Chapter II



THE form of government differed in the different states of Anahuac. With the Aztecs and Tezcucans it was monarchical and nearly absolute. I shall direct my inquiries to the Mexican polity, borrowing an illustration occasionally from that of the rival kingdom.

The government was an elective monarchy. Four of the principal nobles, who had been chosen by their own body in the preceding reign, filled the office of electors, to whom were added, with merely an honorary rank, however, the two royal allies of Tezcuco and Tlacopan. The sovereign was selected from the brothers of the deceased prince, or, in default of them, from his nephews. Thus the election was always restricted to the same family. The candidate preferred must have distinguished himself in war, though, as in the case of the last Montezuma, he were a member of the priesthood. This singular mode of supplying the throne had some advantages. The candidates received an education which fitted them for the royal dignity, while the age at which they were chosen not only secured the nation against the evils of minority, but afforded ample means for estimating their qualifications for the office. The result, at all events, was favourable; since the throne, as already noticed, was filled by a succession of able princes, well qualified to rule over a warlike and ambitious people. The scheme of election, however defective, argues a more refined and calculating policy than was to have been expected from a barbarous nation.

The new monarch was installed in his regal dignity with much parade of religious ceremony; but not until, by a victorious campaign, he had obtained a sufficient number of captives to grace his triumphal entry into the capital, and to furnish victims for the dark and bloody rites which stained the Aztec superstition. Amidst this pomp of human sacrifice he was crowned. The crown, resembling a mitre in its form, and curiously ornamented with gold, gems, and feathers, was placed on his head by the lord of Tezcuco, the most powerful of his royal allies. The title of King, by which the earlier Aztec princes are distinguished by Spanish writers, is supplanted by that of Emperor in the later reigns, intimating, perhaps, his superiority over the monarchies of Tlacopan and Tezcuco.

The Aztec princes, especially towards the close of the dynasty, lived in a barbaric pomp, truly Oriental. Their spacious palaces were provided with halls for the different councils, who aided the monarch in the transaction of business. The chief of these was a sort of privy council, composed in part, probably, of the four electors chosen by the nobles after the accession, whose places, when made vacant by death, were immediately supplied as before. It was the business of this body, so far as can be gathered from the very loose accounts given of it, to advise the king in respect to the government of the provinces, the administration of the revenues, and, indeed, on all great matters of public interest.

In the royal buildings were accommodations, also, for a numerous body-guard of the sovereign, made up of the chief nobility. It is not easy to determine with precision, in these barbarian governments, the limits of the several orders. It is certain there was a distinct class of nobles, with large landed possessions, who held the most important offices near the person of the prince, and engrossed the administration of the provinces and cities. Many of these could trace their descent from the founders of the Aztec monarchy. According to some writers of authority, there were thirty great caciques, who had their residence, at least a part of the year, in the capital, and who could muster a hundred thousand vassals each on their estates. Without relying on such wild statements, it is clear, from the testimony of the conquerors, that the country was occupied by numerous powerful chieftains, who lived like independent princes on their domains. It it be true that the kings encouraged, or indeed exacted, the residence of these nobles in the capital, and required hostages in their absence, it is evident that their power must have been very formidable.

Their estates appear to have been held by various tenures, and to have been subject to different restrictions. Some of them, earned by their own good swords or received as the recompense of public services, were held without any limitation, except that the possessors could not dispose of them to a plebeian. Others were entailed on the eldest male issue, and, in default of such, reverted to the crown. Most of them seem to have been burdened with the obligation of military service. The principal chiefs of Tezcuco, according to its chronicler, were expressly obliged to support their prince with their armed vassals, to attend his court, and aid him in the counsel. Some, instead of these services, were to provide for the repairs of his buildings, and to keep the royal demesnes in order, with an annual offering, by way of homage, of fruits and flowers. It was usual for a new king, on his accession, to confirm the investiture of estates derived from the crown.

It cannot be denied that we recognise in all this several features of the feudal system, which, no doubt, lose nothing of their effect, under the hands of the Spanish writers, who are fond of tracing analogies to European institutions. But such analogies lead sometimes to very erroneous conclusions. The obligation of military service, for instance, the most essential principle of a fief, seems to be naturally demanded by every government from its subjects. As to minor points of resemblance, they fall far short of that harmonious system of reciprocal service and protection which embraced, in nice gradation, every order of a feudal monarchy. The kingdoms of Anahuac were, in their nature, despotic, attended, indeed, with many mitigating circumstances unknown to the despotisms of the East; but it is chimerical to look for much in common- beyond a few accidental forms and ceremonies- with those aristocratic institutions of the Middle Ages, which made the court of every petty baron the precise image in miniature of that of his sovereign.

