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A 

SKETCH OF MEXICO. 


BY W. II. G-. BUTLER. 


The territory of the Republic of Mexico lies 
between the fourteenth and forty-second degrees-' 
of north latitude, and the eighty-sixth and one 
hundred and twenty-fifth degrees of west longi¬ 
tude from Greenwich, comprising an area of 
1,200,000 square miles. 

Its form is very irregular and deeply indented 
with bays both from the Atlantic and Pacific, 
which would seem to give to it peculiar advanta¬ 
ges for commerce—but the truth is, that the east¬ 
ern coast, t which is much exposed to the violence 
of the trade winds, has' not a single good anchor¬ 
age, while any approach on the west, where 
there are two of the most magnificent ports on 
the globe—those of Acapulco, and Guaymas, 
is for a great part of the year rendered imprac¬ 
ticable by tempests. 

Its facilities for internal intercourse are on an 
equally small scale. In one part, sandy deserts, 
destitute of water, except the precarious sup- 





2 


plies retained in tanks from previous rains; in 
another, rocky barriers, passable only through 
gorges occurring at long intervals, effectually pre¬ 
vent that ease and rapidity of communication be¬ 
tween the several sections of the country, which 
are so essential to any great advances in social 
or political improvement. 

In a distance of 600 miles, there are but two 
routes from the Gulf to the Capital which are 
practicable for carriages—the one through Jalapa, 
pa, the other through Saltillo, and even these are 
so difficult, that the conveyance of goods is ef¬ 
fected almost entirely on the backs of mules. The 
trade with the United States through Santa Fe, 
already considerable, will no doubt become a 
matter of the first importance, in consequence of 
the greater accessibility of the Mexican plateau 
in that quarter. 

But the same physical feature which shuts in 
the interior of this country, like China with her 
wall, is that which more than any other gives to 
it its interest—the table lands. These consist 
of a vast level plain rising from 6000 to 8000 
feet above the level of the ocean. A range of 
lofty peaks in the south seems gradually to ex¬ 
pand its base and depress its summit, until it 
forms what may be called the frustum of an im¬ 
mense mountain chain, which, with the excep¬ 
tion of a very narrow interval of low-land on the 
east, and one of from 60 to 100 miles in width 
on the west, extends from the Pacific to the Gulf 
of Mexico, and north to the territory of the Uni¬ 
ted States. Its surface is not, as some travel¬ 
ers have supposed, a perfect plain in itself, but is 


composed of a considerable number of smalW 
plains, varying in extent and elevation, and sep¬ 
arated from each other by law chains oTtiiHs. 

High as this district is itself, it is not without 
mfmntains which tower far above it. Near the 
latitude of the city oi Mexico, it is traversed by 
a series of volcanoes, now in a state of quiesence, 
many of which, though beneath the rays of a 
tropical sun, push their summits far into the re¬ 
gions of perpetu-al snow. ISucli are Coffre de 
Perote, which is 13,415 feet high, Orizaba, 
17,37$ feet, and Popocatepetl, which attains the 
height of 17,876 feat, being the highest moun¬ 
tain in Mexico, and its snow covered head the 
first object visible to tfc ma 1 4nev-approaching her 
shores. In the state of Oaxaca there is a point 
so elevated that both the Atlantic an! Pacific 
may be seen from it. In so extensive a territory 
as that of Mexico, stretching, as it does, thrcmgls 
28 degrees of latitude, a great diversity of climate, 
soil <&nd productions must necessarily exist— 
but 'here this natural variety is greatly multiplied 
by the geological structure of the country. Itjs 
a world in itself. Scarce a species of the vegeta¬ 
ble kingdom grows upon the face of the globe that 
£3aay not be found somewhere within its borders, 
and not a degree of temperature is felt from the 
equator to the polar circles that may sstot be expe¬ 
rienced here. 

The agriculturist of the torrid zone who has 
lost his hopes of harvest on the high table-lands 
from the effects of frost and snow, need “descend 
but a few hundred feet of perpendicular distance 
to behold the fields clothed with rich and luxu- 


4 


riant crops that have been nourished by the mild 
heats and grateful showers of an unchanging 
spring; another short descent into the plains he* 
low will place him amid the burning sands of a 
fruitless desert; still his eye in distant porspeo 
tive may rest on some alluvial tract of the rich¬ 
est verdure and adorned with flowers of the most 
brilliant hues. This last is the Tierra Cahente * 
or Hot Region, embracing all the lowlands, and 
has a mean temperature of 77 degrees. There 
are here but two seasons, the rainy and the dry; 
the former commencing in June or July, and con¬ 
tinuing until the close of September. 

The productive portions of this country abound 
in ail tropical fruits, aromatic shrubs, and in su¬ 
gar, cotton, indigo, and the banana, which fur¬ 
nishes in its delicious fruit one of the most im¬ 
portant objects of cultivation for human subsis¬ 
tence wherever the mean heat exceeds 75 de¬ 
grees. The cacao, from the fruit of which choco¬ 
late is made, is cultivated throughout this region, 
and the vanilla, so highly prized for its sweet 
flavor, near the coast. But where vegetation is 
so rich and prosperous, animal life is constantly 
assailed by the most fearful maladies, engender¬ 
ed. it is supposed, by the ext essive heat of a ver¬ 
tical sun a-ad the consequent rapid decomposition 
of rank veget able matter. Among these diseases 
none is an object of such gloomy apprehension 
to the natives as the’ vomito, which rages with 
dreadful fatality for eight or nine months in the 
year. Strangers, especially, who have chanced 
to come within its reach, fall speedy victims to 
hs virulence. As the traveller ascends Rom this 


