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  • 1901
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A convent in Lima was assigned to him as a retreat and place of meditation on the virtues of submission and obedience.

As we may well believe, no man who felt he had the stuff within himself to make a saint ever cared much for obedience or submission, except in others; so in his convent, instead of meditating on his faults, he passed his time in writing a memorial to the Council of the Indies, setting forth his views on the way in which to spread the gospel amongst the Indians. Nothing was better calculated to win him favour. Every Indian baptized was so much yearly gain to the Spanish Government.

Conversion and taxation always went hand-in-hand, and therefore Indians who, unbaptized, brought nothing to the treasury, having received the Gospel truths, were taxed so much a head to show them that from thenceforth they were Christians. Thus, we find that in the Paraguayan missions each Indian paid a dollar every year as a sort of poll-tax, and most of the disputes between the Viceroys of Paraguay and the Jesuits arose from the number of the Indians taxable. The Viceroys always alleged that the population of the missions never increased, on account of the Jesuits returning false numbers to avoid the tax.

Cardenas specially inculcated, in his memorial to the Council of the Indies, that it was not expedient to place the Indians under the regular clergy, a theory of which he himself was destined to become a great antagonist. Promotion, as we know, cometh neither from the east nor from the west; so it fell out that during his retreat, through the influence of his friend Don Juan de Solorzano, a celebrated lawyer, who had heard him preach when Governor of Guancavelico, he found himself named Bishop of Asuncion del Paraguay. This piece of luck opened the doors of his convent to him, and he repaired at once to Potosi to wait the arrival of the Papal Bull authorizing him to take possession of his bishopric. There he appeared in the habit of his Order, a little wooden cross upon his breast, and a green hat upon his head, a costume which, if not quite fitting to his new dignity, was at least suited to the Indian taste.

His biographer informs us that, without a word to anyone, he began to preach and hear confessions. Being absolutely without resources, he was reduced to distribute indulgences and little objects of piety, and at the end of every sermon to send his green hat round the audience. His talent for preaching stood him in good stead, and after every sermon gifts were showered upon him, and a crowd accompanied him home.

The priest of Potosi being just dead, Don Bernardino took his place without permission, and set himself up in the double character of parish priest and Bishop to hold a visitation throughout the diocese.

Some people took this conduct as evidence of his saint-like humility in condescending, though a Bishop, to officiate as a mere priest. The Archbishop had a different opinion, but, as Don Bernardino had a great following, he thought it best to dissemble his resentment. Cardenas himself, by his imprudence, furnished the Archbishop with an excuse to get him out of the bishopric.

A rich Indian, whom Cardenas confessed upon his death-bed, left him ten thousand crowns. Not content with that, he influenced one Diego Vargas to change his will and leave him money. On this the Archbishop wrote to him, requesting that he would go and govern his own see. He had to go, but left the town, which he had entered without a farthing, with a long train of mules carrying his money, plate, and furniture. Why he did not instantly go to Asuncion is not quite clear, for in America it was the custom, owing to the great distance from Rome, that Bishops, on receipt of the royal order of appointment, got themselves chosen by the chapter of their diocese to govern provisionally. Instead of doing that, he went to Tucuman, and thence to Salta, where he arrived in 1641.

In Salta, his first visit was to the Jesuit college, where he laid his case before the Jesuit fathers, and showed them several letters, one from the Cardinal Antonio Barberini dated in 1638, and another from the King without a date, naming him Bishop of Asuncion. On the strength of these two letters he asked the Jesuits if he could get himself consecrated without the Papal Bulls. Charlevoix alleges that they dared not refuse to answer in the way he wished. Why this was so is not so easy to make out, as, even with his green hat and wooden cross, he could not at that time have been a formidable personage. Their written opinion he sent at once to the rector of the Jesuit college at Cordova, asking for his opinion and that of the doctors of the university. The answer reached him in Santiago del Estero, and was unfavourable. On reading the letter, Cardenas fell into a most unsaint-like fury, and tore it up without communicating it to anyone, not even to the Bishop of Tucuman, Don Melchior Maldonado. This was not strange, as he had counted on this Bishop to consecrate him.

Notwithstanding what was at stake, he went on in the diocese of Tucuman just as he had done in that of Charcas, preaching, confessing, and celebrating Mass. Don Melchior Maldonado, a quiet man of no pretensions, wrote him a letter in which he said: `You came into my diocese like a St. Bernard; such is the reputation you have for holiness and preaching that my people pay me no respect, and only look on me as a man of common virtue and mediocre talents. Although I hope I am not jealous, still, I must remind you that you act as if you were St. Paul.’

A Bishop of common virtue and of mediocre talents is, of course, a Bishop lost, and one can well conceive that poor Don Melchior Maldonado was placed in an unpleasant position during the stay of Cardenas in his diocese. Such were Don Bernardino’s powers of persuasion that at last the Bishop consecrated him. The ceremony was hardly over, when a letter arrived from the Rector of the University of Cordova advising Bishop Maldonado against the consecration. Unluckily for Paraguay, it was too late to undo the action, and Cardenas was now in a position to take possession of his see. Poor Melchior Maldonado, Bishop of Tucuman, had, as it happened, laid hands a little hastily upon the candidate. The Council of Trent pronounced upon the case, and found `that the consecration of the Bishop of Paraguay had been a valid one as touching the sacrament (ordination), and the impression of the character, but that it had been void as regards the power of discharging the functions attaching to the dignity, and that the Bishop and his consecrator had need of absolution, which the same holy congregation thinks ought to be accorded with the good pleasure of the Pope.’ As the same holy congregation had previously declared the taking possession of the diocese by Cardenas had been illegal, it is difficult for ordinary minds to grasp their real opinion of the case.

