certain material facts, which are independent of the spirit or context of the story. Posterity, which is now eager for details, infinitely prefers a sketch like this, warm and breathing with the vitality of the beings in whose presence and from whose persons it is drawn, to the cold mosaics, made up by skilful artizans, from the disjointed chips which they are forced to discover, harmonize, and polish, amid the discordant materials left by a hundred writers. Such labors, when undertaken by patient men, may sometimes reanimate the past and bring back its scenes, systems and people, with wonderful freshness; yet, after all, they are but mere restorations, and often depend essentially on the vivid imagination which supplies the missing fragments and fills them, for a moment, with an electrical instead of a natural life.

After a careful review of nearly all the historians and writers upon the ancient history of Mexico, we have never encountered a satisfactory view of the Aztec empire, except in the history of the conquest, by our countryman Prescott. His chapters upon the Mexican civilization, are the best specimens in our literature, since the days of Gibbon, of that laborious, truthful, antiquarian temper, which should always characterize a historian who ventures upon the difficult task of portraying the distant past.


In our rapid sketch of the conquest, we have been compelled to present, occasionally, a few descriptive glimpses of the Aztec architecture, manners, customs and institutions, which have already acquainted the reader with some of the leading features of national character. But it will not be improper, in a work like this, to combine in a separate chapter such views of the whole structure of Mexican society, under the original empire, as may not only afford an idea of the advancement of the nation which [Pg 101] Cortéz conquered, but, perhaps, will present the student with some national characteristics of a race that still inhabits Mexico jointly with the Spanish emigrants, and which is the lawful descendant of the wandering tribes who founded the city of Tenochtitlan.


The Aztec government was a monarchy, but the right to the throne did not fall by the accident of descent upon a lineal relative of the last king, whose age would have entitled him, by European rule, to the royal succession. The brothers of the deceased prince, or his nephews, if he had no nearer kin, were the individuals from whom the new sovereign was chosen by four nobles who had been selected as electors by their own aristocratic body during the preceding reign. These electors, together with the two royal allies of Tezcoco and Tlacopan, who were united in the college as merely honorary personages, decided the question as to the candidate, whose warlike and intellectual qualities were always closely scanned by these severe judges.

The elevation of the new monarch to the throne was pompous: yet, republican and just as was the rite of selection, the ceremony of coronation was not performed until the new king had procured, by conquest in war, a crowd of victims to grace his assumption of the crown with their sacrifice at the altar. The palaces of these princes and their nobles were of the most sumptuous character, according to the description that has been left us by the conquerors themselves.

The royal state and style of these people may be best described in the artless language of Bernal Diaz del Castillo, a soldier of the conquest, whose simple narrative, though sometimes colored with the superstitions of his age, is one of the most valuable and veritable relics of that great event that has been handed down to posterity.

In describing the entrance of the Spaniards into the city—Diaz declares, with characteristic energy, that the whole of what he saw on that occasion appeared to him as if he had beheld it but yesterday;—and he fervently exclaims: "Glory be to our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave us courage to venture on such dangers and brought us safely through them!"

The Spaniards, as we have already said in a preceding chapter, were lodged and entertained at the expense of Montezuma, who welcomed them as his guests, and unwisely attempted to convince them of his power by exhibiting his wealth and state. Two hundred of his nobility stood as guards in his ante-chamber.

[Pg 102] "Of these," says Diaz, "only certain persons could speak to him, and when they entered, they took off their rich mantles and put on others of less ornament, but clean. They approached his apartment barefooted, their eyes fixed on the ground and making three inclinations of the body as they approached him. In addressing the king they said, "Lord—my lord—great lord!" When they had finished, he dismissed them with a few words, and they retired with their faces toward him and their eyes fixed on the ground. I also observed, that when great men came from a distance about business, they entered his palace barefooted, and in plain habit; and also, that they did not come in by the gate directly, but took a circuit in going toward it.

"His cooks had upward of thirty different ways of dressing meats, and they had earthen vessels so contrived as to keep them constantly hot. For the table of Montezuma himself, above three hundred dishes were dressed, and for his guards above a thousand. Before dinner, Montezuma would sometimes go out and inspect the preparations, and his officers would point out to him which were the best, and explain of what birds and flesh they were composed; and of those he would eat. But this was more for amusement than anything else.

"It is said, that at times the flesh of young children was dressed for him; but the ordinary meats were domestic fowls, pheasants, geese, partridges, quails, venison, Indian hogs, pigeons, hares and rabbits, with many other animals and birds peculiar to the country. This is certain—that after Cortéz had spoken to him relative to the dressing of human flesh, it was not practised in his palace. At his meals, in the cold weather, a number of torches of the bark of a wood which makes no smoke, and has an aromatic smell, were lighted; and, that they should not throw too much heat, screens, ornamented with gold and painted with figures of idols, were placed before them.

"Montezuma was seated on a low throne or chair, at a table proportioned to the height of his seat. The table was covered with white cloths and napkins, and four beautiful women presented him with water for his hands, in vessels which they call xicales, with other vessels under them, like plates, to catch the water. They also presented him with towels.

"Then two other women brought small cakes of bread, and, when the king began to eat, a large screen of gilded wood was placed before him, so that during that period people should not behold him. The women having retired to a little distance, four [Pg 103] ancient lords stood by the throne, to whom Montezuma, from time to time, spoke or addressed questions, and as a mark of particular favor, gave to each of them a plate of that which he was eating. I was told that these old lords, who were his near relations, were also counsellors and judges. The plates which Montezuma presented to them they received with high respect, eating what was on them without taking their eyes off the ground. He was served in earthenware of Cholula, red and black. While the king was at the table, no one of his guards in the vicinity of his apartment dared, for their lives, make any noise. Fruit of all kinds produced in the country, was laid before him; he ate very little; but, from time to time, a liquor prepared from cocoa, and of a stimulative quality, as we were told, was presented to him in golden cups. We could not, at that time, see whether he drank it or not; but I observed a number of jars, above fifty, brought in, filled with foaming chocolate, of which he took some that the women presented him.

"At different intervals during the time of dinner, there entered certain Indians, humpbacked, very deformed, and ugly, who played tricks of buffoonery; and others who, they said, were jesters. There was also a company of singers and dancers, who afforded Montezuma much entertainment. To these he ordered the vases of chocolate to be distributed. The four female attendants then took away the cloths, and again, with much respect, presented him with water to wash his hands, during which time Montezuma conferred with the four old noblemen formerly mentioned, after which they took their leave with many ceremonies.

"One thing I forgot (and no wonder,) to mention in its place, and that is, during the time that Montezuma was at dinner, two very beautiful women were busily employed making small cakes, [13] with eggs and other things mixed therein. These were delicately white, and, when made, they presented them to him on plates covered with napkins. Also another kind of bread was brought to him in long leaves, and plates of cakes resembling wafers.

"After he had dined, they presented to him three little canes, highly ornamented, containing liquid-amber, mixed with an herb they call tobacco; and when he had sufficiently viewed and heard the singers, dancers, and buffoons, he took a little of the smoke of one of these canes, and then laid himself down to sleep.

[Pg 104] "The meal of the monarch ended, all his guards and domestics sat down to dinner; and, as near as I could judge, above a thousand plates of those eatables that I have mentioned, were laid before them, with vessels of foaming chocolate and fruit in immense quantity. For his women, and various inferior servants, his establishment was of a prodigious expense; and we were astonished, amid such a profusion, at the vast regularity that prevailed.

"His major domo kept the accounts of Montezuma's rents in books which occupied an entire house.

"Montezuma had two buildings filled with every kind of arms, richly ornamented with gold and jewels; such as shields, large and small clubs like two-handed swords, and lances much larger than ours, with blades six feet in length, so strong that if they fix in a shield they do not break; and sharp enough to use as razors.

"There was also an immense quantity of bows and arrows, and darts, together with slings, and shields which roll up into a small compass and in action are let fall, and thereby cover the whole body. He had also much defensive armor of quilted cotton, ornamented with feathers in different devices, and casques for the head, made of wood and bone, with plumes of feathers, and many other articles too tedious to mention." [14]

Besides this sumptuous residence in the city, the Emperor is supposed to have had others at Chapultepec, Tezcoco and elsewhere, which will be spoken of when we describe the ancient remains of Mexico in the valley of Mexico.

If the sovereign lived, thus, in state befitting the ruler of such an empire, it may be supposed that his courtiers were not less sumptuous in their style of domestic arrangements. The great body of the nobles and caciques, possessed extensive estates, the tenures of which were chiefly of a military character;—and, upon these large possessions, surrounded by warlike natives and numerous slaves, they lived, doubtless, like many of the independent, powerful chieftains in Europe, who, in the middle ages, maintained their feudal splendor, both in private life and in active service whenever summoned by their sovereigns to give aid in war.

The power of the Emperor over the laws of the country as well as over the lives of the people, was perfectly despotic. There were supreme judges in the chief towns, appointed by the Emperor who possessed final jurisdiction in civil and criminal causes; and there were, besides, minor courts in each province, as well as [Pg 105] subordinate officers, who performed the duty of police officers or spies over the families that were assigned to their vigilance. Records were kept in these courts of the decisions of the judges; and the laws of the realm were likewise perpetuated and made certain, in the same hieroglyphic or picture writing. "The great crimes against society," says Prescott, "were all made capital;—even the murder of a slave was punished with death. Adulterers, as among the Jews, were stoned to death. Thieving, according to the degree of the offence, was punished with slavery or death. It was a capital offence to remove the boundaries of another's lands; to alter the established measures; and for a guardian not to be able to give a good account of his ward's property. Prodigals who squandered their patrimony were punished in like manner. Intemperance was visited with the severest penalties, as if they had foreseen in it the consuming canker of their own as well as of the other Indian races in later times. It was punished in the young with death, and in older persons with loss of rank and confiscation of property.

"The rites of marriage were celebrated with as much formality as in any Christian country; and the institution was held in such reverence, that a tribunal was established for the sole purpose of determining questions in regard to it. Divorces could not be obtained, until authorized by a sentence of this court after a patient hearing of the parties." [15]

Slavery seems to have always prevailed in Mexico. The captives taken in war were devoted to the gods under the sacrificial knife; but criminals, public debtors, extreme paupers, persons who willingly resigned their freedom, and children who were sold by their parents,—were allowed to be held in bondage and to be transferred from hand to hand, but only in cases in which their masters were compelled by poverty to part with them.

A nation over which the god of war presided and whose king was selected, mainly, for his abilities as a chieftain, naturally guarded and surrounded itself with a well devised military system. Religion and war were blended in the imperial ritual. Montezuma, himself had been a priest before he ascended the throne. This dogma of the Aztec policy, originated, perhaps, in the necessity of keeping up a constant military spirit among a people whose instincts were probably civilized, but whose geographical position exposed them, in the beginning, to the attacks of unquiet and annoying tribes. The captives were sacrificed to the bloody [Pg 106] deity in all likelihood, because it was necessary to free the country from dangerous Indians, who could neither be imprisoned, for they were too numerous, nor allowed to return to their tribes, because they would speedily renew the attack on their Aztec liberators.

Accordingly we find that the Mexican armies were properly officered, divided, supported and garrisoned, throughout the empire;—that there were military orders of merit;—that the dresses of the leaders, and even of some of the regiments, were gaudily picturesque;—that their arms were excellent;—and that the soldier who died in combat, was considered by his superstitious countrymen, as passing at once to "the region of ineffable bliss in the bright mansions of the sun." Nor were these military establishments left to the caprice of petty officers for their judicial system. They possessed a set of recorded laws which were as sure and severe as the civil or criminal code of the empire;—and, finally, when the Aztec soldier became too old to fight, or was disabled in the national wars, he was provided for in admirable hospitals which were established in all the principal cities of the realm.

But all this expensive machinery of state and royalty, was not supported without ample revenues from the people. There was a currency of different values regulated by trade, which consisted of quills filled with gold dust; of pieces of tin cut in the form of a T; of balls of cotton, and bags of cacao containing a specified number of grains. The greater part of Aztec trade was, nevertheless, carried on by barter; and, thus, we find that the large taxes which were derived by Montezuma from the crown lands, agriculture, manufactures, and the labors or occupations of the people generally, were paid in "cotton dresses and mantles of feather-work; ornamented armor; vases of gold; gold dust, bands and bracelets; crystal, gilt and varnished jars and goblets; bells, arms and utensils of copper; reams of paper; grain; fruits, copal, amber, cochineal, cacao, wild animals, birds, timber, lime, mats," and a general medley in which the luxuries and necessaries of life were strangely mixed. It is not a little singular that silver, which since the conquest has become the leading staple export of Mexico, is not mentioned in the royal inventories which escaped destruction. [16]

The Mexican Mythology was a barbarous compound of spiritualism and idolatry. The Aztecs believed in and relied on a supreme God whom they called Teotl, "God," or Ipalnemoani—"he by whom we live," and Tloque Nahuaque,—"he who has all in himself;" while their counter-spirit or demon, who was ever the enemy [Pg 107] and seducer of their race bore the inauspicious title of Tlaleatecolototl, or the "Rational Owl." The dark, nocturnal deeds of this ominous bird, probably indicated its greater fitness for the typification of wickedness than of wisdom, of which the Greeks had flatteringly made it the symbol, as the pet of Minerva. These supreme spiritual essences were surrounded by a numerous court of satellites or lesser deities, who were perhaps the ministerial agents by which the behests of Teotl were performed. There was Huitzilopotchtli, the god of war, and Teoyaomiqui, his spouse, whose tender duties were confined to conducting the souls of warriors who perished in defence of their homes and shrines, into the "house of the sun," which was the Aztec heaven. The image in the plate, presented in front and in profile, is alleged to represent this graceful female, though it gives no idea of her holy offices. Tetzcatlipoca was the shining mirror, the god of providence, the soul of the world, creator of heaven and earth, and master of all things. Ometcuctli and Omecihuatl, a god and goddess presided over new born children, and, reigning in Paradise, benignantly granted the wishes of mortals. Cihuacohuatl, or, woman-serpent, was regarded as the mother of human beings. Tonatricli and Meztli were deifications of the sun and moon. Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc were deities of the air and of water, whilst Xiuhteuctli was the god of fire to whom the first morsel and the first draught at table were always devoted by the Aztecs. Mictlanteuctli and Joalteuctli were the gods of hell and night, while the generous goddess of the earth and grain who was worshipped by the Totonacos as an Indian Ceres, enjoyed the more euphonious title of Centeotl. Huitzilopotchtli or Mexitli, the god of war, was an especial favorite with the Aztecs, for it was this divinity according to their legends who had led them from the north, and protected them during their long journey until they settled in the valley of Mexico. Nor did he desert them during the rise and progress of their nation. Addicted as they were to war, this deity was always invoked before battle and was recompensed for the victories he bestowed upon his favorite people by bloody hecatombs of captives taken from the enemies of the empire. We have already spoken of this personage in the portion of this work which treats of the Spanish conquest of Mexico.


If the Mexicans had their gods, so also had they their final abodes of blessedness and misery. Soldiers who were slain in conflict for their country or who perished in captivity, and the [Pg 108]
[Pg 109]
[Pg 110]
spirits of women who died in child-birth, went at once to the "house of the sun" to enjoy a life of eternal pleasure. At dawn they hailed the rising orb with song and dances, and attended him to the meridian and his setting with music and festivity. The Aztecs believed that, after some years spent amid these pleasures, the beatified spirits of the departed were changed into clouds or birds of beautiful plumage, though they had power to ascend again whenever they pleased to the heaven they had left. There was another place called Tlalocan the dwelling place of Tlaloc, the deity of water, which was also an Aztec elysium. It was the spirit-home of those who were drowned or struck by lightning,—of children sacrificed in honor of Tlaloc,—and of those who died of dropsy, tumors, or similar diseases. Last of all, was Mictlan, a gloomy hell of perfect darkness, in which, incessant night, unilluminated by the twinkling of a single ray, was the only punishment, and the probable type of annihilation.


A view of a statue



A different view of the statue



The figure which is delineated in the plate representing Teoyaomiqui, is cut from a single block of basalt, and is nine feet high and five and a half broad. It is a horrid assemblage of hideous emblems. Claws, fangs, tusks, skulls and serpents, writhe and hang in garlands around the shapeless mass. Four open hands rest, apparently without any purpose, upon the bared breasts of a female. In profile, it is not unlike a squatting toad, whose glistening eyes and broad mouth expand above the cincture of skulls and serpents. Seen in this direction it appears to have more shape and meaning than in front. On the top of the statue there is a hollow, which was probably used as the receptacle of offerings or incense during sacrifice. The bottom of this mass is also sculptured in relief, and as it will be observed in the plate, that there are projections of the body near the waist, it is supposed that this frightful idol was suspended by them aloft on pillars, so that its worshippers might pass beneath the massive stone.


In 1790, this idol was found buried in the great square of Mexico, whence it was removed to the court of the university; but as the priests feared that it might again tempt the Indians to their ancient worship, it was interred until the year 1821, since which time it has been exhibited to the public.


[Pg 111]

Another view of the statue



The reader who has accompanied us from the beginning of this volume and perused the history of the Spanish conquest, has doubtless become somewhat familiar with the great square of ancient Tenochtitlan, its Teocalli, or pyramidal temple, and the bloody rites that were celebrated upon it, by the Aztec priests and princes. It served as a place of sacrifice, not only for the Indian victims of war, but streamed with the blood of the unfortunate Spaniards who fell into the power of the Mexicans when Cortéz was driven from the city.

This Teocalli is said to have been completed in the year 1486, during the reign of the eighth sovereign of Tenochtitlan or Mexico, and occupied that portion of the present city upon which the cathedral stands and which is occupied by some of the adjacent streets and buildings. Its massive proportions and great extent may be estimated from the restoration of this edifice, which we have attempted to form from the best authorities, and have presented in a plate in the preceding portion of this work.


The Mexican theology indulged in two kinds of sacrifice, one [Pg 112] of which was an ordinary offering of a common victim, while the other, or gladiatorial sacrifice, was only used for captives of extraordinary courage and bravery.

When we recollect the fact that the Aztec tribe was an intruder into the valley of Anahuac, and that it laid the foundations of its capital in the midst of enemies, we are not surprised that so hardy a race, from the northern hive, was both warlike in its habits and sanguinary in its religion. With a beautiful land around it on all sides,—level, fruitful, but incapable of easy defence,—it was forced to quit the solid earth and to build its stronghold in the waters of the lake. We can conceive no other reason for the selection of such a site. The eagle may have been seen on a rock amid the water devouring the serpent; but we do not believe that this emblem of the will of heaven, in guiding the wanderers to their refuge in the lake of Tezcoco, was known to more than the leaders of the tribe until it became necessary to control the band by the interposition of a miracle. Something more was needed than mere argument, to plant a capital in the water, and, thus, we doubt not, that the singular omen, in which the modern arms of Mexico have originated, was contrived or invented by the priests or chiefs of the unsettled Aztecs.

Surrounded by enemies, with nothing that they could strictly call their own, save the frail retreat among the reeds and rushes of their mimic Venice, it undoubtedly became necessary for the Aztecs to keep no captives taken in war. Their gardens, like their town, were constructed upon the Chinampas, or floating beds of earth and wicker work, which were anchored in the lake. They could not venture, at any distance from its margin, to cultivate the fields. When they sallied from their city, they usually left it for the battle field; and, when they returned, it is probable that it seemed to them not only a propitiation of their gods, but a mercy to the victims, to sacrifice their numerous captives, who if retained in idleness as prisoners would exact too large a body for their custody, or, if allowed to go at large, might rise against their victors, and, in either case, would soon consume the slender stores they were enabled to raise by their scant horticulture. In examining the history of the Aztecs, and noticing the mixture of civilization which adorned their public and private life, and the barbarism which characterized their merciless religion, we have been convinced that the Aztec rite of sacrifice originated, in the infancy of the state in a national necessity, and, at length, under the influence of superstition and policy, grew into an ordinance of faith and worship.

[Pg 113] The Common Sacrifice, offered in the Aztec temples was performed by a chief priest, and six assistants. The principal flamen, habited in a red scapulary fringed with cotton, and crowned with a circlet of green and yellow plumes, assumed, for the occasion, the name of the deity to whom the offering was made. His acolytes,—clad in white robes embroidered with black; their hands covered with leathern thongs; their foreheads filleted with parti-colored papers; and their bodies dyed perfectly black,—prepared the victim for the altar, and having dressed him in the insignia of the deity to whom he was to be sacrificed, bore him through the town begging alms for the temple. He was then carried to the summit of the Teocalli, where four priests extended him across the curving surface of an arched stone placed on the sacrificial stone, while another held his head firmly beneath the yoke which is represented elsewhere. The chief priest,—the topiltzin or sacrificer, then stretched the breast of the victim tightly by bending his body back as far as possible, and, seizing the obsidian knife of sacrifice, cut a deep gash across the region of the captive's heart. The extreme tension of the flesh and muscles, at once yielded beneath the blade, and the heart of the victim lay palpitating in the bloody gap. The sacrificer immediately thrust his hand into the wound, and, tearing out the quivering vital, threw it at the feet of the idol,—inserted it with a golden spoon into its mouth,—or, after offering it to the deity, consumed it in fire and preserved the sacred ashes with the greatest reverence. When these horrid rites were finished in the temple, the victim's body was thrown from the top of the Teocalli, whence it was borne to the dwelling of the individual who offered the sacrifice, where it was eaten by himself and his friends, or, was devoted to feed the beasts in the royal menagerie.

Numerous cruel sacrifices were practised by the Indians of Mexico, and especially among the Quauhtitlans, who, every four years, slew eight slaves or captives, in a manner almost too brutal for description. Sometimes the Aztecs contented themselves with other and more significant oblations; and flowers, fruits, bread, meat, copal, gums, quails, and rabbits, were offered on the altars of their gods. The priests, no doubt, approved these gifts far more than the tough flesh of captives or slaves!

The Gladiatorial Sacrifice was reserved, as we have already said for noble and courageous captives. According to Clavigero, a circular mass, three feet high, resembling a mill stone, was placed within the area of the great temple upon a raised terrace [Pg 114] about eight feet from the wall. The captive was bound to this stone by one foot, and was armed with a sword or maquahuitl and shield. In this position, and thus accoutred, he was attacked by a Mexican soldier or officer, who was better prepared with weapons for the deadly encounter. If the prisoner was conquered he was immediately borne to the altar of common sacrifice. If he overcame six assailants he was rewarded with life and liberty, and permitted once more to return to his native land with the spoils that had been taken from him in war. Clavigero supposes that for many years, twenty thousand victims were offered on the Mexican teocallis, in the "common sacrifice;" and in the consecration of the great temple, sixty thousand persons were slain in order to baptise the pyramid with their blood.


A view of the decorative stone



An excellent idea of the sacrificial stone, will be obtained from the plates which are annexed. Neat and graceful ornaments, are raised in relief on the surface, and in the centre is a deep bowl, whence a canal or gutter leads to the edge of the cylinder. It is a mass of basaltic rock nine feet in diameter and three in height, and was found in the great square in 1790, near the site of the large teocalli or pyramid. On its sides are repeated, all round the [Pg 115] stone, the same two figures which are drawn in the second plate. They evidently represent a victor and a prisoner. The conqueror is in the act of tearing the plumes from the crest of the vanquished, who bows beneath the blow and lowers his weapons. The similarity of these figures to some that are delineated in the first volume of Stephens' Yucatan is remarkable.


Another view of the decorative stone



The Aztec Calendar Stone, another monument of Mexican antiquity, was found in December, 1790, buried under ground in the great square of the capital. Like the idol image of Teoyaomiqui, and the sacrificial stone, it is carved from a mass of basalt, and is eleven feet eight inches in diameter, the depth of its circular edge being about seven and a half inches from the fractured square of rock out of which it was originally cut. It is supposed, from the fact that it was found beneath the pavement of the present plaza, that it was part of the fixtures of the great Teocalli of Tenochtitlan, or that it was placed in some of the adjoining edifices on palaces surrounding the temple. It is now walled into the west side of the cathedral, and is a remarkable specimen of the talent of the Indians for sculpture, at the same time that its huge mass, together with those of the sacrificial stone and the idol Teoyaomiqui, denote the skill of their inventors in the movement of immense weights, without the aid of horses.


The Aztecs calculated their civil year by the solar; they divided it into eighteen months of twenty days each, and added five complimentary days, as in Egypt, to make up the complete number of three hundred and sixty-five. After the last of these months the five nemontemi or "useless days" were intercalated, and, belonging to no particular month, were regarded as unlucky, by the superstitious natives. Their week consisted of five days, the last of which was the market day; and a month was composed of four of these weeks. As the tropical year is composed of about six hours more than three hundred and sixty-five days, they lost a day every fourth year, which they supplied, not at the termination of that period, but at the expiration of their cycle of fifty-two years, when they intercalated the twelve days and a half that were lost. Thus it was found, at the period of the Spanish conquest, that their computation of time corresponded with the European, as calculated by the most accurate astronomers.

At the end of the Aztec or Toltec cycle of fifty-two years,—for it is not accurately ascertained to which of the tribes the astronomical science of Tenochtitlan is to be attributed,—these [Pg 116] primitive children of the New World believed that the world was in danger of instant destruction. Accordingly, its termination became one of their most serious and awful epochs, and they anxiously awaited the moment when the sun would be blotted out from the heavens, and the globe itself once more resolved unto chaos. As the cycle ended in the winter, the season of the year, with its drearier sky and colder air, in the lofty regions of the valley, added to the gloom that fell upon the hearts of the people. On the last day of the fifty-two years, all the fires in temples and dwellings were extinguished, and the natives devoted themselves to fasting and prayer. They destroyed alike their valuable and worthless wares; rent their garments; put out their lights, and hid themselves, for awhile in solitude. Pregnant women seem to have been the objects of their especial dread at this moment. They covered their faces with masks and imprisoned them securely, for they imagined, that on the occurrence of the grand and final catastrophe, these beings, who, elsewhere, are always the objects of peculiar interest and tenderness, would be suddenly turned into beasts of prey and would join the descending legions of demons, to revenge the injustice or cruelty of man.

At dark, on the last dread evening,—as soon as the sun had set, as they imagined, forever,—a sad and solemn procession of priests and people marched forth from the city to a neighboring hill, to rekindle the "New Fire." This mournful march was called the "procession of the gods," and was supposed to be their final departure from their temples and altars.

As soon as the melancholy array reached the summit of the hill, it reposed in fearful anxiety until the Pleiades reached the zenith in the sky, whereupon the priests immediately began the sacrifice of a human victim, whose breast was covered with a wooden shield, which the chief flamen kindled by friction. When the sufferer received the fatal stab from the sacrificial knife of obsidian, the machine was set in motion on his bosom, until the blaze had kindled. The anxious crowd stood round with fear and trembling. Silence reigned over nature and man. Not a word was uttered among the countless multitude that thronged the hill-sides and plains, whilst the priest performed his direful duty to the gods. At length, as the first sparks gleamed faintly from the whirling instrument, low sobs and ejaculations were whispered among the eager masses. As the sparks kindled into a blaze, and the blaze into a flame, and the flaming shield and victim were cast together on a pile of combustibles which burst at once into the brightness [Pg 117] of a conflagration, the air was rent with the joyous shouts of the relieved and panic stricken Indians. Far and wide over the dusky crowds beamed the blaze like a star of promise. Myriads of upturned faces greeted it from hills, mountains, temples, terraces, teocallis, house tops and city walls; and the prostrate multitudes hailed the emblem of light, life and fruition as a blessed omen of the restored favor of their gods and the preservation of the race for another cycle. At regular intervals, Indian couriers held aloft brands of resinous wood, by which they transmitted the "New Fire" from hand to hand, from village to village, and town to town, throughout the Aztec empire. Light was radiated from the imperial or ecclesiastical centre of the realm. In every temple and dwelling it was rekindled, from the sacred source; and when the sun rose again on the following morning, the solemn procession of priests, princes and subjects, which had taken up its march from the capital on the preceding night, with solemn steps, returned once more to the abandoned capital, and restoring the gods to their altars, abandoned themselves to joy and festivity in token of gratitude and relief from impending doom.


Their calendar of stone



[Pg 118] We have thought it proper and interesting to preface the description of the calendar stone by the preceding account of the Aztec festival of the New Fire, which illustrates the mingled elements of science and superstition that so largely characterized the empire of Montezuma. The stone itself has engaged the attention, for years, of numerous antiquarians in Mexico, Europe and America, but it has received from none so perfect a description, as from the late Albert Gallatin, who devoted a large portion of his declining years to the study of the ancient Mexican chronology and languages. In the first volume of the Transactions of the American Ethnological Society he has contributed an admirable summary of his investigations of the semi-civilized nations of Mexico, Yucatan and Central America, and from this we shall condense the portion which relates to this remarkable monument.

Around the principal central figure, representing the sun, are delineated in a circular form the twenty days of the month; which are marked from 1 to 20, with figures in the plates, and, in this order, are the following:

The triangular figure I, above the circle enclosing the emblem of the sun, denotes the beginning of the year. Around the circumference which bounds the symbols of the days and months are found the places of fifty-two small squares, of which only forty are actually visible, the other twelve being covered by the four principal rays of the sun marked R. These doubtless denote the cycle of 52 years; and each of these squares contains five small oblongs, making in all 260 for the 52 squares. They are presumed to represent the 260 days or the period of the twenty first series of thirteen days. All the portion, included between the outer circumference of these 260 days and the external zone, has not been decyphered accurately. The external zone consists, except at the extremities, of a symbol twenty times repeated, and is alleged by Gama, a Mexican who first described and attempted to interpret the stone, to represent the milky way. The waving lines connected with it are supposed by this writer to represent clouds, while others imagine them to be the symbols of the mountains in [Pg 119] which clouds and storms originated. These fanciful interpretations, however, are unavailable in all scientific descriptions, and Mr. Gallatin supposes the figures to be altogether ornamental.

The whole circle is divided into eight equal parts by the eight triangles R, which designate the rays of the sun. The intervals between these are each divided into two equal parts by the small circles indicated by the letter L. At the top of the vertical ray is found the hieroglyphic 13 Acatl, which shows that this stone applies to that year. It must be recollected that, although this Mexican calendar is in its arrangement the same for every year in the cycle, there was a variation at the rate of a day for every four years, between the several years of the cycle and the corresponding solar years. Gama presumes that this date of 13 Acatl was selected on account of its being the twenty-sixth year of the cycle and equally removed from its beginning and termination. Beneath this hieroglyphic, in correct drawings of the stone—but not in that of Gama which has been reproduced by Mr. Gallatin—will be found, between the letters Y and G, the distinct sign of 2, Acatl, and the ray above it points to the sign of the year 13 Acatl, which coincides with our 21st of December, and is undoubtedly the hitherto undetermined date of the winter solstice in the Mexican calendar. [17]

The smaller interior circle, we have already said, contains the image of the sun, as usually painted by the Indians; and to it are united the four parallelograms A, B, C, D, which are supposed by some writers to denote the four weeks into which the twenty days of the month were divided, but which contain the hieroglyphics, A, of 4 Ocelotl; B, of 4 Ehecatl; C, of 4 Quiahuitl; and D, of 4 Atl. The lateral figures E and F, according to Gama denote claws, which are symbolical of two great Indian astrologers who were man and wife, and were represented as eagles or owls.

The representations in these parallelograms, are believed to have originated in the Mexican fable of the suns, which will be hereafter noticed. The Aztecs believed that this luminary had died four times, and that the one which at present lights the earth, was the fifth, but which nevertheless was doomed to destruction like the preceding orbs. From the creation, the first age or sun, lasted 676 years, comprising 13 cycles, when the crops failed, men perished of famine and their bodies were consumed by the beasts of the field. This occurred in the year 1 Acatl, and on the day 4 Ocelotl, and [Pg 120] the ruin lasted for thirteen years. The next age and sun endured 364 years or 7 cycles, and terminated in the year 1 Tecpatl on the day 4 Ehecatl, when hurricanes and rain desolated the globe and men were metamorphosed into monkeys. The third age continued for 312 years, or 6 cycles, when fire or earthquakes rent the earth and human beings were converted into owls in the year 1 Tecpatl, on the day 4 Quiahuitl;—while the fourth age or sun lasted but for a single cycle of 52 years, and the world was destroyed by a flood, which either drowned the people or changed them into fishes, in the year 1 Calli, on the day 4 Atl. The four epochs of destruction are precisely the days typified by the hieroglyphics in the four parallelograms A, B, C and D.

It will be seen by adding the several periods together that the Aztecs counted 1469 years from the creation of the world to the flood; yet there is an incongruity in this imaginary antediluvian history. If the fourth age had lasted only 52 years, it would have terminated in the year 1 Tecpatl instead of 1 Calli. Bustamante, the publisher and annotator of Gama, states that some authorities contend for only three antecedent periods, and that the present age is expected to end by fire. But Mr. Gallatin alleges that the four ages and five suns have been generally adopted, and are sustained by the ancient Aztec paintings contained in the Codex Vaticanus, plates 7 to 10. Like most of the Mexican antiquities, this branch of the Chronology is admitted to be exceedingly obscure, for it is asserted in the Appendix to Mr. Gallatin's essay that the hieroglyphics annexed to these paintings, may be interpreted as giving to the four ages respectively the duration of either 682, 530, 576, and 582, or of 5206, 2010, 4404, and 4008 years.

"This would appear to be purely mythological, but the fact that all these imaginary antediluvian periods consist of a certain number of cycles, shows that this fable was invented subsequent to the time when the Mexicans had attained a knowledge of cycles, years and of the approximate length of the solar year. It seems, therefore, probable that the mythological representation is in some way connected with celestial phenomena, and it is accordingly, found that the days designated in the parallelograms A and C, as 4 Ocelotl, and 4 Quiahuitl, correspond respectively, (on the assumption that the first year of the cycle corresponds with the 31st of December,) with the 13th of May and 17th of July, old style, or 22d of May and 26th of July, new style. And these two days 22d of May and 26th of July, are those, according to Gama, of the transit of the sun by the zenith of the city of Mexico, which, by the observations of [Pg 121] Humboldt, lies in 19° 25' and 57" north latitude and in 101° 25' 20" west longitude from Paris. The two other days 4 Ehecatl, and 4 Atl, do not correspond either in the first year of the cycle or in the year 13 Acatl, with any station of the sun or any other celestial phenomena.

"There are three other hieroglyphics contained within the interior circumference or representation of the sun, which indicate the dates of some celebrated feasts of the Aztecs. The three following indications or hieroglyphics are found immediately below the figure of the sun. The first of these, designated by the letter H, is placed between the parallelograms C and D, and consists of two squares of five oblongs each, indicating the Aztec numeral 10. The symbol of the day is not annexed, but the whole of the central figure is itself the sign Olin Tonatiah, and the hieroglyphic of the day Olin, as delineated on the stone among the other emblems of the days, is on a small scale and abbreviated form of that central and principal figure of the stone. The day designated here, is consequently, 10 Olin. Below this, and on each side respectively of the great vertical ray of the sun, are found the hieroglyphics of the days 1 Quiahuitl, and 2 Ozomatli. Of the last mentioned days,—10 Olin corresponds in the first year of the cycle, with the 22d day of September, new style;—1 Quiahuitl with the 28th of March, and 2 Ozomatli with the 28th of June, as will be seen by the table at the end of this description of the calendar.

"We find, therefore, delineated on this stone all the dates of the principal positions of the sun, and it thus appears that the Aztecs had ascertained with considerable precision the respective days of the two passages of the sun by the zenith of Mexico, of the two equinoxes, and of the summer and winter solstices. They had therefore six different means of ascertaining and verifying the length of the solar year by counting the number of days elapsed till the sun returned to each of these six points,—the two solstices, the two equinoxes, and the two passages by the zenith." [18]


[Pg 122]



Column Headings:
A: Names of the months.
B: Tititl.
C: Itzcalli.
D: Xilomanaliztli.
E: Tlacaxipehnaliztli.
F: Tozoztontli.
G: Hueytozoztli.
H: Toxcall.
I: Etzalqualiztli.
J: Tecuilhuitontli.
K: Heuytecuilhuitl.
L: Miccailhuitonili.
M: Heuymiccailhuitl.
N: Ochpaniztli.
O: Pachtli.
P: Heuypachtli.
Q: Quecholli.
R: Panquetzaliztli.
S: Atenioztli.
T: The five Nemontemi.
Months. 1st 2d 3d 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
Day of the Julian year, N. S., on which each month begins. Jan. 9 Jan. 29 Feb. 18 Mar. 10 Mar. 30 Apr. 19 May 9 May 29 June 18 July 8
  1 Sea Animal  Cipactli 1 a 8 c 2 e 9 g 3 i 10 b 4 d 11 f 5 h 12 a
  2 Wind  Ehecatl 2 b 9 d 3 f 10 h 4 a 11 c 5 e 12 g 6 i 13 b
  3 House  Calli 3 c 10 e 4 g 11 i 5 b 12 d 6 f 13 h 7 a 1 c
  4 Small Lizard  Cuetzpalin 4 d 11 f 5 h 12 a 6 c 13 e 7 g 1 i 8 b 2 d
  5 Serpent  Cohuatl 5 e 12 g 6 i 13 b 7 d 1 f 8 h 2 a 9 c 3 e
  6 Death  Miquiztli 6 f 13 h 7 a 1 c 8 e 2 g 9 i 3 b 10 d 4 f
  7 Deer  Mazatl 7 g 1 i 8 b 2 d 9 f 3 h 10 a 4 c 11 e 5 g
  8 Rabbit  Tochtli 8 h 2 a 9 c 3 e 10 g 4 i 11 b 5 d 12 f 6 h
  9 Water  Atl 9 i 3 b 10 d 4 f 11 h 5 a 12 c 6 e 13 g 7 i
10 Dog  Itzcuintli 10 a 4 c 11 e 5 g 12 i 6 b 13 d 7 f 1 h 8 a
11 Ape  Ozomatli 11 b 5 d 2 f 6 h 13 a 7 c 1 e 8 g 2 i 9 b
12 Twisted Grass  Malinalli 12 c 6 e 13 g 7 i 1 b 8 d 2 f 9 h 3 a 10 c
13 Reed  Acatl 13 d 7 f 1 h 8 a 2 c 9 e 3 g 10 i 4 b 11 d
14 Tiger  Ocelotl 1 e 8 g 2 i 9 b 3 d 10 f 4 h 11 a 5 c 12 e
15 Eagle  Quauhtli 2 f 9 h 3 a 10 c 4 e 11 g 5 i 12 b 6 d 13 f
16 Bird (Aura)  Cozcaquauhtli 3 g 10 i 4 b 11 d 5 f 12 h 6 a 13 c 7 e 1 g
17 Motion of Sun  Ollin 4 h 11 a 5 c 12 e 6 g 13 i 7 b 1 d 8 f 2 h
18 Pedestal Silex  Tecpatl 5 i 12 b 6 d 13 f 7 h 1 a 8 c 2 e 9 g 3 i
19 Rain  Quiahuitl 6 a 13 c 7 e 1 g 8 i 2 b 9 d 3 f 10 h 4 a
20 Flower  Xochitl 7 b 1 d 8 f 2 h 9 a 3 c 10 e 4 g 11 i 5 b
Day of the year corresponding with last day of each month. 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 180 200
Day of the Julian year, N. S., on which each month ends. Jan. 28 Feb. 17 Mar. 9 Mar. 29 Apr. 18 May 8 May 28 June 17 July 7 July 27




Column Headings:
A: Names of the months.
B: Tititl.
C: Itzcalli.
D: Xilomanaliztli.
E: Tlacaxipehnaliztli.
F: Tozoztontli.
G: Hueytozoztli.
H: Toxcall.
I: Etzalqualiztli.
J: Tecuilhuitontli.
K: Heuytecuilhuitl.
L: Miccailhuitonili.
M: Heuymiccailhuitl.
N: Ochpaniztli.
O: Pachtli.
P: Heuypachtli.
Q: Quecholli.
R: Panquetzaliztli.
S: Atenioztli.
T: The five Nemontemi.
Months. 11th 12th 13th 14th 15th 16th 17th 18th  
Day of the Julian year, N. S., on which each month begins. July 28 Aug. 17 Sept. 6 Sept. 26 Oct. 16 Nov. 5 Nov. 25 Dec. 15 Jan. 4
  1 Sea Animal  Cipactli 6 c 13 e 7 g 1 i 8 b 2 d 9 f 3 h 10
  2 Wind  Ehecatl 7 d 1 f 8 h 2 a 9 c 3 e 10 g 4 i 11
  3 House  Calli 8 e 2 g 9 i 3 b 10 d 4 f 11 h 5 a 12
  4 Small Lizard  Cuetzpalin 9 f 3 h 10 a 4 c 11 e 5 g 12 i 6 b 13
  5 Serpent  Cohuatl 10 g 4 i 11 b 5 d 12 f 6 h 13 a 7 c  
  6 Death  Miquiztli 11 h 5 a 12 c 6 e 13 g 7 i 1 b 8 d  
  7 Deer  Mazatl 12 i 6 b 13 d 7 f 1 h 8 a 2 c 9 e  
  8 Rabbit  Tochtli 13 a 7 c 1 e 8 g 2 i 9 b 3 d 10 f  
  9 Water  Atl 1 b 8 d 2 f 9 h 3 a 10 c 4 e 11 g  
10 Dog  Itzcuintli 2 c 9 e 3 g 10 i 4 b 11 d 5 f 12 h  
11 Ape  Ozomatli 3 d 10 f 4 h 11 a 5 c 12 e 6 g 13 i  
12 Twisted Grass  Malinalli 4 e 11 g 5 i 12 b 6 d 13 f 7 h 1 a  
13 Reed  Acatl 5 f 12 h 6 a 13 c 7 e 1 g 8 i 2 b  
14 Tiger  Ocelotl 6 g 13 i 7 b 1 d 8 f 2 h 9 a 3 c  
15 Eagle  Quauhtli 7 h 1 a 8 c 2 e 9 g 3 i 10 b 4 d  
16 Bird (Aura)  Cozcaquauhtli 8 i 2 b 9 d 3 f 10 h 4 a 11 c 5 e  
17 Motion of Sun  Ollin 9 a 3 c 10 e 4 g 11 i 5 b 12 d 6 f  
18 Pedestal Silex  Tecpatl 10 b 4 d 11 f 5 h 12 a 6 c 13 e 7 g  
19 Rain  Quiahuitl 11 c 5 e 12 g 6 i 13 b 7 d 1 f 8 h  
20 Flower  Xochitl 12 d 6 f 13 h 7 a 1 c 8 e 2 g 9 i  
Day of the year corresponding with last day of each month. 220 240 260 280 300 320 340 360 365
Day of the Julian year, N. S., on which each month ends. Aug. 16 Sept. 5 Sept. 25 Oct. 15 Nov. 4 Nov. 24 Dec. 14 Jan. 3 Jan. 8


[Pg 123] In this perpetual almanac, each day in the year is designated by three characteristics derived from the combination of three series, viz.: That of the 20 days of the month, each of which has a distinct name and hieroglyphic, from Cipactli to Xochitl; and as these names are the same and in the same order in every month, the column in which they are set down answers for every month. The series of 13 days, designed by its proper numeral from 1 to 13. And the series of the 9 night companions, designated in this Table by the letters a, b, ... h, i, viz.:

Thus every day in the year is so distinguished that it can never be confounded with any other. The day 4 Ollin is the 17th day of both the first and the fourteenth month; but in the first instance it is distinguished by the letter h, and in the second by the letter g. If the characteristics of the 9th day of the 10th month be required, the Table shows that it is 7 Atl i; and thus also the 13th day of the 16th month (Quecholli) is shown to be 1 Acatl g, and the 313th of the year.

But it is only for the first year of the cycle (1 Tochtli) that the Mexican year corresponds with ours in the manner stated in the Table. For, on account of our intercalation of one day every bissextile year, the Mexican year receded, as compared with ours, one day every four years. This correction must therefore be made, whenever a comparison of the dates is wanted for any other than the first year of the cycle. The Mexican intercalation of 13 days at the end of the cycle of 52 years made again the first year of every cycle correspond with our year, in the manner stated in the Table.

Another correction is again necessary, when we have a Tescocan instead of a Mexican date. For the first year of the Mexican cycle was 1 Tochtli, and that of Tescoco was 1 Acatl; which caused a difference now of three, now of ten days in their calendars, which in every other respect were the same. Both corrections appear in the second Table.—Trans. Amer. Ethnol. Soc., vol. i, p. 114. Tables C1, and C2.


      Julian Year.
  Mexican A. D. Old Style. New Style.
  year.   Mexico. Tescoco. Mexico. Tescoco.
1st year of Mexican Cycle  1 Tochtli 1454 Dec. 31 Dec. 21 Jan. 9 Dec. 30
  Bissextile year  3 Tecpatl 1456 30 20 8 29
    do.  7   do. 1460 29 19 7 28
    do. 11  do. 1464 28 18 6 27
Tescocan inter'n 13 days            
1st year of Tesco'n Cycle  1 Acatl 1467 28 31 6 Jan. 9
  Bissextile year  2 Tecpatl 1468 27 30 5 8
    do.  6   do. 1472 26 29 4 7
    do. 10  do. 1476 25 28 3 6
    do.  1   do. 1480 24 27 2 5
    do.  5   do. 1484 23 26 1 4
    do.  9   do. 1488 22 25 Dec. 31 3
    do. 13  do. 1492 21 24 30 2
    do.  4   do. 1496 20 23 29 1
    do.  8   do. 1500 19 22 28 Dec. 31
    do. 12  do. 1504 18 21 27 30
Mexican intercal 13 days            
1st year of Mexic'n Cycle  1 Tochtli 1506 31 21 Jan. 9 30
  Bissextile year  3 Tecpatl 1508 30 20 8 29
    do.  7   do. 1512 29 19 7 28
    do. 11  do. 1516 28 18 6 27
Tescocan inter'n 13 days            
1st year Tesco'n Cycle Cortéz enters Mexico  1 Acatl 1519 28 31 6 Jan. 9
  Bissextile year  2 Tecpatl 1520 27 30 5 8
  Capture of Mexico  3 Calli 1521 27 30 5 8


[Pg 124]


1st year. 14th year. 27th year. 40th year.
 1 Tochtli  1 Acatl  1 Tecpatl  1 Calli
 2 Acatl  2 Tecpatl  2 Calli  2 Tochtli
 3 Tecpatl  3 Calli  3 Tochtli  3 Acatl
 4 Calli  4 Tochtli  4 Acatl  4 Tecpatl
 5 Tochtli  5 Acatl  5 Tecpatl  5 Calli
 6 Acatl  6 Tecpatl  6 Calli  6 Tochtli
 7 Tecpatl  7 Calli  7 Tochtli  7 Acatl
 8 Calli  8 Tochtli  8 Acatl  8 Tecpatl
 9 Tochtli  9 Acatl  9 Tecpatl  9 Calli
10 Acatl 10 Tecpatl 10 Calli 10 Tochtli
11 Tecpatl 11 Calli 11 Tochtli 11 Acatl
12 Calli 12 Tochtli 12 Acatl 12 Tecpatl
13 Tochtli 13 Acatl 13 Tecpatl 13 Calli

See 1st vol. Ethnol. Trans. ut antea page 63.


[13] No doubt tortillias, or maize cakes—still the staff of life with all the Indians and, indeed, a favorite and daily food of all classes of Mexicans.

[14] Bernal Diaz Del Castillo's Hist. Conq. Mexico.

[15] Prescott, vol. 1, p. 35.

[16] Prescott, vol. 1, p. 39, and compare Lorenzana's edition of Cortéz's letters.

[17] See Ethnological Trans. 1 vol., p. 96, and Am. Journal of Science and Arts, second series, vol. vii., p. 155. March No. for 1849.

[18] See Trans. Amer. Ethnol. Soc'y., vol. 1, p. 94. We should remark that the letters Q. Q., X. Z., P. P., S. Y., on the edge of the stone, denote holes cut into it, in which it is asserted that gnomons were placed whose shadows on the calendar converted it into a dial.

[Pg 125]




[Pg 126]
[Pg 127]




Before we present the reader a brief sketch of the viceroyal government of New Spain, it may, in no small degree, contribute to the elucidation of this period if we review the Spanish colonial system that prevailed from the conquest to the revolution which resulted in independence.

As soon as the Spaniards had plundered the wealth accumulated by the Incas and the Aztecs in the semi-civilized empires of Mexico and Peru, they turned their attention to the government of the colonies which they saw springing up as if by enchantment. The allurements of gold and the enticements of a prolific soil, under delicious skies, had not yet ceased to inflame the ardent national fancy of Spain, so that an eager immigration escaped by every route to America. An almost regal and absolute power was vested by special grants from the king in the persons who were despatched from his court to found the first governments in the New World. But this authority was so abused by some of the ministerial agents that Charles V. took an early occasion to curb [Pg 128] their power and diminish their original privileges. The Indians who had been divided with the lands among the conquerors by the slavish system of repartimientos, were declared to be the king's subjects. In 1537 the Pope issued a decree declaring the aborigines to be "really and truly men,"—"ipsos veros homines,"—who were capable of receiving the Christian faith.

The sovereign was ever regarded from the first as the direct fountain of all authority throughout Spanish America. All his provinces were governed as colonies and his word was their supreme law. In 1511, Ferdinand created a new governmental department for the control of his American subjects, denominated the Council of the Indies, but it was not fully organized until the reign of Charles the Fifth in 1524. The Recopilacion de las leyes de las Indias declared that this council should have supreme jurisdiction over all the Western Indies pertaining to the Spanish crown, which had been discovered, at that period, or which might thereafter be discovered;—that this jurisdiction should extend over all their interests and affairs; and, moreover, that the council, with the royal assent, should make all laws and ordinances, necessary for the welfare of those provinces. [19] This Council of the Indies consisted of a president, who was the king, four secretaries, and twenty-two counsellors, and the members were usually chosen from among those who had either been viceroys or held high stations abroad. It appointed all the officers employed in America in compliance with the nomination of the crown, and every one was responsible to it for his conduct. As soon as this political and legislative machine was created it began its scheme of law making for the colonies, not, however, upon principles of national right, but according to such dictates of expediency or profit as might accrue to the Spaniards. From time to time they were apprised of the wants of the colonists, but far separated as they were from the subject of their legislation, they naturally committed many errors in regard to a people with whom they had not the sympathy of a common country, and common social or industrial interests. They legislated either for abstractions or with the selfish view of working the colonies for the advantage of the Spanish crown rather than for the gradual and beautiful development of American capabilities. The mines of this continent first attracted the attention of Spain, and the prevailing principle of the scheme adopted in regard to them, was, that the mother country should [Pg 129] produce the necessaries or luxuries of life for her colonial vassals, whilst they recompensed their parent with a bountiful revenue of gold and silver.

The bungling, blind, and often corrupt legislation of the Council of the Indies soon filled its records with masses of contradictory and useless laws, so that although there were many beneficent acts, designed especially for the comfort of the Indians, the administration of so confused a system became almost incompatible with justice. If the source of law was vicious its administration was not less impure. The principal courts of justice were the Audiencias reales, or Royal Audiences. In addition to the president,—who was the Viceroy, or Captain General,—the audiencia or court was composed of a regent, three judges, two fiscales or attorneys, (one for civil and the other for criminal cases) a reporter, and an alguazil, or constable. The members of these courts were appointed by the king himself, and, being almost without exception, natives of old Spain, they possessed but few sympathies for the colonists.

After the Royal Audiences, came the Cabildos whose members, consisting of regidores and other persons appointed by the king, and of two alcaldes annually elected by the regidores from among the people,—constituted a municipal body in almost every town or village of importance. These cabildos had no legislative jurisdiction, but superintended the execution of the laws within their districts and regulated all minor local matters. The office of regidor was a regular matter of bargain and sale; and, as the regidores subsequently elected the alcaldes, it will be seen that this admitted of great corruption, and tended to augment the direct oppression of the masses subjected to their jurisdiction. It was an instrument to increase the wealth and strengthen the tyrannical power of the rulers.

These ill regulated audiencias and cabildos, were, in themselves, capable of destroying all principles of just harmony, and were sufficient to corrupt the laws both in their enactment and administration. But all men were not equal before these tribunals. A system of fueros or privileges, opposed innumerable obstacles. These were the privileges of corporate bodies and of the professions; of the clergy, called public or common; and of the monks, canons, inquisitions, college, and universities; the privileges of persons employed in the royal revenue service; the general privileges of the military, which were extended also to the militia, and the especial privileges of the marines, of engineers, and of the [Pg 130] artillery. An individual enjoying any of these privileges was elevated above the civil authority, and, whether as plaintiff or defendant, was subject only to the chief of the body to which he belonged, both in civil and criminal cases. So great a number of jurisdictions created an extricable labyrinth, which, by keeping up a ceaseless conflict between the chiefs in regard to the extent of their powers, stimulated each one to sustain his own authority at all hazards, and, with such resoluteness as to employ even force to gain his purpose. [20] Bribery, intrigue, delay, denial of justice, outrage, ruin, were the natural results of such a system of complicated irresponsibility; and consequently it is not singular to find even now in Mexico and South America large masses of people who are utterly ignorant of the true principles upon which justice should be administered or laws enacted for its immaculate protection. The manifesto of independence issued by the Buenos Ayrean Congress in 1816, declares that all public offices belong exclusively to the Spaniards; and although the Americans were equally entitled to them by the laws, they were appointed only in rare instances, and even then, not without satiating the cupidity of the court by enormous sums of money. Of one hundred and seventy viceroys who governed on this continent but four were Americans; and of six hundred and ten Captains General and Governors, all but fourteen were natives of old Spain! Thus it is evident that not only were the Spanish laws bad in their origin, but the administrative system under which they operated denied natives of America in almost all cases the possibility of self government.

The evil schemes of Spain did not stop, however, with the enactment of laws, or their administration. The precious metals had originally tempted her, as we have already seen, and she did not fail to build up a commercial system which was at once to bind the colonists forever to the mines, whilst it enriched and excited her industry at home in arts, manufactures, agriculture, and navigation. As the Atlantic rolled between the old world and the new, America was excluded from all easy or direct means of intercourse with other states of Europe, especially at a period when the naval power of Spain was important, and frequent wars made the navigation of foreign merchantmen or smugglers somewhat dangerous in the face of her cruisers. Spain therefore interdicted all commercial intercourse between her colonies and the rest [Pg 131] of the world, thus maintaining a strict monopoly of trade in her own hands. All imports and exports were conveyed in Spanish bottoms, nor was any vessel permitted to sail for Vera Cruz or Porto Bello, her only two authorized American ports, except from Seville, until the year 1720, when the trade was removed to Cadiz as a more convenient outlet. It was not until the War of the Succession that the trade of Peru was opened, and, even then, only to the French. By the peace of Utrecht, in 1713, Great Britain with the asiento, or contract for the supply of slaves, obtained a direct participation in the American trade, by virtue of a permission granted her to send a vessel of five hundred tons annually to the fair at Porto Bello. This privilege ceased with the partial hostilities in 1737, but Spain found herself compelled, on the restoration of peace in 1739, to make some provision for meeting the additional demand which the comparatively free communication with Europe had created. Licenses were granted, with this view, to vessels called register-ships, which were chartered during the intervals between the usual periods for the departure of the galeons. In 1764, a further improvement was made by the establishment of monthly packets to Havana, Porto Rico and Buenos Ayres, which were allowed to carry out half cargoes of goods. This was followed in 1774, by the removal of the interdict upon the intercourse of the colonies with each other; and, this again, in 1778, under what is termed a decree of free trade, by which seven of the principal ports of the peninsula were allowed to carry on a direct intercourse with Buenos Ayres and the South Sea. [21] Up to the period when these civilized modifications of the original interdict were made, the colonists were forbidden to trade either with foreigners or with each other's states, under any pretext whatever. The penalty of disobedience and detection was death.

Having thus enacted that the sole vehicle of colonial commerce should be Spanish, the next effort of the paternal government was to make the things it conveyed Spanish also. As an adjunct in this system of imposition, the laws of the Indies prohibited the manufacture or cultivation in the colonies, of all those articles which could be manufactured or produced in Spain. Factories were therefore inhibited, and foreign articles were permitted to enter the viceroyalties, direct from Spain alone, where they were, of course, subjected to duty previous to re-exportation. But these foreign products were not allowed to be imported in unstinted quantities. Spain fixed both the amount and the price; so that by [Pg 132] extorting, ultimately, from the purchaser, the government was a gainer in charges, profits and duties; whilst the merchants of Cadiz and Seville, who enjoyed the monopoly of trade, were enabled to affix any valuation they pleased to their commodities. The ingenuity of the Spaniards in contriving methods to exact the utmost farthing from their submissive colonists, is not a little remarkable. "They took advantage of the wants of the settlers, and were, at one time, sparing in their supplies, so that the price might be enhanced, whilst, at another, they sent goods of poor quality, at a rate much above their value, because it was known they must be purchased. It was a standing practice to despatch European commodities in such small quantities as to quicken the competition of purchasers and command an exorbitant profit. In the most flourishing period of the trade of Seville, the whole amount of shipping employed was less than twenty-eight thousand tons, and many of the vessels made no more than annual voyages. The evident motive on the part of the crown for limiting the supply was, that the same amount of revenue could be more easily levied, and collected with more certainty as well as despatch, on a small than on a large amount of goods." [22]

Whilst the commerce of Spain was thus burdened by enormous impositions, the colonies were of course cramped in all their energies. There could be no independent action of trade, manufacture, or even agriculture, under such a system.

America,—under the tropics and in the temperate regions, abounding in a prolific soil,—was not allowed to cultivate the grape or the olive, whilst, even some kinds of provisions which could easily have been produced on this continent were imported from Spain.

Such were some of the selfish and unnatural means by which the Council of the Indies,—whose laws have been styled, by some writers, beneficent—sought to drain America of her wealth, whilst they created a market for Spain. This was the external code of oppression; but the internal system of this continent, which was justified and enacted by the same council, was not less odious. Taxation, without representation or self government, was the foundation of our revolt; yet, the patient colonies of Spain were forced to bear it from the beginning of their career, so that the idea of freedom, either of opinion or of impost, never entered the minds of an American creole.

Duties, taxes, and tithes were the vexatious instruments of royal [Pg 133] plunder. The alcabala, an impost upon all purchases and sales, including even the smallest transactions, was perhaps the most burthensome. "Every species of merchandise, whenever it passed from one owner to another, was subject to a new tax; and merchants, shopkeepers and small dealers, were obliged to report the amount of their purchases and sales under oath." From the acquisition of an estate, to the simple sale of butter, eggs, or vegetables in market, all contracts and persons were subject to this tax, except travellers, clergymen and paupers. Independently of the destruction of trade, which must always ensue from such a system, the reader will at once observe the temptations to vice opened by it. The natural spirit of gain tempts a dealer to cheat an oppressive government by every means in his power. It is therefore not wonderful to find the country filled with contrabandists, and the towns with dishonest tradesmen. Men who defraud in acts, will lie in words, nor will they hesitate to conceal their infamy under the sanction of an oath. Thus was it that the oppressive taxation of Spain became the direct instrument of popular corruption, and, by extending imposts to the minutest ramifications of society, it made the people smugglers, cheats, and perjurers. In addition to the alcabala, there were transit duties through the country, under which, it has been alleged, that European articles were sometimes taxed thirty times before they reached their consumer. The king had his royal fifth of all the gold and silver, and his monopolies of tobacco, salt and gunpowder. He often openly vended the colonial offices, both civil and ecclesiastical. He stamped paper, and derived a revenue from its sale. He affixed a poll tax on every Indian; and, finally, by the most infamous of all impositions, he derived an extensive revenue from the religious superstition of the people. It was not enough to tax the necessaries and luxuries of life,—things actually in existence and tangible,—but, through a refined alchemy of political invention, he managed to coin even the superstitions of the people, and add to the royal income by the sale of "Bulls de cruzada"—"Bulls de defuntos,"—"Bulls for eating milk and eggs during lent,"—and "Bulls of composition." Bales upon bales of these badly printed licenses were sent out from Spain and sold by priests under the direction of a commissary. The villany of this scheme may be more evident if we detain the reader a moment in order to describe the character of these spiritual licenses. Whoever possessed a "Bull de cruzada" might be absolved from all crimes except heresy; nor, could he be suspected even of so deadly a sin, [Pg 134] as long as this talismanic paper was in his possession. Besides this, it exempted him from many of the rigorous fasts of the church; while two of them, of course, possessed double the virtue of one. The "Bull for the dead" was a needful passport for a sinner's soul from purgatory. There was no escape without it from the satanic police, and the poor and ignorant classes suffered all the pains of their miserable friends who had gone to the other world, until they were able to purchase the inestimable ticket of release. But of all these wretched impostures, the "Bull of composition" was, probably, the most shameful as well as dangerous. It "released persons who had stolen goods from the obligation to restore them to the owner, provided the thief had not been moved to commit his crime in consequence of a belief that he might escape from its sin by subsequently purchasing the immaculate 'Bull.'" Nor were these all the virtues of this miraculous document. It had the power to "correct the moral offence of false weights and measures; tricks and frauds in trade; all the obliquities of principle and conduct by which swindlers rob honest folks of their property; and, finally, whilst it converted stolen articles into the lawful property of the thief, it also assured to purchasers the absolute ownership of whatever they obtained by modes that ought to have brought them to the gallows. The price of these Bulls depended on the amount of goods stolen; but it is just to add, that only fifty of them could be taken by the same person in a year."[23]

These disgusting details might suffice to show the student how greatly America was oppressed and corrupted by the Spanish government; yet we regret that there are other important matters of misrule which we are not authorised to pass by unnoticed. Thus far we have considered the direct administration and taxing power of the king and Council of the Indies; we must now turn to the despotism exercised over the mind as well as the body of the creoles.