o 


region, through which ho passes with trembling 
haste, he finds the aspect of nature rapidly chang¬ 
ings Instead of the smooth and level expanse 
left behind him, he with'difficulty makes his way 
through the wildest and most rugged scenery, 
until having attained the altitude of 4000 feet, he 
enters the Tierra Iemplada, or Temperate Re¬ 
gion. This is distinguished for its soft and ge¬ 
nial temperature, never varying more than lour 
or five degrees, and for its humidity—-the result 
of the deposition of fogs and mists from the Mex¬ 
ican Gulf. It ere the forests are clothed in a 
mantle of unchanging green, and the deep valleys 
still glow with the enamelled vegetation of the 
Tierra Caliente . The dazzling beauties of the 
torrid and the substantial comforts of the tempe¬ 
rate zones are here mingled promiscuously to¬ 
gether; but the most remarkable production of 
this region is the cochineal insect, valuable for 
the precious dyes it affords, it resembles the 
meal bug of our gardens, and the Cactus Cocci - 
nillifer , which nourishes it, is very similar to the 
prickly pear. The female insects are without 
wings, and when with young are placed, or sown , 
as the term is, upon the different plants. After 
about four months, being much increased in size 
and number, they are brushed off and killed in 
different ways; usually by exposure in the vapor 
baths. The cochineal forms a valuable article of 
export, th<5 value of the annual consumption in 
Great Britain alone being estimated at £275,000. 

Above this is the Tierra Fria , or Cold Re¬ 
gion, including the table lands ofAnahuac, which 
is the third and last of the great natural terraces 

4 


6 


into which the country is divided. The air of 
this region is exceedingly dry and pure, and the 
mean temperature is 62 degrees. The soil is 
generally good, but sometimes has a parched and 
barren aspect, owing partly to the greater evapo¬ 
ration which takes place under the light atmos¬ 
phere of these lofty plains, and partly to its ex¬ 
posure to the fierce influence of the summer 
sun, since the axe of the civilized inhabitant 
has deprived it of its natural shelter, the forests, 
with which it was well protected under the Aztec 
rule. Trees are now seldom met with except in 
groves along the water courses, and verdure du¬ 
ring the dry season is everywhere scanty. 

Wheat and barley were introduced by the wise 
policy of Cortes, and are cultivated with suc¬ 
cess. Indian corn here, as in every other part 
of the North American continent, forms one of 
the chief articles of food, especially among the 
poorer classes. The potatoe, which, though a 
native of Mexico, was first brought into use by 
the European emigrant, grows to an enormous 
size, and is preserved .a whole year by drying in 
the sun. This, too, is the native clime of that 
most useful of plants, the Agave Americana , or 
Mexican aloe, which has been applied to so many 
and various purposes. To the Aztec its leaves af¬ 
forded a paste from which paper for their hiero- 
glyphical paintings were made* and supplied 
thatches for their dwellings, while the thorns at 
their extremities were used for pins, needles and 
nails. The root was converted into a wholesome 
and agreeable food, and from the juice was made 
a fermented liquor called pulque , which is the nu- 


7 


tional beverage of the natives to this day. In ad¬ 
dition to most of these uses, the Mexicans now 
enclose their fields with hedges of this plant, and 
cut up its leaves as food for animals, or manu¬ 
facture them into rope, twine, coarse Indian cloth, 
or wrapping paper of unequalled toughness. In 
good soil it requires from five to eight, and in 
poor from fifteen to twenty years, to bring it to 
maturity. When it shows signs of flowering, it 
is “tapped,” and continues for four or five 
months to discharge a large quantity of sap, often 
amounting to 375 cubic inches daily. The stalk 
perishes after flowering, but a great number of 
suckers spring up in its place, and it thus be¬ 
comes a continual source of wealth to the cultiva¬ 
tor. This elevated region contains also the mines 
of Mexico, which constitute the chief wealth of 
the country. They are rich in quantity, and af¬ 
ford almost every kind of mineral now in use— 
copper, iron, tin, lead, zinc, antimony, arsenic, 
and loadstone; of which last an entire mountain 
has lately been discovered. But it is the mines 
of the precious metals which are so highly val¬ 
uable. Of these there are near three thousand 
altogether, only five hundred of which are now 
worked. The annual produce, principally sil¬ 
ver, is valued at about 24,000,000 of dollars. 

The history of this interesting country is rife 
with incidents as wild and romantic as its extra¬ 
ordinary scenery. It has been the theatre of 
some of the most wonderfnl achievements ever 
effected by the power of man. A simple narra¬ 
tive of the conquest would be itself a romance. 
A few of the leading events' are all that can now 


8 


be noticed. On the 21st of April, 1519, there 
landed near the spot where now stands the city of 
Vera Cruz, a small band of Spanish adventur¬ 
ers. They were few in number, little more 
than 600 all told, but their breasts were fired by 
the spirit of chivalry, and dreams of gold and 
glory flitting before their minds, gave them the 
strength of a multitude. Another motive, no 
doubt, was an earnest desire to plant the cross 
on these remote and barbarous shores. Their 
leader, Hernando Cortes, was thoroughly imbued 
with the spirit of the enterprise, and possessed in 
a high degree all the requisite qualifications for 
its accomplishment. 

Touching on their voyage at a point far¬ 
ther south, they had encountered, and, after 
a stuborn engagement, defeated the immense¬ 
ly superior forces of the Tabascans, and now 
uncertain as to the character of the recep¬ 
tion they should meet with, they pitched their 
tents in the territory of the great Montezuma, of 
whose wealth and power, they had already heard 
marvellous accounts. In a few days they were 
relieved from their suspense, by the arrival of a 
messenger from this mysterious sovereign, bear¬ 
ing together with many rich and dazzling pres¬ 
ents, the command of their master that the white 
men should leave his country. But they were 
not to be diverted from the great object they 
had before them, either by his] presents or his 
commands. The one only inflamed still more 
the zeal which would lead them to trample on 
the other. Here a fact was revealed to them of 
which their politic leader knew well how to 


9 


tako advantage. Whole provinces of this vast 
realm, he was told, were disaffected towards Mon¬ 
tezuma by his cruel exactions. The thought im¬ 
mediately dashed upon his mind that he might in¬ 
sure the success of his expedition, by making 
these his allies; and his measures were taken ac¬ 
cordingly—an expedient which no doubt deci¬ 
ded the fate of Mexico. Superstition also favor¬ 
ed his plans, and the credulous natives, long and 
sorely oppressed, immediately ran to the children 
of the sun,whom their beneficent god Quetzalcoatl 
had sent for their deliverance. They were filled 
with the deepest reverence for the white man, 
particularly the cavalier, the rider and the horse 
seeming to them but one being. Cortes, his 
band being swelled to near 3,000 by these delu¬ 
ded warriors, set out for Tenochtitlan, the capi¬ 
tal of the empire. 