Finding that he had failed with the University of Cordova, Don Bernardino took his way to Santa Fe, from whence he wrote an insulting letter to the poor rector. The letter was conceived in such outrageous terms that the Bishop of Tucuman wrote in expostulation, saying he expected to see something extraordinary happen in Paraguay if he gave way to such excess of passion.

Don Bernardino’s usual luck attended him in Santa Fe. This town then formed part of the diocese of Buenos Ayres, though situated about four hundred miles from the metropolis. It happened that the see of Buenos Ayres was vacant, and the chapter of the cathedral invited Cardenas to visit that portion of the diocese through which he had to pass. Cardenas was, of course, delighted to show his talents for preaching, as he had done before in Charcas and in Potosi. When he arrived at Corrientes the enthusiasm for his holiness and talents was extraordinary. In Corrientes, Don Bernardino seems to have felt, for the first time, his calling and election really sure. At the time he landed (1642) the land was sunk in ignorance and superstition. Even to-day in Corrientes (the city of the seven currents), situated just at the junction of the rivers Parana and Paraguay, close to the celebrated missions of the Jesuits, the inhabitants, living in a country almost tropical, are half Indians in type.

What Corrientes looked like in Don Bernardino’s time is matter of conjecture. Perhaps it was not greatly different from some remote Spanish-American frontier towns some five-and-twenty years ago, save for the groups of Spanish soldiery, with their steel morions, trunk hose and heavy arquebuses lounging about, and in the matter of the scarcity of horses in the streets. No doubt the self-same listless air hung over everything, and in the place of the modern blue and white barred flags with a rising sun or cap of liberty stuck like a trade-mark in the corner, the blood and orange Spanish colours with the quarterings of castles and of lions flapped heavily against the flagstaff of the fort. The Indian women dressed all in white, their hair cut square across the forehead and hanging down their backs, sat with their baskets of fruit and flowers in the market-place. The town, as now, built chiefly of adobes, with a few wooden huts dotted about, was semi-oriental in design. On every church were cupolas after the eastern fashion, flat roofs on every house, and everything shone dazzling white against the dark, metallic-looking foliage of the trees. The streets, as now, were sandy water-courses, crossed here and there with traverses of rough-hewn stone to break the force of the water in the season of the rains.

At night the fireflies glistened amongst the heavy leaves of the mamayes and the orange-trees, whilst from the Chaco rose the mysterious voices of the desert night, and from the outskirts of the town the wailing Indian Jarabis and Cielitos sung in a high falsetto key to the tinkling of a cracked guitar, but broken now and then by the sharp warning cry `Alerta centinela!’ of the soldiers on the walls. Could one have landed there, one would have felt much as a sailor feels, dropped on the beach of Eromango or on some yet unbemissionaried island of the Paumotus Group.

Embarking from Corrientes up the river Paraguay, the Bishop met two vessels sent from Asuncion to do him honour. When night approached he put in practice one of the manoeuvres which in Peru had stood him in good stead. On every side a swarm of launches and canoes accompanied the ship to see the Bishop, whom already many believed a saint. He asked them all to retire a little from his ship. All did so but the guard of honour sent from Asuncion. Towards the middle of the night the sound of scourging wakened them. It was their Bishop trying to prepare himself for the duties that awaited him. Every succeeding night the same thing happened. During the day he celebrated Mass pontifically upon the deck. Voyages upon the river Paraguay before the days of steamers took a considerable time, especially as every night the custom was to anchor or to make fast the vessel to a tree. Soon the rumour reached Asuncion that a second St. Thomas was on his way to visit them. St. Thomas, as is said, once visited Paraguay, and a cave in the vicinity of a town called Paraguari, where he once lived, exists to-day to prove the passage of the saint.

Fate seemed determined that the Bishop should always meet the Jesuits, no matter where he went.

Becoming weary of the slow progress of the ships, he disembarked four leagues below Asuncion, at a farm belonging to the Company. He managed to dissemble his resentment so perfectly that no one knew he had a grudge against them. Arrived at the capital, he went at once to the church of San Blas, then to the Cathedral, where he celebrated Mass and preached, his mitre on his head. After service he dismissed the people to their homes to dine, saying, however, that he himself was nourished by an invisible food and by a beverage which men could not perceive. `My food’ (he said) `is but to do the work and will of Him who sent me.’ Therefore he remained in prayer and meditation until vespers, and that office finished, he retired to the palace accompanied by a shouting crowd.

In his position his conduct was most adroit, for, as his Bulls had not arrived, he must have known he had no legal status, and that, in default of that, he had to conquer public sympathy. The chapter never doubted that Don Bernardino would place himself entirely in their hands as his Bulls had not arrived. He, however, seems to have thought that the act of celebrating Mass pontifically in the Cathedral had put him in possession of his powers. So he named one Cristobal Sanchez as his Vicar-General. Two of the members of the chapter, Don Diego Ponce de Leon and Don Fernando Sanchez, remonstrated, but a considerable portion of the chapter sided with Cardenas. The stronger party left the Cathedral and celebrated Mass in the church belonging to the Jesuits, thus giving Cardenas a second cause of offence against the Company.

The Bishop, not being secure of his position, had recourse to every art* to catch the public eye: fasting and scourging, prayers before the altar, two Masses every day, barefoot processions — himself the central figure, carrying a cross — each had their turn. Along the deep red roads between the orange-gardens which lead from Asuncion towards the Recoleta and the Campo Grande, he used to take his way accompanied by Indians crowned with flowers, giving his benediction as he passed, to turn away (according to himself) the plague and to insure a fertile harvest. Not being content with the opportunities which life afforded, he instituted an evening service in a church in order to prepare for death.