The holy church held all its appointments directly from the king, though the pope enjoyed the privilege of nomination; consequently the actual influence and power of the Hispano-American church, rested in the sovereign. The Recopilacion de las leyes expressly prohibits the erection of cathedrals, parish churches, monasteries, hospitals, native chapels, or other pious or religious [Pg 135] edifices, without the express license of the monarch. [24] As all the ecclesiastical revenues went to him, his power and patronage were immense. The religious jurisdiction of the church tribunals extended to monasteries, priests, donations, or legacies for sacred purposes, tithes, marriages, and all spiritual concerns. The fueros of the clergy have been already alluded to. "Instead of any restraint on the claims of the ecclesiastics," says Dr. Robertson, "the inconsistent zeal of the Spanish legislators admitted them into America to their full extent, and, at once imposed on the Spanish colonies a burden which is in no slight degree oppressive to society in its most improved state. As early as 1501 the payment of tithes as it was called, in the colonies was enjoined, and the mode of it regulated by law. Every article of primary necessity towards which the attention of settlers must naturally be turned was submitted to that grievous exaction. Nor were the demands of the clergy confined to articles of simple and easy culture. Its more artificial and operose productions, such as sugar, indigo, and cochineal, were declared to be titheable, and, in this manner, the planter's industry was taxed in every stage of its progress from its rudest essay to its highest improvement." [25] Thus it is that even now, after all the desolating revolutions that have occurred, we see the wealth of the Mexican church so exorbitantly exceeding that of the richest lay proprietors. The clergy readily became the royal agents in this scheme of aggrandizement; convent after convent was built; estate after estate was added to their possessions; dollar after dollar, and diamond after diamond were cast into their gorged treasuries, until their present accumulations are estimated at a sum not far beneath one hundred millions. [26] The monasteries of the Dominicans and Carmelites possess immense riches, chiefly in real estate both in town and country; whilst the convents of nuns in the city of Mexico,—especially those of Concepcion, Encarnacion and Santa Terasa,—are owners of three-fourths of the private houses in the capital, and proportionably, of property in the different states of the republic. [27]

Wherever the church of Rome obtained a foothold in the sixteenth century the Holy Inquisition was not long in asserting and establishing its power. Unfortunately for the zealots of this monastic tribunal, the ignorance of the Indians did not permit [Pg 136] them to wander into the mazes of heresy, so that the Dominican monks found but slender employment for their cruel skill. The poor aborigines were hardly worth the trouble of persecution, for the conquerors had already plundered them, and, unfortunately, the Jews did not emigrate to the wilds of America. The inquisition, however, could not restrain its natural love of labor, so, that, diverting its attention from the bodies of its victims it devoted itself, with the occasional recreation of an auto da fe, to the spiritual guardianship of Spanish and Indian intellects. Education was of course modified and repressed by such baneful influences. Men dared neither learn nor read, except what was selected for them by the monks. At the end of the eighteenth century there were but three presses in Spanish America,—one in Mexico, one in Lima, and one which belonged to the Jesuits at Cordova; but these presses were designed for the use of the government alone in the dissemination of its decrees. The eye of the inquisition was of course jealously directed to all publications. Booksellers were bound to furnish the Holy Fathers annually with a list of their merchandise, and the fraternity was empowered to enter wheresoever it pleased, to seek and seize prohibited literature. Luther, Calvin, Vattel, Montesquieu, Puffendorff, Robertson, Addison, and even the Roman Catholic Fenelon, were all proscribed. The inquisition was the great censor of the press, and nothing was submitted to the people unless it had passed the fiery ordeal of the holy office. It was quite enough for a book to be wise, classical, or progressive, to subject it to condemnation. Even viceroys and governors were forbidden to license the publication of a work unless the inquisition sanctioned it; and we have seen volumes in Mexico, still kept as curiosities in private libraries, out of which pages were torn and passages obliterated by the Holy Fathers, before they were permitted to be sold. [28]

Inasmuch as the Indians formed the great bulk of Hispano-American population, the king, of course, soon after the discovery, directed his attention to their capabilities for labor. We have seen in a previous part of this chapter that by a system of repartimientos they were divided among the conquerors and made vassals of the land holders, although always kept distinct from the negroes who were afterwards imported from Africa. Although the Emperor Charles V., enacted a number of mild laws for the amelioration of their fate, their condition seems, nevertheless, to have been very little improved,—according to our personal observation,—even to [Pg 137] the present day. We have noticed that a capitation tax was levied on every Indian, and that it varied in different parts of Spanish America, from four to fifteen dollars, according to the ability of the Indians. They were likewise doomed to labor on the public works, as well as to cultivate the soil for the general benefit of the country, whilst by the imposition of the mita they were forced to toil in the mines under a rigorous and debasing system which the world believed altogether unequalled in mineral districts until the British parliamentary reports of a few years past disclosed the fact, that even in England, men and women are sometimes degraded into beasts of burden in the mines whose galleries traverse in every direction the bowels of that proud kingdom. [29] Toils and suffering were the natural conditions of the poor Indian in America after the conquest, and it might have been supposed that the plain dictates of humanity would make the Spaniards content with the labor of their serfs, without attempting afterwards, to rob them of the wages of such ignominious labor. But even in this, the Spanish ingenuity and avarice were not to be foiled, for the corregidores in the towns and villages, to whom were granted the minor monopolies of almost all the necessaries of life, made this a pretext of obliging the Indians to purchase what they required at the prices they chose to affix to their goods. Monopoly—was the order of the day in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Its oppressions extended through all ranks, and its grasping advantages were eagerly seized by every magistrate from the alguazil to the viceroy. The people groaned, but paid the burthensome exaction, whilst the relentless officer, hardened by the contemplation of misery, and the constant commission of legalized robbery, only became more watchful, sagacious and grinding in proportion as he discovered how much the down-trodden masses could bear. Benevolent viceroys and liberal kings, frequently interposed to prevent the continuance of these unjust acts, but they were unable to cope with the numerous officials who performed all the minor ministerial duties throughout the colony. These inferior agents, in a new and partially unorganized country, had every advantage in their favor over the central authorities in the capital. The poorer Spaniards and the Indian serfs had no means of making their complaints heard in the palace. There was no press or public opinion to give voice to the sorrows of the masses, and personal fear often silenced the few who might have reached the ear of merciful and just rulers. At court, the rich, powerful [Pg 138] and influential miners or land holders, always discovered pliant tools who were ready by intrigue and corruption to smother the cry of discontent, or to account plausibly for the murmurs, which upon extraordinary occasions, burst through all restraints until they reached either the Audiencia or the representative of the sovereign. These slender excuses may, in some degree, account for and palliate the maladministration of Spanish America from the middle of the sixteenth to the beginning of the nineteenth century.


The ensuing chapters of this book contain the annals of New Spain from the foundation of the viceroyal system to the beginning of the revolution that grew out of its corruptions. The materials for this portion of Mexican history are exceedingly scant. During the jealous despotism and ecclesiastical vigilance of old Spanish rule, and the anarchy of modern miscalled republicanism, few authors have ventured to penetrate the gloom of this mysterious period. The Jesuit Father Cavo, and Don Carlos Maria Bustamante have alone essayed to narrate, consecutively, the events of the viceroyalty; and although no student of the past is attracted by their crude and careless style, yet we may confidently rely on the characteristic facts detailed in their tedious work. [30]


[19] Recop. de las leyes, lib. 2, title 2, ley 2.

[20] Mendez, Observaciones sobre les leyes de Indias y sobre la independencia de America. London, 1823. p. 174.

[21] Ward's Mexico in 1827, vol. 1, p. 116.

[22] North American Review, vol. xix. p. 117.

[23] See Pazo's letters on South America, pages 88, 89, North American Review, art. antec., pages 186 and 187, et Depons.

[24] Recopilacion, lib. i, Tit. vi, Ley 2, North American Review, art. antec. p. 189.

[25] Robertson's Hist. of Amer.; Zavala Hist. Revo. of Mexico.

[26] Otero, Cuestion social, pages 38, 39, 43.

[27] Zavala Hist. Revo. de Mexico, pages 16, 17, vol. 1.

[28] See Zavala, vol. 1, p. 52.

[29] See British Parliamentary Report on the condition of the miners and mining districts.

[30] "Los Tres Siglos de Mejico, durante el Gobierno Español," 1521 to 1766, written by Father Andres Cavo, of the Society of Jesus; 1767 to 1821, written by Don Carlos Maria Bustamante.

[Pg 139]



Antonio de Mendoza, Count of Tendilla,
I. Viceroy of New Spain.


In the year 1530, the accusations received in Spain against Nuño de Guzman, and the oidores Matinezo and Delgadillo, who at that period ruled in Mexico under royal authority, were not only so frequent, but of so terrible a character, that Charles V., resolved to adopt some means of remedying the evils of his transatlantic subjects. He was about to depart from Spain however, for Flanders, and charged the Empress to adopt the necessary measures for this purpose during his absence. This enlightened personage, perceiving the difficulty of ruling so distant, extended and rich an appendage of the Spanish crown, by inferior officials alone, wisely determined to establish a Viceroyalty in New Spain. It was a measure which seemed to place the two worlds in more loyal affinity. The vice king, it was supposed, would be the impersonation of sovereignty, the direct representative of the national head, and would always form an independent and truthful channel of information. His position set him, eminently, above the crowd of adventurers who were tempted to the shores of America; and, removable at the royal pleasure, as well as selected from among those Spanish nobles whose fidelity to the crown was unquestionable, there was but little danger that even the most ambitious subject would ever be tempted to alienate from the Emperor the affection and services either of emigrants or natives.

[Pg 140] The Empress, in fulfilling the wishes of her august spouse, at first fixed her eyes upon the Count de Oropesa and on the Marshal de Fromesta, as persons well fitted to undertake the difficult charge of founding the Mexican viceroyalty. But these individuals, upon various pretexts, declined the mission, which was next tendered to Don Manuel Benavides, whose exorbitant demands for money and authority, finally induced the sovereign to withdraw her nomination. Finally, she resolved to despatch Don Antonio de Mendoza, Count of Tendilla, one of her chamberlains, who requested only sufficient time to regulate his private affairs before he joyfully set forth for his viceroyalty of New Spain. In the meantime, however, in order not to lose a moment in remedying the disorders on the other side of the Atlantic, the Empress created a new Audiencia, at the head of which was Don Sebastian Ramirez de Fuenleal, bishop of St. Domingo, and whose members were the Licenciados Vasco de Quiroga, Alonso Maldonado, Francisco Cainos and Juan de Salmeron. The appointment of the bishop was well justified by his subsequent career of integrity, beneficence and wisdom; whilst Vasco de Quiroga has left in Michoacan, and, indeed, in all Mexico, a venerated name, whose renown is not forgotten, in private life and the legends of the country to the present day.

In 1535, Mendoza arrived in Mexico with letters for the Audiencia, and was received with all the pomp and splendor becoming the representative of royalty. His instructions were couched in the most liberal terms, for, after all, it was chiefly on the personal integrity and discretion of a viceroy that the Spanish sovereigns were obliged to rely for the sure foundation of their American empire. Of the desire of the Emperor and Empress to act their parts justly and honestly in the opening of this splendid drama in America there can be no doubt. Their true policy was to develope, not to destroy; and they at once perceived that, in the New World, they no longer dealt with those organized classes of civilized society which, in Europe, yield either instinctively to the feeling of loyalty, or are easily coerced into obedience to the laws.

Mendoza was commanded, in the first place, to direct his attention to the condition of public worship; to the punishment of clergymen who scandalized their calling; to the conversion and good treatment of the Indian population, and to the erection of a mint in which silver should be coined according to laws made upon this subject by Ferdinand and Isabella. All the wealth which was found in Indian tombs or temples was to be sought out and devoted to the royal treasury. It was forbidden, under heavy [Pg 141] penalties, to sell arms to negroes or Indians, and the latter were, moreover, denied the privilege of learning to work in those more difficult or elegant branches of labor which might interfere with the sale of Spanish imported productions.

During the following year Mendoza received despatches from the Emperor in which, after bestowing encomiums for the manifestations of good government which the viceroy had already given, he was directed to pay particular attention to the Indians; and, together with these missives, came a summary of the laws which the Council of the Indies had formed for the welfare of the natives. These benevolent intentions, not only of the sovereign but of the Spanish people also, were made known to the Indians and their caciques, upon an occasion of festivity, by a clergyman who was versed in their language, and, in a similar way, they were disseminated throughout the whole viceroyalty. This year was, moreover, memorable in Mexican annals as that in which the first book, entitled La Escala de San Juan Climaca, was published in Mexico, in the establishment of Juan Pablos, having been printed at a press brought to the country by the viceroy Mendoza. Nor was 1536 alone signalized by the first literary issue of the new kingdom; for the first money, as well as the first book came at this time from the Mexican mint. According to Torquemada two hundred thousand dollars were coined in copper; but the emission of a circulating medium, in this base metal, was so distasteful to the Mexicans, that it became necessary for the viceroy to use stringent means in order to compel its reception for the ordinary purposes of trade.

Between the years 1536 and 1540 the history of the Mexican viceroyalty was uneventful, save in the gradual progressive efforts made not only by Mendoza, but by the Emperor himself, in endeavoring to model and consolidate the Spanish empire on our continent. Schools were established; hospitals were erected; the protection of the Indians, under the apostolic labors of Las Casas was honestly fostered, and every effort appears to have been zealously made to give a permanent and domestic character to the population which found its way rapidly into New Spain. In 1541 the copper coin, of which we have already spoken as being distasteful to the Mexicans, suddenly disappeared altogether from circulation, and it was discovered that the natives had either buried or thrown it into the lake as utterly worthless. The viceroy endeavored to remedy the evil and dispel the popular prejudice by coining cuartillas of silver; but these, from their extreme smallness and the constant risk of loss, were equally unacceptable to the [Pg 142] people, who either collected large quantities and melted them into bars, or cast them contemptuously into the water as they had before done with the despised copper.

It was not until about the year 1542, that we perceive in the viceroyal history, any attempts upon the part of the Indians to make formidable assaults against the Spaniards, whose oppressive and grinding system of repartimientos was undoubtedly beginning to be felt. At this period the Indians of Jalisco rose in arms, and symptoms of discontent were observed to prevail, also, among the Tarascos and Tlascalans, who even manifested an intention of uniting with the rebellious natives of the north. Mendoza was not an idle spectator of these movements, but resolved to go forth, in person, at the head of his troops to put down the insurgents. Accordingly he called on the Tlascalans, Cholulans, Huexotzinques, Tezcocans, and other bands or tribes for support, and permitted the caciques to use horses and the same arms that were borne by the Spaniards. This concession seems to have greatly pleased the natives of the country, though it was unsatisfactory to some of their foreign masters.

In the meanwhile, the coasts of America on the west, and the shores of California especially, were examined by the Portuguese Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, as far north as near the 41st° of latitude; whilst another expedition was despatched to the Spice islands, under the charge of Ruy Lopez de Villalobos.

The viceroy was moreover busy with the preparation of his army designed to march upon Jalisco, and, on the 8th of October, 1542, departed from Mexico with a force of fifty thousand Indians, three hundred cavalry, and one hundred and fifty Spanish infantry. Passing through Michoacan, where he was detained for some time, he, at length, reached the scene of the insurrection in Jalisco; but before he attacked the rebels he proclaimed through the ecclesiastics who accompanied him, his earnest wish to accommodate difficulties, and, even, to pardon, graciously, all who would lay down their arms and return to their allegiance. He ordered that no prisoners should be made except of such as were needed to transport the baggage and equipments of his troops; and, in every possible way, he manifested a humane desire to soften the asperities and disasters of the unequal warfare. But the rebellious Indians were unwilling to listen to terms:—"We are lords of all these lands," said they, heroically, in reply, "and we wish to die in their defence!"

Various actions ensued between the Spaniards, their allies, and [Pg 143] the insurgents, until at length, Mendoza obtained such decided advantages over his opponents that they gave up the contest, threw down their arms, and enabled the viceroy to return to his capital with the assurance that the revolted territory was entirely and permanently pacified. His conduct to the Indians after his successes was characterized by all the suavity of a noble soul. He took no revenge for this assault upon the Spanish authority, and seems, to have continually endeavored to win the natives to their allegiance by kindness rather than compulsion.

These outbreaks among the Indians were of course not unknown in Spain, where they occasioned no trifling fear for the integrity and ultimate dominion of New Spain. The natural disposition of the Emperor towards the aborigines, was, as we have said, kind and gentle; but he perceived that the causes of these Indian discontents might be attributed not so much, perhaps, to a patriotic desire to recover their violated rights over the country, as to the cruelty they endured at the hands of bold and reckless adventurers who had emigrated to New Spain and converted the inoffensive children of the country into slaves. Accordingly, the Emperor, convened a council composed of eminent persons in Spain, to consider the condition of his American subjects. This council undertook the commission in a proper spirit, and adopted a liberal system towards the aborigines, as well as towards the proprietors of estates in the islands and on the main, which, in time, would have fostered the industry and secured the ultimate prosperity of all classes. There were to be no slaves made in the future wars of these countries; the system of repartimientos was to be abandoned; and the Indians were not, as a class, to be solely devoted to ignoble tasks. [31] The widest publicity was given to these humane intentions in Spain. The Visitador of Hispaniola, or San Domingo, Miguel Diaz de Armendariz, was directed to see their strict fulfilment in the islands; and Francisco Tello de Sandoval was commissioned to cross the Atlantic to Mexico, with full powers and instructions from the Emperor, to enforce their obedience in New Spain.

In February, 1544, this functionary disembarked at St. Juan de Ulua, and, a month afterwards, arrived in the capital. No sooner did he appear in Mexico than the object of his mission became gradually noised about among the proprietors and planters whose wealth depended chiefly upon the preservation of their estates and Indians in the servile condition in which they were before the [Pg 144] assemblage of the Emperor's council in Spain during the previous year. Every effort was therefore made by these persons and their sattelites to prevent the execution of the royal will. Appeals were addressed to Sandoval invoking him to remain silent. He was cautioned not to interfere with a state of society upon which the property of the realm depended. The ruin of many families, the general destruction of property, the complete revolution of the American system, were painted in glowing colors, by these men who pretended to regard the just decrees of the Emperor as mere "innovations" upon the established laws of New Spain. But Sandoval was firm, and he was stoutly sustained in his honorable loyalty to his sovereign and christianity, by the countenance of the viceroy Mendoza. Accordingly, the imperial decrees were promulgated throughout New Spain, and resulted in seditious movements among the disaffected proprietors which became so formidable that the peace of the country was seriously endangered. In this dilemma,—feeling, probably, that the great mass of the people was the only bulwark of the government against the Indians, and that it was needful to conciliate so powerful a body,—permission was granted by the authorities, to appoint certain representatives as a commission to lay the cause before the Emperor himself. Accordingly two delegates were despatched to Spain together with the provincials of San Francisco, Santo Domingo and San Agustin, and other Spaniards of wealth and influence in the colony.

In the following year, Sandoval, who had somewhat relaxed his authority, took upon himself the dangerous task of absolutely enforcing the orders of the Emperor with some degree of strictness, notwithstanding the visit of the representatives of the discontented Mexicans to Spain. He displaced several oidores and other officers who disgraced their trusts, and deprived various proprietors of their repartimientos or portions of Indians who had been abused by the cruel exercise of authority. But, in the meantime, the agents had not ceased to labor at the court in Spain. Money, influence, falsehood and intrigue were freely used to sustain the system of masked slavery among the subjugated natives, and, at last, a royal cedula was procured commanding the revocation of the humane decrees and ordering the division of the royal domain among the conquerors. The Indians, of course, followed the fate of the soil; and thus, by chicanery and influence, the gentle efforts of the better portion of Spanish society were rendered entirely nugatory. The news of this decree spread joy among the Mexican landed proprietors. The chains of slavery were rivetted upon the [Pg 145] natives. The principle of compulsory labor was established forever; and, even to this day, the Indian of Mexico remains the bondsman he was doomed to become in the sixteenth century.

Between the years 1540 and 1542, an expedition was undertaken for the subjugation of an important nation which it was alleged existed far to the north of Mexico. A Franciscan missionary, Marcos de Naza, reported that he had discovered, north of Sonora, a rich and powerful people inhabiting a realm known as Quivara, or the seven cities, whose capital, Cibola, was quite as civilized as an European city. After the report had reached and been considered in Spain, it was determined to send an armed force to this region in order to explore, and if possible to reduce the Quivarans to the Spanish yoke. Mendoza had designed to entrust this expedition to Pedro de Alvarado, after having refused Cortéz permission to lead the adventurers,—a task which he had demanded as his right. But when all the troops were enlisted, Alvarado had not yet reached Mexico from Guatemala, and, accordingly, the viceroy despatched Vasquez de Coronado, at the head of the enterprise. At the same time he fitted out another expedition, with two ships, under the orders of Francisco Alarcon, who was to make a reconnoisance of the coast as far as the thirty-sixth degree, and, after having frequently visited the shores, he was, in that latitude to meet the forces sent by land.

Coronado set forth from Culiacan, with three hundred and fifty Spaniards and eight hundred Indians, and, after reaching the source of the Gila, passed the mountains to the Rio del Norte. He wintered twice in the region now called New Mexico, explored it thoroughly from north to south, and then, striking off to the north east, crossed the mountains and wandering eastwardly as far north as the fortieth degree of latitude, he unfortunately found neither Quivara nor gold. A few wretched ruins of Indian villages were all the discoveries made by these hardy pioneers, and thus the enchanted kingdom eluded the grasp of Spain forever. The troop of strangers and Indians soon became disorganized and disbanded; nor was Alarcon more successful by sea than Coronado by land. His vessels explored the shores of the Pacific carefully, but they found no wealthy cities to plunder, nor could the sailors hear of any from the Indians with whom they held intercourse.

In 1546, a desolating pestilence swept over the land, destroying, according to some writers, eight hundred thousand Indians, and, according to others, five-sixths of the whole population. It lasted for about six months; and, at this period, a projected insurrection [Pg 146] among the black slaves and the Tenochan and Tlaltelolcan Indians, was detected through a negro. This menaced outbreak was soon crushed by Mendoza, who seized and promptly executed the ringleaders.

A portion of the Visitador Sandoval's orders related to the convocation of the Mexican bishops with a view to the spiritual welfare of the natives, and the prelates were accordingly all summoned to the capital, with the exception of the virtuous Las Casas, whose humane efforts in behalf of the Indians, and whose efforts to free them from the slavery of the repartimientos had subjected him to the mortal hatred of the planters. The council of ecclesiastics met; but it is probable that their efforts were quite as ineffectual as the humane decrees of the Emperor, and that even in the church itself, there may have been persons who were willing to tolerate the involuntary servitude of the natives rather than forego the practical and beneficial enjoyment of estates which were beginning to fall into the possession of convents and monastaries on the death of pious penitents.

Meanwhile the population of New Spain increased considerably, especially towards the westward. It was soon perceived by Mendoza that a single Audiencia was no longer sufficient for so extended a country. He, therefore, recommended the appointment of another, in Compostella de la Nueva Gallacia, and in 1547, the Emperor ordered two letrados for the administration of justice in that quarter. The ultimate reduction of the province of Vera-Paz was likewise accomplished at this period. The benignant name of "True Peace" was bestowed on this territory from the fact that the inhabitants yielded gracefully and speedily to the persuasive influence and spiritual conquest of the Dominican monks, and that not a single soldier was needed to teach them the religion of Christ at the point of the sword.

During the two or three following years there was but little to disturb the quietness of the colony, save in brief and easily suppressed outbreaks among the Indians. Royal lands were divided among poor and meritorious Spaniards; property which was found to be valueless in the neighborhood of cities was allowed to be exchanged for mountain tracts, in which the eager adventurers supposed they might discover mineral wealth; and the valuable mines of Tasco, Zultepec, and Temascaltepec, together with others, probably well known to the ancient Mexicans, were once more thrown open and diligently worked.

The wise administration of the Mexican viceroyalty by Mendoza [Pg 147] had been often acknowledged by the Emperor. He found in this distinguished person a man qualified by nature to deal with the elements of a new society when they were in their wildest moments of confusion, and before they had become organized into the order and system of a regular state. Mendoza, by nature firm, amiable, and just, seems nevertheless to have been a person who knew when it was necessary in a new country, to bend before the storm of popular opinion in order to avoid the destruction, not only of his own influence, but perhaps of society, civilization and the Spanish authorities themselves. In the midst of all the fiery and unregulated spirit of a colony like Mexico, he sustained the dignity of his office unimpaired, and by command, diplomacy, management, and probably sometimes by intrigue, he appears to have ensured obedience to the laws even when they were distasteful to the masses. He was successful upon all occasions except in the enforcement of the complete emancipation of the Indians; but it may be questioned whether he did not deem it needful, in the infancy of the viceroyalty at least, to subject the Indians to labors which his countrymen were either too few in number or too little acclimated in Mexico to perform successfully. History must at least do him the justice to record the fact that his administration was tempered with mercy, for even the Indians revered him as a man who was their signal protector against wanton inhumanity.

Whilst these events occurred in Mexico, Pizarro had subjugated Peru, and added it to the Spanish crown. But there, as in Mexico, an able man was needed to organize the fragmentary society which was in the utmost disorder after the conquest. No one appeared to the Emperor better fitted for the task than the viceroy whose administration had been so successful in Mexico. Accordingly, in 1550, the viceroyalty of Peru was offered to him, and its acceptance urged by the Emperor at a moment when a revolt against the Spaniards occurred among the Zapotecas, instigated by their old men and chiefs, who, availing themselves of an ancient prophecy relative to the return of Quetzalcoatl, assured the youths and warriors of their tribe that the predicted period had arrived and that, under the protection of their restored deity, their chains would be broken. In this, as in all other endeavors to preserve order, the efforts of Mendoza were successful. He appeased the Indians, accepted the proffered task of governing Peru; and, after meeting and conferring with his successor, Velasco, in Cholula, departed from Mexico for the scene of his new labors on the distant shores of the Pacific.


[31] Herrera Decade vii., lib. vi., chap. v.

[Pg 148]



Don Luis de Velasco,
II. Viceroy of New Spain.


The new viceroy, Don Luis de Velasco, arrived in Mexico without especial orders changing the character of the government. He was selected by the Emperor as a person deemed eminently fitted to sustain the judicious policy of his predecessor; and it is probable that he had secret commands from the court to attempt once more the amelioration of the Indian population. There is no doubt that Charles the Fifth was sincere in his wish to protect the natives; and, if he yielded at all,—as we have seen in the narrative of the last viceroyalty,—to the demands of the owners of repartimientos, it was probably with the hope that a better opportunity of sustaining his humane desires would occur as soon as the conquerors or their followers, were glutted by the rich harvests they might reap during the early years of the settlement.

Accordingly, we find, as soon as Velasco had been received in Mexico with all suitable ceremony and honor, that, notwithstanding the continued opposition of the proprietors and planters, he proclaimed his determination to carry out the orders that had been given to Mendoza, so far as they tended to relieve the Indians from the personal labors, tributes, and severe service in the mines with which they had been burdened by the conquerors. This, as [Pg 149] was expected, created extraordinary discontent. The cupidity of the sovereign and of his representative were appealed to. It was alleged that not only would the Spanish emigrants suffer for the want of laborers, but that the royal treasury would soon be emptied of the taxes and income which, thus far, had regularly flowed into it. But Don Luis was firm in his resolution, and declared that "the liberty of the Indians was of more importance than all the mines in the world, and that the revenues they yielded to the Spanish crown were not of such a character that all divine and human laws should be sacrificed, in order to obtain them."

In 1553, the attention of the viceroy was specially directed to the subject of education, for the population had so greatly increased in the few years of stable government, that unless the best means of instructing the growing generation were speedily adopted, it was probable that New Spain would lose many of the descendants of those families which it was the policy of the crown to establish permanently in America. The University of Mexico was therefore consecrated and opened in this year; and, in 1555, Paul IV., bestowed upon it the same privileges and rights as were enjoyed by that of Salamanca in Spain.

But this was a sad year for the city of Mexico, in other respects. The first inundation since the conquest, occurred in 1553, and for three days the capital was under water and the communication kept up in boats and canoes. Every effort was made by the viceroy to prevent the recurrence of the evil, by the erection of a dyke to dam up the waters of the lake; and it is related by contemporary historians, that he even wrought with his own hands at the gigantic work, during the first day, in order to show a good example to the citizens who were called on to contribute their personal labor for their future protection from such a disaster.


There were few outbreaks among the Indians during this viceroyalty, yet there were troublesome persons among the original tribes of the Chichimecas,—some bands of whom were not yet entirely subjected to the Spanish government,—who contrived to keep up a guerilla warfare, which interrupted the free circulation of the Spaniards through the plains and mountain passes of the Bajio. These were, in all probability, mere predatory attacks; but as it was impossible for the viceroy to spare sufficient numbers of faithful soldiers for the purpose of scouring the hiding places and fastnesses of these robber bands, he resolved to found a number of villages composed of natives and foreigners, and to place in them, [Pg 150] permanently, sufficient numbers of troops to protect the adjacent country roads, and to form the nucleus of towns, which, in the course of time, would grow to importance. Such was the origin, by military colonization, of San Felipe Yztlahuaca, and of San Miguel el Grande, now known as Allende, from the hero of that name to whom it gave birth. It was the constant policy of the Emperor to extend the avenues of industry for his emigrant subjects by such a system of security and protection; and, accordingly, Don Francisco Ibarra, was despatched to the interior with orders to explore the northern and western regions, but, on no account, to use arms against the natives except in case of the utmost urgency. Ibarra traversed a wide and nearly unknown region, discovered rich mines of gold and silver, and colonized many places of considerable importance in the subsequent development of Mexico, and among them, the city of Durango, which is now the capital of the state of that name.


The abdication of Charles V. was unofficially announced in Mexico in 1556; but it was not until the 6th of June of the following year that his successor Philip II. was proclaimed in the capital of New Spain. The policy of the old Emperor was not changed by the accession of the new king; nor does the monarch appear to have influenced in any particular manner the destiny of Mexico during the continuance of Velasco's government, except by the fitting out, at his special command, under the order of his viceroy, of an expedition for the conquest of Florida, which proved disastrous to all concerned in it. Crowds flocked in the year 1558 to the standard raised for this adventure, which it was supposed would result in gratifying the Spanish thirst for gold. In the following year the few who remained of the untoward enterprise, returned with their commanders to Havana and thence to New Spain.

Thus far Velasco's administration had been successful in preserving the peace in Mexico,—in opening the resources of the country in mines, agriculture and pastoral affairs,—and in alleviating the condition of the Indians by gradual restraints on his countrymen. His power was unlimited; but he had, in no instance abused it, or countenanced its abuse in others. Anxious not to rely exclusively upon his own resources, but to take council from the best authorities in cases of difficulty or doubt, he invariably consulted the Audiencia in all emergencies. But, just and loyal as had been his official conduct, it had not saved him from [Pg 151] creating enemies; and these, unfortunately, were not only found among the rich oppressors whose shameless conduct he strove to punish, but even among the members of the Audiencia itself. These men combined secretly to undermine the influence of the viceroy, and despatched commissioners to Spain, who represented to the king that the health of his representative was in a failing state, and that it was extremely needful he should be sustained by a council whose duty it was to direct him upon all questions of public interest. The intriguers were successful in their appeal, and a decree soon arrived in New Spain announcing that the viceroy should thenceforth do nothing without the previous sanction of the Audiencia. This order of the king immediately put the power into the hands of individuals whose object was rather to acquire sudden wealth than to govern a new and semi-civilized nation justly, or to enact laws which would develope the resources of the country. The viceroy had been impartial. He held the balance between the Indian laborer and the Spanish extortioner. His office and emoluments placed him, at that period, high above the ordinary temptations of avarice. But the Audiencia, composed of several persons, whose position was far inferior to the viceroy's, was accessible to intrigue and corruption, and the unfortunate Indians soon found to their cost, that the royal limitation on Velasco's power had lost them a friend and staunch supporter. The Audiencia and the viceroy were soon surrounded by parties who advocated their different causes with zeal; but the loyal viceroy did not murmur in the discharge of his duty and faithfully followed the order of the king to submit his judgment to the council. Nevertheless all were not so patient as Velasco. Counter statements were sent, by skilful advocates, to Spain; and Velasco himself required an examination to be made into his official conduct.

Accordingly, Philip II. appointed a certain licenciado Valderrama, as visitador of New Spain, who arrived in 1563, and immediately began the discharge of his functions by a course of exaction, especially from the Indians, which neither the appeals nor the arguments of the viceroy could induce him to abandon. The arrival of this harsh and cruel personage, was, indeed, sad for Mexico, and, in the country's history, he still retains the name of "El Molestador de los Indios."

Fortunately for Velasco an escape from the double tyranny of the Audiencia and of Valderrama was opened to him in an expedition to the Philipine islands which the king had ordered him to [Pg 152] colonize. But whilst he was engaged in organizing his forces and preparing for the voyage, his health suddenly gave way, and on the 31st of July, 1564, he expired amid the general grief of all the worthier classes of Mexico, and, especially, of the Indians, whom he had befriended. Death silenced the murmurs of the intriguers. When the beneficent viceroy could no longer interfere with the selfish interests of the multitude, crowds flocked around his bier to honor his harmless remains.

Don Gaston de Peralta, Marques de Falces,
III. Viceroy of New Spain.


On the death of Don Luis de Velasco the First, the reins of government remained in the hands of the Royal Audiencia, in conformity with the order of Philip II. Francisco de Zeinos, Pedro de Villalobos, and Geronimo de Orozoco were then the oidores; while Valderrama, whose visit occurred during the government of Don Luis de Velasco, as we have already narrated, had departed for Spain. In 1564, the expedition which was planned and prepared under the last viceroy, sailed for the Philipine islands, and founded the celebrated city of Manilla, which has since played so distinguished a part in the history of oriental commerce.

The year 1566 was an important one, at least in the social history of Mexico, for it was fraught with danger to the son and representative of the illustrious conqueror. The Marques del Valle, heir of Hernando Cortéz, had been for sometime established in the capital, where he formed the nucleus of a noble circle, and was admired by all classes for the splendor with which he maintained the honor of his house. His palace was constantly filled with the flower of Mexican aristocracy, and among the knightly train of gallant men, few were more distinguished for gentle bearing and personal accomplishment than Alonso de Avila Alvarado, and his brother Gil Gonzalez. The Marques del Valle, distinguished the former by his special attentions, and this, together with the imprudent conduct or expressions of Alonso, made him suspected by persons who simulated an extraordinary zeal for the Spanish monarchy, whilst, in fact, their chief object was to ingratiate themselves with men of power or influence in order to further their private interests.

On the 30th of June, 1566, the Dean of the Cathedral, Don Juan Chico de Molina, baptized in that sacred edifice, the twin [Pg 153] daughters of the Marques del Valle, whose sponsors were Don Lucas de Castilla and Doña Juana de Sosa. The festivities of the gallant Marques upon this occasion of family rejoicing, were, as usual among the rich in Spanish countries, attended with the utmost magnificence; and in order to present our readers a picture of the manners of the period, we shall describe the scene as it is related by those who witnessed it.

It was a day of general rejoicing and festivity in the city of Mexico. From the palace of the Marques to the door of the cathedral, a passage was formed under lofty and splendid canopies composed of the richest stuffs. A salute of artillery announced the entry of the twins into the church, and it was repeated at their departure. At the moment when the rites of religion were completed and the infants were borne back to their home through the covered way, the spectators in the plaza were amused by a chivalric tournament between twelve knights in complete steel. Other rare and costly diversions succeeded in an artificial grove, which the Marques had caused to be erected in the plazuela, or lesser square, intervening between his palace and the cathedral. Nor were these amusements designed alone for persons of his own rank, for the masses of the people were also summoned to partake his bountiful hospitality. At the doors of his princely dwelling tables were sumptuously spread with roasted oxen, all kinds of wild fowl and numberless delicacies, whilst two casks of white and red wine,—then esteemed in Mexico the most luxurious rarities,—were set flowing for the people.

At night, Alonso Gonzalez de Avila, the intimate companion of the Marques, entertained the chief personages of Mexico with a splendid ball, during which there was a performance, or symbolical masque representing the reception of Hernando Cortéz by the Emperor Montezuma. Alonso, splendidly attired, sustained the part of the Mexican sovereign. During one of the evolutions of the spectacle, Avila threw around the neck of the young Marques a collar of intermingled flowers and jewels, similar to the one with which his father had been adorned by Montezuma; and, at the conclusion of the scene, he placed on the heads of the Marques and his wife a coronet of laurel, with the exclamation,—"How well these crowns befit your noble brows!"

These simple diversions of a family festival were, doubtless, altogether innocent, and, certainly, not designed to prefigure an intention upon the part of the Marques and his friends to usurp the government of the New World. But it is probable that he had [Pg 154] unwisely made enemies of men in power who were either ridiculously suspicious, or eagerly sought for any pretext, no matter how silly, to lay violent hands upon the son of Cortéz. It is probable, too, that the prestige,—the moral power,—of the great conqueror's name had not yet ceased to operate in Mexico; and, in those days when individuals were not dainty in ridding themselves of dangerous intruders, it is not unlikely that it was the policy of the Audiencia and its coadjutors to drive the gallant Marques from scenes, which, in the course of time, might tempt his ambition. The extreme popularity of such a man was not to be tolerated.

However, the domestic festival, symbolical as it was deemed by some of a desire to foreshadow the destiny of the son of Cortéz, was allowed to pass over. The oidores and their spies, meditating in secret over the crowning of Cortéz and his wife by Avila, and the remarkable words by which the graceful act was accompanied, resolved to embrace the first opportunity to detect what they declared was a conspiracy to wrest the dominion of New Spain from Philip II.

When men are anxious to commit a crime, a pretext or an occasion is not generally long wanting to accomplish the wicked design. Accordingly we find that on the 13th of August, the anniversary of the capture of the capital, the alleged conspiracy, was to break out. A national procession, in honor of the day, was to pass along the street of San Francisco and to return through that which now bears the name of Tacuba. Certain armed bands, convened under the pretext of military display, were to be stationed in the way, while, from a small turret in which he had concealed himself, Don Martin Cortéz, the son of the conqueror by the Indian girl Mariana, was to sally forth, and seize the royal standard, and being immediately joined by the armed bands, was, forthwith, to proclaim the Marques del Valle king of Mexico and to slay the oidores as well as all who should offer the least resistance.

Such was the story which the authorities had heard or feigned to have heard through their trusty spies. Nearly a month before the dreaded day, however, the Audiencia assembled, and requested the presence of the Marques del Valle, under the pretext that despatches had been received from the king of Spain, which, by his special order, were only to be opened in presence of the son of Cortéz. The Marques, who imagined no evil, immediately responded to the call of the oidores, and the moment he entered the hall the doors were guarded by armed men. Cortéz was ordered to seat himself on a common stool, while one of the functionaries [Pg 155] announced to him that he was a prisoner, in the name of the king. "For what?" eagerly demanded the Marques. "As a traitor to his Majesty!" was the foul reply. "You lie!" exclaimed Cortéz, springing from his seat, and grasping the hilt of his dagger;—"I am no traitor to my king,—nor are there traitors among any of my lineage!"

The natural excitement of the loyal nobleman subsided after a moment's reflection. He had been entrapped into the hands of the Audiencia, and finding himself completely, though unjustly, in their power, he at once resolved to offer no childish opposition, when resistance would be so utterly useless. With the manly dignity of a chivalrous Spaniard, he immediately yielded up his weapons and was taken prisoner to the apartments that had been prepared for him. His half brother, Don Martin, was also apprehended, and orders were sent to the city of Tezcoco for the seizure of Don Luis Cortéz who resided there as justice or governor. In Mexico, Alonso Avila Alvarado, and his brother Gil Gonzalez, with many other distinguished men were incarcerated, and the papers of all the prisoners were, of course, seized and eagerly scrutinized by the sattelites who hoped to find in them a confirmation of the imaginary conspiracy.

Among the documents of Alonso de Avila a large number of love letters were found; but neither in his papers nor in those of his brother, or of the many victims of these foul suspicions, who languished in prison, did they discover a single line to justify their arrest. Nevertheless, Don Alonso and his brother Don Gil Gonzalez, were singled out as victims and doomed to death. The authorities dared not, probably, strike at a person so illustrious and so popular as the Marques del Valle; but they resolved to justify, in the public eye, their inquisitorial investigation, by the sacrifice of some one. The public would believe that there was in reality a crime when the scaffold reeked with blood; and, besides, the blow would fall heaviest on the family of Cortéz when it struck the cherished companions of his home and heart.

On the 7th of August, at seven in the evening, Alonso and Gil Gonzalez were led forth to the place of execution in front of the Casa de Cabildo. Their heads were struck off and stuck on spears on the roof of the edifice; whence they were finally taken, at the earnest remonstrance of the Ayuntamiento, and buried with the bodies of the victims in the church of San Agustin. Every effort had been made to save the lives of these truly innocent young men. But although the principal persons in the viceroyalty, united in the [Pg 156] appeal for mercy if not for justice, the inexorable oidores carried out their remorseless and bloody decree. It is even asserted that these cruel men would not have hesitated to inflict capital punishment upon the Marques himself had not the new viceroy, Don Gaston de Peralta, Marques de Falces, arrived at San Juan de Ulua, on the 17th of September, 1566.

As soon as this personage reached Mexico he began to enquire into the outrage. He was quickly satisfied that the whole proceeding was founded in malice. The oidores were removed, and others being placed in their posts, the viceroy despatched a missive to the court of Spain containing his views and comments upon the conduct of the late officials. But the document was sent by a man who was secretly a warm friend of the brutal oidores, and, to save them from the condign punishment they deserved, he withheld it from the king.

Yet these functionaries, still fearing that their crime would be finally punished, not only treacherously intercepted the despatch of the viceroy, but also took the speediest opportunity to send to the king accusations against Don Gaston himself, in which they charged him with negligence in his examination of the conspiracy, with treasonable alliance with the Marques del Valle, and with a design to usurp the government of New Spain. They founded their allegations upon the false oaths of several deponents, who alleged that the viceroy had already prepared and held at his orders thirty thousand armed men. This base imposture, as ridiculous as it was false, originated in an act of Peralta which was altogether innocent. Being a man of fine taste, and determining that the viceroyal residence should be worthy the abode of his sovereign's representative, he caused the palace to be refitted, and, among the adornments of the various saloons, he ordered a large painting to be placed on the walls of one of the chambers in which a battle was represented containing an immense number of combatants. This was the army which the witnesses, upon their oaths, represented to the king, as having been raised and commanded by the viceroy! It can scarcely be supposed possible that the Audiencia of Mexico would have resorted to such flimsy means to cover their infamy. It seems incredible that such mingled cruelty and childishness could ever have proceeded from men who were deputed to govern the greatest colony of Spain. Yet such is the unquestionable fact, and it indicates, at once, the character of the age and of the men who managed, through the intrigues of court, to [Pg 157] crawl to eminence and power which they only used to gratify vindictive selfishness or to glut their inordinate avarice.

Philip the II. could not, at first, believe the accusations of the oidores against the family of Cortéz and the distinguished nobleman whom he had sent to represent him in Mexico. He resolved, therefore, to wait the despatches of the viceroy. But the oidores had been too watchful to allow those documents to reach the court of Spain; and Philip, therefore, construing the silence of Don Gaston de Peralta, into a tacit confession of his guilt, sent the Licenciados Jaraba, Muñoz, and Carillo to New Spain, as Jueces Pesquisidores, with letters for the viceroy commanding him to yield up the government and to return to Spain in order to account for his conduct.

These men immediately departed on their mission and arrived safely in America without accident, save in the death of Jaraba one of their colleagues. As soon as they reached Mexico, they presented their despatches to the viceroy, and Muñoz took possession of the government of New Spain. The worthy and noble Marques de Falces was naturally stunned by so unprecedented and unexpected a proceeding; but, satisfied of the justice of his cause as well as of the purity of his conduct, he left the capital and retired to the castle of San Juan de Ulua, leaving the reins of power in the hands of Muñoz whose tyrannical conduct soon destroyed all the confidence which hitherto had always existed, at least between the Audiencia and the people of the metropolis. [32] It was probably before this time that the Marques del Valle was released;—and deeming the new empire which his father had given to Spain no safe resting place for his descendants, he departed once more for the Spanish court. The viceroy himself had fallen a victim to deception and intrigue.


It seems to have been one of the weaknesses of Philip the Second's character to have but little confidence in men. With such examples as we have just seen, it may, nevertheless, have been an evidence of his wisdom that he did not rely upon the courtiers who usually surround a king. He had doubted, in reality, the actual guilt of the Marques de Falces, and was, therefore, not surprised when he learned the truth upon these weighty matters in the year 1568. The government of Muñoz, his visitador, was, moreover, represented to him as cruel and bloody. The conduct of the previous Audiencia had been humane when compared [Pg 158] with the acting governor's. The prisons, which already existed in Mexico were not adequate to contain his victims, and he built others whose dark, damp and narrow architecture rendered incarceration doubly painful to the sufferers. Don Martin Cortéz, the half brother of the Marques del Valle, who remained in the metropolis as the attorney and representative of his kinsman, was seized and put to torture for no crime save that the blood of the conqueror flowed in his veins, and that he had enjoyed friendly relations with the suspected conspirators. Torture, it was imagined would wring from him a confession which might justify the oidores. The situation of New Spain could not, indeed, be worse than it was, for no man felt safe in the midst of such unrestrained power and relentless cruelty; and we may be permitted to believe that outraged humanity would soon have risen to vindicate itself against such brutes and to wrest the fruits of the conquest from a government that sent forth such wicked sattelites. Even the Audiencia itself,—the moving cause of this new and bad government,—began to tremble when it experienced the humiliating contempt with which it was invariably treated by the monster Muñoz.

But all these acts of maladministration were more safely reported to the Spanish court by the nobles and oidores of Mexico, than the despatches of the unfortunate Marques de Falces. Philip eagerly responded to the demand for the removal of Muñoz. He despatched the oidores Villanueva and Vasco de Puga, to Mexico, with orders to Muñoz to give up the government in three hours after he received the royal despatch, and to return immediately to Spain for judgment of his conduct. The envoys lost no time in reaching their destination, where they found that Muñoz had retired to the convent of Santo Domingo, probably as a sanctuary, in order to pass Holy Week. But the impatient emissaries, responding to the joyful impatience of the people, immediately followed him to his retreat, and, after waiting a considerable time in the anti-chamber, and being, at last, most haughtily received by Muñoz, who scarcely saluted them with a nod, Villanueva drew from his breast the royal cedula, and commanded his secretary to read it in a loud voice.

For a while the foiled visitador sat silent, moody and thoughtful, scarcely believing the reality of what he heard. After a pause, in which all parties preserved silence, he rose and declared his willingness to yield to the king's command; and thus, this brutal chief, who but a few hours before believed himself a sovereign in [Pg 159] Mexico, was indebted to the charity of some citizens for a carriage in which he travelled to Vera Cruz. Here a fleet was waiting to transport him to Spain. The late viceroy, the Marques de Falces, departed in a ship of the same squadron, and, upon his arrival at the court, soon found means to justify himself entirely in the eyes of his sovereign. But it went harder with Muñoz. He vainly tried his skill at exculpation with the king. Philip seems to have despised him too much to enter into discussion upon the merits of the accusations. The facts were too flagrant. The king returned him his sword, declining to hear any argument in his justification. "I sent you to the Indies to govern, not to destroy!" said Philip, as he departed from his presence; and that very night the visitador suddenly expired!

Whether he died of mortification or violence, is one of those state secrets, which, like many others of a similar character, the chronicles of Spain do not reveal!

Don Martin Cortéz and his family took refuge in Spain where his case was fully examined; and whilst the investigation lasted, from 1567 to 1574, his estates in Mexico were confiscated. He was finally declared innocent of all the charges, but his valuable property had been seriously injured and wasted by the officers of the crown, to whom it was intrusted during the long period of sequestration.


[32] Liceo Mexicano vol. 1, p. 263, et seq.

[Pg 160]



Don Martin Enriquez de Almanza.
IV. Viceroy of New Spain.


The salutary lesson received by the Audiencia in the events which occurred in the metropolis during late years, induced its members to conduct themselves with less arrogance during the short time they held supreme power after the departure of the Visitadores. In October of 1568, a new viceroy, Don Martin Enriquez de Almanza, arrived at Vera Cruz, whence he reached the capital on the 5th of the following November after having routed the English whom he found in possession of the Isle of Sacrificios.

Don Martin immediately perceived, upon assuming the reins of government, that it was necessary to calm the public mind in the metropolis which, from recent occurrences, now began to regard all men in authority with jealousy and distrust. He let the people understand, therefore, from the first, that he did not design to countenance any proceedings similar to those which had lately almost disorganized and revolutionized the colony. An occasion soon presented itself in which his prudence and discretion were required to adjust a serious dispute concerning the Franciscan monks and in which the people sympathized with the brotherhood and their supposed rights. Any act of rigor or harshness would [Pg 161] have kindled the flame of sedition, but the mild diplomacy of the viceroy sufficed to calm the litigants and to restore perfect peace to the capital. A religious dispute, in such a community as Mexico then was, seemed, indeed, an affair of no small moment, especially when it arose in so tempestuous a period of the nation and was the first occasion to try the temper and talents of a new viceroy.

But the attention of Don Martin was soon to be drawn from the capital towards the frontiers of his government, where he found that the troublesome bands of wandering Chichimecas, had been busy in their old work of robbery and spoliation, whilst the Audiencia was engaged in its intrigues and corruption in the city of Mexico. The impunity with which these martial vagabonds had been allowed to proceed, increased their daring, and the evils they inflicted on the country were becoming continually greater. Not satisfied with having despatched the chief alcalde of the hostile region with the militia to punish the rebels, he joined the forces of that, officer, and succeeded after great slaughter in compelling the Indians to quit the soil they had hitherto ravaged. It should be recorded, in justice to the viceroy, that he ordered the Indian children who fell into the hands of his soldiery, to be spared, and, at the end of the campaign, brought them all to the metropolis, where he distributed them among rich families so that they might receive a christian education. In order to save the region from further devastation he established therein a colony, to which he gave the name of San Felipe, perhaps in honor of his king, as he bestowed upon it the title of "city."

Such was the condition of things when Pedro Moya de Contreras arrived in Mexico as Inquisitor, having been sent by Philip to establish the dread tribunal of the faith in that capital. The Spanish king feared that the doctrines of the reformation which were then rife in Europe might find friends among his transatlantic subjects, and he mercifully resolved to give them, as a guardian of their consciences, this sad and dreadful present. In 1572, Doctor Pedro Sanchez, a Jesuit, with various brethren of the same order, came to the city of Mexico, and founded a college in certain edifices which were ceded to them for that purpose by Alonso Villaseca. The brethren of the holy office, or inquisition, meanwhile organized their body, for future operations, and settled under the wings of the church of Santo Domingo.

It was at this period, also, that Don Martin established the alcabala; and, although the merchants opposed the measure, which was entirely new to them, and alleged that it was a mortal blow to [Pg 162] their business, they were unable to force the viceroy to retract his measure. His determination was founded on the fact that trade had now become established on a firm and robust basis, and that it could well bear without injury an impost of this character.


In the years 1574 and 1575 there were serious discussions between the temporal and spiritual powers of Mexico, growing out of a royal order that no prelate should be admitted in the country unless he bore a suitable license from the Council of the Indies. In 1576, Mexico was again visited by a frightful pestilence, which spread rapidly, and carried off large numbers of victims. The whole of New Spain was ravaged by it, and neither care, nor medical science, seems to have had the least effect either in curing or in alleviating the sufferers. The symptoms of this malady were a violent pain in the head which was succeeded by a burning fever, under which the patient sank. None survived the seventh day, and it is reported that near two millions perished under the dreadful scourge. The malady abated at the close of the rainy season, and disappeared entirely at the beginning of 1577.

In the two succeeding years, Don Martin commanded that the usual annual tribute should not be collected from the Indians. This measure was designed to alleviate the lot of these suffering subjects of the king and to testify the paternal regard which he cherished for a race that served him and his subjects so beneficially in the mines. It was in the mineral districts that the Indians were in reality the greatest sufferers and laborers in New Spain. Their toil was incessant. Their task masters gave them no respite in the bowels of the earth, for they wrought as if they designed to scrape every vein and artery of the colony's soil. Silver and labor were calculated with exactness, and no limit to the Indian's industry was prescribed save that which was imposed by his capacity for work and his power of endurance. The viceroy, seeking to alleviate this, introduced a milder system, as far as he was able, among the leading miners of the colony. He insisted upon permitting the Indians regular repose, and he forbade their entire confinement within the mines, but commanded that they should be allowed time to breathe the fresh air on the surface of the earth, and suffered to attend to their own domestic labors, or to toil on public works for a competent recompense.

The government of Don Martin had thus far been unusually calm, but his last moments in Mexico were to be disturbed by a quarrel with a Franciscan monk, named Rivera, who had called at [Pg 163] the palace to see the viceroy on a matter of business for his convent, and had been forced to wait a considerable time without being finally honored with an audience. The petulant friar regarded this as a slight upon the brotherhood, and, shortly afterwards, whilst preaching in the cathedral, declared, with a sneering and offensive purpose against the viceroy, that "in the palace all became equal, and that no difference was made between ecclesiastics and secular folks!"

The viceroy could not permit so flagrant a breach of decorum and so dangerous a taunt in a popular appeal, to rest unrebuked. He therefore demanded the punishment of the pulpit critic, and the Audiencia ordered Rivera to depart forthwith for Spain. But the haughty monk in order to avoid the disgrace of expulsion, united the whole body of his fraternity in the quarrel, and singing the psalm "In exitu Israel de Ægipto," they departed from the city by the road leading to Vera Cruz. The viceroy seems to have been moved by this act of the brotherhood, and immediately wrote to Rivera in soothing terms requesting him to return to Mexico where justice should be done him. The Franciscan returned, but soon after received a royal order to depart for Spain.

In 1580, the abundant rain caused again an inundation of the capital, and Don Martin Enriquez was about to engage in the construction of the celebrated canal of Huehuetoca, when he was removed to the viceroyalty of Peru.

Don Lorenzo Xuares, Conde de la Coruña,
V. Viceroy of Mexico.


Don Lorenzo Xuares, Conde de la Coruña, was appointed by the king, successor of Almanza, and made his triumphal entry into the city of Mexico on the evening of the 4th of October, 1580. The gay and affable character of this personage at once attracted the people and the colonial court; and in consequence of the rapidly increasing population, wealth, and luxury of New Spain, as well as from the unreserved demeanor of the viceroy, it was supposed that a golden age had arrived in the history of Mexico, which would forever signalize the administration of Xuares.

Perhaps the viceroy was too lenient and amiable for the task that had been imposed on him in America. The epoch of speculation and adventure had not yet passed by, and of course, the corruption which ever follows in their train required still to be [Pg 164] closely watched and quickly checked. To this duty Xuares did not immediately address himself, and the result was that the oidores, the alcaldes, and all who administered justice, at once put themselves up to auction and sold their services, their favors, or their decisions to the highest bidder. Disorder reigned in every department, in the year following the arrival of Xuares; and even the royal revenues, which hitherto had generally remained sacred, were squandered or secreted by the persons to whose care and fidelity their collection was intrusted. The limitations which we have already seen were placed upon a viceroy's power in the time of Velasco, now tied the hands of Xuares. He could not dismiss or even suspend the defrauders of the revenue or the public wretches who prostituted their official power for gold. Nor was he, probably, unwilling to be deprived of a dangerous right which would have placed him in direct hostility to the army of speculators and jobbers. And yet it was necessary for the preservation of the colony that these evils should be quickly abated. In this political strait, concealing his intentions from the viceroyal court, he applied to Philip to send a Visitador with ample powers to readjust the disorganized realm.

The commerce of New Spain had augmented astonishingly within a few years. Vera Cruz and Acapulco had become splendid emporiums of wealth and trade. The east and the west poured their people into Mexico through these cities; and, in the capital, some of the most distinguished merchants of Europe, Asia, and Africa met every year, midway between Spain and China, to transact business and exchange opinions upon the growing facilities of an extended commerce. Peru and Mexico furnished the precious metals which were always so greedily demanded by the east. In 1581, Philip II., in view of this state of things in his colony, issued a royal order for the establishment in Mexico for a Tribunal de Consulado, [33] though, it was not, in fact, actually put in effective operation until the year 1593, under the administration of Velasco the Second. In the midsummer of 1582, the viceroy expired, probably of mingled anxiety and old age; and it was well for Mexico that he passed so rapidly from a stage in whose delicate drama, his years and his abilities altogether unfitted him to play so conspicuous a part.

[Pg 165]

Don Pedro Moya de Contreras,
Archbishop of Mexico, First Inquisitor and Visitador, and
VI. Viceroy of New Spain.


Upon the death of Xuares, the Audiencia immediately assumed the direction of the state; but the members of this august tribunal were altogether ignorant of the demand made by the late viceroy for a Visitador, until Don Pedro de Contreras, placed in their hands the despatch from Philip, naming him for this important service.

The archbishop was a man well known in Mexico. Cold, austere, rigid in his demeanor and principles, he was the very man to be chosen for the dangerous duty of contending with a band of rich, proud and unscrupulous officials. His sacred character as arch-prelate of Mexico, was of no little use in such an exigency, for it gave him spiritual as well as temporal power over masses which might sometimes be swayed by their conscientious dread of the church, even when they could not be controlled by the arm of law. Besides this, he was the first Inquisitor of Mexico, and in the dreaded mysteries of the holy office, there was an overwhelming power before which the most daring offenders would not venture to rebel or intrigue.

It may be well imagined that the unexpected appearance of so formidable an ecclesiastic upon the state, armed with the sword as well as the cross, was well calculated to awe the profligate officials. The members of the Audiencia trembled when they read the royal order, for the archbishop knew them well, and had been long cognizant, not only of their own maladministration but of the irregularities they countenanced in others.

Don Pedro immediately undertook the discharge of his office, and in a few days, heard a great number of complaints against various individuals, but as he did not design proceeding with revengeful severity against even the most culpable, he resolved to report his proceedings to the king, and, in the meanwhile, to retain in office all persons who performed their duties faithfully whilst he put an end to the most flagrant abuses.

As soon as Philip II. heard, in 1584, of the death of Mendoza, he added the title and powers of viceroy to those already possessed by the archbishop, and, with his commission as royal representative, he sent him additional authority which had never been enjoyed by [Pg 166] any of his predecessors. He was, thus, empowered to remove, at will, all persons from public employment, and even to expel ministers and oidores, as well as to visit with severe punishments all who deserved them. Under this ample discretion the viceroy removed some of the oidores, suspended others, hanged certain royal officers who had disgraced their trusts, and brought the tribunals of justice into perfect order. The king had proposed to bring the dispersed Indians into towns and villages so as to control them more effectually, but the viceroy, after consulting the priests who were best acquainted with that population, deemed it best to defer the execution of the royal order until he laid the objections to it before Philip. [34] In 1585, a seminary for the Indians was established, in which they were taught to read, write and comprehend the rudiments of the Catholic faith. This institution was under the charge of the Jesuits, whose zeal for education has been celebrated in the history of all countries into which this powerful and enlightened order of the priesthood has penetrated. A provincial council of American bishops, was, moreover, convened this year in Mexico under the auspices of Contreras.

Nor was the viceroy eager only to correct the civil and religious abuses of the country without attending to the fiscal advantages which he knew the king was always eager to secure from his colonies. In testimony of his zeal he despatched, at this period, a rich fleet for Spain. It bore three millions three hundred thousand ducats in coined silver, and one thousand one hundred marks in gold, together with a variety of other valuable products, all of which arrived safely in port.

The power of this vigorous ruler, as viceroy, continued, however, but for a single year. He was the scourge of officials in all classes, while the good men of the colony prayed heartily for the continuance of his authority; but it is probable that his rigor had excited against him the talents for intrigue which we have heretofore seen were sometimes so actively and successfully employed both in Mexico and Spain. In October of 1585, his successor arrived in the capital.

[Pg 167]

Don Alvaro Enrique de Zuñiga, Marques de Villa Manrique,
VII. Viceroy of Mexico.


The arrival of the Marques de Villa Manrique was not designed to interfere with the functions of the archbishop and former viceroy Contreras, as Visitador. He was solicited to continue his plenary examination into the abuses of government in New Spain, and to clear the country of all malefactors before he retired once more to the cloisters. Accordingly, Don Pedro remained in Mexico some time discharging his duties, and it is probably owing to his presence that the first year of the new viceroy passed off in perfect peace. But in the succeeding year, in which the archbishop departed for Spain, his troubles began by a serious discussion with the Franciscans, Agustins and Dominicans, in which the monks at last appealed from the viceroy to the king. Before Contreras, the visitador, left Mexico he had managed to change all the judges composing the tribunals of the colony. The men he selected in their stead were all personally known to him or were appointed upon the recommendation of persons whose integrity and capacity for judgment were unquestionable.

This remarkable man died soon after his arrival in Madrid, where he had been appointed president of the Council of the Indies. Like all reformers he went to his grave poor; but when the king learned his indigence he took upon himself the costs of sepulture, and laid his colonial representative and bishop to the tomb in a manner befitting one who had exercised so great and beneficial an influence in the temporary reform of the New World. The sole stain upon the memory of Contreras is perhaps the fact that he was an inquisitor.

In 1587, the viceroy Zuñiga despatched a large amount of treasure to Spain. Enormous sums were drained annually from the colonies for the royal metropolis; but, in this year the fleet from Vera Cruz sailed with eleven hundred and fifty-six marks of gold, in addition to an immense amount of coined silver and merchandise of great value. These sums passed safely to the hands of the court; but such was not the case with all the precious freights that left the American coasts, for, at this period, the shores of our continent, on both oceans, began to swarm with pirates. The subjects of various European nations, but especially the English, were most active in enterprises which, in those days, [Pg 168] were probably regarded more as privateering than as the bandit expeditions they have since been considered not only in morals but in law. In the year before, Cavendish had taken in the Pacific, a Spanish ship, which was bound from Manilla to Acapulco, with a rich cargo of wares from China; and, in this year, it was known that Drake, another noted adventurer, after making himself celebrated by the capture of San Agustin, in Florida, had sailed for the Pacific ocean, whose rich coasts, as well as the oriental traders, formed a tempting booty for the bucanier.

As soon as the viceroy heard of this piratical sailor's approach to the western boundary of his colony, he commanded the troops in Guadalajara to embark at Acapulco, under the orders of Doctor Palacios, in all the vessels which were then in port, and to scour the shores of America until the British marauder was captured. But, upon the commander's arrival at Acapulco, he was informed that the freebooter had already abandoned the west coast after sacking several towns, and that he had not been seen or heard of any where for a long period. Drake, meanwhile, was in concealment among the distant and unfrequented coves of California, in such a situation, however, that he could easily intercept the galeon, which passed every year from the Philipines to Mexico, laden with goods and metals of considerable value. In due time he pounced upon his unsuspecting prey; and, carrying her into a bay near the Cape of San Lucas, plundered her valuable cargo, and set fire to the deserted hull. The news of this mishap soon reached the ears of Palacios, who, of course, immediately set sail after the corsair. But Drake was already far on his way to a spot of safety in which he and his companions might enjoy the fruits of their piratical adventure.

This successful attack upon a vessel of so much importance to the colony,—for only one was annually permitted to cross the Pacific,—greatly troubled the people who depended upon its arrival for their yearly supply of oriental wares. But as soon as the general calm was gradually restored, an internal trouble arose which was well nigh proving of serious import to the viceroyalty. Zuñiga does not seem to have been contented with the jurisdiction which had hitherto been conceded to the viceroy, but, being anxious to extend his authority over certain towns and villages, under the control of the Audiencia of Guadalajara, he demanded of that body the surrender of their dominion. The Audiencia, however, was jealous of its rights, and would not yield to the viceroy who was equally pertinacious. The dispute ran high between the [Pg 169] parties. Threats were used when diplomacy failed, and at length, the disputants reached, but did not pass, the verge of civil war, for, on both sides they seem to have ordered out troops, who, fortunately never actually engaged in combat.

This ill judged act of the viceroy was fatal to his power. Letters and petitions were forthwith despatched to Madrid requiring and begging the removal of a man whose rashness was near producing a civil war. This was a charge not to be disregarded by the king, and, accordingly, we find that a successor to Zuñiga was immediately named, and that the bishop of Tlascala was appointed visitador to examine the conduct of the deposed viceroy.

On the 17th of January, 1590, this prelate, who seems to have been originally inimical to Zuñiga, and who should therefore have disdained the office of his judge, ordered him to depart from Mexico. All the property of the late viceroy,—even the linen of his wife,—was sequestrated; the most harassing annoyances were constantly inflicted upon him; and, after six years, poor and worn down by unceasing trials, he returned to Spain, where the influence of his friends at court procured the restoration of his property.


[33] This was a mercantile tribunal.

[34] The Indians alluded to in this passage were vaguely designated as Chichimecas, Otomics, and Mexican. They probably inhabited a tract of country lying north west of the kingdom of Michoacan.—See 1st. vol. Trans. Amn. Ethnl. Soc. p. 2.

[Pg 170]



Don Luis de Velasco,—the Second,—Conde de Santiago,
VIII. Viceroy of New Spain.


Luis de Velasco, Count de Santiago, was the son of the second viceroy of New Spain, and during the administration of his father, as well as for some years afterwards, had resided in Mexico where he filled several offices, and especially that of corregidor of Zempoala. He was not on friendly terms with the last viceroy, Zuñiga, for he had suddenly quitted New Spain in the same vessel that brought his predecessor to America. Upon his arrival at the Spanish court he was sent as ambassador to Florence; and the exaggerated news of the supposed civil war in Mexico having been received just as he returned from his mission, Philip determined to send him back to New Spain. This decision was, no doubt, founded upon Velasco's intimate acquaintance with Mexico and its people, with whom his interests had been so long bound up that he might almost be regarded as a native of the country.

