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History Of The Conquest Of Peru

by William Hickling Prescott

"Congestae cumulantur opes, orbisque rapinas Accipit."

Claudian, In Ruf., lib. i., v. 194.

"So color de religion
Van a buscar plata y oro
Del encubierto tesoro."
Lope De Vega, El Nuevo Mundo, Jorn. 1.


The most brilliant passages in the history of Spanish adventure in the
New World are undoubtedly afforded by the conquests of Mexico and
Peru--the two states which combined with the largest extent of empire a
refined social polity, and considerable progress in the arts of civilization.
Indeed, so prominently do they stand out on the great canvas of history,
that the name of the one, notwithstanding the contrast they exhibit in
their respective institutions, most naturally suggests that of the other; and
when I sent to Spain to collect materials for an account of the Conquest
of Mexico, I included in my researches those relating to the Conquest of

The larger part of the documents, in both cases, was obtained from the
same great repository,--the archives of the Royal Academy of History at
Madrid; a body specially intrusted with the preservation of whatever may
serve to illustrate the Spanish colonial annals. The richest portion of its
collection is probably that furnished by the papers of Munoz. This
eminent scholar, historiographer of the Indies, employed nearly fifty
years of his life in amassing materials for a history of Spanish discovery
and conquest in America. For this, as he acted under the authority of the
government, every facility was afforded him; and public offices and
private depositories, in all the principal cities of the empire, both at home
and throughout the wide extent of its colonial possessions, were freely
opened to his inspection. The result was a magnificent collection of
manuscripts, many of which he patiently transscribed with his own hand.
But he did not live to reap the fruits of his persevering industry. The
first volume, relative to the voyages of Columbus, were scarcely finished
when he died; and his manuscripts, at least that portion of them which
have reference to Mexico and Peru, were destined to serve the uses of
another, an inhabitant of that New World to which they related.

Another scholar, to whose literary stores I am largely indebted, is Don
Martin Fernandez de Navarrette, late Director of the Royal Academy of
History. Through the greater part of his long life he was employed in
assembling original documents to illustrate the colonial annals. Many of
these have been incorporated in his great work, "Coleccion de los Viages
y Descubrimientos," which, although far from being completed after the
original plan of its author, is of inestimable service to the historian. In
following down the track of discovery, Navarrete turned aside from the
conquests of Mexico and Peru, to exhibit the voyages of his countrymen
in the Indian seas. His manuscripts, relating to the two former countries,
he courteously allowed to be copied for me. Some of them have since
appeared in print, under the auspices of his learned coadjutors, Salva and
Baranda, associated with him in the Academy; but the documents placed
in my hands form a most important contribution to my materials for the
present history.

The death of this illustrious man, which occurred some time after the
present work was begun, has left a void in his country not easy to be
filled; for he was zealously devoted to letters, and few have done more to
extend the knowledge of her colonial history. Far from an exclusive
solicitude for his own literary projects, he was ever ready to extend his
sympathy and assistance to those of others. His reputation as a scholar
was enhanced by the higher qualities which he possessed as a man,--by
his benevolence, his simplicity of manners, and unsullied moral worth.
My own obligations to him are large; for from the publication of my first
historical work, down to the last week of his life, I have constantly
received proofs from him of his hearty and most efficient interest in the
prosecution of my historical labors; and I now the more willingly pay
this well-merited tribute to his deserts, that it must be exempt from all
suspicion of flattery.

In the list of those to whom I have been indebted for materials, I must,
also, include the name of M. Ternaux-Compans, so well known by his
faithful and elegant French versions of the Munoz manuscripts; and that
of my friend Don Pascual de Gayangos, who, under the modest dress of
translation, has furnished a most acute and learned commentary on
Spanish Arabian history,--securing for himself the foremost rank in that
difficult department of letters, which has been illumined by the labors of
a Masdeu, a Casiri, and a Conde.

To the materials derived from these sources, I have added some
manuscripts of an important character from the library of the Escurial.
These, which chiefly relate to the ancient institutions of Peru, formed
part of the splendid collection of Lord Kingsborough, which has
unfortunately shared the lot of most literary collections, and been
dispersed since the death of its noble author. For these I am indebted to
that industrious bibliographer, Mr. O. Rich, now resident in London.
Lastly, I must not omit to mention my obligations, in another way, to my
friend Charles Folsom, Esq., the learned librarian of the Boston
Athenaeum; whose minute acquaintance with the grammatical structure
and the true idiom of our English tongue has enabled me to correct many
inaccuracies into which I had fallen in the composition both of this and
of my former works.

From these different sources I have accumulated a large amount of
manuscripts, of the most various character, and from the most authentic
sources; royal grants and ordinances, instructions of the Court, letters of
the Emperor to the great colonial officers, municipal records, personal
diaries and memoranda, and a mass of private correspondence of the
principal actors in this turbulent drama. Perhaps it was the turbulent
state of the country which led to a more frequent correspondence
between the government at home and the colonial officers. But,
whatever be the cause, the collection of manuscript materials in reference
to Peru is fuller and more complete than that which relates to Mexico; so
that there is scarcely a nook or corner so obscure, in the path of the
adventurer, that some light has not been thrown on it by the written
correspondence of the period. The historian has rather had occasion to
complain of the embarras des richesses; for, in the multiplicity of
contradictory testimony, it is not always easy to detect the truth, as the
multiplicity of cross-lights is apt to dazzle and bewilder the eye of the

The present History has been conducted on the same general plan with
that of the Conquest of Mexico. In an Introductory Book, I have
endeavored to portray the institutions of the Incas, that the reader may be
acquainted with the character and condition of that extraordinary race,
before he enters on the story of their subjugation. The remaining books
are occupied with the narrative of the Conquest. And here, the subject, it
must be allowed, notwithstanding the opportunities it presents for the
display of character, strange, romantic incident, and picturesque scenery,
does not afford so obvious advantages to the historian, as the Conquest
of Mexico. Indeed, few subjects can present a parallel with that, for the
purposes either of the historian or the poet. The natural development of
the story, there, is precisely what would be prescribed by the severest
rules of art. The conquest of the country is the great end always in the
view of the reader. From the first landing of the Spaniards on the soil,
their subsequent adventures, their battles and negotiations, their ruinous
retreat, their rally and final siege, all tend to this grand result, till the
long series is closed by the downfall of the capital. In the march of
events, all moves steadily forward to this consummation. It is a
magnificent epic, in which the unity of interest is complete.

In the "Conquest of Peru," the action, so far as it is founded on the
subversion of the Incas, terminates long before the close of the narrative.
The remaining portion is taken up with the fierce feuds of the
Conquerors, which would seem, from their very nature, to be incapable
of being gathered round a central point of interest. To secure this, we
must look beyond the immediate overthrow of the Indian empire. The
conquest of the natives is but the first step, to be followed by the
conquest of the Spaniards,--the rebel Spaniards, themselves,--till the
supremacy of the Crown is permanently established over the country. It
is not till this period, that the acquisition of this Transatlantic empire can
be said to be completed; and, by fixing the eye on this remoter point, the
successive steps of the narrative will be found leading to one great result,
and that unity of interest preserved which is scarcely less essential to
historic than dramatic composition. How far this has been effected, in
the present work, must be left to the judgment of the reader.

No history of the conquest of Peru, founded on original documents, and
aspiring to the credit of a classic composition, like the "Conquest of
Mexico" by Solis, has been attempted, as far as I am aware, by the
Spaniards. The English possess one of high value, from the pen of
Robertson, whose masterly sketch occupies its due space in his great
work on America. It has been my object to exhibit this same story, in all
its romantic details; not merely to portray the characteristic features of
the Conquest, but to fill up the outline with the coloring of life, so as to
present a minute and faithful picture of the times. For this purpose, I
have, in the composition of the work, availed myself freely of my
manuscript materials, allowed the actors to speak as much as possible for
themselves, and especially made frequent use of their letters; for
nowhere is the heart more likely to disclose itself, than in the freedom of
private correspondence. I have made liberal extracts from these
authorities in the notes, both to sustain the text, and to put in a printed
form those productions of the eminent captains and statesmen of the
time, which are not very accessible to Spaniards themselves.

M. Amedee Pichot, in the Preface to the French translation of the
"Conquest of Mexico," infers from the plan of the composition, that I
must have carefully studied the writings of his countryman, M. de
Barante. The acute critic does me but justice in supposing me familiar
with the principles of that writer's historical theory, so ably developed in
the Preface to his "Ducs de Bourgogne." And I have had occasion to
admire the skilful manner in which he illustrates this theory himself, by
constructing out of the rude materials of a distant time a monument of
genius that transports us at once into the midst of the Feudal Ages,-and
this without the incongruity which usually attaches to a modernantique.
In like manner, I have attempted to seize the characteristic expression of
a distant age, and to exhibit it in the freshness of life. But in an essential
particular, I have deviated from the plan of the French historian. I have
suffered the scaffolding to remain after the building has been completed.
In other words, I have shown to the reader the steps of the process by
which I have come to my conclusions. Instead of requiring him to take
my version of the story on trust, I have endeavored to give him a reason
for my faith. By copious citations from the original authorities, and by
such critical notices of them as would explain to him the influences to
which they were subjected, I have endeavored to put him in a position
for judging for himself, and thus for revising, and, if need be, reversing,
the judgments of the historian. He will, at any rate, by this means, be
enabled to estimate the difficulty of arriving at truth amidst the conflict
of testimony; and he will learn to place little reliance on those writers
who pronounce on the mysterious past with what Fontenelle calls "a
frightful degree of certainty,"--a spirit the most opposite to that of the
true philosophy of history.

Yet it must be admitted, that the chronicler who records the events of an
earlier age has some obvious advantages in the store of manuscript
materials at his command,--the statements of friends, rivals, and enemies,
furnishing a wholesome counterpoise to each other; and also, in the
general course of events, as they actually occurred, affording the best
commentary on the true motives of the parties. The actor, engaged in the
heat of the strife, finds his view bounded by the circle around him and
his vision blinded by the smoke and dust of the conflict: while the
spectator, whose eye ranges over the ground from a more distant and
elevated point, though the individual objects may lose somewhat of their
vividness, takes in at a glance all the operations of the field. Paradoxical
as it may appear, truth rounded on contemporary testimony would seem,
after all, as likely to be attained by the writer of a later day, as by
contemporaries themselves.

Before closing these remarks, I may be permitted to add a few of a
personal nature. In several foreign notices of my writings, the author has
been said to be blind; and more than once I have had the credit of having
lost my sight in the composition of my first history. When I have met
with such erroneous accounts, I have hastened to correct them. But the
present occasion affords me the best means of doing so; and I am the
more desirous of this, as I fear some of my own remarks, in the Prefaces
to my former histories, have led to the mistake.

While at the University, I received an injury in one of my eyes, which
deprived me of the sight of it. The other, soon after, was attacked by
inflammation so severely, that, for some time, I lost the sight of that also;
and though it was subsequently restored, the organ was so much
disordered as to remain permanently debilitated, while twice in my life,
since, I have been deprived of the use of it for all purposes of reading
and writing, for several years together. It was during one of these
periods that I received from Madrid the materials for the "History of
Ferdinand and Isabella," and in my disabled condition, with my
Transatlantic treasures lying around me, I was like one pining from
hunger in the midst of abundance. In this state, I resolved to make the
ear, if possible, do the work of the eye. I procured the services of a
secretary, who read to me the various authorities; and in time I became
so far familiar with the sounds of the different foreign languages (to
some of which, indeed, I had been previously accustomed by a residence
abroad), that I could comprehend his reading without much difficulty.
As the reader proceeded, I dictated copious notes; and, when these had
swelled to a considerable amount, they were read to me repeatedly, till I
had mastered their contents sufficiently for the purposes of composition.
The same notes furnished an easy means of reference to sustain the text.