* But besides putting into execution all his histrionic talents, he had the adroitness to address himself to those feelings of self-interest which he knew were perhaps more powerful than those of admiration and respect for his own saintly proceedings in his new diocese. Cretineau Joly, in his `Histoire de la Compagnie de Jesus’, vol. iii., p. 333 (Paris, 1845), tells us that Cardenas `parle aux Espagnols, il s’addresse a\ leurs intere^ts, il re/veille les vieux levain de discorde . . . et il accuse les missionnaires d’e^tre seuls les apo^tres de la liberte/ des Indiens.’ —

Soon, as was to be expected in such a country, this service proved the occasion of much scandal, and, instead of showing people how to leave the world, became the means of introducing many into life in a clandestine way. The rector of the Jesuit college thought it his duty to inform the Bishop; but he, like all good men, thought nothing bad could spring from anything that he himself originated. No doubt he put it down to malice, as good people will when worldlings put the finger on the weak spot of a religious institution; but anyhow, regardless of the scandals, he continued his nocturnal rites.

The Governor of Paraguay at that time was one Gregorio de Hinostrosa, an officer born in Chile, an honest, pious, wooden-headed man, and much beloved by the inhabitants of Paraguay. On his arrival Don Bernardino tried to conciliate him. Unluckily, a friendship with the Bishop was impossible without a blind submission to his will. In the beginning all was flattery; when Don Gregorio attended Mass, the Bishop used to meet him at the church door. Not to be outdone, the Governor returned the Bishop’s politeness in a similar way, but went so far in his complaisance that Don Bernardino ceased to respect him. Soon there arose bickerings and jealousies, and at length they hated one another fervently.

Nor was the Bishop more successful with his clergy. Some of them laughed at his pretensions to be a saint, and called him an ambitious schemer. Again, amongst the laity, many did not quite understand his habit of celebrating two Masses every day. He answered that he never celebrated without releasing a soul from purgatory, and that there had been saints who celebrated nine Masses every day, and, moreover, that he was Pope in his own diocese. This cut the ground from under the feet of his detractors, for in a town of the calibre of Asuncion the people looked on a service in a church as a welcome means of getting through the day, and had he celebrated a dozen masses they would but have been more delighted with their new Bishop.

Under the pretext that there were not enough priests to serve the churches, he, by degrees, took several parishes into his own hands, and went from church to church to celebrate his Mass in each, whilst not forgetting to draw the various stipends for his work. But, not content with this, he began to ordain young men who knew no Latin, and even criminals, setting forth the view that ordination was a sort of second baptism, which purged all crimes — a most convenient theory, and one which is not half enough insisted on in these degenerate days.

The position of Asuncion gave him an opportunity of an almost unique kind to show his talents in another sphere. Across the river Paraguay, there about one mile broad, extends the country called the Chaco, a vast domain of swamp and forest, inhabited in those days, as at present, by tribes of wandering Indians. From the city walls, whilst listening to the church-bells, one can see the smoke of Indian encampments across the river only a mile away.

Of all the Indian tribes in the time of Cardenas, the most ferocious were the Guaycurus. The Jesuits had laboured almost in vain amongst them. Missions had been founded, and all gone well for months, and even years, when on a sudden, and without reason, the Guaycurus had burned the houses, killed the priests, and gone back to the wilds. From Santa Fe up to the province of Matto Grosso they kept the frontier in a turmoil, crossing the river and feeding like locusts on the settlements in Paraguay.

Not long before his arrival the Guaycurus had intimated their intention of holding a conference with Don Gregorio Hinostrosa. Don Bernardino thought the chance too good to lose, and at once declared that, as a Bishop, it was his place to carry on negotiations with the barbarians. Dressed in his robes and with an escort furnished by the Governor, he met the chiefs — who no doubt looked on him as a new kind of medicine-man — preached to them through an interpreter, curiously being without the gift of tongues, but notwithstanding that a reasonable number of them were baptized. On his return, he wrote to the King that by his efforts he had appeased the most ferocious Indians within his Majesty’s domains.

Within a week the Guaycurus surprised and burned a settlement a little higher up the stream. Not content with this Caligulesque apostolate to the Guaycurus, the Bishop longed for serious occupation, and caused it to be rumoured about the city that he did nothing except by the direct authority of the Holy Ghost, an allegation hard to confute, and if allowed, likely to lead to difficulties even in Paraguay.

Some years before the advent of Don Bernardino the Dominicans had built a convent in Asuncion. As they had no license to build, they were in the position of religious squatters on the domain of God. The citizens had applied to the Audiencia of Charcas, the supreme court on all such matters in South America, situated, with true Spanish unpracticality, in one of the most secluded districts of the continent. The Audiencia had refused the license, but had taken the matter `ad advisandum’ for ten years. To take a matter into consideration for ten years, even in Spain or South America, where the law’s delay is generally more mortal than in any other country, was as good as giving a permission. So the Dominicans construed it, and no one dreamed of now molesting them.

One day the Bishop, dressed in his robes, proceeded from his palace to the convent, informing the Governor that he wanted him to meet him there. Entering the convent church, he took the sacrament from off the altar and stripped the church of all its ornaments, setting a gang of workmen to demolish both the convent and the church. When the work was over, he went to a neighbouring church, and then and there, without confession, celebrated Mass, remarking to the faithful that there was no need for him to make confession, as he was satisfied of the condition of his conscience. Some murmured; but the greater portion of the people, always ready to take a saint at his own valuation, were delighted with his act. Doubts must have crossed his mind, as shortly afterwards he wrote to Don Melchior Maldonado, Bishop of Tucuman, for his opinion. That Bishop answered rather tartly that his zeal appeared to him to savour more of the zeal of Elias than of Jesus Christ, and that in a country where churches were so few it seemed imprudent to pull down rather than to build. `However,’ he added, `my light is not so brilliant as the light your lordship is illumined by.’