He made his way towards Tlascala, a small 
republic in the fortresses of the mountains, 
where the arms of the Aztec had been una¬ 
ble to subvert their independence, The Tlas- 
calans, he trusted, would gladly unite with him 
against their ancient enemy; but ail army of more 
than 50,000 of these fierce republicans, the Swiss 
of the New World, sternly contesting every ad¬ 
vance of the invading band, soon dispelled all 
such hopes. They met again and again, and 
science as often overcame the rude bravery of 
the mountains. The prowess of the Spaniards 
at last induced the conviction that they were 
gods. The Tiascaians from this time became 
the friends of the Spaniards, and several thousand 
joined them in their march against Mexico, their 


10 


olJ enemy. They came to Cholula, the Holy 
city of the Aztecs, where a plot was formed for 
their destruction. The address and fidelity of 
an Indian girl, the celebrated Donna Marina, res¬ 
cued them from the snare, and the ever ready 
tact of their leader turned the whole occurrence 
much to ttieir advantage. We omit to mention 
the many attendant scenes of bloodshed and dar¬ 
ing. in which the ferocity of the Spaniard was 
scarcely -surpassed by that of his savage ally. 
They continued their march, and achieved, as 
they supposed, the great ultimatum of their anti¬ 
cipation, by a peaceful entrance into the capitol. 

But the conquest was only begun. This 
beautiful city, into which the invaders were re¬ 
ceived with a studied show of friendship, was 
yet to witness many a horrible tragedy. Super¬ 
stitious horrors had unnerved the arm of the hith¬ 
erto invincible monareh. Was this the return 
of their benevolent god of fair complexion, who 
had many centuries before taken his departure 
from the shores in an eastern direction, whence 
he promised again to return,? Points of resem¬ 
blance seemed to argue that these were at least 
his children—but why should they come in this 
hostile manner.? W ere not the subjects of Mon¬ 
tezuma likewise those of Quetzaleoatl? Uncer¬ 
tainty led to apathy .and despair, and Montezuma 
admitted the mysterious stranger into this city, and 
gave them for a residence the spacious palace of 
his father. Cortes, notwithstanding this hospi¬ 
table reception, proceeded with his accustomed 
caution, and taking advantage of the first plausi¬ 
ble pretext, seized the person of his royal host, 


11 


and from that time to his melancholy death, kept 
him inclose confinement, and made him a pliant 
tool for the subjugation of his own people. 

This insult to the sacred person of their chief* 
inflamed the indignation of the people to such a 
degree, that a general uprising for his rescue, was 
averted only by his own conciliatory interference* 
It nevertheless went far to break the charm that 
had hitherto been their shield, and all the vigi¬ 
lance of Cortes was necessary to keep down re* 
volt. 

In the meantime, a hostile armament, sent by 
the Governor of Cuba, whose fickle policy 
had alienated Cortes from his interest, made its 
appearance on the coast. Here were foes of a 
more dangerous character, and they must be met 
immediately, or all would be lost. He set out ac¬ 
cordingly, and having been reinforced on the way 
by the Choiulans, he engaged with his country¬ 
men, and conquered mio friends those of the new¬ 
ly arrived foree whom his gold had failed to buy. 
Returning again in haste, with this valuable ac¬ 
cession to the nwn&er of his followers, he found 
the garrison of the etfy closely besieged—a ca¬ 
lamity brought upon them by the suspicious 
cruelty of its commander, Alvarado, who had de¬ 
coyed into a public square, and wantonly massa¬ 
cred six hundred ©f the jowng nobles. Every 
effort at reconciliation was in vain* The streets 
and housetops near the Spanish quarters swarm¬ 
ed with the furious native» eager for revenge. 
Eve# Montezuma, attempting to interpose his 
authority, was saluted with a shower of missiles 
and mortally wounded. The Spaniards Ending' 


rosistence ineffectual* for it seemed that for ev¬ 
ery hundred slain, a thousand stood ready to 
take their place, resolved to leave the city by 
night—a night ever afterwards called the doleful 
night, on account of the horrible carnage and un¬ 
told sufferings it covered. They finally escaped 
with the loss of many of their bravest comrades. 

Much dispirited arid smarting with wounds, they 
commenced a retreat towards Tiaseala, and oii the 
81 h of July, 1520, gained a remarkable victory 
in the battle of Otiimba, in which hundreds were 
engaged against one. In this battle, the Span¬ 
iards were almost overpowered,' being -exhausted, 
and in the midst of infuriated and unwearied foes. 
Every hope seemed to be gone, when Cortes, 
rising in his stirrups, happened to see the chief 
at some distance surrounded by his nobles. Cal¬ 
ling upon some of his frieuds to support him, he 
dashed through the enemy. They hewed their 
way through the astonished ranks; the guard 
gave way; the chieftain was slain, and the ene¬ 
my took to flight. Cortes was like a man upon 
the edge of a precipice, who has lost his balance, 
and in the very fall seizes a twig that saves him. 
If he had been defeated, not a Spaniard would 
have survived. 