On the 25th of January, 1590, Velasco entered the capital with more pomp and rejoicing than had ever attended the advent of previous viceroys, for the Mexicans looked upon him as a countryman. As soon as he was seated in power his first acts demonstrated [Pg 171] his good sense and mature judgment. His wish was to develope the country; to make not only its mineral and agricultural resources available to Spain, but to open the channels through which labor could obtain its best rewards. He therefore ordered the manufactories of coarse stuffs and cloths which had been established by Mendoza to be once more opened, after the long period in which the Spanish mercantile influence had kept them shut. This naturally produced an excitement among the interested foreign traders, but the viceroy firmly maintained his determination to punish severely any one who should oppose his decree.

In 1591, the troublesome Chichimecas, of whose disturbances we have already spoken in other chapters, again manifested a desire to attack the Spaniards. They were congregated in strongly armed bands in the neighborhood of Zacatecas, and menaced the Spanish population living in the neighborhood of the rich mines. Travellers could not pass through the country without a military escort. Strong garrisons had been placed by the government on the frontiers, and merciless war declared against them, but all was unavailing to stop their marauding expeditions among the whites. In this year, however, they sent commissioners to treat with the Spaniards in Mexico, and after confessing that they were tired of a war which they found useless, they consented to abstain from further molestation of the district, provided the viceroy would agree to furnish them with a sufficiency of meat for their support. Velasco of course consented to this demand of the cattle stealers, and, moreover, obtained their consent to the admission among them of a body of Tlascalans who would instruct them in a civil and christian mode of life. Four hundred families of these faithful friends of the Mexicans were selected for this colony; and, together with some Franciscan friars, they settled in four bodies so as to form an equal number of colonies. One of these settlements was made on the side of a rich mineral hill and took the name of San Luis Potosi,—the second formed San Miguel Mesqitic,—the third San Andres,—and the fourth Colotlan. Such was the origin of these towns, in which the two tribes lived for many years in perfect harmony, but without intermingling or losing their individuality.

Another attempt was also made, as had been done previously, to gather the dispersed bands of Mexican and Otomi Indians into villages and settlements, where they would gradually become accustomed to civilized life. Velasco, like his predecessor Moya, consulted with the curas and the people who were best acquainted with the temper of these races, and learned that they still opposed [Pg 172] humane efforts for civilization, preferring the vagabond life they had so long led and which had now become necessary and natural. Nevertheless he thought it his duty to try the experiment. But the first Otomi who was reduced to the necessity of abandoning his nomadic habits and building for himself a regular habitation, not only destroyed his wife and children, but terminated his own existence by hanging. The viceroy then suspended his operations and reported the untoward result, together with the opinion of his advisers, to the court of Spain.

Velasco, ever anxious not only for the amelioration of the condition of the Indians, but for the embellishment of the capital which was now growing into considerable importance, caused the Alameda of Mexico to be laid out and planted in 1593, for the recreation of the citizens. This magnificent grove, with its beautifully shaded avenues and walks,—embellished by fountains and filled with every thing that can give repose or comfort to the fatigued people who are anxious to steal off awhile from the toil and bustle of a large city,—still exists in Mexico as an evidence of the taste and liberality of the viceroy, and will be more particularly described, hereafter, in that portion of this work which treats of the city of Mexico, and of the manners and customs of its inhabitants.


In 1594, Philip the Second finding himself straitened for means to carry on the European wars in which he was engaged, recurred to the unfortunate and unjust system of forced loans to increase his revenue. He did not confine himself in this odious compulsory tax to the old world which was most concerned in the result of his wars, but instructed Velasco to impose a tribute of four reales or fifty cents upon Indians, in addition to the sum they already paid his majesty. Velasco reluctantly undertook the unwelcome task; but anxious to lighten the burden upon the natives as much as possible, and, at the same time, to foster the raising of poultry and cattle among these people, he compounded the whole tax of a dollar which they were obliged to pay, for seven reales, or eighty-seven and a half cents and one fowl, which, at that time, was valued at a single real, or twelve and a half cents. This, it will be perceived, was amiably designed by the viceroy, but became immediately the subject of gross abuse. The Indians are slowly moved either to new modes of cultivation or to new objects of care, even of the most domestic and useful character. Instead of devoting themselves to the raising of poultry with the industrious thrift that [Pg 173] would have saved one-eighth of their taxation or twelve and a half per cent, they allowed the time to pass without providing the required bird in their homesteads, so that when the tax gatherer arrived they were forced to buy the fowl instead of selling it. This of course raised the price, and the consequence was that the Indian was obliged often to pay two or three reales more than the original amount of the whole taxation of one dollar! It is related that one of the oidores who had taken eight hundred fowls, reserved two hundred for the consumption of his house, and through an agent sold the rest at three reales, or thirty-seven and a half cents each, by which he contrived to make a profit of two hundred per cent. Various efforts were made to remedy this shameful abuse or to revoke the decree, but the system was found to be too profitable among the officials, to be abandoned without a severe struggle. We are unable to discover that the viceroy, in this instance, used his authority to restore the Indians to their original rights.

In 1595, it was determined to colonize the supposed kingdom of Quivara, which now received the name of New Mexico, but, before the expedition could set forth under the command of Juan de Oñate, Velasco received a despatch informing him that he had been named viceroy of Peru, and that his successor Don Gaspar de Zuñiga Acebedo, Conde de Monterey, would soon appear in the colonial metropolis.

Don Gaspar de Zuñiga Acebedo, Conde de Monterey,
IX. Viceroy of New Spain.


The Count of Monterey arrived at San Juan de Ulua on the 18th of September, 1595, and on the 5th of the following November, entered the capital as viceroy. At first he exhibited a cold and apathetic temper, and appeared to take but little interest in the affairs of the government; but it is supposed, that being a prudent and cautious man, he was in no haste to undertake the direction of affairs whilst he was altogether unacquainted both with the temper of the people and the nature of their institutions. An early measure, however, of his administration deserves to be recorded and remembered. He found the Indians still suffering and complaining under the odious fowl tax, created by his predecessor for the protection of domestic industry, but which had been perverted for the [Pg 174] selfish and avaricious purposes of the receivers. He immediately abolished this impost, and diminished the whole amount of taxation upon the Indians.

In consequence of the loss of the galeon from the Philipines, which we have related, the king ordered an expedition, under the command of General Sebastian Viscaino, to examine and scour the coasts of the Californias, where it was alleged the precious metals, and, especially, the most valuable pearls would be found in abundance. Viscaino recruited a large number of followers in Mexico for this enterprise, and set sail with three vessels, in 1596, from Acapulco. The adventurers coasted the territory for a considerable time without finding a suitable location in which they might settle advantageously, until, at length, they disembarked in the port of La Paz, whence, however, they soon departed for want of provisions and supplies of every kind.

Meanwhile the Count of Monterey examined into the state of the expedition to New Mexico, which he found had been projected and partly prepared by his predecessor. He made some changes in the plan agreed on between Velasco and Oñate, and, in order to exhibit his good will to the latter personage, he joined with him, in the enterprise, his relation Vicente Saldivar, who had gathered a number of emigrants for these remote and northern regions. People were tempted to abandon their homes by the reports of extraordinary mineral wealth which was to be obtained in these unexplored portions of New Spain; and, accordingly, when the standard of the expedition was raised in the great square of the capital, crowds of men with their families flocked around it to enlist for the hazardous and toilsome service.

The first news received from the emigrant colonists, when they reached Caxco, two hundred leagues from the capital, was disastrous. Quarrels had originated among the adventurers, who asserted that the terms of the expedition had not been complied with faithfully. As soon as the viceroy heard of the discontent, he despatched Don Lope de Ulloa as a pacificator, to the inflamed band which was quickly reduced to harmony and persuaded to continue its journey to the promised land. At length the weary emigrants reached the boasted El Dorado; but finding the reports of mineral wealth altogether exaggerated, and doubting the advantage of residing with their families permanently in such distant outposts, many of them retraced their way southward to regions that were more densely populated.

In 1598, another effort was resolved on to gather the dispersed [Pg 175] and refractory vagabond Indians who wandered about the territory under the name of Mexicans and Otomies. Whilst they maintained their perfectly nomadic state it was evident that they were useless either as productive laborers for the Spaniards, or as objects of taxation for the sovereign. It was a wise policy, therefore, to attempt what was philanthropically called—their civilization;—but upon this occasion, as upon all the others that preceded it, the failure was signal. Commissioners and notaries were selected and large salaries paid these officials to ensure their faithful services in congregating the dispersed natives. But the government agents, who well knew the difficulty if not the absolute impossibility of achieving the desired object, amused themselves by receiving and spending the liberal salaries disbursed by the government, whilst the Indians still continued as uncontrolled as ever. The Count of Monterey was nevertheless obstinately bent on the prosecution of this favorite policy of the king, and squandered, upon these vile ministerial agents, upwards of two hundred thousand dollars, without producing the least beneficial result. In the following viceroy's reign he was sentenced to pay the government this large sum as having been unwisely spent; but was finally absolved from its discharge by the court to which he appealed from the decision of his successor.

In the beginning of 1599, the news was received in Mexico of the death of Philip II. and of the accession of Philip III. This event was perhaps the most remarkable in the annals of the colony, during the last year of the sixteenth century, except that the town of Monterey in New Leon was founded, and that a change was made by the viceroy of the port of Vera Cruz from its former sickly site at la Antigua, to one which has since become equally unhealthy.

The first three years of the seventeenth century were chiefly characterized by renewed viceroyal efforts among the Indians. The project of congregating the nomadic natives was abandoned, and various attempts were made to break up the system of repartimientos, which had been, as we have seen, the established policy of the colony if not of the king, ever since the conquest. If the Indians were abandoned to their own free will, it was supposed that their habits were naturally so thriftless that they would become burthensome instead of beneficial to the Spanish colonists, and, ultimately, might resolve themselves into mere wanderers like the Otomies and their vagabond companions. Yet, it was acknowledged that their involuntary servitude, and the disastrous train of impositions it entailed, were unchristian and [Pg 176] unjust. There was a dilemma, in fact between idleness and tyranny; but the viceroy conceived it his duty to endeavor once more, with an honest zeal, to sustain the humane policy of freedom which was recommended not only by the sovereign but by the religious orders who were supposed to know the natives best. Various projects were adopted to harmonize their freedom with a necessary degree of labor, in order to ensure them wages and support, whilst they were preserved together in organized societies. After the repartimientos were abrogated, the Indians were compelled to assemble, on every Sabbath, in the public squares of the villages and towns, where they made their contracts of service by the day. The viceroy himself, anxious to prevent fraud, assisted personally in the reunions at the plazas or squares of San Juan and Santiago. But it was all in vain. The proprietors, land owners, and agents, were opposed to the scheme. Brokers interposed, and, after hiring the Indians at moderate rates in contracts made with themselves, sub-let them to others on higher terms. And, at last, it is alleged that the unfortunate natives, seeing the bad operation of the viceroy's kind intentions in their behalf, and finding their condition less happy when they had to take care of themselves than when they were taken care of, appealed to the Count of Monterey to restore the old system of repartimientos under which they were at least spared the trouble of seeking for task-masters and support. Indolent by nature; creatures of habit; and living in a country whose bosom afforded them spontaneously most of the luxuries required by such a class, they submitted to what, in fact, was the greatest evil of their lot, because it relieved them of the trouble of individual effort!

In 1602, Philip III. commanded another expedition for the colonization and exploration of the Californias. It departed in three ships and a barque from Acapulco, on the fifth of May, under the command of Viscaino. Torribio Gomez Corban was the admiral of the little fleet, and Antonio Flores, pilot. From the day of its departure, it was driven by severe gales, but, at length, the port of Monterey was reached by the weary crews, who continued along the coast until they arrived at Cape Blanco de San Sabastian, somewhat beyond Cape Mendozino. There the voyagers were sorely attacked with scurvy which thinned their numbers to such an extent, that, of the whole, only six were able to do duty. With this scant equipment of men, the vessels reached Mazatlan, where the crews recruited their health; and, passing thence to Acapulco, the expedition once more landed in [Pg 177] the midst of civilization and hastened back to the capital to give a bad report of the country which in our day and generation has become the El Dorado of the world.

The Conde de Monterey, was transferred to the viceroyalty of Peru in 1603, and left the capital amid the general grief of a society whose cordial esteem he seems to have won and retained during his whole administration.

Don Juan de Mendoza y Luna, Marques de Montesclaros,
X. Viceroy of New Spain.


The advent of the Marques de Montesclaros to the viceroyalty of New Spain was distinguished by an unusual degree of tranquillity throughout the colony. During the preceding administrations most of the subjects of internal discontent were set at rest, and the aborigines who had been subjected to the yoke were now becoming accustomed to bear it. In 1604, the abundant rains in the valley of Mexico during the month of August, caused an inundation which greatly alarmed the population. The city and adjacent country were laid under water, and such was the general distress that the Marques solicited the opinions of skilful persons in regard to the canal of Huehuetoca, which had heretofore been spoken of as the only means of freeing the capital from destruction by the swollen flood of the lakes. The reports made to him, however, represented the enterprise as one of immense labor and expense, as well as requiring a great length of time for its completion. He therefore abandoned the project for the present, and merely repaired the albarrada or dyke which Velasco had already constructed. In addition to this precautionary measure he caused the calzadas, or raised turnpikes of Guadalupe and San Cristoval to be constructed, which, whilst they led to the open country beyond the city, served, also, as additional barriers against the waters. After the completion of these highways, he next directed his attention to those of San Antonio and Chapultepec, which were quickly finished, and merited the name of "Roman works," for the massive strength and durability of their construction. Various other useful municipal works, such as aqueducts and sewers, engaged the notice of the viceroy until, in 1607; and after the proclamation of the Prince of Asturias (Philip IV.) by order of the king, he was ordered to pass from Mexico to Peru where he was charged with the duties of the viceroyalty.

[Pg 178]



Don Luis Velasco,—the Second,—Conde de Santiago and
First Marques de Salinas,
XI. Viceroy of Mexico. His Second Administration.


Don Luis Velasco had been seven years viceroy of Peru since he left the government of Mexico, when he was summoned once more to rule a country of which he felt himself almost a native. [35] He was tired of public life, and being advanced in years would gladly have devoted the rest of his existence to the care of his family and the management of his valuable estates in the colony. But he could not refuse the nomination of the king, and at the age of seventy, once more found himself at the head of affairs in New Spain.

The government of this excellent nobleman has been signalized in history by the erection of the magnificent public work, designed for the drainage of the valley, of which we spoke during the last viceroyalty. The results of Velasco's labors were permanent, and as his work, or at least a large portion of it remains to the present day, and serves to secure the capital from the floods with which it is constantly menaced, we shall describe the whole of this magnificent enterprise at present, though our description will carry us, chronologically, out of the period under consideration, and lead us from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century.

[Pg 179] The valley of Mexico is a great basin, which although seven thousand five hundred feet above the level of the sea, and of course subject to constant and rapid evaporation, is yet exceedingly humid for so elevated a region. No stream, except the small arroyo, or rivulet of Tequisquiac, issues from the valley, whilst the rivers Papalotla, Tezcoco, Teotihuacan, Guadalupe, Pachuca and Guautitlan pour into it and form the five lakes of Chalco, Xochimilco, Tezcoco, San Cristoval and Zumpango. "These lakes rise by stages as they approach the northern extremity of the valley; the waters of Tezcoco, being, in their ordinary state, four Mexican varas and eight inches lower than the waters of the lake of San Cristoval, which again, are six varas lower than the waters of the lake Zumpango, which forms the northernmost link of this dangerous chain. The level of Mexico in 1803 was exactly one vara, one foot and one inch above that of the lake of Tezcoco, [36] and, consequently, was nine varas and five inches lower than that of the lake of Zumpango; a disproportion, the effects of which have been more severely felt because the lake of Zumpango receives the tributary streams of the river Guautitlan, whose volume is more considerable than that of all the other rivers which enter the valley combined.

"In the inundations to which this peculiarity in the formation of the valley of Mexico has given rise, a similar succession of events has been always observed. The lake of Zumpango, swollen by the rapid increase of the river Guautitlan during the rainy season, forms a junction with that of San Cristoval, and the waters of the two combined burst the dykes which separate them from the lake of Tezcoco. The waters of this last again, raised suddenly more than a vara above their usual level, and prevented from extending themselves to the east and south-east, by the rapid rise of the ground in that direction, rush back towards the capital and fill the streets which approach nearest to their own level. This was the case in the years 1553, 1580, 1604 and 1607, in each of which years the capital was entirely under water, and the dykes which had been constructed for its protection destroyed." [37]

Such is a topographical sketch of the country accurately given by a careful writer; and to protect an important region so constantly menaced with inundation, the viceroy now addressed himself. Accordingly he commissioned the engineer Enrique Martinez, in 1607 to attempt the drainage of the lake of Zumpango, by the [Pg 180] stupendous canal now known under the name of the Desague de Huehuetoca.

"The plan of Martinez appears to have embraced two distinct objects, the first of which extended to the lakes of Tezcoco and San Cristoval, while the second was confined to the lake of Zumpango whose superfluous waters were to be carried into the valley of Tula by a subterraneous canal into which the river Guautitlan was likewise compelled to flow. The second of these projects only was approved by the government; and the line of the canal having been traced by Martinez between the Cerro or hill of Sincoque and the hill of Nochistongo to the north-west of Huehuetoca, where the mountains that surrounded the valley are less elevated than in any other spot,—the great subterraneous gallery of Nochistongo was commenced on the 28th of November, 1607. Fifteen thousand Indians were employed in this work, and as a number of air shafts were sunk, in order to enable them to work upon the different points at once, in eleven months a tunnel of six thousand six hundred metres [38] in length, three metres five in breadth and four metres two in height, was concluded.

"From the northern extremity of this tunnel called la boca de San Gregorio, an open cut of eight thousand six hundred metres conducted the waters to the salto or fall of the river Tula, where, quitting the valley of Mexico, they precipitate themselves into that of Tula, from a natural terrace of twenty Mexican varas in height, and take their course towards the bar of Tampico where they enter the gulf of Mexico. An enterprise of such magnitude could hardly be free from defects, and Martinez soon discovered that the unbaked bricks, of which the interior of the tunnel was composed, were unable to resist the action of water, which, being confined within narrow limits, was at times impelled through the tunnel with irresistible violence. A facing of wood proved equally ineffectual, and masonry was at last resorted to; but even this, though successful for a time, did not answer permanently, because the engineer, instead of an elliptical arch, constructed nothing but a sort of vault, the sides of which rested upon a foundation of no solidity. The consequence was that the walls were gradually undermined by the water, and that the vault itself in many parts fell in.

"This accident rendered the government indifferent to the fate of the gallery which was neglected, and finally abandoned in the [Pg 181] year 1623, when a Dutch engineer, named Adrian Boot, induced the viceroy to resume the old system of dyke and embankments, and to give orders for closing the tunnel of Nochistongo. A sudden rise in the lake of Tezcoco caused these orders to be revoked, and Martinez was again allowed to proceed with his works which he continued until the 20th of June, 1629, when an event took place, the real causes of which have never been ascertained."

"The rainy season having set in with unusual violence, Martinez, either desirous to convince the inhabitants of the capital of the utility of his gallery, or fearful, as he himself stated, that the fruits of his labor would be destroyed by the entrance of too great a volume of water, closed the mouth of the tunnel, without communicating to any one his intention to do so. The effect was instantaneous; and, in one night, the whole town of Mexico was laid under water, with the exception of the great square, and one of the suburbs. In all the other streets the water rose upwards of three feet, and during five years, from 1629 to 1634, canoes formed the only medium of communication between them. The foundations of many of the principal houses were destroyed; trade was paralyzed; the lower classes reduced to the lowest state of misery; and orders were actually given by the court of Madrid to abandon the town and build a new capital in the elevated plains between Tacuba and Tacubaya, to which the waters of the lakes, even before the conquest, had never been known to extend.

"The necessity of this measure was obviated by a succession of earthquakes in the dry year of 1634, when the valley was cracked and rent in various directions, and the waters gradually disappeared; a miracle for which due credit should be given to the Virgin of Guadalupe, by whose powerful intercession it is said to have been effected.

"Martinez, who had been thrown into confinement in 1629, was released upon the termination of the evils which his imprudence was said to have occasioned; and was again placed by a new viceroy,—the Marques de Cerralvo,—at the head of the works by which similar visitations were to be averted in future. Under his superintendence the great dyke, or Calzada of San Cristoval was put in order, [39] by which the lake of that name is divided from that of Tezcoco. This gigantic work which consists of two distinct masses, the first, one league, and the second, one thousand five hundred varas in length, is ten varas in width or thickness [Pg 182] throughout, and from three and a half to four varas in height. It is composed entirely of stone, with buttresses of solid masonry on both sides, and three sluices, by which, in any emergency, a communication between the lakes can be effected and regulated at the same time. The whole was concluded, like the gallery of Nochistongo, in eleven months, although as many years would now be required for such an undertaking. But in those days the sacrifice of life, and particularly of Indian life, in public works, was not regarded. Many thousands of the natives perished before the desague was completed; and to their loss, as well as to the hardships endured by the survivors, may be ascribed the horror with which the name of Huehuetoca is pronounced by their descendants.

"It is not our intention to follow the progress of the canal of Huehuetoca through all the various changes which occurred in the plans pursued with respect to it from 1637, when the direction of the work was again taken from Martinez and confided to the Franciscan monks, until 1767, when, under the viceroyalty of the Marques de Croix, the Consulado or corporate body of Mexican merchants, engaged to complete this great national undertaking. The necessity of converting the tunnel of Martinez into an open cut, had long been acknowledged, it having been found impossible to prevent the tunnel from being continually choked up by the sand and rubbish deposited by the water on its passage; but as the work was only prosecuted with vigor when the danger of an inundation became imminent, and was almost suspended in the dry years, two thousand three hundred and ten varas of the northern gallery remained untouched, after the expiration of one hundred and thirty years when the Consulado was intrusted with the completion of the arduous task. As the old line of the gallery was to be preserved, it became necessary to give the cut which was to be sunk, perpendicularly upon it, an enormous width at the top, in order to prevent the sides from falling in; and in the more elevated parts, between the mountains of Sincoque and the hill of Nochistongo, for the space of two thousand six hundred and twenty-four feet, the width, across, varies from two hundred and seventy-eight to six hundred and thirty feet, while the perpendicular depth is from one hundred and forty-seven to one hundred and ninety-six feet. The whole length of the cut from the sluice called the vertideros to the salto or fall of the river Tula, is sixty-seven thousand five hundred and thirty-seven feet or twenty-four thousand five hundred and thirty Mexican varas. The highest point of the hill of Nochistongo is that called Boveda Real, and it [Pg 183] would be difficult when looking down from it, upon the stream below, and, following with the eye the vast opening through which it seeks an issue, to conceive that the whole is, indeed, the work of man, did not the mounds on either side, as yet but imperfectly covered with vegetation, and the regular outline of the terraces, denote both the recentness of its completion, and the impossibility of attributing it to any natural convulsion.

"The Obra del Consulado, as the opening cut is called, was concluded in the year 1789. It cost nearly a million of dollars; and the whole expense of the drainage from 1607 to the beginning of the present century, including the various projects commenced and abandoned when only partially executed,—the dykes connected with the desague,—and the two canals which communicate with the lakes of San Cristoval and Zumpango,—is estimated at six millions two hundred and forty-seven thousand six hundred and seventy dollars, or one million two hundred and forty-nine thousand five hundred and thirty-four pounds. It is supposed that one-third of this sum would have proved sufficient to cover all the expenses, had Martinez been furnished in the first instance with the means of executing his project upon the scale which he had judged necessary; for it is in the reduced dimensions of the gallery of Nochistongo, which was never equal to the volume of water to which at particular seasons it afforded an outlet, that all the subsequent expenditure has originated." [40]


We have judged it better to group together in this place all the facts relative to this most important national work,—so as to afford the reader a complete picture of the undertaking,—than to relate the slow and tedious history of the work as it advanced to completion during the reigns of many viceroys. The present condition of the desague and its advantages will be treated in another portion of this work; and we shall therefore revert at once to the year 1609, in which a large number of negroes rebelled against the Spaniards. It seems that the blacks in the neighborhood of Cordova, who were in fact slaves on many of the hiciendas or plantations, having been treated, in an inhuman manner by their owners, rose against them in great force, and gathering together in the adjacent mountains menaced their tyrannical task-masters with death, and their property with ruin. Velasco sent one hundred soldiers, one hundred volunteers, one hundred Indian archers, [Pg 184] together with two hundred Spaniards and Mestizos, to attack them in their fastnesses. Several skirmishes took place between the slaves and these forces, and at length the negroes yielded to the Spaniards,—craving their pardon, inasmuch as their "insurrection was not against the king,"—and promising that they would no longer afford a refuge to the blacks who absconded from the plantations. Velasco at once granted their request, and permitted them to settle in the town of San Lorenzo.

In 1610 and 1611, there were but few important incidents in the history of New Spain, which was now gradually forming itself into a regularly organized state, free from all those violent internal commotions, which nations, like men, are forced to undergo in their infancy. The viceroy still endeavored to ameliorate the condition of the Indians, and despatched a mission to Japan in order to extend the oriental commerce of Spain. The true policy of Castile would have been, instead of crushing Mexico by colonial restrictions, to have raised her gradually into a gigantic state, which, situated in the centre of America, on the narrowest part of the continent between the two oceans, and holding in her veins the precious metals in exhaustless quantities, would have surely grasped and held the commerce of the east and of Europe. Such would seem the natural destiny of Mexico if we examine her geographical features carefully; nor do we venture too much in predicting that the time will come when that destiny will be fulfilled.

Velasco was now well stricken in years and required repose. His master, appreciating his faithful services and his unquestionable loyalty, added to his already well earned titles that of Marques of Salinas, and creating him president of the Council of the Indies recalled him to Spain where he could pass in quiet the evening of his days, whilst he was also enabled to impart the results of his vast American experience to the king and court.

Fray Garcia Guerra, Archbishop of Mexico,
XII. Viceroy of New Spain.


Velasco, as an especial mark of royal favor, was desired to retain his power as viceroy until the moment of embarkation for Spain, and then to depose it in favor of the monk Garcia Guerra, who had been the worthy prior of a Dominican convent at Burgos [Pg 185] in Spain, until he was nominated to the Archepiscopal See of Mexico. His government was brief and altogether eventless. He became viceroy on the 17th of June, 1611, and died on the 22d of February in the following year, of a wound he received in falling as he descended from his coach.

Don Diego Fernandez de Cordova,
Marques de Guadalcazar,
XIII. Viceroy of New Spain.


Upon the death of the last viceroy, the Audiencia, of course, took possession of the government during the interregnum;—and, as it seems that this body of men was always doomed to celebrate its authority by acts of folly or cruelty, we find that soon after its accession to power the city was alarmed by the news of another outbreak among the negroes. The people were panic struck. A terrible noise had been heard in the streets of the metropolis during the night, and, although it was proved that the disturbance was entirely caused by the entrance, during the darkness, of a large drove of hogs, the Audiencia determined, nevertheless, to appease public opinion by the execution of twenty-nine male negroes and four negro women! Their withered and fetid bodies were left to hang on the gallows, tainting the air and shocking the eyes of every passer, until the neighborhood could no longer bear the sickly stench and imperiously demanded their removal.


The Marques de Guadalcazar took possession of the viceroyalty on the 28th of October, 1612, and his government passed in quiet engaged in the mere ordinary discharge of executive duties during the first four years, subsequent to which an Indian insurrection of a formidable character broke out in one of the departments, under a chief who styled himself "Son of the Sun and God of Heaven and Earth." This assault was fatal to every Spaniard within reach of the infuriate natives, who broke into the churches, murdered the whites seeking sanctuary at their altars, and spared not even the ecclesiastics, who, in all times, have so zealously proved themselves to be the defenders of their race. Don Gaspar Alvear, Governor of Durango, assembled a large force as soon as the viceroy informed him of the insurrection, and marched against the savages. After three months of fighting, executions and diplomacy, this functionary [Pg 186] succeeded in suffocating the rebellion; but he was probably more indebted, for the final reconciliation of the Indians, to the persuasive talents of the Jesuits who accompanied the expedition, than to the arms of his soldiers.

The remaining years of this viceroyalty are only signalized by the founding of the city of Cordova,—whose neighborhood is renowned for the excellent tobacco it produces,—and for the construction of the beautiful aqueduct of San Cosmé which brings the sweet waters of Santa Fé to the capital. This monument to the intelligence and memory of Guadalcazar was completed in 1620; and, in March, 1621, the viceroy was removed to the government of Peru.


[35] Velasco had been sent to Peru eleven years before, and after governing it seven, had returned to reside in Mexico, when he was unexpectedly reappointed viceroy.

[36] The level of Tezcoco is now, according to Mühlenpfordt, five feet seven inches (Spanish) below that of the city of Mexico.

[37] Ward's Mexico in 1827, vol. 2, p. 282 et seq.

[38] The metre is equal to thirty-nine thousand three hundred and seventy-one English inches.

[39] The Calzada of San Cristoval was originally erected, according to good authority, in the year 1605. See Liceo Mexicano, vol. 2, p. 6.

[40] Ward, vol. 2, p. 283, et seq.

Ornamental ending

[Pg 187]



Don Diego Carillo Mendoza y Pimentel,
Count de Priego and Marques de Gelves,
XIV. Viceroy of New Spain.


Upon the removal of the Marques of Guadalcazar, and until the 21st of September, 1621, the Audiencia again ruled in Mexico, without any interruption however, upon this occasion, of the public peace. The six months of the interregnum might, indeed, have been altogether forgotten, in the history of the country, had not the Audiencia been obliged to announce the reception of a royal cedula from Philip IV., communicating the news of his father's death, and commanding a national mourning for his memory. In September, the new viceroy arrived in the capital, and immediately caused the royal order to be carried into effect and allegiance to be sworn solemnly to Philip IV. as king and lord of Old and New Spain. [41]

The Marques de Gelves was selected by the sovereign for the reputation he bore in Spain as a lover of justice and order,—qualities which would ensure his utility in a country whose quietness, during several of the last viceroyal reigns, had indicated either a very good or a very bad government, which it was impossible for the king to examine personally. Accordingly Gelves [Pg 188] took the reins with a firm hand. He found many of the departments of government in a bad condition, and is said to have reformed certain abuses which were gradually undermining the political and social structure of the colony. In these duties the two first years of his viceroyalty passed away quietly; but Gelves, though an excellent magistrate so far as the internal police of the country is concerned, was, nevertheless, a selfish and avaricious person, and seems to have resolved that his fortune should prosper by his government of New Spain.

The incidents which we are about to relate are stated on the authority of Father Gage, an English friar who visited Mexico in 1625; and whose pictures of the manners of the people correspond so well with our personal knowledge of them, at present, that we are scarcely at liberty to question his fidelity as a historian. [42]

In the year 1624, Mexico was, for a time, in a state of great distraction, and well nigh revolted from the Spanish throne. The passion for acquiring fortune, which had manifested itself somewhat in other viceroys, seems in Gelves unbounded. He resolved to achieve his end by a bold stroke; and, in 1623, having determined to monopolize the staff of life among the Indians and creoles, he despatched one of the wealthiest Mexicans, Don Pedro de Mexia, to buy up corn in all the provinces at the rate of fourteen reales, the sum fixed by law at which the corn was sold in times of famine. The farmers, who, of course, knew nothing of Mexia's plan readily disposed of their corn, with which the artful purveyor filled his store houses all over the country. After the remnant of the crop was brought to market and sold, men began [Pg 189] to compare notes, and suddenly discovered that corn was no where to be procured, save from the granaries of Mexia. "The poor began to murmur, the rich began to complain; and the tariff of fourteen reales was demanded from the viceroy." But he, the secret accomplice of Mexia, decided, that as the crops had been plentiful during the year, it could not be regarded as one of scarcity according to the evident intention of the law, so that it would be unfair to reduce the price of grain to that of famine. And thus the people, balked in their effort to obtain justice from their ruler, though suffering from extreme imposition, resolved to bear the oppression, rather than resort to violence for redress.

After awhile, however, the intimacy between Gelves and Mexia became more apparent as the confederates supposed they had less cause for concealment; and the poor, again, besought the viceroy for justice and the legal tariff. But the temptation was too great for the avaricious representative of the king. He again denied their petition; and, then, as a last hope, they resorted to a higher power, which, in such conflicts with their rulers, had usually been successful.

In those days, Don Alonzo de la Serna, a man of lofty character and intrepid spirit, was archbishop of Mexico, and perceiving the avaricious trick of the viceroy and his pimp, threw himself on the popular side and promptly excommunicated Mexia. But the sturdy merchant, protected by viceroyal authority, was not to be conquered by so immaterial a thing as a prelate's curse placarded on the door of a cathedral. He remained quietly ensconced in his house, despatched orders to his agents, and even raised the price of his extravagant bread stuffs. For a moment, perhaps, De la Serna was confounded by this rebellious son of the church, yet the act convinced him, if indeed, he entertained any doubt on the subject, that Mexia was backed by the viceroy, and, consequently, that any further attempts would bring him in direct conflict with the government. Nevertheless, a man like him was not to be easily alarmed or forced to retreat so quickly. The church, supreme in spiritual power, would never yield, especially in a matter of popular and vital concern, and the archbishop, therefore, determined to adopt the severest method at once, and by an order of cessatio divinis, to stop, immediately, all religious worship throughout the colony. This was a direful interdict, the potency of which can only be imagined by those who have lived in Catholic countries whose piety is not periodically regulated upon the principle of a seven day clock, but where worship is celebrated [Pg 190] from hour to hour in the churches. The doors of chapels, cathedrals and religious buildings were firmly closed. A death-like silence prevailed over the land. No familiar bells sounded for matins or vespers. The people, usually warned by them of their hours of labor or repose, had now no means of measuring time. The priests went from house to house, lamenting the grievous affliction with which the country was visited and sympathizing cordially with the people. The church mourned for the unnatural pains her rebellious son had brought upon her patient children. But still the contumacious Mexia sold his corn and exacted his price!

At length, however, popular discontent became so clamorous, that even among this orderly and enduring people, the life of the viceroy's agent was no longer safe. He retreated therefore from his own dwelling to the palace, which was strongly guarded, and demanded protection from Gelves. The viceroy admitted him and took issue with the archbishop. He immediately sent orders to the priests and curates of the several parishes, to cause the orders of interdict and excommunication to be torn from the church walls, and all the chapels to be thrown open for service. But the resolute clergy, firm in their adherence to the prelate, would receive no command from the viceroy. Finding the churches still closed, and the people still more clamorous and angry, Gelves commanded De la Serna to revoke his censures; but the archbishop answered, that "what he had done was but an act of divine justice against a cruel oppressor of the poor, whose cries had moved him to compassion, and that the offender's contempt for his excommunication had deserved the rigor of both of his censures, neither of which he would recall until Don Pedro de Mexia submitted himself reverently to the church, received public absolution, and threw up the unconscionable monopoly wherewith he had wronged the commonwealth." "But," says the chronicle of the day, "the viceroy, not brooking the saucy answer of a churchman, nor permitting him to imitate the spirit of the holy Ambrose against the Emperor Theodosius," forthwith sent orders to arrest De la Serna, and to carry him to Vera Cruz, where he was to be confined in the castle of San Juan de Ulua until he could be despatched to Spain. The archbishop, however, followed by a long train of his prebends, priests, and curates, immediately retired from the capital to the neighboring village of Guadalupe, but left a sentence of excommunication on the cathedral door against the viceroy himself! This was too much for the haughty representative of the Spanish king to bear without resentment, and left no means open for conciliation between [Pg 191] church and state. Gelves could as little yield now, as De la Serna could before, and of course, nothing remained for him but to lay violent hands on the prelate wherever he might be found. His well paid soldiers were still faithfully devoted to the viceroy, and he forthwith committed the archbishop's arrest to a reckless and unscrupulous officer named Tirol. As soon as he had selected a band of armed men, upon whose courage and obedience he could rely, this person hastened to the village of Guadalupe. In the meantime the archbishop was apprised of his coming and prepared to meet him. He summoned his faithful clergy to attend in the sanctuary of the church, clad in their sacred vestments. For the first time, after many a long and weary day, the ears of the people were saluted by the sound of bells calling them to the house of God. Abandoning their business, some of them immediately filled the square, eagerly demanding by what blessed interposition they had been relieved from the fearful interdict,—while others thronged the doors and crowded the aisles of the long forsaken chapel. The candles on the altar were lighted; the choir struck up a solemn hymn for the church; and, then, advancing along the aisle in gorgeous procession, De la Serna and his priestly train took up their position in front of the tabernacle, where, crowned with his mitre, his crozier in one hand, and the holy sacrament in the other, this brave prelate awaited the forces which had been sent to seize him. It is difficult to say, if De la Serna designed by so imposing a spectacle to strike awe into the mind of the sacrilegious soldier, or whether he thought it his duty to be arrested, if arrested he must be, at that altar he had sworn to serve. It is probable, however, from his exalted character and courage, that the latter was the true motive of his act, and if so, he met his fate nobly in the cause of justice and religion.

Tirol was not long in traversing the distance between Mexico and Guadalupe. As soon as he arrived, he entered the church accompanied by his officers and seemed appalled by the gorgeous and dramatic display round the shrine. Not a whisper was heard in the edifice as the crowd slowly parted to make way for the soldiers, who advanced along the aisle and humbly knelt, for a moment, at the altar in prayer. This done, Tirol approached De la Serna, and with "fair and courteous words" required him to lay down the sacrament, to quit the sanctuary, and to listen to the orders issued in the royal name. The archbishop abruptly refused to comply, and answered, that "As the viceroy was excommunicated he regarded him as beyond the pale of the church and in no [Pg 192] way empowered to command in Mexico;" he, therefore, ordered the soldiers, as they valued the peace of their souls, to desist from infringing the privileges of the church by the exercise of secular power within its limits, and, he finally declared "that he would, on no account, depart from the altar unless torn from it with the sacrament." Upon this Tirol arose, and read the order for his arrest, describing him as a "traitor to the king, a disturber of the peace, and a mover of sedition in the commonwealth."

De la Serna smiled contemptuously at the officer as he finished, and taunted him with the viceroy's miserable attempt to cast upon the church the odium of sedition, when his creature Mexia was, in fact, the shameless offender. He conjured Tirol "not to violate the sanctuary to which he had retreated, lest his hand should be withered like that of Jeroboam, who stretched forth an arm against the prophet of the Lord at the altar!"

Tirol seems to have been a man upon whose nerves such appeals had but little effect. He was a blunt soldier, who received the orders of his superiors and performed them to the letter. He had been ordered to arrest the archbishop wherever he found him, and he left the ecclesiastical scandal to be settled by those who sent him. Beckoning to a recreant priest who had been tampered with and brought along for the purpose, he commanded him in the king's name, to wrest the sacrament from the prelate's hand. The clergyman, immediately mounting the steps of the altar, obeyed the orders, and the desecrated bishop at once threw off his pontifical robes and yielded to civil power. The cowardly Mexicans made no attempt to protect their intrepid friend, who, as he left the sanctuary, paused for a moment and stretched his hands in benediction over the recreants. Then bidding an affectionate farewell to his clergy, whom he called to witness how zealously he had striven to preserve the church from outrage, as well as the poor from plunder, he departed as a prisoner for Vera Cruz, whence he was despatched for Spain in a vessel expressly equipped for his conveyance.


For a while the people were panic struck at this high-handed movement against the archbishop, but when the momentary effect had passed away and they began to reflect on the disgrace of the church as well as the loss of their protector, they vented their displeasure openly against Mexia and the viceroy. The temper of the masses was at once noticed by the clergy, who were still faithful to their persecuted bishop, nor did they hesitate to fan the [Pg 193] flame of discontent among the suffering Indians, Mestizos and Creoles, who omitted no occasion to express their hatred of the Spaniards, and especially of Tirol, who had been the viceroy's tool in De la Serna's arrest. A fortnight elapsed after the occurrences we have just detailed, and that daring officer had already delivered his prisoner at Vera Cruz, and returned to Mexico. Popular clamor at once became loud against him; whenever he appeared in public he was assailed with curses and stones; until, at last, an enraged mob attacked him in his carriage with such violence that it was alone owing to the swiftness of the mules, lashed by the affrighted postillion, that he escaped into the viceroyal palace, whose gates were immediately barred against his pursuers. Meantime the news had spread over town that this "Judas,"—"this excommunicated dog,"—had taken refuge with Gelves, and the neighboring market place became suddenly filled with an infuriated mob, numbering near seven thousand Indians, negroes and mulattoes, who rushed towards the palace with the evident intention of attacking it. Seeing this outbreak from a window, the viceroy sent a message to the assailants desiring them to retire, and declaring that Tirol had escaped by a postern. But the blood of the people was up, and not to be calmed by excuses. At this juncture several priests entered the crowd, and a certain Salazar was especially zealous in exciting the multitude to summary revenge. The pangs of hunger, were, for a moment, forgotten in the more bitter excitement of religious outrage. By this time the mob obtained whatever arms were nearest at hand. Poles, pikes, pistols, guns, halberds, and stones were brought to the ground, and fierce onsets were made on every accessible point of the palace. Neither the judges nor the police came forward to aid in staying the riot and protecting Gelves:—"Let the youngsters alone," exclaimed the observers, "they will soon find out both Mexia and Tirol, as well as their patron, and the wrongs of the people will be quickly redressed!" A portion of the mob drew off to an adjacent prison, whose doors were soon forced and the convicts released.

At length, things became alarming to the besieged inmates of the palace, for they seemed to be entirely deserted by the respectable citizens and police. Thereupon the viceroy ascended to the azotéa or flat roof of the palace with his guard and retainers, and, displaying the royal standard, caused a trumpet to be sounded calling the people to uphold the king's authority. But the reply to his summons was still in an unrelenting tone—"Viva el Rey! Muera el mal gobierno; mueran los dos comulgados!" "Long [Pg 194] live the king! but down with the wicked government, and death to the excommunicated wretches!" These shouts, yelled forth by the dense and surging mob, were followed by volleys, discharged at the persons on the azotéa, who, for three hours, returned the shots and skirmished with the insurgents. Stones, also, were hurled from the parapet upon the crowd, but it is related in the chronicles of the time, that not a single piece of ordnance was discharged upon the people, "for the viceroy, in those days, had none for the defence of his palace or person, neither had that great city any for its strength and security."

So passed the noon and evening of that disastrous day; but, at night fall, the baffled mob that had been unable to make any impression with their feeble weapons upon the massive walls of the palace, brought pitch and inflammable materials, with which they fired the gates of the viceroyal palace. The bright flames of these combustibles sent up their light in the still evening air, and, far and wide over the town spread the news that the beautiful city was about to be destroyed. Frightened from their retreats, the judges and chief citizens who had influence with the people rushed to the plaza, and, by their urgent entreaties, efforts were made to extinguish the fire. But the palace gates had already fallen, and, over their smouldering ruins, the infuriated assailants rushed into the edifice to commence the work of destruction. The magistrates, however, who had never taken part against the people in their quarrels, soon appeared upon the field, and, by loud entreaties, stopped the saqueo. It was soon discovered that Mexia and Tirol had escaped by a postern, whilst the conquered viceroy, disguised as a friar, stole through the crowd to the Franciscan cloister, where, for many a day, he lay concealed in the sanctuary which his rapacious spirit had denied to the venerable De la Serna.

So ended this base attempt of a Spanish nobleman and representative of royalty in America, to enrich himself by plundering the docile Mexicans. The fate of Mexia and Tirol is unknown. But Spanish injustice towards the colonies was strongly marked by the reception of the viceroy and the archbishop on their return from Madrid. Gelves, it is true, was recalled, but, after being graciously welcomed at court, was made "master of the royal horse;" while the noble hearted De la Serna was degraded from his Mexican arch-prelacy; and banished to the petty bishopric of Zamora in Castile!


[41] "Como Rey y Señor de las Españas," says the authority.

[42] "A new survey of the West Indies, or The English American, his Travels by land and sea; by Thomas Gage, London, 1677, see p. 176." It is due to impartial history and to the memory of the Marques de Gelves to state that a different account of these occurrences is given by Ramon J. Alcaraz, a modern Mexican writer in the Liceo Mexicano, vol. 2, p. 120. Alcaraz fortifies his views by some documents, and by a justificatory commentary of the Marques himself. But he, like Gage, does not state his authorities. The story as related by the English friar is very characteristic of the age, and, si non e vero e ben trovato. Those who are anxious to discover the innocence or guilt of the viceroy, with certainty, will have a difficult task in exploring the Spanish manuscripts of the period. The British traveller Gage, was on the spot in the year after the events occurred, and his subsequent abandonment of the Catholic church would not be likely to lead him into the espousal of the archbishop de la Serna's cause against the viceroy.

Cavo in his work entitled—"Tres Siglos de Mexico,"—states that the account he gives of this transaction is taken from five different narratives of it which were published at the time of its occurrence—three in favor of the viceroy and two sustaining the cause of the archbishop. In the last two, he alleges, that all the imputations against the archbishop were disproved, and that all the charges against the viceroy were sustained by solid argument.

[Pg 195]



Don Roderigo Pacheco Osorio, Marques de Cerralvo,
XV. Viceroy of New Spain.


Upon the violent expulsion of the viceroy Gelves by the popular outbreak, narrated in the last chapter, the government of New Spain fell once more into the hands of the Audiencia during the interregnum. This body immediately adopted suitable measures to terminate the disaffection. The people were calmed by the deposition of one they deemed an unjust ruler; but for a long time it was found necessary to keep on foot in the capital, large bands of armed men, in order to restrain those troublesome persons who are always ready to avail themselves of any pretext for tumultuary attacks either against property or upon people who are disposed to maintain the supremacy of law and order.

As soon as Philip IV. was apprised of the disturbances in his transatlantic colony, he trembled for the security of Spanish power in that distant realm, and immediately despatched Don Martin Carillo, Inquisitor of Valladolid, with unlimited power to examine into the riots of the capital and to punish the guilty participants in a signal and summary manner. It is not our purpose, at present, to discuss the propriety of sending from Spain special judges, in the character of Visitadores or Inquisitors, whenever crimes were committed by eminent individuals in the colony, or by large bodies of people, which required the infliction of decided punishment. [Pg 196] But it may be regarded as one of the characteristic features of the age, and as demonstrative of the peculiar temper of the king that an Inquisitor was selected upon this occasion for so delicate and dangerous a duty. It is true that the church, through the late archbishop, was concerned in this painful affair; but it little accords with the ideas of our age to believe it necessary that a subject of such public concern as the insurrection against an unjust and odious viceroy should be confined to the walls of an inquisition or conducted by one of its leading functionaries alone. Had the investigation been intrusted exclusively to a civil and not an ecclesiastical judge, it is very questionable whether he should have been sent from Spain for this purpose alone. Being a foreigner, at least so far as the colony was concerned, he could have scarcely any knowledge of or sympathy with the colonists. Extreme impartiality may have been ensured by this fact; yet as the Visitador or Inquisitor departed, as soon as his special function ceased, he was never responsible for his decrees to that wholesome public opinion which visits the conduct of a judge with praise or condemnation during his life time when he permanently resides in a country, and, is always the safest guardian of the liberty of the citizen.

It seems, however, that the Inquisitor administered his office fairly and even leniently in this case, for his judgments fell chiefly on the thieves who stole the personal effects of the viceroy during the sacking of the palace. The principal movers in the insurrection had absented themselves from the capital, and prudently remained in concealment until the Visitador terminated his examinations, inflicted his punishments upon the culprits he convicted, and crossed the sea to report his proceedings at court.


Carillo had been accompanied to New Spain by a new viceroy, Don Roderigo Pacheco Osorio, Marques of Cerralvo, who arrived in the capital on the 3d of November, 1624, and assumed the government. He left the examination of the insurrection entirely in the hands of the Inquisitor and directed his attention to the public affairs of the colony. These he found peaceful, except that a Dutch squadron, under the command of the prince of Nassau attacked Acapulco, and the feeble city and garrison readily surrendered without resistance. The fleet held the city, however, only for a few days, and set sail for other enterprises. This assault upon an important port alarmed the viceroy, who, at once, sent orders to have the town immediately surrounded with a wall, and suitable forts and bastions erected which would guard it in all [Pg 197] subsequent attacks. These fortifications were hardly commenced when another Dutch fleet appeared before the town. But this time the visit was not of a hostile nature;—it was an exhausted fleet, demanding water and provisions, after recovering which it resumed its track for the East Indies. Whilst the Spaniards were thus succoring and sustaining their enemies the Dutch, a dreadful famine scourged Sinaloa and neighboring provinces, carrying off upwards of eight thousand Indians.

During the long reign of the present monarch, Philip IV., Spain was frequently at war with England, Holland, and France; and the Dutch, who inflicted dreadful ravages on the American coasts, secured immense spoil from the Spaniards. In 1628, Pedro Hein, a Hollander of great distinction, placed a squadron in the gulf on the coasts of Florida to intercept the fleet of New Spain. The resistance made by the Spaniards was feeble, and, their vessels being captured by the Dutch, the commerce of Mexico experienced a severe blow from which it was long in recovering.


In 1629, there were ecclesiastical troubles in the colony, growing out of an attempt by the higher order of the Spanish clergy to prevent the increase of the regular priesthood from among the natives of the country. They feared that in the course of time the dominion of the establishment would thus be wrested from their hands by the power of the Mexicans. The king, himself was appealed to on this subject and caused it to be examined into carefully. In 1631, in consequence of the repeated danger of the capital from floods, the project of removing the site from its present location, to the loftier levels between Tacuba and Tacubaya, was seriously argued before the people. But the interest of property holders, and inhabitants of the city would have been so seriously affected by this act, that the idea was abandoned.


The remaining years of this viceroyalty were consumed in matters of mere local detail and domestic government, and in fact we know but little of it, save that the severe inundations of 1629 caused the authorities to use their utmost efforts in prosecuting the work of the desague, as we have already seen in the general account given of that gigantic enterprise. In 1635 this viceroy's reign terminated.

[Pg 198]

Don Lope Diaz de Armendariz, Marques de Cadereita,
XVI. Viceroy of New Spain.


The five years of this personage's government were unmarked by any events of consequence in the colony; except that in the last of them,—1640,—he despatched an expedition to the north, where he founded in New Leon, the town of Cadereita, which the emigrants named in honor of their viceroy.

Don Diego Lopez Pacheco Cabrera y Bobadilla,
Duke of Escalona, Marques of Vilbua and Grandee of
Spain of the first class.
XVII. Viceroy of New Spain.


The Duke of Escalona succeeded the Marques of Cadereita, and arrived in Mexico on the 28th of June, 1640, together with the venerable Palafox, who came, in the character of Visitador, to inquire into the administration of the last viceroy whose reputation, like that of other chief magistrates in New Spain, had suffered considerably in the hands of his enemies. Whilst this functionary proceeded with his disagreeable task against a man who was no longer in power, the duke, in compliance with the king's command ordered the governor of Sinaloa, Don Luis Cestinos, accompanied by two Jesuits, to visit the Californias and examine their coasts and the neighboring isles in search of the wealth in pearls and precious metals with which they were reputed to be filled. The reports of the explorers were altogether satisfactory both as to the character of the natives and of the riches of the waters as well as of the mines, though they represented the soil as extremely sterile. The gold of California was reserved for another age.

Ever since the conquest the instruction of Indians in christian doctrine had been confided exclusively to the regular clergy of the Roman Catholic church. The secular priests were, thus, entirely deprived of the privilege of mingling their cares with their monastic brethren, who, in the course of time, began to regard this as an absolute, indefeasible right, whose enjoyment they were unwilling to forego, especially as the obvenciones or tributes of the Indian converts, formed no small item of corporate wealth in their respective orders. The Indians were, in fact, lawful tributaries, [Pg 199] not only of the whole church, in the estimation of these friars, but of the special sect or brotherhood which happened to obtain the first hold on a tribe or nation by its missionary residence among its people. Palafox requested the Duke of Escalona to deprive the monkish orders of this monopoly; a desire to which the viceroy at once acceded, inasmuch as he was anxious to serve the bishop in all matters pertaining to his religious functions.

The kindly feeling of the viceroy does not appear to have been appreciated, or sincerely responded to by Palafox. This personage was removed in 1642, to the archiepiscopal see of Mexico, and under the pretext of installation in his new office and opening his tribunals, he visited the capital with the actual design of occupying the viceroyal throne to which he had been appointed! This was a sudden and altogether unexpected blow to the worthy duke, who was so unceremoniously supplanted. No one seems to have whispered to him even a suspicion of the approaching calamity, until the crafty Palafox assembled the oidores at midnight on the eve of Pentecost, and read to them the royal despatches containing his commission. His conduct to the jovial hearted duke, who was no match, in all probability, for the wily churchman, was not only insincere but unmannerly, for, immediately after the assumption of his power at dead of night, he commanded a strong guard to surround the palace at dawn, and required the Oidor Lugo, to read the royal cedula to the duke even before he left his bed. The deposed viceroy immediately departed for the convent at Churubusco, outside the city walls on the road to San Agustin de las Cuevas. All his property was sequestrated, and his money and jewels were secured within the treasury.

The reader will naturally seek for an explanation of this political enigma, or base intrigue, and its solution is again eminently characteristic of the reign in which it occurred. It will be remembered that the Duke of Braganza had been declared King of Portugal, which kingdom had separated itself from the Spanish domination, causing no small degree of animosity among the Castilians against the Portuguese and all who favored them. The Duke of Escalona, unfortunately, was related to the house of Braganza, and the credulous Philip having heard that his viceroy exhibited some evidences of attachment to the Portuguese, resolved to supercede him by Palafox. Besides this, the Duke committed the impolitic act of appointing a Portuguese, to the post of Castellan of St. Juan de Ulua; and, upon a certain occasion, when two horses had been presented to him by Don Pedro de Castilla, and Don Cristobal de Portugal, [Pg 200] he unluckily, remarked that he liked best the horse that was offered by Portugal! It is difficult to believe that such trifles would affect the destiny of empires, when they were discussed by grave statesmen and monarchs. But such was the miserable reign of Philip IV.;—the most disastrous indeed, in the annals of Spain, except that of Roderic the Goth. Folly like this may justly be attributed to the imbecile king, who witnessed the Catalan insurection, the loss of Rousillon, Conflans, a part of Cordaña, Jamaica, and, above all, of Portugal; and who, moreover, recognized the independence of the Seven United Provinces.

Don Juan de Palafox y Mendoza,
Bishop of Puebla—Chosen Archbishop of Mexico,
Visitador of New Spain, &c. &c.,
XVIII. Viceroy Of New Spain.


The administration of Palafox as viceroy was of but short duration. He occupied the colonial throne but five months, yet, during that brief space, he did something that signalized his name both honorably and disgracefully. He seems to have been ridiculously bent upon the sacrifice of all the interesting monuments which were still preserved from the period of the conquest as memorials of the art and idolatry of the Aztecs. These he collected from all quarters and destroyed. He was evidently no friend of the friars, but sought to build up and strengthen the secular clergy whose free circulation in the world brought them directly under the eyes of society, and whose order made them dependent upon that society, and not upon a corporation, for maintenance. During his short reign he manifested kindness for the Indians; caused justice to be promptly administered, and even suspended certain worthy oidores who did not work as quickly and decide as promptly as he thought they ought to; he regulated the ordinances of the Audiencia; prepared the statutes of the university; raised a large body of militia to be in readiness in case of an attack from the Portuguese; visited the colleges under his secular jurisdiction; and, finally, in proof of his disinterestedness, refused the salary of viceroy and visitador.

[Pg 201]



Don Garcia Sarmiento de Sotomayor,
Count de Salvatierra, Marques de Sobroso,
XIX. Viceroy of New Spain.


Philip IV. seems to have been more anxious to use Palafox as an instrument to remove the Duke of Escalona, than to empower him, for any length of time, with viceroyal authority; for, no sooner did he suppose that the duke was displaced quietly without leaving the government in the hands of the Audiencia, than he appointed the Conde de Salvatierra as his representative. This nobleman reached his government on the 23d of November, 1642, and Palafox immediately retired from his office, still preserving, however, the functions of Visitador. At the conclusion of this year the duke departed from Churubusco for San Martin, in order to prepare for his voyage home; and in 1643, this ill used personage left New Spain having previously fortified himself with numerous certificates of his loyalty to the Spanish crown, all of which he used so skilfully in vindication before the vacillating and imbecile king, that he was not only exculpated entirely, but offered once more the viceroyalty from which he had been so rudely thrust. The duke promptly rejected the proposed restoration, but accepted the viceroyalty of Sicily. Before he departed for the seat of government, [Pg 202] he gave the king many wise councils as to his American colonies, but, especially advised him to colonize the Californias. Don Pedro Portal de Casañete was commissioned by Philip for this purpose.

In 1644, there were already in Mexico twelve convents of nuns, and nearly an equal number for males, which, either by the unwise but pious zeal of wealthy persons, were becoming rich and aggregating to themselves a large amount of urban and rural property. Besides this the dependants upon these convents, both males and females, were largely increasing;—all of which so greatly prejudiced not only property but population, that the Ayuntamiento or City Council solicited the king not to permit the establishment in future of similar foundations, and to prohibit the acquisition of real estate by monasteries, inasmuch as the time might come when these establishments would be the only proprietors.

Meanwhile Casañete arrived in Mexico on his way to the shores of the Pacific. Salvatierra received him kindly and made proper efforts to equip him for the enterprise. The chiefs and governors of the interior were ordered to aid him in every way; but just as he was about to sail, two of his vessels were burned, whereupon his soldiers dispersed, whilst the families of his colonists withdrew, in hope of being again soon summoned to embark.

The civil government of Salvatierra passed in quietness; but the domineering spirit of Palafox did not allow the church to remain at peace with the state. In 1647, this lordly churchman engaged in warm discussion with the Jesuits and other orders. Most scandalous scenes occurred in the churches of Puebla. Anathemas, excommunications, and all the artillery of the church were used against each other. Palafox persevered in his rancorous controversy as long as he remained in America, and even after his return to Europe, pursued his quarrel at the court of Rome. At the close of this year Salvatierra was removed to the viceroyalty of Peru.

Don Marcos de Torres y Rueda,
Bishop of Yucatan—Governor of New Spain.
XX. Viceroy of New Spain.


The rule of Torres y Rueda was brief and eventless. It extended from the 13th of March, 1648, to the 22d of April, 1649, when the bishop-governor died, and was sumptuously interred in the church of San Agustin in the city of Mexico.

[Pg 203]

Don Luis Enriquez de Guzman, Count de Alvadeliste.
XXI. Viceroy of New Spain.


The Audiencia ruled in New Spain until the 3d of July, 1650, the period of the Conde de Alvadeliste's arrival in the capital. This nobleman had been, in fact, appointed by the king immediately upon the transfer of the Conde de Salvatierra to Peru; but inasmuch as he could not immediately cross the Atlantic, the bishop of Yucatan had been directed to assume his functions ad interim. Alvadeliste, a man of amiable character and gentle manners, soon won the good opinion of the Spanish colonists and creoles. But if he was to experience but little trouble from his countrymen and their descendants, he was not to escape a vexatious outbreak among the northern Indians, who had remained quiet for so long that it was supposed they were finally and successfully subjected to the Spanish yoke.

The viceroy had not been long installed when he received news of a rebellion against the Spaniards by the Tarahumares, who inhabited portions of Chihuahua and Sinaloa, and who hitherto yielded implicitly to the gentle and persuasive voice of the evangelical teachers dwelling among them. The portion of this tribe inhabiting Sinaloa, commenced the assault, but the immediate cause of the rebellion is not known. We are not aware whether they experienced a severe local government at the hands of the Spaniards, whether they were tired of the presence of the children of the Peninsula, or whether they feared that the priestly rule was only another means of subjecting them more easily to the crown of Castile. Perhaps all these causes influenced the rebellion. Already in 1648, the chief of the nation had compromised three other tribes in the meditated outbreak; but, lacking the concerted action of the Tepehuanes and other bands, upon whose aid they confidently counted, they resolved to attack, alone, the village of San Francisco de Borja, whose garrison and village they slaughtered and burned. San Francisco was the settlement which supplied the local missions with provisions, and its loss was consequently irreparable to that portion of the country.

As soon as the chief judge of Parral heard of this sanguinary onslaught he hastily gathered the neighboring farmers, herdsmen, and merchants, and hastened into the wilderness against the insurgents, who fled when they had destroyed the great depot of [Pg 204] the Spaniards. The troops, hardy as they were on these distant frontiers, were not calculated for the rough warfare of woodsmen, and after some insignificant and unsuccessful skirmishes with the marauders, the new levies retired hastily to their homes.

Fajardo, governor of Nueva Biscaya, soon heard of the rebellion and of the ineffectual efforts to suppress it. He was satisfied that no time was to be lost in crushing the rebellion, and, accordingly marched with Juan Barraza, to the seat of war with an adequate force. The Indians had meanwhile left their villages and betaken themselves to the mountains, woods and fastnesses. Fajardo immediately burned their abandoned habitations and desolated their cultivated fields; and when the Indians, who were now satisfied of their impotence, demanded peace, he granted it on condition that the four insurgent chiefs of the rebellion should be surrendered for punishment. The natives, in reply, brought him the head of one of their leaders, together with his wife and child; soon after another head was delivered to him, and, in a few days, the other two leaders surrendered.

This, for a while, calmed the country; but in order to confirm the peace and friendship which seemed to be now tolerably well established, a mission was founded in the valley of Papigochi, in which the chief population of the Tarahumares resided. The reverend Jesuit, Father Bendin, was charged with the duty of establishing this benignant government of the church, and in a short time it appeared that he had succeeded in civilizing the Indians and in converting them to the Christian faith. There were, nevertheless, discontented men among the tribes, whose incautious acts occasionally gave warning of the animosity which still lingered in the breasts of the Indians. The most prudent of the Spaniards warned the governor of Nueva Biscaya to beware a sudden or personal attack. But this personage treated the advice with contempt, and felt certain that the country was substantially pacified. Nevertheless, whilst things wore this aspect of seeming calm, three chiefs or caciques, who had embraced the Catholic faith, prepared the elements for a new rebellion, and, on the 5th of June, 1649, at daybreak, they attacked the dwelling of the missionaries, set fire to its combustible materials, and surrounding the blazing house in numbers, awaited the moment when the unsuspecting inmates attempted to escape. The venerable Bendin and his companions were quickly aroused, but no sooner did they rush from the flames than they were cruelly slain by the Indians. The church was then sacked. The valuables were secured and [Pg 205] carried off by the murderous robbers, but all the images and religious emblems were sacrilegiously destroyed before the Indians fled to the country.


Fajardo once more despatched Juan Barraza, with three hundred Spanish soldiers and some Indians against the rebel Tarahumares. But the tribe had, in its intercourse with the foreigners, acquired some little knowledge of the art of war and consequently did not await the expected attack in the open or level fields, where the Spanish cavalry could act powerfully against them. They retired, accordingly, to a rocky pass, flanked by two streams, which they fortified, at all points, with stone walls and other formidable impediments. Here they rested in security until the Spanish forces approached them; nor did they, even then abandon their defensive warfare. Barraza, finding the Indians thus skilfully entrenched behind barriers and ready to repel his attack, was unable, after numerous efforts, to dislodge them from their position. Indeed, he appears to have suffered serious losses in his vain assaults; so that, instead of routing the natives entirely, he found it necessary to withdraw his troops who were greatly weakened by losses, whilst the daring insurgents continually received auxiliary reinforcements. In this untoward state of affairs, Barraza resolved to make his escape, during the night, from such dangerous quarters, and, ordering his Indian allies to light the usual watch-fires, and keep up the ordinary bustle of a camp, he silently but gradually withdrew all his Spanish and native forces, so that at daybreak the Tarahumares found the country cleared of their foes.

As soon as Fajardo heard of the forced retreat of Barraza he determined to take the management of the campaign in his own hands. But his military efforts were as unsuccessful as those of his unfortunate captain. The rainy season came on before he could make a successful lodgement in the heart of the enemy's country, and his march was impeded by floods which destroyed the roads and rendered the streams impassable. Accordingly he retired to Parral, where he received orders from the viceroy to establish a garrison in Papigochi.