The legislative power, both in Mexico and Tezcuco, resided wholly with the monarch. This feature of despotism, however, was in some measure counteracted by the constitution of the judicial tribunals- of more importance, among a rude people, than the legislative, since it is easier to make good laws for such a community than to enforce them, and the best laws, badly administered, are but a mockery. Over each of the principal cities, with its dependent territories, was placed a supreme judge, appointed by the crown, with original and final jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases. There was no appeal from his sentence to any other tribunal, nor even to the king. He held his office during life; and any one who usurped his ensigns was punished with death.

Below this magistrate was a court, established in each province, and consisting of three members. It held concurrent jurisdiction with the supreme judge in civil suits, but in criminal an appeal lay to his tribunal. Besides these courts, there was a body of inferior magistrates distributed through the country, chosen by the people themselves in their several districts. Their authority was limited to smaller causes, while the more important were carried up to the higher courts. There was still another class of subordinate officers, appointed also by the people, each of whom was to watch over the conduct of a certain number of families, and report any disorder or breach of the laws to the higher authorities.

In Tezcuco the judicial arrangements were of a more refined character; and a gradation of tribunals finally terminated in a general meeting or parliament, consisting of all the judges, great and petty, throughout the kingdom, held every eighty days in the capital, over which the king presided in person. This body determined all suits, which, from their importance, or difficulty, had been reserved for its consideration by the lower tribunals. It served, moreover, as a council of state, to assist the monarch in the transaction of public business.

Such are the vague and imperfect notices that can be gleaned respecting the Aztec tribunals, from the hieroglyphical paintings still preserved, and from the most accredited Spanish writers. These, being usually ecclesiastics, have taken much less interest in this subject than in matters connected with religion. They find some apology, certainly, in the early destruction of most of the Indian paintings, from which their information was, in part, to be gathered.

On the whole, however, it must be inferred, that the Aztecs were sufficiently civilised to envince a solicitude for the rights both of property and of persons. The law, authorising an appeal to the highest judicature in criminal matters only, shows an attention to personal security, rendered the more obligatory by the extreme severity of their penal code, which would naturally have made them more cautious of a wrong conviction. The existence of a number of co-ordinate tribunals, without a central one of supreme authority to control the whole, must have given rise to very discordant interpretations of the law in different districts, an evil which they shared in common with most of the nations of Europe.

The provision for making the superior judges wholly independent of the crown was worthy of an enlightened people. It presented the strongest barrier, that a mere constitution could afford, against tyranny. It is not, indeed, to be supposed that, in a government otherwise so despotic, means could not be found for influencing the magistrate. But it was a great step to fence round his authority with the sanction of the law; and no one of the Aztec monarch, as far as I know, is accused of an attempt to violate it.

To receive presents or a bribe, to be guilty of collusion in any way with a suitor, was punished, in a judge, with death. Who, or what tribunal, decided as to his guilt, does not appear. In Tezcuco this was done by the rest of the court. But the king presided over that body. The Tezcucan prince, Nezahualpilli, who rarely tempered justice with mercy, put one judge to death for taking a bribe, and another for determining suits in his own house,- a capital offence, also, by law.

The judges of the higher tribunals were maintained from the produce of a part of the crown lands, reserved for this purpose. They, as well as the supreme judge, held their offices for life. The proceedings in the courts were conducted with decency and order. The judges wore an appropriate dress, and attended to business both parts of the day, dining always, for the sake of despatch, in an apartment of the same building where they held their session; a method of proceeding much commended by the Spanish chroniclers, to whom despatch was not very familiar in their own tribunals. Officers attended to preserve order, and others summoned the parties, and produced them in court. No counsel was employed; the parties stated their own case, and supported it by their witnesses. The oath of the accused was also admitted in evidence. The statement of the case, the testimony, and the proceedings of the trial, were all set forth by a clerk, in hieroglyphical paintings, and handed over to the court. The paintings were executed with so much accuracy, that, in all suits respecting real property, they were allowed to be produced as good authority in the Spanish tribunals, very long after the Conquest.