Their arms soon retrieved their fortunes. 
Having been unexpectedly reinforced by arri¬ 
vals from Cuba and Jamaica, they advanced 
again towards the capital, resolved upon subdu¬ 
ing it. Iu the meantime Cuitlahua, the broth¬ 
er and successor of Montezuma, had sudden¬ 
ly died, and Cuatemozin, his nephew, who is 
described as valiant arid so terrible that his fob 


13 


lowers trembled hi his presence, now occupied 
the throne. He cherished an unmitigated hatred 
toward the Spaniards, and made active prepara¬ 
tion to defend his city against them. But it .was 
in vain; Cortes had taken Ins measures too w*i« 
rily, and laid his plans too deeply, to be again 
thwarted. He proceeded to invest the place 
with his forces, not however until he had re¬ 
duced the neighboring cities to submission, and 
engaged them in his service. The defence was 
gallant and protracted, and was not given up tilt 
the city was a vast heap of ruins, and a great 
part of its inhabitants had fallen victims to fam¬ 
ine, pestilence, and the murderous weapons of 
their assailants. This event occurred in Au¬ 
gust 1521, less than two years and a half front 
their first entrance'into the country. 

The capital having fallen, the conquest of the 
empire was easily effected. A new city, modeled 
after those of Castile, soon arose on the ruins of 
the Queen of the Valley. The Aztecs, as a nation, 
now pass from the page of history, being mingled 
with their conquerors. They deserved a better 
fate. Though rude they' were a progressive 
people, and had already made considerable ad¬ 
vances towards a state of civilization. They 
had a regular code of laws, which seems to have 
been dictated by an enlightened sense of justice, 
and their acquaintance with astronomy was suf¬ 
ficient at least to enable them to adjust their cal¬ 
endar with great precision to the revolutions of 
the sun. Their religion was a monstrous com¬ 
bination of some of the purest precepts of Chris¬ 
tianity, and the most revolting forms of idolatrous 


14 


worship, amon^ others that of human sacrifice. 
It is thought that they had received many of 
their arts, and the milder forms of their devo¬ 
tions from the Toltecs, a gentler and more en¬ 
lightened people, that had preceded them in the 
occupation of the country. To>the skill of these 
letter in architecture, tradition,, as well as the 
majestic remains of their ancient structures, bear 
testimony. The pyramids of Cholula, Uxmal/ 
and Palenque,. in their dimensions rivalling those* 
of Egypt, are attributed to them. 

The history of the conquest of Mexico is a> 
narrative of a series of those faets which are 
stranger than fiction. The wildest dreams of ro¬ 
mance seem tame in comparison with some of 
the events. A handful of men far from their 
own homes, enter a populous empire, and hew 
their way to the throne through armed legions. 
Difficulties innumerable apr>ear before them, and 
vanish at their approach. The very mountains 
seem to bow before them, and the valleys rise 
to meet them. They plunge into a difficulty 
that stands in their way, as the crusader did into 
the wall of fire which surrounded the enchanted 
wood, and it is gone. The iron will of Cortes 
was more powerful than a magician’s wand. 

For near three centuries after this great event* 
but little of interest occurred in this coon try* 
except the continued and daily increasing deg¬ 
radation of the people. It Was governed during 
this period by a viceroy of Spain. The author¬ 
ity of this officer^ though lrominally restricted by 
a council, was in fact nearly absolute, and being 
invariably lodged in the hands ( of Jho natives of 


15 


Spain, it seems to have been held a sacred duty 
by them, to rob and tyrannize over those of their 
own blood born in Mexico, and to reduce to a 
still lower level the spirit-broken Indian. That 
they have succeeded well in their nefarious task, 
will surely not be doubted after a moment’s re¬ 
flection on the character of the stern, intrepid, 
and chivalrous conqueror of the sixteenth centu¬ 
ry compared with that of his degenerate descen¬ 
dant, as it has been manifested in late events. A 
race of Lilliputians has succeeded to one of 
giants. 

The victories of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the 
seizure of the royal family, which in 1808 threw 
Spain into a state of the most deplorable anarchy, 
was also the cause that ultimately led to the 
independence of the Mexican colony. Joseph 
Bonaparte, seated on the throne wrested from 
the royal captives of his brother, demanded the 
allegiance which had been paid to them. While 
those in power were yet undecided what course 
to pursue, the loyal colonists indignantly burnt 
his proclamation, and drove his agents from the 
country. A similar opposition to this new dy¬ 
nasty had broken out in the peninsula, and in va¬ 
rious parts juntas had been formed, each claim¬ 
ing supreme power in the name of their captive 
king. The people of Mexico, much perplexed 
by these conflicting claims to their obedience, 
had taken steps to organize a provisional gov¬ 
ernment, when the measure was arrested, and the 
necessity for it apparently removed, by the es¬ 
tablishment of a supreme central junta at Seville. 

From this time another element of discord man- 



16 


ifests itself—the -annimosity existing between the 
Creoles and the native Spaniards. The latter— 
the aristocracy of Mexico—had assumed the ex¬ 
clusive right to rule in all the departments of 
government, and had invariably been sustained 
in their arrogant pretensions, by the superior pow¬ 
ers. The spark of resistence, hitherto smother¬ 
ed and almost trampled out by the iron heel of 
power, being fanned by recent events, was now 
ready to burst into a flame. A call had been 
made by the people for the formation of a sepa¬ 
rate junta in Mexico, to be composed of depu¬ 
ties from all the principal towns. The viceroy, 
who favored this plan, was seized and sent to 
Spain before it could be carried into execution. 
This incensed the Mexicans against the foreign 
party to a still greater degree. In the mean¬ 
time the central junta had resigned its power to 
a regency of five persons, and this latter body bad 
sent out a new viceroy, Yanegas, who thought to 
quiet all disturbance by force. This fatal error 
lighted at once the fires of rebellion. Hidalgo, 
a priest distinguished for his talents and liberal 
views, planned and headed a movement, the 
avowed object of which was the entire overthrow 
of the colonial system. The standard of re¬ 
volt being thus raised, the people rallied around 
it with the greatest enthusiasm. The alcalde of 
Guanaxuato attempting to oppose them, his army 
passed over in a body to the insurgents. 