Still another difficulty occurred, in the mechanical labor of writing,
which I found a severe trial to the eye. This was remedied by means of a
writing-case, such as is used by the blind, which enabled me to commit
my thoughts to paper without the aid of sight, serving me equally well in
the dark as in the light. The characters thus formed made a near
approach to hieroglyphics; but my secretary became expert in the art of
deciphering, and a fair copy--with a liberal allowance for unavoidable
blunders--was transcribed for the 'use of the printer. I have described the
process with more minuteness, as some curiosity has been repeatedly
expressed in reference to my modus operandi under my privations, and
the knowledge of it may be of some assistance to others in similar

Though I was encouraged by the sensible progress of my work, it was
necessarily slow. But in time the tendency to inflammation diminished,
and the strength of the eye was confirmed more and more. It was at
length so far restored, that I could read for several hours of the day
though my labors in this way necessarily terminated with the daylight.
Nor could I ever dispense with the services of a secretary, or with the
writing-case; for, contrary to the usual experience, I have found writing a
severer trial to the eye than reading,--a remark, however, which does not
apply to the reading of manuscript; and to enable myself therefore, to
revise my composition more carefully, I caused a copy of the "History of
Ferdinand and Isabella" to be printed for my own inspection, before it
was sent to the press for publication. Such as I have described was the
improved state of my health during the preparation of the "Conquest of
Mexico"; and, satisfied with being raised so nearly to a level with the
rest of my species, I scarcely envied the superior good fortune of those
who could prolong their studies into the evening, and the later hours of
the night.

But a change has again taken place during the last two years. The sight
of my eye has become gradually dimmed, while the sensibility of the
nerve has been so far increased, that for several weeks of the last year I
have not opened a volume, and through the whole time I have not had the
use of it, on an average, for more than an hour a day. Nor can I cheer
myself with the delusive expectation, that, impaired as the organ has
become, from having been tasked, probably, beyond its strength, it can
ever renew its youth, or be of much service to me hereafter in my literary
researches. Whether I shall have the heart to enter, as I had proposed, on
a new and more extensive field of historical labor, with these
impediments, I cannot say. Perhaps long habit, and a natural desire to
follow up the career which I have so long pursued, may make this, in a
manner, necessary, as my past experience has already proved that it is

From this statement--too long, I fear, for his patience--the reader, who
feels any curiosity about the matter, will understand the real extent of my
embarrassments in my historical pursuits. That they have not been very
light will be readily admitted, when it is considered that I have had but a
limited use of my eye, in its best state, and that much of the time I have
been debarred from the use of it altogether. Yet the difficulties I have
had to contend with are very far inferior to those which fall to the lot of a
blind man. I know of no historian, now alive, who can claim the glory of
having overcome such obstacles, but the author of "La Conquete de
l'Angleterre par les Normands"; who, to use his own touching and
beautiful language, "has made himself the friend of darkness"; and who,
to a profound philosophy that requires no light but that from within,
unites a capacity for extensive and various research, that might well
demand the severest application of the student.

The remarks into which I have been led at such length will, I trust, not be
set down by the reader to an unworthy egotism, but to their true source, a
desire to correct a misapprehension to which I may have unintentionally
given rise myself, and which has gained me the credit with some--far
from grateful to my feelings, since undeserved--of having surmounted
the incalculable obstacles which lie in the path of the blind man.

Boston, April 2, 1847.

History Of The Conquest Of Peru

by William Hickling Prescott

Book 1


View Of The Civilization Of The Incas

Chapter 1

Physical Aspect Of The Country--Sources Of Peruvian Civilization--
Empire Of The Incas--Royal Family--Nobility

Of the numerous nations which occupied the great American continent at
the time of its discovery by the Europeans, the two most advanced in
power and refinement were undoubtedly those of Mexico and Peru. But,
though resembling one another in extent of civilization, they differed
widely as to the nature of it; and the philosophical student of his species
may feel a natural curiosity to trace the different steps by which these two
nations strove to emerge from the state of barbarism, and place
themselves on a higher point in the scale of humanity.--In a former work I
have endeavored to exhibit the institutions and character of the ancient
Mexicans, and the story of their conquest by the Spaniards. The present
will be devoted to the Peruvians; and, if their history shall be found to
present less strange anomalies and striking contrasts than that of the
Aztecs, it may interest us quite as much by the pleasing picture it offers of
a well-regulated government and sober habits of industry under the
patriarchal sway of the Incas.

The empire of Peru, at the period of the Spanish invasion, stretched along
the Pacific from about the second degree north to the thirty-seventh
degree of south latitude; a line, also, which describes the western
boundaries of the modern republics of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Chili.
Its breadth cannot so easily be determined; for, though bounded
everywhere by the great ocean on the west, towards the east it spread out,
in many parts, considerably beyond the mountains, to the confines of
barbarous states, whose exact position is undetermined, or whose names
are effaced from the map of history. It is certain, however, that its breadth
was altogether disproportioned to its length.1

The topographical aspect of the country is very remarkable. A strip of
land, rarely exceeding twenty leagues in width, runs along the coast, and
is hemmed in through its whole extent by a colossal range of mountains,
which, advancing from the Straits of Magellan, reaches its highest
elevation-indeed, the highest on the American continent--about the
seventeenth degree south, 2 and, after crossing the line, gradually subsides
into hills of inconsiderable magnitude, as it enters the isthmus of Panama.
This is the famous Cordillera of the Andes, or "copper mountains," 3 as
termed by the natives, though they might with more reason have been
called "mountains of gold." Arranged sometimes in a single line, though
more frequently in two or three lines running parallel or obliquely to each
other, they seem to the voyager on the ocean but one continuous chain;
while the huge volcanoes, which to the inhabitants of the tableland look
like solitary and independent masses, appear to aim only like so many
peaks of the same vast and magnificent range. So immense is the scale on
which Nature works in these regions, that it is only when viewed from a
great distance, that the spectator can, in any degree, comprehend the
relation of the several parts to the stupendous whole. Few of the works of
Nature, indeed, are calculated to produce impressions of higher sublimity
than the aspect of this coast, as it is gradually unfolded to the eye of the
mariner sailing on the distant waters of the Pacific; where mountain is
seen to rise above mountain, and Chimborazo, with its glorious canopy of
snow, glittering far above the clouds, crowns the whole as with a celestial

The face of the country would appear to be peculiarly unfavorable to the
purposes both of agriculture and of internal communication. The sandy
strip along the coast, where rain never falls, is fed only by a few scanty
streams, that furnish a remarkable contrast to the vast volumes of water
which roll down the eastern sides of the Cordilleras into the Atlantic. The
precipitous steeps of the sierra, with its splintered sides of porphyry and
granite, and its higher regions wrapped in snows that never melt under the
fierce sun of the equator, unless it be from the desolating action of its own
volcanic fires, might seem equally unpropitious to the labors of the
husbandman. And all communication between the parts of the long-
extended territory might be thought to be precluded by the savage
character of the region, broken up by precipices, furious torrents, and
impassable quebradas,--those hideous rents in the mountain chain, whose
depths the eye of the terrified traveller, as he winds along his aerial
pathway, vainly endeavors to fathom.5 Yet the industry, we might almost
say, the genius, of the Indian was sufficient to overcome all these
impediments of Nature.

By a judicious system of canals and subterraneous aqueducts, the waste
places on the coast were refreshed by copious streams, that clothed them
in fertility and beauty. Terraces were raised upon the steep sides of the
Cordillera; and, as the different elevations had the effect of difference of
latitude, they exhibited in regular gradation every variety of vegetable
form, from the stimulated growth of the tropics, to the temperate products
of a northern clime; while flocks of llamas--the Peruvian sheep--wandered
with their shepherds over the broad, snow-covered wastes on the crests of
the sierra, which rose beyond the limits of cultivation. An industrious
population settled along the lofty regions of the plateaus, and towns and
hamlets, clustering amidst orchards and widespreading gardens, seemed
suspended in the air far above the ordinary elevation of the clouds. 6
Intercourse was maintained between these numerous settlements by means
of great roads which traversed the mountain passes, and opened an easy
communication between the capital and the remotest extremities of the

The source of this civilization is traced to the valley of Cuzco, the central
region of Peru, as its name implies.7 The origin of the Peruvian empire,
like the origin of all nations, except the very few which, like our own,
have had the good fortune to date from a civilized period and people, is
lost in the mists of fable, which, in fact, have settled as darkly round its
history as round that of any nation, ancient or modern, in the Old World.
According to the tradition most familiar to the European scholar, the time
was, when the ancient races of the continent were all plunged in
deplorable barbarism; when they worshipped nearly every object in nature
indiscriminately; made war their pastime, and feasted on the flesh of their
slaughtered captives. The Sun, the great luminary and parent of mankind,
taking compassion on their degraded condition, sent two of his children,
Manco Capac and Mama Oello Huaco, to gather the natives into
communities, and teach them the arts of civilized life. The celestial pair,
brother and sister, husband and wife, advanced along the high plains in
the neighborhood of Lake Titicaca, to about the sixteenth degree south.
They bore with them a golden wedge, and were directed to take up their
residence on the spot where the sacred emblem should without effort sink
into the ground. They proceeded accordingly but a short distance, as far
as the valley of Cuzco, the spot indicated by the performance of the
miracle, since there the wedge speedily sank into the earth and
disappeared for ever. Here the children of the Sun established their
residence, and soon entered upon their beneficent mission among the rude
inhabitants of the country; Manco Capac teaching the men the arts of
agriculture, and Mama Oello 8 initiating her own sex in the mysteries of
weaving and spinning. The simple people lent a willing ear to the
messengers of Heaven, and, gathering together in considerable numbers,
laid the foundations of the city of Cuzco. The same wise and benevolent
maxims, which regulated the conduct of the first Incas, 9 descended to
their successors, and under their mild sceptre a community gradually
extended itself along the broad surface of the table-land, which asserted
its superiority over the surrounding tribes. Such is the pleasing picture of
the origin of the Peruvian monarchy, as portrayed by Garcilasso de la
Vega, the descendant of the Incas, and through him made familiar to the
European reader.10

But this tradition is only one of several current among the Peruvian
Indians, and probably not the one most generally received. Another
legend speaks of certain white and bearded men, who, advancing from the
shores of Lake Titicaca, established an ascendancy over the natives, and
imparted to them the blessings of civilization. It may remind us of the
tradition existing among the Aztecs in respect to Quetzalcoatl, the good
deity, who with a similar garb and aspect came up the great plateau from
the east on a like benevolent mission to the natives. The analogy is the
more remarkable, as there is no trace of any communication with, or even
knowledge of, each other to be found in the two nations.11

The date usually assigned for these extraordinary events was about four
hundred years before the coming of the Spaniards, or early in the twelfth
century.12 But, however pleasing to the imagination, and however
popular, the legend of Manco Capac, it requires but little reflection to
show its improbability, even when divested of supernatural
accompaniments. On the shores of Lake Titicaca extensive ruins exist at
the present day, which the Peruvians themselves acknowledge to be of
older date than the pretended advent of the Incas, and to have furnished
them with the models of their architecture.13 The date of their
appearance, indeed, is manifestly irreconcilable with their subsequent
history. No account assigns to the Inca dynasty more than thirteen princes
before the Conquest. But this number is altogether too small to have
spread over four hundred years, and would not carry back the foundations
of the monarchy, on any probable computation, beyond two centuries and
a half,-an antiquity not incredible in itself, and which, it may be remarked,
does not precede by more than half a century the alleged foundation of the
capital of Mexico. The fiction of Manco Capac and his sister-wife was
devised, no doubt, at a later period, to gratify the vanity of the Peruvian
monarchs, and to give additional sanction to their authority by deriving it
from a celestial origin.