A capital sentence was indicated by a line traced with an arrow across the portrait of the accused. In Tezcuco, where the king presided in the court, this, according to the national chronicler, was done with extraordinary parade. His description, which is of rather a poetical cast, I give in his own words: "In the royal palace of Tezcuco was a courtyard, on the opposite sides of which were two halls of justice. In the principal one, called the 'tribunal of God,' was a throne of pure gold inlaid with turquoises and other precious stones. On a stool in front, was placed a human skull, crowned with an immense emerald, of a pyramidal form, and surmounted by an aigrette of brilliant plumes and precious stones. The skull was laid on a heap of military weapons, shields, quivers, bows, and arrows. The walls were hung with tapestry, made of the hair of different wild animals, of rich and various colours, festooned by gold rings, and embroidered with figures of birds and flowers. Above the throne was a canopy of variegated plumage, from the centre of which shot forth resplendent rays of gold and jewels. The other tribunal, called 'the king's,' was also surmounted by a gorgeous canopy of feathers, on which were emblazoned the royal arms. Here the sovereign gave public audience, and communicated his despatches. But, when he decided important causes, or confirmed a capital sentence, he passed to 'the tribunal of God,' attended by the fourteen great lords of the realm, marshalled according to their rank. Then, putting on his mitred crown, incrusted with precious stones, and holding a golden arrow, by way of sceptre, in his left hand, he laid his right upon the skull, and pronounced judgment." All this looks rather fine for a court of justice, it must be owned. But it is certain, that the Tezcucans, as we shall see hereafter, possessed both the materials and the skill requisite to work them up in this manner. Had they been a little further advanced in refinement, one might well doubt their having the bad taste to do so.

The laws of the Aztecs were registered, and exhibited to the people in their hieroglyphical paintings. Much the larger part of them, as in every nation imperfectly civilised, relates rather to the security of persons than of property. The great crimes against society 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 by slavery or death. Yet the Mexicans could have been under no great apprehension of this crime, since the entrances to their dwellings were not secured by bolts, or fastenings of any kind. 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. These regulations evince a regard for equity in dealings, and for private rights, which argues a considerable progress in civilisation. Prodigals, who squandered their patrimony, were punished in like manner; a severe sentence, since the crime brought its adequate punishment along with it. Intemperance, which was the burden, moreover, of their religious homilies, 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. Yet a decent conviviality was not meant to be proscribed at their festivals, and they possessed the means of indulging it, in a mild fermented liquor, called pulque.

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 instituted for the sole purpose of determining questions relating to it. Divorces could not be obtained, until authorised by a sentence of this court, after a patient hearing of the parties.

But the most remarkable part of the Aztec code was that relating to slavery. There were several descriptions of slaves: prisoners taken in war, who were almost always reserved for the dreadful doom of sacrifice; criminals, public debtors, persons who, from extreme poverty, voluntarily resigned their freedom, and children who were sold by their own parents. In the last instance, usually occasioned also by poverty, it was common for the parents, with the master's consent, to substitute others of their children successively, as they grew up: thus distributing the burden, as equally as possible, among the different members of the family. The willingness of freemen to incur the penalties of this condition is explained by the mild form in which it existed. The contract of sale was executed in the presence of at least four witnesses. The services to be exacted were limited with great precision. The slave was allowed to have his own family, to hold property, and even other slaves. His children were free. No one could be born to slavery in Mexico, an honourable distinction, not known, I believe, in any civilised community where slavery has been sanctioned. Slaves were not sold by their masters, unless when these were driven to it by poverty. They were often liberated by them at their death, and sometimes, as there was no natural repugnance founded on difference of blood and race, were married to them. Yet a refractory or vicious slave might be led into the market, with a collar round his neck, which intimated his bad character, and there be publicly sold, and, on a second sale, reserved for sacrifice.

The royal revenues were derived from various sources. The crown lands, which appear to have been extensive, made their returns in kind. The places in the neighbourhood of the capital were bound to supply workmen and materials for building the king's palaces, and keeping them in repair. They were also to furnish fuel, provisions, and whatever was necessary for his ordinary domestic expenditure, which was certainly on no stinted scale. The principal cities, which had numerous villages and a large territory dependent on them, were distributed into districts, with each a share of the lands allotted to it, for its support. The inhabitants paid a stipulated part of the produce to the crown. The vassals of the great chiefs, also, paid a portion of their earnings into the public treasury; an arrangement not at all in the spirit of the feudal institutions.

In addition to this tax on all the agricultural produce of the kingdom, there was another on its manufactures. The nature and the variety of the tributes will be best shown by an enumeration of some of the principal articles. These were cotton dresses, and mantles of feather-work, exquisitely made; ornamented armour; vases and plates 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, cocoa, wild animals and birds, timber, lime, mats, etc. In this curious medley of the most homely commodities, and the elegant superfluities of luxury, it is singular that no mention should be made of silver, the great staple of the country in later times, and the use of which was certainly known to the Aztecs.

Garrisons were established in the larger cities,- probably those at a distance, and recently conquered,- to keep down revolt, and to enforce the payment of the tribute. Tax-gatherers were also distributed throughout the kingdom, who were recognised by their official badges, and dreaded from the merciless rigour of their exactions. By a stern law, every defaulter was liable to be taken and sold as a slave. In the capital were spacious granaries and warehouses for the reception of the tributes. A receiver-general was quartered in the palace, who rendered in an exact account of the various contributions, and watched over the conduct of the inferior agents, in whom the least malversation was summarily punished. This functionary was furnished with a map of the whole empire, with a minute specification of the imposts assessed on every part of it. These imposts, moderate under the reigns of the early princes, became so burdensome under those of the close of the dynasty, being rendered still more oppressive by the manner of collection, that they bred disaffection throughout the land, and prepared the way for its conquest by the Spaniards.