After many brilliant successes, Hidalgo made 
his appearance before the capital, and doubt¬ 
less would have taken that too, had he not, 
for some cause never yet explained, given 


1-7 


up. the enter prize, and suddenly withdrawn his 
forces. This leader was betrayed by one of his 
officers, and shot, 27th July, 1811. Attempts 
were now made to reclaim the colony by conces¬ 
sions, but too late. The insurgents still kept up 
hostilities, Morelos, an able and successful com¬ 
mander, taking the lead. The war was conduc¬ 
ted in a very .sanguinary manner, and most of 
the prisoners taken on either side were imme¬ 
diately put to death. A single instance will show 
the ferocity of one of the ruling spirits ol this 
time. Morelos, after gaining many decided 
advantages over the enemy, fortified himself 
in the town of Quautia Amilpas, Colleja, the 
royalist leader, having been repulsed in an at¬ 
tack on the place, declared that he would yet take 
it and precipitate the town with its inhabitants to 
the centre of hell. His demoniac fury seems to 
have been satiated however, by the slaughter of 
several thousands of the unresisting citizens while 
attempting to make their escape. A fatal en¬ 
gagement took place on the 7th of January, 1814, 
at Pascuara, whither Morelos had retired before 
the royalists. The contest was begun in the night 
and the dawn of the morning revealed the mel¬ 
ancholy fact that two divisions of the Indepen¬ 
dent army had been engaged in bloody strife 
with each other. This discovery being made, 
resistence ceased at once, and the town with 
many prisoners fell into ihe hands of the enemy. 

The royal army was now in full force, and 
the movements of Morelos being encumbered at 
this critical juncture by the weakness of Con¬ 
gress, he was taken prisoner and shot, 22d Ds** 


18 


cember, 1819. The independence of Mexico 
had been formally declared, Nov. 13, 1813, 
with the acknowledgement of Ferdinand Seventh 
as King, on condition that he would, during his 
reign, reside in the new empire. Neither the 
non-acceptance of the offered crown by that 
prince, nor the calamities that befel the revolu¬ 
tionists afterwards, had so much discouraged them 
as the present loss of their brave and patriotic 
leader. They had almost despaired of success, 
when their hopes were again momentarily revi¬ 
ved by the arrival of Gen. Mina, a Spanish liber¬ 
al, who had been compelled to leave Spain on ac¬ 
count of his share in the late wars there. The 
career of this young officer in this country was 
short and glorious, and ended in his being shot 
September 7th, 1817. The revolution seemed 
now to be at an end. All the efforts of its sup¬ 
porters, however successful for a time, had ter¬ 
minated in disaster and defeat. Many of their 
most distinguished leaders had fallen by the hand 
of the executioner, and repeated failure had 
damped the ardor which at first glowed in their 
bosoms. The gloom of despondency had settled 
like a cloud over their prospects, when the priest¬ 
hood, ever on the alert when their own interests 
are at stake, changed sides, and with the same 
selfish zeal that had before induced them to ex¬ 
communicate all engaged in the revolt, they now 
strove to insure its triumph. The reforms in¬ 
troduced among their orders by the constitution¬ 
al government in Spain, and the dread of a simi¬ 
lar visitation for themselves, had alarmed them, 
and finally led them to seek a separation from 
that country. 


19 


They were aided moreover in the accomplish¬ 
ment of their object by the royalists, who seem¬ 
ed to have been impelled by the hope of making 
Mexico an asylum lor the throneless Bourbons*, 
Sewell as by the patriots, still trusting that their 
country, once independent, might in some way 
become free. 

So widely different were the motives of those 
enlisted in this great movement, which from* tfe 
present time was too vigorous and powerful to 
meetf with much resistance. Don Augustine 
fturbide was chosen to lead the combined forces. 
This officer was at the time in the command of 
some native troops in the Spanish service, whom 
lie*easily induced to enter into his plans. He was 
soon joined by Guerrero and the patriot forces un¬ 
der him, but the most valuable addition to his 
strength was the aid and influence-of Gen. Vic¬ 
toria, who at this crisis came forth from has place 
of exile among the mountains* and unsheathed 
his sword once more in his country’s cause. 
This uprising was so universal that ite object 
was effected without a battle. A treaty was m 
a short time entered into, by which the- Spanish- 
representative acknowledged the independence 
of Mexico on the basis of the “plan oflguala,” a 
fundamental condition of which was, that the 
crown should be first offered to Ferdinand VIL 
In pursuance of this treaty, which however was 
destined to be rejected as soon as received in 
Spain, a congress assembled to frame a constitu¬ 
tion, and though each member had sworn to sup¬ 
port the plan of Iguala, they were soon divided 


20 


into Republicans, Bourbonists and Iturbidhls . 
The latter party having the influence of govern¬ 
ment and the army in their favor, carried their 
point, and on the night of May 18, 1822, with 
loud and universal acclamation proclaimed Ttur- 
bide emperor,with the title of Augustine the First. 
The ascendency of this usurper was of short dura¬ 
tion, and before he was yet firmly seated on the 
imperial throne, it crumbled beneath him. His 
government appears to have been oppressive and 
tyrannical, and it was borne, even during its 
brief existence, with impatience. 

Santa Anna being at this time in command of 
the garrison at Vera Ciru'z, took advantage of the 
first pretext, and issued his pronunciamento 
against him. Vic toil a again espoused the insur¬ 
gent cause, and by lending it the sanction of his 
magical name, excited so deep and general a hos¬ 
tility to the emperor’s rule, that he was glad to 
resign his thorny crown, and accepting of a 
compensatory annuity of twenty-five thousand 
dollars, he left the country. Returning again in 
a few months, he was* arrested and shot'as ail 
outlaw. 

In 1824, after the government had rested in 
the hands of a commission for some time, a fed¬ 
eral constitution was adopted. The first presi¬ 
dent of Mexico, was Gen. Victoria, the father of 
his country. How different might now have 
been her condition, had she possessed more of 
such honest and disinterested servants! 