We may reasonably conclude that there existed in the country a race
advanced in civilization before the time of the Incas; and, in conformity
with nearly every tradition, we may derive this race from the
neighborhood of Lake Titicaca; 14 a conclusion strongly confirmed by the
imposing architectural remains which still endure, after the lapse of so
many years, on its borders. Who this race were, and whence they came,
may afford a tempting theme for inquiry to the speculative antiquarian.
But it is a land of darkness that lies far beyond the domain of history.15

The same mists that hang round the origin of the Incas continue to settle
on their subsequent annals; and, so imperfect were the records employed
by the Peruvians, and so confused and contradictory their traditions, that
the historian finds no firm footing on which to stand till within a century
of the Spanish conquest.16 At first, the progress of the Peruvians seems
to have been slow, and almost imperceptible. By their wise and temperate
policy, they gradually won over the neighboring tribes to their dominion,
as these latter became more and more convinced of the benefits of a just
and well-regulated government. As they grew stronger, they were enabled
to rely more directly on force; but, still advancing under cover of the same
beneficent pretexts employed by their predecessors, they proclaimed
peace and civilization at the point of the sword. The rude nations of the
country, without any principle of cohesion among themselves, fell one
after another before the victorious arm of the Incas. Yet it was not till the
middle of the fifteenth century that the famous Topa Inca Yupanqui,
grandfather of the monarch who occupied the throne at the coming of the
Spaniards, led his armies across the terrible desert of Atacama, and,
penetrating to the southern region of Chili, fixed the permanent boundary
of his dominions at the river Maule. His son, Huayna Capac, possessed of
ambition and military talent fully equal to his father's, marched along the
Cordillera towards the north, and, pushing his conquests across the
equator, added the powerful kingdom of Quito to the empire of Peru.17

The ancient city of Cuzco, meanwhile, had been gradually advancing in
wealth and population, till it had become the worthy metropolis of a great
and flourishing monarchy. It stood in a beautiful valley on an elevated
region of the plateau, which, among the Alps, would have been buried in
eternal snows, but which within the tropics enjoyed a genial and
salubrious temperature. Towards the north it was defended by a lofty
eminence, a spur of the great Cordillera; and the city was traversed by a
river, or rather a small stream, over which bridges of timber, covered with
heavy slabs of stone, furnished an easy means of communication with the
opposite banks. The streets were long and narrow; the houses low, and
those of the poorer sort built of clay and reeds. But Cuzco was the royal
residence, and was adorned with the ample dwellings of the great nobility;
and the massy fragments still incorporated in many of the modern edifices
bear testimony to the size and solidity of the ancient.18

The health of the city was promoted by spacious openings and squares, in
which a numerous population from the capital and the distant country
assembled to celebrate the high festivals of their religion. For Cuzco was
the "Holy City"; 19 and the great temple of the Sun, to which pilgrims
resorted from the furthest borders of the empire, was the most magnificent
structure in the New World, and unsurpassed, probably, in the costliness
of its decorations by any building in the Old.

Towards the north, on the sierra or rugged eminence already noticed, rose
a strong fortress, the remains of which at the present day, by their vast
size, excite the admiration of the traveller.20 It was defended by a single
wall of great thickness, and twelve hundred feet long on the side facing
the city, where the precipitous character of the ground was of itself almost
sufficient for its defence. On the other quarter, where the approaches
were less difficult, it was protected by two other semicircular walls of the
same length as the preceding. They were separated, a considerable
distance from one another and from the fortress; and the intervening
ground was raised so that the walls afforded a breastwork for the troops
stationed there in times of assault. The fortress consisted of three towers,
detached from one another. One was appropriated to the Inca, and was
garnished with the sumptuous decorations befitting a royal residence,
rather than a military post. The other two were held by the garrison,
drawn from the Peruvian nobles, and commanded by an officer of the
blood royal; for the position was of too great importance to be intrusted to
inferior hands. The hill was excavated below the towers, and several
subterraneous galleries communicated with the city and the palaces of the

The fortress, the walls, and the galleries were all built of stone, the heavy
blocks of which were not laid in regular courses, but so disposed that the
small ones might fill up the interstices between the great. They formed a
sort of rustic work, being rough-hewn except towards the edges, which
were finely wrought; and, though no cement was used, the several blocks
were adjusted with so much exactness and united so closely, that it was
impossible to introduce even the blade of a knife between them.22 Many
of these stones were of vast size; some of them being full thirty-eight feet
long, by eighteen broad, and six feet thick.23

We are filled with astonishment, when we consider, that these enormous
masses were hewn from their native bed and fashioned into shape, by a
people ignorant of the use of iron; that they were brought from quarries,
from four to fifteen leagues distant, 24 without the aid of beasts of burden;
were transported across rivers and ravines, raised to their elevated
position on the sierra, and finally adjusted there with the nicest accuracy,
without the knowledge of tools and machinery familiar to the European.
Twenty thousand men are said to have been employed on this great
structure, and fifty years consumed in the building.25 However this may
be, we see in it the workings of a despotism which had the lives and
fortunes of its vassals at its absolute disposal, and which, however mild in
its general character, esteemed these vassals, when employed in its
service, as lightly as the brute animals for which they served as a

The fortress of Cuzco was but part of a system of fortifications established
throughout their dominions by the Incas. This system formed a prominent
feature in their military policy; but before entering on this latter, it will
be proper to give the reader some view of their civil institutions and
scheme of government.

The sceptre of the Incas, if we may credit their historian, descended in
unbroken succession from father to son, through their whole dynasty.
Whatever we may think of this, it appears probable that the right of
inheritance might be claimed by the eldest son of the Coya, or lawful
queen, as she was styled, to distinguish her from the host of concubines
who shared the affections of the sovereign.26 The queen was further
distinguished, at least in later reigns, by the circumstance of being
selected from the sisters of the Inca, an arrangement which, however
revolting to the ideas of civilized nations, was recommended to the
Peruvians by its securing an heir to the crown of the pure heaven-born
race, uncontaminated by any mixture of earthly mould.27

In his early years, the royal offspring was intrusted to the care of the
amautas, or "wise men," as the teachers of Peruvian science were called,
who instructed him in such elements of knowledge as they possessed, and
especially in the cumbrous ceremonial of their religion, in which he was
to take a prominent part. Great care was also bestowed on his military
education, of the last importance in a state which, with its professions of
peace and good-will, was ever at war for the acquisition of empire.

In this military school he was educated with such of the Inca nobles as
were nearly of his own age; for the sacred name of Inca--a fruitful source
of obscurity in their annals--was applied indifferently to all who
descended by the male line from the founder of the monarchy.28 At the
age of sixteen the pupils underwent a public examination, previous to
their admission to what may be called the order of chivalry. This
examination was conducted by some of the oldest and most illustrious
Incas. The candidates were required to show their prowess in the athletic
exercises of the warrior; in wrestling and boxing, in running such long
courses as fully tried their agility and strength, in severe fasts of several
days' duration, and in mimic combats, which, although the weapons were
blunted, were always attended with wounds, and sometimes with death.
During this trial, which lasted thirty days, the royal neophyte fared no
better than his comrades, sleeping on the bare ground, going unshod, and
wearing a mean attire,--a mode of life, it was supposed, which might tend
to inspire him with more sympathy with the destitute. With all this show
of impartiality, however, it will probably be doing no injustice to the
judges to suppose that a politic discretion may have somewhat quickened
their perceptions of the real merits of the heir-apparent.

At the end of the appointed time, the candidates selected as worthy of the
honors of their barbaric chivalry were presented to the sovereign, who
condescended to take a principal part in the ceremony of inauguration.
He began with a brief discourse, in which, after congratulating the young
aspirants on the proficiency they had shown in martial exercises, he
reminded them of the responsibilities attached to their birth and station;
and, addressing them affectionately as "children of the Sun," he exhorted
them to imitate their great progenitor in his glorious career of beneficence
to mankind. The novices then drew near, and, kneeling one by one before
the Inca, he pierced their ears with a golden bodkin; and this was suffered
to remain there till an opening had been made large enough for the
enormous pendants which were peculiar to their order, and which gave
them, with the Spaniards, the name of orejones.29 This ornament was so
massy in the ears of the sovereign, that the cartilage was distended by it
nearly to the shoulder, producing what seemed a monstrous deformity in
the eyes of the Europeans, though, under the magical influence of fashion,
it was regarded as a beauty by the natives.

When this operation was performed, one of the most venerable of the
nobles dressed the feet of the candidates in the sandals worn by the order,
which may remind us of the ceremony of buckling on the spurs of the
Christian knight. They were then allowed to assume the girdle or sash
around the loins, corresponding with the toga virilis of the Romans, and
intimating that they had reached the season of manhood. Their heads
were adorned with garlands of flowers, which, by their various colors,
were emblematic of the clemency and goodness that should grace the
character of every true warrior; and the leaves of an evergreen plant were
mingled with the flowers, to show that these virtues should endure without
end.30 The prince's head was further ornamented by a fillet, or tasselled
fringe, of a yellow color, made of the fine threads of the vicuna wool,
which encircled the forehead as the peculiar insignia of the heir apparent.
The great body of the Inca nobility next made their appearance, and,
beginning with those nearest of kin, knelt down before the prince, and did
him homage as successor to the crown. The whole assembly then moved
to the great square of the capital, where songs, and dances, and other
public festivities closed the important ceremonial of the huaracu.31

The reader will be less surprised by the resemblance which this
ceremonial bears to the inauguration of a Christian knight in the feudal
ages, if he reflects that a similar analogy may be traced in the institutions
of other people more or less civilized; and that it is natural that nations,
occupied with the one great business of war, should mark the period,
when the preparatory education for it was ended, by similar characteristic
Having thus honorably passed through his ordeal, the heir-apparent was
deemed worthy to sit in the councils of his father, and was employed in
offices of trust at home, or, more usually, sent on distant expeditions to
practise in the field the lessons which he had hitherto studied only in the
mimic theatre of war. His first campaigns were conducted under the
renowned commanders who had grown grey in the service of his father;
until, advancing in years and experience, he was placed in command
himself, and, like Huayna Capac, the last and most illustrious of his line,
carried the banner of the rainbow, the armorial ensign of his house, far
over the borders, among the remotest tribes of the plateau.

The government of Peru was a despotism, mild in its character, but in its
form a pure and unmitigated despotism. The sovereign was placed at an
immeasurable distance above his subjects. Even the proudest of the Inca
nobility, claiming a descent from the same divine original as himself,
could not venture into the royal presence, unless barefoot, and bearing a
light burden on his shoulders in token of homage.32 As the
representative of the Sun, he stood at the head of the priesthood, and
presided at the most important of the religious festivals.33 He raised
armies, and usually commanded them in person. He imposed taxes, made
laws, and provided for their execution by the appointment of judges,
whom he removed at pleasure. He was the source from which every thing
flowed, all dignity, all power, all emolument. He was, in short, in the well-
known phrase of the European despot, "himself the state." 34

The Inca asserted his claims as a superior being by assuming a pomp in
his manner of living well calculated to impose on his people. His dress
was of the finest wool of the vicuna, richly dyed, and ornamented with a
profusion of gold and precious stones. Round his head was wreathed a
turban of many-colored folds, called the llautu; and a tasselled fringe, like
that worn by the prince, but of a scarlet color, with two feathers of a rare
and curious bird, called the coraquenque, placed upright in it, were the
distinguishing insignia of royalty. The birds from which these feathers
were obtained were found in a desert country among the mountains; and it
was death to destroy or to take them, as they were reserved for the
exclusive purpose of supplying the royal head-gear. Every succeeding
monarch was provided with a new pair of these plumes, and his credulous
subjects fondly believed that only two individuals of the species had ever
existed to furnish the simple ornament for the diadem of the Incas.35

Although the Peruvian monarch was raised so far above the highest of his
subjects, he condescended to mingle occasionally with them, and took
great pains personally to inspect the condition of the humbler classes. He
presided at some of the religious celebrations, and on these occasions
entertained the great nobles at his table, when he complimented them,
after the fashion of more civilized nations, by drinking the health of those
whom he most delighted to honor.36

But the most effectual means taken by the Incas for communicating with
their people were their progresses through the empire. These were
conducted, at intervals of several years, with great state and magnificence.
The sedan, or litter, in which they travelled, richly emblazoned with gold
and emeralds, was guarded by a numerous escort. The men who bore it
on their shoulders were provided by two cities, specially appointed for the
purpose. It was a post to be coveted by no one, if, as is asserted, a fall
was punished by death.37 They travelled with ease and expedition,
halting at the tambos, or inns, erected by government along the route, and
occasionally at the royal palaces, which in the great towns afforded ample
accommodations to the whole of the monarch's retinue. The noble roads
which traversed the table-land were lined with people who swept away the
stones and stubble from their surface, strewing them with sweet-scented
flowers, and vying with each other in carrying forward the baggage from
one village to another. The monarch halted from time to time to listen to
the grievances of his subjects, or to settle some points which had been
referred to his decision by the regular tribunals. As the princely train
wound its way along the mountain passes, every place was thronged with
spectators eager to catch a glimpse of their sovereign; and, when he raised
the curtains of his litter, and showed himself to their eyes, the air was rent
with acclamations as they invoked blessings on his head.38 Tradition
long commemorated the spots at which he halted, and the simple people
of the country held them in reverence as places consecrated by the
presence of an Inca.39