The Spaniards found that their cruelty in the first campaign against these untamed savages had inflamed their minds against the viceroyal troops. They attempted, therefore, to use, once more, the language of persuasion, and, offering the insurgents a perfect amnesty for the past, prevailed upon the old inhabitants of the vale of Papigochi to return to their former residences [Pg 206], where, however, they did not long remain faithful to their promised allegiance. The new garrison was established, as had been commanded by the viceroy; but, in 1652, the relentless tribes, again seizing an unguarded moment, burned the barracks, and destroyed in the flames a number of Spaniards, two Franciscan monks, and a Jesuit priest. The soldiery of Barraza and the governor retired from the doomed spot, amid showers of Indian arrows.


In 1653, the war was resumed. The whole country was aroused and armed against these hitherto invincible bands. Other Indian tribes were subdued by the Spanish forces, and their arms were then, once more, turned upon the Tarahumares, at a moment when the Indian chiefs were distant from the field. But the absence of the leaders neither dismayed nor disconcerted these relentless warriors. The Spaniards were again forced to retire; and the viceroy caused an extensive enlistment to be undertaken, and large sums appropriated to crush or pacify the audacious bands. Before the final issue and subjugation, however, the Conde de Alvadeliste, received the king's command to pass from Mexico to the government of Peru, and, awaiting only the arrival of his successor, he sailed from Acapulco for his new viceroyalty.

Don Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva,
Duke de Alburquerque,
XXII. Viceroy of New Spain.


The Duke of Alburquerque, who had married the Doña Juana, daughter of the former viceroy, Don Lope Diaz de Armendariz, arrived in Mexico on the 16th of August, 1654, as successor of Alvadeliste. His accession was signalized by unusually splendid ceremonies in the capital, and the new viceroy immediately devoted himself to the improvement of Mexico, as well as to the internal administration of affairs. He zealously promoted the public works of the country; labored diligently to finish the cathedral; devoted himself, in hours of leisure, to the promotion of literature and the fine arts; regulated the studies in the university; and caused the country to be scoured for the apprehension of robbers and vagabonds who infested and rendered insecure all the highways of the colony. Great numbers of these wretches were soon seized and hanged after summary trials.

[Pg 207] In 1656, the British forces having been successful against Jamaica, the Mexicans were apprehensive that their arms would next be turned against New Spain; and accordingly Alburquerque fitted out an armada to operate against the enemy among the islands before they could reach the coast of his viceroyalty. This well designed expedition failed, and most of the soldiers who engaged in it, perished. The duke, unsuccessful in war, next turned his attention to the gradual and peaceful extension, northward, of the colonial emigration; and, distributing a large portion of the territory of New Mexico among a hundred families, he founded the city of Alburquerque, and established in it several Franciscan missions as the nucleus of future population.


The year 1659 was signalized in Mexico by one of those horrid dramas which occasionally took place in all countries into which the monstrous institution of the Inquisition was unfortunately naturalized, and fifty human victims were burned alive by order of the Audiencia. For the credit of the country it must be remembered that this was the first occurrence of the kind, but, either from curiosity or from a superior sense of duty, the dreadful pageant was not only witnessed by an immense crowd of eager spectators, but was even presided over by the viceroy himself. In 1660 the duke narrowly escaped death by the hands of an assassin. Whilst on his knees at prayer in a chapel of the cathedral, the murderer,—a youthful soldier seventeen years old,—stole behind him, and was in the act of striking the fatal blow when he was arrested. In less than twelve hours he had gone to account for the meditated crime.

Alburquerque appears to have been popular, useful and intelligent, though, from his portrait which is preserved in the gallery of the viceroys in Mexico, we would have imagined him to be a gross sensualist, resembling more the usual pictorial representations of Sancho Panza than one who was calculated to wield the destinies of an empire. Nevertheless the expression of public sorrow was unfeigned and loud among all classes when he departed for Spain in the year 1660.

[Pg 208]

Don Juan de Leyva y de la Cerda,
Marques de Leyva y de la Cerda, Count de Baños
XXIII. Viceroy of New Spain.


The successor of the Duke of Alburquerque entered Mexico on the 16th of September, 1660. Don Juan de Leyva y de la Cerda approached the colony with the best wishes and resolutions to advance its prosperity and glory. His earliest efforts were directed to the pacification of the Tarahumares, whose insurrection was still entirely unquelled, and whose successes were alarmingly disastrous in New Mexico, whither they advanced in the course of their savage warfare. With the same liberal spirit that characterized his predecessor, he continued to be the zealous friend of those remote, frontier colonists, and, in a short time, formed twenty-four villages. It was, doubtless, his plan to subdue and pacify the north by an armed occupation.

In 1661 and 1662, the despotic conduct of the Spaniards to the Indians stirred up sedition in the south as well as at the north. The natives of Tehuantepec were, at this period, moved to rebellion, with the hope of securing their personal liberty, even if they could not reconquer their national independence. Spanish forces were immediately marched to crush the insurrection; but the soft children of the south were not as firmly pertinacious in resistance as their sturdier brothers of the northern frontier. More accessible to the gentle voices of an insinuating clergy, they yielded to the persuasive eloquence of the bishop Ildefonzo Davalos, who, animated by honest and humane zeal for the children of the forest, went among the incensed tribes, and, by kindness, secured the submission which arms could not compel at the north. For this voluntary and valuable service the sovereign conferred on him the mitre of Mexico, which, in the year 1664, was renounced by Osorio Escobar.

The only other event of note, during this viceroyalty, was an attempt at colonization and pearl fishing on the coasts of California by Bernal Piñaredo, who seems rather to have disturbed than to have benefitted the sparse settlers on those distant shores. He was coldly received on his return by the viceroy, who formally accused him to the court for misconduct during the expedition.

Don Juan de Leyva sailed for Spain in 1664, and soon after died, afflicted by severe family distresses, and, especially by the misconduct of his son and heir.

[Pg 209]

Don Diego Osorio Escobar y Llamas, Bishop of Puebla.
XXIV. Viceroy of New Spain.


The reign of this ecclesiastic was remarkable for nothing except its extraordinarily brief duration. The bishop entered upon his duties on the 29th of June, and resigned them in favor of his successor on the 15th of the next October.

Don Sebastian de Toledo, Marques de Mancera;
XXV. Viceroy of New Spain.


New Spain enjoyed profound internal peace when Don Sebastian arrived in the capital on the 15th of October, 1664. But the calm of the political world does not seem to have extended to the terrestrial, for, about this period, occurred one of the few eruptions of the famous mountain of Popocatepetl,—the majestic volcano which lies on the eastern edge of the valley, and is the most conspicuous object from all parts of the upper table lands of Mexico. For four days it poured forth showers of stones from its crater and then, suddenly, subsided into quietness.


In the beginning of 1666 a royal cedula was received from the queen apprising her faithful subjects of her husband's death, and that during the minority of Charles II. the government would be carried on by her. The loss of Jamaica, during the last reign was irreparable for Spain. The possession of so important an island by the British, enabled the enemies of Castile to find a lurking place in the neighborhood of her richest colonies from which the pirates and privateers could readily issue for the capture of Spanish commerce or wealth. The armada of the Marques of Cadareita, was useless against the small armed craft which not only possessed great advantages in swiftness of sailing, but was able, also, to escape from the enemies' pursuit or guns in the shallows along the coast into which the larger vessels dared not follow them. But the general war in Europe which had troubled the peace of the old world for so many years, had now drawn to a close, and a peace was once more, for a while re-established. The ambitious desires of the Europeans, were now, however, turned towards America, and, with eager and envious glances at the possessions of the [Pg 210] Spaniards. The narrow, protective system of Spain, had, as we have related in our introductory chapter, closed the colonial ports against all vessels and cargoes that were not Spanish. This, of course, was the origin of an extensive system of contraband, which had doubtless done much to corrupt the character of the masses, whilst it created a class of bold, daring and reckless men, whose representatives may still be found, even at this day, in the ports of Mexico and South America. This contraband trade not only affected the personal character of the people, but naturally injured the commerce and impaired the revenues of New Spain. Accordingly the ministers in Madrid negotiated a treaty with Charles II. of England, by which the sovereigns of the two nations pledged themselves not to permit their subjects to trade in their colonies. Notwithstanding the treaty, however, Governor Lynch, of Jamaica, still allowed the equipment of privateers and smugglers, in his island, where they were furnished with the necessary papers; but the king removed him as soon as he was apprised of the fact, and replaced the conniving official by a more discreet and conscientious governor. Nevertheless the privateers and pirates still continued their voyages, believing that this act of the British government was not intended in good faith to suppress their adventures, but simply to show Spain that in England treaties were regarded as religiously binding upon the state and the people. They did not imagine that the new governor would, finally, enforce the stringent laws against them. But this personage permitted the outlaws to finish their voyages without interference on the high seas, and the moment some of them landed, they were hanged, as an example to all who were still willing to set laws and treaties at defiance.


In 1670, the prolonged Tarahumaric war was brought to a close, by Nicolas Barraza. An Indian girl pointed out the place in which the majority of the warriors might be surprised; and, all the passes being speedily seized and guarded, three hundred captives fell into the victors' hands. In 1673, the viceroy departed for Spain, after an unusually long and quiet reign of eight years.

[Pg 211]

Don Pedro Nuño Colon de Portugal,
Duke of Veraguas and Knight of the Golden Fleece,
XXVI. Viceroy of New Spain.


The nomination of this distinguished nobleman and descendant of the discoverer of America, was unquestionably designed merely as a compliment to the memory of a man, whose genius had given a new world to Castile. [43] He was so far advanced in life, that it was scarcely presumed he would be able to withstand the hardships of the voyage or reach the Mexican metropolis. And such, indeed, was the result of his toilsome journey. His baton of office,—assumed on the 8th of December, 1673,—fell from his decrepit hand on the 13th of the same month. So sure was the Spanish court that the viceroy would not long survive his arrival, that it had already appointed his successor, and sent a sealed despatch with the commission, which was to be opened in the event of Don Pedro's death. It thus happened that the funeral of one viceroy, was presided over by his successor; and the august ceremonial was doubtless more solemn from the fact that this successor was Rivera, who, at that time, was the archbishop of Mexico.

The Duke of Veraguas of course neither originated any thing nor completed any public work that had been already commenced; but the companions of his voyage to America, long remembered and spoke of the good will and wise measures which he constantly manifested in conversation relative to the government of New Spain.



"A Castilla y a Leon,
"Mundo nuebo dio Colon,"

is the motto attached to the arms of this house.

[Pg 212]



Fray Payo Enriquez de Rivera, Archbishop of Mexico,
XXVII. Viceroy of New Spain.


The Duke of Veraguas, as we have seen, enjoyed none of his viceroyal honors save those which crowned his entrance into the capital; and as soon as his remains were temporarily interred in the cathedral, Fray Payo Enriquez de Rivera assumed the reins of government.

This excellent prelate had fulfilled the functions of his bishopric, for nine years, in Guatemala, so satisfactorily to the masses, that his elevation to supreme power in Mexico was hailed as a national blessing. He devoted himself from the first, diligently, to the adornment of the capital and the just and impartial administration of public affairs. He improved the roads and entrances into the city; and, by his moderation, justice and mildness, united with liberality and economy, raised the reputation of his government to such a degree of popular favor that, in the annals of New Spain, it is referred to as a model public administration.

In 1677, by the orders of the queen regent, Rivera, despatched a colony to California; and in the following year, Charles II., who had attained his majority, signified his gratitude to the viceroy for his paternal government of New Spain, as well as for the care he [Pg 213] had shown not only for the social, artistical and political improvement of the nation committed to his charge, but for the honest collection of the royal income, which, in those days, was a matter of no small moment or interest to the Spanish kings. But in 1680, the viceroy's health began to fail, and Charles the Second, who still desired to preserve and secure the invaluable services of so excellent a personage to his country, nominated him bishop of Cuenca, and created him president of the Council of the Indies.

Don Tomas Antonio Manrique de la Cerda,
Marques de la Laguna,
XXVIII. Viceroy of New Spain.


The archbishop Rivera, when he left the viceroyal chair handed to his successor in 1680, on the 30th of November, the letter he had just received from the north, imparting the sad news of a general rising of the Indians in New Mexico against the Spaniards. The aborigines of that region, who then amounted to about twenty-five thousand, residing in twenty-four villages, had entered into combination with the wilder tribes thronging the broad plains of the north and the recesses of the neighboring mountains, and had suddenly descended, in great force, upon the unfortunate Spaniards scattered through the country. The secret of the conspiracy was well kept until the final moment of rupture. The spirit of discontent, and the bond of Indian union were fostered and strengthened, silently, steadily and gradually, throughout a territory of one hundred and twenty-five leagues in extent, without the revelation of the fact to any of the foreigners in the region. Nor did the strangers dream of impending danger until the 10th of August, when, at the same moment, the various villages of Indians, took arms against the Spaniards, and, slaughtering all who were not under the immediate protection of garrisons, even wreaked their vengeance upon twenty-one Franciscan monks who had labored for the improvement of their social condition as well as for their conversion to Christianity.

Having successfully assaulted all the outposts of this remote government of New Spain, the Indians next directed their arms against the capital, Santa Fé, which was the seat of government and the residence of the wealthiest and most distinguished inhabitants [Pg 214] of the north. But the garrison was warned in time by a few natives who still remained faithful to their foreign task-masters, and was thus enabled to muster its forces and to put its arms in order, so as to receive the meditated assault. The Spanish soldiers allowed the rebellious conspirators to approach their defences, until they were sure of their aim, and, then, discharging their pieces upon the impetuous masses, covered the fields with dead and wounded. But the brave Indians were too excited, resolved and numerous to be stayed or repulsed by the feeble garrison. New auxiliaries took the places of the slaughtered ranks. On all sides, the country was dark with crowds of dusky warriors whose shouts and warwhoops continually rent the air. Clouds of arrows, and showers of stones were discharged on the heads of the beleagured townsmen. No man dared show himself beyond the covering of houses and parapets; and thus, for ten days, the Indian siege was unintermitted for a single moment around the walls of Santa Fé. At the expiration of this period the provisions as well as the munitions of the Spaniards were expended, and the wretched inhabitants, who could no longer endure the stench from the carcasses of the slain which lay in putrefying heaps around their town, resolved to evacuate the untenable place. Accordingly, under cover of the night, they contrived to elude the besiegers' vigilance, and quitting the town by secret and lonely paths, they fled to Paso del Norte, whence they despatched messengers to the viceroy with the news of their misfortune. The day after this precipitate retreat, the Indians, who were altogether unaware of the Spaniards' departure, expected a renewal of the combat. But the town was silent. Advancing cautiously from house to house and street to street, they saw that Santa Fé was, in reality deserted; and, content with having driven their oppressors from the country, they expended their wrath upon the town by destroying and burning the buildings. The cause of this rising was the bad conduct of the Spaniards to the Indians and the desire of these wilder northern tribes to regain their natural rights.

In the commencement of 1681, the viceroy began to fear that this rebellion, which seemed so deeply rooted and so well organized, would spread throughout the neighboring provinces, and, accordingly, despatched various squadrons of soldiers to New Mexico, and ordered levies to join them as they marched to the north towards El Paso del Norte, which was the present refuge of the expelled and flying government. In this place all the requisite preparations for a campaign were diligently prepared, and thence [Pg 215] the troops departed in quest of the headstrong rebels. But all their pains and efforts were fruitless. The object of the Indians seems to have been accomplished in driving off the Spaniards and destroying their settlements. The wild children of the soil and of the forest neither desired the possession of their goods, nor waged war in order to enjoy the estates they had been forced to till. It was a simple effort to recover once more the wild liberty of which they had been deprived, and to overthrow the masked slavery to which the more ennervated races of the south submitted tamely, under the controlling presence of ampler forces. They contented themselves, therefore, with destroying towns, plantations, farms, and villages, and, flying to the fastnesses of the mountain forests, either kept out of reach of the military bands that traversed the country or descended in force upon detached parties. The Spaniards were thus denied all opportunity to make a successful military demonstration against the Indians; and, after waiting a season in fruitless efforts to subdue the natives, they retired to El Paso, leaving the country still in the possession of their foes who would neither fight nor come to terms, although an unconditional pardon and a future security of rights were freely promised.

The unsuccessful expedition of the previous year, induced the viceroy, in 1682, to adopt other means for the reduction of the refractory Indians to obedience. That vast region was not to be lost, nor were the few inhabitants who still continued to reside on its frontiers, to be abandoned to the mercy of savages. The Marques de la Laguna, therefore resolved to re-colonize Santa Fé, and, accordingly, despatched three hundred families of Spaniards and mulattoes, among whom he divided the land by caballerias. Besides this, he augmented the garrison in all the forts and strongholds scattered throughout the territory, so that agriculture and trade, grouped under the guns of his soldiery, might once more lift up their heads in that remote region in spite of Indian hostility. This measure was of great service in controlling the natives elsewhere. The Indians in the neighboring provinces had begun to exhibit a strong desire to imitate the example of the New Mexican bands, and, in all probability, were only prevented by this stringent measure of the viceroy from freeing themselves from the Spanish yoke.


The administration of the Marques de la Laguna was an unfortunate one for his peace if not for his fame. The expedition which [Pg 216] he despatched in 1683 to California, under Don Isidro Otondo, and in which were Jesuits among whom was the celebrated Father Kino, returned from that country three years afterwards after a fruitless voyage and exploration of the coasts. Nor was the eastern coast of New Spain more grateful for the cares of the viceroy. Vera Cruz, the chief port of the realm, was, at this time, warmly besieged and finally sacked by the English pirate Nicholas Agramont, who was drawn thither by a mulatto, Lorencellio, after taking refuge in Jamaica for a crime that he had committed in New Spain. On the 17th of May, Vera Cruz, surrendered to the robbers, who possessed themselves of property to the amount of seven millions of dollars, which was awaiting the arrival in the harbor of the fleet that was to carry it to Spain. The chief portion of the inhabitants took sanctuary in the churches, where they remained pent up for a length of time; but the pirates contrived to seize a large number of clergymen, monks and women, whom they forced to bear the spoils of the city to their vessels, and afterwards treated with the greatest inhumanity.

The coasts of Mexico were, at this period, sorely harassed with the piratical vessels of France and England. The wealth of the New World, inadequately protected by Spanish cruisers, in its transit to Europe, was a tempting prize to the bold nautical adventurers of the north of Europe; and the advantages of the Spanish colonies were thus reaped by nations who were freed from the expenses of colonial possessions. There are perhaps still many families in these countries whose fortunes were founded upon the robbery of Castilian galeons.

Don Melchor Portocarrero Laso de la Vega,
Count de la Monclova.
XXIX. Viceroy of New Spain.


The Conde de Monclova, surnamed "Brazo de Plata" from the fact that he supplied with a silver arm the member he had lost in battle, arrived in Mexico on the 30th of November, 1686, and immediately devoted himself to the improvement of the capital, the completion of the canal which was to free the city from inundations, and the protection of the northern provinces and the coasts of the gulf against the menaced settlements of the French. He despatched several Spanish men of war and launches to scour the harbors [Pg 217] and inlets of the eastern shores, as far as Florida, in order to dislodge the intruders; and, having obtained control over the Indians of Coahuila he established a strong garrison, and founded a colonial settlement, called the town of Monclova, with a hundred and fifty families, in which there were two hundred and seventy men capable of bearing arms against the French whom he expected to encounter in that quarter.

The Conde de Monclova contemplated various plans for the consolidation and advancement of New Spain, but before two years had expired he was relieved from the government and transferred to the viceroyalty of Peru.

Don Gaspar de Sandoval Silva y Mendoza,
Count de Galve.
XXX. Viceroy of New Spain.


The Conde de Galve entered upon his government on the 17th of September, 1688; and even before the departure of his predecessor for Peru, he learned that the fears of that functionary had been realized by the discovery of attempts by the French to found settlements in New Spain. The governor of Coahuila in the course of his explorations in the wilderness found a fort which had been commenced, and the remains of a large number of dead Frenchmen, who had no doubt been engaged in the erection of the stronghold when they fell under the blows and arrows of the savages.

Besides this intrusion in the north, from which the Spaniards were, nevertheless, somewhat protected by the Indians who hated the French quite as much as they did the subjects of Spain,—the viceroy heard, moreover, that the Tarrahumare and Tepehuane tribes had united with other wild bands of the north-west, and were in open rebellion. Forces were immediately despatched against the insurgents, but they fared no better than the Spanish troops had done in previous years in New Mexico. The love of liberty, or the desire of entire freedom from labor, was in this case, as in the former, the sole cause of the insurrection. When the blow was struck, the Indians fled to their fastnesses, and when the regular soldiery arrived on the field to fight them according to the regular laws of war, the children of the forest were, as usual, no where to be found! Nor is it likely that the rebellion would have been easily suppressed, or improbable that those provinces [Pg 218] would have been lost, had not the Jesuits, who enjoyed considerable influence over the insurgent tribes, devoted themselves, forthwith, to calming the excited bands. Among the foremost of these clerical benefactors of Spain was the noble Milanese Jesuit, Salvatierra, whose authority over the Indians was perhaps paramount to all others, and whose successful zeal was acknowledged by a grateful letter from the viceroy. This worthy priest had been one of the ablest missionaries among these warlike tribes. He won their love and confidence whilst endeavoring to diffuse christianity among them, and the power he obtained through his humanity and unvarying goodness, was now the means of once more subjecting the revolted Indians to the Spaniards. The cross achieved a victory which they refused to the sword.

In 1690, another effort was made to populate California, in virtue of new orders received from Charles; and, whilst the preparations were making to carry the royal will into effect, the viceroy commanded the governor of Coahuila to place a garrison at San Bernardo, where the French attempted to build their fort. Orders were also sent about the same time by Galve to extend the Spanish power northward, and, in 1691, the province of Asinais, or Texas, as it was called by the Spaniards, was settled by some emigrants, and visited by fourteen Franciscan monks, who were anxious to devote themselves to the conversion of the Indians. A garrison and a mission were established, at that time, in Texas; but in consequence, not only of an extraordinary drought which occurred two or three years after, destroying the crops and the cattle, but also of a sudden rebellion among the natives against the Spaniards who desired to subject them to the same ignoble toils that were patiently endured by the southern tribes, nearly all the posts and missions were immediately abandoned.

The year 1690 was signalized in the annals of New Spain by an attack and successful onslaught made by the orders of the viceroy with Creole troops upon the island of Hispaniola, which was occupied by the French. Six ships of the line and a frigate, with two thousand seven hundred soldiers, sailed from the port of Vera Cruz, upon this warlike mission; and after fighting a decisive battle and destroying the settlements upon parts of the island, but without attacking the more thickly peopled and better defended districts of the west, they returned to New Spain with a multitude of prisoners and some booty.

But the rejoicings to which these victories gave rise were of short duration. The early frosts of 1691 had injured the crops, [Pg 219] and the country was menaced with famine. On the 9th of June, in this year, the rain fell in torrents, and, accompanied as it was by hail, destroyed the grain that was cultivated not only around the capital, but also in many of the best agricultural districts. The roads became impassable, and many parts of the city of Mexico were inundated by floods from the lake, which continued to lie in the low level streets until the end of the year. Every effort was made by the authorities to supply the people with corn,—the staff of life among the lower classes,—and commissaries were even despatched to the provinces to purchase grain which might be stored and sold to the masses at reasonable prices. But the suspicious multitude did not justly regard this provident and humane act. They imagined that the viceroy and his friends designed to profit by the scarcity of food, and to enrich themselves by the misery of the country. Accordingly, loud murmurs of discontent arose among the lower classes in the capital, and on the 8th of June, 1692, the excited mob rushed suddenly to the palace of the viceroy, and setting fire not only to it but to the Casa de Cabildo and the adjacent buildings, destroyed that splendid edifice together with most of the archives, records and historical documents which had been preserved since the settlement of the country. A diligent search was made for the authors of this atrocious calamity, and eight persons were tried, convicted and executed for the crime. The wretched incendiaries were found among the dregs of the people. Many of their accomplices were also found guilty and punished with stripes; and the viceroy took measures to drive the hordes of skulking Indians who had been chiefly active in the mob, from their haunts in the city, as well as to deprive them of the intoxicating drinks, and especially their favorite pulque, in which they were habituated to indulge. The crop of 1693, in some degree, repaired the losses of previous years, and in the ensuing calm the Conde de Galve commenced the rebuilding of the viceroyal palace. The property destroyed in the conflagration in June, 1692, amounted in value to at least three millions of dollars.


In this year, the viceroy, who was anxious for the protection of the northern shores of the gulf, and desirous to guard the territory of Florida, from the invasion or settlement of the northern nations of Europe, fitted out an expedition of expert engineers to Pensacola, who designed and laid the foundations of the fortifications of this important port. Three years afterwards, before the termination [Pg 220] of his command in New Spain, Galve had the satisfaction to despatch from Vera Cruz the colony and garrison which were to occupy and defend this stronghold.

In 1694, the capital and the adjacent province were once more afflicted with scarcity, and to this was added the scourge of an epidemic that carried thousands to the grave. In the following year a dreadful earthquake shook the city of Mexico, on the night of the 24th of August, and at seven o'clock of the following morning. But amid all these afflictions, which were regarded by multitudes as specially sent by the hand of God to punish the people for their sins, the authorities managed to preserve order throughout the country, and in 1695, sent large reinforcements for the expedition which the English and Spaniards united in fitting out against the French who still maintained their hold on the island of Hispaniola. This adventure was perfectly successful. The combined forces assaulted the Gauls with extraordinary energy, and bore off eighty-one cannons as trophies of their victorious descent. The checquered administration of the Conde de Galve was thus satisfactorily terminated, and he returned to Spain after eight years of government, renowned for the equity and prudence of his administration during a period of unusual peril.

[Pg 221]



Don Juan de Ortega Montañez, Bishop of Michoacan,
XXXI. Viceroy of New Spain.


Scarcely had Galve departed, and the new episcopal viceroy Montañez assumed the reins of government, on the 27th of February, 1696, when news reached Mexico that a French squadron was laying in wait near Havana, to seize the galeons which were to leave Vera Cruz in the spring for Spain. The fleet was accordingly ordered to delay its departure until the summer, whilst masses were said and prayers addressed to the miraculous image of the Virgin of Remedios to protect the vessels and their treasure from disaster. The failure of the fleet to sail at the appointed day seems to have caused the French squadron to depart for Europe, after waiting a considerable time to effect their piratical enterprise; and, in the end, all the galeons, save one, reached the harbor of Cadiz, where the duties alone on their precious freights amounted to four hundred and twelve thousand dollars!

At this period the settlement of the Californias, which was always a favorite project among the Mexicans, began again to be agitated. The coasts had been constantly visited by adventurers engaged in the pearl fishery; but these persons, whose manners [Pg 222] were not conciliatory, and whose purposes were altogether selfish, did not contribute to strengthen the ties between the Spaniards and the natives. Indeed, the Indians continually complained of the fishermen's ill usage, and were unwilling to enter either into trade or friendship with so wild a class of unsettled visitors. The colonial efforts, previously made, had failed in consequence of the scarcity of supplies, nor could sufficient forces be spared to compel the submission of the large and savage tribes that dwelt in those remote regions. Accordingly, when the worthy Father Salvatierra, moved by the descriptions of Father Kino, prayed the Audiencia to intrust the reduction of the Californias to the care of the Jesuits, who would undertake it without supplies from the royal treasury, that body and the episcopal viceroy, consented to the proposed spiritual conquest, and imposed on the holy father no other conditions except that the effort should be made without cost to Spain, and that the territory subdued should be taken possession of in the name of Charles II. Besides this concession to the Jesuits, the viceroy and Audiencia granted to Salvatierra and Kino the right to levy troops and name commanders for their protection in the wilderness. A few days after the conclusion of this contract with the zealous missionaries, the government of Montañez was terminated by the arrival of his successor, the Conde de Montezuma.

Don José Sarmiento Valladares,
Count de Montezuma y Tula
XXXII. Viceroy of Mexico.


The Conde de Montezuma arrived in Mexico on the 18th of December, 1696. Early in the ensuing January the annual galeon from the Philipine islands reached the port of Acapulco, and this year the advent of the vessel, laden with oriental products seems to have been the motive for the assemblage of people not only from all parts of Mexico, but even from Peru, at a fair, at which nearly two millions of dollars were spent by inhabitants of the latter viceroyalty in merchandise from China. Hardly had the festivities of this universal concourse ended when a violent earthquake shook the soil of New Spain, and extended from the west coast to the interior beyond the capital, in which the inhabitants were suffering from scarcity, and beginning already to exhibit symptoms of discontent, as they had done five years before, against the supreme [Pg 223] authorities, who they always accused of criminally withholding grain or maintaining its exorbitant price whenever the seasons were inauspicious. But the Conde de Montezuma was on his guard, and immediately took means to control the Indians and lower classes who inhabited the suburbs of the capital. In the meanwhile he caused large quantities of corn to be sent to Mexico from the provinces, and, as long as the scarcity continued and until it was ascertained that the new crop would be abundant, he ordered grain to be served out carefully to those who were really in want or unable to supply themselves at the prices of the day. [44]


In 1698 the joyful news of the peace concluded in the preceding year between France, Spain, Holland and England, reached Mexico, and gave rise to unusual rejoicings among the people. Commerce, which had suffered greatly from the war, recovered its wonted activity. The two following years passed over New Spain uneventfully; but the beginning of the eighteenth century was signalized by a matter which not only affected the politics of Europe, but might have interfered essentially with the loyalty and prosperity of the New World.


In 1701, the monarchy of Spain passed from the house of Austria to that of Bourbon. The history of this transition of the crown, and of the conflicts to which it gave rise not only in Spain but throughout Europe, is well known at the present day. Yet America does not appear to have been shaken in its fidelity, amid all the convulsions of the parent state. Patient, submissive and obedient to the authorities sent them from across the sea, the people of Mexico were as willing to receive a sovereign of a new race, as to hail the advent in their capital of a new viceroy. Accordingly the inhabitants immediately manifested their fealty to the successor named by Charles II., a fact which afforded no small degree of consolation to Philip V. during all the vicissitudes of his fortune. It is even related that this monarch thought at one period of taking refuge among his American subjects, and thus relieving himself of the quarrels and conflicts by which he was surrounded and assailed in Europe.


The public mourning and funeral obsequies for the late sovereign were celebrated in Mexico with great pomp according to a precise [Pg 224] ritual which was sent from the Spanish court, and, whilst the people were thinking of the festivities which were to signalize Philip's accession to the throne, the Conde de Montezuma returned to Spain after four years of uneventful rule.

Don Juan de Ortega Montañez,
Archbishop of Mexico,
His Second Viceroyalty.
XXXIII. Viceroy of Mexico.


The brief period during which the archiepiscopal viceroy exercised his functions in Mexico for the second time, is chiefly, and perhaps, only, memorable, for the additional efforts made by the worthy Jesuits in California to subdue and settle that distant province. The colonists and clergymen who had already gone thither complained incessantly of their sufferings in consequence of the sterility of the coasts. But Salvatierra remained firm in his resolution to spread the power of Spain and of his church among the wild tribes at the feet of the western sierra along the Pacific coast. His labors and those of his diligent coadjutors were slow but incessant. Trusting confidently in Providence, they maintained their post at the Presidio of Loreto, and gathered around them, by their persuasive eloquence and gentle demeanor, large numbers of natives, until the success of their teachings threatened them with starvation in consequence of the abundance of their converts, all of whom relied upon the fathers for maintenance as soon as they abandoned their savage life. Yet there was no other means of attaching the Indians to the Spanish government. The authorities in Mexico had refused and continued obstinate in their denial of men or money to conquer or hold the country; so that, after various efforts to obtain the aid of the government, the pious mendicants resolved to return again to their remote missions with no other reliance than honest zeal and the support of God. At this juncture Philip V., and a number of influential people in the capital, volunteered to aid the cause of christianity and Spain, by supplies which would ensure the final success of the Jesuits.

[Pg 225]

Don Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva,
Duque de Alburquerque.
XXXIV. Viceroy of New Spain.


As soon as the Duke of Alburquerque assumed the government of Mexico, he perceived that more than ordinary care was necessary to consolidate a loyal alliance between the throne and its American possessions, during the dangerous period in which portions of Spain, in the old world, were armed and aroused against the lawful authorities of the land. Accordingly the new viceroy immediately strengthened the military arm of the colony, and extended the government of provinces and the custody of his strongholds and fastnesses to Spaniards upon whose fidelity he could implicitly rely. Without these precautions, he, perhaps, justly feared that notwithstanding the loyalty manifested in New Spain upon the accession of Philip, the insubordination of certain parts of the Spanish monarchy, at home, might serve as a bad example to the American colonists, and, finally, result in a civil war that would drench the land with blood. Besides this, the foreign fleets and pirates were again beginning to swarm along the coasts, lying in wait for the treasure which was annually despatched to Spain; but to meet and control these adventurers, the careful duke increased the squadron of Barlovento, who was instructed to watch the coast incessantly, and to lose no opportunity to make prizes of the enemy's vessels.

Peace was thus preserved in New Spain both on land and water, whilst the Jesuits of California still continued their efforts, unaided by the government, whose resources were drained for the wars of the old world. Thus, after eight years of a strong but pacific reign, during which he saved New Spain from imitating the disgraceful dissensions of the parent state, the Duke of Alburquerque resigned his government into the hands of the Duke of Linares.

[Pg 226]

Don Fernando Alcencastre Noroña y Silva,
Duke de Linares,
XXXV. Viceroy of New Spain.


The Duke of Linares entered Mexico in 1710. The first years of his administration were uneventful, nor was his whole government distinguished, in fact, by any matter which will make it particularly memorable in the history of New Spain.

In 1712, Philip V. found himself master of nearly the whole of Spain, and being naturally anxious to end the war with honor, his emmissaries improved every opportunity to withdraw members of the combined powers from a contest which threatened to be interminable. Accordingly, he approached the English with the temptations of trade, and through his ambassadors who were assisting at the congress of Utrecht, he proposed that the British Queen Anne should withdraw from the contest, if he granted her subjects the right to establish trading houses in his ports on the main and in the islands, for the purpose of supplying the colonies with African slaves. A similar contract had been made ten years before with the French, and was about to expire on the 1st of May.

Anne, who was wearied of the war and was glad to escape from its expense and danger, was not loath to accept the proffered terms; and the treaty, known by the name of El Asiento, which was put in force in Vera Cruz and other Spanish ports, resulted most beneficially to the English. They filled the markets with negroes, and, at the same time, continued to reap profit from the goods they smuggled into the colonies, notwithstanding the treaty forbade the introduction of British merchandise to the detriment of Spanish manufactures. This combined inhumane and illicit trade continued for a considerable time, until the authorities were obliged to menace the officers of customs with death if they connived any longer at the secret and scandalous introduction of British wares.

In 1714, a brief famine and severe epidemic again ravaged the colony. In this year, too, the Indians of Texas once more manifested a desire to submit themselves to Spain and to embrace the christian faith. Orders were, therefore, given to garrison that northern province, and the Franciscan monks were again commanded [Pg 227] to return to their missions among the Ansinais. At the same time, a new colony was founded in Nuevo Leon, forty leagues south-east from Monterey, which, in honor of the viceroy received the name of San Felipe de Linares. At the close of this year, 1715, the garrisons of Texas were already completed, and the Franciscan friars busy in their mission of inducing the savages to abandon their nomadic habits for the quieter life of villagers. This was always the most successful effort of the Spaniards in controlling the restless wanderers and hunters of the wilderness. It was the first step in the modified civilization that usually ended in a mere knowledge of the formula of prayers which was called christianity, and in the more substantial labor of the Indians which was in reality nothing but slavery.

Note.—The year 1711, is remarkable in the annals of the valley of Mexico for a snow storm, which is only known to have occurred again on the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin in 1767. In August of 1711, there was an awful earthquake, which shattered the city and destroyed many of its strongest houses.

The year 1716 was the last of the reign of the Duke of Linares, who in the month of August resigned his post to the Duke of Arion.

Don Baltazar de Zuñiga Guzman, Sotomayor y Mendoza,
Duke de Arion and Marques de Valero.
XXXVI. Viceroy of New Spain.


Scarcely had the Duke de Arion taken charge of the viceroyal government, when he received an express from Texas, despatched by Domingo Ramon, who was captain of the Spaniards in the province, informing the authorities of the famine which prevailed throughout his command, and demanding supplies, without which, he would be obliged to abandon his post and take refuge with his soldiers in Coahuila. The new viceroy saw at once the importance of preserving this province as an outpost and frontier against the French who had already begun their settlements in Louisiana, and accordingly he commanded the governor of Coahuila to send provisions and troops to Texas, together with mechanics who should teach the useful arts to the Indians.

While these occurrences took place in the north of Mexico, war was once more declared between Spain and France without any apparent motive save the hatred which the Duke of Orleans, the regent during the minority of Louis XV., entertained for the Cardinal Alberoni who was prime minister of Spain and had intrigued to dispossess him of his regency. The news of this war reached New Spain, and on the 19th of May, 1719, the French attacked Pensacola and received the capitulation of the governor, [Pg 228] who was unprepared, either with men or provisions to resist the invaders. In the following month the garrison and missionaries of Texas returned hastily to Coahuila, and apprised the viceroy of their flight for safety. But that functionary saw at once the necessity of strengthening the frontier. Levies were, therefore, immediately made. Munitions were despatched to the north. And five hundred men, divided into eight companies, marched forthwith to re-establish the garrisons and missions under the command of the Marques San Miguel de Aguayo, the new governor of Florida and Texas. [45]

Notwithstanding the hostilities between France and Spain, and the eager watchfulness of the fleets and privateers of the former nations, the galeons of New Spain, reached Cadiz in 1721, with a freight of eleven millions of dollars! The years 1722 and 1723 were signalized by some outbreaks among the Indians which were successfully quelled by the colonial troops; and, in October, the Duke of Arion, who had controlled New Spain for six years, was succeeded by the Marques of Casa-Fuerte, a general of artillery. He entered Mexico amid the applauses of the people not only because he was a creole or native of America, but for the love that was borne him by Philip the Fifth, who well knew the services for which the crown was indebted to so brave a warrior.

[Pg 229]

Don Juan de Acuña, Marques de Casa-Fuerte,
XXXVII. Viceroy of New Spain.


In recording these brief memorials of the viceroys of Mexico it has been our purpose rather to mention the principal public events that signalized their reigns, and developed or protected the nation committed to their charge, than to trace the intrigues or exhibit the misconduct of those functionaries and their courtiers. We have abstained, therefore, from noticing many of the corrupt practices which crept into the administration of Mexico, leaving such matters to be studied in the summary view we have presented of the colonial government of Spain. But, in sketching the viceroyalty of the Marques de Casa-Fuerte, we cannot justly avoid observing the marked and moral change he wrought in the government of the country, and the diligence with which this brave and trusty soldier labored to purify the corrupt court of New Spain. Other viceroys had endeavored zealously to aid the progress of the colony. They had planted towns, villages, and garrisons throughout the interior. They had sought to develope the mining districts and to foster agricultural interests. But almost all of them were more or less tainted with avarice, and willingly fell into the habits of the age, which countenanced the traffic in office, or permitted the reception of liberal "gratifications" whenever an advantage was to be derived by an individual from his transactions with the government.

In the time of Casa-Fuerte, there was no path to the palace but that which was open to all. Merit was the test of employment and reward. He forbade the members of his family to receive gifts or to become intercessors for office seekers; and, in all branches of public affairs, he introduced wholesome reforms which were carefully maintained during the whole of his long and virtuous administration.

In 1724, Philip V. suddenly and unexpectedly for his American subjects, resolved to abdicate the crown of Spain and raise his son Louis I. to the throne. Scarcely had the news reached Mexico, and while the inhabitants were about to celebrate the accession of the prince, when they learned that he was already dead, and that his father, fearing to seat the minor Ferdinand in the place of his lost son, had again resumed the sceptre. The Marques de Casa-Fuerte, instantly proclaimed the fact to the people, whose loyalty [Pg 230] to the old sovereign continued unabated; and during the unusually long and successful government of this viceroy, the greatest cordiality and confidence was maintained between himself and his royal master.

Casa-Fuerte despatched a colony of emigrants from the Canary Isles to Texas, and establishing a town for their occupation, he modestly refused the proffered honor of bestowing upon it his name, but caused it to be called San Fernando, in honor of the heir of the Spanish crown. Nor did he neglect commerce whilst he attended to a discreet colonization in the north which might encounter and stay the southern progress of the English and the French. In 1731, the oriental trade of New Spain had become exceedingly important. The galeons that regularly passed across the Pacific, from the East Indies, and arrived every year in America about Christmas, had enjoyed almost a monopoly of the Indian trade in consequence of the wars which continually existed during that century and filled the northern and southern Atlantic with pirates and vessels of war. The Pacific, however, was comparatively free from these dangers, and the galeons were allowed to go and come with but little interruption. The American creoles, in reality, preferred the manufactures of China to those of Europe; for the fabrics of silk and cotton, especially, which were sent to Mexico from Asia, had been sold at half the price demanded for similar articles produced in Spain. The galeon of 1731, which discharged its cargo in Acapulco, bore a freight of unusual value, whence we may estimate the Mexican commerce of that age. The duties collected upon this oriental merchandise exceeded one hundred and seventy thousand dollars, exhibiting an extraordinary increase of eastern trade with Mexico, compared with thirty-five years before, when the impost collected on similar commerce in 1697, amounted to but eighty thousand dollars. The anxiety to preserve the mercantile importance of Cadiz and to prevent the ruin of the old world's commerce, interposed many difficulties in the trade between the East Indies and New Spain; but the influence of Spanish houses in Manilla still secured the annual galeon, and the thrifty merchants stowed the vessels with nearly double the freight that was carried by similar ships on ordinary voyages. Acapulco thus became the emporium of an important trade, and its streets were crowded with merchants and strangers from all parts of Mexico in spite of the dangerous diseases with which they were almost sure to be attacked whilst visiting the western coast.

[Pg 231] The year 1734 was a sad one for New Spain. The Marques de Casa-Fuerte, who governed the country for twelve years most successfully, and had served the crown for fifty-nine, departed this life, at the age of seventy-seven. He was a native of Lima, and like a true creole seems to have had the good of America constantly at heart. Philip V. fully appreciated his meritorious services, and, had the viceroy lived, would doubtless have continued him longer in the government of Mexico. The counsellors of the king often hinted to their sovereign that it was time to remove the Mexican viceroy; but the only reply they received from Philip was "Long live Casa-Fuerte!" The courtiers answered that they hoped he might, indeed, live long, but, that oppressed with years and toils, he was no longer able to endure the burdens of so arduous a government. "As long as Casa-Fuerte lives," answered the king, "his talents and virtues, will give him all the vigor required for a good minister."

Impartial posterity has confirmed the sensibility and judgment of the king. During the reign of Casa-Fuerte the capital of New Spain was adorned with many of its most sumptuous and elegant edifices. The royal mint and custom house were built under his orders. All the garrisons throughout the viceroyalty were visited, examined, and reported. He was liberal with alms for the poor, and even left a sum to be distributed twice a year for food among the prisoners. He endowed an asylum for orphans; expended a large part of his fortune in charitable works, and is still known in the traditionary history of the country as the "Great Governor of New Spain." His cherished remains were interred with great pomp, and are still preserved in the church of the Franciscans of San Cosmé and Damian.


[44] In 1697 there was an eruption of the volcano of Popocatepetl, on the 29th of October.

[45] It may not be uninteresting or unprofitable to state in this place some of the efforts at positive settlement in Texas which were made by the Spaniards during the first quarter of the eighteenth century. Alarcon, the governor, early in 1718, crossed the Medina, with a large number of soldiers, settlers and mechanics, and founded the town of Bejar, with the fortress of San Antonio, and the mission of San Antonio Valero. Thence he pushed on to the country of the Cenis Indians, where, having strengthened the missionary force, he crossed the river Adayes, which he called the Rio de San Francisco de Sabinas, or the Sabine, and began the foundation of a fortress, within a short distance of the French fort, at Natchitoches, named by him the Presido de San Miguel Arcangel de Linares de Adayes. These establishments were reinforced during the next year, and another stronghold was erected on the Oreoquisas, probably the San Jacinto, emptying into Galveston bay, west of the mouth of the Trinity.

The French, who were not unobservant of these Spanish acts of occupation in a country they claimed by virtue of La Salle's discovery and possession in 1684, immediately began to establish counter-settlements, on the Mississippi, and in the valley of the Red river. When Alarcon was removed from the government of Texas he was succeeded by the Marques de Aguayo, who made expeditions through the country in 1721 and 1722, during which he considerably increased the Spanish establishments, and, after this period, no attempt was ever made by the French to occupy any spot south-west of Natchitoches. See History of Florida, Louisiana and Texas, by Robert Greenhow.

[Pg 232]



Don Juan Antonio de Vizarron y Eguiarreta,
Archbishop of Mexico.
XXXVIII. Viceroy of New Spain.


This viceroy who governed New Spain from the year 1734 to 1740, passed an uneventful reign, so far as the internal peace and order of the colony were concerned. War was declared, during this period, between France and Spain, but Mexico escaped from all its desolating consequences, and nothing appears to have disturbed the quiet of colonial life but a severe epidemic, which is said to have resembled the yellow fever, and carried off many thousands of the inhabitants, especially in the north-eastern section of the territory. The viceroy was naturally solicitous to follow the example of his predecessors, in preventing the encroachments of the French on the northern indefinite boundaries of New Spain, and took measures to support the feeble garrisons and colonies which were the only representatives of Spanish rights and power in that remote quarter.

[Pg 233]

Don Pedro Castro Figueroa Salazar,
Duke de la Conquista and Marques de Garcia-Real,
XXXIX. Viceroy of New Spain.


On the 17th of August the new viceroy reached the capital, and learned from the governor of New Mexico that the French had actually visited that region of the colonial possessions, yet, finding the soil and country unsuited to their purposes, had returned again to their own villages and settlements. At the same time the English, under the command of Oglethrope, bombarded the town and fort of San Agustin in Florida, but the brave defence made by the Spaniards, obliged them to raise the siege and depart.

In 1741 the sky of New Spain was obscured by the approaching clouds of war, for Admiral Vernon, who had inflicted great damages upon the commerce of the Indies, captured Porto Bello, and occupied the forts of Cartagena. New Spain, was thus in constant dread of the arrival of a formidable enemy upon her own coasts; and the Duke de la Conquista, anxious for the fate of Vera Cruz, hastily levied an adequate force for the protection of the shore along the gulf, and resolved to visit it personally in order to hasten the works which were requisite to resist the English. He departed for the eastern districts of New Spain upon the warlike mission, but, in the midst of his labors, was suddenly seized by a severe illness which obliged him to return to the capital, where he died on the 22d of August. His body was interred with great pomp, amid the lamentations of the Mexicans, for in the brief period of his government he had manifested talents of the highest order, and exhibited the deepest interest in the welfare and progress of the country committed to his charge. His noble title of "Duke of Conquest," was bravely won on the battle field of Bitonto; and although it is said that Philip slighted him during the year of his viceroyalty, yet it is certain that he was repaid by the admiration of the Mexican people for the lost favor of his king. Upon his death the Audiencia took charge of the government, and continued in power until the following November, without any serious disturbance from the enemy. Anson, with his vessels, was in the Pacific, and waited anxiously in the neighborhood of Acapulco to make a prize of the galeon which was to sail for the East Indies, laden with a rich cargo of silver to purchase oriental fabrics. But the inhabitants of Acapulco and the Audiencia were on their guard, and the vessel and treasure of New Spain escaped the grasp of the English adventurer.

[Pg 234]

Don Pedro Cebrian y Agustin, Count de Fuen-Clara.
XL. Viceroy of New Spain.


The Count de Fuen-Clara assumed the viceroyal baton on the 3d of November, 1742. His term of four years was passed without any events of remarkable importance for New Spain save the capture, by Anson, of one of the East Indian galeons with a freight of one million three hundred and thirteen thousand dollars in coined silver, and four thousand four hundred and seventy marks of the same precious metal, besides a quantity of the most valuable products of Mexico. This period of the viceroyalty must necessarily be uninteresting and eventless. The wars of the old world were confined to the continent and to the sea. Mexico, locked up amid her mountains, was not easily assailed by enemies who could spare no large armies from the contests at home for enterprises in so distant a country. Besides, it was easier to grasp the harvest on the ocean that had been gathered on the land. England contented herself, therefore, with harassing and pilfering the commerce of Castile, while Mexico devoted all her energies to the development of her internal resources of mineral and agricultural wealth. Emigrants poured into the country. The waste lands were filling up. North, south, east and west, the country was occupied by industrious settlers and zealous curates, who were engaged in the cultivation of the soil and the spiritual subjection of the Indians. The spirit as well as the dangers of the conquest were past, and Mexico, assumed, in the history of the age, the position of a quiet, growing nation, equally distant from the romantic or adventurous era of early settlement when danger and difficulty surrounded the Spaniards, and from the lethean stagnation into which she fell in future years under Spanish misrule.

Don Juan Francisco Guemes y Horcasitas,
Count de Revilla-Gigedo—the first.
XLI. Viceroy of New Spain.


The Conde de Revilla-Gigedo, the first of that name who was viceroy of Mexico, reached the capital on the 9th of July, 1746, and on the 12th of the same month, his master, Philip V. died, leaving Ferdinand VI. as his successor. Under the reign of this [Pg 235] enlightened nobleman the colony prospered rapidly, and his services in increasing the royal revenues were so signally successful that he was retained in power for nine years. Mexico had become a large and beautiful city. The mining districts were extraordinarily prolific, and no year of his government yielded less than eleven millions of dollars;—the whole sum that passed through the national mint during his term being one hundred and fourteen millions, two hundred and thirty-one thousand dollars of the precious metals! The population of the capital amounted to fifty thousand families composed of Spaniards, Europeans and creoles,—forty thousand mestizos, mulattoes, negroes,—and eight thousand Indians, who inhabited the suburbs. This population annually consumed at least two millions arobas of flour, about a hundred and sixty thousand fanegas of corn, three hundred thousand sheep, fifteen thousand five hundred beeves, and about twenty-five thousand swine. In this account, the consumption of many religious establishments is not included, as they were privately supplied from their estates, nor can we count the numerous and valuable presents which were sent by residents of the country to their friends in the capital.


It has been already said that this viceroy augmented largely the income of Spain. The taxes of the capital, accounted for by the Consulado, were collected yearly, and amounted to three hundred and thirty-three thousand, three hundred and thirty-three dollars, whilst those of the whole viceroyalty reached seven hundred and eighteen thousand, three hundred and seventy-five. The income from pulque alone,—the favorite drink of the masses,—was one hundred and seventy-two thousand dollars, while other imposts swelled the gross income in proportion.

The collection of tributes was not effected invariably in the same manner throughout the territory of New Spain. In Mexico the Administrador-General imposed this task on the justices whose duty it was to watch over the Indians. The aborigines in the capital were divided into two sections, one comprising the Tenochas of San Juan, and the other the Tlaltelolcos of Santiago, both of which had their governors and other police officers, according to Spanish custom. The first of these bands, dwelling on the north and east of the capital, was, in the olden time, the most powerful and noble, and at that period numbered five thousand nine hundred families. The other division, existing on the west and south, was reduced to two thousand five hundred families. In [Pg 236] the several provinces of the viceroyalty the Indian tributes were collected through the intervention of one hundred and forty-nine chief alcaldes who governed them, and who, before they took possession of their offices, were required to give security for the tribute taxed within their jurisdiction. The frontier provinces of this vast territory, inhabited only by garrisons, and a few scattered colonists, were exempt from this odious charge. In all the various sections of the nation, however, the Indians were accurately enumerated. Two natives were taxed together, in order to facilitate the collection by making both responsible, and, every four months, from this united pair, six reales were collected, making in all eighteen in the course of the year. This gross tax of two dollars and twenty-five cents was divided as follows: eight reales were taxed as tribute;—four for the royal service;—four and a half as commutation for a half fanega of corn which was due to the royal granary;—half a real for the royal hospital, in which the Indians were lodged when ill; another half real for the costs of their law suits; and, finally, the remaining half real for the construction of cathedrals.


In 1748, the Count Revilla-Gigedo, in conformity to the orders of the king, and after consultation in general meeting with the officers of various tribunals, determined to lay the foundation of a grand colony in the north, under the guidance of Colonel José Escandon, who was forthwith appointed governor. This decree, together with an account of the privileges and lands which would be granted to colonists, was extensively published, and, in a few years, a multitude of families and single emigrants founded eleven villages of Spaniards and mulattoes between Alta-Mira and Camargo. The Indians who were gathered in this neighborhood composed four missions; and, although it was found impossible to clear the harbor of Santander, or to render it capable of receiving vessels of deep draft, the government was nevertheless enabled to found several flourishing villages which were vigilant in the protection of the coast against pirates.

In 1749 the crops were lost in many of the provinces where the early frost blighted the fields of corn and fruit. The crowded capital and its neighborhood, fortunately, did not experience the want of food, which in other regions of the tierra adentro amounted to absolute famine. The people believed that the frown of Heaven was upon the land,—for, to this calamity, repeated earthquakes were added, and the whole region, from the volcano of Colima to [Pg 237] far beyond Gaudalajara, was violently shaken and rent, causing the death of many persons and the ruin of large and valuable villages.

In 1750, Mexico was still free from scarcity, and even able, not only to support its own population, but to feed the numerous strangers who fled to it from the unfruitful districts. Yet, in the cities and villages of the north and west, where the crops had been again lost, want and famine prevailed as in the previous year. From Guanajuato, a city rich in mines, to Zacatecas, the scarcity of food was excessive, and the enormous sum of twenty-five dollars was demanded and paid for a fanega of corn. Neither man nor beast had wherewith to support life, and, for a while, the labors in the mines of this rich region were suspended. The unfortunate people left their towns in crowds to subsist on roots and berries which they found in the forests. Many of them removed to other parts of the country, and, as it was at this period that the rich veins of silver at Bolaños were discovered, some of the poor emigrants found work and food in a district whose sudden mineral importance induced the merchants to supply it liberally with provisions. The end of the year, however, was fortunately crowned with abundant crops.


In 1755,—after founding the Presidio of Horcasitas, in Sonora, designed to restrain the incursions of the Apaches into that province,—the Count Revilla-Gigedo, was recalled, at his own request, from the Mexican viceroyalty in order that he might devote himself to the management of his private property, which had increased enormously, during his government. In the history of Mexican viceroys, this nobleman is celebrated as a speculative and industrious trader. There was no kind of commercial enterprise or profitable traffic in which he did not personally engage. His palace degenerated into an exchange, frequented by all kinds of adventurers, while gaming tables were openly spread out to catch the doubloons of the viceroyal courtiers. The speculations and profits of Revilla-Gigedo enabled him to found Mayorazgos for his sons in Spain, and he was regarded, throughout Europe, as the richest vassal of Ferdinand the VI. His son, who subsequently became a Mexican viceroy, and was the second bearing the family title, labored to blot out the stain which the trading propensities of his father had cast upon his name. He was a model of propriety in every respect; but, whilst he made no open display of anxiety to enrich himself corruptly through official influence or position, he, nevertheless, exhibited the avaricious traits of his [Pg 238] father in requiring from his butler, each night an exact account of every cent that was spent during the day, and every dish that was prepared in his kitchen.

Notwithstanding the notorious and corrupting habits of the first count, that personage contrived to exercise an extraordinary influence or control over the masses in Mexico. The people feared and respected him; and, upon a certain occasion, when they were roused in the capital and gathered in menacing mobs, this resolute viceroy, whose wild and savage aspect aided the authority of his determined address, rode into the midst of the turbulent assemblage without a soldier in attendance, and immediately dispersed the revolutionists by the mere authority of his presence and command.

Don Agustin de Ahumada y Villalon,
Marques de las Amarillas,
XLII. Viceroy of New Spain.


The government of the Marques de las Amarillas commenced on the 10th of November, 1755; and he immediately devoted himself to the task of reforming many of the abuses which had doubtless crept into the administration of public affairs during the reign of his trafficing predecessor. Valuable mineral deposits were discovered in New Leon, whose veins were found so rich and tempting that crowds of miners from Zacatecas and Guanajuato flocked to the prolific region. Great works were commenced to facilitate the working of the drifts, but the wealth which had so suddenly appeared on the scene as if by magic, vanished amid the interminable quarrels and law suits of the parties. Many of the foremost adventurers who imagined themselves masters of incalculable riches were finally forced to quit their discoveries, on foot, without a dollar to supply themselves with food.

In 1759 a general mourning was proclaimed in Mexico for the queen of Spain, Maria Barbara of Portugal, who was speedily followed to the tomb by her husband Ferdinand VI. His brother Charles III. ascended the throne, and whilst the mingled ceremonies of sorrow and festivity for the dead and living were being performed in Mexico, the worthy viceroy was suddenly struck with apoplexy which his physicians thought might be alleviated by his residence in the healthful and lower regions of Cuernavaca. But neither the change of level nor temperature improved the condition [Pg 239] of the viceroy, who died of this malady on the 5th of January, 1760, in the beautiful city to which he had retreated. He was a remarkable contrast to his predecessor in many respects, and although he had been viceroy for five years, it is stated, as a singular fact in the annals of Mexico, that he left his widow poor and altogether unprovided for. But his virtuous conduct as an efficient minister of the crown had won the confidence and respect of the Mexicans who were anxious to succor those whom he left dependant upon the favor of the crown. The liberality of the archbishop Rubio y Salinas, however supplied all the wants of the gentle Marquesa, who was thus enabled to maintain a suitable state until her return to the court of Spain, where the merits of her husband, as a Spanish soldier in the Italian wars, doubtless procured her a proper pension for life.

As the death of the Marques de las Amarillas was sudden and unexpected, the king of Spain had not supplied the government with the usual pliego de mortaja, or mortuary despatch, which was generally sent from Madrid whenever the health of a viceroy was feeble, so as to supply his place by an immediate successor in the event of death. The Audiencia, of course, became the depository of executive power during the interregnum, and its dean Don Francisco Echavarri, directed public affairs, under its sanction, until the arrival of the viceroy, ad interim, from Havana.

Don Francisco de Cagigal,
XLIII. Viceroy of New Spain.
1760—April to October.

The government of this personage was so brief, and his tenure so completely nominal, that he employed himself merely in the adornment of the capital and the general police of the colony. He was engaged in some improvements in the great square of Mexico, when his successor arrived; but he left the capital with the hearty regrets of the townsmen, for his intelligence and affability had won their confidence and induced them to expect the best results from his prolonged reign.

[Pg 240]



Don Joaquim de Monserrat, Marques de Cruillas,
XLIV. Viceroy of New Spain.


In 1761, soon after the entrance of the Marques de Cruillas into Mexico, the ceremony of proclaiming the accession of Charles III. to the throne, was performed with great pomp, by the viceroy, the nobles, and the municipality. But the period of rejoicing was short, for news soon reached Mexico, that war was again declared between Spain and England; a fact which was previously concealed, in consequence of the interception of despatches that had been sent to Havana. Don Juan de Prado was the governor of that important point, and he, as well as the viceroy of Mexico, had consequently been unable to make suitable preparations for the attacks of the British on the West Indian and American possessions of Spain.

In the meantime an English squadron, which had recruited its forces and supplied itself with provisions in Jamaica, disembarked its troops without resistance, on the 6th of June, two leagues east of the Moro Castle. The Havanese fought bravely with various success against the invaders until the 30th of July, when the Spaniards, satisfied that all further defence was vain and rash, surrendered the Moro Castle to the foe. On the 13th of August the town also capitulated; private property and the rights of religion being preserved intact. By this conquest the [Pg 241] English obtained nine ships of the line, four frigates, and all the smaller vessels belonging to the sovereign and his subjects, which were in the port; while four millions, six hundred thousand dollars, belonging to the king and found in the city, swelled the booty of the fortunate invaders.

Whilst this was passing in Havana it was falsely reported in Mexico that the British, being unsuccessful in their attacks on Cuba, had raised the siege, and were about to leave the islands for the Spanish main. The important port of Vera Cruz and its defences were of course not to be neglected under such circumstances. This incorrect rumor was, however, soon rectified by the authentic news of the capture of the Moro Castle and of the city of Havana. The Marques de Cruillas immediately ordered all the militia to be raised in the provinces, even six hundred miles from the eastern coast, and to march forthwith to Vera Cruz. That city and its castle were at once placed in the best possible condition of defence; but the unacclimated troops from the high and healthy regions of the interior who had been brought suddenly to the sickly sea shore of the tierra caliente, suffered so much from malaria, that the viceroy was obliged to withdraw them to Jalapa and Peroté.

Whilst Mexico was thus in a state of alarm in 1763, and whilst the government was troubled in consequence of the arrest of a clergyman who had been seized as a British spy, the joyful news arrived that peace had again been negotiated between France and England.

Pestilence, as well as war, appears to have menaced Mexico at this epoch. The small pox broke out in the capital and carried off ten thousand persons. Besides this, another malady, which is described by the writers of the period as similar to that which had ravaged the country a hundred and seven years before, and which terminated by an unceasing flow of blood from the nostrils, filled the hospitals of the capital with its victims. From Mexico this frightful and contagious malady passed to the interior, where immense numbers, unable to obtain medical advice, medicine, or attendance, were carried to the grave.

The general administration of the viceroyalty by the Marques de Cruillas was unsatisfactory both to the crown and the people of New Spain. The best historians of the period are not definite in their charges of misconduct against this nobleman, but his demeanor as an executive officer required the appointment of a visitador, in order to examine and remedy his abuse of power. The [Pg 242] person charged with this important task,—Don José Galvez,—was endowed with unlimited authority entirely independent of the viceroy, and he executed his office with severity. He arrested high officers of the government, and deprived them of their employments. His extraordinary talents and remarkable industry enabled him to comprehend at once, and search into, all the tribunals and governmental posts of this vast kingdom. In Vera Cruz he removed the royal accountants from their offices. In Puebla, and in Mexico, he turned out the superintendents of customs, and throughout the country, all who were employed in public civil stations, feared, from day to day, that they would either be suspended or deposed. Whilst Galvez attended, thus, to the faithful discharge of duty by the officers of the crown, he labored, also, to increase the royal revenue. Until that period the cultivation of tobacco had been free, but Galvez determined to control it, as in Spain, and made its preparation and sale a monopoly for the government. Gladly as his other alterations and reforms were received by the people, this interference with one of their cherished luxuries was well nigh the cause of serious difficulties. In the city of Cordova, and in many neighboring places, some of the wealthiest and most influential colonists depended for their fortunes and income upon the unrestrained production and manufacture of this article. Thousands of the poorer classes were engaged in its preparation for market, while in all the cities, towns, and villages, there were multitudes who lived by selling it to the people. Every man, and perhaps every woman, in Mexico, used tobacco, and consequently this project of the visitador gave reasonable cause for dissatisfaction to the whole of New Spain. Nevertheless, the firmness of Galvez, the good temper of the Mexicans, and their habitual submission to authority, overcame all difficulties. The inhabitants of Cordova were not deprived of all control over the cultivation of tobacco, and were simply obliged to sell it to the officers of the king at a definite price, whilst these personages were ordered to continue supplying the families of the poor, with materials for the manufacture of cigars; and by this device the public treasury was enabled to derive an important revenue from an article of universal consumption. Thus the visitador appears to have employed his authority in the reform of the colony and the augmentation of the royal revenue, without much attention to the actual viceroy, who was displaced in 1766. The fiscal or attorney general of the Audiencia of Manilla, Don José Aréché, was ordered officially to examine into the executive conduct of the Marques de Cruillas who [Pg 243] had retired from the city of Mexico to Cholula, and although it had been universally the custom to permit other viceroys to answer the charges made against them by attorney, this favor was denied to the Marques, who was subjected to much inconvenience and suffering during the long trial that ensued.

Don Carlos Francisco de Croix, Marques de Croix,
XLV. Viceroy of New Spain.


The Marques de Croix was a native of the city of Lille in Flanders, and, born of an illustrious family, had obtained his military renown by a service of fifty years in the command of Ceuta, Santa-Maria, and the Captaincy General of Galicia. He entered Mexico as viceroy on the 25th of August, 1766.