Before the next election, which took place in 
1828, two well defined political parties had arisen, 
the Escosscds and the Yorkinos —the former be- 


ing ia favor of a central, the latter of a federal 
government. The contest between them was a 
fierce one, and finally resulted in .the choice of 
Gomez Pedraza, the candidate of theEscossais. 
But before he had taken the official chair, the 0 |> 
posing party, with Santa Anna at its head, declar¬ 
ed the election fraudulent, by force of arms pro¬ 
cured a new one, and elevated Gue.rrre.ro to the 
executive office. But stability and moderation 
are words without meaning to the Maxican, peo¬ 
ple. In their history change follows change in 
rapid succession, and apparently without any 
more reasonable cause than mere caprice. To 
be hailed in the morning as a deliverer, and salu¬ 
ted with all the epithets the most enthusiastic ad¬ 
miration can suggest, is but a poor guarantee 
against banishment or death before the setting of 
the sun. Guerrero soon experienced, as many 
both before and since have done, the fickle char¬ 
acter of his inconstant countrymen. His admin¬ 
istration was overthrown by the Vice President, 
Bustamente, and before time had been allowed 
him to leave the country, he was taken, and. af¬ 
ter the semblance of a trial, shot. The presiden¬ 
tial office was next exercised by Bustamente, until 
1832, whei> Santa Anna, having grown weary of 
retirement, pronounced against him, and, to il¬ 
lustrate both his cunning and inconsistency, rein¬ 
stated Pedraza, whose election he had been the 
first to declare illegal. He had gained consider¬ 
able popularity of late, by his skill and prompti¬ 
tude in repelling the last effort of Spain to re¬ 
gain her colony, and at the expiration of the 
brief period of Pedraza’s term, he was easily 


22 


elected to fill his place. The most important of 
his official acts, was the establishment in 1836 
of a central system? of government—a< measure 
which proved offensive to many of the States, and 
particularly to Texas, which in consequence of 
it, seceded from the confederacy, and took up 
arms to maintain her independence. After sev¬ 
eral battles, with various success, a decisive one 
was Sought, April 21st, 1:836, on the bank of a 
small stream called San Jacinto, in which the 
president’s forces^ were completely routed, and 
himself made prisoner. He was released on his- 
acknowledging- the independence of Texas, but 
afterward disavowed the obligation incurred by 
the act, on the plea of duress. During his ab¬ 
sence from the j capital, B-ustamente, whom he 
had previously banished, returned, and effected 
his own elevation to the presidency, which office 
he continued to hold till the adoption of the “plan 
of Tacubaya,” in 1841. By this instrument 
a provisional government was created, and San¬ 
ta Anna, who had regained the reputation lost at 
San Jacinto, by his gallant defence of Vera Cruz 
against the French, was placed at its head He 
seems to have construed the powers granted to 
him as dictatorial, and his will was indaetthe law 
of the land, until 1843, when ins central'consti¬ 
tution of 1836 was revived with some modifica¬ 
tion. Most of the privileges of free citizenship 
are guarantied by this constitution, at the same 
time that a specified amount of property is made 
an indispensable qualification Ibr the higher of¬ 
fices; slavery is entirely prohfimed, and all castes 
are made equal in the eye ol the law. tThese 



23 


features also belong to the present form of 
government, which was adopted May 21st, 1847, 
and is founded on the federal constitution of 1824. 
While Santa Anna, who had surrendered his 
powers as dictator only to receive those of Presi¬ 
dent, was engaged in a distant part of the repub¬ 
lic in suppressing a revolt excited by Parades, a 
third faction succeeded in elavating Herrera to 
the executive chair and procured a sentence of 
banishment for ten years against the absent presi¬ 
dent. 

Since that time Herrera has been supplanted 
by Parades, and he in turn has given place to 
Gen. Salas, who opened the way for Santa An¬ 
na’s return from his exile in Cuba, and, on that 
chieftain being favorably received in his own 
country, resigned the power which he held into 
his hands. A late election was favorable to Her¬ 
rera, though Santa Anna is still permitted to re¬ 
tain his place at the head of affairs. 

In 1845, Texas, which had'before been ac¬ 
knowledged independent by several govern¬ 
ments of Europe, became one of the States of 
our union. A small tract of land between the 
Nueces and the Rio Grande, being claimed both 
by Texas and Mexico, the “Army of Occupation” 
was ordered to take a position near the latter 
river. Many battles have followed, all of which 
have resulted in the entire defeat of the Mexi¬ 
cans. Those of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Pal¬ 
ma were fought on the east side of the Rio 
Grande, May 8th and 9th, 1846. The Mexican 
force was 6000, that of the Americans 2,300'. 
These victories were followed by the surrender 


of several towns on the opposite side of the riv¬ 
er, the most important of which were Matamo- 
ras and Camargo. Monterey capitulated on the 
24th of September after a severe conflict, kept 
up during three successive days. Gen. Taylor 
continued his march into the interior, and on 
the 23d of February, 1847, occurred the bril¬ 
liant battle of Buena Yista, in which the Mexi¬ 
can army, greatly superior in numbers and led 
by Santa Anna in person, was put to flight, much 
loss having been sustained on both sides. 

Another Division of the American army, under 
Gen. Scott, invested the city of Vera Cruz, which 
after a spirited resistance surrendered together 
with the castle of San Juan de TJlloa, on the 27th 
of March, 1847. 

Gen. Scott now proceeded with Ins forces on 
the road toward the city of Mexico, and encoun¬ 
tered at the Cerro Gordo, a narrow and difficult 
pass, the army under Santa Anna. A bloody 
battle ensued April 17th and 18th, in which the 
American arms were again crowned with victo¬ 
ry. Since this, several important places have 
admitted the invading forces, without attempting 
to resist. The army having, delayed some time 
to receive reinforcements, again pushed on, 
and after the two sanguinary battles of Churu- 
busco and Contreras,August 17th, 18th, and 19th, 
have planted the American standard in victory 
before the gates of the capital. 