The royal palaces were on a magnificent scale, and, far from being
confined to the capital or a few principal towns, were scattered over all
the provinces of their vast empire.40 The buildings were low, but
covered a wide extent of ground. Some of the apartments were spacious,
but they were generally small, and had no communication with one
another, except that they opened into a common square or court. The
walls were made of blocks of stone of various sizes, like those described
in the fortress of Cuzco, rough-hewn, but carefully wrought near the line
of junction, which was scarcely visible to the eye. The roofs were of
wood or rushes, which have perished under the rude touch of time, that
has shown more respect for the walls of the edifices. The whole seems to
have been characterized by solidity and strength, rather than by any
attempt at architectural elegance.41

But whatever want of elegance there may have been in the exterior of the
imperial dwellings, it was amply compensated by the interior, in which all
the opulence of the Peruvian princes was ostentatiously displayed. The
sides of the apartments were thickly studded with gold and silver
ornaments. Niches, prepared in the walls, were filled with images of
animals and plants curiously wrought of the same costly materials; and
even much of the domestic furniture, including the utensils devoted to the
most ordinary menial services, displayed the like wanton magnificence!
42 With these gorgeous decorations were mingled richly colored stuffs of
the delicate manufacture of the Peruvian wool, which were of so beautiful
a texture, that the Spanish sovereigns, with all the luxuries of Europe and
Asia at their command, did not disdain to use them.43 The royal
household consisted of a throng of menials, supplied by the neighboring
towns and villages, which, as in Mexico, were bound to furnish the
monarch with fuel and other necessaries for the consumption of the

But the favorite residence of the Incas was at Yucay, about four leagues
distant from the capital. In this delicious valley, locked up within the
friendly arms of the sierra, which sheltered it from the rude breezes of the
east, and refreshed by gushing fountains and streams of running water,
they built the most beautiful of their palaces. Here, when wearied with
the dust and toil of the city, they loved to retreat, and solace themselves
with the society of their favorite concubines, wandering amidst groves and
airy gardens, that shed around their soft, intoxicating odors, and lulled the
senses to voluptuous repose. Here, too, they loved to indulge in the
luxury of their baths, replenished by streams of crystal water which were
conducted through subterraneous silver channels into basins of gold. The
spacious gardens were stocked with numerous varieties of plants and
flowers that grew without effort in this temperate region of the tropics,
while parterres of a more extraordinary kind were planted by their side,
glowing with the various forms of vegetable life skilfully imitated in gold
and silver! Among them the Indian corn, the most beautiful of American
grains, is particularly commemorated, and the curious workmanship is
noticed with which the golden ear was half disclosed amidst the broad
leaves of silver, and the light tassel of the same material that floated
gracefully from its top.44

If this dazzling picture staggers the faith of the reader, he may reflect that
the Peruvian mountains teemed with gold; that the natives understood the
art of working the mines, to a considerable extent; that none of the ore, as
we shall see hereafter, was converted into coin, and that the whole of it
passed into the hands of the sovereign for his own exclusive benefit,
whether for purposes of utility or ornament. Certain it is that no fact is
better attested by the Conquerors themselves, who had ample means of
information, and no motive for misstatement.--The Italian poets, in their
gorgeous pictures of the gardens of Alcina and Morgana, came nearer the
truth than they imagined.

Our surprise, however, may reasonably be excited, when we consider that
the wealth displayed by the Peruvian princes was only that which each
had amassed individually for himself. He owed nothing to inheritance
from his predecessors. On the decease of an Inca, his palaces were
abandoned, all his treasures, except what were employed in his obsequies,
his furniture and apparel, were suffered to remain as he left them, and his
mansions, save one, were closed up for ever. The new sovereign was to
provide himself with every thing new for his royal state. The reason of
this was the popular belief, that the soul of the departed monarch would
return after a time to reanimate his body on earth; and they wished that he
should find every thing to which he had been used in life prepared for his

When an Inca died, or, to use his own language, "was called home to the
mansions of his father, the Sun," 46 his obsequies were celebrated with
great pomp and solemnity. The bowels were taken from the body, and
deposited in the temple of Tampu, about five leagues from the capital. A
quantity of his plate and jewels was buried with them, and a number of his
attendants and favorite concubines, amounting sometimes, it is said, to a
thousand, were immolated on his tomb.47 Some of them showed the
natural repugnance to the sacrifice occasionally manifested by the victims
of a similar superstition in India. But these were probably the menials
and more humble attendants; since the women have been known, in more
than one instance, to lay violent hands on themselves, when restrained
from testifying their fidelity by this act of conjugal martyrdom. This
melancholy ceremony was followed by a general mourning throughout the
empire. At stated intervals, for a year, the people assembled to renew the
expressions of their sorrow, processions were made, displaying the banner
of the departed monarch; bards and minstrels were appointed to chronicle
his achievements, and their songs continued to be rehearsed at high
festivals in the presence of the reigning monarch,--thus stimulating the
living by the glorious example of the dead.48

The body of the deceased Inca was skilfully embalmed, and removed to
the great temple of the Sun at Cuzco. There the Peruvian sovereign, on
entering the awful sanctuary, might behold the effigies of his royal
ancestors, ranged in opposite files,--the men on the right, and their queens
on the left, of the great luminary which blazed in refulgent gold on the
walls of the temple. The bodies, clothed in the princely attire which they
had been accustomed to wear, were placed on chairs of gold, and sat with
their heads inclined downward, their hands placidly crossed over their
bosoms, their countenances exhibiting their natural dusky hue,--less liable
to change than the fresher coloring of a European complexion,--and their
hair of raven black, or silvered over with age, according to the period at
which they died! It seemed like a company of solemn worshippers fixed in
devotion,--so true were the forms and lineaments to life. The Peruvians
were as successful as the Egyptians in the miserable attempt to perpetuate
the existence of the body beyond the limits assigned to it by nature.49

They cherished a still stranger illusion in the attentions which they
continued to pay to these insensible remains, as if they were instinct with
life. One of the houses belonging to a deceased Inca was kept open and
occupied by his guard and attendants, with all the state appropriate to
royalty. On certain festivals, the revered bodies of the sovereigns were
brought out with great ceremony into the public square of the capital.
Invitations were sent by the captains of the guard of the respective Incas
to the different nobles and officers of the court; and entertainments were
provided in the names of their masters, which displayed all the profuse
magnificence of their treasures,--and "such a display," says an ancient
chronicler, "was there in the great square of Cuzco, on this occasion, of
gold and silver plate and jewels, as no other city in the world ever
witnessed." 50 The banquet was served by the menials of the respective
households, and the guests partook of the melancholy cheer in the
presence of the royal phantom with the same attention to the forms of
courtly etiquette as if the living monarch had presided! 51

The nobility of Peru consisted of two orders, the first and by far the most
important of which was that of the Incas, who, boasting a common
descent with their sovereign, lived, as it were, in the reflected light of his
glory. As the Peruvian monarchs availed themselves of the right of
polygamy to a very liberal extent, leaving behind them families of one or
even two hundred children, 52 the nobles of the blood royal, though
comprehending only their descendants in the male line, came in the course
of years to be very numerous.53 They were divided into different
lineages, each of which traced its pedigree to a different member of the
royal dynasty, though all terminated in the divine founder of the empire.

They were distinguished by many exclusive and very important privileges;
they wore a peculiar dress; spoke a dialect, if we may believe the
chronicler, peculiar to themselves; 54 and had the choicest portion of the
public domain assigned for their support. They lived, most of them, at
court, near the person of the prince, sharing in his counsels, dining at his
board, or supplied from his table. They alone were admissible to the great
offices in the priesthood. They were invested with the command of
armies, and of distant garrisons, were placed over the provinces, and, in
short, filled every station of high trust and emolument.55 Even the laws,
severe in their general tenor, seem not to have been framed with reference
to them; and the people, investing the whole order with a portion of the
sacred character which belonged to the sovereign, held that an Inca noble
was incapable of crime.56

The other order of nobility was the Curacas, the caciques of the
conquered nations, or their descendants. They were usually continued by
the government in their places, though they were required to visit the
capital occasionally, and to allow their sons to be educated there as the
pledges of their loyalty. It is not easy to define the nature or extent of
their privileges. They were possessed of more or less power, according to
the extent of their patrimony, and the number of their vassals. Their
authority was usually transmitted from father to son, though sometimes
the successor was chosen by the people.57 They did not occupy the
highest posts of state, or those nearest the person of the sovereign, like the
nobles of the blood. Their authority seems to have been usually local, and
always in subordination to the territorial jurisdiction of the great
provincial governors, who were taken from the Incas.58

It was the Inca nobility, indeed, who constituted the real strength.of the
Peruvian monarchy. Attached to their prince by ties of consanguinity,
they had common sympathies and, to a considerable extent, common
interests with him. Distinguished by a peculiar dress and insignia, as well
as by language and blood, from the rest of the community, they were
never confounded with the other tribes and nations who were incorporated
into the great Peruvian monarchy. After the lapse of centuries, they still
retained their individuality as a peculiar people. They were to the
conquered races of the country what the Romans were to the barbarous
hordes of the Empire, or the Normans to the ancient inhabitants of the
British Isles. Clustering around the throne, they formed an invincible
phalanx, to shield it alike from secret conspiracy and open insurrection.
Though living chiefly in the capital, they were also distributed throughout
the country in all its high stations and strong military posts, thus
establishing lines of communication with the court, which enabled the
sovereign to act simultaneously and with effect on the most distant
quarters of his empire. They possessed, moreover, an intellectual
preeminence, which, no less than their station, gave them authority with
the people. Indeed, it may be said to have been the principal foundation
of their authority. The crania of the Inca race show a decided superiority
over the other races of the land in intellectual power; 59 and it cannot be
denied that it was the fountain of that peculiar civilization and social
polity, which raised the Peruvian monarchy above every other state in
South America. Whence this remarkable race came, and what was its
early history, are among those mysteries that meet us so frequently in the
annals of the New World, and which time and the antiquary have as yet
done little to explain.

Book 1

Chapter 2

Orders Of The State--Provisions For Justice--Division Of Lands-
Revenues And Registers--Great Roads And Posts-
Military Tactics And Policy

If we are surprised at the peculiar and original features of what may be
called the Peruvian aristocracy, we shall be still more so as we descend
to the lower orders of the community, and see the very artificial character
of their institutions,--as artificial as those of ancient Sparta, and, though
in a different way, quite as repugnant to the essential principles of our
nature. The institutions of Lycurgus, however, were designed for a petty
state, while those of Peru, although originally intended for such, seemed,
like the magic tent in the Arabian tale, to have an indefinite power of
expansion, and were as well suited to the most flourishing condition of
the empire as to its infant fortunes. In this remarkable accommodation to
change of circumstances we see the proofs of a contrivance that argues
no slight advance in civilization.

