BLTC Press Titles


available for Kindle at Amazon.com


The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky


The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas


My Man Jeeves

P. G. Wodehouse


The Haunted Bookshop

Christopher Morely


History of the conquest of Mexico

by William Hickling Prescott

Excerpt:

CHAPTER I.

Ancient Mexico. Climate And Products. Primitive Races. Aztec Empire.

Of all that extensive empire which once acknowledged the authority of Spain in the New World, no portion, for interest and importance, can be compared with Mexico; — and this equally, whether we consider the variety of its soil and climate; the inexhaustible stores of its mineral wealth; its scenery, grand and picturesque beyond example; the character of its ancient inhabitants, not only far surpassing in intelligence that of the other North American races, but reminding us, by their monuments, of the primitive civilization of Egypt and Hindostan; or lastly, the peculiar circumstances of its Conquest, adventurous and romantic as any legend devised by Norman or Italian bard of chivalry. It is the purpose of the present narrative to exhibit the history of this Conquest, and that of the remarkable man by whom it was achieved.

But, in order that the reader may have a better understanding of the subject, it will be well, before entering on it, to take a general survey of the political and social institutions of the races who occupied the land at the time of its discovery. x

The country of the ancient Mexicans, or Aztecs as they were called, formed but a very small part of the extensive territories comprehended in the modern republic of Mexico.1 Its boundaries cannot be denned with certainty. They were much enlarged in the latter days of the empire, when they may be considered as reaching from about the eighteenth degree north, to the twenty-first, on the Atlantic; and from the fourteenth to the nineteenth, including a very narrow strip, on the Pacific.2 In its greatest breadth, it could not exceed five degrees and a half, dwindling, as it approached its south-eastern limits, to less than two. It covered, probably, less than sixteen thousand square leagues.3 Yet such is the remarkable formation of this country, that, though not more than twice as large as New England, it presented every variety of climate, and was capable of yielding nearly every fruit, found between the equator and the Arctic circle.

1 Extensive indeed, if we may informed his leaders on what frail trust Archbishop Lorenzana, who foundations his conclusions rest. tells us, " It is doubtful if the coun- The extent of the Aztec empire is try of New Spain does not border to be gathered from the writings of on Tartary and Greenland ; — by historians since the arrival of the the way of California, on the for- Spaniards, and from the picturemer, and by New Mexico, on the rolls of tribute paid by the conlatter"! Historia de Nueva Es- quered cities; both sources exli;iiiii, (Mexico, 1770,) p. 38, nota. tremely vague and defective. See

8 I have conformed to the limits the MSS. of the Mendoza collecfixed by Clavigero. He has, prob- tion, in Lord Kingsborough's magably, examined the subject with nificent publication (Antiquities of more thoroughness and fidelity Mexico, comprising Facsimiles of than most of his countrymen, who Ancient Paintings and Hieroglyphdiffer from him, and who assign a ics, together with the Monuments more liberal extent to the monar- of New Spain. London, 1830). chy. (See his Storia Antica del The difficulty of the inquiry is Messico, (Cesena, 1780,) dissert. much increased by the fact of the 7.) The Alili'', however, has not conquests having been made, as will be seen hereafter, by the unit- puts in a sturdy claim for the pared arms of three powers, so that it amount empire of his own nation. is not always easy to tell to which Historia Chichemeca, MS., cap. party they eventually belonged. 39, 53, et alibi. The affair is involved in so much 3 Eighteen to twenty thousand, uncertainty, that Clavigero, not- according to Humboldt, who conwithstanding the positive assertions siilcrs the Mexican territory to in his text, has not ventured, in his have been the same with that ocmap, to define the precise limits of cupied by the modern intendancies the empire, either towards the of Mexico, Puebla, Vera Cruz, north, where it mingles with the Oaxaca, and Valladolid. (Essai Tezcucan empire, or towards the Politique sur le Royaume de Nonsouth, where, indeed, he has fallen velle Espagne, (Paris, 1825,) torn. into the egregious blunder of as- I. p. 196.) This last, however, setting, that, while the Mexican was all, or nearly all, included in territory reached to the fourteenth the rival kingdom of Mechoacan, degree, it did not include any por- as he himself more correctly states tion of Guatemala. (See torn. I. p. in another part of his work. Comp. 29, and torn. IV. dissert. 7.) The torn. II. p. 164. Tezcucan chronicler, Ixtlilxochitl,


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