Three centuries and a quarter have elapsed 
since the Spaniard appeared before the city of 
M exico. The rude grandeur of the Aztec faded 
away at the touch of the fiery conqueror, and a 


new race has since wielded the fate of the conn* 
try* For a time this race revelled among the 
lovely scenes of this land of enchantment, with 
none to dispute its sway. But with the lapse of 
years it lias lost the commanding greatness of its 
character, and grown weak, irresolute, and base. 
Another race has now appeared before Mexico, 
and the Queen of the Valley again bows her 
head before the conqueror. Another change 
must come over the country, for the Anglo-Sax¬ 
on has entered the land—that race which has 
been moving onward ever since Hengist and 
Horsa landed upon the shores of Britain. "What¬ 
ever treaties may be made, a new influence will 
hereafter control the destinies of Mexico. Like 
revolutions, the Anglo-Saxon never goes back¬ 
ward. The country will assume a new appear¬ 
ance; for, whatever may be thought of the justice 
of the deeds of this race, all must say with re¬ 
gard to the condition of the countries which it 
has entered, Non teligit quod non ornavit , what¬ 
ever it has touched it has adorned. 

Mexico comprises over twenty states and ter¬ 
ritories, the most important of which are those 
lying to the south. The northern districts, now 
held in military possession by the American ar¬ 
my, are but thinly peopled and large portions of 
them have never been explored. The mass of 
the population inhabit the fertile plains of the 
torrid zone, where the soil spontaneously or with 
but little cultivation yields abundant supplies of 
all the necessaries and most of the luxuries of 
life. To what degree of productiveness this 
country might be stimulated by enterprising and 


26 


skillful industry, it is difficult to imagine. The 
experiment has never been made. The profuse 
liberality with which the first rude touches of the 
husbandman are rewarded, prevents that force 
and earnestness of character which is caused by 
necessary and habitual labor. But could the 
present population, numerous as it is, be endued 
with the sterling habits of the New Englanders, 
there is but little doubt, that it would in a few 
years become one of the richest and most influen¬ 
tial countries on the globe; the impediments in the 
way of transportation, its great natural defect, 
would speedily be removed; railroads and ca¬ 
nals piercing its mountains and spanning its des¬ 
erts, would bear its valuable productions to eith¬ 
er ocean; artificial irrigation would clothe its 
fruitless wastes with life and beauty, and the skill 
of art co-operating with the energy of nature, 
would give to cultivation, even* where it is most 
perfectly carried on, a new and powerful im¬ 
pulse. 

The pursuit of the precious metals has ever 
been the engrossing occupation of the Mexican 
people, and the produce of the mines by far the 
most important article of exchange with foreign 
nations. The miner in this country has also been 
the pioneer. When one vein ceases to yield 
abundantly, he pushes still farther into the inte¬ 
rior, in search of new and richer ones, and inva¬ 
riably brings in his train those who are to level 
the forest and open farms to supply him with 
food. Cities spring up wherever he pauses to 
dig, and flourish there as they can nowhere else, 
for there only is there a domestic market. With 


27 


the exception of Mexico, La Puebla, Guadalajaro, 
Valladolid and Oaxaca, which derive their im¬ 
portance from being the seat of civil or episcopal 
establishments, there is scarcely a town in Mex¬ 
ico that does not owe its origin to this cause* 
The condition of the mining population has 
been depicted by some as exceedingly degraded, 
but others who have examined the Subject atten¬ 
tively, describe them as a happy and contented 
race. 

The city of Mexico, which was laid out under 
the immediate eye of Cortes, is situated near the 
centre of an immense plain, surrounded on all 
sides by a wall of mountains. It is in itself a 
beautiful city, and when seen from some neigh¬ 
boring height, in connection with its silvery lakes 
and blooming gardens and distant peaks wrapped 
in their sheens of eternal snow, the view becomes 
indescribably grand and picturesque. The 
streets, which are so wide and so level that you 
may see from one extremity to the other, inva¬ 
riably cross each other at right angles and are 
neatly paved with stone. The public squares 
and promenades are on an extensive scale, and 
for spaciousness and beauty, without a parallel 
in any metropolis. The public edifices are 
massive structures, and some of them of a pure 
style of architecture* The Cathedral which oc¬ 
cupies the site of the ancient Teocalli or Indian 
temple, is 500 feet long by 42 wide, and the in¬ 
terior is so profusely ornamented with gold and 
silver and precious stones, that it “seems as if 
live wealth of empires were collected there.” 
The President’s palace has been erected on the 


28 


spot where once stood the famous Halls of Mon¬ 
tezuma, and like them it is remarkable for its 
immense proportions rather than the good taste 
displayed in it. The private dwellings on 
all the principal streets are two and three stories 
high and built of rough stones. Many of them 
have fronts glazed with porcelain, bearing a 
variety of designs and inscriptions, usually of a 
religious character, which gives to the whole a 
rich and mosaic appearance. The roofs are flat 
and have a parapet wall three or four feet high, 
which, during the political struggles with which 
this country has been afflcted, have often been 
used as breastworks. In peace these parapets 
are decorated with flowers of almost every known 
variety, which produce a charming effect. The 
lower stories, through which ingress and egress 
are made to the most splendid saloons, are fre¬ 
quently used for stables. In the centre of the 
building is an open court, with a jetting fountain 
in the middle, and surrounded with ballustraded 
galleries, where the inmates retire in the heat of 
the day to enjoy the fresh and cooling atmos¬ 
phere. The people are gay, polite and much 
addicted to gaming. Population from 150,000 
to 200,000." 