Communication was maintained with the remotest parts of the country by means of couriers. Post-houses were established on the great roads, about two leagues distant from each other. The courier, bearing his despatches in the form of a hieroglyphical painting, ran with them to the first station, where they were taken by another messenger, and carried forward to the next, and so on till they reached the capital. These couriers, trained from childhood, travelled with incredible swiftness; not four or five leagues an hour, as an old chronicler would make us believe, but with such speed that despatches were carried from one to two hundred miles a day. Fresh fish was frequently served at Montezuma's table in twenty-four hours from the time it had been taken in the Gulf of Mexico, two hundred miles from the capital. In this way intelligence of the movements of the royal armies was rapidly brought to court; and the dress of the courier, denoting by its colour that of his tidings, spread joy or consternation in the towns through which he passed.

But the great aim of the Aztec institutions to which private discipline and public honours were alike directed, was the profession of arms. In Mexico, as in Egypt, the soldier shared with the priest the highest consideration. The king, as we have seen, must be an experienced warrior. The tutelary deity of the Aztecs was the god of war. A great object of their military expeditions was, to gather hecatombs of captives for his altars. The soldier, who fell in battle, was transported at once to the region of ineffable bliss in the bright mansions of the Sun. Every war, therefore, became a crusade; and the warrior, animated by a religious enthusiasm, like that of the early Saracen, or the Christian crusader, was not only raised to a contempt of danger, but courted it, for the imperishable crown of martyrdom. Thus we find the same impulse acting in the most opposite quarters of the globe, and the Asiatic, the European, and the American, each earnestly invoking the holy name of religion in the perpetration of human butchery.

The question of war was discussed in a council of the king and his chief nobles. Ambassadors were sent, previously to its declaration, to require the hostile state to receive the Mexican gods, and to pay the customary tribute. The persons of ambassadors were held sacred throughout Anahuac. They were lodged and entertained in the great towns at the public charge, and were everywhere received with courtesy, so long as they did not deviate from the high-roads on their route. When they did, they forfeited their privileges. If the embassy proved unsuccessful, a defiance, or open declaration of war, was sent; quotas were drawn from the conquered provinces, which Were always subjected to military service, as well as the payment of taxes; and the royal army, usually with the monarch at its head, began its march.

The Aztec princes made use of the incentive employed by European monarchs to excite the ambition of their followers. They established various military orders, each having its privileges and peculiar insignia. There seems, also, to have existed a sort of knighthood, of inferior degree. It was the cheapest reward of martial prowess, and whoever had not reached it was excluded from using ornaments on his arms or his person, and obliged to wear a coarse white stuff, made from the threads of the aloe, called nequen. Even the members of the royal family were not excepted from this law, which reminds one of the occasional practice of Christian knights, to wear plain armour, or shields without device, till they had achieved some doughty feat of chivalry. Although the military orders were thrown open to all, it is probable that they were chiefly filled with persons of rank, who, by their previous training and connections, were able to come into the field under peculiar advantages.

The dress of the higher warriors was picturesque, and often magnificent. Their bodies were covered with a close vest of quilted cotton, so thick as to be impenetrable to the light missiles of Indian warfare. This garment was so light and serviceable that it was adopted by the Spaniards. The wealthier chiefs sometimes wore, instead of this cotton mail, a cuirass made of thin plates of gold, or silver. Over it was thrown a surcoat of the gorgeous feather-work in which they excelled. Their helmets were sometimes of wood, fashioned like the heads of wild animals, and sometimes of silver, on the top of which waved a panache of variegated feathers, sprinkled with precious stones and ornaments of gold. They wore also collars, bracelets, and earrings, of the same rich materials.

Their armies were divided into bodies of eight thousand men; and these, again, into companies of three or four hundred, each with its own commander. The national standard, which has been compared to the ancient Roman, displayed, in its embroidery of gold and feather-work, the armorial ensigns of the state. These were significant of its name, which, as the names of both persons and places were borrowed from some material object, was easily expressed by hieroglyphical symbols. The companies and the great chiefs had also their appropriate banners and devices, and the gaudy hues of their many-coloured plumes gave a dazzling splendour to the spectacle.