When once a man is well convinced that all he does comes from the Holy Ghost, there is but little that he cannot do with satisfaction to himself. Self-murderers, according to the custom of those times, were not allowed admission into holy ground, as if the fact of having found their life unbearable debarred them from the right to be considered men. Such a man a few years previously had been buried at a cross-road. It now occurred to Cardenas to have a special revelation on the subject; and, curiously enough, this special revelation was on the side of common-sense. `This body,’ said the Bishop, `is that of a Christian, and I feel pretty sure his soul is now in bliss.’ He gave no reason for his opinion, as is the way of most religious folk, but, as he had special means of communication with heaven, most people were contented. Incontinently he had the corpse dug up and buried in the church of the Incarnation, himself performing all the funeral rites.

Although a miracle or two would have shocked nobody, still, in the matter of the suicide he had gone too far for the simple people of the place. They murmured, and for a moment the Bishop’s prestige was in jeopardy; but in the nick of time his Bulls arrived, brought by his nephew, Pedro de Cardenas, who, like himself, was a Franciscan friar. This saved him, and gave the people something new to think of, though at the same time he incurred a new anxiety.

In the Bulls there was a passage to the effect that, if at his consecration any irregularity had been incurred, he was liable to suspension from all his functions. This the Jesuit who translated the documents into Spanish for the purpose of publication drew his attention to. However, Cardenas was not a man to be intimidated by so small a matter, but read the translation to the people in the Cathedral, and intimated to them that the Pope had given him unlimited power in Paraguay, both in matters spiritual and temporal.

Though Don Gregorio, the Governor, was present at the ceremony, he made no protest at the assumption of temporal power by Cardenas. He had remarked it, though, and secretly determined to show him that his pretensions were unfounded. His nephew, Don Pedro de Cardenas, furnished the occasion. This young man had been despatched to Spain to get the Bulls. Upon the voyage he seems to have conducted himself with scant propriety. On his return, when passing Corrientes, he took on board a lady whom Charlevoix, quite in the spirit of the author of the Book of Proverbs, describes as `une jeune femme bien faite’. Having some qualms of conscience, he put on a secular dress, and on nearing Asuncion put his religious habit over it. In such a climate this double costume must have been inconvenient, and why he should have worn one dress above the other does not appear. His uncle, in his delight at the forthcoming of the Bulls, most probably paid little attention to his appearance. He lodged him in the palace, and assigned him a prebendary which was vacant. Where the `jeune femme bien faite’ was lodged is not set down, and the people of Asuncion no doubt looked leniently on such affairs, as does society to-day in England. After his usual fashion, the Bishop set all down to calumny.

About this time the Governor had put in prison one Ambrosio Morales, a sub-official of the Inquisition, who had had a quarrel with an officer. Cardenas, being informed of this, could not lose so good a chance of exercising the power he arrogated in temporal affairs. Holding a monstrance in his hands, he went to the prison and asked for the prisoner, placing the monstrance on a table at the prison gate. The rector of the Jesuit college came and expostulated with him, saying that it was not fitting to expose the body of Jesus Christ in such a place, and that it was not decent that the Bishop himself should stay there. Considering his position, and the times in which he lived, it seems the rector was judicious in his expostulation. Cardenas replied that he would stay there till the prisoner was released. The rector, knowing him to be as obstinate as a male mule, went and begged the Governor to let Morales out. This he did at once, and then the Bishop, cross in hand, returned in triumph to the palace with the rescued Inquisitor following amongst his train. The people, whose lives were dull, snatched at the opportunity for some amusement, and said that it was good luck the Governor and Bishop were not always of one mind, for that their agreement had caused the demolition of a church and convent, and their quarrel the setting of a prisoner free.

This little triumph emboldened the Bishop to go further. He admitted Morales into minor orders, gave him the tonsure, and thus, having placed him above the temporal power, enabled him to brave the Governor openly. The Bishop’s nephew, taking the Governor’s kindness for weakness, broke publicly into insulting terms about him. The Governor’s brother, Father Hinostrosa, pressed him to vindicate his dignity, but he refused, saying he wanted peace at any price. This policy the Bishop did not understand, for all concessions he set down as weakness, and they encouraged him to fresh exactions and more violence.

Dining with the Governor, the Bishop chanced to see upon the table a fine pair of silver candlesticks. To see and to desire with Cardenas was to ask, and so he intimated to the Governor his wish to have them. The Governor, thinking, perhaps, to wipe out the remembrance of the difficulty about Morales, sent them to the palace with his compliments. The Bishop took the present, and, turning to the man who brought them, said, `I should now be quite content if I only had the silver ewer and flagon which I noticed in your master’s house.’ The Governor, we may suppose, on hearing this made what the Spaniards call `la risa del conejo’; but sent the plate and a message, saying all his house contained was at the Bishop’s service. Don Bernardino, who, though he may have been a saint, as his friends proclaimed, was certainly far from a gentleman, sent for the flagon and the ewer, which he received at once, together with a friendly message from the Governor.

But even this free-will offering brought no quiet, for a new quarrel soon arose between the Bishop and the unlucky wielder of the temporal power. The Society of the Holy Sacrament enjoyed an `encomienda’ at or near Asuncion. The Bishop, no doubt thinking he was most fitted to indoctrinate the Indians, endeavoured to persuade the Governor to get the Society of the Holy Sacrament to make their Indians over to himself. The Governor, who knew his fellow-countrymen, flatly refused, and upon this Don Bernardino fell into a fury, and reproached him with such bitterness that Don Gregorio, too, overstepped the bounds of prudence, and threw the conduct of his nephew with the `jeune femme bien faite’ into the Bishop’s teeth.