Next to the capital, La Puebla de los Angelos 
is the largest city in Mexico, and in many re¬ 
spects it is superior to that famed metropolis. 
It has been called the Lowell of Mexico. The 
principal manufactories of cotton fabrics and 
delph wares are located there, and some of them 
are in very successful operation. They labor 
under great disadvantages, however, lio'twilhstan* 


(ling the favor shown them by the government, 
and the high rates at which they dispose of the 
manufactured goods, the price of a yard of mus¬ 
lin, which in this country would sell for 6 cents, 
being 30 cents. This city is the seat of the 
wealthiest portion of the priesthood, who exer¬ 
cise sovereign influence in episcopal matters. It 
contains sixty churches, nine monasteries, thir¬ 
teen nunneries and twenty-three colleges, the 
most sumptuous to be seen anywhere. The 
Cathredal has no rival except that of Mexico. 
Under an exterior of but little architectural beauty, 
: t has such an assemblage of costly ornaments as 
is seldom brought together; a ponderous font of 
transparent alabaster, a magnificent altar of sil¬ 
ver, crowded with statues and thickly set with 
precious stones, and numerous and lofty col¬ 
umns, with plinths and capitals of burnished gold. 
The streets are rectangular and are paved with 
large stones, in a peculiar and highly ornamen¬ 
tal manner. The houses are spacious, and like 
those of Mexico have flat roofs, sometimes cov¬ 
ed with glazed tiles, and an open court in the 
centre. Most of them have elegantly construc¬ 
ted balconies in front, the projecting roofs of 
which are lined with porcelain tiles. The po¬ 
lice of Puebla has received the highest enconium 
of many intelligent visiters. Population over 
90 000. 

Distant about six miles from Puebla, is the 
ancient Cholula, made memorable by the most 
cruel and disgraceful deed of Cortez’s life. It 
has dwindled into an inconsiderable town, and 
is still declining; yet its gigantic pyramid is there 


30 


to attest its former glory, and will forever re¬ 
main an object of mystery and wonder. A pas¬ 
sage has been cut through it for the national 
road, which shows it to have been formed of un¬ 
burnt brick and cement. From its summit a 
noble view of the surrounding cities, plains and 
mountains is obtained. 

Vera Cru'«, the principal port on the eastern 
coast, is overlooked by the castle of San Juan de 
Ulloa, which next to Ivibaralter, is supposed to 
be the strongest fortress in the world. The city 
is built of madspore, a submarine substance, 
and is inhabited chiefly by merchants, whose 
families often reside in the more healthy loca¬ 
tions of the interior. This gives to it a gloomy 
and forsaken appearance, which is perfectly in 
keeping with the unalleviated sameness and ster¬ 
ility around it. The harbor is exceedingly un¬ 
safe, on account of the frequency and violence of 
the north winds, and unfortunately just at the 
time when they subside, the vomito, which has 
made this city a vast charnel house of Euro¬ 
peans, begins to make its appearance, and con¬ 
tinues its ravages for eight or ten months. 

The natural heat of the climate, rendered al¬ 
most intolerable by reflection from sand hills in 
the vicinity, and the pestilential exhalations from 
neighboring marshes, combine to make this one 
of the most unhealthy and disagreeable spots on 
the globe, and must effectually prevent its ever 
increasing greatly in importance. A sandy plain, 
with scarce a green spot large enough for agar- 
den, extends for several miles in the back ground, 
and Consequently the supplies for the market. 


31 


with the single exception of fish, are brought 
from a distance. The present population is esti¬ 
mated at something over 70,000. 

Queretaro, the capital of a small but flourish¬ 
ing state of the same name lying to the^West of 
Vera Cruz, is a finely situated, industrious and 
wealthy city. It contains several prosperous facto¬ 
ries of wollen goods, wool of the best quality be¬ 
ing obtained in the state. It has that same reg¬ 
ularity of design which characterizes all Span¬ 
ish cities in this country. An aqueduct ten miles 
in length, with many bold and lofty arches, and 
the splendid churches and convents, give it an 
air of magnificence. Population 40,000. 

The state of Guanaxuato is small but popu¬ 
lous, and famous for the great mine of Valencia, 
the principal vein of which produced from 1766 
to 1829, 225,935,736 dollars. Within the lim¬ 
its of this state is the Buxio, a rich and highly 
cultivated plain, celebrated as the bloody theatre 
of some of the most horrible events of the revo¬ 
lution. Guanaxuato, the capital, is built on un¬ 
even ground, and the houses and streets are dis¬ 
tributed rather according to the vacancies left by 
the surrounding mountains, than by any rules of 
art, yet it is a romantic and agreeable place. 
Population 60,000. 

Guadalaxara, on the Pacific, is an extensive 
state, and celebrated for the decisive stand it took 
in favor of republican principles during the rev¬ 
olution. It has since that time been agitated by 
fierce disputes between the priests and civil au¬ 
thorities. The mines of this state are numerous 
but unimportant, with the exception of those of 


32 


Bolanos, which are among the richest in Mexi¬ 
co. San Bias, once the principal port on the 
western coast, having been found inferior to 
Guaymas and Mazatlan, has lost the greater part 
of its trade. The capital, Guadalaxara, is hand¬ 
some, the streets airy, and many of the houses 
excellent. It contains fourteen public squares, 
twelve fountains, supplied by five aqueducts, and 
a beautiful Alameda or public walk. The Guad- 
alaxarians excel in the manufacture of leathern 
articles. The population is estimated at some¬ 
thing over 60,000. 


PRONUNCIATION OF MEXICAN NAMES 
OF PLACES. 

Note, —A has the sound of a in far, or of ah; 
e that of a in pate; i that of e in me; u is sound¬ 
ed like oo; x and j have the same sound—that 
of h —and many names are spelled sometimes 
with one of these letters, and sometimes with the 
other; thus, we see the name of the same place 
spelled Jdlapa and Xalapa. In this list the ac¬ 
cented sylables are printed in Italics. 

Acapulco, ak-ah-jooo/f-co. 

Agua Nueva, ah-gwah nwet-v ah. 

Aguas Calientes, agwas eal-e-en-tes. 

Alvarado, al-vah-raA-do. 

Anahuac, an-ah-z^ac. 

A n gos t u ■■ r a, an - go s- to o - r a h. 

Bexar, Spanish pronunciation hn-har; com¬ 
monly pronounced by the Texans buh-Mr, or 
bar. 

Bogota, ho-go-iah. 






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Brigham Young University 
RARE BOOK COLLECTION 


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