For many years past, in the old world and in the new, there had been a silent but increasing fear of the Jesuits. It was known that in America their missionary zeal among the Indians in the remotest provinces was unequalled. The winning manners of the cultivated gentlemen who composed this powerful order in the Catholic church, gave them a proper and natural influence with the children of the forest, whom they had withdrawn from idolatry and partially civilized. But the worthy Jesuits, did not confine their zealous labors to the wilderness. Members of the order, all of whom were responsible and implicitly obedient to their great central power, were spread throughout the world, and were found in courts and camps as well as in the lonely mission house of the frontier or in the wigwam of the Indian. They had become rich as well as powerful, for, whilst they taught christianity, they did not despise the wealth of the world. Whatever may have been their personal humility, their love for the progressive power and dignity of the order, was never permitted for a moment to sleep. A body, stimulated by such a combined political and ecclesiastical passion, all of whose movements, might be controlled by a single, central, despotic will, may now be kept in subjection in the old world, where the civil and military police is ever alert in support of the national authorities. But, at that epoch of transition in America whose vast regions were filled with credulous and ignorant aborigines, and thinly sprinkled with intelligent, educated and loyal Europeans, it was deemed dangerous to leave the superstitious Indians to become the prey, rather than the flock,—the instruments, rather than the acolytes of such insidious shepherds. [Pg 244] These fears had seized the mind of Charles III. who dreaded a divided dominion in America, with the venerable fathers. We do not believe that there was just cause for the royal alarm. We do not suppose that the Jesuits whose members, it is true, were composed of the subjects of all the Catholic powers of Europe, ever meditated political supremacy in Spanish America, or designed to interfere with the rights of Charles or his successors. But the various orders of the Roman church,—the various congregations, and convents of priests and friars,—are unfortunately, not free from that jealous rivalry which distinguishes the career of laymen in all the other walks of life.

It may be that some of the pious brethren, whose education, manners, position, wealth or power, was not equal to the influence, social rank and control, of the Jesuits, had, perhaps, been anxious to drive this respectable order from America. It may be, that the king and his council were willing to embrace any pretext to rid his colonial possessions of the Jesuits. But certain it is, that on the 25th of June, before the dawn of day, at the same hour, throughout the whole of New Spain the decree for their expulsion was promulgated by order of Charles. The king was so anxious upon this subject, that he wrote, with his own hand, to the viceroy of Mexico, soliciting his best services in the fulfilment of the royal will. When the question was discussed in the privy council of the sovereign, a chart of both Americas was spread upon the table,—the distances between the colleges of the Jesuits accurately calculated,—and the time required for the passage of couriers, carefully estimated, so that the blow might fall simultaneously upon the order. The invasion of Havana by the English and its successful capture, induced the king to supply his American possessions with better troops, and more skilful commanders than had been, hitherto, sent to the colonies. Thus there were various, veteran Spanish regiments in Mexico capable of restraining any outbreaks of the people in favor of the outraged fathers who had won their respect and loyal obedience.

At the appointed hour, the order of Charles, was enforced. The Jesuits were shut up in their colleges, and all avenues to these retreats of learning and piety were filled with troops. The fathers were despatched from Mexico for Vera Cruz on the 28th of June, surrounded by soldiers. They halted awhile in the town of Guadalupe, where the Visitador Galvez, who governed the expedition, permitted them to enter, once more, into the national sanctuary, where amid the weeping crowds of Mexicans, [Pg 245] they poured forth their last, and fervent vows, for the happiness of a people, who idolized them. Their entrance into Jalapa was a triumph. Windows, balconies, streets, and house tops were filled with people, whose demeanor manifested what was passing in their hearts, but who were restrained by massive ranks of surrounding soldiery from all demonstration in behalf of the banished priests. In Vera Cruz some silent but respectful tokens of veneration were bestowed upon the fathers, several of whom died in that pestilential city before the vessels were ready to transport them beyond the sea. Nor did their sufferings cease with their departure from New Spain. Their voyage was long, tempestuous and disastrous, and after their arrival in Spain, under strict guardianship, they were again embarked for Italy, where they were finally settled with a slender support in Rome, Bologna, Ferrara and other cities, in which they honored the country whence they had been driven by literary labors and charitable works. The names of Abade, Alegre, Clavigero, Landibares, Maneyro, Cavo, Lacunza and Marques, sufficiently attest the historical merit of these Mexican Jesuits, who were victims of the suspicious Charles. For a long time the Mexican mind was sorely vexed by the oppressive act against this favorite order. But the Visitador Galvez imposed absolute silence upon the people,—telling them in insulting language that it was their "sole duty to obey," and that they must "speak neither for nor against the royal order, which had been passed for motives reserved alone for the sovereign's conscience!"

Thus, all expression of public sentiment, as well as of amiable feeling, at this daring act against the worthiest and most benevolent clergymen of Mexico was effectually stifled. It had been well for New Spain if Charles had banished the Friars, and spared the Jesuits. The church of Mexico, in our age, would then have resembled the church of the United States, whose foundation and renown are owing chiefly to the labors of enlightened Sulpicians and Jesuits, as well as to the exclusion of monks and of all the orders that dwell in the idle seclusion of cloisters instead of passing useful lives amid secular occupations and temporal interests. If the act of Henry VIII. in England was unjust and cruel, it was matched both in boldness and wickedness by the despotic decree of the unrelenting Charles of Spain. Nor can the latter sovereign claim the merit of having substituted virtue for vice as the British king pretended he had done in the suppression of the monasteries. Henry swept priest and friar from his kingdom with the same [Pg 246] blow; but the trimming Charles banished the intellectual Jesuit whilst he saved and screened the lazy monk.

The pretext of Charles III. for his outrageous conduct was found in an insurrection which occurred on the evening of Palm Sunday, 1766, and gave up the capital of Spain, for forty-eight hours, to a lawless mob. It was doubtless the result of a preconcerted plan to get rid of an obnoxious minister; and, as soon as it was known that this personage had been exiled, the rioters instantly surrendered their arms, made friends with the soldiers, and departed to their homes. In fact, it was a political intrigue, which the king and his minister charged on some of the Spanish grandees and on the Jesuits. But as the former were too powerful to be assailed by the king, his wrath was vented on the Fathers of the Order of Jesus, whose lives, at this time, were not only innocent but meritorious.

"Some years preceding, on a charge as destitute of foundation, they had been expelled from Portugal. In 1764, their inveterate foe, the Duke de Choiseul, minister of Louis XV., had driven them from France; and, in Spain, their possessions were regarded with an avaricious eye by some of the needy courtiers. To effect their downfall, the French minister eagerly joined with the advocates of plunder; and intrigues were adopted which must cover their authors with everlasting infamy. Not only was the public alarm carefully excited by a report of pretended plots, and the public indignation, by slanderous representations of their persons and principles; but, in the name of the chiefs of the order, letters were forged, which involved the most monstrous doctrines and the most criminal designs. A pretended circular from the general of the order, at Rome, to the provincial, calling on him to join with the insurgents; the deposition of perjured witnesses to prove that the recent commotion was chiefly the work of the body, deeply alarmed Charles, and drew him into the views of the French cabinet." [46]

Spain was thus made a tool of France in an act of gross injustice, not only to the reverend sufferers, but to the people over whose spiritual and intellectual wants they had so beneficially watched.

From this digression to the mingled politics of Mexico and Europe we shall now return to the appropriate scene of our brief annals. The captain of so important a port as Havana, and the inadequate protection of the coast along the main, obliged the government to think seriously about the increase and discipline of domestic troops, and especially, to improve the condition of the [Pg 247] coast defence. These fears were, surely, not groundless. The possessions of Great Britain, north of Mexico, on the continent, were growing rapidly in size and importance; and from the provinces which now form the United States, the viceroy imagined England might easily despatch sufficient troops, without being obliged to transport reinforcements from Europe. Accordingly suitable preparations were made to receive the enemy should he venture to descend suddenly on the Spanish main. The veteran regiments of Savoy and Flanders were sent to the colony in June, 1768, and the Marshal de Rubi was charged with the disposition of the army. From that period, it may be said, that Mexico assumed the military aspect, which it has continuously worn to the present time.

Besides the increase and improvement of the troops of the line, the government's attention was directed towards the fortification of the ports and interior passes. The Castle of San Juan de Ulua was repaired at a cost of a million and a half of dollars. The small island of Anton Lizardo was protected by military works at an expense of a million two hundred thousand dollars. A splendid battery was sent from Spain for the castle, and the inefficient guns of Acapulco were despatched to the Fillipine islands to be recast and sent back to America. In the interior of the country, in the midst of the plain of Peroté, the Castle of San Carlos was built in the most substantial and scientific manner; and although this fortress seems useless, placed as it is in the centre of a broad and easily traversed prairie, yet, at the time of its construction, it was designed as an entre depot between the capital and the coast, in which the royal property might always be safely kept until the moment of exportation, instead of being exposed to the danger of a sudden seizure by the enemy in the port of Vera Cruz. Many other points along the road from Vera Cruz are better calculated to defend the interior passes of the country from invasion; but as the attacks of the enemy were not expected to be made beyond the coast upon which they naturally supposed they would find the treasure they desired to plunder, it was deemed best to establish and arm the fortress of San Carlos de Peroté.

Such were some of the leading acts and occurrences in New Spain during the viceroyalty of the Marques de Croix. His general administration of affairs is characterized by justice. He lived in harmony with the rigid Visitador Galvez, and although the gossips of the day declared he was too fond of wine, yet, on his return to Spain he was named Captain General of the army, and treated most kindly by the king.


[46] Dr. Dunham's History of Spain and Portugal, vol. 5, p. 175.

[Pg 248]



Don Antonio Maria de Bucareli y Ursua,
Lieutenant General of the Spanish Army,
XLVI. Viceroy of New Spain.


Bucareli reached Vera Cruz from Havana on the 23d of August, 1771, and took possession of the viceroyalty on the 2d of the following month. During his administration the military character of the colony was still carefully fostered, whilst the domestic interests of the people were studied, and every effort made to establish the public works and national institutions upon a firm basis. The new mint and the Monte de Piadad are monuments of this epoch. Commerce flourished in those days in Mexico. The fleet under the command of Don Luis de Cordova departed for Cadiz on the 30th of November, 1773, with twenty-six millions two hundred and fifty-five dollars, exclusive of a quantity of cacao, cochineal and twenty-two marks of fine gold, and the fleet of 1774 was freighted with twenty-six millions four hundred and fifty-seven thousand dollars.

Nor was the accumulation of wealth derived at that time from the golden placeres of Cieneguilla in Sonora less remarkable. From the 1st of January, 1773, to the 17th of November of the year following, there were accounted for, in the royal office at [Pg 249] Alamos, four thousand, eight hundred and thirty-two marks of gold, the royal duties on which, of tithe and senorage, amounted to seventy-two thousand, three hundred and forty-eight dollars. The custom house of Mexico, according to the accounts of the consulado, produced, in 1772, six hundred and eighty-seven thousand and forty-one dollars, the duty on pulque alone, being two hundred and forty-four thousand, five hundred and thirty.

In 1776, Bucareli endeavored to liberate trade from many of the odious restrictions which had been cast around it by old commercial usages, and by the restrictive policy of Spain. The consulado of Mexico complained to Bucareli of the suffering it endured by the monopoly which had hitherto been enjoyed by the merchants of Cadiz, and through the viceroy solicited the court to be permitted to remit its funds to Spain, and to bring back the return freights in vessels on its own account, Bucareli supported this demand with his influence, and may be said to have given the first impulse to free-trade. Meanwhile, the mineral resources of Mexico were not neglected. During the seven years of Bucareli's reign, the yield of the mines had every year been greater than at any period since the conquest. One hundred and twenty-seven millions, three hundred and ninety-six thousand dollars, in gold and silver, were coined during his viceroyalty. Laborde, in Zacatecas, and Terreros in Pachuca, had undertaken extensive works at the great and rich mine of Quebradilla and in the splendid vein of Vizcayna. Other mines were most successfully wrought by their proprietors. From 1770 to the end of 1778, Don Antonio Obregon presented to the royal officers, in order to be taxed, four thousand six hundred and ninety-nine bars of silver, the royal income from which amounted to six hundred and forty-eight thousand nine hundred and seventy-two dollars. The same individual had, moreover, presented to the same personage, fifty-three thousand and eighty-eight castellanos of gold, which paid thirteen thousand eight hundred and seventy-one dollars in duties. In order to work his metals, Obregon had been furnished, to that date, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-nine quintals of quicksilver, for which he paid a hundred and fifty-nine thousand two hundred and forty-one dollars.

In June, 1778, the mineral deposits of Hostotipaquillo, in the province of Guadalajara, now Jalisco, were discovered, and promised the most extraordinary returns of wealth. In the following year, the valuable mines of Catorce, were accidentally found by a soldier whilst searching for a lost horse. All these discoveries and beneficial labors induced Bucareli to recommend the mineral interests [Pg 250] of New Spain particularly to the sovereign, and various persons were charged to explore the country, for the discovery of quicksilver mines, which it was alleged existed in Mexico. The extraction of quicksilver from American mines had hitherto been prohibited by Spain, but the fear of wars, which might prevent its importation from abroad, and consequently, destroy the increasing mineral industry of the nation, induced the court to send Don Raphael Heling and Don Antonio Posada, with several subordinates, who formerly wrought in the mines of Almaden, to examine the deposits at Talchapa and others in the neighborhood of Ajuchitlan, in October, 1778, under the direction of padre Alzate. But this reconnoisance proved unavailing at that time, inasmuch as the explorers found no veins or deposits which repaid the cost and labor of working.

At this epoch the Spanish government began to manifest a desire to propagate information in its American possessions. There is a gleam of intellectual dawn seen in a royal order of Charles, in 1776, commanding educated ecclesiastics to devote themselves to the study of Mexican antiquities, mineralogy, metallurgy, geology, and fossils. This decree was directed to the clergy because his majesty, perhaps justly supposed, that they were the only persons who possessed any knowledge of natural sciences, whilst the rest of his American subjects were in the most profound ignorance. Archbishop Lorenzano published in Mexico in 1770 his annotated edition of the letters of Cortéz, which is a well printed work, adorned with coarse engravings, a few maps, and the curious fac-simile pictures of the tributes paid to the Emperor Montezuma. But the jealous monks of the inquisition kept a vigilant watch over the issues of the press, and we find that, in those days, the commercial house of Prado and Freyre was forced to crave a license from the court empowering them to ship two boxes of types to be used in the printing of the calendar!

The administration of Bucareli was not disturbed by insurrections among the creoles and Spaniards, for he was a just ruler and the people respected his orders, even when they were apparently injurious to their interests. The viceroy adorned their capital built aqueducts, improved roads, and facilitated intercourse between the various parts of the country; but the Indians of the north in the province of Chihuahua harassed the colonists dwelling near the outposts during nearly all the period of his government. These warlike, nomadic tribes have been the scourge of the frontier provinces since the foundation of the first outpost settlement. [Pg 251] They are wild hunters, and appear to have no feeling in common with those southern bands who were subdued by the mingled influences of the sword and of the cross into tame agriculturists. Bucareli attacked and conquered parties of these wandering warriors, but every year fresh numbers descended upon the scattered pioneers along the frontier, so that the labor of recolonization and fighting was annually repeated. Towards the close of his administration, De Croix, who succeeded Hugo Oconor in the command along the northern line, established a chain of well appointed presidios, which in some degree restrained the inroads of these barbarians.

Bucareli died, after a short illness, on the 9th of April, 1779, and his remains were deposited in the church of Guadalupe in front of the sacred and protecting image of the virgin who watches according to the legend, over the destinies of Mexico.

Don Martin de Mayorga,
XLVII. Viceroy of New Spain.


In consequence of the death of Bucareli the Audiencia assumed the government of New Spain until the appointment of his successor, and in the meanwhile, on the 18th of May, 1779, Charles III. solemnly declared war against England. The misunderstanding which gave rise to the revolutionary outbreak in the English colonies of North America was beginning to attract the notice of Europe. France saw in the quarrel between the Americans and the British an opportunity to humiliate her dangerous foe; and although Spain had no interest in such a contest, the minister of Charles, Florida Blanca, persuaded his master to unite with France in behalf of the revolted colonies. Spain, in this instance, as in the expulsion of the Jesuits, was, doubtless, submissive to the will of the French court, and willingly embraced an occasion to humble the pride or destroy the power of a haughty nation whose fleets and piratical cruisers had so long preyed upon the wealthy commerce of her American possessions. The Spanish minister did not probably dream of the dangerous neighbor whose creation he was aiding, north of the Gulf of Mexico. It is not likely that he imagined republicanism would be soon and firmly established in the British united colonies of America, and that the infectious love of freedom would spread beyond the wastes of Texas and the deserts of California to the plateaus and plains of Mexico and Peru. [Pg 252] The policy was at once blind and revengeful. If it was produced by the intrigue of France, the old hereditary foe and rival of England, it was still less pardonable, for a fault or a crime when perpetrated originally and boldly by a nation sometimes rises almost into glory, if successful; but a second-hand iniquity, conceived in jealousy and vindictiveness, is as mean as it is short sighted. England had no friends at that epoch. Her previous conduct had been so selfishly grasping, that all Europe rejoiced when her colonial power was broken by the American revolution. Portugal, Holland, Russia, Morocco and Austria, all, secretly favored the course of Spain and France, and the most discreet politicians of Europe believed that the condition of Great Britain was hopeless.

The declaration of this impolitic war was finally made in Mexico on the 12th of August, 1779, before the arrival of Mayorga, the new viceroy, who did not reach the capital till the 23d of the same month. The Mexicans were not as well acquainted with the politics of the world as the Spanish cabinet, and did not appreciate all the delicate and diplomatic motives which actuated Charles III. They regarded a war with England as a direct invitation to the British to ravage their coasts and harass their trade; and, accordingly as soon as the direful news was announced, prayers were solemnly uttered in all the churches for the successful issue of the contest. Nor did war alone strike the Mexicans with panic; for in this same period the small pox broke out in the capital; and in the ensuing months in the space of sixty-seven days, no less than eight thousand eight hundred and twenty-one persons were hurried by it to the grave. It was a sad season of pestilence and anxiety. The streets were filled with dead bodies, while the temples were crowded with the diseased and the healthy who rushed promiscuously to the holy images, in order to implore divine aid and compassion. This indiscriminate mixture of all classes and conditions,—this stupid reunion of the sound and the sick, whose superstitions led them to the altar instead of the hospital, soon spread the contagion far and wide, until all New Spain suffered from its desolating ravages and scarcely a person was found unmarked by its frightful ravages.

An expedition had been ordered during the viceroyalty of Bucareli to explore portions of the Pacific adjacent to the Mexican coast, and in February of 1799, it reached a point 55° 17 minutes north. It continued its voyage, until on the 1st of July, when it took possession of the land at 60° 13 minutes, in the name of Charles III. It then proceeded onwards, in sight of the coast, [Pg 253] and on the 1st of August, arrived at a group of islands, at 59° 8' upon one of which the explorers landed and named the spot, "Nuestra Señora de Regla."

The expected assaults of the English in the Atlantic were not long withheld, for in this year, on the 20th of October, they seized Omoa in Guatemala, for the recovery of which the president, Don Matias Galvez, quitted the capital immediately and demanded succor from Mexico. The Indians, it is related, aided the British in this attack, but the assailants abandoned the captured port, after stripping it of its cannon and munitions of war, in consequence of the insalubrity of the climate. The British had established a post at a place then called Wallis, the centre of a region rich in dye-woods, and aptly situated so as to aid in the contraband trade which they carried on with Yucatan, Guatemala and Chiapas; and, accordingly Don Roberto Rivas Vetancourt attacked the settlement successfully, making prisoners of all the inhabitants, more than three hundred slaves, and capturing a number of small vessels. But just as hostilities ceased, two English frigates and another armed vessel, arrived to succor the settlement, and forced the Spanish governor to abandon his enterprise and depart with his flotilla. Nevertheless Vetancourt, burned more than forty different foreign establishments, and succeeded in capturing an English brigantine of forty-four guns. The commander believed that this signal devastation of the enemy's settlement and property would result in freeing the land from such dangerous neighbors.

About this period the Spanish government detached General Solano and a part of his squadron, with orders for America, to aid in the military enterprises designed against Florida, in which Mexico was to take a significant part. This commander was to co-operate with Don Bernardo de Galvez, and both these personages, in the years 1779, 1780 and 1781, making common cause with the French against the English, carried the war actively up the Mississippi and into various portions of Florida. The remaining period of Mayorga's viceroyalty was chiefly occupied with preparations in the neighborhood of Vera Cruz against an assault from the British, and in suppressing, by the aid of the alcalde Urizar, a trifling revolt among the Indians of Izucar. An unfortunate disagreement arose between Mayorga and the Spanish minister Galvez, and he was finally, after many insults from the count, displaced, in order to make room for Don Matias Galvez. The unfortunate viceroy departed for Spain but never reached his native land. He died in sight of Cadiz, and his wife was indemnified for [Pg 254] the ill treatment of her husband by the contemptible gift of twenty thousand dollars.

Mayorga was the victim apparently of an ill disposed minister, who controlled the pliant mind of Charles. The viceroy in reality had discharged his duties as lieutenant of the king, with singular fidelity. All branches of art and industry in Mexico received his fostering care; but he had enemies who sought his disgrace at court, and they were finally successful in their shameful efforts. [47]

Don Matias de Galvez,
XLVIII. Viceroy of New Spain.


Don Matias Galvez, hastened rapidly from Guatemala to take possession of the viceroyalty, and soon exhibited his generous character and his ardent desire to improve and embellish the beautiful capital. The academy of fine arts was one of his especial favorites, and he insisted that Charles should not only endow it with nine thousand dollars, but should render it an effective establishment, by the introduction of the best models for the students. These evidences of his munificence and taste, still exist in the fine but untenanted halls of the neglected academy. Galvez directed his attention, also, to the police of Mexico and its prisons;—he required the streets to be leveled and paved; prohibited the raising of recruits for Manilla, and solicited from the king authority to reconstruct the magnificent palace of Chapultepec on the well known and beautiful hill of that name which lies about two miles west of the capital, still girt with its ancient cypresses.

It was during the brief reign of this personage that the political Gazette of Mexico was established, and the exclusive privilege of its publication granted to Manuel Valdez. On the 3d of November Don Matias died, after a brief illness, unusually lamented by the people, from amidst whose masses he had risen to supreme power in the most important colony of Spain. Mexico had regarded his appointment as a singular good fortune, and it was fondly but vainly hoped that his reign might have been long, and that he would have been enabled to carry out the beneficent projects he designed for the country.

As the death of this officer was sudden and unexpected, no carta de mortaja, or mortuary despatch, had been sent from Spain announcing his successor, and, accordingly the Audiencia assumed the reins of government until the arrival of the new viceroy.


[47] See Bustamante's continuation of Cavo, vol. 3, pp. 45, 46.

A view of the hills


[Pg 255]



Don Bernardo de Galvez, Count de Galvez,
XLIX. Viceroy of New Spain.


The Count Galvez, son of the last viceroy, Don Matias, took charge of the government on the 17th of June, 1785, but enjoyed as brief a reign as his respected father. Hardly had he attained power when a great scarcity of food was experienced among the people of New Spain in consequence of an extraordinarily unfavorable season. The excellent disposition of the new officer was shown in his incessant and liberal efforts to relieve the public distress in all parts of the country afflicted by misery. Meetings were held and committees appointed under his auspices, composed of the most distinguished Spanish and native subjects to aid in this beneficent labor; and over four hundred thousand dollars were given by the Archbishop of Mexico, and the bishops of Puebla and Michoacan, to encourage agriculture, as well as to relieve the most pressing wants of the people. In order to afford employment to the indigent, at the same time that he permanently improved and beautified the capital and the country generally, the viceroy either commenced or continued a number of important public works, among which were the national roads and the magnificent palace of Chapultepec, the favorite retreat of his father. This splendid [Pg 256] architectural combination of fortress and palace, was a costly luxury to the Spanish government, for the documents of the period declare that, up to the month of January, 1787, one hundred and twenty-three thousand and seventy-seven dollars had been expended in its construction. Nor was the ministry well pleased with so lavish an outlay upon this royal domain. Placed on a solitary hill, at a short distance from the capital, and built evidently for the double purpose of defence and dwelling, it created a fear, in the minds of some sensitive persons, that its design might not be altogether so peaceful as was pretended. An ambitious viceroy, surrounded by troops whose attachment and firmness could be relied on, might easily convert the palace into a citadel; and it was noted that Galvez, had upon various occasions played the demagogue among the military men who surrounded him in the capital. All these fears were, however, idle. If the count, in reality, entertained any ambitious projects, or desired to put himself at the head of an American kingdom independent of Spain, these hopes were soon and sadly blighted by his early death. He expired on the 30th of November, 1786, in the archiepiscopal palace of Tacubaya.

His funeral ceremonies were conducted by the archbishop, and his honored remains interred in the church of San Fernando. At the period of the viceroy's decease his wife was pregnant; and it is stated, in the chronicles of the day,—and we mention it as a singular illustration of Spanish habits,—that the daughter, of which she was delivered in the following month of December, received the names of, Maria de Guadalupe Bernarda Isabel Felipa de Jesus Juana Nepomucena Felicitas, to which was joined at the period of the lady's confirmation, the additional one of Fernanda! The Ayuntamiento of Mexico, in order to show its appreciation of the viceroy's memory, offered to become god-father of the infant, and the ceremony of its baptism was performed with all the splendor of the Catholic church, in the presence of the court and of a portion of the army. The defunct viceroy had become popular with the masses, and the people strove to manifest their love for the dead by their affectionate courtesy to his orphan, daughter and desolate widow.

The Audiencia Real assumed the government of Mexico, inasmuch as the Spanish ministry had provided no successor in the event of the count's death. Its power continued until the following February, during which period no event of note occurred in New Spain, save the destruction by fire of valuable mining property at Bolaños, and a violent hurricane at Acapulco, accompanied [Pg 257] by earthquakes, which swept the sea over the coast, and caused great losses to the farmers and herdsmen who dwelt on the neighboring lowlands.

Nuñez de Haro, Archbishop of Mexico,
L. Viceroy, ad Interim, of New Spain.


The appointment of this eminent prelate to the viceroyalty ad interim by a royal order of 25th February, 1787, was perhaps one of those strokes of policy by which the Spanish ministry strove to reconcile and connect the ecclesiastical and civil unity of the American empire. The sway of the archbishop, complimentary as it was to himself and to the church, was exceedingly brief, for he entered upon the government on the 8th of May and was superceded by Flores on the 17th of August of the same year. New Spain was undisturbed during his government; and no event is worthy of historical record in these brief annals of the country, save the effort that was made to prohibit the repartimiento or subdivision of the Indians among the agriculturists and miners by the sub-delegados, who had succeeded the alcaldes mayores, in the performance of this odious task. The conduct of the latter personages had been extremely cruel to the natives. They either used their power to oppress the Indians, or had trafficked in the dispensation of justice by allowing the sufferers to purchase exemption from punishment; and it is related that in certain alcaldias mayores in Oaxaca, the alcaldes had enriched themselves to the extent of more than two hundred thousand dollars by these brutal exactions. Inhumanity like this, was severely denounced to the king by the bishop Ortigoza,—who merited, according to Revilla-Gigedo, the title of the Saint Paul of his day,—and the eloquent prelate complained in behalf of his beloved Indians as vehemently as Las Casas at an earlier period of this loathsome oppression. But interest overcome the appeals of mercy in almost all instances since the foundation of the American empire. The Spaniards required laborers. The ignorant and unarmed Indians of the south and of the table lands, were docile or unorganized, and, although the Spanish court and Council of the Indies seconded the viceroy's zeal in attempting to suppress the cruelty of the planters and miners, the unfortunate aborigines only experienced occasional brief intervals of respite in the system of forced labor to which they were devoted by their legal task-masters.

[Pg 258]

Don Manuel Flores,
LI. Viceroy of New Spain.


Don Manuel Flores assumed the government of New Spain on the 16th of May, 1787, but his power over the finances of the nation was taken from him and given to Fernando Mangino, with the title of Superintendente sub-delegado de Hacienda. Flores was thus left in possession solely of the civil administration generally, and of the military organization of the viceroyalty. Being satisfied that the ordinary militia system of New Spain was inadequate for national protection during war, he immediately devoted himself to the forced levy and equipment of three regiments of infantry, named "Puebla," "Mexico" and "New Spain." The command of these forces was given to the most distinguished and noble young men of Mexico;—and as the minister Galvez died, and Mangino was, about this period, transferred to the Council of the Indies, the superintendence of the finances of Mexico, was appropriately restored again to the viceroyal government.

The northern part of Mexico, in 1788 and for many previous years had been constantly ravaged by the wild Indian tribes that ranged across the whole frontier from the western limits of Sonora to the Gulf of Mexico. Immense sums were squandered in the support of garrisons or the maintenance of numerous officers, whose duty it was to hold these barbarians in check. But their efforts had been vain. The fine agricultural districts of Chihuahua, New Leon, New Mexico and even in parts of Texas, had attracted large numbers of adventurous pioneers into that remote region; yet no sooner did their fields begin to flourish and their flocks or herds to increase, than these savages descended upon the scattered settlers and carried off their produce and their families. Whenever the arms of New Spain obtained a signal victory over one of these marauding bands, the Indians would talk of peace and even consent to bind themselves by treaties. But these compacts were immediately broken, as soon as they found the country beginning to flourish again, or the military power in the least degree relaxed.

Flores appears to have understood the condition of the northern frontier and the temper of the Indians. He did not believe that treaties, concessions or kindness would suffice to protect the Spanish pioneers, and yet he was satisfied that it was necessary to [Pg 259] sustain the settlements, in that quarter, in order to prevent the southern progress of European adventurers who were eager to seize the wild and debatable lands lying on both sides of the Rio Grande. Accordingly he proposed to the Spanish court to carry on a war of most inexorable character against the Apaches, Lipans and Mesclaros. He characterized, in his despatches, all the Indian tribes dwelling or wandering between the Presidio of the Bay of Espiritu Santo, in the province of Texas, to beyond Santa Gertrudis del Altar, in Sonora,—the two opposite points of the dangerous frontier line,—as Apaches or their hostile colleagues; and he resolved to fight them, without quarter, truce, or mercy, until they surrendered unconditionally to the power of Spain.

The subsequent history of these provinces, and the experience of our own government, have shown the wisdom of this advice in regard to a band of savages whose habits are peculiarly warlike and whose robber traits have made them equally dangerous to all classes of settlers in the lonely districts of the Rio Grande or of the Gila and Colorado of the west. His secretary, Bonilla,—who had fought bravely in the northern provinces, and was practically acquainted with warfare among these barbarians,—seconded the mature opinion of the viceroy. The plan was successful for the time, and the frontier enjoyed a degree of peace, whilst the military power was sustained throughout the line of Presidios, which it has not known since the revolution in Mexico attracted the attention of all towards the central parts of the nation and left the north comparatively exposed. Flores enforced his system rigidly, during his viceroyalty. He equipped the expeditions liberally; promoted the officers who distinguished themselves; rewarded the bravest soldiers; and despatched a choice regiment of dragoons to Durango, whose officers, formed, in that city, the nucleus of its future civilization.

Nor was this viceroy stinted in his efforts to improve the capital and protect the growing arts and sciences of the colony. He labored to establish a botanical garden, under the auspices of Don Martin Sesé; but the perfect realization of this beneficial and useful project was reserved for his successor the Count Revilla-Gigedo.

The mining interests, too, were prospering, and improvements on the ancient Spanish system were sought to be introduced, through the instrumentality of eleven German miners whose services had been engaged by the home government in Dresden, through its envoy Don Luis Orcis. These personages presented themselves [Pg 260] in New Spain with the pompous title of practical professors of mineralogy, but they were altogether unskilled in the actual working of mines, and unable to render those of Mexico more productive. The only benefit derived from this mineralogical mission was the establishment of a course of chemical lectures in the seminary of mines, under the direction of Lewis Leinder, who set up the first laboratory in Mexico.


On the 23d of December, 1788, the minister of the Indies apprised the viceroy of the death of Charles III., which had occurred in the middle of that month. Funeral ceremonies were celebrated, with great pomp, in Mexico, in honor of the defunct monarch; and, on the 22d of February, 1789, the resignation of the viceroyalty by Flores,—who desired heartily to retire from public life—was graciously accepted by the Spanish court, and his successor named, in the person of the second Count Revilla-Gigedo.

The Count de Revilla-Gigedo—the second,
LII. Viceroy of New Spain.


This distinguished nobleman, whose name figures so favorably in the annals of Mexico, reached Guadalupe on the 16th of October 1789, and on the following day entered the capital with all the pompous ceremonies usual in New Spain upon the advent of a new ruler. In the following month—the new sovereign Charles IV. was proclaimed; and the viceroy, at once set about the regulation of the municipal police of his capital which seems to have been somewhat relaxed since the days of his dreaded and avaricious father. Assassinations of the most scandalous and daring character, had recently warned the viceroy of the insecurity of life and property even in the midst of his guards. But Revilla-Gigedo possessed some of the sterner qualities that distinguished his parent, and never rested until the guilty parties were discovered and brought to prompt and signal justice. The capital soon exhibited a different aspect under his just and rigorous government. He did not trust alone to the reports of his agents in order to satisfy his mind in regard to the wants of Mexico; for he visited every quarter of the city personally, and often descended unexpectedly upon his officers when they least expected a visit from such a personage. [Pg 261] The poor as well as the rich received his paternal notice. He enquired into their wants and studied their interests. One of his most beneficent schemes was the erection of a Monte Pio, for their relief, yet the sum he destined for this object was withheld by the court and used for the payment of royal debts. Agriculture, horticulture and botany were especially fostered by this enlightened nobleman. He carried out the project of his predecessor by founding the botanical garden, and liberally rewarded and encouraged the pupils of this establishment, for he deemed the rich vegetable resources of Mexico quite as worthy of national attention as the mines which had hitherto absorbed the public interest. Literature, too, did not escape his fostering care, as far as the jealous rules of the Inquisition and of royal policy permitted its liberal encouragement by a viceroy. He found the streets of the capital and its suburbs badly paved and kept, and he rigidly enforced all the police regulations which were necessary for their purity and safety. As he knew that one of the best means of developing and binding together the provinces of the empire, was the construction of substantial and secure roads,—he proposed that the highways to Vera Cruz, Acapulco, Meztitlan de la Sierra, and Toluca, should be reconstructed in the most enduring manner. But the Junta Superior de Hacienda opposed the measure, and the count was obliged to expend, from his own purse, the requisite sums for the most important repairs. He established weekly posts between the capitals of the Intendencies;—regulated and restricted the cutting of timber in the adjacent mountains;—established a professorship of anatomy in the Hospital de Naturales; destroyed the provincial militia system and formed regular corps out of the best veterans found in the ranks. Knowing the difficulty with which the poor or uninfluential reached the ear of their Mexican governors, he placed a locked case in one of the halls of his palace into which all persons were at liberty to throw their memorials designed for the viceroy's scrutiny. It was, in reality, a secret mode of espionage, but it brought to the count's knowledge many an important fact which he would never have learned through the ordinary channels of the court. Without this secret chest, whose key was never out of his possession, Revilla-Gigedo, with all his personal industry, might never have comprehended the actual condition of Mexico, or, have adopted the numerous measures for its improvement which distinguished his reign.

Besides this provident measure for the internal safety and progressive comfort of New Spain, the count directed his attention to [Pg 262] the western coast of America, upon which, he believed, the future interests of Spain would materially rely. The settlement of the Californias had engaged the attention of many preceding viceroys, as we have already related, and their coasts had been explored and missionary settlements made wherever the indentures of the sea shore indicated the utility of such enterprises. But the count foresaw that the day would come when the commercial enterprises of European nations, and, especially of the English, would render this portion of the Mexican realm an invaluable acquisition. Accordingly he despatched an expedition to the Californias to secure the possessions of Spain in that quarter; and has left, for posterity, an invaluable summary or recopilacion of all the enterprises of discovery made by the Spaniards in that portion of the west coast of America. This document,—more useful to the antiquarian than the politician, now that the boundaries between the possessions of Mexico, England and the United States have been definitely settled by treaties,—may be found in the third volume of "Los Tres Siglos de Mejico," a work which was commenced by the Jesuit Father Cavo, and continued to the year 1821, by Don Carlos Maria Bustamante. Revilla-Gigedo recommended the Spanish court to avoid all useless parade or expense, but resolutely to prevent the approach of the English or of any other foreign power to their possessions in California, and to occupy, promptly, the port of Bodega, and even the shores of the Columbia river, if it was deemed necessary. He advised the minister, moreover, to fortify these two points; to garrison strongly San Francisco, Monterey, San Diego and Loreto; to change the department of San Blas to Acapulco; and to guard the fondos piadosos of the missions, as well as the salt works of Zapotillo, by which the treasury would be partly relieved of the ecclesiastical expenses of California, while the needful marine force was suitably supported. These safeguards were believed by the viceroy sufficient to confine the enterprising English to the regions in which they might traffic for peltries without being tempted into the dominions of Spain, at the same time that they served as safeguards against all illicit or contraband commerce. [48]


We have, thus endeavored to describe rather than to narrate historically, the principal events that occurred in the reign of the [Pg 263] second Count Revilla-Gigedo, all of which have characterized him as a just, liberal and far-seeing ruler. In the account of his father's reign, we have already noticed some of this viceroy's meritorious qualities; but we shall now break the ordinary tenor of these brief annals by inserting a few anecdotes which are still traditionally current in the country whose administration he so honestly conducted.

The Conde was accustomed to make nightly rounds in the city, in order to assure himself that its regulations for quiet and security were carried into effect. On one occasion, it is related, that in passing through a street which he had ordered to be paved, he suddenly stopped and despatched a messenger to the director of the work, requiring his instant presence. The usual phrase with which he wound up such commands was "lo espero aqui,"—"I await him here,"—which had the effect of producing an extraordinary degree of celerity in those who received the command. On this occasion the officer, who was enjoying his midnight repose, sprang from his bed on receiving the startling summons, and rushed, half dressed, to learn the purport of what he presumed to be an important business. He found the viceroy standing stiff and composed on the side walk. When the panting officer had paid his obeisance to his master:—"I regret to have disturbed you, Señor," said the latter, "in order to call your attention to the state of your pavement. You will observe that this flag stone is not perfectly even," touching with his toe one which rose about half an inch above the rest of the side walk, "I had the misfortune to strike my foot against it this evening, and I fear that some others may be as unlucky as myself, unless the fault be immediately remedied. You will attend to it, sir, and report to me to-morrow morning!" With these words he continued his round, leaving the officer in a state of stupefaction; but it is asserted that the pavements of Mexico for the rest of his excellency's government were unexceptionable.

Another anecdote, of this kind, places his peculiarity of temper in a still stronger light. In perambulating the city one pleasant evening about sunset, he found that the street in which he was walking terminated abruptly against a mass of wretched tenements, apparently the lurking places of vice and beggary. He inquired how it happened that the highway was carried no farther, or why these hovels were allowed to exist; but the only information he could gain was that such had always been the case, and that none of the authorities considered themselves bound to remedy the evil. Revilla-Gigedo sent immediately to the corregidor:—"tell him [Pg 264] that I await him here," he concluded, in a tone that had the effect of bringing that functionary at once to the spot, and he received orders to open, without delay, a broad and straight avenue through the quarter as far as the barrier of the city. It must be finished,—was the imperious command,—that very night, so as to allow the viceroy to drive through it on his way to mass the next morning. With this the count turned on his heel, and the corregidor was left to reflect upon his disagreeable predicament.

The fear of losing his office, or perhaps worse consequences, stimulated his energy. No time was to be wasted. All his subordinate officers were instantly summoned, and laborers were collected from all parts of the city. The very buildings that were to be removed sent forth crowds of leperos willing for a few reales to aid in destroying the walls which had once harbored them. A hundred torches shed their radiance over the scene. All night long the shouts of the workmen, the noise of pick-axe and crowbar, the crash of falling roofs, and the rumbling of carts, kept the city in a fever of excitement. Precisely at sunrise the state carriage, with the viceroy, his family and suite, left the palace, and rattled over the pavements in the direction from which the noise had proceeded. At length the new street opened before them, a thousand workmen, in double file, fell back on either side and made the air resound with vivas, as they passed. Through clouds of dust and dirt,—over the unpaved earth, strewn with fragments of stone and plaster,—the coach and train swept onward, till at the junction of the new street with the road leading to the suburbs, the corregidor, hat in hand, with a smile of conscious desert, stepped forward to receive his excellency, and to listen to the commendation bestowed on the prompt and skilful execution of his commands!

Should any one doubt the truth of this story, let him be aware that the Calle de Revilla-Gigedo still remains in Mexico to attest its verity.

These anecdotes impart some idea of the authority exercised by the viceroys, which was certainly far more arbitrary and personal than that of their sovereign in his Spanish dominions.

There is another adventure told to display the excellence of Revilla-Gigedo's police, in which the count figures rather melodramatically. It seems that among the creole nobles, who, with the high officers of government, made up the viceroy's court, there was a certain marques, whom fortune had endowed with great estates and two remarkably pretty daughters, and it was doubted by some [Pg 265] whether the care of his cash or his heiresses gave him most anxiety. The eldest, who bore her father's title, was celebrated for beauty of an uncommon kind in those regions. She had blue eyes, brilliant complexion, and golden hair, and was every where known as the fair haired marquesa. Her sister who, on the contrary, was very dark, with eyes like the gazelle and raven hair, was called the pretty brunette. But, different as they were in looks and perhaps in character, there was one trait in which they perfectly agreed, for they were remarkable coquettes! It is unknown how many offers of the wealthiest grandees and most gallant cavaliers about court they had refused; and the poor marques, who was by no means a domestic tyrant and desired to govern his family only by kindness, was quite worn out in persuading them to know there own minds. One night he was roused from his sleep by a message from the viceroy, who awaited him in the palace. Not for his best estate would the loyal marques have kept the representative of his sovereign waiting a moment longer than necessary. Wondering what reason of state could require his presence at that unusual hour, he dressed himself hastily, and hurried to the palace. The viceroy was in his cabinet, surrounded by several of his household, and all in a state of painful curiosity. "Marques," said the viceroy, as soon as the nobleman entered, "my lieutenant of police here, complains that you did not take proper care to secure the doors of your mansion last evening." "I assure your highness," replied the marques in great surprise, "that my steward locked both the great gate and the outer door, according to the invariable custom of my mansion, before retiring for the night." "But have you not a postern opening into the next street?" returned the count, "and are you equally heedful in regard to it? But, in short," he continued, "you must know, that this watchful lieutenant of mine has saved you to-night from robbery." "Robbery! your excellency, is it possible?" ejaculated the marques, startled for a moment out of his habitual composure. "Yes,—and of the worst kind" replied the viceroy, "the felons were in the act of carrying off your most exquisite treasures which are now restored to you." At these words, a door at the side of the cabinet flew open, and the astonished marques beheld his two daughters, dressed for travelling, and locked in each other's arms. They seemed overwhelmed with confusion; the fair hair all dishevelled and the black eyes drowned in tears. "And these are the robbers," added the viceroy pointing to a door on the opposite side, which also flew open. The marques turned mechanically, and saw two [Pg 266] of the gayest, handsomest, and most dissipated youths of the court, whom he recollected as occasional visitors at his house. They appeared no less confused, and, with their embarrassment, there was an evident mixture of alarm. The truth now began to break on the mind of the nobleman. "You see, marques," said the count, "that but for the vigilance of my police, you would have had the honor of being father-in-law to two of the greatest scamps in my viceroyalty. See what a dilemma your carelessness has brought me into, my dear sir! I am obliged to wound the feelings of two of the most lovely ladies in my court, to save them from the machinations of scoundrels unworthy of their charms, and I fear they will never forgive me! Farewell, señor marques; take my advice, and brick up your postern. Calderon [49] was a wise man, and he tells us that a house with two doors is hard to keep. As for these young scape-graces, they sail in the next galeon, for Manilla, where they can exercise their fascinating powers on the chinas and mulatas of the Philipines!"


[48] During the administration of the second Count Revilla-Gigedo the sum of one hundred and nine millions, seven hundred and four thousand, four hundred and seventeen dollars, was coined in gold and silver in Mexico.

[49] One of Calderon's comedies is named "Casa con dos puertas mala es de guardar." See Lady's Magazine for 1844.

[Pg 267]



The Marques de Branciforte,
LIII. Viceroy of New Spain.


The Marques Branciforte, who reached Mexico on the 11th of July, 1794, contrasts unfavorably, in history, with his illustrious predecessor Revilla-Gigedo. Partaking of the avaricious qualities of this personage's father, he seems to have possessed but few of his virtues, and probably accepted the viceroyalty of New Spain with no purpose but that of plunder.

Scarcely had he begun to reign, when his rapacity was signally exhibited. It is said that his first essay in extortion, was the sale of the sub-delegation of Villa-Alta to a certain Don Francisco Ruiz de Conejares, for the sum of forty thousand dollars, and the bestowal of the office of apoderado on the Count de Contramina, the offices of whose subordinates were bought and sold in the political market like ordinary merchandise.

At this epoch the warlike hostility to France was excessive, and orders had been received to exercise the strictest vigilance over the subjects of that nation who resided in Mexico. Their number, however, was small, for Spanish America was almost as closely [Pg 268] sealed as China against the entrance of strangers. Nevertheless Branciforte encouraged a most disgraceful persecution against these unfortunate persons, by arresting them on the slightest pretexts, throwing them into prison, and seizing their possessions. He found, in his assessor general, Don Pedro Jacinto Valenzuela, and in his criminal prosecutor, Francisco Xavier de Borbon, fitting instruments to carry out his inexorable determinations. Upon one occasion he even demanded of the Sala de Audiencia that certain Frenchmen, after execution, should have their tongues impaled upon iron spikes at the city gates, because they had spoken slightingly of the virtue of the queen Maria Louisa! Fortunately, however, for the wretched culprits, the Sala was composed of virtuous magistrates who refused to sanction the cruel demand, and the victims were alone despoiled of their valuable property. These acts, it may well be supposed, covered the name of Branciforte with infamy even in Mexico.

In 1796, on the 7th of October, war was declared by Spain against England, in consequence of which the viceroy immediately distributed the colonial army, consisting of not less than eight thousand men, in Orizaba, Cordova, Jalapa, and Peroté; and, in the beginning of the following year, he left the capital to command the forces from his headquarters near the eastern coast. This circumstance enabled him to leave, with an air of triumph, a city in which he was profoundly hated. The people manifested their contempt of so despicable an extortioner and flatterer of royalty, not only by words, but by caricatures. When the sovereign sent him the order of the golden fleece, they depicted Branciforte with a collar of the noble order, but in lieu of the lamb, which terminates the insignia, they placed the figure of a cat! At his departure, the civil and financial government of the capital was entrusted to the regency of the audiencia, while its military affairs were conducted by the Brigadier Davalos. In Orizaba the conduct of Branciforte was that of an absolute monarch. All his troops were placed under the best discipline, but none of them were permitted to descend to Vera Cruz; yet, scarcely had he been established in this new military command, when it was known that Don Miguel José de Azanza was named as his viceroyal successor. Nevertheless Branciforte continued in control, with the same domineering demeanor, as in the first days of his government, relying for justification and defence in Spain upon the support of his relative, the Prince of Peace. In Orizaba he was surrounded by flatterers and his court was a scene of disgraceful orgies; yet the day of his fall [Pg 269] was at hand. The ship Monarch anchored at Vera Cruz, on the 17th of May, 1798, and, on the 31st of the same month, Azanza, the new viceroy who reached America in her, received the viceroyal baton from Branciforte. This supercilious peculator departed from New Spain with five millions of dollars, a large portion of which was his private property, in the vessel that had brought his successor, and arrived at Ferol, after a narrow escape from the English in the waters of Cadiz. But he returned to Spain loaded with wealth and curses, for never had the Mexicans complained so bitterly against any Spaniard who was commissioned to rule them. The respectable and wealthy inhabitants of the colony were loudest in their denunciations of an "Italian adventurer," who enriched himself at the expense of their unfortunate country, nor was his conduct less hateful because he had been the immediate successor of so just and upright a viceroy as Revilla-Gigedo.

The character of Branciforte was keen and hypocritical. He tried, at times, but vainly, to conceal his avarice, while his pretended love for the "Virgin of Guadalupe" and for the royal family, was incessantly reiterated in familiar conversation. Every Saturday during his government, and on the twelfth of every month, he made pious pilgrimages to the sanctuary of the Mexican protectress. He placed a large image of the virgin on the balcony of the palace, and ordered a salute to be fired at daybreak in honor of the saint on the twelfth of every December. With these cheap ceremonials, however, he satisfied his hypocritical piety and absorbing avarice, but he never bestowed a farthing upon the collegiate church of the Virgin. Whenever he spoke in his court of the sovereign of Spain it was with an humble mien, a reverential voice, and all the external manifestations of subserviency for the royal personages who conferred such unmerited honors upon him. Such is the picture which has been left by Mexican annalists of one of their worst rulers.

Don Miguel José de Azanza,
LIV. Viceroy of New Spain.

Azanza, who, as we have related, assumed the viceroyalty in May, 1798, was exceedingly well received in Mexico. His worthy character was already known to the people, and almost any new viceroy would have been hailed as a deliverer from the odious administration of Branciforte. Azanza was urbane towards all classes, and his discreet conversation, at once, secured the respect [Pg 270] and confidence of the colonists. Besides this, the early measures of his administration were exceedingly wise. He dissolved the various military encampments, established and maintained at enormous cost, by his predecessor in the neighborhood of the eastern coasts. This heavy charge on the treasury was distasteful to the people, while so large an assemblage of colonial troops necessarily withdrew multitudes from agricultural and commercial pursuits, and greatly interfered with the business of New Spain. Anxious, however, to protect the important post of Vera Cruz, the viceroy formed a less numerous encampment in its neighborhood; but the greater portion of its officers and men perished in that unhealthy climate.

The war with England was not altogether disadvantageous to Mexico, for although the royal order of the 18th of November, 1797, was repeated on the 20th of April, 1799, by which a commerce in neutral vessels had been permitted with the colony's ports, yet, as the seas were filled with enemy's cruisers, the Spanish trade in national vessels was narrowed chiefly to exports from the mother country. This course of commerce resulted in retaining the specie of Mexico within her territory, for the precious metals had hitherto been the principal article of export to Spain in return for merchandise despatched from Cadiz. The internal trade of Mexico was, accordingly, fostered and beneficially sustained by the continuance of its large annual metallic products within the viceroyalty until peace permitted their safe transmission abroad. The beneficial retention of silver and gold in the country was not only manifested in the activity of domestic trade, but in the improvement of its towns and cities, and in the encouragement of manufactures of silk, cotton and wool. In Oaxaca, Guadalaxara, Valladolid, Puebla, Cuautitlan, San Juan Teotihuacan, Zempoala, Metepec, Ixtlahuaca, Tulancingo, the number of looms increased rapidly between 1796 and 1800. In Oaxaca thirty were added; in San Juan Teotihuacan thirty-three; in Querétaro, three thousand four hundred persons were employed; while, in the town of Cadereita, there existed more than two hundred looms, giving employment to more than five hundred individuals.

In attending wisely and justly to the civil administration of New Spain, and in fostering the internal trade and industry, Azanza bestirred himself whilst the war continued. There were but few actions between the combatants, but as the contest between the nations sealed the ports in a great degree, Mexico was made chiefly dependent on herself for the first time since her national [Pg 271] existence. The politics and intrigues of the old world thus acquainted the colony with her resources and taught her the value of independence.

Azanza's administration was, for a while, disturbed by a threatened outbreak among the lower classes, whose chief conspirators assembled in an obscure house in the capital, and designed, at a suitable moment, rising in great numbers and murdering, without discrimination, all the wealthiest or most distinguished Spaniards. This treasonable project was discovered to the viceroy, who went in person, with a guard, to the quarters of the leaguers, and arrested them on the spot. They were speedily brought to trial; but the cause hung in the courts until after the departure of Azanza, when powerful and touching intercessions were made with his successor to save the lives of the culprits. The project of a pardon was maturely considered by the proper authorities, and it was resolved not to execute the guilty chiefs, inasmuch as it was believed that their appearance upon a scaffold would be the signal for a general revolt of the people against the dominion of the parent country. The sounds of the approaching storm were already heard in the distance, and justice yielded to policy.

Azanza, with all his excellent qualities as a Governor in America, did not give satisfaction to the court at home. There is no doubt of the value of his administration in Mexico, and it is, therefore, difficult to account for his loss of favor, except upon the ground of intrigue and corruption which were rife in Madrid. The reign of Charles IV. and the administration of the Prince of Peace, are celebrated in history as the least respectable in modern Spanish annals. Whilst the royal favorite controlled the king's councils, favoritism and intrigue ruled the day. Among other legends of the time, it is asserted by Bustamante, in his continuation of Cavo's "Tres Siglos de Mejico," that the Mexican viceroyalty was almost put up at auction in Madrid, and offered for eighty thousand dollars to the secretary Bonilla. In consequence of this personage's inability to procure the requisite sum, it was conferred, through another bargain and sale, upon Don Felix Berenguer de Marquina, an obscure officer, who was unknown to the king either personally or as a meritorious servant of the crown and people.

The Mexican author to whom we have just referred, characterizes Azanza as the wisest, most politic and amiable viceroy, ever sent by Spain to rule over his beautiful country. [50]

[Pg 272]

Don Felix Berenguer de Marquina,
LV. Viceroy of New Spain.


Marquina took charge of the viceroyalty on the 30th of April 1800, after a sudden and mysterious arrival in New Spain, having passed through the enemy's squadron and been taken prisoner. It was inconceivable to the Mexicans why the vice-admiral of Jamaica deemed it proper to release a Spanish officer who came to America on a warlike mission; yet it is now known that in November, of 1800, the king ordered forty thousand dollars to be paid the viceroy to reimburse the extraordinary expenses of his voyage!

The government of this personage was not remarkable in the development of the colony. The war with England still continued, but it was of a mild character, and vessels constantly passed between the belligerants with flags of truce, through whose intervention the Mexicans were permitted to purchase in Jamaica the paper, quicksilver, and European stuffs, which the British crusiers had captured from Spanish ships in the Gulf.

In 1801, an Indian named Mariano, of Tepic in Jalisco, son of the governor of the village of Tlascala in that department, attempted to excite a revolution among the people of his class, by means of an anonymous circular which proclaimed him king. Measures were immediately taken to suppress this outbreak, and numbers of the natives were apprehended and carried to Guadalajara. The fears of Marquina were greatly excited by this paltry rebellion, which he imagined, or feigned to believe, a wide spread conspiracy excited by the North Americans and designed to overthrow the Spanish power. The viceroy, accordingly, detailed his services in exaggerated terms to the home government, and it is probably owing to the eulogium passed by him upon the conduct of Abascal, president of Guadalaxara, that this personage was made viceroy of Buenos Ayres, and afterwards honored with the government of Peru and created Marques de la Concordia.

A definitive treaty of peace was concluded between the principal European and American belligerants in 1802, and soon after, Marquina, who was offended by some slights received from the Spanish ministry, resigned an office for the performance of whose manifold duties and intricate labors he manifested no ability save that of a good disposition. He was probably better fitted to govern a village of fifty inhabitants than the vast and important empire of New Spain.

[Pg 273]

Don José Iturrigaray,
Lieutenant General of the Spanish Army,
LVI. Viceroy of New Spain.

On the morning of the 4th of January, 1803, Don José Iturrigaray reached Guadalupe near Mexico, where he received the staff of office from his predecessor and was welcomed by the Audiencia, tribunals, and nobility of the capital.

The revolution in the British provinces of North America had been successful, and they had consolidated themselves into nationality under the title of United States. France followed in the footsteps of liberty, and, overthrowing the rotten throne of the Bourbons, was the first European state to give an impulse to freedom in the old world. The whole western part of that continent was more or less agitated by the throes of the moral and political volcano whose fiery eruption was soon to cover Europe with destruction. In the midst of this epoch of convulsive change, Spain alone exhibited the aspect of passive insignificance, for the king, queen, and Prince of Peace, still conducted the government of that great nation, and their corrupt rule has become a proverb of imbecility and contempt. Godoy, the misnamed "Prince of Peace," was the virtual ruler of the nation. His administration was, at once, selfish, depraved and silly. The favorite of the king, and the alleged paramour of the queen, he controlled both whenever it was necessary, while the colonies, as well as the parent state, naturally experienced all the evil consequences of his debauched government. Bad as had been the management of affairs in America during the reign of the long series of viceroys who commanded on our continent, it became even worse whilst Godoy swayed Charles IV. through the influence of his dissolute queen. Most of the serious and exciting annoyances which afterwards festered and broke out in the Mexican revolution, owe their origin to this epoch of Spanish misrule.

Iturrigaray was exceedingly well received in Mexico, where his reputation as an eminent servant of the crown preceded him. Shortly after his arrival he undertook a journey to the interior, in order to examine personally into the condition of the mining districts; and, after his return to the capital, he devoted himself to the ordinary routine of colonial administration until it became necessary, in consequence of the breaking out of the war, between Spain and England, to adopt measures for the protection of his viceroyalty. In consequence of this rupture Iturrigaray received [Pg 274] orders from the court to put the country in a state of complete defence, and accordingly, he gathered, in haste the troops of Mexico, Puebla, Peroté, Jalapa and Vera Cruz, and, descending several times to the latter place, personally inspected all the encampments and garrisons along the route. Besides this, he made a rapid military reconnoissance of the country along the coast and the chief highways to the interior. The road from Vera Cruz to Mexico was constructed in the best manner under his orders, and the celebrated bridge called El Puente del rey, now known as El Puente Nacional, was finally completed.

These preparations were designed not only to guard New Spain from the invasions of the English, but also, from a dreaded attack by the people of the United States. This fear seems to have been fostered by the Marques de Casa Irujo who was Spanish envoy in Washington at this epoch, and informed the government that the menaced expedition against Mexico, would throw twenty thousand men upon her shores. Nor was the attention of Iturrigaray diverted from the enterprise which was projected by Don Francisco Miranda to secure the independence of Caraccas; and although the scheme failed, it appears to have aroused the whole of Spanish America to assert and maintain its rights.

It was during the government of this viceroy, that the celebrated Baron Humboldt, visited Mexico,—by permission of the patriotic minister D'Urquijo,—authorized, by the home government, to examine its dominions and their archives, and to receive from the colonial authorities all the information they possessed in regard to America. He was the first writer who developed the resources or described the condition of the Spanish portion of our continent, which, until that time, had been studiously veiled from the examination of all strangers who were likely to reveal their knowledge to the world.

In 1806, the news of the destruction of the combined fleets in the waters of Cadiz became known in Mexico, and the resident Spaniards, exhibiting a lively sympathy with the mother country in this sad affliction, collected upwards of thirty thousand dollars for the widows of their brave companions who had fallen in action. Meanwhile, the war in Europe was not only destroying the subjects of the desperate belligerants, but was rapidly consuming their national substance. In this state of things America was called upon to contribute for the maintenance of a bloody struggle in which she had no interest save that of loyal dependence. Taxes, duties, and exactions of all sorts were laid upon the Mexicans, and, [Pg 275] under this dread infliction, the domestic and foreign trade languished notwithstanding the extraordinary yield of the mines, which, in 1805, sent upwards of twenty millions into circulation. Of all the royal interferences with Mexican interests and capital, none seems to have been more vexatiously unpopular, than the decree for the consolidation of the capitals of obras pias, or, charitable and pious revenues, which was issued by the court; and Iturrigaray, as the executive officer employed in this consolidation, drew upon himself the general odium of all the best classes in the colony.

Charles IV. fell before the revolutionary storm in Europe, and signed his abdication on the 9th of August, 1808, in favor of his son Ferdinand VII. But the weak and irresolute monarch soon protested against this abdication, alleging that the act had been extorted from him by threats against his life; and, whilst the Supreme council of Spain was examining into the validity of Charles's renunciation, and Ferdinand was treating his father's protest with contempt, Napoleon, who had steadily advanced to supreme power after the success of the French revolution, took prompt advantage of the dissentions in the peninsula, and, making himself master of it, seated his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne. As soon as Joseph was firmly placed in power, Ferdinand congratulated him upon his elevation, and ordered all his Spanish and colonial subjects to recognize the upstart king. But the servility of Ferdinand to the ascending star of European power did not meet with obedience from the people of Mexico, who, resolving to continue loyal to their legitimate sovereign, forthwith proclaimed Ferdinand VII. throughout New Spain. The conduct of the colonists was secretly approved by the dissembling monarch, although he ratified a decree of the Council of the Indies, commanding the Mexicans to obey Joseph. The natives of the Peninsula, dwelling in New Spain, were nearly all opposed to the Bourbons and faithful to the French propagandists, whilst the creoles, or American natives denounced the adherents of Joseph and burned the proclamation which declared him to be their king. The orders received at this period by Iturrigaray from Ferdinand, Joseph, and the Council of the Indies, were, of course, all in conflict with each other; and, in order to relieve himself from the political dilemma in which he was placed by these mixed commands, Iturrigaray determined to summon a Junta of Notable Persons, similar to that of Seville, which was to be composed of the viceroy, the archbishop of Mexico and representatives from the army, the nobility, the principal citizens and the ayuntamiento of [Pg 276] the capital. But inasmuch as this plan of concord leaned in favor of the people, by proposing to place the creoles of America upon an equality with the natives of Spain, the old hatred or jealousy between the races was at once aroused. The Europeans, who composed the partisans of France, headed by Don Gabriel Yermo, a rich Spaniard and proprietor of some of the finest sugar estates in the valley of Cuernavaca, at once resolved to frustrate the viceroy's design. Arming themselves hastily, they proceeded, on the night of the 15th of September, 1808, to his palace, where they arrested Iturrigaray, and accusing him of heresy and treason, sent him as prisoner to Spain. This revolutionary act was openly countenanced by the Audiencia, the Oidores Aguirre and Bataller, and the body of Spanish traders. For three years, until released by an act of amnesty in 1811, Iturrigaray continued in close confinement; and, although he was not regarded favorably by all classes of Mexicans, this outrage against his person by the Spanish emigrants seems to have produced a partial reaction in his favor among the loyal natives.

The administration of Iturrigaray was not only defective, but corrupt in many executive acts, for offices were scandalously sold at his court,—a fact which was proved in the judicial inquiry subsequently made into his conduct. The Council of the Indies, in 1819, sentenced him to pay upwards of three hundred and eighty-four thousand dollars, in consequence of the maladministration that was charged and maintained against him.

Field Marshal Don Pedro Garibay,
LVII. Viceroy of New Spain.

This chief was more than eighty years of age when honored with the viceroyalty of New Spain. He had passed the greater portion of his life in Mexico, and rose from the humble grade of lieutenant of provincial militia to the highest post in the colony. He was familiar with the habits and feelings of the people; was generally esteemed for the moderation with which he conducted himself in office, and was altogether the most endurable viceroy who could have been imposed upon the Mexicans at that revolutionary period.

During the government of the preceding viceroy the troubles which began, as we have seen, in the old world, had extended to the new, and we shall therefore group the history of the war that resulted in Mexican independence, under the titles of the last viceroys who were empowered by Peninsular authorities to stay, if they could not entirely control, the progress of American liberty.


[50] Cavo y Bustamante: Tres Siglos de Mejico, tomo 3o, 190.

[Pg 277]




[Pg 278]
[Pg 279]





The Archbishop Francisco Xavier de Lianza,
LVIII. Viceroy of New Spain.
The Audiencia of Mexico, and Venegas, LIX. Viceroy.