Hell has been said to have no fury equal to a woman scorned, but a Bishop thwarted makes a very tolerable show. Don Bernardino was one of those who think an insult to themselves carries with it a challenge to God, an outrage on religion, and generally conceive the honour of Heaven is attacked by any contradiction of themselves. To animadvert upon the actions of a Bishop’s nephew is as bad as heresy — far worse than simony — and the man who does it cannot but be a heretic at heart. So, at least, Don Bernardino thought; for, with candle, bell, and book, and what was requisite, he excommunicated the poor Governor, and declared him incompetent to bear the royal standard in a religious festival which was shortly to take place. Excommunication was at least as serious then as bankruptcy is now, though in Spanish America it did not carry with it such direful consequences as in European States.

Not wishing to use force, the Governor yielded the point, and did not trouble the procession. His moderate conduct gained him many partisans, and put many people against the Cardenas. The nephew, Pedro de Cardenas, thought it a good occasion to insult the Governor in public; so one day in the street he followed him, casting reflections on his mother and his female relatives. Don Gregorio, who was a man of tried courage, having served for years against the Indians of Arauco, the bravest race of all the Indians of America, controlled his temper, and, turning to the young Franciscan, said, `Go with God, my father; but do not try me any more.’ It was not to be expected that in those times and such a place a man like Don Gregorio de Hinostrosa, who had passed his life upon the frontiers, and who held supreme authority, would quietly submit to such a public insult; so one night he appeared at the Bishop’s palace, accompanied by soldiers, to arrest Don Pedro. Out came Cardenas, and excommunicated the Governor and all his soldiers on the spot, and Don Pedro pointed a pistol at his head. He, seeing himself obliged either to make a public scandal or retire, being for peace at any price, retired, and the triumphant Bishop published his edict of excommunication, which he extended with a fine of fifty crowns to every soldier who had been present at the scene. On reflection, thinking, perhaps, it was unwise to excommunicate so many soldiers, who might be needed to repel an Indian attack, he sent and told the Governor he was ready to absolve him upon easy terms. The Governor, who had made light of the first excommunication, was rather staggered when he found the second posted at the Cathedral door. And now a comedy ensued; for Don Gregorio went to the Bishop, and on his knees asked for forgiveness. He, taken unawares, also knelt down, and, when the Governor kissed his hand, wished to return the compliment, and would have done so had the rector of the Jesuit college not prevented him.

As Charlevoix says, `to see them on their knees, no one could have imagined which one it was who asked the other’s grace.’ The Bishop granted absolution to the Governor; but the soldiers’ action had been flat sacrilege at least, for every one of them was forced to pay the fine.

Two excommunications in a week were almost, one would think, enough to satisfy a Pope; but having nominated one Diego Hernandez, a Portuguese, to the post of Alguacil Mayor of the Inquisition, and given him the right to wear a sword in virtue of his office, the Governor, meeting the man in the street wearing a sword against his regulations, made him a prisoner. At once Don Bernardino launched another excommunication. But this time he had gone too far; the Governor laughed at his thunder, and condemned the prisoner to be hanged. At his wits’ end, the Bishop sent a servant to the man, and told him to fear nothing, for that, if he suffered death, he was a martyr, and that he himself would preach his funeral sermon. The Governor, who was perhaps a humorist, laughed at the message, which, he said, was not consoling, and then himself let Hernandez out of prison under heavy bail. The excommunication was then taken off, and peace once more reigned in Asuncion.

As well as being not given to wine, it is essential that a Bishop shall know how to keep his own counsel — as Lorenzo Gracian expresses it,* `not to lie, but not for that to speak out always the whole truth.’ Everyone who knew the Bishop and his hasty temper was astonished at his behaviour to the Jesuits. No one imagined he had forgotten the attitude the rector of the University of Cordova had assumed towards his consecration, and still the Bishop seemed to show more favour to the Jesuits in Asuncion than to the members of the other religious communities. Perhaps he felt the want of partisans amongst the educated classes, for his quarrel with the Governor had lost him many friends. Certainly in Asuncion it was of great importance that the Jesuits should not declare against him openly.


* `Oraculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia’ (Amsterdam, en casa de Juan Blau, 1659).

He praised them fulsomely both in the pulpit and in conversation, went in procession to their church, and treated them in public with marked consideration. As a contemporaneous Jesuit has left a record, they were not his dupes, but still endeavoured to live up to the praises he dispensed to them. He went so far as in a letter to the King, Philip IV., to say that the Jesuits only in all Paraguay were really fitted to have the care of Indians, and he advised the King to transfer the Indians who were under other religious bodies, as well as those under the secular clergy, to the care and guidance of that Order. No doubt in this the Bishop was right, even if not sincere. One of the qualifications the Jesuits had for the care of Indians was that the Indians did not look on them as Spaniards.

As in the same way that in Matabeleland, perhaps, a German, Frenchman, or Italian is less hateful to the natives than an Englishman, so in Paraguay the Indians liked the Jesuits better than the other Orders, for there were many foreigners amongst their ranks. The Jesuits soon comprehended that the Bishop wished to make them odious to the public by overpraise. To set to work in such a manner almost requires an early training in a seminary, and that such tactics should have been put in force against such skilled diplomatists as were the Jesuits argues no ordinary capacity for diplomatic work in Cardenas. With him, however, the Spanish proverb, `Betwixt the word and deed the space is great’, had little application. The vicar of a place called Arecaya, close to Asuncion, had fallen into disgrace; the Bishop removed him from his parish, and asked the rector of the Jesuit college to send a priest to take his place. The answer he received was politic, and to the effect that there was no Jesuit who could be spared, and even if there was it ill-befitted any Jesuit to infringe upon the duties of the secular clergy; but that, if Cardenas intended to found a new reduction with all the privileges that the King had always given to that kind of establishment, the rector himself would ask permission from his Provincial to undertake the work. A splendid answer, and one which proved that the man who gave it was a man wasted in Paraguay, and that his place by rights was Rome or, at the least, some court.