The name of Peru was not known to the natives. It was given by the
Spaniards, and originated, it is said, in a misapprehension of the Indian
name of "river."1 However this may be, it is certain that the natives had
no other epithet by which to designate the large collection of tribes and
nations who were assembled under the sceptre of the Incas, than that of
Tavantinsuyu, or "four quarters of the world."2 This will not surprise a
citizen of the United States, who has no other name by which to class
himself among nations than what is borrowed from a quarter of the
globe.3 The kingdom, conformably to its name, was divided into four
parts, distinguished each by a separate title, and to each of which ran one
of the four great roads that diverged from Cuzco, the capital or navel of
the Peruvian monarchy. The city was in like manner divided into four
quarters; and the various races, which gathered there from the distant
parts of the empire, lived each in the quarter nearest to its respective
province. They all continued to wear their peculiar national costume, so
that it was easy to determine their origin; and the same order and system
of arrangement prevailed in the motley population of the capital, as in
the great provinces of the empire. The capital, in fact, was a miniature
image of the empire.4

The four great provinces were each placed under a viceroy or governor,
who ruled over them with the assistance of one or more councils for the
different departments. These viceroys resided, some portion of their
time, at least, in the capital, where they constituted a sort of council of
state to the Inca.5 The nation at large was distributed into decades, or
small bodies of ten; and every tenth man, or head of a decade, had
supervision of the rest,---being required to see that they enjoyed the
rights and immunities to which they were entitled, to solicit aid in their
behalf from government, when necessary, and to bring offenders to
justice. To this last they were stimulated by a law that imposed on them,
in case of neglect, the same penalty that would have been incurred by the
guilty party. With this law hanging over his head, the magistrate of Peru,
we may well believe, did not often go to sleep on his post.6

The people were still further divided into bodies of fifty, one hundred,
five hundred, and a thousand, with each an officer having general
supervision over those beneath, and the higher ones possessing, to a
certain extent, authority in matters of police. Lastly, the whole empire
was distributed into sections or departments of ten thousand inhabitants,
with a governor over each, from the Inca nobility, who had control over
the curacas and other territorial officers in the district. There were, also,
regular tribunals of justice, consisting of magistrates in each of the towns
or small communities, with jurisdiction over petty offences, while those
of a graver character were carried before superior judges, usually the
governors or rulers of the districts. These judges all held their authority
and received their support from the Crown, by which they were
appointed and removed at pleasure. They were obliged to determine
every suit in five days from the time it was brought before them; and
there was no appeal from one tribunal to another. Yet there were
important provisions for the security of justice. A committee of visitors
patrolled the kingdom at certain times to investigate the character and
conduct of the magistrates; and any neglect or violation of duty was
punished in the most exemplary manner. The inferior courts were also
required to make monthly returns of their proceedings to the higher ones,
and these made reports in like manner to the viceroys; so that the
monarch, seated in the centre of his dominions, could look abroad, as it
were, to the most distant extremities, and review and rectify any abuses
in the administration of the law.7

The laws were few and exceedingly severe. They related almost wholly
to criminal matters. Few other laws were needed by a people who had
no money, little trade, and hardly any thing that could be called fixed
property. The crimes of theft, adultery, and murder were all capital;
though it was wisely provided that some extenuating circumstances
might be allowed to mitigate the punishment.8 Blasphemy against the
Sun, and malediction of the Inca,--offences, indeed, of the same
complexion were also punished with death. Removing landmarks,
turning the water away from a neighbor's land into one's own, burning a
house, were all severely punished. To burn a bridge was death. The inca
allowed no obstacle to those facilities of communication so essential to
the maintenance of public order. A rebellious city or province was laid
waste, and its inhabitants exterminated. Rebellion against the "Child of
the Sun," was the greatest of all crimes.9

The simplicity and severity of the Peruvian code may be thought to infer
a state of society but little advanced; which had few of those complex
interests and relations that grow up in a civilized community, and which
had not proceeded far enough in the science of legislation to economize
human suffering by proportioning penalties to crimes. But the Peruvian
institutions must be regarded from a different point of view from that in
which we study those of other nations. The laws emanated from the
sovereign, and that sovereign held a divine commission, and was
possessed of a divine nature. To violate the law was not only to insult
the majesty of the throne, but it was sacrilege. The slightest offence,
viewed in this light, merited death; and the gravest could incur no
heavier penalty.10 Yet, in the infliction of their punishments, they
showed no unnecessary cruelty; and the sufferings of the victim were not
prolonged by the ingenious torments so frequent among barbarous

These legislative provisions may strike us as very defective, even as
compared with those of the semi-civilized races of Anahuac, where a
gradation of courts, moreover, with the fight of appeal, afforded a
tolerable security for justice. But in a country like Peru, where few but
criminal causes were known, the right of appeal was of less consequence.
The law was simple, its application easy; and, where the judge was
honest, the case was as likely to be determined correctly on the first
hearing as on the second. The inspection of the board of visitors, and the
monthly returns of the tribunals, afforded no slight guaranty for their
integrity. The law which required a decision within five days would
seem little suited to the complex and embarrassing litigation of a modern
tribunal. But, in the simple questions submitted to the Peruvian judge,
delay would have been useless; and the Spaniards, familiar with the evils
growing out of long-protracted suits, where the successful litigant is too
often a ruined man, are loud in their encomiums of this swift-handed and
economical justice.12

The fiscal regulations of the Incas, and the laws respecting property, are
the most remarkable features in the Peruvian polity. The whole territory
of the empire was divided into three parts, one for the Sun, another for
the Inca, and the last for the people. Which of the three was the largest
is doubtful. The proportions differed materially in different provinces.
The distribution, indeed, was made on the same general principle, as
each new conquest was added to the monarchy; but the propertion varied
according to the amount of population, and the greater or less amount of
land consequently required for the support of the inhabirants.13

The lands assigned to the Sun furnished a revenue to support the
temples, and maintain the costly ceremonial of the Peruvian worship and
the multitudinous priesthood. Those reserved for the Inca went to
support the royal state, as well as the numerous members of his
household and his kindred, and supplied the various exigencies of
government. The remainder of the lands was divided, per capita, in
equal shares among the people. It was provided by law, as we shall see
hereafter, that every Peruvian should marry at a certain age. When this
event took place, the community or district in which he lived furnished
him with a dwelling, which, as it was constructed of humble materials,
was done at little cost. A lot of land was then assigned to him sufficient
for his own maintenance and that of his wife. An additional portion was
granted for every child, the amount allowed for a son being the double of
that for a daughter. The division of the soil was renewed every year, and
the possessions of the tenant were increased or diminished according to
the numbers in his family.14 The same arrangement was observed with
reference to the curacas, except only that a domain was assigned to them
corresponding with the superior dignity of their stations.15

A more thorough and effectual agrarian law than this cannot be
imagined. In other countries where such a law has been introduced, its
operation, after a time, has given way to the natural order of events, and,
under the superior intelligence and thrift of some and the prodigality of
others, the usual vicissitudes of fortune have been allowed to take their
course, and restore things to their natural inequality. Even the iron law
of Lycurgus ceased to operate after a time, and melted away before the
spirit of luxury and avarice. The nearest approach to the Peruvian
constitution was probably in Judea, where, on the recurrence of the great
national jubilee, at the close of every half-century, estates reverted to
their original proprietors. There was this important difference in Peru;
that not only did the lease, if we may so call it, terminate with the year,
but during that period the tenant had no power to alienate or to add to his
possessions. The end of the brief term found him in precisely the same
condition that he was in at the beginning. Such a state of things might be
supposed to be fatal to any thing like attachment to the soil, or to that
desire of improving it, which is natural to the permanent proprietor, and
hardly less so to the holder of a long lease. But the practical operation of
the law seems to have been otherwise; and it is probable, that, under the
influence of that love of order and aversion to change which marked the
Peruvian institutions, each new partition of the soil usually confirmed the
occupant in his possession, and the tenant for a year was converted into a
proprietor for life.

The territory was cultivated wholly by the people. The lands belonging
to the Sun were first attended to. They next tilled the lands of the old, of
the sick, of the widow and the orphan, and of soldiers engaged in actual
service; in short, of all that part of the community who, from bodily
infirmity or any other cause, were unable to attend to their own concerns.
The people were then allowed to work on their own ground, each man
for himself, but with the general obligation to assist his neighbor, when
any circumstance--the burden of a young and numerous family, for
example--might demand it.16 Lastly, they cultivated the lands of the
Inca. This was done, with great ceremony, by the whole population in a
body. At break of day, they were summoned together by proclamation
from some neighboring tower or eminence, and all the inhabitants of the
district, men, women, and children, appeared dressed in their gayest
apparel, bedecked with their little store of finery and ornaments, as if for
some great jubilee. They went through the labors of the day with the
same joyous spirit, chanting their popular ballads which commemorated
the heroic deeds of the Incas, regulating their movements by the measure
of the chant, and all mingling in the chorus, of which the word hailli, or
"triumph," was usually the burden. These national airs had something
soft and pleasing in their character, that recommended them to the
Spaniards; and many a Peruvian song was set to music by them after the
Conquest, and was listened to by the unfortunate natives with
melancholy satisfaction, as it called up recollections of the past, when
their days glided peacefully away under the sceptre of the Incas.17

A similar arrangement prevailed with respect to the different
manufactures as to the agricultural products of the country. The flocks
of llamas, or Peruvian sheep, were appropriated exclusively to the Sun
and to the Inca.18 Their number was immense. They were scattered
over the different provinces, chiefly in the colder regions of the country,
where they were intrusted to the care of experienced shepherds, who
conducted them to different pastures according to the change of season.
A large number was every year sent to the capital for the consumption of
the Court, and for the religious festivals and sacrifices. But these were
only the males, as no female was allowed to be killed. The regulations
for the care and breeding of these flocks were prescribed with the
greatest minuteness, and with a sagacity which excited the admiration of
the Spaniards, who were familiar with the management of the great
migratory flocks of merinos in their own country.19

At the appointed season, they were all sheared, and the wool was
deposited in the public magazines. It was then dealt out to each family in
such quantities as sufficed for its wants, and was consigned to the female
part of the household, who were well instructed in the business of
spinning and weaving. When this labor was accomplished, and the
family was provided with a coarse but warm covering, suited to the cold
climate of the mountains,--for, in the lower country, cotton, furnished in
like manner by the Crown, took the place, to a certain extent, of wool,--
the people were required to labor for the Inca. The quantity of the cloth
needed, as well as the peculiar kind and quality of the fabric, was first
determined at Cuzco. The work was then apportioned among the
different provinces. Officers, appointed for the purpose, superintended
the distribution of the wool, so that the manufacture of the different
articles should be intrusted to the most competent hands.20 They did not
leave the matter here, but entered the dwellings, from time to time, and
saw that the work was faithfully executed. This domestic inquisition was
not confined to the labors for the Inca. It included, also, those for the
several families; and care was taken that each household should employ
the materials furnished for its own use in the manner that was intended,
so that no one should be unprovided with necessary apparel.21 In this
domestic labor all the female part of the establishment was expected to
join. Occupation was found for all, from the child five years old to the
aged matron not too infirm to hold a distaff. No one, at least none but
the decrepit and the sick, was allowed to eat the bread of idleness in
Peru. Idleness was a crime in the eye of the law, and, as such, severely
punished; while industry was publicly commended and stimulated by

The like course was pursued with reference to the other requisitions of
the government. All the mines in the kingdom belonged to the Inca.
They were wrought exclusively for his benefit, by persons familiar with
this service, and selected from the districts where the mines were
situated.23 Every Peruvian of the lower class was a husbandman, and,
with the exception of those already specified, was expected to provide
for his own support by the cultivation of his land. A small portion of the
community, however, was instructed in mechanical arts; some of them of
the more elegant kind, subservient to the purposes of luxury and
ornament. The demand for these was chiefly limited to the sovereign
and his Court; but the labor of a larger number of hands was exacted for
the execution of the great public works which covered the land. The
nature and amount of the services required were all determined at Cuzco
by commissioners well instructed in the resources of the country, and in
the character of the inhabitants of different provinces.24

This information was obtained by an admirable regulation, which has
scarcely a counterpart in the annals of a semi-civilized people. A
register was kept of all the births and deaths throughout the country, and
exact returns of the actual population were made to government every
year, by means of the quipus, a curious invention, which will be
explained hereafter.25 At certain intervals, also, a general survey of the
country was made, exhibiting a complete view of the character of the
soil, its fertility, the nature of its products, both agricultural and mineral,-
-in short, of all that constituted the physical resources of the empire.26
Furnished with these statistical details, it was easy for the government,
after determining the amount of requisitions, to distribute the work
among the respective provinces best qualified to execute it. The task of
apportioning the labor was assigned to the local authorities, and great
care was taken that it should be done in such a manner, that, while the
most competent hands were selected, it should not fall disproportionately
heavy on any.27

The different provinces of the country furnished persons peculiarly
suited to different employments, which, as we shall see hereafter, usually
descended from father to son. Thus, one district supplied those most
skilled in working the mines, another the most curious workers in metals,
or in wood, and so on.28 The artisan was provided by government with
the materials; and no one was required to give more than a stipulated
portion of his time to the public service. He was then succeeded by
another for the like term; and it should be observed, that all who were
engaged in the employment of the government--and the remark applies
equally to agricultural labor--were maintained, for the time, at the public
expense.29 By this constant rotation of labor, it was intended that no
one should be overburdened, and that each man should have time to
provide for the demands of his own household. It was impossible--in the
judgment of a high Spanish authority--to improve on the system of
distribution, so carefully was it accommodated to the condition and
comfort of the artisan.30 The security of the working classes seems to
have been ever kept in view in the regulations of the government; and
these were so discreetly arranged, that the most wearing and
unwholesome labors, as those of the mines, occasioned no detriment to
the health of the laborer; a striking contrast to his subsequent condition
under the Spanish rule.31