The pictures presented in the introductory chapter to the viceroyal history and in the subsequent detailed narrative of that epoch, will suffice, we presume, to convince our readers that they need not penetrate deeply for the true causes of misery and misrule in Spanish America. The decadence of Spain as well as the present unhappiness of nearly all her ancient colonies may be fairly attributed to the same source of national ruin—bad, unnatural government. A distinguished statesman of our country has remarked that "the European alliance of emperors and kings assumed, as the foundation of human society, the doctrine of unalienable allegiance, whilst our doctrine was founded on the principle of unalienable right." [51] This mistaken European view, or rather assumption of royal prerogative [Pg 280] and correlative human duties, was the baleful origin of colonial misrule. The house of Austria did not govern Spain as wisely as its predecessors. The Spain that Philip I. received and the Spain of those who followed him, present a sad contrast. As the conquest of America had not been conceived, although it was declared to be, in a beneficent spirit, the sovereigns continued the system of plunder with which it was begun. Its results are known. The Americans were their subjects, bound to them by "unalienable allegiance;" vassals, serfs creatures, whose human rights, in effect, were nothing when compared to the monarch's will. This doctrine at once converted the southern portions of our continent into a soulless machine, which the king had a right to use as he pleased, and especially, as he deemed most beneficial for his domestic realm. The consequence was, that, in concurrence with the Council of the Indies, he established, as we have seen, an entirely artificial system, which contradicted nature, and utterly thwarted both physical and intellectual development.

The Indians and creoles of Mexico and Peru, ignorant and stupid as they were believed to be by Spain, had, nevertheless, sense enough to understand and feel the wretchedness of their condition. They cherished in their hearts an intense hatred for their foreign masters. There was no positive or merely natural enmity of races in this, but rather a suppressed desire to avenge their wrongs.

When the French seized Spain, the colonies in America were, for a period, forced to rely upon themselves for temporary government. They did not, at once, desire to adopt republican institutions, but rather adhered to monarchy, provided they could free themselves from bad rulers and vicious laws. This especially was the case in Mexico. Her war against the mother country originated in a loyal desire to be completely independent of France. The news of the departure of Ferdinand VII. for Bayonne, and the alleged perfidy of Napoleon in that city, excited an enthusiasm among the Mexicans for the legitimate king, and created a mortal hatred against the conqueror of Europe. All classes of original Mexican society seem to have been united in these sentiments. Subscriptions were freely opened and in a few months, seven millions were collected to aid their Peninsular friends who were fighting for religion, king, and nationality. The idea did not strike any Mexican that it was a proper time to free his native land entirely from colonial thraldom. [52] But after a short time, the [Pg 281] people began to reflect. The prestige of Spanish power, to which we have alluded heretofore, was destroyed. A French king sat upon the Spanish throne. The wand of the enchanter, with which he had spell-bound America across the wide Atlantic, was broken forever. The treasured memory of oppression, conquest, bad government and misery, was suddenly refreshed, and it is not surprising to find that when the popular rising finally took place, it manifested its bitterness in an universal outcry against the Spaniards.

After the occurrences at Bayonne, emissaries from king Joseph Bonaparte spread themselves over the continent to prepare the people for the ratification and permanence of the French government. These political propagandists were charged, as we have stated with orders from Ferdinand VII. and the Council of the Indies, to transfer the allegiance of America to France. [53] It may be imagined that this would have gratified the masses in America, who perhaps, had heard that the French were the unquestionable patrons of "liberty and equality." But, the exact reverse was the case among the creoles, whilst the Spaniards in America, received the emissaries with welcome, and bowed down submissively to the orders they brought. Blinded for centuries to all ideas of government save those of regal character, the Mexicans had no notion of rule or ruler except their traditionary Spanish king. They clung to him, therefore, with confidence, for they felt the necessity of some paramount authority, as political self control was, as yet, an utter impossibility.

A secret union among leading men was, therefore, formed in 1810, which contemplated a general rising throughout the provinces, but the plot was detected at the moment when it was ripe for development. This conspiracy was based upon a desire to overthrow the Spaniards. "They felt," says Mr. Ward, "that the question was not now one between themselves as subjects, but between themselves and their fellow subjects, the European Spaniards, as to which should possess the right of representing the absent king," as guardians and preservers of the rights of Ferdinand. The Europeans claimed this privilege exclusively, with customary insolence. "The Ayuntamiento of Mexico was told by the Audiencia that it possessed no authority except over the leperos"—or mob of the capital; and it was a favorite maxim of the oidor Battaller that "while a Manchego mule or a Castilian cobler remained in the Peninsula, he had a right to govern." [54]

[Pg 282] In those times, a certain country curate, by name Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, dwelt in the Indian village of Dolores, adjacent to the town of San Miguel el Grande, lying in the province of Guanajuanto. One of the conspirators being about to die, sent for his priest, and confessing the plot, revealed also the names of his accomplices. The curate Hidalgo was one of the chiefs of this revolutionary band, and the viceroy Venegas hoping to crush the league in its bud, despatched orders for his arrest and imprisonment, as soon as the confession of the dead conspirator was disclosed to him. Hidalgo's colleagues were also included in this order, but some of the secret friends of the insurgents learned what was occurring at court and apprised the patriot priest of his imminent danger. The news first reached Don Ignacio Allende, who commanded a small body of the king's troops in San Miguel, and who hastened with the disastrous tidings to his friend at Dolores. Concealment and flight were now equally unavailing. The troops of Allende were speedily won to the cause of their captain, while the Indians of Dolores rushed to defend their beloved pastor. As they marched from their village to San Miguel and thence to Zelaya, the natives, armed with clubs, slings, staves and missiles, thronged to their ranks from every mountain and valley. The wretched equipment of the insurgents shows their degraded condition as well as the passionate fervor with which they blindly rushed upon the enemies of their race. Hidalgo put on his military coat over the cassock, and, perhaps unwisely, threw himself at the head of a revolution, which rallied at the cry of "Death to the Gachupines." [55]

The result of this onslaught was dreadful. Wherever the rebellious army passed, Spaniards and uncomplying creoles they were indiscriminately slaughtered, and though many of the latter were originally combined with the conspirators and eagerly longed for the emancipation of their country, they were dismayed by the atrocities of the wild insurgents. As the rebel chief, armed with the sword and cross, pressed onward, immense numbers of Indians flocked to his banner, so that when he left Zelaya, a fierce and undisciplined mob of twenty thousand hailed him as undisputed commander. At the head of this predatory band he descended upon the noble city of Guanajuanto, in the heart of the wealthiest mining district of Mexico. The Spaniards and some of the creoles resolved [Pg 283] upon a stout resistance, shut themselves up in the city and refused the humane terms offered by Hidalgo upon condition of surrender. This rash rejection led to an immediate attack and victory. When the city fell, it was too late for the insurgent priest to stay the savage fury of his troops. The Spaniards and their adherents were promiscuously slaughtered by the troops, and, for three days the sacking of the city continued, until wearied with conquest, the rebels, at length, stopped the plunder of the town. Immense treasures, hoarded in this place for many years, were the fruits of this atrocious victory which terrified the Mexican authorities and convinced them that the volcanic nature of the people had been fully roused, and that safety existed alone in uncompromising resistance.

The original rebellion was thus thrown from the hands of the creoles into those of the Indians. A war of races was about to break out; and although there were not among the insurgents more than a thousand muskets, yet the mere numerical force of such an infuriate crowd, was sufficient to dismay the staunchest. The viceroy Venegas, and the church, therefore, speedily combined to hurl their weapons against the rebels. Whilst the former issued proclamations or decrees, and despatched troops under the command of Truxillo to check Hidalgo who was advancing on the capital, the latter declared all the rebels to be heretics, and excommunicated them in a body. Venegas ordered all the higher clergy "to represent from the pulpit, and circulate the idea privately, that the great object of the revolution was to destroy and subvert the holy Catholic religion, while he directed the subaltern ministers to sow discord in families by the confessional." [56] But the arms of the Spanish chiefs and the anathemas of the Roman church, were unequal to the task of resistance. Hidalgo was attacked by Truxillo at Las Cruces, about eight leagues from the capital, where the Indian army overwhelmed the Spanish general and drove him back to Mexico, with the loss of his artillery. In this action we find it difficult to apportion the ferocity, with justice, between the combatants, for Truxillo boasted in his despatch that he had defended the defile with the "obstinacy of Leonidas," and had even "fired upon the bearers of a flag of truce which Hidalgo sent him." [57]

The insurgents followed up their success at Las Cruces by pursuing the foe until they arrived at the hacienda of Quaximalpa, within fifteen miles of the city of Mexico. But here a fatal distrust of his powers seems first to have seized the warrior priest. Venegas, [Pg 284] it is said, contrived to introduce secret emmissaries into his camp, who impressed Hidalgo and his officers with the belief that the capital was abundantly prepared for defence, and that an assault upon the disciplined troops of Spain, by a disordered multitude without fire arms, would only terminate in the rout and destruction of all his forces. In fact, he seems to have been panic stricken, and to have felt unable to control the revolutionary tempest he had raised. Accordingly, in an evil moment for his cause, he commenced a retreat, after having remained several days in sight of the beautiful city of Mexico, upon which he might easily have swept down from the mountain like an eagle to his prey.

It is related by the historians of these wars, that in spite of all Venegas's boasted valor and assurance, he was not a little dismayed by the approach of Hidalgo. The people shared his alarm, and would probably have yielded at once to the insurgents, whose imposing forces were crowding into the valley. But in this strait the viceroy had recourse to the well known superstitions of the people, in order to allay their fears. He caused the celebrated image of the Virgin of Remedios to be brought from the mountain village, where it was generally kept in a chapel, to the cathedral, with great pomp and ceremony. Thither he proceeded, in full uniform, to pay his respects to the figure, and after imploring the Virgin to take the government into her own hands, he terminated his appeal by laying his baton of command at her feet. [58]

It is now that we first encounter in Mexican history the name of Don Felix Maria Calleja,—a name that is coupled with all that is shameless, bloody, and atrocious, in modern warfare. Calleja was placed at the head of a well appointed creole army of ten thousand men and a train of artillery, and with these disciplined forces, which he had been for some time concentrating, he was ordered to pursue Hidalgo. [59] The armies met at Aculco, and the Indians, in their first encounter with a body of regulars, exhibited an enthusiastic bravery that nearly defies belief. They were almost as completely ignorant of the use or power of fire arms as their Aztec ancestors three hundred years before. They threw themselves upon the serried ranks of infantry with clubs and staves. Rushing up to the mouths of the cannon they drove their sombreros or hats of straw, into the muzzles. Order, command, or discipline, were [Pg 285] entirely unknown to them. Their effort was simply to overwhelm by superiority of numbers. But the cool phalanx of creoles stood firm, until the Indian disorder became so great, and their strength so exhausted by repeated yet fruitless efforts, that the regulars commenced the work of slaughter with impunity. Calleja boasts that Hidalgo lost "ten thousand men, of whom five thousand were put to the sword." It seems, however, that he was unable to capture or disband the remaining insurgents; for Hidalgo retreated to Guanajuato, and then fell back on Guadalaxara, leaving in the former city a guard under his friend Allende.

Calleja next attacked the rebel forces at the hacienda of Marfil, and having defeated Allende, who defended himself bravely, rushed onward towards the city of Guanajuato. This place he entered as conqueror. "The sacrifice of the prisoners of Marfil," says Robinson, "was not sufficient to satiate his vindictive spirit." He glutted his vengeance on the defenceless population of Guanajuato. Men, women and children, were driven by his orders, into the great square; and fourteen thousand of these wretches, it is alleged, were butchered in a most barbarous manner. Their throats were cut. The principal fountain of the city literally overflowed with blood. But, far from concealing these savage acts, Calleja, in his account of the conflict, exults in the honor of communicating the intelligence that he had purged the city of its rebellious population. The only apology offered for the sacrifice was that it would have wasted too much powder to have shot them, and therefore, on the principle of economy he cut their throats. Thus was this unfortunate city, in a single campaign, made the victim of both loyalists and insurgents.

Hidalgo and his division were soon joined by Allende, and although they suffered all the disasters of a bad retreat as well as of Spanish victories, he still numbered about eighty thousand under his banners. He awaited Calleja at Guadalaxara, which he had surrounded with fortifications and armed with cannon, dragged by the Indians, over mountain districts from the port of San Blas, on the Pacific; but it is painful to record the fact, that in this city Hidalgo was guilty of great cruelties to all the Europeans. Ward relates that between seven and eight hundred victims fell beneath the assassin's blade. A letter, produced on Hidalgo's trial, written to one of his lieutenants, charges the officer to seize as many Spaniards as he possibly can, and, moreover, directs him, if he has any reason to suspect his prisoners of entertaining seditious or restless ideas, to bury them at once in oblivion by putting such [Pg 286] persons to death in some secret and solitary place, where their fate may remain forever unknown! As the cruelty of Old Spain to the Mexicans had well nigh driven them to despair, such savage assassinations, in turn, drove the Spaniards to revenge, or, at least furnished them with an excuse for their horrible atrocities.

Calleja, intent on the pursuit of his Indian prey, was not long in following Hidalgo. The insurgent chief endeavored to excite the ardor of his troops, while he preserved some show of discipline in their ranks; and, thus prepared, he gave battle to the Spaniards, at the bridge of Calderon, on the 17th of January, 1811. At first Hidalgo, was successful, but the rebels were no match for the royal troops kept in reserve by Calleja. With these he made a fierce charge upon the Indians, and sweeping through their broken masses he "pursued and massacred them by thousands."

Calleja was not a person either to conciliate or to pause in victory. He believed that rebellion could only be rooted out by utter destruction of the insurgents and their seed. Accordingly orders were issued to "exterminate the inhabitants of every town or village that showed symptoms of adherence to the rebels," whilst, from the pulpit, new denunciations were fulminated against all who opposed the royal authority. The insurgent chiefs fled, and reached Saltillo with about four thousand men. There it was resolved to leave Rayon in command, while Hidalgo, Allende, Aldama and Absolo endeavored to reach the United States with an escort for the purpose of purchasing munitions of war with the treasure they had saved from the sacking of Guanajuato. But these fierce and vindictive soldiers were destined to end their lives by treachery. Hidalgo's associate rebel, Ignacio Elizondo, hoping to make his peace with the government by betraying so rich a prize, delivered them up to the authorities on the 21st of March, 1811, at Acatila de Bajan. Hidalgo was taken to Chihuahua, and, after being degraded from holy orders, was shot on the 27th of July, whilst Calleja was rewarded for his victories with the title of Conde de Calderon, won by his brilliant charge at the bridge near Guanajuato.

Such is an outline of the warfare between the Sylla and Marius of this continent, and of some of the most prominent events in the origin of that revolution which finally resulted in the Mexican independence.


[51] John Quincy Adams's letter to Mr. Anderson, minister to Columbia, May 27, 1823. See President's message on the Panama Congress, March, 1823.

[52] Zavala, Historia, vol. 1, p. 38.

[53] Robinson's Hist. Mex. Rev. p. 10.

[54] Ward's Mexico, vol. 1, p. 127. Id. p. 157.

[55] This term has been variously interpreted; it is supposed to be an ancient Indian word significant of contempt. It is applied by the natives to the European Spaniards or their full blooded descendants. See Robinson's His. Rey. Mex., 15.

[56] Robinson Memoir Mex. Rev. 19.

[57] Ib. p. 20.

[58] Wards' Mexico in 1827, vol. i. p. 169.

[59] The creoles although unfriendly to the Spaniards, and ready to rebel against them, were nevertheless willing to aid them against the Indians whom they more reasonably regarded, under the circumstances as the more dangerous of the two classes.

[Pg 287]



Lieutenant General Don Francisco Xavier Venegas,
LIX. Viceroy of New Spain.


After Hidalgo's death the country was for a considerable time involved in a guerilla warfare which extended throughout the whole territory of Mexico, to the provincas internas of the north Rayon assumed command of the fragments of Hidalgo's forces at Saltillo and retired to Zacatecas, but he had no command, or indeed authority, except over his own men. The whole country was in ferment. The valley of Mexico was full of eager partisans, who lazo'd the sentinels even at the gates of the town; yet, in all the chief cities, the viceroy's authority was still permanently acknowledged.

Men of reflection immediately saw that the cause of liberation would be lost, if, amid all these elements of boiling discontent, there was no unity of opinion and action. The materials of success were ample throughout the nation; but they required organization under men in whose judgment and bravery the insurgent masses could rely.

Such were the opinions of Rayon and his friends, who, in May, 1811, occupied Zitacuaro, when on the 10th of the following September, they assembled a Junta, or, central government, composed of five members chosen by a large body of the most respectable landed proprietors in the neighborhood, in conjunction with the Ayuntamiento and inhabitants of the town.

The doctrines of this Junta were liberal, but they maintained a close intimacy with Spain, and even admitted the people's willingness to receive Ferdinand VII. as sovereign of Mexico provided he [Pg 288] abandoned his European possessions for New Spain. When Morelos, joined the Junta he disapproved this last concession to the royalists, though it was chiefly defended by Rayon as an expedient measure when dealing with people over whom the name of king still exercised the greatest influence. This Junta was finally merged in the congress of Chilpanzingo. Its manifesto, directed to the viceroy in March, 1812, is worthy of rememberance, as it contains the several doctrines of the revolution admirably expressed by Dr. Cos, who was its author. He paints in forcible language the misery created by the fifteen months of civil war, and the small reliance that Spain could place on creole troops, whose sympathies, at present, and whose efforts, in the end, would all be thrown into the scale of their country. He assumes as fundamental principles that America and Spain are naturally equal; that America has as much right to her Cortes as Spain has to hers; that the existing rulers in the Peninsula have no just authority over Mexico as long as their sovereign is a captive, and, finally, he proposes that if "the Europeans will consent to give up the offices they hold, and allow the assemblage of a general congress, their persons and property shall be religiously respected, their salaries paid, and the same privileges granted them as to native Mexicans, who, on their side, will acknowledge Ferdinand as the legitimate sovereign, and assist the Peninsula with their treasure, whilst they will at all times regard the Spaniards as fellow subjects of the same great empire."

The alternative of war was presented to the viceroy together with these moderate demands, but he was only requested to abate the personal cruelties that had hitherto been committed, and to save the towns and villages from sacking or destruction by fire. Yet the insane Venegas would listen to no terms with the rebels, and caused the manifesto to be burned in the great square, by the common executioner. The principles of the document, however, had been spread abroad among the people, and the flames of the hangman could no longer destroy the liberal doctrines which were deeply sown in the hearts of the people.

The distinguished revolutionary chief Morelos, a clergyman, now appears prominently upon the stage. He had been commissioned by Hidalgo as Captain General of the provinces on the south-west coast in 1810, and departed for his government with as sorry an army as the troop of Falstaff. His escort consisted of a few servants from his curacy, armed with six muskets and some old lances. But he gathered forces as he advanced. The Galeanas [Pg 289] joined him with their adherents and swelled his numbers to near a thousand. They advanced to Acapulco, and having captured it with abundant booty, the insurgents soon found their ranks joined by numerous important persons, and, among them the Cura Matamoros and the Bravos, whose names have, ever since, been prominently connected with the history and development of Mexico.

The year 1811 was passed in a series of petty engagements; but, in January, 1812, the insurgents penetrated within twenty-five leagues of the capital, where Galeana and Bravo took the town of Tasco.

Morelos was victorious in several other actions in the same and succeeding months, and pushed his advanced guards into the valley of Mexico, where he occupied Chalco and San Agustin de las Cuevas, about twelve miles from the metropolis. Morelos finally resolved to make his stand at Cuautla, in the tierra caliente, on the other side of the mountain ranges which hem in the valley; and, to this place the viceroy Venegas despatched Calleja, who was summoned from the north and west, where, as may readily be imagined, so fiery a spirit had not been idle or innocent since the defeat of Hidalgo.

On the 1st of January, 1812, Calleja reached Zitacuaro, whence the alarmed Junta fled to Sultepec. The insatiate Spaniard took the town, decimated the inhabitants, razed the walls to the ground, and burnt the dwellings, sparing only the churches and convents. After this dreadful revenge upon a settlement which had committed no crime but in harboring the Junta, he made a triumphal entrance into Mexico, and, on the 14th of February, after a quarrel with the viceroy, and a solemn Te Deum, he departed towards Morelos, who was shut up in Cuautla de Amilpas.

On the 19th Calleja attacked the town, but was forced to retreat. He then regularly besieged the place and its insurgent visitors for more than two months and a half. In this period, the troops on both sides were not unoccupied. Various skirmishes took place, but without signal results of importance to either party. Morelos strove to prolong the siege until the rainy season set in, when he felt confident that Calleja would be forced to withdraw his troops, who could not endure the combined heat and moisture of the tierra caliente during the summer months. Calleja, on the other hand, supposed that by sealing the town hermetically, and cutting off all supplies, its inhabitants and troops would soon be forced to surrender. Nor did he act unwisely for the success of his master. Famine prevailed in the besieged garrison. Corn was almost the [Pg 290] only food. A cat sold for six dollars, a lizard for two, and rats and other vermin for one. But Morelos still continued firm, hoping by procrastination and endurance, to preserve the constancy of his men until the month of June, when the country is generally deluged with rain and rendered insalubrious to all who dwell habitually in colder regions, or are unacclimated in the lower vallies and table lands of Mexico. His hopes, however, were not destined to be realized, for, upon consultation, it was found absolutely necessary to risk a general engagement or to abandon the town. The general engagement was considered injudicious in the present condition of his troops, so that no alternative remained but that of retreat. This was safely effected on the night of the 2d of May, 1812, notwithstanding the whole army of the insurgents was obliged to pass between the enemy's batteries. After quitting the town, the forces were ordered to disperse, so as to avoid forming any concentrated point of attack for the pursuing Spaniards, and to reunite as soon as possible at Izucar, which was held by Don Miguel Bravo. Calleja entered the abandoned town cautiously after the departure of the besieged, but the cruel revenge he took on the innocent inhabitants and harmless edifices, is indelibly imprinted in Mexican history as one of the darkest stains on the character of a soldier, whose memory deserves the execration of civilized men.

From Izucar, Morelos entered Tehuacan triumphantly, whence he passed to Orizaba where he captured artillery, vast quantities of tobacco, and a large amount of treasure. But he was not allowed to rest long in peace. The regular forces pursued his partizan warriors; and we next hear of him at Oaxaca, where he took possession of the town after a brief resistance. It was at this place that Guadalupe Victoria, afterwards president of the republic, performed a feat which merits special remembrance as an act of extraordinary heroism and daring in the face of an enemy. The town was moated and the single drawbridge suspended, so as to cut off the approach of the insurgents. There were no boats to cross the stagnant water; and the insurgents, as they approached, were dismayed by the difficulty of reaching a town which seemed almost in their grasp. At this moment Guadalupe Victoria, sprang into the moat, swam across the strait in sight of the soldiers in the town who seem to have been panic struck by his signal courage, and cut the ropes that suspended the drawbridge, which, immediately falling over the moat, allowed the soldiers of Morelos a free entrance into the city!

[Pg 291] Here he rested for some time undisturbed by the Spaniards. He conquered the whole of the province with the exception of Acapulco, to which he laid siege in February, 1813, but it did not lower its flag until the following August. The control of a whole province, and the victories of Bravo and Matamoros, elsewhere in 1812 and 1813, considerably increased the importance and influence of Morelos, who now devoted himself to the assemblage of a national Congress at Chilpanzingo composed of the original Junta of Zitacuaro, the deputies elected by the province of Oaxaca, and others selected by them as representatives of the provinces which were in the royalists' hands. On the 13th of November, 1813, this body published a declaration of the absolute independence of Mexico.[60]

Don Felix Maria Calleja,
LX. Viceroy of New Spain.

This was the period at which the star of the great leader, Morelos, culminated. Bravo was still occasionally successful, and the commander-in-chief, concentrating his forces at Chilpanzingo, prepared an expedition against the province of Valladolid. He departed on the 8th of November, 1813; and, marching across a hitherto untraversed country of a hundred leagues, he reached this point about Christmas. But here he found a large force under Llano and Colonel Iturbide,—who was still a loyalist—drawn up to encounter him. He attacked the enemy rashly with his jaded troops, and on the following day, was routed, with the loss of his best regiments and all his artillery.

At Puruaran, Iturbide again assailed Morelos successfully, and Matamoros was taken prisoner. Efforts were made to save the life of this eminent soldier, yet Calleja, who had succeeded Venegas as viceroy was too cruelly ungenerous to spare so daring a rebel. He was shot, and his death was avenged by the slaughter of all the prisoners who were in the hands of the insurgents.

For a while Morelos struggled bravely against adversity, his [Pg 292] character and resources rising with every new danger, difficulty or loss. But the die was cast. Oaxaca was recaptured by the royalists on the 28th of March, 1814. Miguel Bravo died at Puebla on the scaffold; Galeana fell in battle; and the Congress was driven from Chilpanzingo to the forest of Apatzingo, where, on the 22d of October, 1814, it enacted the constitution which bears the name of its wild birth-place.

From this temporary refuge the insurgents resolved to cross the country by rapid marches to Tehuacan in the province of Puebla, where Mier y Teran had gathered a considerable force, which Morelos imagined would become the nucleus of an overwhelming army, as soon as he joined them. But his hopes were not destined to be realized. He had advanced as far as Tesmaluca, when the Indians of the village betrayed his slender forces to General Concha, who fell upon them, on the 5th of November, 1815, in the narrow gorge of a mountain road. The assault was from the rear; so that Morelos, ordering Nocalas Bravo to hasten his march with the main body of the army as an escort for the ill-starred congress, resolved to fight the royalists until he placed the national legislature out of danger. "My life"—said he—"is of little consequence, provided congress be saved:—my race was run when I saw an independent government established!"

The brave soldier-priest, with fifty men, maintained the pass against Concha, until only one trooper was left beside him. So furious was his personal bearing, during this mortal conflict, that the royalists feared to advance until he was bereft of all support. When finally captured, he was stripped, chained, treated with the most shameless cruelty, and carried back to Tesmaluca. Concha, however, was less cruel than his men. He received the rebel chief politely, and despatched him to the capital for trial. Crowds of eager citizens flocked to see the celebrated partizan warrior who had so long held the Spanish forces at bay. But his doom was sealed; and, on the 22d of December, 1815, Concha removed him to the hospital of San Cristoval. After dining with the general, and thanking him for his kindness, he walked to the rear of the building, where, kneeling down, he bound a handkerchief over his eyes and uttering the simple ejaculation, "Lord, if I have done well, thou knowest it;—if ill, to thy infinite mercy I commend my soul,"—he gave the fatal signal to the soldiers who were drawn up to shoot him.


[60] We must mention an event, characteristic of Bravo, which occurred during this period. Bravo took Palmar, by storm, after a resistance of three days. Three hundred prisoners fell into his hands, who were placed at his disposal by Morelos. Bravo immediately offered them to the viceroy Venegas in exchange for his father, Don Leonardo Bravo, who had been sentenced to death in the capital. The offer was rejected, and Don Leonardo ordered to immediate execution. But the son at once commanded the prisoners to be liberated,—saying that he "wished to put it out of his power to avenge his parent's death, lest, in the first moments of grief the temptation should prove irresistible."—Ward, 1 vol. 204.

[Pg 293]



Don Juan Ruiz de Apodaca, Conde del Venadito,
LXI. Viceroy of New Spain.


With the death of Morelos the hopes of the insurgents were crushed and their efforts paralyzed. This extraordinary man, so fertile in resources, and blending in himself the mingled power of priest and general, had secured the confidence of the masses, who found among his officers, none upon whom they could rally with perfect reliance. Besides this, the congress which had been conducted safely to Tehuacan by Bravo, was summarily dissolved by General Teran, who considered it an "inconvenient appendage of a camp." We cannot but regard this act of the general as unwise at a moment, when the insurgents lost such a commander as Morelos. By the dissolution of the congress the nation abandoned another point of reunion; and from that moment, the cause began to fail in all parts of the country.

The Constitution, sanctioned by the Cortes in 1812, had, meanwhile, been proclaimed in Mexico, on the 29th of September of that year; and, whilst the people felt somewhat freer under it, they were enabled, by the liberty of the press, which lasted sixty-six days, to expend their new-born patriotism on paper instead of [Pg 294] in battles. These popular excitements, served to sustain the spirits of the people, notwithstanding the losses of the army; so that when Apodaca, assumed the reins of the viceroyalty in 1816, the country was still republican at heart, though all the insurgent generals were either captured or hidden in the wilderness, whilst their disbanded forces, in most instances, had accepted the indulto, or pardon, proffered for their return to allegiance.


The remaining officers of Morelos spread themselves over the country, as there was no longer any centre of action; and each of them, occupying a different district, managed, for a while, to support revolutionary fervor throughout the neighborhood. "Guerrero occupied the west coast, where he maintained himself until the year 1821, when he joined Iturbide. Rayon commanded in the vicinity of Tlalpujahua, where he successively maintained two fortified camps on the Cerro del Gallo, and on Coporo. Teran held the district of Tehuacan, in Puebla. Bravo was a wanderer throughout the country. The Bajio was tyrannized over by the Padre Torres, while Guadalupe Victoria occupied the important province of Vera Cruz." [61]

The chief spite of the royalists,—who hunted these republican heroes, among the forests and mountain fastnesses of Mexico, as the Covenanters had been hunted in Scotland,—seems to have fallen upon the last named of these patriot generals. Victoria's haunt was chiefly in the passes near the Puente del Rey, now the Puente Nacional, or National bridge, on the road leading from the port of Vera Cruz to the capital. He was prepared to act either with a large force of guerillas, or, with a simple body guard; and, knowing the country perfectly, he was enabled to descend from his fastnesses among the rocks, and thus to cut off, almost entirely, all communication between the coast and the metropolis. At length, superior forces were sent to pursue him with relentless fury. His men gradually deserted when the villages that formerly supplied them with food refused further contributions. Efforts were made to seduce him from his principles and to ensure his loyalty. But he refused the rank and rewards offered by the viceroy as the price of his submission. At length he found himself alone in his resistance, in the midst of countrymen, who, if they would no longer fight under his banner, were too faithful to betray him. Yet he would not abandon the cause, but, taking his sword and a small stock of raiment, departed for the mountains, where he [Pg 295] wandered for thirty months, living on the fruits of the forest and gnawing the bones of dead animals found in their recesses. Nor did he emerge from this impenetrable concealment, until two faithful Indians, whom he had known in prosperous days, sought him out with great difficulty, and, communicating the joyous intelligence of the revolution of 1821, brought him back once more to their villages where he was received with enthusiastic reverence as a patriot raised from the dead. When discovered by the Indians he was worn to a skeleton, covered with hair, and clad in a tattered wrapper; but, amid all his distresses and losses, he had preserved and treasured his loyalty to the cause of liberty and his untarnished sword!

Meanwhile another actor in this revolutionary army had appeared upon the stage. This was Xavier Mina, a guerilla chief of old Spain, who fled from his country, in consequence of the unfortunate effort to organize an outbreak in favor of the Cortes, at Pampeluna, after the dissolution of that assembly by the king. He landed on the coast of Mexico at Soto la Marina with a brave band of foreigners, chiefly North Americans, on the 15th of April, 1817. His forces amounted to only three hundred and fifty-nine men, including officers, of whom fifty-one deserted before he marched into the interior. Leaving one hundred of these soldiers at Soto la Marina under the command of Major Sarda, he attempted with the remainder, to join the independents in the heart of the country.

Mina pressed onwards successfully, defeating several royalist parties, until he reached Sombrero, whence he sallied forth upon numerous expeditions, one of which was against the fortified hacienda or plantation of the Marques of Jaral, a creole nobleman, from which the inhabitants and the owner fled at his approach. His troops sacked this wealthy establishment, and Mina transferred to the public chest one hundred and forty thousand dollars, found concealed in the house. This nobleman, it is true, had given in his adhesion to the royal cause and fortified his dwelling against the insurgents who hitherto refrained from attacking him. Nevertheless, the unprovoked blow of an independent leader against a native of the country, and especially against a man whose extensive farming operations concentrated the interests of so large a laboring class, was not calculated to inspire confidence in Mina among the masses of the people.

Whilst the guerilla chief was thus pursuing his way successfully in the heart of the country, and receiving occasional reinforcements from the natives, the garrison he left at Soto la Marina fell into the [Pg 296] hands of Spanish levies, two thousand of whom surrounded the slender band. Notwithstanding the inequality of forces between the assailants and the besieged, the royalists were unable to take the place by storm; but, after repeated repulses, General Arredondo proposed terms which were accepted by Major Sarda, the independent commander. It is scarcely necessary to say that this condition was not fulfilled by the Spaniards, who sent the capitulated garrison in irons, by a circuitous journey, to the sickly Castle of San Juan de Ulua at Vera Cruz, whence some of the unfortunate wretches were marched into the interior whilst others were despatched across the sea to the dungeons of Cadiz, Melilla and Ceuta. This was a severe blow to Mina, who nevertheless was unparalyzed by it but continued active in the vicinity of Sombrero to which he retreated after an illjudged attempt upon the town of Leon, where the number of his troops was considerably diminished. Sombrero was invested, soon after, by a force of three thousand five hundred and forty soldiers, under Don Pascual Liñan, who had been appointed Field Marshal, by Apodaca, and despatched to the Bajio. This siege was ultimately successful on the part of the royalists. The fresh supplies promised to Mina did not arrive. Colonel Young, his second in command, died in repulsing an assault; and, upon the garrison's attempting to evacuate the town, under Colonel Bradburn, on the night of the 19th of August, the enemy fell upon the independents with such vigor that but fifty of Mina's whole corps escaped. "No quarter," says Ward, "was given in the field, and the unfortunate wretches who had been left in the hospital wounded, were by Liñan's orders, carried or dragged along the ground from their beds to the square where they were stripped and shot!"

Mina, as a last resort, threw himself into the fort of Los Remedios, a natural fortification on the lofty mountain chain rising out of the plains of the Bajio between Silao and Penjamo, separated from the rest by precipices, and deep ravines.

Liñan's army sat down before Remedios on the 27th of August. Mina left the town so as to assail the army from without by his guerillas, whilst the garrison kept the main body engaged with the fort. During this period he formed the project of attacking the town of Guanajuato, which, in fact, he accomplished; yet, after his troops had penetrated the heart of the city, their courage failed and they retreated before the loyalists who rallied after the panic created by the unexpected assault at nightfall. On retreating from Guanajuato, our partizan warrior took the road to the Rancho del Venadito [Pg 297] where he designed passing the night in order to consult upon his future plans with his friend Mariano Herrera. Here he was detected by a friar, who apprised Orrantia of the brave Mina's presence, and, on the morning of the 27th of October, he was seized and conveyed to Irapuato. On the 11th of November, 1817, in the 28th year of his age, he was shot by order of Apodaca, on a rock, in sight of Los Remedios.

At the end of December the ammunition of the insurgents in this stronghold was entirely exhausted, and its evacuation was resolved on. This was attempted on the 1st of January, 1818, but, with the exception of Padre Torres, the commander, and twelve of Mina's division, few or none of the daring fugitives escaped. The wretched inmates of the fort, the women, and garrison hospitals of wounded, were cut down, bayoneted, and burned. On the 6th of March, the fort of Jauxilla, the insurgents' last stronghold in the central parts of the country, fell, while, towards the middle of the year, all the revolutionary chiefs were dislodged and without commands, except Guerrero, who still maintained himself on the right bank of the river Zacatula, near Colima, on the Pacific. But even he was cut off from communication with the interior, and was altogether without hope of assistance from without. The heart of the nation, and the east coast,—which was of most importance so far as the reception of auxiliaries by the independents was concerned,—were, thus, in complete possession of the royalists; so that a viceroy declared in his despatches to Spain, "that he would be answerable for the safety of Mexico without a single additional soldier being sent out to reinforce the armies that were in the field."

But the viceroy Apodaca, confident as he was of the defeat of the insurrection, did not know the people with whom he dealt as well as his predecessor Calleja, [62] who, with all his cruelty, seems to have enjoyed sagacious intervals in which he comprehended perfectly the deep seated causes of revolutionary feeling in Mexico, even if he was indisposed to sympathize with them or to permit their manifestation by the people. In fact, the revolution was not quelled. It slept, for want of a leader;—but, at last he appeared in the person of Agustin de Iturbide, a native Mexican, whose military career, in the loyalist cause had been not only brilliant but eminently useful, for it was in consequence of the two severe blows inflicted by him upon the insurgents in the actions of Valladolid [Pg 298] and Puruaran that the great army of Morelos was routed and destroyed.

In 1820, Apodaca, who was no friend of the constitution, and who suffered a diminution of power by its operation, was well disposed to put it down by force, and to proclaim once more the absolute authority of the king. The elective privileges, which the constitution secured to the people, together with the principles of freedom which those elections were calculated to foster among the masses, were considered by the viceroy as dangerous in a country so recently the theatre of revolution. The insurrection was regarded by him as ended forever. He despised, perhaps, the few distinguished persons who yet quietly manifested their preference for liberalism; and, like all men of despotic character and confident of power, he undervalued the popular masses, among whom there is ever to be found common sense, true appreciation of natural rights, and firmness to vindicate them whenever they are confident of the leaders who are to control their destiny when embarked upon the stormy sea of rebellion.

Apodaca, in pursuit of his project to restore absolutism on this continent, fixed his eyes upon the gallant Iturbide, whose polished manners, captivating address, elegant person, ambitious spirit, and renowned military services, signalized him as a person likely to play a distinguished part in the restoration of a supreme power whose first favors would probably be showered upon the successful soldier of a crusade against constitutional freedom.

Accordingly the viceroy offered Iturbide the command of a force upon the west coast, at the head of which he was to proclaim the re-establishment of the king's absolute authority. The command was accepted; but Iturbide, who had been for four years unemployed, had, in this interval of repose, reflected well upon the condition of Mexico, and was satisfied that if the creoles could be induced to co-operate with the independents, the Spanish yoke might be cast off. There were only eleven Spanish expeditionary regiments in the whole of Mexico, and although there were upwards of seventy thousand old Spaniards in the different provinces who supported these soldiers, they could not oppose, effectually, the seven veteran and seventeen provincial regiments of natives, aided by the masses of people who had signified their attachment to liberalism.

Instead, therefore, of allying himself with the cause of a falling monarchy, whose reliance must chiefly be confined to succors from across the ocean, Iturbide resolved to abandon the viceroy and his [Pg 299] criminal project against the constitution, and to throw himself with his forces upon the popular cause of the country. It was a bold but successful move.

On the 24th of February, 1821, he was at the small town of Iguala, on the road to Acapulco; and on that day, at his headquarters, he proclaimed the celebrated Plan of Iguala, the several principles of which are:—"Independence, the maintenance of Roman Catholicity, and Union;"—whence his forces obtained the name of the "Army of the three Guaranties."

As this is probably one of the most important state papers in the history of Mexico, and is often referred to without being fully understood, we shall present it to the reader entire:

Plan of Iguala.

Article 1.—The Mexican nation is independent of the Spanish nation, and of every other, even on its own continent.

Art. 2.—Its religion shall be the Catholic, which all its inhabitants profess.

Art. 3.—They shall all be united, without any distinction between Americans and Europeans.

Art. 4.—The government shall be a constitutional monarchy.

Art. 5.—A Junta shall be named, consisting of individuals who enjoy the highest reputation in different parties which have shown themselves.

Art. 6.—This Junta shall be under the presidency of his excellency the Conde del Venadito, the present viceroy of Mexico.

Art. 7.—It shall govern in the name of the nation, according to the laws now in force, and its principal business will be to convoke, according to such rules as it shall deem expedient, a congress for the formation of a constitution more suitable to the country.

Art. 8.—His Majesty Ferdinand VII. shall be invited to the throne of the empire, and in case of his refusal, the Infantes Don Carlos and Don Francisco De Paula.

Art. 9.—Should his Majesty Ferdinand VII. and his august brothers, decline the invitation, the nation is at liberty to invite to the imperial throne any member of reigning families whom it may choose to select.

Art. 10.—The formation of the constitution by the congress, and the oath of the emperor to observe it, must precede his entry into the country.

Art. 11.—The distinction of castes is abolished, which was made by the Spanish law, excluding them from the rights of citizenship. [Pg 300] All the inhabitants are citizens, and equal, and the door of advancement is open to virtue and merit.

Art. 12.—An army shall be formed for the support of religion, independence, and union, guaranteeing these three principles, and therefore shall be called the army of the three guaranties.

Art. 13.—It shall solemnly swear to defend the fundamental basis of this plan.

Art. 14.—It shall strictly observe the military ordinances now in force.

Art. 15.—There shall be no other promotions than those which are due to seniority, or which are necessary for the good of the service.

Art. 16.—The army shall be considered as of the line.

Art. 17.—The old partizans of independence who shall adhere to this plan, shall be considered as individuals of this army.

Art. 18.—The patriots and peasants who shall adhere to it hereafter, shall be considered as provincial militiamen.

Art. 19.—The secular and regular priests shall be continued in the state which they now are.

Art. 20.—All the public functionaries, civil, ecclesiastical, political and military, who adhere to the cause of independence, shall be continued in their offices, without any distinction between Americans and Europeans.

Art. 21.—Those functionaries, of whatever degree and condition who dissent from the cause of independence, shall be divested of their offices, and shall quit the territory without taking with them their families and effects.

Art. 22.—The military commandants shall regulate themselves according to the general instructions in conformity with this plan, which shall be transmitted to them.

Art. 23.—No accused person shall be condemned capitally by the military commandants. Those accused of treason against the nation, which is the next greatest crime after that of treason to the Divine Ruler, shall be conveyed to the fortress of Barbaras, where they shall remain until congress shall resolve on the punishment that ought to be inflicted on them.

Art. 24.—It being indispensable to the country, that this plan should be carried into effect, inasmuch as the welfare of that country is its object, every individual of the army shall maintain it, to the shedding (if it be necessary) of the last drop of his blood.

Town of Iguala, 24th February, 1821.


[61] Ward vol. i, 221.

[62] See Calleja's confidential letter to the Spanish minister of war, with a private report on the Mexican Revolution. Ward, vol. i, p. 509—Appendix.

[Pg 301]



O'Donoju, LXII. Viceroy of New Spain,
Iturbide, Emperor of Mexico.

It will be seen by the Plan of Iguala, that Mexico was designed to become an independent sovereignty under Ferdinand VII. or, in the event of his refusal, under the Infantes Don Carlos and Don Francisco de Paula. Iturbide was still a royalist—not a republican; and it is very doubtful whether he would ever have assented to popular authority, even had his life been spared to witness the final development of the revolution. It is probable that his penetrating mind distinguished between popular hatred of unjust restraint, and the genuine capacity of a nation for liberty, nor is it unlikely that he found among his countrymen but few of those self-controlling, self-sacrificing and progressive elements, which constitute the only foundation upon which a republic can be securely founded. His ambition had not yet been fully developed by success, and it cannot be imagined that he had already fixed his heart upon the imperial throne.

When the Plan of Iguala was proclaimed, the entire army of the future emperor, consisted of only eight hundred men, all of whom took the oath of fidelity to the project, though many deserted when they found the country was not immediately unanimous in its approval.

In the capital, the viceroy appears to have been paralyzed by the sudden and unexpected movement of his officer. He paused, hesitated, failed to act, and was deposed by the Europeans, who treated him as they had Iturrigaray in 1808. Don Francisco de Novella, an artillery officer, was installed temporarily in his stead, but the appointment created a dissension among the people in the [Pg 302] capital and the country, and this so completely prostrated the action of the central authorities, who might have crushed the revolution by a blow, that Iturbide was enabled to prosecute his designs throughout the most important parts of the interior of the country, without the slightest resistance.

He seized a million of dollars on their way to the west coast, and joined Guerrero who still held out on the river Zacatula with the last remnant of the old revolutionary forces. Guerrero gave in his adhesion to Iturbide, as soon as he ascertained that it was the general's design to make Mexico independent, though, in all likelihood, he disapproved the other features of the plan. Guerrero's act was of the greatest national importance. It rallied all the veteran fighters and friends of Morelos and the Bravos. Almost all of the former leaders and their dispersed bands, came forth, at the cry of "independence," under the banner of Iturbide. Victoria even, for a while, befriended the rising hero; but he had fought for a liberal government, and did not long continue on amicable terms with one who could not control his truly independent spirit. The clergy, as well as the people, signified their intention to support the gallant insurgent;—and, in fact, the whole country, from Vera Cruz to Acapulco, with the exception of the capital, was soon open in its adhesion to him and his army.

Don Juan O'Donoju,
LXII. Viceroy of New Spain.

Iturbide was now in full authority, and whilst preparing to march on the city of Mexico, in which the viceroy, ad interim, was shut up, he learned that Don Juan O'Donoju had arrived at San Juan de Ulua to fill the place of Apodaca as viceroy. Proposals were immediately sent by the general to this new functionary, and in an interview with him at Cordova, Iturbide proposed the adoption of the Plan of Iguala by treaty, as the only project by which the Spaniards in Mexico could be saved from the fury of the people, and the sovereignty of the colony preserved for Ferdinand. We shall not pause to enquire whether the viceroy was justified or even empowered, to compromise the rights of Spain by such a compact. O'Donoju, though under the safeguard of a truce, was in truth a helpless man as soon as he touched the soil of Mexico, for no portions of it were actually under the Spanish authority except the castle of San Juan de Ulua and the capital, whose garrisons were chiefly composed of European levies. Humanity, perhaps, ultimately controlled his decision, and in the name of his master, he [Pg 303] recognised the independence of Mexico and yielded the metropolis to the "army of the three Guaranties," which entered it peacefully on the 27th of September, 1821. A provisional Junta of thirty-six persons immediately elected a regency of five, of which Iturbide was president, and, at the same time, he was created Generalissimo, Lord High Admiral, and assigned a yearly stipend of one hundred and twenty thousand dollars.

On the 24th of February, 1822, the first Mexican Congress or Cortes, met; but it contained within it the germ of all the future discontents, which since that day, have harassed and nearly ruined Mexico. Scarcely had this body met when three parties manifested their bitter animosities and personal ambitions. The Bourbonists adhered, loyally, to the Plan of Iguala, a constitutional monarchy and the sovereignty of Ferdinand. The Republicans, discarded the plan as a device that had served its day, and insisted upon a central or federal republic; and, last of all, the partisans of the successful soldier, still clung to all of the plan save the clause which gave the throne to a Bourbon prince, for, at heart, they desired to place Iturbide himself upon it, and thus to cut off their country forever from all connection with Europe.

As soon as O'Donoju's treaty of Cordova reached Spain, it was nullified by the Cortes, and the Bourbon party in Mexico, of course fell with it. The Republicans and Iturbidists, alone remained on the field to contend for the prize, and after congress had disgraced itself by incessant bickerings over the army and the public funds, a certain Pio Marcha, first sergeant of the first regiment of infantry gathered a band of leperos before the palace of Iturbide on the night of the 18th of May, 1822, and proclaimed him Emperor, with the title of Agustin the First. A show of resistance was made by Iturbide against the proffered crown; but it is likely that it was in reality, as faint as his joy was unbounded at the sudden elevation from a barrack room to the imperial palace. Congress, of course, approved the decision of the mob and army. The provinces sanctioned the acts of their representatives, and Iturbide ascended the throne.

But his reign was brief. Rapid success, love of power, impatience of restraint,—all of which are characteristic of the Spanish soldier,—made him strain the bonds of constitutional right. His struggles for control were incessant. "He demanded," says Ward, "a veto upon all articles of the constitution then under discussion, and the right of appointing and removing, at pleasure, the members of the supreme tribunal of justice. He recommended [Pg 304] also the establishment of a military tribunal in the capital, with powers but little inferior to those exercised by the Spanish commandants during the revolution; and when these proposals were firmly rejected, he arrested, on the night of the 26th August, 1822, fourteen of the deputies who had advocated, during the discussion, principles but little in unison with the views of the government."

This high handed measure, and the openly manifested displeasure of congress, produced so complete a rupture between the emperor and the popular representatives, that it was impossible to conduct public affairs with any concert of action. Accordingly, Iturbide dissolved the assembly, and on the 30th of October, 1822, created an Instituent Junta of forty-five persons selected by himself from amongst the most pliant members of the recent congress. This irregularly formed body was intolerable to the people, while the expelled deputies, who returned to their respective districts, soon spread the spirit of discontent and proclaimed the American usurper to be as dangerous as the European despot.

In November, General Garza headed a revolt in the northern provinces. Santa Anna, then governor of Vera Cruz, declared against the emperor. General Echavari, sent by Iturbide to crush the future president of Mexico, resolved not to stem the torrent of public opinion, and joined the general he had been commissioned to capture. Guadalupe Victoria,—driven to his fastnesses by the emperor, who was unable to win the incorruptible patriot, descended once more from the mountain forests, where he had been concealed, and joined the battalions of Santa Anna. And, on the 1st of February, 1823, a convention, called the "Act of Casa-Mata," was signed, by which the re-establishment of the National Representative Assembly was pledged.

The country was soon in arms. The Marques Vibanco, Generals Guerrero, Bravo, and Negrete, in various sections of the nation, proclaimed their adhesion to the popular movement; and on the 8th of March, 1823, Iturbide, finding that the day was lost, offered his abdication to such members of the old congress as he was able to assemble hastily in the metropolis. The abdication was, however, twice refused on the ground that congress, by accepting it, would necessarily sanction the legality of his right to wear the crown; nevertheless, that body permitted his departure from Mexico, after endowing him liberally with an income of twenty-five thousand dollars a year, besides providing a vessel to bear him and his family to Leghorn in Italy.

Victoria, Bravo, and Negrete entered the capital on the 27th of [Pg 305] March, and were chosen by the old congress which quickly reassembled, as a triumvirate to exercise supreme executive powers until the new congress assembled in the following August. In October, 1824, this body finally sanctioned the federal constitution, which, after various revolutions, overthrows, and reforms, was readopted in the year 1847.

On the 14th of July, 1824, a vessel under British colors was perceived on the Mexican coast near the mouth of the Santander. On the next day, a Polish gentlemen came on shore from the ship, and, announcing himself as Charles de Beneski, visited General Felix la Garza, commandant of the district of Soto la Marina. He professed to visit that remote district, with a friend, for the purpose of purchasing land from the government on which they designed establishing a colony. Garza gave them leave to enter the country for this purpose; but suspicions were soon aroused against the singular visitors and they were arrested. As soon as the friend of the Pole was stripped of his disguise, the Emperor Iturbide stood in front of Garza, whom he had disgraced for his participation in the revolt during his brief reign.

La Garza immediately secured the prisoner, and sent him to Padilla, where he delivered him to the authorities of Tamaulipas. The state legislature being in session, promptly resolved, in the excess of patriotic zeal, to execute a decree of the congress, passed in the preceding April, by condemning the royal exile to death. Short time was given Iturbide to arrange his affairs. He was allowed no appeal to the general government. He confessed to a priest on the evening of the 19th of July, and was led to the place of execution, where he fell, pierced with four balls, two of which took effect in his brain and two in his heart!

Thus perished the hero who, suddenly, unexpectedly, and effectually, crushed the power of Spain in North America. It is not fair to judge him by the standards that are generally applied to the life of a distinguished civilian, or even of a successful soldier, in countries where the habits and education of the people fit them for duties requiring forbearance, patience, or high intellectual culture. Iturbide was, according to all reliable accounts, a refined gentleman, yet he was tyrannical and sometimes cruel, for it is recorded in his own handwriting, that on Good Friday, 1814, "in honor of the day, he had just ordered three hundred excommunicated wretches to be shot!" His early life was passed in the saddle and the barrack room; nor had he much leisure to pursue the studies of a statesman, even if his mind had been capable of resolving [Pg 306] all their mysteries. His temper was not calculated for the liberal debates of a free senate. He was better fitted to discipline an army than to guide a nation. Educated in a school in which subordination is a necessity, and where unquestioning obedience is exacted, he was unable to appreciate the rights of deliberative assemblies. He felt, perhaps, that, in the disorganized condition of his country, it was needful to control the people by force in order to save the remnant of civilization from complete anarchy. But he wanted conciliatory manners to seduce the congress into obedience to his behests,—and he therefore unfortunately and unwisely played the military despot when he should have acted the part of a quiet diplomatist. Finding himself, in two years, emperor of Mexico, after being, at the commencement of that period, nothing more than commander of a regiment, it may be pardoned if he was bewildered by the rapidity of his rise, and if the air he breathed in his extraordinary ascent was too etherial for a man of so excitable a temperament.

In every aspect of his character, we must regard him as one altogether inadequate to shape the destiny of a nation emerging from the blood and smoke of two revolutions,—a nation whose political tendencies towards absolute freedom, were at that time, naturally, the positive reverse of his own.

Death sealed the lips of men who might have clamored for him in the course of a few years, when the insubordinate spirit that was soon manifested needed as bold an arm as that of Iturbide, in his best days, to check or guide it. Public opinion was decidedly opposed to his sudden and cruel slaughter. Mexicans candidly acknowledged that their country's independence was owing to him; and whilst they admitted that Garza's zeal for the emperor's execution might have been lawful, they believed that revenge for his former disgrace, rather than patriotism, induced the rash and ruthless soldier to hasten the death of the noble victim whom fortune had thrown in his lonely path.


Signature of Augustine de Iturbide

[Pg 307]



We must pause a moment over the past history of Mexico, for the portion we now approach has few of the elements either of union or patriotism which characterized the early struggles for national independence. The revolutionary war had merited and received the commendation of freemen throughout the world. The prolonged struggle exhibited powers of endurance, an unceasing resolution, and a determination to throw off European thraldom, which won the respect of those northern powers on this continent who were most concerned in securing to themselves a republican neighborhood. But, as soon as the dominion of Spain was crushed, the domestic quarrels of Mexico began, and we have already shown that in the three parties formed in the first congress, were to be found the germs of all the feuds that have since vexed the republic or impeded its successful progress towards national grandeur. After the country had been so long a battle field, it was perhaps difficult immediately to accustom the people to civil rule or to free them from the baleful influence which military glory is apt to throw round individuals who render important services to their country in war. Even in our own union, where the ballot box instead of the bayonet has always controlled elections, and where loyalty to the constitution would blast the effort of ambitious men to place a conqueror in power by any other means than that of peaceful election, we constantly find how difficult it is to screen the people's eyes from the bewildering glare of military glory. What then could we expect from a country in which the self-relying, self-ruling, civil idea never existed at any period of its previous history? The revolution of the North American colonies [Pg 308] was not designed to obtain liberty, for they were already free; but it was excited and successfully pursued in order to prevent the burthensome and aggressive impositions of England which would have curtailed that freedom, and, reduced us to colonial dependence as well as royal or ministerial dictation. Mexico, on the contrary, had never been free. Spain regarded the country as a mine which was to be diligently wrought, and the masses of the people as acclimated serfs whose services were the legitimate perquisites of a court and aristocracy beyond the sea. There had been, among the kings and viceroys who controlled the destinies of New Spain, men who were swayed by just and amiable views of colonial government; but the majority considered Mexico as a speculation rather than an infant colony whose progressive destiny it was their duty to foster with all the care and wisdom of Christian magistrates. The minor officials misruled and peculated, as we have related in our introductory sketch of the viceroyal government. They were all men of the hour, and, even the viceroys themselves, regarded their governments on the American continent as rewards for services in Europe, enabling them to secure fortunes with which they returned to the Castilian court, forgetful of the Indian miner and agriculturist from whose sweat their wealth was coined. The Spaniard never identified himself with Mexico. His home was on the other side of the Atlantic. Few of the best class formed permanent establishments in the viceroyalty; and all of them were too much interested in maintaining both the state of society and the castes which had been created by the conquerors, to spend a thought upon the amelioration of the people. We do not desire to blacken, by our commentary, the fame of a great nation like that of Spain; yet this dreary but true portrait of national selfishness has been so often verified by all the colonial historians of America, and especially by Pazo and Zavala, in their admirable historical sketches of Castilian misrule, that we deem it fair to introduce these palliations of Mexican misconduct since the revolution. [63]


The people of New Spain were poor and uneducated,—the aristocracy was rich, supercilious, and almost equally illiterate. It was a society without a middle ground,—in which gold stood out in broad relief against rags. Was such a state of barbaric semi-civilization entitled or fitted to emerge at once into republicanism? [Pg 309] Was it to be imagined that men who had always been controlled, could learn immediately to control themselves? Was it to be believed that the military personages, whose ambition is as proverbial as it is natural, would voluntarily surrender the power they possessed over the masses, and retire to the obscurity and poverty of private life when they could enjoy the wealth and influence of political control, so long as they maintained their rank in the army? This would have been too much to expect from the self-denial of creole chiefs; nor is it surprising to behold the people themselves looking towards these very men as proper persons to consolidate or shape the government they had established. It was the most natural thing conceivable to find Iturbide, Guerrero, Bustamante, Negrete, Bravo, Santa Anna, Paredes, and the whole host of revolutionary heroes succeeding each other in power, either constitutionally or by violence. The people knew no others. The military idea,—military success,—a name won in action, and repeated from lip to lip until the traditionary sound became a household word among the herdsmen, rancheros, vaqueros and Indians,—these were the sources of Mexican renown or popularity, and the appropriate objects of political reward and confidence. What individual among the four or five millions of Indians knew anything of the statesmen of their country who had never mixed in the revolutionary war or in the domestic brawls constantly occurring. There were no gazettes to spread their fame or merit, and even if there had been, the people were unable to buy or peruse them. Among the mixed breeds, and lower class of creoles, an equal degree of ignorance prevailed;—and thus, from the first epoch of independence, the People ceased to be a true republican tribunal in Mexico, while the city was surrendered as the battle field of all the political aspirants who had won reputations in the camp which were to serve them for other purposes in the capital. By this means the army rose to immediate significance and became the general arbiter in all political controversies. Nor was the church,—that other overshadowing influence in all countries in which religion and the state are combined,—a silent spectator in the division of national power. The Roman Hierarchy, a large landholder,—as will be hereafter seen in our statistical view of the country,—had much at stake in Mexico, besides the mere authority which so powerful a body is always anxious to maintain over the consciences of the multitude. The church was, thus, a political element of great strength; and, combined with the army, created and sustained an important party, which has been untiring [Pg 310] in its efforts to support centralism, as the true political principle of Mexican government.


On the 4th of October, 1824, a federal constitution, framed partly upon the model of the constitution of the United States, with some grafts from the Spanish constitution, was adopted by Congress; and, by it, the territory comprehended in the old viceroyalty of New Spain, the Captaincy General of Yucatan, the commandancies of the eastern and western Internal Provinces, Upper and Lower California, with the lands and isles adjacent in both seas, were placed under the protection of this organic law. The religion of the Mexican nation was declared to be, in perpetuity, the Catholic Apostolic Roman; and the nation pledged its protection, at the same time prohibiting the exercise of any other!

Previous, however, to these constitutional enactments the country had not been entirely quiet, for as early as January of this year, General Echavari, who occupied the state of Puebla, raised the standard of revolt against the Triumvirate. This seditious movement was soon suppressed by the staunch old warrior, Guerrero, who seized and bore the insurgent chief to the capital as a prisoner. Another insurrection, occurred not long after in Cuernavaca, which was also quelled by Guerrero. Both of these outbreaks were caused by the centralists, who strove to put down by violence the popular desire for the federal system. Instead of destroying the favorite charter, however, they only served to cement the sections, who sustained liberal doctrines in the different provinces or states of the nation, and finally, aided materially in enforcing the adoption of the federal system.

Another insurrection occurred in the city of Mexico, growing out of the old and national animosity between the creoles and the European Spaniards. The expulsion of the latter from all public employments was demanded by the creoles of the capital, backed by the garrison commanded by Colonels Lobato and Staboli. The revolt was suppressed at the moment; but it was deemed advisable to conciliate feeling in regard to the unfortunate foreigners; and, accordingly, changes were made in the departments, in which the offices were given to native Mexicans, whilst the Spaniards were allowed a pension for life of one-third of their pay. At this period, moreover, the supreme executive power was altered, and Nicolas Bravo, Vicente Guerrero, and Miguel Dominguez, were appointed to control public affairs until a president was elected under the new constitution.

[Pg 311] Early in 1825, the general congress assembled in the city of Mexico. Guadalupe Victoria was declared president, and Nicolas Bravo vice president. The national finances were recruited by a loan from England; and a legislative effort was made to narrow the influence of the priesthood, according to the just limits it should occupy in a republic.

All Spanish America had been in a ferment for several years, and the power of Castile was forever broken on this continent. Peru, as well as Mexico, had cast off the bonds of dependence, for the brilliant battle of Ayacucho rescued the republican banner from the danger with which for a while it was menaced. The European forces had never been really formidable, except for their superior discipline and control under royalist leaders,—but they were now driven out of the heart of the continent,—whilst the few pertinacious troops and generals who still remained, were confined to the coasts of Mexico, Peru, and Chili, where they clung to the fortress of San Juan de Ulua, the castle of Callao, and the strongholds of Chiloe.

Victoria was sworn into office on the 15th of April, 1825. Several foreign nations had already recognized the independence of Mexico, or soon hastened to do so; for all were eager to grasp a share of the commerce and mines which they imagined had been so profitable to Spain. The British, especially, who had become holders of Mexican bonds, were particularly desirous to open commercial intercourse and to guard it by international treaties.

In the winter of 1826, it was discovered, by the discussions in congress of projects for their suppression, that the party leaders, fearing an open attempt to conduct their unconstitutional machinations, had sought the concealment of masonic institutions in which they might foster their antagonistic schemes. The rival lodges were designated as Escocesses and Yorkinos, the former numbering among its members the vice president Nicolas Bravo, Gomez Pedraza, and José Montayno, while the Yorkinos boasted of Generals Victoria, Santa Anna, Guerrero, Lorenzo de Zavala, and Bustamante. The adherents of the Escocesses were said to be in favor of a limited monarchy with a Spanish prince at its head; but the Yorkinos maintained the supremacy of the constitution and declared themselves hostile to all movements of a central character. The latter party was, by far, the most numerous. The intelligent liberals of all classes sustained it; yet its leaders had to contend with the dignitaries of the church, the opulent agriculturists, land holders and miners, and many of the higher officers of the army whose [Pg 312] names had been identified with the early struggles of the independents against the Spaniards.

These party discussions, mainly excited by the personal ambitions of the disputants, which were carried on not only openly in congress, but secretly in the lodges, absorbed for a long time, the entire attention of the selfish but intelligent persons who should have forgotten themselves in the holy purpose of consolidating the free and republican principles of the constitution of 1824. The result of this personal warfare was soon exhibited in the total neglect of popular interests, so far as they were to be fostered or advanced by the action of congress. The states, however, were in some degree, free from these internecine contests; for the boldest of the various leaders, and the most ambitious aspirants for power, had left the provinces to settle their quarrels in the capital. This was fortunate for the country, inasmuch as the states were in some measure recompensed by their own care of the various domestic industrial interests for the neglect they suffered at the hands of national legislators.

At the close of 1827, Colonel José Montayno, a member of the Escocesses, proclaimed, in Otumba, the plan which in the history of Mexican pronunciamientos, or revolts, is known by the name of this leader. Another attempt of a similar character had been previously made, against the federative system and in favor of centralism, by Padre Arénas; but both of these outbreaks were not considered dangerous, until Bravo denounced president Victoria for his union with the Yorkinos, and, taking arms against the government, joined the rebels in Tulancingo, where he declared himself in favor of the central plan of Montayno. The country was aroused. The insurgents appeared in great strength. The army exhibited decided symptoms of favor towards the revolted party; and the church strengthened the elements of discontent by its secret influence with the people. Such was the revolutionary state of Mexico, when the patriot Guerrero was once more summoned by the executive to use his energetic efforts in quelling the insurrection. Nor was he unsuccessful in his loyal endeavors to support the constitution. As soon as he marched against the insurgents, they dispersed throughout the country; so that, without bloodshed, he was enabled to crush the revolt and save the nation from the civil war. Thus, amid the embittered quarrels of parties, who had actually designed to transfer their contests from congress and lodges to the field of battle, terminated the administration of Guadalupe Victoria, the first president of Mexico. His successor, Gomez Pedraza, the [Pg 313] candidate of the Escocesses, was elected by a majority of but two votes over his competitor, Guerrero, the representative of the liberal Yorkinos.