Don Bernardino, who in matters such as these was quite as cunning as the rector, thanked him, and said he did not want a saint, but a priest to take the duty of another priest for a short time. The rector, seeing his diplomacy had failed, told Father Mansilla, who was at Itatines, to transfer himself to Arecaya, and, writing to the Bishop, told him that he had no doubt Mansilla would do all that was fitting in the case. The Bishop, who had gained his point and saw no further use for diplomacy, said: `Of that I am quite sure, and if he does not I shall excommunicate him, and lay the district of the Itatines under an interdict.’ Nothing appeared to give Don Bernardino such unmitigated pleasure as an excommunication; on the slightest protest he was ready, so that during his episcopate someone or other in Asuncion must have always been under the ban of Holy Mother Church. The rector felt instinctively that Don Bernardino had not done with him. This was the case, for soon another order came to send two Jesuits to undertake the guidance of a mission near Villa Rica. As at the time the Jesuits had no missions near Villa Rica, the order was most unpleasant to him. Firstly, the two who went — Fathers Gomez and Domenecchi — had to leave their missions and undertake a lengthy journey in the wilds. On reaching Villa Rica, they found not only that the inhabitants looked on them with great disfavour as interlopers, but that the Indians, whom they were sent to guide, were under the `encomienda’ system, thus forcing them to wink at that which they disapproved. The resolution that they took did them great honour; it was to leave the town of Villa Rica and live out in the forests with the Indians.

The Jesuits of the college at Asuncion felt the situation keenly. People began to murmur at them for their invasion of the spiritual domains of others, and the rector, in despair, sent to the Bishop, and begged him not to praise them in his sermons. Nothing cost Cardenas so little as to promise, so he promised not to mention them again, and next time that he preached he spent an hour in telling of the wonders that the Jesuits had done in saving souls, not only amongst Catholics, but also amongst the infidels and Turks. The tactics of the Bishop were so marked that at last a rumour reached Don Melchior Maldonado, the Bishop of Tucuman, of whom Don Bernardino always stood in dread. His letter somehow became public, and as in it he spoke most warmly of the Jesuits, and praised the rector, the public turned again upon their side. Just at this time, however, the sleeping feud between the Bishop and the Governor broke out anew with so much fury that attention was directed from the Jesuits for the time being; but on them the situation still was hung, and both sides made advances to them for support.

Chapter V

Renewal of the feud between the Bishop and Don Gregorio — Wholesale excommunications in Asuncion — Cardenas in 1644 formulates his celebrated charges against the Jesuits — The Governor, after long negotiations and much display of force, ultimately succeeds in driving out the Bishop — For three years Cardenas is in desperate straits — In 1648 Don Gregorio is suddenly dismissed, Cardenas elects himself Governor, and for a short time becomes supreme in Asuncion — The Jesuits are forced to leave the town and to flee to Corrientes — A new Governor is appointed in Asuncion — He defeats Cardenas on the field of battle — The latter is deprived of his power, and dies soon after as Bishop of La Paz

The Governor, like a prudent soldier, was biding his time. The Bishop, not yet strong enough to walk alone, dared not break openly with the Jesuits. Don Pedro Cardenas still following up his evil courses, poor Don Gregorio Hinostrosa, accustomed all his life to deal with `officers and gentlemen’, thought fit to bring this under his uncle’s notice. The Bishop spoke to his nephew in a paternal fashion, enjoining certain penances upon him, and amongst others that he was to kiss the earth. Although Don Pedro Cardenas was not a man accustomed to lavish kisses on things inanimate, he complied, but, though complying, still pursued his vicious course.

Quite in the manner of King Charles (of pious memory), the Governor determined to arrest the recalcitrant with his own hand. Armed to the teeth, and with a band of musketeers accompanying him, he appeared before the convent of St. Francis, where Father Cardenas had taken refuge, and, dragging him from his bed, haled him incontinently to the river’s bank, and left him gagged and bound, a prey to flies and sun, for two whole days, dressed in his drawers and shirt. On the third day he was embarked in a canoe for Corrientes, with a small quantity of jerked beef for all provision, and a woman’s cloak wrapped round his shoulders to shield him from the cold. Not quite the guise in which a clergyman would care to appear before the eyes of his superiors, even in Paraguay. Naturally, the Bishop, having nothing else to do, got out his excommunication in his usual style, but no man marked him.

Meantime Asuncion was in confusion, the Bishop and the Governor keeping no measure with the other man of sin. One tried to obtain possession of the other’s person to throw him into prison; the other strove to animate the preachers in the various churches to consign his rival’s soul to hell. In the deserted streets drums thundered, whilst in the air bells jangled, and the quiet, sleepy town was rent in twain by the dissensions of the opposing powers. The churches closed their doors, and the consolations of religion were withdrawn from those who wanted them.

To add to the confusion, Don Pedro Cardenas escaped from Corrientes, and, having taken to himself a companion — one Francisco Sanchez de Carreras — raged through the city like a devil unchained. In his extremity, the poor Bishop went to the Jesuits for advice, informing them he could not stand the scandals that were taking place, and that he intended to leave the city after launching an interdict of excommunication upon all. Placed in the position of declaring openly either for Bishop or for Governor, the Jesuits refused an answer, knowing that anything they said would be brought up against them. All their advice to him was, `to trust in God, to persevere in his good efforts, to resign himself to divine will, which will, as the Bishop knew full well, worked sometimes in a mysterious fashion for the welfare of the soul.’ The Bishop answered this advice `fort sechement’,* taking it for a reproach, and as a sort of thing not to be tolerated amongst professionals — as if one lawyer, having gone to another for his advice upon a private matter, had received for answer a lecture on conveyancing or a short treatise upon Roman Law.


