Page images

connection with the uncivilized condition of its inhabitants when first discovered by Europeans, will the less excite our surprise. Like the "middle ages” of the old world, the new has had its still darker ones.

We are pleased to add, that in these conclusions we are confirmed by those of Stephens, whose opinions, on the score of extensive observation, are entitled to much credit. From his “Incidents of Travel in Yucatan," we make the following extracts:.

“It is my belief that within this region, cities like those we bave seen in ruins were kept up and occupied for a long time, perhaps one or two centuries, after the conquest, and that, down to a comparatively late period, Indians were living in them, the same as before the discovery of America. In fact, I conceive it to be not impossible that within this secluded region may exist at this day, unknown to white men, a living aboriginal city, occupied by relics of the ancient race, who still worship in the temples of their fathers.”

On another occasion, our traveller remarks :-“Who were the builders of these American cities? My opinion on this question has been fully and freely expressed, (alluding to his former work,] that they are not the works of a people who have passed away, and whose history is lost, but of the same races who inhabited the country at the time of the Spanish conquest, or of some not very distant progenitors. Some were probably in ruins, but in general I believe that they were occupied by the Indians at the time of the Spanish invasion. The grounds of this belief are interspersed throughout these pages.”

And in the following opinion we likewise fully concur :—“Degraded as the Indians are now,” says Stephens, “ they are not lower in the scale of intellect than the serfs of Russia, while it is a well known fact that the greatest architect in that country, the builder of the Cazan Church, at St. Petersburgh, was taken from that abject class, and by education became what he is. In my opinion, teaching might again lift up the Indian, might impart to him the skill to sculpture stone and carve wood; and if restored to freedom and the unshackled powers of his mind, there might again appear a capacity to originate and construct, equal to that exhibited in the ruined monuments of his ancestors.'

It is not true, as is generally supposed, that the chronicles of the conquest are quite deficient in descriptions of the great buildings then existing in Mexico and Yucatan. On the contrary, there is probably no historical question, upon which the SECOND SERIES, VOL. X. NO. I


jars, etc.”

evidence is more specific and abundant. The testimony of Herrera, perhaps the most credible of the Spanish historians, is alone sufficient to establish beyond all controversy, the then existence of an immense number of great buildings, occupied as temples by the natives, and frequently made use of as military quarters by the invaders. “The whole country,” says Herrera, « is divided into eighteen districts, and in all of them were so many and such stately stone buildings that it was amazing, and the greatest wonder is, that, having no use of any metal, they were able to raise such structures, which seem to have been temples, for their houses were always of timber, and thatched. In those edifices were carved the figures of naked men with earrings, after the Indian manner, idols of all sorts, lions, pots or

To the ancient monuments of South America, we can do no more than merely advert. These also indicate a high degree of civilization, which was not wholly confined to Peru. The tombs containing the preserved bodies of the ancient Peruvians of the upper provinces, we are told by Mr. Pentland,“ are monuments of a grand species of design and architecture, resembling Cyclopean remains, and not unworthy of the arts of ancient Greece or Rome." By this people and some of the neighboring nations, cultivation of the soil was carried to a high state of perfection. Even the sides of the steepest mountains were converted, by the aid of stone walls and canals of irrigation, into productive fields. “Upon the sides of some of the mountains," says Mr. Temple,“ were the remains of walls built in regular stages round them, from their base to their summits, forming terraces on which, or between which, the Indians, in days of yore, cultivated their crops.” In many places, both in Peru and Chili, are still to be seen aqueducts often of great magnificence, constructed of earth and stone, and carried along the most precipitous mountains, with great labor and ingenuity, frequently to the distance of fifteen or twenty leagues—aqueducts that rival the boasted water-works of our own city of New-York. A striking resemblance to the aqueducts of Mexico is apparent in the circumstance that they consisted of two conduits running parallel, the larger being for general use, and the smaller to supply, while the other was being cleansed, the actual wants of the inhabitants. Many of these aqueducts were subterranean, there being at Lanasca a fountain supplied by such conduits, the source of which has never been traced. The very magnificence of some of these great works, the pipes being made of gold, was the cause of their destruction by the Spaniards, whose avaricious cupidity was thus excited. Many public works were constructed for the encouragement of agriculture. In the vicinity of Santiago, in Chili, for example, an artificial aqueduct, in order to irrigate the soil of the lower plain, was formed so as to draw off a portion of the waters of the river Mapocho. They cut channels,” says Graham in his “Chile,” “ through the granite rock from the Mapocho to the edge of the precipice, and made use of the natural fall of the ground to throw a considerable stream from the river into the vale below. This is divided into numerous channels, as is required, and the land so watered is some of the most productive in the neighborhood of the city.” But many of these lands, thus maintained fertile and productive, are now sandy and arid wastes, scarcely capable of supporting the most scanty population.