These internal discontents of Mexico began to inspire the Spanish court with hope that its estranged colony would be induced, or perhaps easily compelled, after a short time, to return to its allegiance; and, accordingly, it was soon understood in Mexico, even during Victoria's administration, that active efforts were making in Cuba to raise an adequate force for another attempt upon the republic. This, for a moment, restrained the fraternal hands raised against each other within the limits of Mexico, and forced all parties to unite against the common danger from abroad. Suitable measures were taken to guard the coasts where an attack was most imminent, and it was the good fortune of the government to secure the services of Commodore Porter, a distinguished officer of the United States Navy, who commanded the Mexican squadron most effectively for the protection of the shores along the gulf, and took a number of Spanish vessels, even in the ports of Cuba, some of which were laden with large and costly cargoes.

The success of the centralist Pedraza over the federalist Guerrero, a man whose name and reputation were scarcely less dear to the genuine republicans than that of Guadalupe Victoria,—was not calculated to heal the animosities of the two factions, especially, as the scant majority of two votes had placed the Escoces partizan in the presidential chair. The defeated candidate and his incensed companions of the liberal lodge, did not exhibit upon this occasion that loyal obedience to constitutional law, which should have taught them that the first duty of a republican is to conceal his mortification at a political defeat and to bow reverentially to the lawful decision of a majority. It is a subject of deep regret that the first bold and successful attack upon the organic law of Mexico was made by the federalists. They may have deemed it their duty to prevent their unreliable competitors from controlling the destinies of Mexico even for a moment under the sanction of the constitution; but there can be no doubt that they should have waited until acts, instead of suspicions or fears, entitled them to exercise their right of impeachment under the constitution. In an unregulated, military nation, such as Mexico was at that period, men do not pause for the slow operations of law when there is a personal or a party quarrel in question. The hot blood of the impetuous, tropical region, combines with the active intellectual temperament of the [Pg 314] people, and laws and constitutions are equally disregarded under the impulse of passion or interest. Such was the case in the present juncture. The Yorkinos had been outvoted lawfully, according to the solemn record of congress, yet they resolved not to submit; and, accordingly, Lorenzo de Zavala, the Grand Master of their lodge, and Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who was then a professed federalist, in conjunction with the defeated candidate Guerrero and Generals Montezuma and Lobato, determined to prevent Pedraza from occupying the chair of state. Santa Anna, who now appeared prominently on the stage, was the chief agitator in the scheme, and being in garrison at Jalapa, in the autumn of 1828, pronounced against the chief magistrate elect, and denounced his nomination as "illegal, fraudulent and unconstitutional." The movement was popular, for the people were in fact friendly to Guerrero. The prejudices of the native or creole party against the Spaniards and their supposed defenders the Escocesses, were studiously fomented in the capital; and, on the 4th of December, the pronunciamiento of the Accordada, in the capital, seconded the sedition of Santa Anna in the provinces. By this time the arch conspirator in this drama had reached the metropolis and labored to control the elements of disorder which were at hand to support his favorite Guerrero. The defenceless Spaniards were relentlessly assailed by the infuriate mob which was let loose upon them by the insurgent chiefs. Guerrero was in the field in person at the head of the Yorkinos. The Parian in the capital, and the dwellings of many of the noted Escocesses were attacked and pillaged, and for some time the city was given up to anarchy and bloodshed. Pedraza, who still fulfilled the functions of minister of war previous to his inauguration, fled from the official post which he abandoned to his rival Santa Anna; and on the 1st of January, 1829, congress,—reversing its former act,—declared Guerrero to have been duly elected president of the republic! General Bustamante was chosen vice president, and the government again resumed its operation under the federal system of 1824.

Note.—Although a masked Indian slavery or peonage, is permitted and encouraged in Mexico, African slavery is prohibited by positive enactments as well as by the constitution itself. But as it may interest the reader to know the Mexican enactments relative to negroes, on this subject, the following documents are subjoined for reference:—


The President of the Mexican United States to the Inhabitants of the Republic.

Be it known—That, being desirous to signalize the anniversary of independence, in the year 1829, by an act of national justice and beneficence, which may redound [Pg 315] to the advantage and support of so inestimable a good; which may further insure the public tranquillity; which may tend to the aggrandisement of the republic, and may reinstate an unfortunate portion of its inhabitants in the sacred rights which nature gave to them, and the nation should protect by wise and just laws, conformably with the dispositions of the thirtieth article of the constituent act, employing the extrordinary faculties which have been conceded to me, I have resolved to decree—

1. Slavery is and shall remain abolished in the republic.

2. In consequence, those who have hitherto been regarded as slaves, are free.

3. Whensoever the condition of the treasury shall permit, the owners of the slaves shall be indemnified according to the terms which the law may dispose.

Mexico, Sept. 15, 1829.


Art. 1.—Slavery is abolished, without any exception, throughout the whole republic.

2. The owners of the slaves manumitted by the present law, or by the decree of September 15, 1829, shall be indemnified for their interests in them, to be estimated according to the proofs which may be presented of their personal qualities; to which effect, one appraiser shall be appointed by the commissary general, or the person performing his duties, and another by the owner; and, in case of disagreement, a third, who shall be appointed by the respective constitutional alcalde; and from the decision thus made, there shall be no appeal. The indemnification mentioned in this article shall not be extended to the colonists of Texas, who may have taken part in the revolution in that department.

3. The owners to whom the original documents drawn up with regard to the proofs mentioned in the preceding article, shall be delivered gratis—shall themselves present them to the supreme government, which will authorise the general treasury to issue to them the corresponding orders for the amount of their respective interests.

4. The payment of the said orders shall be made in the manner which may seem most equitable to the government, with the view of reconciling the rights of individuals with the actual state of the public finances.

April 5, 1837.

The Constitution of 1843, or Bases organicas de la Republica Mejicana, of that year, declares that: "No one is a slave in the territory of the nation, and that any slave who may be introduced, shall be considered free and remain under the protection of the laws."—Title 2d.

The Constitution of 1847—which, in fact, is the old Federal Constitution of 1824—does not rëenact this clause; but, in the Acta de Reformas annexed to it in 1847, declares, "that every Mexican, either by birth or naturalization, who has attained the age of twenty years, who possesses the means of an honest livelihood, and who has not been condemned by legal process to any infamous punishment, is a citizen of the United Mexican States."—Acta de Reformas, Article 1. "In order to secure the rights of man which the Constitution recognizes, a law shall fix the guaranties of liberty, security, property and equality, which all the inhabitants of the republic enjoy, and shall establish the means requisite to make them effective."—1d. Article 5. The third article provides that "the exercise of the rights of citizenship are suspended by habitual intemperance; by professional gambling or vagabondage; by religious orders; by legal interdict in virtue of trial for those crimes which forfeit citizenship, and by refusal to fulfil public duties imposed by popular nomination" (nombramiento popular.)


[63] Zavala's Hist. Rev. of Mex. 2 vols.;—and Pazo's letters on the United Provinces of South America.

[Pg 316]



Violent as was the conduct of the pretended liberals in overthrowing their rivals the Escocesses, and firmly as it may be supposed such a band was cemented in opposition to the machination of a bold monarchical party, we, nevertheless, find that treason existed in the hearts of the conspirators against the patriot hero whom they had used in their usurpation of the presidency. Scarcely had Guerrero been seated in the chair of state when it became known that there was a conspiracy to displace him. He had been induced by the condition of the country, and by the bad advice of his enemies to assume the authority of dictator. This power, he alleged, was exercised only for the suppression of the intriguing Escocesses; but its continued exercise served as a pretext at least, for the vice president, General Bustamante, to place himself at the head of a republican division and pronounce against the president he had so recently contributed to place in power. The executive commanded Santa Anna to advance against the assailants; but this chief, at first, feebly opposed the insurgents, and, finally, fraternizing with Bustamante, marched on the capital whence they drove Guerrero and his partisans to Valladolid in Michoacan. Here the dethroned dictator organized a government, whilst the usurping vice president, Bustamante, assumed the reins in the capital. In Michoacan, Guerrero, who was well known and loved for his revolutionary enterprises in the west of Mexico, found no difficulty in recruiting a force with which he hoped to regain his executive post. Congress was divided in opinion between the rival factions of the liberalists, and the republic was shaken by the continual [Pg 317] strife, until Bustamante despatched a powerful division against Guerrero, which defeated, and dispersed his army. This was the conclusion of that successful warrior's career. He was a good soldier but a miserable statesman. His private character and natural disposition are represented, by those who knew him best, to have been irreproachable; yet he was fitted alone for the early struggles of Mexico in the field, and was so ignorant of the administrative functions needed in his country at such a period, that it is not surprising to find he had been used as a tool, and cast aside when the service for which his intriguing coadjutors required him was performed. His historical popularity and character rendered him available for a reckless party in overthrowing a constitutional election; and, even when beaten by the new usurper, and with scarcely the shadow of a party in the nation, it was still feared that his ancient usefulness in the wars of independence, might render him again the nucleus of political discontent. Accordingly, the pursuit of Guerrero was not abandoned when his army fled. The west coast was watched by the myrmidons of the usurpers, and the war-worn hero was finally betrayed on board a vessel by a spy, where he was arrested for bearing arms against the government of which he was the real head, according to the solemn decision of congress! In February, 1831, a court martial, ordered by General Montezuma tried him for this pretended crime. His sentence was, of course, known as soon as his judges were named; and, thus, another chief of the revolutionary war was rewarded by death for his patriotic services. We cannot regard this act of Bustamante and Santa Anna, except as a deliberate murder for which they richly deserve the condemnation of impartial history, even if they had no other crimes to answer at the bar of God and their country.

Whilst these internal contests were agitating the heart of Mexico, an expedition had been fitted out at Havana composed of four thousand troops commanded by Barradas, designed to invade the lost colony and restore it to the Spanish crown. The accounts given of this force and its condition when landed at Tampico, vary according to the partizans by whom they are written; but there is reason to believe that the Spanish troops were so weakened by disease and losses in the summer of 1830, that when Santa Anna and a French officer,—Colonel Woll—attacked them in the month of September, they fell an easy prey into the hands of the Mexicans. Santa Anna, however, with his usual talent for such composition, magnified the defeat into a magnificent conquest. He [Pg 318] was hailed as the victor who broke the last link between Spain and her viceroyalty. Pompous bulletins and despatches were published in the papers; and the commander-in-chief returned to the capital, covered with honors, as the saviour of the republic.

There is an anecdote connected with the final expulsion of the Spaniards from Mexico, which deserves to be recorded as it exhibits a fact which superstitious persons might conceive to be the avenging decree of retributive providence. Doña Isabel Montezuma, the eldest daughter of the unfortunate Emperor had been married to his successor on the Aztec throne, and, after his wretched death, was united to various distinguished Spaniards, the last of whom was Juan Andrade, ancestor of the Andrade Montezumas and Counts of Miravalle. General Miguel Barragan, who afterwards became president ad interim of Mexico, and to whom the castle of San Juan de Ulua was surrendered by the European forces—was married to Manuela Trebuesta y Casasola, daughter of the last Count of Miravalle, and it is thus a singular coincidence that the husband of a lady who was the legitimate descendant of Montezuma, should have been destined to receive the keys of the last stronghold on which the Spanish banner floated on this continent! [64]


By intrigue and victories Santa Anna had acquired so much popular renown throughout the country and with the army that he found the time was arriving when he might safely avail himself of his old and recent services against Iturbide and Barradas. Under the influence of his machinations Bustamante began to fail in popular estimation. He was spoken of as a tyrant; his administration was characterized as inauspicious; and the public mind was gradually prepared for an outbreak in 1832. Santa Anna, who had, in fact, placed and sustained Bustamante in power, was, in reality, the instigator of this revolt. The ambitious chief, first of all issued his pronunciamiento against the ministry of the president, and then, shortly after, against that functionary himself. But Bustamante, a man of nerve and capacity, was not to be destroyed as easily as his victim, Guerrero. He threw himself at the head of his loyal troops and encountering the rebels at Tolomi routed them completely. Santa Anna, therefore, retired to Vera Cruz, and, strengthening his forces from some of the other states, declared himself in favor of the restoration of the constitutional president Pedraza, whom he had previously driven out of Mexico. As Bustamante advanced towards the coast his army melted away. [Pg 319] The country was opposed to him. He was wise enough to perceive that his usurped power was lost; and prudently entered into a pacific convention with Santa Anna at Zavaleta in December, 1832. The successful insurgent immediately despatched a vessel for the banished Pedraza, and brought him back to the capital to serve out the remaining three months of his unexpired administration!

The object of Santa Anna in restoring Pedraza was not to sustain any one of the old parties which had now become strangely mingled and confused by the factions or ambitions of all the leaders. His main design was to secure the services and influence of the centralists, as far as they were yet available, in controlling his election to the presidency upon which he had fixed his heart. On the 16th of May, 1833, he reached the goal of his ambition. [65]

[Pg 320] The congress of 1834 was unquestionably federal republican in its character, and Santa Anna seemed to be perfectly in accord with his vice presidential compeer, Gomez Farias. But the church,—warned by a bill introduced into congress the previous year by Zavala, by which he aimed a blow at the temporalities of the spiritual lords,—did not remain contented spectators while the power reposed in the hands of his federal partizans. The popular representatives were accordingly approached by skilful emissaries, and it was soon found that the centralists were strongly represented in a body hitherto regarded as altogether republican. It is charged in Mexico, that bribery was freely resorted to; and, when the solicitations became sufficiently powerful, even the inflexible patriotism of Santa Anna yielded, though the vice president Farias, remained incorruptible.

On the 13th of May, 1834, the president suddenly and unwarrantably dissolved congress, and maintained his arbitrary decree and power by the army, which was entirely at his service. In the following year, Gomez Farias was deposed from the vice presidency by the venal congress, and Barragan raised to the vacant post. The militia was disarmed, the central forces strengthened, and the people placed entirely at the mercy of the executive and his minions, who completed the destruction of the constitution of 1824 by blotting it from the statute book of Mexico.

Puebla, Jalisco, Oaxaca, parts of Mexico, Zacatecas and Texas revolted against this assumption of the centralists, though they were finally not able to maintain absolutely their free stand against the dictator. Zacatecas and Texas, alone, presented a formidable aspect to Santa Anna, who was, nevertheless, too strong and skilful for the ill regulated forces of the former state. The victorious troops entered the rebellious capital with savage fury; and, after committing the most disgusting acts of brutality and violence against all classes and sexes, they disarmed the citizens entirely and placed a military governor over the province. In Coahuila and Texas, symptoms of discontent were far more important, for the federalists met at Monclova, and, after electing Agustin Viesca governor, defied the opposite faction by which a military officer had been assigned to perform the execute the duties of the state. General Cos, however, soon dispersed the legislature by violence and imprisoned the governor and his companions whom he arrested as they were hastening to cross the Rio Grande. These evil doings were regarded sorrowfully but sternly by the North Americans who had flocked to Texas, under the sanctions and assurances [Pg 321] of the federal constitution, and they resolved not to countenance the usurpation of their unquestionable rights.

Such was the state of affairs in the Mexican Republic when the Plan of Toluca was issued, by which the federal constitution was absolutely abolished, and the principles of a consolidated central government fully announced. Previous to this, however, a pronunciamiento had been made by a certain Escalada at Morelia, in favor of the fueros, or especial privileges and rights of the church and army. This outbreak was, of course, central in its character; whilst another ferment in Cuautla had been productive of Santa Anna's nomination as dictator, an office which he promptly refused to accept.

The Plan of Toluca was unquestionably favored by Santa Anna who had gone over to the centralists. It was a scheme designed to test national feeling and to prepare the people for the overthrow of state governments. The supreme power was vested by it in the executive and national congress; and the states were changed into departments under the command of military governors, who were responsible for their trust to the chief national authorities instead of the people. Such was the Central Constitution of 1836.

It is quite probable that Santa Anna's prudent care of himself and his popularity, as well as his military patriotism induced him to leave the government in the hands of the vice president Barragan whilst the new constitution was under discussion, and to lead the Mexican troops, personally, against the revolted Texans, who had never desisted from open hostility to the central usurpations. But as the history of that luckless expedition is to be recounted elsewhere in this volume, we shall content ourselves with simply recording the fact that on the 21st of April, 1836, the president and his army were completely routed by General Houston and the Texans; and, that instead of returning to the metropolis crowned with glory, as he had done from the capture of Barradas, Santa Anna owed his life to the generosity of the Texan insurgents whose companions in arms had recently been butchered by his orders at Goliad and San Antonio de Bejar. [66]

During Santa Anna's absence, vice president Barragan filled the executive office up to the time of his death, when he was succeeded by Coro, until the return from France of Bustamante, who had been elected president under the new central constitution of 1836. In the following year Santa Anna was sent back to Mexico in a [Pg 322] vessel of the United States government. But he was a disgraced man in the nation's eyes. He returned to his hacienda of Manga de Clavo, and burying himself for a while in obscurity, was screened from the open manifestation of popular odium. Here he lurked until the brilliant attempt was made to disenthral his country by Mexia, in 1838. Demanding, once more, the privilege of leading the army, he was entrusted with its command, and, encountering the defender of federation in the neighborhood of Puebla, he gave him battle immediately. Mexia lost the day; and, with brief time for shrift or communication with his family, he was condemned by a drum-head court martial and shot upon the field of battle. This was a severe doom; but the personal animosity between the commanders was equally unrelenting, for when the sentence was announced to the brave but rash Mexia, he promptly and firmly declared that Santa Anna was right to execute him on the spot, inasmuch, as he would not have granted the usurper half the time that elapsed since his capture, had it been his destiny to prove victorious!

Soon after the accession of Bustamante there had been gritos in favor of federation and Gomez Farias, who was, at that period, imprisoned; but these trifling outbreaks were merely local and easily suppressed by Pedraza and Rodriguez.

In the winter of 1838, however, Mexico was more severely threatened from abroad than she had recently been by her internal discords. It was at this time that a French fleet appeared at Vera Cruz, under the orders of Admiral Baudin, to demand satisfaction for injuries to French subjects, and unsettled pecuniary claims which had been long and unavailingly subjects of diplomacy. Distracted for years by internal broils that paralyzed the industry of the country ever since the outbreak of the revolution, Mexico was in no condition to respond promptly to demands for money. But national pride forbade the idea of surrendering without a blow. The military resources of the country and of the Castle of San Juan de Ulua, were, accordingly, mustered with due celerity, and the assailed department of Vera Cruz entrusted to the defence of Santa Anna, whose fame had been somewhat refreshed by his victory over Mexia. Meanwhile the French fleet kept up a stringent blockade of Vera Cruz, and still more crippled the commercial revenues of Mexico by cutting off the greater part of its most valuable trade. Finding, however, that neither the blockade nor additional diplomacy would induce the stubborn government to accede to terms which the Mexicans knew would finally be forced [Pg 323] on them, the French squadron attacked the city with forces landed from the vessels, whilst they assailed the redoubtable castle with three frigates, a corvette and two bomb vessels, whence, during an action of six hours, they threw three hundred and two shells, one hundred and seventy-seven paixhan, and seven thousand seven hundred and seventy-one solid shot. The assaults upon the town were not so successful as those on the castle, where the explosion of a magazine forced the Mexicans to surrender. The troops that had been landed were not numerous enough to hold the advantages they gained; and it was in gallantly repulsing a storming party at the gates of the city, that Santa Anna lost a leg by a parting shot from a small piece of ordnance as the French retreated on the quay to their boats.

The capture of the castle, however, placed the city at the mercy of the French, and the Mexicans were soon induced to enter into satisfactory stipulations for the adjustment of all debts and difficulties.


In 1839, General Canales fomented a revolt in some of the north-eastern departments. The proposal of this insurgent was to form a republican confederation of Coahuila, Tamaulipas, and Durango, which three states or departments, he designed should adopt for themselves the federal constitution of 1824, and, assuming the title of the independent "Republic of the Rio Grande," should pledge themselves to co-operate with Texas against Bustamante and the centralists. An alliance was entered into with Texas to that effect, and an expedition of united Texans and Republicans of the Rio Grande, was set on foot to occupy Coahuila; but at the appearance of General Arista in the field early in 1840, and after an action in which the combined forces were defeated, Canales left the discomfitted Texans to seek safety by hastening back to their own territory.

The administration of Bustamante was sorely tried by foreign and domestic broils, for, whilst Texas and the Republic of the Rio Grande were assailing him in the north, the federalists attacked him in the capital, and the Yucatecos revolted in the south. This last outbreak was not quelled as easily as the rebellion in the north; nor was it, in fact, until long afterwards during another administration, that the people of the Peninsula were again induced to return to their allegiance. Bustamante seems to have vexed the Yucatecos by unwise interference in the commercial and industrial interests of the country. The revolt was temporarily successful; [Pg 324] On the 31st of March, 1841, a constitution was proclaimed in Yucatan, which erected it into a free and sovereign state, and exempted the people from many burdens as well as the odious intolerance of all other religions except the Roman Catholic, that had been imposed by both the federal constitution of 1824 and the central one of 1836.


The discontent with Bustamante's administration, arising chiefly from a consumption duty of 15 per cent. which had been imposed by congress, was now well spread throughout the republic. The pronunciamiento of Urrea on the 15th of July, 1840, at the palace of Mexico was mainly an effort of the federalists to put down violently the constitution of 1836; and although the insurgents had possession, at one period, of the person of the president, yet the revolt was easily suppressed by Valencia and his faithful troops in the capital.

But, a year later, the revolutionary spirit had ripened into readiness for successful action. We have reason to believe that the most extensive combinations were made by active agents in all parts of Mexico to ensure the downfall of Bustamante and the elevation of Santa Anna. Accordingly, in August, 1841, a pronunciamiento of General Paredes, in Guadalajara, was speedily responded to by Valencia and Lombardini in the capital, and by Santa Anna himself at Vera Cruz. But the outbreak was not confined merely to proclamations or the adhesion of military garrisons; for a large body of troops and citizens continued loyal to the president and resolved to sustain the government in the capital. This fierce fidelity to the constitution on the one hand, and bitter hostility to the chief magistrate on the other, resulted in one of the most sanguinary conflicts that had taken place in Mexico since the early days of independence. For a whole month the contest was carried on with balls and grape shot in the streets of Mexico, whilst the rebels, who held the citadel outside the city, finished the shameless drama, by throwing a shower of bombs into the metropolis, shattering the houses, and involving innocent and guilty, citizens, strangers, combatants and non-combatants, in a common fate. This cowardly assault under the orders of Valencia, was made solely with the view of forcing the citizens, who were unconcerned in the quarrel between the factions, into insisting upon the surrender of Mexico, in order to save their town and families from destruction. There was a faint show of military manœuvres in the fields adjoining the city; but the troops on both sides shrank from [Pg 325] battle when they were removed from the protecting shelter of walls and houses. At length, the intervention of Mexican citizens who were most interested in the cessation of hostilities, produced an arrangement between the belligerants at Estanzuela near the capital, and, finally, the Plan of Tacubaya was agreed on by the chiefs—as a substitute for the constitution of 1836. By the seventh article of this document, Santa Anna was effectually invested with dictatorial powers until a new constitution was formed.

The Plan of Tacubaya provided that a congress should be convened, in 1842, to form a new constitution, and in June, a body of patriotic citizens, chosen by the people, assembled for that purpose in the metropolis. Santa Anna opened the session with a speech in which he announced his predilection for a strong central government, but he professed perfect willingness to yield to whatever might be the decision of congress. Nevertheless, in December of the same year, after the assembly had made two efforts to form a constitution suitable to the country and the cabinet, president Santa Anna,—in spite of his professed submission to the national will expressed through the representatives,—suddenly and unauthorizedly, dissolved the congress. It was a daring act; but Santa Anna knew that he could rely upon his troops, his officers, and the mercantile classes for support. The capital wanted quietness for a while; and the interests of trade as well as the army united in confidence in the strong will of one who was disposed to maintain order by force.

After congress had been dissolved by Santa Anna, there was, of course, no further necessity of an appeal to the people. The nation had spoken, but its voice was disregarded. Nothing therefore remained, save to allow the dictator, himself, to frame the organic laws; and for this purpose he appointed a Junta of Notables, who proclaimed, on the 13th of June, 1843, an instrument which never took the name of a constitution, but bore the mongrel title of "Bases of the Political Organization of the Mexican Republic." It is essentially central, in its provisions; and whilst it is as intolerant upon the subject of religion, as the two former fundamental systems, it is even less popular in its general provisions than the constitution of 1836.


[64] Alaman Disertaciones, vol. i, p. 219.

[65] The following letter from Santa Anna to a distinguished foreigner, will afford the reader a specimen of his personal modesty and political humility. The individual to whom it was written, was afterwards expelled by Santa Anna from the republic during his presidency, after having been invited by him to the country:

"Vera Cruz, October 11th, 1831.

"My Esteemed Friend:—I have the pleasure to answer your favor of the 5th ultimo, by which I perceive that my letter of the 9th of April last, came to hand. I have received the prospectus of the "Foreign College" you contemplate to establish, which not only meets with my entire approbation, but, considering your talents and uncommon acquirements, I congratulate you on employing them in a manner so generally useful, and personally honorable. I thank you cordially for the news and observations you have had the kindness to communicate to me, and both make me desire the continuation of your esteemed epistles. Retired as I am, on my farm, and there exclusively devoted to the cultivation and improvement of my small estate, I cannot reply, as I desire, to the news with which you have favored me. But, even in that retirement, and though separated from the arena of politics, I could never view with indifference any discredit thrown on my country, nor any thing which might, in the smallest degree, possess that tendency. We enjoy at present peace and tranquillity, and I do not know of any other question of public interest now in agitation, than the approaching elections of President and Vice President. When that period shall arrive, should I obtain a majority of suffrages, I am ready to accept the honor, and to sacrifice, for the benefit of the nation my repose and the charms of private life. My fixed system is to be called (ser llamado), resembling in this a modest maid (modesta doncella), who rather expects to be desired, than to show herself to be desiring. I think that my position justifies me in this respect. Nevertheless, as what is written in a foreign country has much influence at home, especially among us, in your city I think it proper to make a great step on this subject; and by fixing the true aspect, in which such or such services should be regarded, as respects the various candidates, one could undoubtedly contribute to fix here public opinion, which is at present extremely wavering and uncertain. Of course, this is the peculiar province of the friends of Mexico; and as well by this title, as on account of the acquirements and instruction you possess, I know of no one better qualified than yourself to execute such a benevolent undertaking. * * * * *

"I hope you will favor me from time to time with information, which will always give satisfaction to your true friend and servant, who kisses your hands."

"Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna."

[66] See Gen. Waddy Thompson's Recollections of Mexico, p. 69, for Santa Anna's wretched vindication of these sanguinary deeds.

[Pg 326]



After the foundation of the new system in 1843, the country continued quiet for a while, and when the Mexican Congress met, in January 1844, propositions were made by the executive department to carry out Santa Anna's favorite project of reconquering Texas. It is probable that there was not much sincerity in the president's desire to march his troops into a territory the recollection of which must have been, at least, distasteful to him. There is more reason to believe that the large sum which it was necessary to appropriate for the expenses of the campaign—the management of which would belong to the administration,—was the real object he had in view. Four millions were granted for the reconquest, but when Santa Anna demanded ten millions more while the first grant was still uncollected, the members refused to sustain the president's demand. The congressmen were convinced of that chieftain's rapacity, and resolved to afford him no further opportunity to plunder the people under the guise of patriotism.

Santa Anna's sagacious knowledge of his countrymen immediately apprised him of approaching danger, and having obtained permission from congress to retire to his estate at Mango de Clavo, near Vera Cruz, he departed from the capital, leaving his friend General Canalizo as president ad interim. Hardly had he reached his plantation in the midst of friends and faithful troops, when a revolt burst out in Jalisco, Agnas Calientes, Zacatecas, Sinaloa and Sonora, against his government, headed by General Paredes. Santa Anna rapidly crossed the country to suppress the rebellion, but as he disobeyed [Pg 327] the constitutional compact by taking actual command of the army whilst he was president, without the previous assent of congress, he became amenable to law for this violation of his oath. He was soon at enmity with the rebels and with the constitutional congress, and thus a three fold contest was carried on, chiefly through correspondence, until the 4th of January, 1845, when Santa Anna finally fell. He fled from the insurgents and constitutional authorities towards the eastern coast, but being captured at the village of Jico, was conducted to Peroté, where he remained imprisoned under a charge and examination for treason, until an amnesty for the late political factionists permitted him to depart on the 29th of May, 1845, with his family, for Havana.

Upon Santa Anna's ejection from the executive chair, the president of the council of government, became under the laws of the country, provisional president of the republic. This person was General José Joaquim de Herrera, during whose administration the controversies rose which resulted in the war between Mexico and the United States.

The thread of policy and action in both countries is so closely interwoven during this pernicious contest, that the history of the war becomes, in reality, the history of Mexico for the epoch. We are therefore compelled to narrate, succinctly, the circumstances that led to that lamentable issue.


The first empresario, or contractor, for the colonization of Texas, was Moses Austin, a native citizen of the United States, who, as soon as the treaty of limits between Spain and our country was concluded in 1819, conceived the project of establishing a settlement in that region. Accordingly, in 1821 he obtained from the Commandant General of the Provincias Internas, permission to introduce three hundred foreign families. In 1823, a national colonization law was approved by the Mexican Emperor Iturbide during his brief reign, and on the 18th of February, Stephen F. Austin, who had succeeded his father, after his death, in carrying out the project, was authorized to proceed with the founding of the colony. After the emperor's fall, this decree was confirmed by the first executive council in conformity to the express will of congress.

In 1824 the federal constitution of Mexico was, as we have narrated, adopted, by the republican representatives, upon principles analogous to those of the constitution of the United States; and by a decree of the 7th of May, Texas and Coahuila were united in a state. In this year another general colonization law was enacted [Pg 328] by congress, and foreigners were invited to the new domain by a special state colonization law of Coahuila and Texas.

Under these local laws and constitutional guaranties, large numbers of foreigners flocked to this portion of Mexico, opened farms, founded towns and villages, re-occupied old Spanish settlements, introduced improvements in agriculture and manufactures, drove off the Indians, and formed, in fact, the nucleus of an enterprizing and progressive population. But there were jealousies between the race that invited the colonists, and the colonists who accepted the invitation. The central power in the distant capital did not estimate, at their just value, the independence of the remote pioneers, or the state-right sovereignty to which they had been accustomed at their former home in the United States. Mexico was convulsed by revolutions, but the lonely residents of Texas paid no attention to the turmoils of the factionists. At length, however, direct acts of interference upon the part of the national government, not only by its ministerial agents, but by its legislature, excited the mingled alarm and indignation of the colonists, who imagined that in sheltering themselves under a republic they were protected as amply as they would have been under the constitution of the North American Union. In this they were disappointed; for, in 1830, an arbitrary enactment—based no doubt upon a jealous dread of the growing value and size of a colony which formed a link between the United States and Mexico by resting against Tamaulipas and Louisiana, on the north and south,—prohibited entirely the future immigration of American settlers into Coahuila and Texas. To enforce this decree and to watch the loyalty of the actual inhabitants, military posts, composed of rude and ignorant Mexican soldiers, were sprinkled over the country. And, at last, the people of Texas found themselves entirely under military control.

This suited neither the principles nor tastes of the colonists, who, in 1832, took arms against this warlike interference with their municipal liberty, and after capturing the fort at Velasco, reduced to submission the garrisons at Anahuac and Nacogdoches. The separate state constitution which had been promised Texas in 1824, was never sanctioned by the Mexican Congress, though the colonists prepared the charter and were duly qualified for admission. But the crisis arrived when the centralists of 1835, overthrew the federal constitution of 1824. Several Mexican states rose independently against the despotic act. Zacatecas fought bravely for her rights, and saw her people basely slain by the myrmidons of Santa Anna. The legislature of Coahuila and Texas was dispersed [Pg 329] by the military; and, at last, the whole republic, save the pertinacious North Americans, yielded to the armed power of the resolute oppressor.

The alarmed settlers gathered together as quickly as they could and resolved to stand by their federative rights under the charter whose guaranties allured them into Mexico. Meetings were held in all the settlements, and a union was formed by means of correspondence. Arms were next resorted to and the Texans were victorious at Gonzales, Goliad, Bejar, Conception, Lepantitlan, San Patricio and San Antonio. In November they met in consultation, and in an able, resolute and dignified paper, declared that they had only taken up arms in defence of the constitution of 1824; that their object was to continue loyal to the confederacy if laws were made for the guardianship of their political rights, and that they offered their lives and arms in aid of other members of the republic who would rightfully rise against the military despotism.

But the other states, in which there was no infusion of North Americans or Europeans, refused to second this hardy handful of pioneers. Mexico will not do justice, in any of her commentaries on the Texan war, to the motives of the colonists. Charging them with an original and long meditated design to rob the republic of one of its most valuable provinces, she forgets entirely or glosses over, the military acts of Santa Anna's invading army, in March, 1836, at the Alamo and Goliad, which converted resistance into revenge. After those disgraceful scenes of carnage peace was no longer possible. Santa Anna imagined, no doubt, that he would terrify the settlers into submission if he could not drive them from the soil. But he mistook both their fortitude and their force; and, after the fierce encounter at San Jacinto, on the 21st of April, 1836, with Houston and his army, the power of Mexico over the insurgent state was effectually and forever broken.

After Santa Anna had been taken prisoner by the Texans, in this fatal encounter, and was released and sent home through the United States in order to fulfil his promise to secure the recognition of Texan independence, the colonists diligently began the work of creating for themselves a distinct nationality, for they failed in all their early attempts to incorporate themselves with the United States during the administrations of Jackson and Van Buren. These presidents were scrupulous and faithful guardians of national honor, while they respected the Mexican right of reconquest. Their natural sympathies were of course yielded to Texas, but their executive duties, the faith of treaties, and the sanctions of [Pg 330] international law forbade their acceding to the proposed union. Texas, accordingly, established a national government, elected her officers, regulated her trade, formed her army and navy, maintained her frontier secure from assault, and was recognized as, de facto, an independent sovereignty by the United States, England, France and Belgium. But these efforts of the infant republic did not end in mere preparations for a separate political existence and future commercial wealth. The rich soil of the lowlands along the numerous rivers that veined the whole region soon attracted large accessions of immigrants, and the trade of Texas began to assume significance in the markets of the world.

Meanwhile Mexico busied herself, at home, in revolutions, or in gathering funds and creating armies, destined, as the authorities professed, to reconquer the lost province. Yet all these military and financial efforts were never rendered available in the field, and, in reality, no adequate force ever marched towards the frontier. The men and money raised through the services and contributions of credulous citizens were actually designed to figure in the domestic drama of political power in the capital. No hostilities, of any significance, occurred between the revolutionists and the Mexicans after 1836, for we cannot regard the Texan expedition to Santa Fé, or the Mexican assault upon the town of Mier as belligerant acts deserving consideration as grave efforts made to assert or secure national rights.

Such was the condition of things from 1836 until 1844, during the whole of which period Texas exhibited to the world a far better aspect of well regulated sovereignty than Mexico herself. On the 12th of April of that year, more than seven years after Texas had established her independence, a treaty was concluded by President Tyler with the representatives of Texas for the annexation of that republic to the United States. In March, 1845, Congress passed a joint resolution annexing Texas to the union upon certain reasonable conditions, which were acceded to by that nation, whose convention erected a suitable state constitution, with which it became finally a member of our confederacy. In the meantime, the envoys of France and England, had opened negotiations for the recognition of Texan independence, which terminated successfully; but when they announced their triumph, on the 20th of May, 1845, Texas was already annexed conditionally to the United States by the act of congress.

The joint resolution of annexation, passed by our congress, was protested against by General Almonte, the Mexican minister at that [Pg 331] period in Washington, as an act of aggression "the most unjust which can be found in the annals of modern history" and designed to despoil a friendly nation of a considerable portion of her territory. He announced, in consequence, the termination of his mission, and demanded his passports to leave the country. In Mexico, soon after, a bitter and badly conducted correspondence took place between the minister of foreign affairs and Mr. Shannon, our envoy. And thus, within a brief period, these two nations found themselves unrepresented in each other's capital and on the eve of a serious dispute.

But the government of the United States,—still sincerely anxious to preserve peace, or at least, willing to try every effort to soothe the irritated Mexicans and keep the discussion in the cabinet rather than transfer it to the battle field,—determined to use the kindly efforts of our consul, Mr. Black, who still remained in the capital, to seek an opportunity for the renewal of friendly intercourse. This officer was accordingly directed to visit the minister of foreign affairs and ascertain from the Mexican government whether it would receive an envoy from the United States, invested with full power to adjust all the questions in dispute between the two governments. The invitation was received with apparent good will, and in October, 1845, the Mexican government agreed to receive one, commissioned with full powers to settle the dispute in a peaceful, reasonable and honorable manner.


As soon as this intelligence reached the United States, Mr. John Slidell was dispatched as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary on the supposed mission of peace; but when he reached Vera Cruz in November, he found the aspect of affairs changed. The government of Herrera, with which Mr. Black's arrangement had been made, was tottering. General Paredes, a leader popular with the people and the army, availing himself of the general animosity against Texas, and the alleged desire of Herrera's cabinet to make peace with the United States, had determined to overthrow the constitutional government. There is scarcely a doubt that Herrera and his ministers were originally sincere in their desire to settle the international difficulty, and to maintain the spirit of the contract they had made. But the internal danger, with which they were menaced by the army and its daring demagogue, induced them to prevaricate as soon as Mr. Slidell presented his credentials for reception. All their pretexts were, in reality, frivolous, when we consider the serious results which were to flow from their enunciation. [Pg 332] The principal argument against the reception of our minister was, that his commission constituted him a regular envoy, and that, he was not confined to the discussion of the Texan question alone. Such a mission, the authorities alleged, placed the countries at once, diplomatically, upon an equal and ordinary footing of peace, and their objection therefore, if it had any force, at all, was to the fact, that we exhibited through the credentials of our envoy, the strongest evidence that one nation can give to another of perfect amity! We had, in truth, no questions in dispute between us, except boundary and indemnity;—for Texas, as a sovereignty acknowledged by the acts, not only of the United States and of European powers, but in consequence of her own maintenance of perfect nationality and independence, had a right to annex herself to the United States. The consent of Mexico to acknowledge her independence in 1845, under certain conditions, effectually proved this fact beyond dispute.

Whilst the correspondence between Slidell and the Mexican ministry was going on, Paredes continued his hostile demonstrations, and, on the 30th of December, 1845, president Herrera, who anxiously desired to avoid bloodshed, resigned the executive chair to him without a struggle. Feeble as was the hope of success with the new authorities, our government, still anxious to close the contest peacefully, directed Mr. Slidell to renew the proposal for his reception to Paredes. These instructions he executed on the first of March, 1846, but his request was refused by the Mexican minister of foreign affairs, on the twelfth of that month, and our minister was forthwith obliged to return from his unsuccessful mission.

All the public documents, and addresses of Paredes, made during the early movements of his revolution and administration, breathe the deadliest animosity to our union. He invokes the god of battles, and calls the world to witness the valor of Mexican arms. The revolution which raised him to power, was declared to be sanctioned by the people, who were impatient for another war, in which they might avenge the aggressions of a government that sought to prostrate them. Preparations were made for a Texan campaign. Loans were raised, and large bodies of troops were moved to the frontiers. General Arista, suspected of kindness to our country, was superceded in the north by General Ampudia, who arrived at Matamoros on the 11th of April, 1846, with two hundred cavalry, followed by two thousand men to be united with the large body of soldiery already in Matamoros.

[Pg 333] These military demonstrations denoted the unquestionable design and will of Paredes, who had acquired supreme power by a revolution founded upon the solemn pledge of hostility against the United States and reconquest of Texas. His military life in Mexico made him a despot. He had no confidence in the ability of his fellow-citizens to govern themselves. He believed republicanism an Utopian dream of his visionary countrymen. Free discussion through the press was prohibited, during his short rule, and his satellites advocated the establishment of a throne to be occupied by an European prince. These circumstances induced our government to believe, that any counter-revolution in Mexico, which might destroy the ambitious and unpatriotic projects of Paredes, would promote the cause of peace, and accordingly, it saw with pleasure, the prospect of a new outbreak which might result in the downfall, and total destruction of the greatest enemy we possessed on the soil of our sister republic.


Signature of Lopez de Santa Anna

[Pg 334]



Whilst Slidell was negotiating, and, in consequence of the anticipated failure of his effort to be received,—as was clearly indicated by the conduct of the Mexican government upon his arrival in the capital,—General Taylor, who had been stationed at Corpus Christi, in Texas, since the fall of 1845, with a body of regular troops, was directed, on the 13th of January, 1846, to move his men to the mouth of the Rio Grande. He, accordingly left his encampment on the 8th of March, and, on the 25th, reached Point Isabel, having encountered no serious opposition on the way. The march to the Rio Grande has been made the subject of complaint by politicians in Mexico and the United States, who believed that the territory lying between that river and the Nueces, was not the property of Texas. But inasmuch as Mexico still continued vehemently to assert her political right over the whole of Texas, the occupation of any part of its soil, south of the Sabine, by American troops, was in that aspect of the case, quite as much an infringement of Mexican sovereignty, as the march of our troops, from the Nueces to the Rio Grande.

As it is important that the reader should understand the original title to Louisiana, under which the boundary of the Rio Grande, was claimed, first of all for that state, and, subsequently, for Texas, we shall relate its history in a summary manner.

Louisiana had been the property of France, and by a secret contract between that country and Spain in 1762, as well as by treaties between France, Spain, and England, in the following year, the French dominion was extinguished on the continent of America. In consequence of the treaty between this country and England in 1783, the Mississippi became the western boundary of the United States, from its source to the thirty-first degree of north latitude, [Pg 335] and thence, on the same parallel, to the St. Mary's. France, it will be remembered, had always claimed dominion in Louisiana to the Rio Bravo del Norte, or Rio Grande; by virtue:—

1st. Of the discovery of the Mississippi from near its source to the ocean.

2d. Of the possession taken, and establishment made by La Salle, at the bay of Saint Bernard, west of the river Trinity and Colorado, by authority of Louis XIV. in 1635—notwithstanding the subsequent destruction of the colony.

3d. Of the charter of Louis XIV. to Crozat in 1712.

4th. Of the historical authority of Du Pratz, Champigny and the Count de Vergennes.

5th. Of the authority of De Lisle's map, and of the map published in 1762, by Don Thomas Lopez, Geographer to the king of Spain, as well as of various other maps, atlases, and geographical authorities.

By an article of the secret treaty of San Ildefonso in October, 1800, Spain retroceded Louisiana to France, but this treaty was not promulgated until the beginning of 1802. The paragraph of cession is as follows: "His Catholic majesty engages to retrocede to the French republic, six months after the full and entire execution of the conditions and stipulations above recited, relative to his royal highness the Duke of Parma, the colony and province of Louisiana, with the same extent that it already has in the hands of Spain, and that it had when France possessed it, and, such as it should be, after the treaties passed subsequently between Spain and other powers." In 1803, Bonaparte, the first consul of the French republic, ceded Louisiana to the United States, as fully, and in the same manner, as it had been retroceded to France by Spain, under the treaty of San Ildefonso; and, by virtue of this grant, Messrs. Madison, Monroe, Adams, Clay, Van Buren, Jackson, and Polk, contended that the original limit of the new state had been the Rio Grande. However, by the third article of our treaty with Spain, in 1819, all our pretensions to extend the territory of Louisiana towards Mexico on the Rio Grande, were abandoned by adopting the river Sabine as our boundary in that quarter.

The Mexican authorities upon this subject are either silent or doubtful. No light is to be gathered from the geographical researches of Humboldt, whose elucidations of New Spain are in many respects the fullest and most satisfactory. In the year 1835, Stephen Austin published a map of Texas, representing the Nueces as the western confine,—and in 1836, General Almonte the former [Pg 336] minister from Mexico to the United States, published a memoir upon Texas in which, whilst describing the Texan department of Bejar, he says—"That notwithstanding it has been hitherto believed that the Rio de las Nueces is the dividing line of Coahuila and Texas, inasmuch as it is always thus represented on maps, I am informed by the government of the state, that geographers have been in error upon this subject; and that the true line should commence at the mouth of the river Aransaso, and follow it to its source; thence, it should continue by a straight line until it strikes the junction of the rivers Medina and San Antonio, and then, pursuing the east bank of the Medina to its head waters, it should terminate on the confines of Chihuahua." [67]

The true origin of the Mexican war was not this march of Taylor and his troops from the Nueces to the Rio Grande, through the debatable land. The American and Mexican troops were brought face to face by the act, and hostilities were the natural result after the exciting annoyances upon the part of the Mexican government which followed the union of Texas with our confederacy. Besides this, General Paredes, the usurping president, had already declared in Mexico, on the 18th of April, 1846, in a letter addressed to the commanding officer on the northern frontier, that he supposed him at the head of a valiant army on the theatre of action;—and that it was indispensable to commence hostilities, the Mexicans themselves taking the initiative!

We believe that our nation and its rulers earnestly desired honorable peace, though they did not shun the alternative of war. It was impossible to permit a conterminous neighbor who owed us large sums of money, and was hostile to the newly adopted state, to select unopposed her mode and moment of attack. Mexico would neither resign her pretensions upon Texas, negotiate, receive our minister, nor remain at peace. She would neither declare war, nor cultivate friendship, and the result was, that when the armies approached each other, but little time was lost in resorting to the cannon and the sword.

As soon as General Taylor reached the Rio Grande he left a command at the mouth of the river, and taking post opposite Matamoros erected a fort, the guns of which bore directly upon the city. The Mexicans, whose artillery might have been brought to play upon the works, from the opposite side of the river, made no hostile demonstration against the left bank for some time, nor did they interrupt the construction of the fort. Reinforcements, however, [Pg 337] were constantly arriving in the city. Ampudia and Arista were there. Interviews were held between the Mexican authorities and our officers, in which the latter were ordered to retire from the soil it was alleged they were usurping. But as this was a diplomatic, and not a military question, General Taylor resolved to continue in position, though his forces were perhaps inadequate to contend with the augmenting numbers of the foe. He examined the country thoroughly by his scouting parties and pushed his reconnoissances, on the left bank, from Point Isabel to some distance beyond his encampment opposite Matamoros. Whilst engaged in this service, some of his officers and men were captured or killed by the ranchero cavalry of the enemy; and, on the 24th of April, Captain Thornton who had been sent to observe the country above the encampment with sixty-three dragoons, fell into an ambuscade, out of which they endeavored to cut their way, but were forced to surrender with a loss of sixteen killed and wounded. This was the first blood spilled in actual conflict.


Life near the river



Meanwhile, in the United States, the news of Taylor's supposed danger, greatly exaggerated by rumor, was spread far and wide. An actual war had, perhaps, not been seriously apprehended. Taylor had been expressly commanded to refrain from aggression. It was supposed that the mere presence of our troops on the frontier would preserve Texas from invasion, and that negotiations would ultimately terminate the dispute. This is the only ground upon which we can reasonably account for the apparent carelessness of our government in not placing a force upon the Rio Grande, adequate to encounter all the opposing array. Congress was in session when the news reached Washington. The president immediately announced the fact, and, on the 13th of May, 1846, ten millions of dollars were appropriated to carry on the war, and fifty thousand volunteers were ordered to be raised. An "Army of the West" was directed to be formed under the command of Kearney, at fort Leavenworth, on the Missouri, which was to cross the country to the Pacific, after capturing New Mexico. An "Army of the Centre," under General Wool, was to assemble at San Antonio de Bejar whence it was to march upon Coahuila and Chihuahua, and, whilst the heart and the west of Mexico were penetrated by these officers, it was designed that Taylor should make war on the northern and eastern states of the Mexican republic. In addition to these orders to the army, the naval forces, under Commodores Stockton and Sloat in the Pacific, and Commodore Conner, in the Gulf of Mexico, were commanded to co-operate with our land [Pg 338] forces, to harass the enemy, and to aid, with all their power, in the subjugation and capture of Mexican property and territory.

Immediately after Thornton's surrender, General Taylor, availing himself of authority with which he had been invested to call upon the governors of Louisiana and Texas for military aid, demanded four regiments of volunteers from each state, for the country in the neighborhood of the Rio Grande was alive with belligerant Mexicans. He then visited the fortifications opposite Matamoros, and finding the garrison but scantly supplied with provisions, hastened back to Point Isabel with a formidable escort, and obtaining the requisite rations, commenced his march back to Matamoros and the fort on the 7th of May. But, in the interval, General Arista, had crossed the Rio Grande with his forces, and on the 8th, our General encountered him, drawn up in battle array at Palo Alto and ready to dispute his passage along the road. A sharp engagement ensued between the two armies from two o'clock in the afternoon until nearly dark, when the Mexicans withdrew from the action for the night. Our total force in this affair, according to official reports, was two thousand two hundred and eighty-eight, while that of Mexico, according to the admission of the officers, amounted to six thousand regulars with a large and probably undisciplined force drawn, at random, from the country.

The night of the 8th was passed with some anxiety in the American camp, for the fierce conflict of the day induced many prudent officers to believe it best either to return to Point Isabel or await reinforcements before again giving battle to the enemy. General Taylor heard and weighed the opinions of his most reliable officers, but, after due reflection, determined to advance. The condition of the fort opposite Matamoros demanded his urgent aid. The moral effect of a retreat would be great, at the commencement of a war, both on Mexico and our own troops; and, moreover, he had perfect confidence in the disciplined regulars who sustained so nobly the brunt of the first battle.

Accordingly the troops were advanced early on the 9th, for they found, at day dawn, that the Mexicans had abandoned Palo Alto for a stronger position nearer the centre of action and interest at Matamoros. After advancing cautiously, in readiness for immediate battle, our men came up with the Mexicans, in the Resaca de la Palma, or as it is properly called La Resaca del Guerrero,—the "Ravine of the Warrior," which afforded them a natural defence against our approach along the road. The ravine, curved across the highway and was flanked by masses of prickly plants [Pg 339] aloes, and undergrowth, matted into impenetrable thickets, known in Mexico as chapparal. The action was begun by the infantry in skirmishes with the foe, and after the centre of the position on the road had been severely harassed and damaged by our flying artillery, a gallant charge of the dragoons broke the Mexican lines and opened a pathway to Matamoros. The engagement lasted a short time after this combined movement of artillery and cavalry, but, before night fall the enemy was in full flight to the river and our garrison at the fort joyously relieved. In the interval, this position had been bombarded and cannonaded by the Mexicans from the opposite side of the river, and its commanding officer slain. In memory of his valiant defence, the place has been honored with the name of Fort Brown.

After General Taylor had occupied Matamoros on the 18th of May,—and he was only prevented from capturing it and all the Mexican forces and ammunition on the night of the 9th by the want of a ponton train, which he had vainly demanded,—he established his base line for future operations in the interior, along the Rio Grande, extending several hundred miles near that stream. His task of organizing, accepting, or rejecting the multitudes of recruits who flocked to his standard, was not only oppressive but difficult, for he found it hard to disappoint the patriotic fervor of hundreds who were anxious to engage in the war. The Quatermaster's department, too, was one of incessant toil and anxiety; because, called unexpectedly and for the first time into active service in the field, it was comparatively unprepared to answer the multitude of requisitions that were daily made upon it by the government, the general officers, and the recruits. The whole material of a campaign was to be rapidly created. Money was to be raised; steamers bought; ships chartered; wagons built and transported; levies brought to the field of action; munitions of war and provisions distributed over the whole vast territory which it was designed to occupy! Whilst these things were going on, the country, at home, was ripe, and most eager for action.

Nor was our government inattentive to the internal politics of Mexico. It perceived at once that there was no hope of effecting a peace with the administration of Paredes, whose bitter hostility was of course, not mitigated by the first successes of our arms. Santa Anna, it will be recollected had left Mexico after the amnesty in 1845, and it was known there was open hostility between him and Paredes who had contributed so greatly to his downfall. Information was, moreover, received from reliable sources in Washington, [Pg 340] that a desire prevailed in the republic to recall the banished chief and to seat him once more in the presidential chair; and, at the same time, there was cause to believe that if he again obtained supreme power he would not be averse to accommodate matters upon a satisfactory basis between the countries. Orders were, accordingly issued to Commodore Conner, who commanded the home squadron in the gulf, to offer no impediment if Santa Anna approached the coast with a design of entering Mexico. The exiled president was duly apprised of these facts, and when the revolution actually occurred in his favor in the following summer and his rival fell from power, he availed himself of the order to pass the lines of the blockading squadron at Vera Cruz.

After General Taylor had completely made his preparations to advance into the interior along his base on the Rio Grande, he moved forward gradually, capturing and garrisoning all the important posts along the river. At length the main body of the army, under Worth and Taylor reached the neighborhood of Monterey, the capital of the state of New Leon, situated at the foot of the Sierra Madre on a plain, but in a position which would enable it to make a stout resistance, especially as it was understood that the Mexican army had gathered itself up in this stronghold, which was the key of the northern provinces and on the main highway to the interior, in order to strike a death blow at the invaders. On the 5th of September, the divisions concentrated at Marin, and on the 9th they advanced to the Walnut Springs, which afterwards became, for so long a period, the headquarters of the gallant "Army of Occupation."

Reconnoissances of the adjacent country were immediately made and it was resolved to attack the city by a bold movement towards its southern side that would cut off its communications through the gap in the mountains by which the road led to Saltillo. Accordingly General Worth was detached on this difficult but honorable service with a strong and reliable corps, and, after excessive toil, hard fighting and wonderful endurance upon the part of our men, the desired object was successfully gained. An unfinished and fortified edifice called the Bishop's Palace, on the summit of a steep hill was stormed and taken, and thus an important vantage ground, commanding the city by a plunging shot, was secured.

Meanwhile, General Taylor seeking to withdraw or distract the enemy from his designs on the southern and western sides of the city, made a movement under General Butler, of Kentucky, upon its northern front. What was probably designed only as a feint [Pg 341] soon became a severe and deadly conflict. Our men,—especially the volunteers,—eager to flesh their swords in the first conflict with which the war indulged them, rushed into the city, which seems to have been amply prepared, in that quarter, with barricades, forts, loop-holes, and every means of defence suitable for the narrow streets and flat roofed and parapeted houses of a Spanish town. After the first deadly onset there was, of course, no intention or desire to abandon the conflict, fatal as its prosecution might ultimately become. On they fought from street to street, and house to house, and yard to yard, until night closed over the dying and the dead. On the second day a different system of approach was adopted. Instead of risking life in the street which was raked from end to end by artillery, or rendered untenable by the hidden marksmen who shot our men from behind the walls of the house tops, our forces were thrown into the dwellings, and breaking onward through walls and enclosures, gradually mined their way towards the plaza or great square of Monterey.

Thus, both divisions under the eyes of Worth, Butler and Taylor, successfully performed their assigned tasks, until it became evident to the Mexicans that their town must fall, and, that if finally taken by the sword, it would be given up to utter destruction and pillage. A capitulation was therefore proposed by Ampudia who stipulated for the withdrawal of his forces and an armistice. Our force was in no condition to seize, hold, and support a large body of prisoners of war, nor was it prepared immediately to follow up the victory by penetrating the interior. General Taylor, who was resolved not to shed a single drop of needless blood in the campaign, granted the terms; and, thus, this strong position, garrisoned by nearly ten thousand troops, sustained by more than forty pieces of artillery, yielded to our army of seven thousand, unsupported by a battering train and winning the day by hard fighting alone. The attack began on the 21st of September, continued during the two following days, and the garrison capitulated on the 24th. This capitulation and armistice were assented to by our commander after mature consultation and approval of his principal officers. The Mexicans informed him, that Paredes had been deposed,—that Santa Anna was in power, and that peace would soon be made; but the authorities, at home, eager for fresh victories, or pandering to public and political taste, did not approve and confirm an act, for which General Taylor has, nevertheless received, as he truly merits, the just applause of impartial history.


[67] Memorias para la historia de la Guerra de Tejas, vol. ii, p. 543.

[Pg 342]



General Wool, who had been for a long period inspector general of the United States army, was entrusted with the difficult task of examining the recruits in the west, and set forth on his journey after receiving his orders on the 29th of May, 1846. He traversed the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi, and, in somewhat less than two months, had journeyed three thousand miles and mustered twelve thousand men into service. This expedition of a hardy soldier exhibits, at once, the powers of a competent American officer, and the facility with which an efficient corps d'armée, may at any urgent moment, be raised in our country.

Nearly nine thousand of these recruits were sent to Taylor on the Rio Grande, while those who were destined for the "Army of the Centre," rendezvoused at Bejar, in Texas. At this place their commander Wool joined them, and commenced the rigid system of discipline, under accomplished officers, which made his division a model in the army. He marched from Bejar with five hundred regulars and two thousand four hundred and fifty volunteers, on the 20th of September, and passed onwards through Presidio, Nava, and across the Sierra of San José and Santa Rosa, and the rivers Alamos, Sabine, and del Norte, until he reached Monclova. He had been directed to advance to Chihuahua, but as this place was in a great measure controlled by the states of New Leon and Coahuila which were already in our possession, he desisted from pursuing his march thither, and, after communicating with General Taylor and learning the fall of Monterey, he pushed on to the fertile region of Parras and thence to the headquarters of General Taylor, in the month of December, as soon as he was apprised of the danger which menaced him at that period.

[Pg 343] We have already said that it was part of our government's original plan to reduce New Mexico and California,—a task which was imposed upon Colonel Kearney, a hardy frontier fighter, long used to Indian character and Indian warfare—who, upon being honored with the command was raised to the rank of Brigadier General. This officer moved from Fort Leavenworth on the 30th of June, towards Santa Fé, the capital of New Mexico, with an army of sixteen hundred men, and after an unresisted march of eight hundred and seventy-three miles, he reached his destination on the 18th of August. Possession of the place was given without a blow, and it is probable that the discreet Armijo yielded to the advice of American counsellors in his capital, in surrendering without bloodshed to our forces. Kearney had been authorized to organize and muster into service a battalion of emigrants to Oregon and California, who eagerly availed themselves of this favorable military opportunity to reach their distant abodes on the shores of the Pacific. After organizing the new government of Santa Fé, forming a new code of organic laws, and satisfying himself of the stability of affairs in that quarter, Kearney departed on his mission to California. But he had not gone far when he was met by an express with information of the fall of that portion of Mexico, and immediately sent back the main body of his men, continuing his route through the wilderness with the escort of one hundred dragoons alone. In September of this year, a regiment of New York volunteer infantry had been despatched thither also, by sea, under the command of Colonel Stevenson.

There is evidence in existence that shortly before the commencement of this war, it had been contemplated to place a large portion of the most valuable districts of California, indirectly, under British protection, by grants to an Irish Catholic clergyman named Macnamara, who projected a colony of his countrymen in those regions. He excited the Mexicans to accede to his proposal by appeals to their religious prejudices against the Protestants of the north, who, he alleged, would seize the jewel unless California was settled by his countrymen whose creed would naturally unite them with the people and institutions of Mexico. "Within a year, he declared, California would become a part of the American nation; and, inundated by cruel invaders, their Catholic institutions would be the prey of Methodist wolves." The government of Mexico granted three thousand square leagues in the rich valley of San Joaquin, embracing San Francisco, Monterey, and Santa Barbara, to this behest of the foreign priest; but his patent could [Pg 344] not be perfected until the governor of California sanctioned his permanent tenure of the land.

In November, 1845, Lieutenant Gillespie was despatched from Washington with verbal instructions to Captain Frémont who had been pursuing his scientific examinations of California, and had been inhospitably ordered by the authorities to quit the country. Early in March of 1846, the bold explorer was within the boundaries of Oregon, where he was found, in the following May, by Gillespie, who delivered him his verbal orders and a letter of credence from the Secretary of State.

In consequence of this message, Frémont abandoned his camp in the forest, surrounded by hostile Indians, and moved south to the valley of the Sacramento, where he was at once hailed by the American settlers, who, together with the foreigners generally, had received orders from the Mexican General Castro, to leave California. Frémont's small band immediately formed the nucleus of a revolutionary troop, which gathered in numbers as it advanced south, and abstaining guardedly from acts which might disgust the people, they injured no individuals and violated no private property. On the 14th of June, Sonoma was taken possession of, and was garrisoned by a small force, under Mr. Ide, who issued a proclamation, inviting all to come to his camp and aid in forming a republican government. Coure and Fowler, two young Americans, were murdered about this period in the neighborhood, and others were taken prisoners under Padilla. But the belligerants were pursued to San Raphael by Captain Ford, where they were conquered by the Americans; and, on the 25th of June, Frémont, who heard that Castro was approaching with two hundred men, joined the camp at Sonoma. Thus far, every thing had been conducted with justice and liberality by our men. They studiously avoided disorderly conduct or captures, and invariably promised payment for the supplies that were taken for the support of the troopers. The Californians were in reality gratified by the prospect of American success in their territory, for they believed that it would secure a stable and progressive government, under which, that beautiful region would be gradually developed.

On the 5th of July, the Californian Americans declared their independence, and organizing a battalion, of which Frémont was the chief, they raised the standard of the Bear and Star.


A distant community near the mountains



Frémont, at the head of his new battalion, moved his camp to Sutter's Fort on the Sacramento and whilst he was preparing, in July, to follow General Castro to Santa Clara, he received the joyful [Pg 345] news that Commodore Sloat had raised the American flag on the 7th of the month at Monterey, and that war actually existed between Mexico and the United States. The Californian Americans of course immediately abandoned their revolution for the national war, and substituted the American ensign for the grisly emblem under which they designed conquering the territory.

On the 8th of July, Commander Montgomery took possession of San Francisco, and soon after, Frémont joined Commodore Sloat at Monterey. Sloat, who had in reality acted upon the faith of Frémont's operations in the north, knowing that Gillespie had been sent to him as a special messenger, and having heard, whilst at Mazatlan, of the warlike movements on the Rio Grande, was rather fearful that he had been precipitate in his conduct; but he resolved to maintain what he had done; and accordingly, when admiral Sir George Seymour, arrived in the Collingwood at Monterey, on the 6th of July, the grants to the Irish clergyman were not completed, and the American flag was already floating on every important post in the north of California. Seymour took Macnamara on board his ship, and thus the hopes of the British partizans were effectually blighted when the Admiral and his passenger sailed from the coast.

Commodore Stockton arrived at Monterey during this summer and Sloat returned to the United States, leaving the Commodore in command. Frémont and Gillespie, who were at the head of forces on shore determined to act under the orders of the naval commander, and Stockton immediately prepared for a military movement against the city of Los Angeles, where, he learned, that General Castro and the civil governor Pico had assembled six hundred men. Frémont and the Commodore, embarking their forces at Monterey, sailed for San Pedro and San Diego, where, landing their troops, they united and took possession of Los Angeles on the 13th of August. The public buildings, archives and property fell into their possession without bloodshed, for Castro, the commanding general, fled at their approach. Stockton issued a proclamation announcing these facts to the people on the 17th of August, and having instituted a government, directed elections, and required an oath of allegiance from the military. He appointed Frémont, military commandant and Gillespie, secretary. On the 28th of August he reported these proceedings to the government at Washington, by the messenger who was met by General Kearney, as we have already related, on his way from Santa Fé to the Pacific. Carson, the courier, apprised the General of the conquest [Pg 346] of California, and was obliged by him to return as his guide, whilst a new messenger was despatched towards the east, with the missives, escorted by the residue of the troop which was deemed useless for further military efforts on the shores of the Pacific.

But before Kearney reached his destination, a change had come over affairs in California. Castro returned to the charge in September with a large Mexican force headed by General Flores, and the town of Los Angeles and the surrounding country having revolted, expelled the American garrison. Four hundred marines who landed from the Savannah under Captain Mervine, were repulsed, while the garrison of Santa Barbara, under Lieutenant Talbott had retired before a large body of Californians and Mexicans. Frémont, immediately resolving to increase his battalion, raised four hundred and twenty-eight men, chiefly from the emigrants who moved this year to California. He mounted his troopers on horses procured in the vicinity of San Francisco and Sutter's Fort, and marched secretly but quickly to San Luis Obispo, where he surprised and captured Don Jesus Pico, the commandant of that military post. Pico having been found in arms had broken his parole, given during the early pacification, and a court-martial sentenced him to be shot; but Frémont, still steadily pursuing his humane policy towards the Californians, pardoned the popular and influential chieftain, who, from that hour, was his firm friend throughout the subsequent troubles.