A part of the agricultural produce and manufactures was transported to
Cuzco, to minister to the immediate demands of the Inca and his Court.
But far the greater part was stored in magazines scattered over the
different provinces. These spacious buildings, constructed of stone,
were divided between the Sun and the Inca, though the greater share
seems to have been appropriated by the monarch. By a wise regulation,
any deficiency in the contributions of the Inca might be supplied from
the granaries of the Sun.32 But such a necessity could rarely have
happened; and the providence of the government usually left a large
surplus in the royal depositories, which was removed to a third class of
magazines, whose design was to supply the people in seasons of scarcity,
and, occasionally, to furnish relief to individuals, whom sickness or
misfortune had reduced to poverty; thus, in a manner, justifying the
assertion of a Castilian document, that a large portion of the revenues of
the Inca found its way back again, through one channel or another, into
the hands of the people.33 These magazines were found by the
Spaniards, on their arrival, stored with all the various products and
manufactures of the country,--with maize, coca, quinua, woolen and
cotton stuffs of the finest quality, with vases and utensils of gold, silver,
and copper, in short, with every article of luxury or use within the
compass of Peruvian skill.34 The magazines of grain, in particular,
would frequently have sufficed for the consumption of the adjoining
district for several years.35 An inventory of the various products of the
country, and the quarters whence they were obtained, was every year
taken by the royal officers, and recorded by the quipucamayus on their
registers, with surprising regularity and precision. These registers were
transmitted to the capital, and submitted to the Inca, who could thus at a
glance, as it were, embrace the whole results of the national industry, and
see how far they corresponded with the requisitions of government.36

Such are some of the most remarkable features of the Peruvian
institutions relating to property, as delineated by writers who, however
contradictory in the details, have a general conformity of outline. These
institutions are certainly so remarkable, that it is hardly credible they
should ever have been enforced throughout a great empire, and for a long
period of years. Yet we have the most unequivocal testimony to the fact
from the Spaniards, who landed in Peru in time to witness their
operation; some of whom, men of high judicial station and character,
were commissioned by the government to make investigations into the
state of the country under its ancient rulers.

The impositions on the Peruvian people seem to have been sufficiently
heavy. On them rested the whole burden of maintaining, not only their
own order, but every other order in the state. The members of the royal
house, the great nobles, even the public functionaries, and the numerous
body of the priesthood, were all exempt from taxation.37 The whole
duty of defraying the expenses of the government belonged to the
people. Yet this was not materially different from the condition of things
formerly existing in most parts of Europe, where the various privileged
classes claimed exemption--not always with success, indeed--from
bearing part of the public burdens. The great hardship in the case of the
Peruvian was, that he could not better his condition. His labors were for
others, rather than for himself. However industrious, he could not add a
rood to his own possessions, nor advance himself one hair's breadth in
the social scale. The great and universal motive to honest industry, that
of bettering one's lot, was lost upon him. The great law of human
progress was not for him. As he was born, so he was to die. Even his
time he could not properly call his own. Without money, with little
property of any kind, he paid his taxes in labor.38 No wonder that the
government should have dealt with sloth as a crime. It was a crime
against the state, and to be wasteful of time was, in a manner, to rob the
exchequer. The Peruvian, laboring all his life for others, might be
compared to the convict in a treadmill, going the same dull round of
incessant toil, with the consciousness, that, however profitable the results
to the state, they were nothing to him.

But this is the dark side of the picture. If no man could become rich in
Peru, no man could become poor. No spendthrift could waste his
substance in riotous luxury. No adventurous schemer could impoverish
his family by the spirit of speculation. The law was constantly directed
to enforce a steady industry and a sober management of his affairs. No
mendicant was tolerated in Peru. When a man was reduced by poverty
or misfortune, (it could hardly be by fault,) the arm of the law was
stretched out to minister relief; not the stinted relief of private charity,
nor that which is doled out, drop by drop, as it were, from the frozen
reservoirs of "the parish," but in generous measure, bringing no
humiliation to the object of it, and placing him on a level with the rest of
his countrymen.39

No man could be rich, no man could be poor, in Peru; but all might
enjoy, and did enjoy, a competence. Ambition, avarice, the love of
change, the morbid spirit of discontent, those passions which most
agitate the minds of men, found no place in the bosom of the Peruvian.
The very condition of his being seemed to be at war with change. He
moved on in the same unbroken circle in which his fathers had moved
before him, and in which his children were to follow. It was the object
of the Incas to infuse into their subjects a spirit of passive obedience and
tranquillity,--a perfect acquiescence in the established order of things. In
this they fully succeeded. The Spaniards who first visited the country are
emphatic in their testimony, that no government could have been better
suited to the genius of the people; and no people could have appeared
more contented with their lot, or more devoted to their government.40

Those who may distrust the accounts of Peruvian industry will find their
doubts removed on a visit to the country. The traveller still meets,
especially in the central regions of the table-land, with memorials of the
past, remains of temples, palaces, fortresses, terraced mountains, great
military roads, aqueducts, and other public works, which, whatever
degree of science they may display in their execution, astonish him by
their number, the massive character of the materials, and the grandeur of
the design. Among them, perhaps the most remarkable are the great
roads, the broken remains of which are still in sufficient preservation to
attest their former magnificence. There were many of these roads,
traversing different parts of the kingdom; but the most considerable were
the two which extended from Quito to Cuzco, and, again diverging from
the capital, continued in a southern direction towards Chili.

One of these roads passed over the grand plateau, and the other along the
lowlands on the borders of the ocean. The former was much the more
difficult achievement, from the character of the country. It was
conducted over pathless sierras buried in snow; galleries were cut for
leagues through the living rock; rivers were crossed by means of bridges
that swung suspended in the air; precipices were scaled by stairways
hewn out of the native bed; ravines of hideous depth were filled up with
solid masonry; in short, all the difficulties that beset a wild and
mountainous region, and which might appall the most courageous
engineer of modern times, were encountered and successfully overcome.
The length of the road, of which scattered fragments only remain, is
variously estimated, from fifteen hundred to two thousand miles; and
stone pillars, in the manner of European milestones, were erected at
stated intervals of somewhat more than a league, all along the route. Its
breadth scarcely exceeded twenty feet.41 It was built of heavy flags of
freestone, and in some parts, at least, covered with a bituminous cement,
which time has made harder than the stone itself. In some places, where
the ravines had been filled up with masonry, the mountain torrents,
wearing on it for ages, have gradually eaten a way through the base, and
left the superincumbent mass--such is the cohesion of the materials--still
spanning the valley like an arch ! 42

Over some of the boldest streams it was necessary to construct
suspension bridges, as they are termed, made of the tough fibres of the
maguey, or of the osier of the country, which has an extraordinary degree
of tenacity and strength. These osiers were woven into cables of the
thickness of a man's body. The huge ropes, then stretched across the
water, were conducted through rings or holes cut in immense buttresses
of stone raised on the opposite banks of the river, and there secured to
heavy pieces of timber. Several of these enormous cables, bound
together, formed a bridge, which, covered with planks, well secured and
defended by a railing of the same osier materials on the sides, afforded a
safe passage for the traveller. The length of this aerial bridge, sometimes
exceeding two hundred feet, caused it, confined, as it was, only at the
extremities, to dip with an alarming inclination towards the centre, while
the motion given to it by the passenger occasioned an oscillation still
more frightful, as his eye wandered over the dark abyss of waters that
foamed and tumbled many a fathom beneath. Yet these light and fragile
fabrics were crossed without fear by the Peruvians, and are still retained
by the Spaniards over those streams which, from the depth or
impetuosity of the current, would seem impracticable for the usual
modes of conveyance. The wider and more tranquil waters were crossed
on balsas--a kind of raft still much used by the natives--to which sails
were attached, furnishing the only instance of this higher kind of
navigation among the American Indians.43

The other great road of the Incas lay through the level country between
the Andes and the ocean. It was constructed in a different manner, as
demanded by the nature of the ground, which was for the most part low,
and much of it sandy. The causeway was raised on a high embankment
of earth, and defended on either side by a parapet or wall of clay; and
trees and odoriferous shrubs were planted along the margin, regaling the
sense of the traveller with their perfumes, and refreshing him by their
shades, so grateful under the burning sky of the tropics. In the strips of
sandy waste, which occasionally intervened, where the light and volatile
soil was incapable of sustaining a road, huge piles, many of them to be
seen at this day, were driven into the ground to indicate the route to the

All along these highways, caravansaries, or tambos, as they were called,
were erected, at the distance of ten or twelve miles from each other, for
the accommodation, more particularly, of the Inca and his suite, and
those who journeyed on the public business. There were few other
travellers in Peru. Some of these buildings were on an extensive scale,
consisting of a fortress, barracks, and other military works, surrounded
by a parapet of stone, and covering a large tract of ground. These were
evidently destined for the accommodation of the imperial armies, when
on their march across the country. The care of the great roads was
committed to the districts through which they passed, and a large number
of hands was constantly employed under the Incas to keep them in repair.
This was the more easily done in a country where the mode of travelling
was altogether on foot; though the roads are said to have been so nicely
constructed, that a carriage might have rolled over them as securely as on
any of the great roads of Europe.45 Still, in a region where the elements
of fire and water are both actively at work in the business of destruction,
they must, without constant supervision, have gradually gone to decay.
Such has been their fate under the Spanish conquerors, who took no care
to enforce the admirable system for their preservation adopted by the
Incas. Yet the broken portions that still survive, here and there, like the
fragments of the great Roman roads scattered over Europe, bear
evidence to their primitive grandeur, and have drawn forth the eulogium
from a discriminating traveller, usually not too profuse in his panegyric,
that "the roads of the Incas were among the most useful and stupendous
works ever executed by man." 46

The system of communication through their dominions was still further
improved by the Peruvian sovereigns, by the introduction of posts, in the
same manner as was done by the Aztecs. The Peruvian posts, however,
established on all the great routes that conducted to the capital, were on a
much more extended plan than those in Mexico. All along these routes,
small buildings were erected, at the distance of less than five miles
asunder,47 in each of which a number of runners, or chasquis, as they
were called, were stationed to carry forward the despatches of
government.48 These despatches were either verbal, or conveyed by
means of quipus, and sometimes accompanied by a thread of the crimson
fringe worn round the temples of the Inca, which was regarded with the
same implicit deference as the signet ring of an Oriental despot.49

The chasquis were dressed in a peculiar livery, intimating their
profession. They were all trained to the employment, and selected for
their speed and fidelity. As the distance each courier had to perform was
small, and as he had ample time to refresh himself at the stations, they
tart over the ground with great swiftness, and messages were carried
through the whole extent of the long routes, at the rate of a hundred and
fifty miles a day. The office of the chasquis was not limited to carrying
despatches. They frequently brought various articles for the use of the
Court; and in this way, fish from the distant ocean, fruits, game, and
different commodities from the hot regions on the coast, were taken to
the capital in good condition, and served fresh at the royal table.50 It is
remarkable that this important institution should have been known to
both the Mexicans and the Peruvians without any correspondence with
one another; and that it should have been found among two barbarian
nations of the New World, long before it was introduced among the
civilized nations of Europe.51

By these wise contrivances of the Incas, the most distant parts of the
long-extended empire of Peru were brought into intimate relations with
each other. And while the capitals of Christendom, but a few hundred
miles apart, remained as far asunder as if seas had rolled between them,
the great capitals Cuzco and Quito were placed by the high roads of the
Incas in immediate correspondence. Intelligence from the numerous
provinces was transmitted on the wings of the wind to the Peruvian
metropolis, the great focus to which all the lines of communication
converged. Not an insurrectionary movement could occur, not an
invasion, on the remotest frontier, before the tidings were conveyed to
the capital, and the imperial armies were on their march across the
magnificent roads of the country to suppress it. So admirable was the
machinery contrived by the American despots for maintaining
tranquillity throughout their dominions! It may remind us of the similar
institutions of ancient Rome, when, under the Caesars, she was mistress
of half the world.