* Charlevoix.

Still, the occasion called for something to be done; so, calling an Indian servant, he stripped to the waist, and, to the horror and amazement of the public, appeared with naked feet and shoulders, dressed in a sack and armed with a heavy scourge. At the first blow he gave himself some canons of the Cathedral begged him to desist; but he, after prayer, replied that he intended, so to speak, to act as his own Pascal lamb, and wipe out the affront done to St. Francis in his unworthy blood.

A naked Bishop in a sack is almost sure to attract some observation even in Paraguay. Religious women not unfrequently have been attracted by such a spectacle, and so it proved on this occasion. Although the Jesuits and the saner portion of the population blamed the Bishop’s action, he made himself a host of partisans amongst the women of all classes, who followed him as they have often followed other thaumaturgists in times present and gone by.

His friend Don Melchior Maldonado, hearing what had passed, wrote to reprove him for his inconsiderate zeal. In his epistle he observed that, though some of the Apostles had scourged themselves, it was not their habit to appear half naked before a crowd of women; that our Lord Himself had not of His own accord taken off His garments for the scourger; that saints who scourged themselves had, as a general rule, chosen a private place for their self-discipline. This was quite reasonable, but the advice was little to the taste of the recipient, who hated criticism when levelled at himself.

If crosses make a saint, about this time Don Bernardino had his full share of them. News came from Itatines, where the two Jesuits had been marooned, that both of them were ill. Cardenas, who, we may remember, was `homme a visions’, called in the rector of the Jesuit college to inform him that the Company of Jesus had a new martyr in their ranks. Though martyrs (even to-day) enter the ranks of General Loyola’s army pretty frequently, it still seemed strange that the Bishop should know of this particular recruit before the rector. Pressed for an explanation, he replied that a pious person who was vouchsafed communication with the Lord in prayer had seen Father Domenecchi in heaven shining in glory and with a halo round his head.

Nothing could be more satisfactory. All the essentials of a well-attested miracle had been complied with. A man was dead, another man had seen the dead man in an ecstasy of prayer, and, to make all complete, refused to testify himself, sending the Bishop as a sort of pious phonograph. No true believer in such a case could doubt, and all went well till it appeared a man from Itatines, charged with a message to the Jesuit college, had passed the night before he gave his message at the Bishop’s house. In Holy Writ we read the wicked man shall have no rest; if this is so, it is as it should be, though generally the good seem just as troubled in their lives as the most erring of their brethren. He who would be a saint must be a-doing, year in, year out, just like a common workman, and Cardenas was no exception to the rule.

The pseudo-miracle not having been quite a success, he turned to other fields, and summoned all the inhabitants of Paraguay to attend at the Cathedral upon a certain day. The Governor, thinking there was a revolution likely to break out, fixed a review of all the troops for the same date. A Jesuit priest waited upon the Bishop to persuade him that the crowds which would assemble might break the peace. The Bishop reassured him, and sent him to the Governor to say that his intention was to preach to the people and explain to them the faith; further, that he intended on that day to raise his excommunication and be reconciled: only he asked him to allow the troops to attend and hear his sermon. The crowd was great; the Bishop mounted the pulpit, and, extending his forefinger in the attitude of malediction so dear to Bishops, straight began to preach. For a time all went well. The Governor, presumably, was waiting for the circulation of the hat — that awful mystery which makes all sects kin — when to his horror Cardenas began to enumerate all his offences: he was anathema, was excommunicated, a disbeliever, and had endeavoured to cast down that which the Lord Himself had set on high. The Bishop then informed the crowd that God was angry with the Governor, talked about Moses, and dwelt with unction on the fact that the great lawgiver had been swift to slay.

In a peroration which, no doubt, went home to all, he called upon his hearers, under penalty of a heavy fine and his displeasure, to seize the Governor, adding that if there was resistance `he should kill his brother, his friend, or his nearest relative.’* After these words he seized a banner from the hands of the astonished officer who stood nearest to him, and stood forth, like another Phineas, surrounded by his clergy, all of whom had arms beneath their cloaks.


* Exod. 32:27.

A most dramatic scene, and probably almost successful, had but the Bishop only reckoned with two things: Firstly, he had forgotten that the Governor was an old Indian fighter, and ready for surprises; and, secondly, he had not taken into account the usual apathy of the common people when their leaders fight. Dumbly and quite unmoved the people stood, staring like armadillos at a snake, and made no sign. Then word was brought that the Governor had left the church and was assembling a force of arquebusiers.

Surrounded only by clergymen, Don Bernardino had to yield, and yielded like a Levite, with a subterfuge. He sent a priest to beg the magistrates to come to the Cathedral and reason with him. After a consultation this was done, and Cardenas consented to abate his fury and exhale his wrath. He said that Holy Writ itself gave leave to recur to force in self-defence (but did not quote the text), and that the Governor had meditated a like enterprise against himself; moreover, that, he being an excommunicated man, it became lawful for God’s vicegerent to lay hold on him.

After the scene was over, and the Bishop was escorted back to his palace by the magistrates, a second letter came from Tucuman making plain his conduct to him after the manner of a friend. The rector of the Jesuits also thought fit to remonstrate, and say that Cardenas had gone too far in attempting to assume the temporal power. This sufficed to further strain the relations between the Bishop and the Jesuits.

