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to learn what genuine enjoyment there is in human sympathy -how helping to bear the burdens of others makes our own lighter. To those who, like Béranger, assist to open those floodgates of feeling—to the poets of humanity-we owe a debt of gratitude. Let us pay that debt, not because the poet needs it, but because it is good for us to do so. By our sympathies with them we shall be raised to a higher life.
Art. IV.-1. Histoire des Nations civilisées du Mexique et de
l'Amérique Centrale durant les Siècles anterieurs à Christophe Colomb, écrite sur des documens originaux et entièrement in. édits, puisés aux anciennes archives des indigènes. Par M. l'Abbé BRASSEUR de BOURBOURG, ancien aumonier de la Legation de France au Mexique, et administrateur ecclesiastique des Indiens de Rabinal (Guatemala.) Paris: Arthur Ber
trand. 1857. 2. Description of the Ruins of an Ancient City discovered near
Palenque, in the Kingdom of Guatemala in Spanish America. Translated from the original report of Don Antonio del Rio; followed by a critical investigation and research into the history of the Americans, by Dr. Paul FELIX Cabrera.
London. 1822. 3. Mémoire sur l'Ecriture figurative et la Peinture didactique
des anciens Mexicains. Par M. AUBIN. Paris. 1849. 4. The History of Mexico, collected from Spanish and Mexican
historians : to which are added critical dissertations on the land, animals, and inhabitants of Mexico. By the Abbé D. FRANCISCO SEVERIO CLAVIGERO. Translated from the Italian by Charles Cullen, Esq. 3 vols. Philadelphia. 1834.
UNTIL the recent researches of Messrs. Aubin and Brasseur de Bourbourg it had been generally believed that but little in the shape of a connected history of ancient Mexico and Central America existed. The unconnected, and not always impartial, accounts given by the Spanish historians of the nations subdued by Cortez and his successors have mainly contributed to this belief; and owing to the barbarous fanaticism of Diego Landa, who destroyed all the native archives and records he could find, no connected history has been found of the long period which elapsed between the era of Zamna, (or Itzamal,) the carly law-giver of Yucatan, and the foundation of the Toltec empire in Mexico. The attention of the Spanish historians was directed more to the religion and religious ceremonies which they found prevailing in Central America than to the early history of the people; and their works abound in descriptions of the magnificent temples, pyramids, monuments, and ruins of ancient cities, which filled them with astonishment. Las Casas, Clavigero, Lizana, Cogolludo, and other of these early Spanish writers seem to have fancied themselves in a land of magicians and powerful demons, and the zeal of the missionaries who followed in the footsteps of Cortez was proportionably excited to accomplish the expulsion of these evil spirits, and the extermination of idolatry among the natives. The military adventurers cared for nothing but gold and silver, and to the acquisition of the precious metals they sacrificed everything. Hence it is not to be wondered at that the antiquities and early history of Mexico should have been neglected.
It was reserved for the learning and enterprise of modern explorers to decipher the Mexican hieroglyphics and inscriptions, collect the scattered records of the past, and form them into a connected history. Foremost among these is the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbonrg, who undertook the task in fulfilment of the grand object of his life. From early youth he had been fired with the idea of making as important discoveries among the relics of antiquity on this continent as Young, Champollion, Layard, Rawlinson, Hinckes, and others had made in Egypt and Assyria.* Circumstances at length opened the way for the accomplishment of his desires. Under the auspices of M. Levasseur, Minister Plenipotentiary of France in Mexico, be went to Central America, in 1818, as Almoner of the French Legation. He visited the ruins of ancient temples and cities in Mexico, and was diligent in searching after native histories and the records of the old Spanish writers. He was so fortunate as to find many-a list of which he has given in the preface to his work above referred to.* With particular joy he records the finding of two ancient Mexican books, to which he gave the names of Codex Chimalpopoca and the Memorial of Culhuacan, and which he describes as most precious documents relating to Mexican chronology.t
* He says, in the introduction to his work, p. 111: "Un vague presseptiment me montra, dans le lointaio, je ne sais quels voiles mysterieux, qu'un instinct secret me pensait à soulever, et entendant parler de Champollion, dont la renommée commençait à pénétrer même dans les colléges de la province, je me demandais vaguement si le continent occidental n'apporterait pas aussi un jour sa part dans le grand travail scientifique qui s'opérait en Europe.”