A principal design of the great roads was to serve the purposes of
military communication. It formed an important item of their military
policy, which is quite as well worth studying as their municipal.

Notwithstanding the pacific professions of the Incas, and the pacific
tendency, indeed, of their domestic institutions, they were constantly at
war. It was by war that their paltry territory had been gradually enlarged
to a powerful empire. When this was achieved, the capital, safe in its
central position, was no longer shaken by these military movements, and
the country enjoyed, in a great degree, the blessings of tranquillity and
order. But, however tranquil at heart, there is not a reign upon record in
which the nation was not engaged in war against the barbarous nations
on the frontier. Religion furnished a plausible pretext for incessant
aggression, and disguised the lust of conquest in the Incas, probably,
from their own eyes, as well as from those of their subjects. Like the
followers of Mahomet, bearing the sword in one hand and the Koran in
the other, the Incas of Peru offered no alternative but the worship of the
Sun or war.

It is true, their fanaticism--or their policy--showed itself in a milder form
than was found in the descendants of the Prophet. Like the great
luminary which they adored, they operated by gentleness more potent
than violence.52 They sought to soften the hearts of the rude tribes
around them, and melt them by acts of condescension and kindness. Far
from provoking hostilities, they allowed time for the salutary example of
their own institutions to work its effect, trusting that their less civilized
neighbors would submit to their sceptre, from a conviction of the
blessings it would secure to them. When this course failed, they
employed other measures, but still of a pacific character; and endeavored
by negotiation, by conciliatory treatment, and by presents to the leading
men, to win them over to their dominion. In short, they practised all the
arts familiar to the most subtle politician of a civilized land to secure the
acquisition of empire. When all these expedients failed, they prepared
for war.

Their levies were drawn from all the different provinces; though from
some, where the character of the people was particularly hardy, more
than from others.53 It seems probable that every Peruvian, who had
reached a certain age, might be called to bear arms. But the rotation of
military service, and the regular drills, which took place twice or thrice
in a month, of the inhabitants of every village, raised the soldiers
generally above the rank of a raw militia. The Peruvian army, at first
inconsiderable, came, with the increase of population, in the latter days
of the empire, to be very large, so that their monarchs could bring into
the field, as contemporaries assure us, a force amounting to two hundred
thousand men. They showed the same skill and respect for order in their
military organization, as in other things. The troops were divided into
bodies corresponding with our battalions and companies, led by officers,
that rose, in regular gradation, from the lowest subaltern to the Inca
noble, who was intrusted with the general command.54

Their arms consisted of the usual weapons employed by nations, whether
civilized or uncivilized, before the invention of powder,--bows and
arrows, lances, darts, a short kind of sword, a battle-axe or partisan, and
slings, with which they were very expert. Their spears and arrows were
tipped with copper, or, more commonly, with bone, and the weapons of
the Inca lords were frequently mounted with gold or silver. Their heads
were protected by casques made either of wood or of the skins of wild
animals, and sometimes richly decorated with metal and with precious
stones, surmounted by the brilliant plumage of the tropical birds. These,
of course, were the ornaments only of the higher orders. The great mass
of the soldiery were dressed in the peculiar costume of their provinces,
and their heads were wreathed with a sort of turban or roll of different-
colored cloths, that produced a gay and animating effect. Their
defensive armor consisted of a shield or buckler, and a close tunic of
quilted cotton, in the same manner as with the Mexicans. Each company
had its particular banner, and the imperial standard, high above all,
displayed the glittering device and the rainbow,--the armorial ensign of
the Incas, intimating their claims as children of the skies.55

By means of the thorough system of communication established in the
country, a short time sufficed to draw the levies together from the most
distant quarters. The army was put under the direction of some
experienced chief, of the blood royal, or, more frequently, headed by the
Inca in person. The march was rapidly performed, and with little fatigue
to the soldier; for, all along the great routes, quarters were provided for
him, at regular distances, where he could find ample accommodations.
The country is still covered with the remains of military works,
constructed of porphyry or granite, which tradition assures us were
designed to lodge the Inca and his army.56

At regular intervals, also, magazines were established, filled with grain,
weapons, and the different munitions of war, with which the army was
supplied on its march. It was the especial care of the government to see
that these magazines, which were furnished from the stores of the Incas,
were always well filled. When the Spaniards invaded the country, they
supported their own armies for a long time on the provisions found in
them.57 The Peruvian soldier was forbidden to commit any trespass on
the property of the inhabitants whose territory lay in the line of march.
Any violation of this order was punished with death.58 The soldier was
clothed and fed by the industry of the people, and the Incas rightly re-
solved that he should not repay this by violence. Far from being a tax on
the labors of the husbandman, or even a burden on his hospitality, the
imperial armies traversed the country, from one extremity to the other,
with as little inconvenience to the inhabitants, as would be created by a
procession of peaceful burghers, or a muster of holiday soldiers for a

From the moment war was proclaimed, the Peruvian monarch used all
possible expedition in assembling his forces, that he might anticipate the
movements of his enemies, and prevent a combination with their allies.
It was, however, from the neglect of such a principle of combination, that
the several nations of the country, who might have prevailed by
confederated strength, fell one after another under the imperial yoke.
Yet, once in the field the Inca did not usually show any disposition to
push his advantages to the utmost, and urge his foe to extremity. In
every stage of the war, he was open to propositions for peace; and
although he sought to reduce his enemies by carrying off their harvests
and distressing them by famine, he allowed his troops to commit no
unnecessary outrage on person or property. "We must spare our
enemies," one of the Peruvian princes is quoted as saying, "or it will be
our loss, since they and all that belong to them must soon be ours." 59 It
was a wise maxim, and, like most other wise maxims, founded equally on
benevolence and prudence. The Incas adopted the policy claimed for the
Romans by their countryman, who tells us that they gained more by
clemency to the vanquished than by their victories.60

In the same considerate spirit, they were most careful to provide for the
security and comfort of their own troops; and, when a war was long
protracted, or the climate proved unhealthy, they took care to relieve
their men by frequent reinforcements, allowing the earlier recruits to
return to their homes.61 But while thus economical of life, both in their
own followers and in the enemy, they did not shrink from sterner
measures when provoked by the ferocious or obstinate character of the
resistance; and the Peruvian annals contain more than one of those
sanguinary pages which cannot be pondered at the present day without a
shudder. It should be added, that the beneficent policy, which I have
been delineating as characteristic of the Incas, did not belong to all; and
that there was more than one of the royal line who displayed a full
measure of the bold and unscrupulous spirit of the vulgar conqueror.

The first step of the government, after the reduction of a country, was to
introduce there the worship of the Sun. Temples were erected, and
placed under the care of a numerous priesthood, who expounded to the
conquered people the mysteries of their new faith, and dazzled them by
the display of its rich and stately ceremonial.62 Yet the religion of the
conquered was not treated with dishonor. The Sun was to be worshipped
above all; but the images of their gods were removed to Cuzco and
established in one of the temples, to hold their rank among the inferior
deities of the Peruvian Pantheon. Here they remained as hostages, in
some sort, for the conquered nation, which would be the less inclined to
forsake its allegiance, when by doing so it must leave its own gods in the
hands of its enemies.63

The Incas provided for the settlement of their new conquests, by
ordering a census to be taken of the population, and a careful survey to
be made of the country, ascertaining its products, and the character and
capacity of its soil.64 A division of the territory was then made on the
same principle with that adopted throughout their own kingdom; and
their respective portions were assigned to the Sun, the sovereign, and the
people. The amount of the last was regulated by the amount of the
population, but the share of each individual was uniformly the same. It
may seem strange, that any people should patiently have acquiesced in an
arrangement which involved such a total surrender of property. But it
was a conquered nation that did so, held in awe, on the least suspicion of
meditating resistance, by armed garrisons, who were established at
various commanding points throughout the country.65 It is probable,
too, that the Incas made no greater changes than was essential to the new
arrangement, and that they assigned estates, as far as possible, to their
former proprietors. The curacas, in particular, were confirmed in their
ancient authority; or, when it was found expedient to depose the existing
curaca, his rightful heir was allowed to succeed him.66 Every respect
was shown to the ancient usages and laws of the land, as far as was
compatible with the fundamental institutions of the Incas. It must also be
remembered, that the conquered tribes were, many of them, too little
advanced in civilization to possess that attachment to the soil which
belongs to a cultivated nation.67 But, to whatever it be referred, it seems
probable that the extraordinary institutions of the Incas were established
with little opposition in the conquered territories.68

Yet the Peruvian sovereigns did not trust altogether to this show of
obedience in their new vassals; and, to secure it more effectually, they
adopted some expedients too remarkable to be passed by in silence.-
Immediately after a recent conquest, the curacas and their families were
removed for a time to Cuzco. Here they learned the language of the
capital, became familiar with the manners and usages of the court, as
well as with the general policy of government, and experienced such
marks of favor from the sovereign as would be most grateful to their
feelings, and might attach them most warmly to his person. Under the
influence of these sentiments, they were again sent to rule over their
vassals, but still leaving their eldest sons in the capital, to remain there as
a guaranty for their own fidelity, as well as to grace the court of the

Another expedient was of a bolder and more original character. This
was nothing less than to revolutionize the language of the country. South
America, like North, was broken up into a great variety of dialects, or
rather languages, having little affinity with one another. This
circumstance occasioned great embarrassment to the government in the
administration of the different provinces, with whose idioms they were
unacquainted. It was determined, therefore, to substitute one universal
language, the Quichua,--the language of the court, the capital, and the
surrounding country,--the richest and most comprehensive of the South
American dialects. Teachers were provided in the towns and villages
throughout the land, who were to give instruction to all, even the
humblest classes; and it was intimated at the same time, that no one
should be raised to any office of dignity or profit, who was unacquainted
with this tongue. The curacas and other chiefs, who attended at the
capital became familiar with this dialect in their intercourse with the
Court and, on their return home, set the example of conversing in it
among themselves. This example was imitated by their followers, and
the Quichua gradually became the language of elegance and fashion, in
the same manner as the Norman French was affected by all those who
aspired to any consideration in England, after the Conquest. By this
means, while each province retained its peculiar tongue, a beautiful
medium of communication was introduced, which enabled the
inhabitants of one part of the country to hold intercourse with every
other, and the Inca and his deputies to communicate with all. This was
the state of things on the arrival of the Spaniards. It must be admitted,
that history furnishes few examples of more absolute authority than such
a revolution in the language of an empire, at the bidding of a master.70

Yet little less remarkable was another device of the Incas for securing the
loyalty of their subjects. When any portion of the recent conquests
showed a pertinacious spirit of disaffection, it was not uncommon to
cause a part of the population, amounting, it might be, to ten thousand
inhabitants or more, to remove to a distant quarter of the kingdom,
occupied by ancient vassals of undoubted fidelity to the crown. A like
number of these last was transplanted to the territory left vacant by the
emigrants. By this exchange, the population was composed of two
distinct races, who regarded each other with an eye of jealousy, that
served as an effectual check on any mutinous proceeding. In time, the
influence of the well affected prevailed, supported, as they were, by
royal authority, and by the silent working of the national institutions, to
which the strange races became gradually accustomed. A spirit of
loyalty sprang up by degrees in their bosoms, and, before a generation
had passed away, the different tribes mingled in harmony together as
members of the same community.71 Yet the different races continued to
be distinguished by difference of dress; since, by the law of the land,
every citizen was required to wear the costume of his native province.72
Neither could the colonist, who had been thus unceremoniously
transplanted, return to his native district for, by another law, it was
forbidden to any one to change his residence without license.73 He was
settled for life. The Peruvian government ascribed to every man his
local habitation, his sphere of action, nay, the very nature and quality of
that action. He ceased to be a free agent; it might be almost said, that it
relieved him of personal responsibility.