Much might be said in regard to the ruins of ancient cities, fortresses, and edifices in South America, as well as the remains of baths and works of sculpture; but we must content ourselves with one or two extracts in reference to their great public roads, which, by no means confined to Peru, still reveal their vestiges in remote regions far beyond the domain of the Inca power. “ We were surprised,” says Humboldt, in his journey across the plains of Assuary,“ to find in this place, and at heights which greatly surpass the top of the peak of Teneriffe, the magnificent remains of a road constructed by the Incas of Peru. This causeway, lined with freestone, may be compared to the finest Roman roads I have seen in Italy, France, or Spain. It is perfectly straight, and keeps the same direction for six or eight thousand metres. We observed the continuation of this road near Caxamarca, one hundred and twenty leagues to the south

Assuary, and it is believed in the country that it led as far the city of Cuzco." Another writer, (Long, Polynesian Nation, p. 78,) remarks, that "at a time when a public highway was either a relic of Roman greatness, or a sort of nonentity in England, there were roads fifteen hundred miles in length in the empire of Peru. The feudal system was as firmly established in these transatlantic kingdoms as in France. The Peruvians were ignorant of the art of forming an arch, but they had constructed suspension bridges over frightful ravines; they had no implements of iron, but their forefathers could move blocks of stone as huge as the Sphinxes and Meminons of Egypt.”

In this region, as in Mexico, the ancient monuments indicate two epochs of the arts, one of remote antiquity, and the other of a more modern period. The sacred lake of Titicaca constitutes probably the most ancient locality of South American civilization; but to suppose that all the civilized tribes were comprised within the limits of the Peruvian empire, were an error of no small magnitude. The enterprise and ingenuity of the Peruvian sovereigns, when they established their extensive empire, were always ready to adopt, and reproduce on an enlarged scale, the inventions they found existing; as, for instance, the ancient structures of Tiahuanaco, which were, according to their own admission, the models of those erected by them in their own dominions.

From the foregoing facts, it would seem to follow conclusively that the American Aboriginal is susceptible of civilization. Whether the ancient Mexicans or Peruvians possessed the knowledge of hieroglyphic writing, was formerly a disputed point; but this question, as regards the advancement of their mental powers, is no longer of much importance; for even within the present age, in a tribe recently the most uncultivated, a second Cadmus has arisen in the person of an uneducated Cherokee, ignorant of every language but his own. The name of this Indian who invented a system of “talking Cherokee upon paper," is Se-qua-yah, or George Guess; and as we had the pleasure, during the removal of that tribe west of the Mississippi, in 1838, to become acquainted with a son of this Cadmus the Second, who was in the public service as a " lingster” or interpreter, we are enabled to state the circumstances which gave rise to this important discovery, as repeatedly related to us by the son. The thoughts of Guess were first directed into this channel by observing his nephew, who had just returned from a distant school, spelling some words, whereupon he immediately exclaimed that he could effect the same in his vernacular tongue. Building a hut in a retired spot, and thus secluding himself in a great measure from his people, he devoted himself exclusively to this great labor. His fellow countrymen, superstitious by education, grew suspicious of his object, as they viewed him in his solitary study surrounded by his cabalistic figures. Believing that he was engaged in the art of conjuration, peradventure in concocting some diabolical plan to blow up the nation, the populace succeeded in drawing him from his hermitage, when they burned up the cabin, hieroglyphics and

all. But our second Cadmus returned to his supposed black art; and he was soon fortunate enough to exhibit to his people one of the greatest wonders of modern times. Thus having, after two years' labor, completed his system, and instructed his daughter in the signification of the characters used, he invited his old friends, the head men and warriors of the nation, to assemble at his house to witness the result. Having explained to them the principles of his system, he then wrote down whatever was suggested by any of the visitors; and now calling in his daughter, she read it off unhesitatingly to the wonder-stricken assembly. His old friends, after repeating this several times to guard against imposition, were seized with mingled feelings of terror and amazement. One called him “

One called him “Skiagusta" (God, or a very great man); another, " Unantaha” (God Almighty); and a third, “ Agagheha(Jesus Christ).

Like Pallas from the brain of Jove, the system sprang at once before the world complete in all its parts. A newspaper in the Cherokee language was soon published, and the greater portion of the New Testament and Watts' Hymns was translated and printed ; and had not the Georgians, in a spirit of Vandalism, destroyed their printing establishment, the whole Bible: might for years past have been read in the Cherokee tongue..

The elements of this written language consist of eighty-five characters, six of which represent vowels and the rest syllables. The language is not, like the ancient Egyptian, idiographic, that is, conveying ideas to the mind by pictures and resemblances, or metaphorical figures; nor is it, like the Chinese, lexigraphic, that is, representing the words of the language; but it consists of vowels and syllables, the various combinations of which have been found to embrace every word in the tongue. For a native to learn to read requires no longer a period, than the time requisite to become acquainted with the characters. The word Cherokee, for example, pronounced by the natives Tseloge, is represented by three characters, equivalent to tse, lo, and ge. This may be considered a syllabic alphabet, being intermediate to the European and Chinese languages, the characters of the former expressing elementary sounds, and those of the latter designating elementary objects, that is, expressing those ideas required in the infancy of knowledge, a combination of these forming additional words.

George Guess now resides with his nation west of the Mississippi, little distinguished above his neighbors for acuteness of

« PreviousContinue »