Their tactics were such as belong to a nation with whom war, though a trade, is not elevated to the rank of a science. They advanced singing, and shouting their war-cries, briskly charging the enemy, as rapidly retreating, and making use of ambuscades, sudden surprises, and the light skirmish of guerilla warfare. Yet their discipline was such as to draw forth the encomiums of the Spanish conquerors. "A beautiful sight it was," says one of them, "to see them set out on their march, all moving forward so gaily, and in so admirable order!" In battle, they did not seek to kill their enemies, so much as to take them prisoners; and they never scalped, like other North American tribes. The valour of a warrior was estimated by the number of his prisoners; and no ransom was large enough to save the devoted captive.

Their military code bore the same stern features as their other laws. Disobedience of orders was punished with death. It was death, also, for a soldier to leave his colours to attack the enemy before the signal was given, or to plunder another's booty or prisoners. One of the last Tezcucan princes, in the spirit of an ancient Roman, put two sons to death,- after having cured their wounds,- for violating the last-mentioned law.

I must not omit to notice here an institution, the introduction of which, in the Old World, is ranked among the beneficent fruits of Christianity. Hospitals were established in the principal cities for the cure of the sick, and the permanent refuge of the disabled soldier; and surgeons were placed over them, "who were so far better than those in Europe," says an old chronicler, "that they did not protract the cure, in order to increase the pay."

Such is the brief outline of the civil and military polity of the ancient Mexicans; less perfect than could be desired, in regard to the former, from the imperfection of the sources whence it is drawn. Whoever has had occasion to explore the early history of modern Europe has found how vague and unsatisfactory is the political information which can be gleaned from the gossip of monkish annalists. How much is the difficulty increased in the present instance, where this information, first recorded in the dubious language of hieroglyphics, was interpreted in another language, with which the Spanish chroniclers were imperfectly acquainted, while it related to institutions of which their past experience enabled them to form no adequate conception! Amidst such uncertain lights, it is in vain to expect nice accuracy of detail. All that can be done is, to attempt an outline of the more prominent features, that a correct impression, so far as it goes, may be produced on the mind of the reader.

Enough has been said, however, to show that the Aztec and Tezcucan races were advanced in civilisation very far beyond the wandering tribes of North America. The degree of civilisation which they had reached, as inferred by their political institutions, may be considered, perhaps, not much short of that enjoyed by our Saxon ancestors, under Alfred. In respect to the nature of it, they may be better compared with the Egyptians; and the examination of their social relations and culture may suggest still stronger points of resemblance to that ancient people.

1. Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich. MS., cap. 36.

2. This was an exception.--In Egypt, also, the king was frequently taken from the caste, though obliged afterwards to be instructed in the mysteries of the priesthood: ο δε εκ μαχιυων. Plutarch, de Isid. et Osir., sec. 9.

3. Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 2, cap. 18; lib. 11, cap. 27.--Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. II. p. 112.--Acosta, Naturall and Morall Historie of the East and West Indies, Eng. trans. (London, 1604.)
      According to Zurita, an election by the nobles took place only in default of heirs of the deceased monarch. (Rapport, p. 15.) The minute historical investigation of Clavigero may be permitted to outweigh this general assertion.

4. Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva España, lib. 6, cap. 9, 10, 14; lib. 8, cap. 31, 34.--See, also, Zurita, Rapport, pp. 20-23.
      Ixtlilxochitl stoutly claims this supremacy for his own nation. (Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 34.) His assertions are at variance with facts stated by himself elsewhere, and are not counte­nanced by any other writer whom I have consulted.

5. Sahagun, who places the elective power in a much larger body, speaks of four senators, who formed a state council. (Hist. de Nueva España, lib. 8, cap. 30.) Acosta enlarges the council beyond the number of the electors. (Lib. 6, ch. 26.) No two writers agree.

6. Zurita enumerates four orders of chiefs, all of whom were exempted from imposts, and en­joyed very considerable privileges. He does not discriminate the several ranks with much precision. Rapport, p. 47, et seq.

7. See, in particular, Herrera, Historia General de los Hechos de los Castellanos en las Islas y Tierra Firme del Mar Oceano, (Madrid, 1730,) dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 12.

8. Carta de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, Hist. de Nueva España, p. 110.--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 2, cap. 89; lib. 14, cap. 6.--Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. II. p. 121.--Zurita, Rap­port, pp. 48, 65.
      Ixtlilxochitl (Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 34) speaks of thirty great feudal chiefs, some of them Tezcucan and Tlacopan, whom he styles "grandees of the empire!" He says nothing of the great tail of 100,000 vassals to each, mentioned by Torquemada and Herrera.

9. Macehual,--a word equivalent to the French word roturier. Nor could fiefs originally be held by plebeians in France. See Hallam's Middle Ages, (London, 1818,) vol. II. p. 207.

10. Ixlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., ubi supra.--Zurita, Rapport, ubi supra.--Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. II. pp. 122-124.--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 14, cap. 7.-Gomara. Cronica de Nueva Espania, cap. 199, ap. Barcia, tom. II.
      Boturini (Idea, p. 165) carries back the origin of fiefs in Anahuac, to the twelfth century. Carli says, "Le système politique y étoit féodal." In the next page he tells us, "Personal merit alone made the distinction of the nobility!" (Lettres Americaines, trad. Fr., (Paris, 1788,) tom. I, let. 11.) Carli was a writer of a lively imagination.

11. This magistrate, who was called cihuacoatl, was also to audit the accounts of the collectors of the taxes in his district. (Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. II. p. 127.--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 11, cap. 25.) The Mendoza Collection contains a painting of the courts of justice, under Montezuma, who introduced great changes in them. (Antiq. of Mexico, vol. I., Plate 70.) According to the interpreter, an appeal lay from them, in certain cases, to the king's council. Ibid., vol. VI. p. 79.

12. Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. II. pp. 127, 128.--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., ubi supra.
      In this arrangement of the more humble magistrates we are reminded of the Anglo-­Saxon hundreds and tithings, especially the latter, the members of which were to watch over the conduct of the families in their districts, and bring the offenders to justice. The hard penalty of mutual responsibility was not known to the Mexicans.

13. Zurita, so temperate, usually, in his language, remarks, that, in the capital, "Tribunals were instituted which might compare in their organization with the royal audiences of Castile." (Rapport, p. 93) His observations are chiefly drawn from the Tezcucan courts, which, in their forms of procedure, he says, were like the Aztec. (Loc. cit.)

14. Boturini, Idea, p. 87. Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 11, cap. 26.
      Zurita compares this body to the Castilian córtes. It would seem, however, according to him, to have consisted only of twelve principal judges, besides the king. His meaning is some­what doubtful. (Rapport, pp. 94, 101, 106.) M. de Humboldt, in his account of the Aztec courts, has confounded them with the Tezcucan. Comp. Vues des Cordillères et Monument des Peuples Indigènes de l'Amérique, (Paris, 1810,) p. 55, and Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. II. pp. 128, 129.

15. "Ah! si esta se repitiera hoy, que bueno seria!" exclaims Sahagun's Mexican editor. Hist. de Nueva España, tom. II. p. 304, nota.--Zurita, Rapport, p. 102.-Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., ubi supra.--Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 67.

16. Zurita, Rapport, pp. 95, 100, 103.--Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva España, loc. cit.--Humboldt, Vues des Cordillères, pp. 55, 56.--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 11, cap. 25.
      Clavigero says, the accused might free himself by oath; Il reo poteva purgarsi col giuramento." (Stor. del Messico, tom. II. p. 129.) What rogue, then, could ever have been con­victed?

17. Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 36.
      These various objects had a symbolical meaning, according to Boturini, Idea, p. 84.

18. Paintings of the Mendoza Collection, Pl. 72, and Interpretation, ap. Antiq. of Mexico, vol. VI. p. 87.--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., ab. 12, cap. 7.--Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. II. pp. 130-134.--Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala, MS.
      They could scarcely have been an intemperate people, with these heavy penalties hang­ing over them. Indeed, Zurita bears testimony that those Spaniards, who thought they were, greatly erred. (Rapport, p. 112.) Mons. Ternaux's translation of a passage of the Anonymous Conqueror, "aucun peuple n'est aussi sobre." (Recueil de Pièces Relatives á la Conquête du Mexique, ap. Voyages, &c., (Paris, 1838,) p. 54,) may give a more favorable impression, how­ever, than that intended by his original, whose remark is confined to abstemiousness in eat­ing. See the Relatione, ap. Ramusio, Raccolta delle Navigationi et Viaggi. (Venetia, 1554-1565.)

19. In Ancient Egypt the child of a slave was born free, if the father were free. (Diodorus, Bibl. Hist., lib. 1, sec. 80.) This, though more liberal than the code of most countries, fell short of the Mexican.

20. In Egypt the same penalty was attached to the murder of a slave, as to that of a freeman. (Ibid., lib. 1, sec. 77.) Robertson speaks of a class of slaves held so cheap in the eye of the Mex­ican law, that one might kill them with impunity. (History of America, (ed. London, 1776,) vol. III. p. 164.) This, however, was not in Mexico, but in Nicaragua, (see his own authority, Herrera, Hist. General, des. 3, lib. 4, cap. 2,) a distant country, not incorporated in the Mexi­can empire, and with laws and institutions very different from those of the latter.

21. Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 12, cap. 15; lib. 14, cap. 16, 17.--Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva Es­paña, lib. 8, cap. 14.--Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. II. pp. 134-136.

22. Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 38, and Relaciones, MS.
      The Tezcucan code, indeed, as digested under the great Nezahualcoyotl, formed the basis of the Mexican, in the latter days of the empire. Zurita, Rapport, p. 95.