The eminent archæologist, M. Aubin, of Paris, who had collected a large number of manuscripts and histories relating to the antiquities of Mexico and Central America, visited those countries in 1830, and on his return to France published part of his researches in his Memoire sur l'Ecriture figurative et la Peinture didactique des anciens Mexicains. Brasseur de Bourbourg returned to Europe in 1832, and collated his researches with those of M. Aubin. He went back to Mexico in 1854, and visited Nicaragua and Guatemala, returning to Paris in 1856. In 1857 he published his great work, in which it is evident he had the assistance of M. Aubin; so that it may be considered their joint composition. They have most ingeniously made out not only a connected but a detailed history of the Mexicans; and if it be not altogether authentic it is at all events interesting. We gain from the perusal of it considerable light respecting this mysterious people.
That the original population of Central America and Mexico is of very high antiquity there can be little doubt. The traditions of the various nations by which these countries were peopled bear ample testimony to this. A still stronger argument is found in the number of languages spoken there at the time of their conquest by the Spaniards. Now, unless we suppose that by some miraculous operation these languages and dialects were brought suddenly into being, we can assign but two modes in which they could have come into existence; the one is by the immigration of foreigners, the other by the slow and gradual operation of the laws of Providence, which regulates the multiplication and distribution of the human race and the formation of languages.
* Introduction, pp. lxxiv-xci.
+ Introduction, p. xiii.
With regard to the first, there is no record of any considerable or varied migration from the Old World into the New, which could have sufficed to produce these dialects; moreover, the spoken languages of Central America bear no resemblance to any that were used by the trading and colonizing nations of ancient Europe, the Phænicians, the Carthaginians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans.
It is however probable that enterprising individuals, of European origin, found their way across the Atlantic, being driven thither either by storms, or by currents, or by their own hardihood. From the Azores, or from the western coast of Africa, to Brazil, is not so very long a voyage; and there is the Gulf Stream to assist navigation in that direction, and to carry the sailor on to the West Indies and the Gulf of Mexico. We believe that the fainous law-givers of ancient Mexican history, Votan and Zamna, of whom we shall say more presently, came from Europe, or at all events from Cuba, or South-America. And we find a people called the Othomis, who inhabited Mexico before the Toltecs, speaking a monosyllabic language strongly resembling the Chinese: they called it the Hiang-hiung, which signifies the permanent speech." Their own name-Ot-homi-signifies“ never tranquil;" heaven they styled Ma-hetzi; and God, O-kha, that is, “the holy remembrance."* They shaved their head after the Chinese fashion, leaving a tuft or tail at the back; and some of their customs show their Mongolian origin. It may be reasonably inferred that at a very remote period some Chinese navigators found their way across the Pacific to the western shores of this continent; as it may also be supposed that the red men of Asia crossed Behring's Strait into Alaska, and became the progenitors of our red Indians; or vice versa, the population of Asia may have been derived from this continent. It is a remarkable fact that the Northmen, when they visited our eastern shores at the beginning of the eleventh century of the Christian Era, met with an Irishman, who had lived many years among the natives, and was able to interpret their language; and they also
* De Bourbourg, Mexique et l'Amérique Centrale, vol. i., p. 157.
were told that further south existed a white race of foreigners.* These must have found their way across the Atlantic at some remote period. Still, allowing for all possible immigration from European or Asiatic sources, there is not enough to account for the great variety of dialects found among the nations of Central America. We must therefore fall back on the second mode, namely, the slow and gradual operation of the laws of Providence; and this at once carries us to remote antiquity, going back from the era of the Spanish conquest, (A.D. 1519-21.)
When the Spaniards invaded the continent, they found a great number of languages in nse; but some of them could be traced to a common origin. Thus Ximenes tells us that there was an idiom, called the Maya, from which he could distinctly derive more than thirteen languages. So that the same laws which have regulated the derivation of the European and some of the Asiatic languages from the Indo-Germanic or Aryan stock, prevailed in Central America. We have no intention of entering into a discussion of the characteristics of these ancient Central American languages. It is sufficient for our purpose to adduce their existence as a proof of the remote antiquity of the people who spoke them; we leave it to professional ethnologists, philologists, and grammarians to say within what period a language can be formed. We have the example of the English tongue before us; and we know that it is the most modern of all languages, being the only one that has never been otherwise than Christian. We may say that it is not more than six hundred years old. But this would be only a portion of the truth, for it is mainly derived from a language which was spoken in the north of Germany a thousand years previously, and had its roots from another language which was spoken in the north of Hindustan three thousand years before that! Thus more than four thousand years were required to form our mother tongue, which is purely a derivative one. How long a period was required to form the Sanscrit ? We think the ar
* Antiquitates Americance. Discovery of America in the tenth century, pp. xxxvii. Hafniæ. 1837.
+ Tesoro de las Lenguas.