On Christmas day of 1846, amid storm and rain, in which a hundred horses and mules perished, Frémont and his brave battalion passed the mountain of Santa Barbara. Skirting the coast through the long maritime pass at Punto Gordo,—protected on one flank by one of the vessels of the navy, and assailed, on the other, by fierce bands of mounted Californians,—they moved onward until they reached the plain of Couenga where the enemy was drawn up with a force equal to their own. Frémont summoned the hostile troops to surrender, and after their consent to a parley, went to them with Don Jesus Pico and arranged the terms of the capitulation, by which they bound themselves to deliver their arms to our soldiers and to conform, at home, to the laws of the United States, though no Californians should be compelled to take an oath of allegiance to the United States, until the war was ended and the treaty either exonerated them or changed their nationality.

Meanwhile General Kearney, on his westward march from Santa Fé, had reached a place called Warner's Rancho, thirty-three miles from San Diego, where a captured Californian mail for Sonoma apprised him that the southern part of the territory was wrested [Pg 347] from our troops. The letters exulted over our discomfiture, but it was supposed that, as usual in Mexico, they exaggerated the misfortune of the Americans. Kearney's small troop was much enfeebled by the long and fatiguing journey it had made from Santa Fé amid great privations. From Warner's Rancho the commander communicated with Stockton by means of a neutral Englishman, and, on the 5th of December, was joined by Gillespie, who informed him, that a mounted Californian force, under Andres Pico, was prepared to dispute his passage towards the coast. On the 6th the Americans left the rancho, resolving to come suddenly upon the enemy, and confident that the usual success of our troops would attend the exploit;—but the fresh forces of this hardy and brave Californian band, composed perhaps, of some of the most expert horsemen in that region, were far more than a match for the toil-worn troopers of Kearney. Eighteen of our men were killed in this action at San Pascual, and thirteen wounded. For several days the camp of the Americans was besieged by the fierce and hardy children of the soil. The provisions of the beleagured band were scant, and it was almost entirely deprived of water. Its position was, in every respect, most disastrous, and, in all probability, it would have perished from famine or fallen an easy prey to the Mexicans, had not the resolute Carson, accompanied by Lieutenant Beale and an Indian, volunteered to pass the dangerous lines of the enemy to seek assistance at San Diego. These heroic men performed their perilous duty, and Lieutenant Grey, with a hundred and eighty soldiers and marines, reached and relieved his anxious countrymen on the 10th of December, bringing them, in two days, to the American camp at San Diego.

As soon as the band had recruited its strength, Kearney naturally became anxious to engage in active service. He had been sent to California, according to the language of his instructions, to conquer and govern it; but he found Commodore Stockton already in the position of governor, with an ample naval force at his orders, whilst the broken remnant of the dragoons who accompanied him from Santa Fé, was altogether incompetent to subdue the revolted territory. By himself therefore, he was altogether inadequate for any successful military move. Stockton, quite as anxious as Kearney to engage in active hostilities, was desirous to accompany the general as his aid; but Kearney declined the service, and, in turn, volunteered to become the aid of Stockton. The commodore, less accustomed, perhaps, to military etiquette than to prompt and useful action at a moment of difficulty, resolved at once to end the game of idle compliments, and accepted the offer of General Kearney; but, [Pg 348] before they departed, Stockton agreed that he might command the expedition in a position subordinate to him as commander-in-chief.

On the 29th of December, with sixty volunteers, four hundred marines, six heavy pieces of artillery, eleven heavy wagons, and fifty-seven dragoons composing the remains of General Kearney's troop, they marched towards the north, and, on the 7th of January, found themselves near the river San Gabrielle, the passage of which the enemy, with superior numbers under General Flores, was prepared to dispute. It was a contest between American sailors and soldiers, and California horsemen, for the whole Mexican troop was mounted; yet the Americans were successful and crossed the river. This action occurred about nine miles from Los Angeles, and our men pushed on six miles further, till they reached the Mesa, a level prairie, where Flores again attacked them and was beaten off. Retreating thence to Couenga, the Californians, refusing to submit to Stockton and Kearney, capitulated, as we have already declared to Colonel Frémont, who had been raised to this rank by our government. On the morning of the 10th of January, 1847, the Americans took final possession of Los Angeles. Soon after this a government was established for California, which was to continue until the close of the war or until the government or the population of the region changed it.

The disputes which arose between Stockton, Kearney, and Frémont, as to the right to command in California, under the orders from their respective departments, are matters rather of private and personal interest than of such public concern as would entitle them to be minutely recounted in this brief sketch of the Mexican war. It is impossible to present a faithful idea of the controversy and its merits without entering into a detail of all the circumstances, but for this, we have no space, in the present history. Strict military etiquette appears to have demanded of Kearney, immediately upon his arrival, the assertion of his right to command as a general officer operating in the interior of the country. This was a question solely between Stockton and himself, in which Frémont, a subordinate officer, recently transplanted from the Topographical corps into the regular army as a Colonel, had of course, no interest save that of duty. Nevertheless he became involved in the controversy between the claimants, and although raised to the rank of Governor of California, by Commodore Stockton, he was deprived of his authority when General Kearney subsequently assumed that station. The disputes between the Commodore and the General seem to have arisen under the somewhat conflicting instructions of the War and [Pg 349] Navy Departments, and were calculated, as distinguished officers afterwards declared officially, to "embarrass the mind, and to excite the doubts of officers of greater experience" than the Colonel.

Although Frémont's services were lost for a while on the shores of the Pacific, he was not forgotten either there, or at home. What he had done for his country in that remote region by exploring its solitudes with his hardy band; what he added to geographical and general science; what regions he almost revealed to American pioneers; what services he rendered in securing a happy issue to the war in California—have all been recollected with gratitude and rewarded with the virgin honors of the new born State. But, at that time, this brilliant officer who combined the science of Humboldt with the energy and more than the generosity of Cortéz, was doomed to suffer more than the temporary deprivation of power. After the war was in reality over, after Commodore Stockton had departed and General Kearney had assumed the governorship which was subsequently given to Colonel Mason—Frémont was refused permission to continue his scientific pursuits in California or to join his regiment on the active fields of Mexico. When General Kearney turned his face homewards, towards the close of the spring of 1847, Frémont was ordered to follow in his train across the mountains, and was finally arrested at Fort Leavenworth, on the borders of civilization. During the next winter he was tried by a Court Martial on charges of mutiny, disobedience, and conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline, and being found guilty was sentenced to be dismissed the service. A majority of the court, however, considering all the circumstances of the case, recommended him to the lenient judgment of the President, who not being satisfied that the facts proved the military crime of mutiny—though he sustained the court's opinion otherwise—and recognizing Frémont's previous meritorious and valuable services, released him from arrest, restored his sword and ordered him to report for duty. But Frémont, feeling unconscious, as he declared, of having done any thing to merit the finding of the court, declined the offered restoration to the service, as he could not, "by accepting the clemency of the President, admit the justice of the decision against him."

[Pg 350]



We return from the theatre of these military operations on the shores of the Pacific, to the valley of the Rio Grande and the headquarters of General Taylor. The armistice at Monterey had ceased by the order of our government, and the commander of our forces, leaving Generals Worth and Butler at Monterey and Saltillo which had been seized, hastened with a sufficient body of troops to the gulf for the purpose of occupying Tampico, the capital of the state of Tamaulipas. But he did not advance further than Victoria, when he found that Tampico had surrendered to Commodore Conner on the 14th of November.

In the meanwhile the political aspect of Mexico was changed under the rule of Santa Anna who had returned to power, though he had not realized the hopes of our president by acceding to an honorable peace. A secret movement that was made by an agent sent into the country proved altogether unsuccessful, for the people were aroused against this union, and would listen, willingly, to no advances for accommodation. Santa Anna, cautiously noted the national feeling, and, being altogether unable to control or modify it,—although he studiously refrained from committing himself prior to his return to the capital,—he resolved to place himself at the head of the popular movement in defence of the northern frontier. Accordingly, in December, 1846, he had already assembled a large force, amounting to twenty thousand men, at San Luis Potosi, the capital of the state of that name south of Monterey, on the direct road to the heart of the internal provinces, and nearly midway between the gulf and the Pacific.

The news of this hostile gathering which was evidently designed [Pg 351] to assail our Army of Occupation, soon reached the officers who had been left in command at our headquarters during Taylor's absence; and, in consequence of a despatch sent by express to General Wool at Parras for reinforcements, that officer immediately put his whole column in motion, and, after marching one hundred and twenty miles in four days, found himself at Agua Nueva, within twenty-one miles of Saltillo. Thus sustained, the officers in command, awaited with anxiety, the movements of the Mexican chief and the return of General Taylor.

But, in the meantime, the administration at home, seeing the inutility of continuing the attacks upon the more northern outposts of Mexico,—which it was, nevertheless, resolved to hold as indemnifying hostages, inasmuch as they were contiguous to our own soil and boundaries,—determined to strike a blow at the vitals of Mexico by seizing her principal eastern port and proceeding thence to the capital. For this purpose, General Scott, who had been set aside at the commencement of the war in consequence of a rupture between himself and the war department whilst arranging the details of the campaign,—was once more summoned into the field and appointed commander-in-chief of the American army in Mexico. Up to this period, November, 1846, large recruits of regulars and volunteers had flocked to the standard of Taylor and were stationed at various posts in the valley of the Rio Grande, under the command of Generals Butler, Worth, Patterson, Quitman and Pillow. But the project of a descent upon Vera Cruz, which was warmly advocated by General Scott, made it necessary to detach a considerable portion of these levies, and of their most efficient and best drilled members. Taylor and his subordinate commanders, were thus, placed in a mere defensive position, and that, too, at a moment when they were threatened in front by the best army that had been assembled for many a year in Mexico.

It is probable that the government of the United States, at the moment it planned this expedition to Vera Cruz and the capital, was not fully apprised of the able and efficient arrangements of Santa Anna, or imagined that he would immediately quit San Luis Potosi in order to defend the eastern access to the capital, inasmuch as it was not probable that Taylor would venture to penetrate the country with impaired forces, which, in a strictly military point of view, were not more than adequate for garrison service along an extended base of three hundred miles. But, as the sequel showed, they neither estimated properly the time that would be consumed in concentrating the forces and preparing [Pg 352] the means for their transportation to Vera Cruz, nor judged correctly of the military skill of Santa Anna, who naturally preferred to crush the weak northern foe with his overwhelming force than to encounter the strong battalions of veterans who were to be led against him on the east by the most brilliant captain of our country.

The enterprise of General Scott was one of extraordinary magnitude and responsibility. With his usual foresight he determined that he would not advance until the expedition was perfectly complete in every essential of certain success. Nothing was permitted to disturb his equanimity or patient resolution in carrying out the scheme as he thought best. He weighed all the dangers and all the difficulties of the adventure, and placed no reliance upon the supposed weakness of the enemy. This was the true, soldier-like view of the splendid project; and if, at the time, men were found inconsiderate enough to blame him for procrastinating dalliance, the glorious result of his enterprise repaid him for all the petty sneers and misconceptions with which his discretion was undervalued by the carpet knights at home. There is but one point upon which we feel justified in disagreeing with his plan of campaign. He should not have weakened the command of General Taylor in the face of Santa Anna's army. It was almost an invitation to that chief for an attack upon the valley of the Rio Grande; and had the Army of Occupation been effectually destroyed at Buena Vista, scarcely an American would have remained, throughout the long line of Taylor's base, to tell the tale of cruelties perpetrated by the flushed and revengeful victors.


Whilst events were maturing and preparations making in the valley of the Rio Grande and the island of Lobos, we shall direct our attention again for a short time to the central regions of the north of Mexico in the neighborhood of Santa Fé.

A considerable force of Missourians had been organized under the command of Colonel Doniphan, and marched to New Mexico, whence it was designed to despatch him towards Chihuahua. Soon after General Kearney's departure from Santa Fé for California, Colonel Price, who was subsequently raised to the rank of general, reached that post with his western recruits and took command, whilst Doniphan was directed, by orders from Kearney, dated near La Joya, to advance with his regiment against the Navajo Indians, who had threatened with war the New Mexicans, now under our protection. He performed this service successfully; [Pg 353] and, on the 22d of November, 1846, made a treaty with the chiefs, binding them to live in amity with the Spaniards and Americans. Reassembling all his troops at Val Verde, he commenced his march to the south, in the middle of December, and, after incredible difficulties and great sufferings from inadequate supplies and equipments he reached Chihuahua, fighting, on the march, two successful actions against the Mexicans at Bracito, and Sacramento. Having completely routed the enemy in the latter contest, Chihuahua fell into his power. Here he tarried, recruiting his toil-worn band, for six weeks, and, as the spring opened, pushed onwards to the south until he reached the headquarters of Taylor, whence he returned with his regiment to the United States. His army marched five thousand miles during the campaign, and its adventures form one of the most romantic episodes in the war with Mexico.

Whilst Doniphan was advancing southward, the command of Price was well nigh destroyed in New Mexico and the wild region intervening between its borders and the frontiers of the United States. A conspiracy had been secretly organized, among the Mexican and half-breed population, to rise against the Americans. On the 19th of January, 1847, massacres occurred, simultaneously, at Taos, Arroyo Hondo, Rio Colorado and Mora. At Taos, Governor Charles Bent, one of the oldest and most experienced residents in that region was cruelly slain, and a great deal of valuable property destroyed by the merciless foe. Price received intelligence of this onslaught on the 20th, and rapidly calling in his outposts, marched with a hastily gathered band of about three hundred and fifty men against the enemy, whom he met, attacked and overawed on the 24th, at Cañada. Reinforced by Captain Burgwin from Alburquerque, he again advanced against the insurgents; and on the 28th, defeated a Mexican force estimated at fifteen hundred, at the pass of El Embudo. Passing, thence, over the Taos mountain, through deep snows, in midwinter, the resolute commander pursued his way unmolested through the deserted settlement which had been recently ravaged by the rebels, nor did he encounter another force until he came upon the enemy at Pueblo, when he stormed the fortified position, and gained the day but with the loss of the gallant Burgwin and other valuable officers. Mora was reduced again to subjection, early in February, by Captain Morin; and, in all these rapid but successful actions, it is estimated that near three hundred Mexicans paid the forfeit of their lives for the cruel conspiracy and its fatal results.

[Pg 354] From this moment the tenure of our possessions in New Mexico was no longer considered secure. The troops in that district were not the best disciplined or most docile in the army, and, to the dangers of another sudden outbreak among the treacherous Mexicans, was added the fear of a sudden rising among the Indian tribes who were naturally anxious to find any pretext or chance for ridding the country of a foe whom they feared far more, as a permanent neighbor, than the comparatively feeble half-breeds and Mexicans.

In December of 1846, Lieutenant Richie, who bore despatches to Taylor apprising him of the meditated attack upon Vera Cruz, was seized and slain by the Mexicans whilst on his way to the headquarters, and, thus, Santa Anna became possessed of the plan of the proposed campaign. The Army of Occupation had been sadly impaired by the abstraction of its best material for future action on the southern line under the commander-in-chief. But General Taylor resolved at once to face the danger stoutly, and to manifest no symptom of unsoldierlike querulousness under the injustice he experienced from the government. Nevertheless,—prudent in all things, and foreseeing the danger of his command, of the lower country, and of the morale of the whole army, in the event of his defeat,—he exposed the error of the war department in his despatches to the adjutant general and secretary, so that history, if not arms, might eventually do justice to his discretion and fortitude.

The note of preparation preceded, for some time, the actual advent of Santa Anna from San Luis Potosi, and all was bustle in the American encampments which were spread from Monterey to Agua Nueva beyond Saltillo, in order to give him the best possible reception under the circumstances. Wool was encamped with a force at Agua Nueva, in advance on the road from Saltillo to San Luis, about thirteen miles from the pass of Angostura, where the road lies through a mountain gorge, defended, on one side, by a small table land near the acclivities of the steep sierra and cut with the channels of rough barrancas or ravines worn by the waters as they descend from the summits, and, on the other by an extensive net work of deep and impassable gullies which drained the slopes of the western spurs.

This spot was decided upon, as the battle ground in the event of an attack, and the encampment at Agua Nueva, in front of it was kept up as an extreme outpost, whence the scouts might be sent forth to watch the approach of Santa Anna.


A mass of troops



[Pg 355] On the 21st of February, the positive advance of that chief was announced. The camp was immediately broken up, and all our forces rapidly concentrated in the gorge of Angostura. Our troops did not amount to more than four thousand six hundred and ninety efficient men, while we had reason to believe that Santa Anna commanded nearly five times that number and was greatly superior to us in cavalry, a part of which, had been sent by secret paths through the mountains, to the rear of our position, so as to cut off our retreat, in the event of our failure in the battle.

The great object of Taylor in selecting his ground and forming his plan of battle, was to make his small army equal, as near as possible, to that of Santa Anna, by narrowing the front of attack, and thus concentrating his force upon any point through which the Mexicans might seek to break. In other words, it was his design to dam up the strait of Angostura with a living mass, and to leave no portion of the unbroken ground on the narrow table-land undefended by infantry and artillery. The battle ground that had been selected was admirably calculated for this purpose; and his foresight was justified by the result. It was not necessary for Taylor to capture, or annihilate his enemy, for he was victor, if with, but a single regiment, he kept the valley closed against the Mexicans. The centre of the American line was the main road, in which was placed a battery of eight pieces, reduced, during the action to five, supported by bodies of infantry. On the right of the stream, which swept along the edge of the western mountains, was a single regiment and some cavalry, with two guns, which it was supposed, would be sufficient, with the aid of the tangled gulleys to arrest the Mexicans in that quarter. On the left of the stream, where the ravines were fewer, and the plain between them wider, stood two regiments of infantry, suitably furnished with artillery, and extending from the central battery on the road, to the base of the eastern mountains, on whose skirts an adequate force of cavalry and riflemen was posted.

In order to break this array, Santa Anna divided his army into three attacking columns, each of which nearly doubled the whole of Taylor's force. One of these, was opposed to the battery of eight guns in order to force the road, and the other two were designed to outflank our position by penetrating or turning the squadrons stationed at the base of the mountains.

On the afternoon of the 22d of February, the attack began by a skirmishing attempt to pass to the rear of our left wing; but as the Mexicans climbed the mountain, in their endeavor to outflank us [Pg 356] in that quarter, they were opposed by our infantry and riflemen, who disputed successfully every inch of ground, until night closed and obliged the Mexicans to retire. General Taylor, fearing an attack from the cavalry upon Saltillo, immediately departed with a suitable escort to provide for its safety, and left General Wool to command during his absence.

After day dawn, on the 23d, Santa Anna again commenced the battle, by an attack upon the left wing, and, for a while, was withstood, until a portion of our forces, after a brave defence, mistaking an order to retire, for an order to retreat, became suddenly panic-struck, and fled from the field. At this moment, Taylor returned from Saltillo, and found the whole left of our position broken, whilst the enemy was pouring his masses of infantry and cavalry along the base of the eastern mountains towards our rear.

Meanwhile the battery in the road had repulsed the Mexican column sent against it, and spared three of its guns for service on the upper plain. The regiment, on the right of the stream, had been brought over to the left bank with its cannons, and was now, in position with two other regiments, facing the mountains, between which and this force, was a gap, through whose opening, the Mexicans steadily advanced under a dreadful fire. Nearly all the artillery had been concentrated at the same place, while, in other parts of the field and nearer to the hacienda of Buena Vista, in the American rear, were bodies of our cavalry, engaged in conflict with the advancing foe.

As Taylor approached this disastrous scene, he met the fugitives, and speedily made his dispositions to stop the carnage. With a regiment from Mississippi, he restrained a charge of Mexican cavalry, and ordered all the artillery, save four guns, to the rear to drive back the exulting Mexicans. This manœuvre was perfectly successful, and, so dreadfully was the enemy cut up by the new attack, that Santa Anna, availed himself of a ruse, by a flag of truce, in order to suspend the action, whilst he withdrew his men.

The transfer of so large a portion of Taylor's most efficient troops to the rear of his original line, had greatly weakened his front, in the best positions, where the inequalities of ground sustained his feeble numbers. Santa Anna was not unmindful of the advantage he had gained by these untoward events, and prepared all his best reserves, which were now brought for the first time into action, for another attack. Taylor had with him three regiments and four pieces of artillery. His front was rather towards the mountain than the open pass, while his back was towards the road [Pg 357] along the stream. On his right was the whole Mexican army; on his left, far off in the rear, were the troops that had repulsed and cut up the Mexican column; and the great effort, upon whose success all depended, was to bring these dispersed squadrons again into action, whilst he maintained the position against the assault of the fresh reserves. As Santa Anna advanced with his inspirited columns, he was met by regiments of infantry, which stood firm, until, overwhelmed by numbers and driven into a ravine, they were cruelly slaughtered. After the American infantry had been overcome, the last hope was in the artillery, and, with this, the Mexican advance was effectually stopped and the battle won.

The whole day had been spent in fighting, and when night came, the field was covered with dead. It was an anxious season for our battered troops, and whilst all were solicitous for the event of a contest, which it was supposed would be renewed on the morrow, the greatest efforts were not only made to inspirit the troops who had borne the brunt of two days' battle, but to bring up reinforcements of artillery and cavalry that had been stationed between Saltillo and Monterey. At day dawn, however, on the 24th, the enemy was found to have retreated.

This wonderful battle saved the north of Mexico and the valley of the Rio Grande; for Miñon and Urrea were already in our rear with regular troops and bands of rancheros, ready to cut up our flying army, and descend upon our slender garrisons. Urrea captured a valuable wagon train at Ramos, in the neighborhood of Monterey. From the 22d to the 26th of February, he continually threatened our weakened outposts, and from that period until the 7th of March inflicted severe injuries upon our trains and convoys from the gulf. In the meantime Santa Anna retreated to San Luis Potosi with the fragments of his fine army, and not long after, General Taylor retired from a field of service, in which he was no longer permitted to advance, or required except for garrison duty.


In the months of October and November, 1846, Tobasco and Tampico had yielded to our navy; the former after a severe attack conducted by Commodore Matthew C. Perry, and the latter without bloodshed.

[Pg 358]



When General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna landed from the steamer Arab, after having been permitted to pass the line of our blockading fleet at Vera Cruz he was received by only a few friends. His reception was in fact not a public one, nor marked by enthusiasm.

By the revolution which overthrew Paredes, General Salas came into the exercise of the chief executive authority, and as soon as Santa Anna arrived he despatched three high officers to welcome him, among whom was Valentin Gomez Farias, a renowned leader of the federalist party, in former days a bitter foe of the exiled chief. Santa Anna, in his communications with the revolutionists from Cuba, had confessed his political mistake, in former years, in advocating the central system. "The love of provincial liberty," said he, in a letter to a friend dated in Havana on the 8th of March, 1846, "being firmly rooted in the minds of all, and the democratic principle predominating every where, nothing can be established in a solid manner in the country, which does not conform to these tendencies, nor can we without them attain either order, peace, prosperity or respectability among foreign nations.


A military camp



"To draw every thing to the centre, and thus to give unity of action to the republic as I at one time deemed best, is no longer possible; nay, more, I say it is dangerous; it is contrary to the object I proposed to myself in the Unitarian system, because we thereby expose ourselves to the separation of the northern departments which are most clamorous for freedom of internal administration. * * * * I therefore urge you to use all your influence to reconcile the liberals, communicating with Señor Farias and his [Pg 359] friends, in order to induce them to come to an understanding with us. * * * * I will in future, support the claims of the masses; leaving the people entirely at liberty to organize their system of government and to regulate their offices in a manner that may please them best."

These declarations, and the knowledge of Santa Anna's sagacity and influence with the masses had probably induced Farias to adhere to the project of his recall which was embraced in the movements of the revolutionists. And, accordingly, we find that upon his landing, Santa Anna published a long manifesto to the people which he concludes by recommending that, until they proclaim a new constitution, the federal constitution of 1824 be readopted for the internal administration of the country.

Salas, who had previously ordered the governors of the departments to be guided solely by the commands of Santa Anna, immediately issued a bando nacional, or edict, countersigned by the acting secretary of state, Monasterio, which embodied the views of the returned exile, and proclaimed the constitution of 1824, in accordance with his recommendation.

Paredes, meanwhile, who had been taken prisoner on the 5th of August, 1846, whilst attempting to fly the country, was held in close confinement at the castle of Peroté. Some persons proposed to treat him severely in consequence of his monarchical notions; but Salas averted dexterously all the spiteful blows that were aimed at him, and he was finally allowed to retire to Europe, where he remained until a later period of the war, when he returned to yield no significant services to his invaded country. Since the termination of the contest he has paid the great debt of nature, on his native soil, and a merciful pen will conceal the faults of a mixed nature which was not unadorned by virtues, and, under other circumstances and with different habits, might have made him a useful ruler in Mexico.


General Salas, who exercised supreme command from the 7th to the 20th of August, professed to have done as little as possible of his own will, and only what was urgently demanded by the necessity of the case. He boasted, however, that he had effected what he could "to aid the brave men who, in Monterey, have determined to die rather than succumb to the invasion and perfidiousness of the Americans." In his communications to Santa Anna he urged him to hasten to Mexico as soon as possible to assume his powers, and the Mexican gazettes commend him for refusing [Pg 360] to accept the pay of president while discharging the functions of his office.

On the 15th of August, Salas issued a proclamation, in which he announced to his countrymen that a new insult had been offered to them, and that another act of baseness had been perpetrated by the Americans. He alluded to the Californias, which, he said, "the Americans have now seized by the strong hand, after having villanously robbed us of Texas." He announced that the expedition which had been so long preparing would set forth in two days for the recovery of the country, and that measures would be taken to arrange the differences existing between the people of the Californias and the various preceding central administrations. In conclusion, he appealed eloquently to the Californians to second with their best exertions the attempt which would be made to drive out the Americans, and to unite their rich and fertile territories forever to the Republic.

During the administration of this chief, various proclamations were issued to arouse the people to take part in the war, by enlisting and by contributing their means. Efforts were also made to organize the local militia, but with little effect.

Santa Anna, in his reply to Salas on the 20th of August, accepts the trust which is formally devolved upon him, and approves of the acts of the latter, especially in sending forward all the troops to Monterey, New Mexico, and California, and in summoning a Congress for the 6th of December. These, he says, are the two first wants of the nation, the formation of a constitution for the country, and the purification of the soil of the country from foreign invaders. These ends gained, he will gladly lay down his power. "My functions will cease," he says, "when I have established the nation in its rights; when I see its destinies controlled by its legitimate representatives, and when I may be able, by the blessing of heaven, to lay at the feet of the national representatives laurels plucked on the banks of the Sabine—all of which must be due to the force and the will of the Mexican people."

Santa Anna at length quitted his hacienda, where he had doubtless been waiting for the opportune moment to arrive when he could best exhibit himself to the inhabitants of the capital, and profit by their highest enthusiasm, pushed to an extreme by alternate hopes and fears. On the 14th of September he reached Ayotla, a small town distant twenty-five miles from the city of Mexico. Here he received a communication from Almonte, the secretary of war, ad interim, proposing to him the supreme executive [Pg 361] power, or dictatorship. This offer was made on the part of the provisional government.

Santa Anna immediately replied in the following strain to the missive of his partizan:

General Santa Anna, commander-in-chief of the Liberating Army, to General Almonte, minister of war of the republic of Mexico.

Ayotla, 1 o'clock, A. M., Sept. 14, 1846.

Sir: I have received your favor of this date, acknowledging a decree issued by the supreme government of the nation, embracing a programme of the proceedings adopted to regulate a due celebration of the re-establishment of the constitution of 1824, the assumption by myself of the supreme executive power, and the anniversary of the glorious grito of Dolores.

My satisfaction is extreme to observe the enthusiasm with which preparations are made to celebrate the two great blessings which have fallen upon this nation—her independence and her liberty—and I am penetrated with the deepest gratitude to find that my arrival at the capital will be made to contribute to the solemnities of so great an occasion. In furtherance of this object I shall make my entrée into that city to-morrow at midday, and desire, in contributing my share to the national jubilee, to observe such a course as may best accord with my duties to my country—beloved of my heart—and with the respect due to the will of the sovereign people.

I have been called by the voice of my fellow-citizens to exercise the office of commander-in-chief of the army of the republic. I was far from my native land when intelligence of this renewed confidence, and of these new obligations imposed upon me by my country was brought to me, and I saw that the imminent dangers which surrounded her on all sides, formed the chief motive for calling me to the head of the army. I now see a terrible contest with a perfidious and daring enemy impending over her, in which the Mexican republic must reconquer the insignia of her glory and a fortunate issue, if victorious, or disappear from the face of the earth, if so unfortunate as to be defeated. I also see a treacherous faction raising its head from her bosom, which, in calling up a form of government detested by the united nation, provokes a preferable submission to foreign dominion; and I behold, at last, that after much vacillation, that nation is resolved to establish her right to act for herself, and to arrange such a form of government as best suits her wishes.

All this I have observed, and turned a listening ear to the cry of my desolated country, satisfied that she really needed my weak [Pg 362] services at so important a period. Hence I have come, without hesitation or delay, to place myself in subjection to her will; and, desirous to be perfectly understood, upon reaching my native soil, I gave a full and public expression of my sentiments and principles. The reception which they met convinced me that I had not deceived myself, and I am now the more confirmed in them, not from having given them more consideration, but because they have found a general echo in the hearts of my fellow-citizens.

I come, then, to carry my views into operation, and in compliance with the mandate of my country. She calls me as commander-in-chief of the army, and in that capacity I stand ready to serve. The enemy occupies our harbors—he is despoiling us of the richest of our territories, and threatens us with his domination! I go, then, to the head of the Mexican army—an army the offspring of a free people—and joined with it, I will fulfil my utmost duty in opposing the enemies of my country. I will die fighting, or lead the valiant Mexicans to the enjoyment of a triumph to which they are alike entitled by justice, by their warlike character, and by the dignity and enthusiasm which they have preserved, of a free nation. The war is a necessity of immediate importance; every day's delay is, an age of infamy; I cannot recede from the position which the nation has assigned me; I must go forward, unless I would draw upon myself the censure due to ingratitude for the favors with which I have been overwhelmed by my fellow-citizens; or, unless I would behold her humbled and suffering under a perpetuation of her misfortunes.

Your excellency will at once perceive how great an error I should commit in assuming the supreme magistracy, when my duty calls me to the field, to fight against the enemies of the republic. I should disgrace myself, if, when called to the point of danger, I should spring to that of power! Neither my loyalty nor my honor requires the abandonment of interests so dear to me. The single motive of my heart is to offer my compatriots the sacrifice of that blood which yet runs in my veins. I wish them to know that I consecrate myself entirely to their service, as a soldier ought to do, and am only desirous further to be permitted to point out the course by which Mexico may attain the rank to which her destinies call her.

In marching against the enemy, and declining to accept power, I give a proof of the sincerity of my sentiments; leaving the nation her own mistress, at liberty to dispose of herself as she sees fit. The elections for members of a congress to form the constitution which the people wish to adopt, are proceeding. That [Pg 363] congress will now soon convene, and while I shall be engaged in the conflict in armed defence of her independence, the nation will place such safeguards around her liberties as may best suit herself.

If I should permit myself for a single moment, to take the reins of government, the sincerity of my promises would be rendered questionable, and no confidence could be placed in them.

I am resolved that they shall not be falsified, for in their redemption I behold the general good, as well as my honor as a Mexican and a soldier. I cannot abandon this position. The existing government has pursued a course with which the nation has shown itself content, and I have no desire to subvert it by taking its place. I feel abundant pleasure in remaining where I am, and flatter myself that the nation will applaud my choice. I shall joyfully accept such tasks as she shall continue to impose upon me; and while she is engaged in promoting the objects of civilization, I will brave every danger in supporting its benefits, even at the cost of my existence.

Will your excellency have the goodness to tender to the supreme government my sincere thanks for their kindness? I will personally repeat them to-morrow, for which purpose I propose to call at the palace. I shall there embrace my friends, and hastily pressing them to my heart, bid them a tender farewell, and set out to the scene of war, to lend my aid to serve my country, or to perish among its ruins.

I beg to repeat to your excellency assurances of my continued and especial esteem.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

On the 15th of September, Santa Anna arrived at the capital, amid rejoicings more enthusiastic than had ever been witnessed before. The people seemed to behold in him their saviour, and were almost frantic with joy. The testimonies of attachment to his person were unbounded, and the next day the most vigorous measures, so far as declarations go, were adopted by the provisional government.

A levy of thirty thousand men to recruit the army was ordered. Requisitions were forthwith transmitted to all the principal places in the republic, for their respective quotas of men. Puebla, and the whole of the towns within a circuit of fifty or sixty leagues of the metropolis, are stated to have complied with the requisition for troops, with the greatest alacrity. To facilitate the arming and equipping of this large body, the government ordered that duties on all munitions of war shall cease to be levied, until further notice.

[Pg 364] Santa Anna was thus once more in the capital and effectually at the head of power; but he remained only a short time to attend to political matters, and dreading, doubtless, to assume openly the management of the government or to trust himself away from the protection of the military, he hastened to surround his person with the army;—as commander-in-chief, he effectually controlled all the departments of the government.

In order to perceive distinctly the perilous position of Santa Anna, we must understand the state of parties in Mexico. The revolution which placed him in power was brought about by a union of the federalists with his partizans. Santa Anna, of course, retained an influence over his adherents after arriving in Mexico; but the federalists were divided into two parties—the Puros and Moderados, or, democrats and conservatives. The dissensions in these sections enabled Santa Anna, in a degree, to hold the balance between them. Salas, the acting executive, was a conservative, and Gomez Farias, president of the council of government, was a democrat. Intrigue after intrigue occurred in the cabinet and elsewhere among the ultras to supplant Salas, and several resignations gave evidence of the ill feeling and dissensions betwixt the ministers—Cortina and Pacheco, both conservatives, resigned—and so did Rejon and Farias. The National Guard intimated its discontent with the condition of things very manifestly, and the new cabinet was filled with old enemies of Santa Anna. Meanwhile Almonte, the ablest man in the country, retained the ministry of war.

About this time the state of San Luis Potosi pronounced against the presidency of General Salas, demanding that General Santa Anna should assume the executive functions, or that some one should be named by him. As a precaution against the apprehended attempts upon his life, Salas retired on the 25th of October from the capital to Tacubaya. The greater part of the permanent garrison of the capital took up its quarters in the same place. Santa Anna was probably determined that General Salas should not obtain too absolute an ascendancy. Report said that Salas was honest enough to attempt to carry into effect all the guaranties of the revolution of Jalisco and the citadel, and that his policy did not suit the chief; but Santa Anna professed to act in the utmost harmony with him.

This outbreak against the provisional government of General Salas was soon suppressed, and Santa Anna remained in command of the army at San Luis Potosi, but without making any attack [Pg 365] upon our forces on the Rio Grande after the defeat of Ampudia at Monterey, or endeavoring to prevent our subsequent capture of Victoria and Tampico.

On the 23d of December congress voted, by states, for provisional president and vice president. Each state had one vote in this election, determined by the majority of its deputies. Twenty-two states voted, including the federal district of Mexico, and two territories. Santa Anna's opponent, Francisco Elorriega, was the choice of nine states, and Gomez Farias was elected vice president. The day before the election the members of the cabinet threw up their portfolios; and, in the midst of his evident political unpopularity with the politicians Santa Anna seems to have been left by the authorities at San Luis Potosi with an army destitute of efficient arms, of military knowledge, and of the means of support. Santa Anna accepted the provisional presidency.

Meanwhile our army had been advancing steadily since the battles of Resaca de la Palma and Palo Alto on the 8th and 9th of May, 1846. California had fallen into our hands, and New Mexico had been subjugated. Tampico was, also, ours, and Taylor had pushed his victorious army to Saltillo. Santa Anna stood, at bay, in San Luis Potosi; for he was not yet prepared to fight, and popular opinion would not permit him to negotiate. In this forlorn condition he resorted to the usual occupation of the Mexican government when in distress, and issued, despatch after despatch to stimulate congress, the cabinet and the people in the lingering war.


Nor was the government of the United States, meanwhile, inattentive to this position of affairs in Mexico, or indisposed to afford the government an opportunity to reconcile our difficulties by negotiation. Two distinct efforts were made by Mr. Buchanan, our secretary of state in the summer of 1846, and in January, 1847; but both proved abortive, and we were therefore obliged to continue hostilities.

At length, when Santa Anna perceived the enfeebled condition of General Taylor, and believed that Scott would be for a long time hindered from effecting his attack upon Vera Cruz, he marched to Buena Vista and experienced the sad reverse which we have already recounted. As soon as the battle was over the wily and discomfited chief immediately began to repair the losses of his arms by the eloquence and adroitness of his pen. In a long account of the battle he treats the affair as almost a victory, and leaves the public mind of Mexico in doubt as to whether he had [Pg 366] been beaten or victorious. The few trophies, taken in the saddest moments of the action, were sent in triumph to the interior and paraded as the spolia opima in San Luis and the city of Mexico. The public men of the country knew that Angostura had in reality been lost, and Miñón who was seriously assailed in the press by Santa Anna for not co-operating at the critical moment, published a reply in which he treated Santa Anna in the plainest terms and denounced, as false, the general's statement that his troops were famishing for food on the 24th of February, and that his failure to destroy Taylor's army was only owing to this important fact! This system of mutual denunciation and recrimination was quite common in Mexico, whenever a defeat was to be accounted for or thrown on the shoulders of an individual who was not in reality answerable for it.

When Santa Anna returned to San Luis Potosi, he entered that city with not one half the army that accompanied him on his departure to the north. It was moreover worn out and disorganized by the long and painful march over the bleak desert, and had entirely lost its habit of discipline. Such was the condition of things at San Luis in the month of March, when Santa Anna found himself compelled to organize another force to resist the enemy on the east; but whilst his attention was diligently directed to this subject the sad news reached him, that Mexico was not only assailed from without, but that her capital was torn by internal dissensions.

The peace between the president, and the vice president, Don Valentin Gomez Farias, had been cemented by the good offices of mutual friends, though it is not likely that any very ardent friendship could have sprung up suddenly between men whose politics had always been so widely variant. Nor was there less difference between the moral than the political character of these personages. Santa Anna, the selfish, arrogant military chieftain,—a man of unquestionable genius and talent for command,—had passed his life in spreading his sails to catch the popular breeze, and by his alliances with the two most powerful elements of Mexican society,—the army and the church,—had always contrived to sustain his eminent political position, or recover it when it was temporarily lost. Such was the case in his return to power after the invasion of the French, in the attack upon whom he fortunately lost a limb which became a constant capital upon which to trade in the corrupt but sentimental market of popular favor. Valentin Gomez Farias, on the contrary was a pure, straightforward, uncompromising patriot, always alive to the true progressive interests of the [Pg 367] Mexican nation, and satisfied that these could only be secured by the successful imitation of our federal system, together with the destruction of the large standing army, and the release of the large church properties from the incubus of mortmain.

There was much discontent in Mexico with the election of these two personages to the presidency and vice presidency. Reflecting men thought the union unnatural, and although the desperate times required desperate remedies, there was something so incongruous in the political alliance between Farias and Santa Anna, that little good could be expected to issue from it. The clergy were alarmed for its wealth, and the moderate party was frightened by the habitual despotism of Santa Anna. The latter personage was in fact, regarded with more favor at the moment by all classes, than Farias, because the country had reason to believe him a man of action, and familiar in times of danger and distress, with all its resources of men and money; and as he was entirely occupied with the organization and management of the army at San Luis, the opposition party directed all its blows against the administration of the vice presidency.

A few days after the installation of the new government, the agitation of the mortmain question was commenced in congress. The Puro party united with the executive, made every effort to destroy the power of the clergy, by undermining the foundation of its wealth, while the Moderados became the supporters of the ecclesiastics, under the lead of Don Mariano Otero.

At length the law was passed, but it was not a frank and decided act, destroying at once the privileges of the clergy and declaring their possessions to be the property of the republic. In fact it was a mere decree for the seizure of ecclesiastical incomes, which threatened the non-complying with heavy fines if they did not pay over to the civil authorities, the revenues which had formerly been collected by the stewards of convents and monks.

This act, comparatively mild as it was, and temporary as it might have been considered, did not satisfy the clergy, even in this moment of national peril. They resorted to the spiritual weapons which they reserved for extreme occasions. They fulminated excommunications; and published dreadful threats of punishment hereafter for the crime that had been committed by placing an impious hand upon wealth which they asserted belonged to God alone. This conduct of the religious orders had its desired effect not only among the people, but among the officers of government; for the chief clerk of the finance department, Hurci, refused to [Pg 368] sign the law, and it was sometime before a suitable person could be found to put the law in operation. Santa Anna adroitly kept himself aloof from the controversy, and wrote from San Luis, that he merely desired support for the army, and that in other questions, especially those touching the clergy, he had no desire to enter, but would limit himself to the recommendation, that neither the canons, nor the collegiate establishment of Guadalupe, should be molested, inasmuch as he entertained the greatest friendship for the one, and the most reverential devotion for the other.

But the executive, fixed in its intention to liberate the property held in mortmain, took every means to carry the law into effect, and experienced the utmost resistance from the incumbents, especially when the property happened to belong to the female sex, which is always averse from intercourse or dealings with persons who are regarded as inimical to the church.

This rigorous conduct of the executive, and the opposition it encountered from the Moderados, fomented by that powerful, spiritual class which has so long controlled the conscience of the masses, gave rise, at this period, to the outbreak in the capital, which is known as the revolution of the Polkos. It began on the 22d of February, 1847, in Mexico, whilst Santa Anna was firing the first guns at Angostura; and its great object was to drive Farias from executive power. The forces on both sides, amounted to six thousand men, and were divided between the Polkos and the partizans of the government. Funds were found to support both factions, and from that time to the 21st of March, the city of Mexico was converted into a battle field. On the morning of that day Santa Anna, who had already despatched a portion of his broken army towards the coast, and who had been approached on his journey from the capital, by emissaries from both factions, arrived at Guadalupe, and immediately the contest ceased. The stewards of the convents refused to expend more money for the support of their partizans, and the treasury of the government was closed against its adherents. The personal influence of Santa Anna thus put an end to a disgraceful rebellion which threatened the nationality of Mexico, within, whilst a foreign enemy was preparing to attack its most vital parts from the gulf.

The conflict of arms was over, but the partizans of the clergy did not intermit their efforts to get rid of the obnoxious vice-president; and at length, they effected pacifically, what they had been unable to do by force.

[Pg 369] They brought in a bill declaring that "the vice presidency of the republic, created by the decree of the 21st December, 1846, should be suppressed." The debate upon this was of the most animated nature, the friends and enemies of Farias showing equal vehemence in sustaining their views. On the 31st day of March the vote was taken, and the proposition carried by a vote of thirty-eight to thirty-five.

The following day a decree was passed embodying the above proposition and others:

1. Permission is granted to the actual president of the republic to take command in person of the forces which the government may place under his command, to resist the foreign enemy.

2. The vice presidency of the republic, established by the law of 21st December last, is suppressed.

3. The place of the provisional president shall be filled by a substitute, named by congress according to the terms of the law just cited.

4. If in this election the vote of the deputations should be tied, in place of determining the choice by lot, congress shall decide, voting by person.

5. The functions of the substitute shall cease when the provisional president shall return to the exercise of power.

6. On the 15th day of May next the legislatures of the states shall proceed to the election of a president of the republic, according to the form prescribed by the constitution of 1824, and with no other difference save voting for one individual only.

7. The same legislatures shall at once transmit to the sovereign congress the result of the election in a certified despatch.

This decree having been passed, it was at once signified to congress, through a minister, that Santa Anna was desirous of assuming the command of the army immediately and marching to the east to provide for the national defence. Congress went at once into permanent session, in order to choose a substitute for the president. The election resulted in the choice of Señor D. Pedro Anaya. He received sixty votes and General Almonte eleven, voting by persons, and eighteen votes against three, counting by deputations. The result being promulgated, permission was granted that Señor Anaya should at once take the oath of office. This was on the 1st of April, and on the 2d, Anaya entered upon his duties. He dispensed with the usual visits of congratulation and ceremony on account of the pressure of public business, and Santa Anna left the capital for the army in the afternoon of the same day.

[Pg 370]



The extraordinary genius of Santa Anna, and the influence he possessed over his countrymen were perhaps never more powerfully manifested than in the manner in which, amid all these disasters, he maintained his reputation and popularity, and gathered a new army to defend the eastern frontier of Mexico. But whilst he was engaged preparing in the interior, we must return to the scene of General Scott's operations on the coast. The small island of Lobos, about a hundred and twenty-five miles from Vera Cruz, had been selected for the rendezvous of the several corps which were to compose the American invading army; and the magnitude of the enterprize may be estimated from the fact, that one hundred and sixty-three vessels were employed as transports. On the seventh of March, Scott embarked his troops in the squadron under Commodore Connor, and on the ninth, landed the army upon the coast below the island of Sacrificios without the loss of a man, and without opposition from the neighboring city of Vera Cruz, which he summoned in vain to surrender. Having planted his batteries, and placed them under the command of Colonel Bankhead, as Chief of Artillery, he commenced a vigorous bombardment of the city on the eighteenth, aided, afloat and on shore, by the guns of the fleet which had been transferred from Commodore Connor to the command of Commodore Perry. The town was thus invested by land and water, and although the Mexican castle, city walls and forts, were but poorly garrisoned and provided, they held out bravely during the terrible siege, which nearly converted Vera Cruz into a slaughter-house. On the morning of the twenty-sixth, when no hope remained for the [Pg 371] Mexicans, General Landero, the commander, made overtures for a capitulation, which being satisfactorily arranged, the principal commercial port, and the most renowned fortress in Mexico were surrendered, together with four hundred guns, five thousand stand of arms and as many prisoners who were released on parole.

General Scott had endeavored to mitigate the dangers of this terrific attack upon Vera Cruz by the employment of such a force as would honorably satisfy the inefficient garrison of the town and castle that it was in truth unable to cope with the American forces. He delayed opening his batteries to allow the escape of non-combatants; he refrained, moreover, from storming the town, a mode of assault in which multitudes would have fallen on both sides in the indiscriminate slaughter which always occurs when an enemy's town is invaded in hot blood and with a reckless spirit of conquest and carnage. Yet, weak and badly provided as was the garrison of both strongholds, the walls of the city, its batteries and its guardian castle held out for sixteen days, during which time it is estimated that our army and navy, threw into the town about six thousand shot and shells, weighing upwards of 463,000 pounds. On the side of the Mexicans the slaughter was exceedingly great. Nearly a thousand fell victims during the siege; and, among the slain, numerous unfortunate citizens, women and children, were found to have perished by the bombs or paixhan shot which destroyed the public and private edifices, and ruined many important portions of the city.

When this new disaster was reported in the capital and among the highlands of Mexico, it spread consternation among the more secluded masses who now began to believe that the heart of the country was seriously menaced. They had doubtless trusted to the traditionary, proverbial strength of San Juan de Ulua, and believed that the danger of disease and storm on the coast would serve to protect Vera Cruz from the attack of unacclimated strangers, during a season of hurricanes. Indeed, it was fortunate that our troops were landed from the transports and men-of-war as early as they were in March, for almost immediately afterwards, and during the siege, one of the most violent northers that ever ravaged these shores raged incessantly, destroying many of the vessels whose warlike freight of men and munitions had been so recently disembarked.

But if the people were ignorant of the true condition and strength of Vera Cruz or its castle, such was not the case with the military men and national authorities. They had made but little effort to guard it against Scott, of whose designed attack they had been long [Pg 372] apprised, and they were probably prevented from doing so chiefly by the plans of Santa Anna, who supposed that Taylor would fall an easy prey to the large Mexican forces in the field at Buena Vista, especially as the American army had been weakened by the abstraction of its regulars for the operations at Vera Cruz. Victorious at Buena Vista, he could have hastened, by forced marches, to attack the invaders on the eastern coast, and under the dismay of his anticipated victory in the north, he unquestionably imagined that they too would have fallen at once into his grasp. Besides these military miscalculations, Mexico was so embarrassed in its pecuniary affairs, and disorganized in its Central Civil Government, that the proper directing power in the capital,—warned as it was,—had neither men nor means at hand to dispose along the coast of the Gulf, or to station at points in its neighborhood whence they might quickly be thrown into positions which were menaced.

It was at this juncture that Santa Anna's voice was again heard in the council and the field. At the conclusion of the last chapter we left him hastening to the new scene of action; and when he announced the capitulation of the vaunted castle and sea port of the Republic, he declared in his proclamation, that although "chance might decree the fall of the capital of the Aztec empire under the power of the proud American host, yet the Nation shall not perish." "I swear," continues he, "that if my wishes are seconded by a sincere and unanimous effort, Mexico shall triumph! A thousand times fortunate for the nation will the fall of Vera Cruz prove, if the disaster shall awaken in Mexican bosoms, the dignified enthusiasm, and generous ardor of true patriotism!" This was the tone of appeal and encouragement in which he rallied the credulous and vain masses, the disheartened country, the dispersed troops of the north, and reanimated the broken fragments of the army which still continued in the field.

Meanwhile, General Scott placed Vera Cruz under the command of General Worth; opened the port to the long abandoned commerce which had languished during the blockade; established a moderate tariff, and together with the forces of the navy took possession of the ports of Alvarado and Tlacotlalpam on the south, and directed the future capture of Tuspan on the north of Vera Cruz. All his arrangements being completed, and these captures made and projected, he marched a large portion of his twelve thousand victorious troops towards the capital.


Boats on the water



When the road to the interior leaves Vera Cruz, it runs for a mile or two along the low, sandy, sea-beaten shore, and then strikes off, [Pg 373] nearly at a right angle, in a gap among the sand-hills towards the west. For many miles it winds slowly and heavily through the deep and shifting soil, until, as the traveller approaches the river Antigua, the country begins to rise and fall by gentle elevations like the first heavy swells of the ocean. Passing this river at Puente Nacional over the noble and renowned bridge of that name, the aspect of the territory becomes suddenly changed. The nearer elevations are steeper and more frequent, the road firmer and more rocky, while, in the western distance, the tall slopes of the Sierras rise rapidly in bold and wooded masses. All the features of nature are still strictly tropical, and wherever a scant and thriftless cultivation has displaced the thick vines, the rich flowers, and the dense foliage of the forest, indolent natives may be seen idling about their cane-built huts, or lazily performing only the most necessary duties of life. Further on, at Plan del Rio the geological features of the coast assume another aspect. Here the road again crosses a small streamlet, and then suddenly strikes boldly into the side of the mountain which is to be ascended. About seven leagues from Jalapa the edge of one of the table lands of the Cordillera sweeps down from the west abruptly into this pass of the river Plan. On both sides of this precipitous elevation the mountains tower majestically. The road winds slowly and roughly along the scant sides which have been notched to receive it. When the summit of the pass is attained one side of the road is found to be overlooked by the Hill of the Telegraph, while on the other side the streamlet runs in an immensely deep and rugged ravine, several hundred feet below the level of the table land. Between the road and the river many ridges of the neighboring hills unite and plunge downwards into the impassable abyss. At the foot of the Hill of the Telegraph, rises another eminence known as that of Atalaya, which is hemmed in by other wooded heights rising from below, and forming, in front of the position a boundary of rocks and forests beyond which the sight cannot penetrate.

When Don Manuel Robles left Vera Cruz, after its fall, he was desired by General Canalizo to examine the site of Cerro Gordo. After a full reconnoissance it was his opinion that it afforded a favorable spot in which the invaders might be at least injured or checked, but that was not the proper point to dispute their passage to the capital by a decisive victory. The most favorable position for resistance he believed to be at Corral Falso.

These views, however, did not accord with the opinions of the commander-in-chief, who when the ground was explored under his [Pg 374] own eye, resolved to fortify it for the reception of the Americans. The brigades of General Pinzon and Ranjel; the companies of Jalapa and Coatepec, commanded by Mata; and the veterans of the division of Angostura arrived also about this period, and their last sections reached the ground on the 12th. Meanwhile all was activity in the work of hasty fortification. Robles constructed a parapet at the edge of the three hills, but failing to obtain all requisite materials for such a work, his erection merely served to mark the line of the Mexican operations, and to form a breast-work whence the artillery and infantry might command the ground over which, as the defenders supposed, the Americans would be obliged to advance. Colonel Cano had already cut off the access by the road at the point where it turned on the right slope of the Telegraph, by placing a heavy battery. He also formed a covered way leading to the positions on the right, while General Alcorta constructed a circular work on the summit of the eminence and established within it a battery of four guns. In the centre of this the national flag was hoisted, and off to the left nothing was seen but thick, thorny dells and barrancas, which were regarded by Santa Anna as impassable.

Such was the Mexican line of defences extending on the brink of these precipices for nearly a mile, and, throughout it, the commander-in-chief hastened to distribute his forces. The extreme right was placed under the command of General Pinzon, the next position under the naval captain, Buenaventura Aranjo, the next under Colonel Badillo, the next under General Jarero, the next post, at the road, under General La Vega, and finally the extreme left, at the Telegraph, under Generals Vazquez, Uraga and Colonel Palacios. The forces thus in position, according to the Mexican account, amounted to three thousand three hundred and seventy men with fifty-two pieces of ordnance of various calibre. The remainder of the army, with the exception of the cavalry, which remained at Corral Falso until the 15th, was encamped on the sides of the road at the rancheria of Cerro Gordo, situated in the rear of the position. In this neighborhood was placed the reserve, composed of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th light infantry, comprising 1,700 men; and the 1st and 11th regiments of the line, with 780 men, together with their artillery. It is said that the army was badly provided with food and suffered greatly from the climate and the innumerable insects which infest the region.

As Scott advanced against this position the dangers of his enterprize became manifest, and he caused a series of bold reconnoissances [Pg 375] to be made by Lieutenant Beaurgard and Captain Lee, of the engineers. He found that the deep rocky ravine of the river protected the right flank of the Mexican position, while abrupt and seemingly impassable mountains and ridges covered the left. Between these points, for nearly two miles, a succession of fortified summits bristled with every kind of available defence, while the top of Cerro Gordo commanded the road on a gentle slope, like a glacis, for nearly a mile. An attack in front, therefore, would have been fatal to the American army, and Scott resolved, accordingly, to cut a road to the right of his position so as to turn the left flank of the Mexicans. To cover his flank movements, on the 17th of April, he ordered General Twiggs to advance against the fort on the steep ascent, in front, and slightly to the left of the Cerro. Colonel Harney, with the rifles and some detachments of infantry and artillery, carried this position under a heavy fire, and, having secured it, elevated a large gun to the summit of the eminence, and made a demonstration against a strong fort in the rear. Early on the 18th, the columns moved to the general attack. General Pillow's brigade assaulted the right of the Mexican entrenchments, and although compelled to retire, produced a powerful impression on that part of the enemy's line. General Twigg's division stormed the vital part of Cerro Gordo, pierced the centre, gained command of the fortifications and cut them off from support; while Colonel Riley's brigade of infantry rushed on against the main body of the foe, turned the guns of their own fort against them, and compelled the panic stricken crowd to fly in utter confusion. Shields' brigade, meanwhile, assaulted the left, and carrying the rear battery, aided materially in completing the rout of the enemy. The whole American force, in action and reserve, was 8,500. Three thousand prisoners, four or five thousand stand of arms, and forty-three pieces of artillery, fell into Scott's hands. In the two days of conflict our loss amounted to 33 officers and 398 men, of whom 63 were killed. The enemy's loss was computed at 1,000 at least, while among the prisoners no less than two hundred and eighty officers and five generals were included. Santa Anna, and General Ampudia who was in the action, escaped with difficulty; and the commander-in-chief, accompanied by a few friends and a small escort, finally reached Orizaba in safety, after encountering numerous dangers amid the mountains and lonely paths through which he was obliged to pass.

This very decisive victory opened the path for the American army to the highlands of the upper plateau of Mexico, and, accordingly, our forces immediately pushed on to Jalapa and Peroté, both of [Pg 376] which places were abandoned by the Mexicans without firing a gun. General Worth took possession of Peroté on the 22d of April, and received from Colonel Velasquez, who had been left in charge of the fortress or castle of San Carlos de Peroté by his retreating countrymen, 54 guns and mortars of iron and bronze, 11,065 cannon balls, 14,300 bombs and hand grenades, and 500 muskets. On capturing the post he learned that the rout at Cerro Gordo had been complete. Three thousand cavalry passed the strong hold of Peroté in deplorable plight, while not more than two thousand disarmed and famishing infantry had returned towards their homes in the central regions of Mexico. From Peroté Worth advanced towards Puebla on the direct road to the capital.

Thus was Mexico again reduced to extreme distress by the loss of two important battles, the destruction of her third army raised for this war, and the capture of her most valuable artillery and munitions. But the national spirit of resistance was not subdued. If the government could no longer restrain the invaders by organized armies, it resolved to imitate the example of the mother country during Napoleon's invasion, and to rouse the people to the formation of guerilla bands under daring and reckless officers. Bold as was this effort of patriotic despair, and cruelly successful as it subsequently proved against individuals or detached parties of the Americans, it could effect nothing material against the great body of the consolidated army. Meanwhile the master spirit of the nation—Santa Anna—had not been idle in the midst of his disheartening reverses. In little more than two weeks, he gathered nearly three thousand men from the fragments of his broken army, and marched to Puebla, where he received notice of Worth's advance from Peroté. Sallying forth immediately with his force, he attacked the American general at Amozoque, but, finding himself unable to check his career, returned with a loss of nearly ninety killed and wounded. On the 22d of May, Puebla yielded submissively to General Worth, and Santa Anna retreated in the direction of the national capital, halting at San Martin Tesmalucan, and again at Ayotla, about twenty miles from Mexico. Here he learned that the city was in double fear of the immediate assault of the victorious Americans and of his supposed intention to defend it within its own walls, a project which the people believed would only result, in the present disastrous condition of affairs, in the slaughter of its citizens and ruin of their property. The commander-in-chief halted therefore at Ayotla, and playing dexterously on the hopes and fears of the people in a long despatch addressed to the minister of war, [Pg 377] he at length received the Presidential and popular sanction of his return to Mexico.

In truth, the nation at large had no one but Santa Anna, at that moment of utter despair, in whose prestige and talents—in spite of all his misfortunes and defeats—it could rely for even the hope of escape from destruction, if not of ultimate victory.

Whilst the Mexican nation had been thus sorely vexed by intestinal commotions and foreign invasion an Extraordinary Constituent Congress—Congreso Extraordinario Constituyente—had been summoned and met in the capital, chiefly to revise the Constitution, or the "Bases of Political Organization," of 1843, which had been superseded by the temporary adoption of the Federal Constitution of 1824, according to the edict issued by Salas, under the direction of Santa Anna soon after that personage's return from exile. This Extraordinary Congress readopted the old Federal Constitution of 1824 without altering its terms, principles, or phraseology, and made such slight changes as were deemed needful by an Acta Constitutiva y de Reformas, containing thirty articles, which was sanctioned on the 18th, and proclaimed on the 21st of May by Santa Anna, who had reassumed the Presidency. By this approval of the Federal System the Executive entirely abandoned the Central policy for which he had so long contended, but which, as we have seen in the 11th chapter, he no longer believed, or feigned to believe, suitable for the nation.

Notwithstanding this submission to popular will, and apparent desire to deprive the Central Government of its most despotic prerogatives, the conduct of Santa Anna did not save him entirely from the machinations of his rivals or of intriguers. Much discontent was expressed publicly and privately, and the President, accordingly tendered his resignation to Congress, intimating a desire to hasten into private life! This stratagetic resignation was followed by the retiracy of General Rincon and General Bravo, who commanded the troops in the city. Acts of such vital significance upon the part of the ablest men in the Republic, in an hour of exceeding danger, at once recalled Congress and the people to their senses; and if they were designed, as they probably were, merely to throw the anarchists on their own resources and to show them their inefficiency at such an epoch, they seem to have produced the desired effect, for they placed Santa Anna and his partizans more firmly in power. Congress refused to accept his resignation. Unfortunate as he had been, it perhaps saw in him the only commander who was capable in the exigency of controlling the Mexican elements of resistance [Pg 378] to the invaders, and he was thus enabled to form his plans, to collect men, means and munitions, and to commence the system of fortifications around the capital. "War to the knife," was still the rallying cry of the nation. The Congressional resolutions which had been passed on the 20th of April, immediately after the battle of Cerro Gordo, proclaimed "every individual a traitor, let him be private person or public functionary, who should enter into treaties with the United States!" Parties in the capital were, nevertheless, not unanimous upon this subject. There were wise men and patriots who foresaw the issue, and counselled the leaders to come to honorable terms before the capital was assaulted. Others craved the continuance of the war with the hope that its disasters would destroy the individuals who conducted it to an unfortunate issue; and, among these, they saw that Santa Anna was finally pledged to abide that issue for weal or woe. Nor were politicians wanting in the Republic who honestly looked to the prolongation of the conflict as a blessing to Mexico, believing that it would result in the complete subjugation of the whole country by American arms and its final annexation to our Union.

In June a coalition was formed at Lagos by deputies from Jalisco, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, Mexico and Querétaro, in which these States combined for mutual defence; but, while they opposed peace, they resolved to act independently of the General Government. Many other parts of the republic looked on the scene with apathy. There was no longer a revenue from foreign commerce. The products of the mines were smuggled from the west coast in British vessels. Disorder and uncertainty prevailed every where in regard to the collection of the national income from internal resources. Individuals, and not States, corporations or municipalities, were now to be relied on for support; and, as the most important parts of the nation on the north and east were virtually in the enemy's hands, the whole effort of the frail authorities was confined to the protection of the capital. In the midst of all this complication of confusion Santa Anna found that the election for President, which was held by the States on the 15th of May, had resulted unfavorably to his pretensions, and, by an adroit movement, he prevailed on Congress to postpone the counting of the votes from the 15th of June until January of the following year! All who opposed his schemes of defence or resistance, were disposed of by banishment, persecution or imprisonment, nor did he fail to establish so severe a censorship of the press, that, in July, it is believed, but one paper was allowed to be issued in the capital, and that one, of course, entirely [Pg 379] under his control. Throwing himself, like a true military demagogue, publicly, if not at heart, at the head of popular feeling in regard to the war with the United States, he adopted every measure and availed himself of every resource in his power to place the city in a state of defence, and to fan the flame of resistance. In the meanwhile the guerilla forces, organized on the eastern coast, chiefly under a recreant clergyman named Jarauta, harassed every American train and detachment on their way to the interior, and rendered the country insecure, until a fearful war of extermination was adopted by our garrisons on the line.

The government of the United States had, during the whole of this unfortunate contest, availed itself of every supposed suitable occasion to sound Mexico in relation to peace. In July, 1846, and in January 1847, overtures were made to the national authorities and rejected; and again, early in the spring of 1847, as soon as the news of the defeat at Cerro Gordo reached Washington, Mr. Nicholas P. Trist was despatched by the President upon a mission which it was hoped would result in the restoration of international amity. The commissioner reached Vera Cruz while the American army was advancing towards the interior, but it was not until the forces reached Puebla, and General Scott had established his head quarters in that capital, that he was enabled, through the intervention of the British Minister, to communicate with the Mexican government. The stringent terms of the decree to which we have already alluded, of course, prevented Santa Anna, powerful as he was, from entertaining the proposals in the existing state of the public mind, and, accordingly, he referred the subject to Congress, a quorum of whose members was, with difficulty, organized. On the 13th of July, seventy-four assembled, and voted to strip themselves of the responsibility by a resolution that it was the Executive's duty to receive ministers, and to make treaties of peace and alliance, and that their functions were confined to the approval or disapproval of those treaties or alliances when submitted in due form under the constitution. But Santa Anna, still adhering t