23. In this, at least, they did not resemble the Romans; of whom their countryman could boast, "Gloriari licet, nulli gentium mitiores placuisse pœnas." Livy, Hist., lib. 1, cap. 28.

24. The Tezcucan revenues were, in like manner, paid in the produce of the country. The vari­ous branches of the royal expenditure were defrayed by specified towns and districts; and the whole arrangements here, and in Mexico, bore a remarkable resemblance to the financial reg­ulations of the Persian empire, as reported by the Greek writers; (see Herodotus, Clio, sec. 192;) with this difference, however, that the towns of Persia proper were not burdened with tributes, like the conquered cities. Idem, Thalia, sec. 97.

25. Lorenzana, Hist. de Nueva España, p. 172.--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 2, cap. 89; lib. 14, cap. 7.--Boturini, Idea, p. 166.--Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala, MS.--Herrera, Hist. Gen­eral, dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 13.
      The people of the provinces were distributed into calpulli or tribes who held the lands of the neighborhood in common. Officers of their own appointment parcelled out these lands among the several families of the calpulli; and, on the extinction or removal of a family, its lands reverted to the common stock, to be again distributed. The individual proprietor had no power to alienate them. The laws regulating these matters were very precise, and had ex­isted ever since the occupation of the country by the Aztecs. Zurita, Rapport, pp. 51-62.

26. The following items of the tribute furnished by different cities will give a more precise idea of its nature:--20 chests of ground chocolate; 40 pieces of armor, of a particular device; 2400 loads of large mantles, of twisted cloth; 800 loads of small mantles, of rich wearing apparel; 5 pieces of armor, of rich feathers; 60 pieces of armor, of common feathers; a chest of beans; a chest of chian; a chest of maize; 8000 reams of paper; likewise 2000 loaves of very white salt, refined in the shape of a mould, for the consumption only of the lords of Mexico; 8000 lumps of unrefined copal; 400 small baskets of white refined copal; 100 copper axes; 80 loads of red chocolate; 800 xicaras, out of which they drank chocolate; a little vessel of small turquoise stones; 4 chests of timber, full of maize; 4000 loads of lime; tiles of gold, of the size of an oys­ter, and as thick as the finger; 40 bags of cochineal; 20 bags of gold dust, of the finest quality; a diadem of gold, of a specified pattern; 20 lip-jewels of clear amber, ornamented with gold; 200 loads of chocolate; 100 pots or jars of liquid-amber; 8000 handfuls of rich scarlet feath­ers; 40 tiger-skins; 1600 bundles of cotton, &c., &c. Col. de Mendoza, part 2, ap. Antiq. of Mexico, vols. I., VI.

27. Mapa de Tributos, ap. Lorenzana, Hist. de Nueva España.--Tribute-roll, ap. Antiq. of Mex­ico, vol. I., and Interpretation, vol. VI., pp. 17-44.
      The Mendoza Collection, in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, contains a roll of the cities of the Mexican empire, with the specific tributes exacted from them. It is a copy made after the Conquest, with a pen, on European paper (See Foreign Quarterly Review, No. XVII. Art. 4.) An original painting of the same roll was in Boturini's museum. Lorenzana has given us engravings of it, in which the outlines of the Oxford copy are filled up, though somewhat rudely. Clavigero considers the explanations in Lorenzana's edition very inaccurate, (Stor. del Messico, tom. I. p. 25,) a judgment confirmed by Aglio, who has transcribed the entire col­lection of the Mendoza papers, in the first volume of the Antiquities of Mexico. It would have much facilitated reference to his plates, if they had been numbered ;--a strange omis­sion!

28. The caciques, who submitted to the allied arms, were usually confirmed in their authority, and the conquered places allowed to retain their laws and usages. (Zurita, Rapport, p. 67.) The conquests were not always partitioned, but sometimes, singularly enough, were held in common by the three powers. Ibid., p. 11.

29. Collec. of Mendoza, ap. Antiq. of Mexico, vol. Vl. p. 17.--Carta de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, Hist. de Nueva España, p. 110.--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 14, cap. 6, 8.--Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 13.--Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva España, lib. 8, cap. 18, 19.

30. The Hon. C. A. Murray. whose imperturbable good-humor under real troubles forms a con­trast, rather striking, to the sensitiveness of some of his predecessors to imaginary ones, tells us, among other marvels, that an Indian of his party travelled a hundred miles in four and twenty hours. (Travels in N. America, (New York, 1839,) vol. I, p. 193.) The Greek, who ac­cording to Plutarch, brought the news of victory to Plataea, a hundred and twenty-five miles, in a day, was a better traveller still. Some interesting facts on the pedestrian capabilities of man in the savage state are collected by Buffon, who concludes, truly enough, "L'homme civilisé ne connait pas ses forces." (Histoire Naturelle; De la Jeunesse.)

31. Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 14, cap. 1.
      The same wants led to the same expedients in ancient Rome, and still more ancient Per­sia. "Nothing in the world is borne so swiftly," says Herodotus, "as messages by the Persian couriers"; which his commentator, Valckenaer, prudently qualifies by the exception of the carrier pigeon. (Herodotus, Hist., Urania, sec. 98, nec non Adnot. ed. Schweighäuser.) Couri­ers are noticed, in the thirteenth century, in China, by Marco Polo. Their stations were only three miles apart, and they accomplished five days' journey in one. (Viaggi di Marco Polo, lib. 2, cap. 29, ap. Ramusio, tom. II.) A similar arrangement for posts subsists there at the present day, and excites the admiration of a modern traveller. (Anderson, British Embassy to China, (London, 1796,) p. 282.) In all these cases, the posts were for the use of government only.

32. Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva España, lib. 3, Apend., cap. 3.

33. Zurita, Rapport, pp. 68, 120.--Col. of Mendoza, ap. Antiq. of Mexico, vol. I. Pl. 67; vol. VI. p. 74.--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 14, cap. 1.
      The reader will find a remarkable resemblance to these military usages, in those of the early Romans. Comp. Liv., Hist., lib. l, cap. 32; lib. 4, cap. 30. et alibi.

34. Ibid., lib. 14, cap. 4, 5.--Acosta, lib. 6, ch. 26.--Collec. of Mendoza, ap. Antiq. of Mexico, vol. I. Pl. 65; vol. VI. p. 72.--Camargo, Hist. de Tlascala, MS.

            "Their mail, if mail it may be called, was woven
            Of vegetable down, like finest flax,
            Bleached to the whiteness of new-fallen snow.
            Others, of higher office, were arrayed
            In feathery breastplates, of more gorgeous hue
            Than the gay plumage of the mountain-cock,
            Than the pheasant's glittering pride. But what were these,
            Or what the thin gold hauberk, when opposed
            To arms like ours in battle?"
                  MADOC, P. 1, CANTO 7.
      Beautiful painting! One may doubt, however, the propriety of the Welshman's vaunt, be­fore the use of fire-arms.

36. Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva España, lib. 2, cap. 27; lib. 8, cap. 12.--Relatione d'un gentil' huomo, ap. Ramusio, tom. III. p. 305.--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., ubi supra.

37. Relatione d'un gentil' huomo, ubi supra.

38. Col. of Mendoza, ap. Antiq. of Mexico, vol. I. Pl. 65, 66; vol. VI. p. 73.--Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva España, lib. 8, cap. 12.--Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte I. cap. 7.--Torque­mada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 14, cap. 3.--Relatione d'un gentil' huomo, ap. Ramusio, loc. cit.
      Scalping may claim high authority, or, at least, antiquity. The Father of History gives an account of it among the Scythians, showing that they performed the operation, and wore the hideous trophy, in the same manner as our North American Indians. (Herodot., Hist., Melpomene, sec. 64.) Traces of the same savage custom are also found in the laws of the Visigoths, among the Franks, and even the Anglo-Saxons. See Guizot, Cours d'Histoire Mo­derne, (Paris, 1829) tom. I. p. 283.

39. Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 67.

40. Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 12, cap. 6; lib. 14, cap. 3.--Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 36.

41. Zurita is indignant at the epithet of barbarians bestowed on the Aztecs; an epithet, he says, "which could come from no one who had personal knowledge of the capacity of the people, or their institutions, and which, in some respects, is quite as well merited by the European nations." (Rapport, p. 200, et seq.) This is strong language. Yet no one had better means of knowing than this eminent jurist, who, for nineteen years, held a post in the royal audiences of New Spain. During his long residence in the country he had ample opportunity of ac­quainting himself with its usages, both through his own personal observation and intercourse with the natives, and through the first missionaries who came over after the Conquest. On his return to Spain, probably about 1560, he occupied himself with an answer to queries which had been propounded by the government, on the character of the Aztec laws and institutions, and on that of the modifications introduced by the Spaniards. Much of his treatise is taken up with the latter subject. In what relates to the former he is more brief than could be wished, from the difficulty, perhaps, of obtaining full and satisfactory information as to the details. As far as he goes, however, he manifests a sound and discriminating judgment. He is very rarely betrayed into the extravagance of expression so visible in the writers of the time; and this temperance, combined with his uncommon sources of information, makes his work one of highest authority on the limited topics within its range.--The original manuscript was con­sulted by Clavigero, and, indeed, has been used by other writers. The work is now accessible to all, as one of the series of translations from the pen of the indefatigable Ternaux.