In following out this singular arrangement, the Incas showed as much
regard for the comfort and convenience of the colonist as was compatible
with the execution of their design. They were careful that the mitimaes,
as these emigrants were styled, should be removed to climates most
congenial with their own. The inhabitants of the cold countries were not
transplanted to the warm, nor the inhabitants of the warm countries to the
cold.74 Even their habitual occupations were consulted, and the
fisherman was settled in the neighborhood of the ocean, or the great
lakes; while such lands were assigned to the husbandman as were best
adapted to the culture with which he was most familiar.75 And, as
migration by many, perhaps by most, would be regarded as a calamity,
the government was careful to show particular marks of favor to the
mitimaes, and, by various privileges and immunities, to ameliorate their
condition, and thus to reconcile them, if possible, to their lot.76

The Peruvian institutions, though they may have been modified and
matured under successive sovereigns, all bear the stamp of the same
original,--were all cast in the same mould. The empire, strengthening
and enlarging at every successive epoch of its history, was, in its latter
days, but the development, on a great scale, of what it was in miniature at
its commencement, as the infant germ is said to contain within itself all
the ramifications of the future monarch of the forest. Each succeeding
Inca seemed desirous only to tread in the path, and carry out the plans, of
his predecessor. Great enterprises, commenced under one, were
continued by another, and completed by a third. Thus, while all acted on
a regular plan, without any of the eccentric or retrograde movements
which betray the agency of different individuals, the state seemed to be
under the direction of a single hand, and steadily pursued, as if through
one long reign, its great career of civilization and of conquest.

The ultimate aim of its institutions was domestic quiet. But it seemed as
if this were to be obtained only by foreign war. Tranquillity in the heart
of the monarchy, and war on its borders, was the condition of Peru. By
this war it gave occupation to a part of its people, and, by the reduction
and civilization of its barbarous neighbors, gave security to all. Every
Inca sovereign, however mild and benevolent in his domestic rule, was a
warrior, and led his armies in person. Each successive reign extended
still wider the boundaries of the empire. Year after year saw the
victorious monarch return laden with spoils, and followed by a throng of
tributary chieftains to his capital. His reception there was a Roman
triumph. The whole of its numerous population poured out to welcome
him, dressed in the gay and picturesque costumes of the different
provinces, With banners waving above their heads, and strewing
branches and flowers along the path of the conqueror. The Inca, borne
aloft in his golden chair on the shoulders of his nobles, moved in solemn
procession, under the triumphal arches that were thrown across the way,
to the great temple of the Sun. There, without attendants,--for all but the
monarch were excluded from the hallowed precincts,--the victorious
prince, stripped of his royal insignia, barefooted, and with all humility,
approached the awful shrine, and offered up sacrifice and thanksgiving
to the glorious Deity who presided over the fortunes of the Incas. This
ceremony concluded, the whole population gave itself up to festivity;
music, revelry, and dancing were heard in every quarter of the capital,
and illuminations and bonfires commemorated the victorious campaign
of the Inca, and the accession of a new territory to his empire.77

In this celebration we see much of the character of a religious festival.
Indeed, the character of religion was impressed on all the Peruvian wars.
The life of an Inca was one long crusade against the infidel, to spread
wide the worship of the Sun, to reclaim the benighted nations from their
brutish superstitions, and impart to them the blessings of a well-regulated
government. This, in the favorite phrase of our day, was the "mission"
of the Inca. It was also the mission of the Christian conqueror who
invaded the empire of this same Indian potentate. Which of the two
executed his mission most faithfully, history must decide.

Yet the Peruvian monarchs did not show a childish impatience in the
acquisition of empire. They paused after a campaign, and allowed time
for the settlement of one conquest before they undertook another; and, in
this interval, occupied themselves with the quiet administration of their
kingdom, and with the long progresses, which brought them into nearer
intercourse with their people. During this interval, also, their new
vassals had begun to accommodate themselves to the strange institutions
of their masters. They learned to appreciate the value of a government
which raised them above the physical evils of a state of barbarism,
secured them protection of person, and a full participation in all the
privileges enjoyed by their conquerors; and, as they became more
familiar with the peculiar institutions of the country, habit, that second
nature, attached them the more strongly to these institutions, from their
very peculiarity. Thus, by degrees, and without violence, arose the great
fabric of the Peruvian empire, composed of numerous independent and
even hostile tribes, yet, under the influence of a common religion,
common language, and common government, knit together as one nation,
animated by a spirit of love for its institutions and devoted loyalty to its
sovereign. What a contrast to the condition of the Aztec monarchy, on
the neighboring continent, which, composed of the like heterogeneous
materials, without any internal principle of cohesion, was only held
together by the stern pressure, from without, of physical force !--Why the
Peruvian monarchy should have fared no better than its rival, in its
conflict with European civilization, will appear in the following pages.

Book 1

Chapter 3

Peruvian Religion--Deities--Gorgeous Temples--Festivals-
Virgins Of The Sun--Marriage

It is a remarkable fact, that many, if not most, of the rude tribes
inhabiting the vast American continent, however disfigured their creeds
may have been in other respects by a childish superstition, had attained
to the sublime conception of one Great Spirit, the Creator of the
Universe, who, immaterial in his own nature, was not to be dishonored
by an attempt at visible representation, and who, pervading all space,
was not to be circumscribed within the walls of a temple. Yet these
elevated ideas, so far beyond the ordinary range of the untutored
intellect, do not seem to have led to the practical consequences that
might have been expected; and few of the American nations have shown
much solicitude for the maintenance of a religious worship, or found in
their faith a powerful spring of action.

But, with progress in civilization, ideas more akin to those of civilized
communities were gradually unfolded; a liberal provision was made, and
a separate order instituted, for the services of religion, which were
conducted with a minute and magnificent ceremonial, that challenged
comparison, in some respects, with that of the most polished nations of
Christendom. This was the case with the nations inhabiting the table-
land of North America, and with the natives of Bogota, Quito, Peru, and
the other elevated regions on the great Southern continent. It was, above
all, the case with the Peruvians, who claimed a divine original for the
founders of their empire, whose laws all rested on a divine sanction, and
whose domestic institutions and foreign wars were alike directed to
preserve and propagate their faith. Religion was the basis of their polity,
the very condition, as it were, of their social existence. The government
of the Incas, in its essential principles, was a theocracy.

Yet, though religion entered so largely into the fabric and conduct of the
political institutions of the people, their mythology, that is, the
traditionary legends by which they affected to unfold the mysteries of the
universe, was exceedingly mean and puerile. Scarce one of their
traditions--except the beautiful one respecting the founders of their royal
dynasty--is worthy of note, or throws much light on their own antiquities,
or the primitive history of man. Among the traditions of importance is
one of the deluge, which they held in common with so many of the
nations in all parts of the globe, and which they related with some
particulars that bear resemblance to a Mexican legend.1

Their ideas in respect to a future state of being deserve more attention.
They admitted the existence of a soul hereafter, and connected with this
a belief in the resurrection of the body. They assigned two distinct
places for the residence of the good and of the wicked, the latter of
which they fixed in the centre of the earth. The good they supposed were
to pass a luxurious life of tranquillity and ease, which comprehended
their highest notions of happiness. The wicked were to expiate their
crimes by ages of wearisome labor. They associated with these ideas a
belief in an evil principle or spirit, bearing the name of Cupay, whom
they did not attempt to propitiate by sacrifices, and who seems to have
been only a shadowy personification of sin, that exercised little influence
over their conduct.2

It was this belief in the resurrection of the body, which led them to
preserve the body with so much solicitude, by a simple process,
however, that, unlike the elaborate embalming of the Egyptians,
consisted in exposing it to the action of the cold, exceedingly dry, and
highly rarefied atmosphere of the mountains.3 As they believed that the
occupations in the future world would have great resemblance to those of
the present, they buried with the deceased noble some of his apparel, his
utensils, and, frequently, his treasures; and completed the gloomy
ceremony by sacrificing his wives and favorite domestics, to bear him
company and do him service in the happy regions beyond the clouds.4
Vast mounds of an irregular, or, more frequently, oblong shape,
penetrated by galleries running at right angles to each other, were raised
over the dead, whose dried bodies or mummies have been found in
considerable numbers, sometimes erect, but more often in the sitting
posture, common to the Indian tribes of both continents. Treasures of
great value have also been occasionally drawn from these monumental
deposits, and have stimulated, speculators to repeated excavations with
the hope of similar good-fortune. It was a lottery like that of searching
after mines, but where the chances have proved still more against the

The Peruvians, like so many other of the Indian races, acknowledged a
Supreme Being, the Creator and Ruler of the Universe, whom they
adored under the different names of Pachacamac and Viracocha.6 No
temple was raised to this invisible Being, save one only in the valley
which took its name from the deity himself, not far from the Spanish city
of Lima. Even this temple had existed there before the country came
under the sway of the Incas, and was the great resort of Indian pilgrims
from remote parts of the land; a circumstance which suggests the idea,
that the worship of this Great Spirit, though countenanced, perhaps, by
their accommodating policy, did not originate with the Peruvian

The deity whose worship they especially inculcated, and which they
never failed to establish wherever their banners were known to penetrate,
was the Sun. It was he, who, in a particular manner, presided over the
destinies of man; gave light and warmth to the nations, and life to the
vegetable world; whom they reverenced as the father of their royal
dynasty, the founder of their empire; and whose temples rose in every
city and almost every village throughout the land, while his altars
smoked with burnt offerings,--a form of sacrifice peculiar to the
Peruvians among the semi-civilized nations of the New World.8

Besides the Sun, the Incas acknowledged various objects of worship in
some way or other connected with this principal deity. Such was the
Moon, his sister-wife; the Stars, revered as part of her heavenly train,-
though the fairest of them, Venus, known to the Peruvians by the name
of Chasca, or the "youth with the long and curling locks," was adored as
the page of the Sun, whom he attends so closely in his rising and in his
setting. They dedicated temples also to the Thunder and Lightning,9 in
whom they recognized the Sun's dread ministers, and to the Rainbows
whom they worshipped as a beautiful emanation of their glorious

In addition to these, the subjects of the Incas enrolled among their
inferior deities many objects in nature, as the elements, the winds, the
earth, the air, great mountains and rivers, which impressed them with
ideas of sublimity and power, or were supposed in some way or other to
exercise a mysterious influence over the destinies of man.11 They
adopted also a notion, not unlike that professed by some of the schools
of ancient philosophy, that every thing on earth had its archetype or idea,
its mother, as they emphatically styled it, which they held sacred, as, in
some sort, its spiritual essence.12 But their system, far from being
limited even to these multiplied objects of devotion, embraced within its
ample folds the numerous deities of the conquered nations, whose
images were transported to the capital, where the burdensome charges of
their worship were defrayed by their respective provinces. It was a rare
stroke of policy in the Incas, who could thus accommodate their religion
to their interests.13

But the worship of the Sun constituted the peculiar care of the Incas, and
was the object of their lavish expenditure. The most ancient of the many
temples dedicated to this divinity was in the Island of Titicaca, whence
the royal founders of the Peruvian line were said to have proceeded.
From this circumstance, this sanctuary was held in peculiar veneration.
Every thing which belonged to it, even the broad fields of maize, which
Surrounded the temple, and formed part of its domain, imbibed a portion
of its sanctity. The yearly produce was distributed among the different
public magazines, in small quantities to each, as something that would
sanctify the remainder of the store. Happy was the man who could
secure even an ear of the blessed harvest for his own granary! 14

But the most renowned of the Peruvian temples, the pride of the capital,
and the wonder of the empire, was at Cuzco, where, under the
munificence of successive sovereigns, it had become so enriched, that it
received the name of Coricancha, or "the Place of Gold." It consisted of
a principal building and several chapels and inferior edifices, covering a
large extent of ground in the heart of the city, and completely
encompassed by a wall, which, with the edifices, was all constructed of
stone. The work was of the kind already described in the other public
buildings of the country, and was so finely executed, that a Spaniard,
who saw it in its glory, assures us, he could call to mind only two
edifices in Spain, which, for their workmanship, were at all to be
compared with it.15 Yet this substantial, and, in some respects,
magnificent structure, was thatched with straw !

The interior of the temple was the most worthy of admiration. It was
literally a mine of gold. On the western wall was emblazoned a
representation of the deity, consisting of a human countenance, looking
forth from amidst innumerable rays of light, which emanated from it in
every direction, in the same manner as the sun is often personified with
us. The figure was engraved on a massive plate of gold of enormous
dimensions, thickly powdered with emeralds and precious stones.16 It
was so situated in front of the great eastern portal, that the rays of the
morning sun fell directly upon it at its rising, lighting up the whole
apartment with an effulgence that seemed more than natural, and which
was reflected back from the golden ornaments with which the walls and
ceiling were everywhere in crusted. Gold, in the figurative language of

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