As, even in Asuncion in 1643, it was unusual that the Governor should remain for ever under the ban of Holy Mother Church, arbiters were chosen to discuss the matter, and provide means whereby the Bishop could conveniently climb down. The arbiters absolved the Governor on the condition that he paid a fine of four thousand arrobas* of `yerba mate’, which in money amounted to eight thousand crowns. Quite naturally, the Bishop refused to abide by the decision, replaced his adversary under the ban, and recommenced to preach against him with considerable force.


* The arroba is about twenty-five pounds weight. —

The higgling of the market not having proved effectual in the adjustment of the sum to be paid by the Governor, a priest, one Juan Lozano, who had been condemned to imprisonment by his superiors for his loose life, and who had taken refuge with the Bishop, hit on a stroke of veritable genius. At a conference which took place between the Bishop and several notables of the place, including the rector of the Jesuits, Lozano gave it as his opinion that, if the Governor refused to pay, a general interdict should be proclaimed. The rector of the Jesuits retired indignantly, and `Pe\re Lozano, retroussant sa robe le poursuivit en criant a\ pleine te^te, et s’exprimant en des termes peu seans a\ sa profession.’* By this time Asuncion must have been like a madhouse, for no one seems to have been astonished, or even to have thought his conduct singular. The Bishop, always ready to take the worst advice, got ready for his task, and on Easter Eve embarked upon the river, leaving his Vicar-General under orders to proclaim the general ban. This was done, and the edict so contrived as to catch the luckless Governor in every church. The practical effect was to close all the churches, for to whatever church the Governor went the priest refused to celebrate the Mass. Several other persons were mentioned in the ban, which was posted up below a crucifix in the choir of the Cathedral. As Don Bernardino had omitted to state the particular offences for which they were condemned, the general confusion became intense, and no one attended Mass, so that the churches were deserted. After a little some of the churches opened in a clandestine manner, others remained closed, and the followers of the Bishop and the Governor alternately assembled in a rabble, and threw stones at all the churches, dispensing their favours quite impartially. The various religious Orders, not to be behindhand, also took sides, the Jesuits giving as their opinion that the Governor, not having a war upon his back, was really excommunicated; the Dominicans holding that the Bishop, in the general interest, ought to absolve him. He, armed with the opinion of the latter Order, marched to the dwelling of the Bishop’s Vicar-General, and, having nailed up both doors and windows, sent a trumpeter to tell him he should not leave his house till absolution had been granted. Still nothing came of it, and then the Governor did what he should have done at first: he sent a statement of the whole proceedings to the high court at Charcas. This high court (Audiencia) was situated right in the middle of what is now Bolivia, miles away from Lima, half a world from Paraguay, at least two thousand miles from Buenos Ayres, and separated from Chile by the whole Cordillera of the Andes. Even to-day the journey from Paraguay often exceeds a month.


* Charlevoix.

The Bishop, not to be outdone, also prepared a statement, in which he accused his adversary of all the crimes that he could think of, and confirmed his statement with an oath. The chapter, thinking things were in an impossible condition, besought that the fine laid on the excommunicated folk should be raised or lessened, as it appeared to them there was not money in the town to satisfy it. Cardenas refused, and thus four months elapsed. Soon after this arrived one Father Truxillo, of the Order of St. Francis, who came from Tucuman as Vice-Provincial. Cardenas, thinking, as they were both Franciscans, that Truxillo must needs be favourable to his cause, made him his Vicar-General, with power to bind and to unloose — that is, to free the excommunicated folk from all their disabilities if, on examination, it seemed good to him. Truxillo, who was quite unbiassed as to matters in Asuncion, looked into everything, and declared the Governor and everybody ought to be absolved. He further gave it as his opinion that, the affair having gone to the high court at Charcas, he could do nothing but give an interim decree. Don Bernardino heard the news at Itati, an Indian village a few miles outside Asuncion. From thence he went to a somewhat larger village called Yaguaron, and shut himself up in a convent, after declaring everyone (except the superior clergy) under the severest censure of the Church if they should dare approach. Not a bad place for prayer and meditation is Yaguaron. A score or two of little houses, built of straw and wood and thatched with palm-leaves, straggle on the hillside above the shores of a great camalote-covered* lake. Parrots scream noisily amongst the trees, and red macaws hover like hawks over the little patches of maize and mandioca planted amongst the palms. Round every house is set a grove of orange-trees, mingled with lemons, sweet limes, and guayabas. Inside the houses all is so clean that you could eat from any floor with less repulsion than from the plates at a first-class hotel. A place where life slips on as listless and luxuriant as the growth of a banana, and where at evening time, when the women of the place go to fetch water in a long line with earthen jars balanced upon their heads, the golden age seems less improbable even than in Theocritus. To Yaguaron the higher clergy flocked to intercede for the good people of Asuncion, all except Father Truxillo, who, knowing something of his Bishop, did not go. That he was wise, events proved shortly. Two canons — Diego Ponce de Leon and Fernando Sanchez — he imprisoned in their rooms, calling them traitors to their Bishop and their Church. Deputations came from the capital to beg for their release, but all in vain. The Bishop answered them that he had set his mind to purge his diocese of traitors; and the two canons remained in prison. After a detention which lasted forty days, they escaped and fled to Corrientes, which must have looked upon Asuncion as a vast madhouse. Truxillo, who seems to have been a man not quite so absolutely devoid of sense as the other clergy, endeavoured to organize a religious `coup d’etat’; but, most unfortunately, a letter he had written to some of the saner clergy fell into the Bishop’s hands. Excommunications now positively rained upon the land. The Governor, the Jesuits, the Dominicans, each had their turn; but, curiously enough, the poorer people still stood firm to Cardenas, thinking, no doubt, a man who treated all the richer sort so harshly must do something for the poor. Nothing, however, was further from the thoughts of Cardenas, who thought the whole world circled round himself. The Bishop’s nephew having returned to Corrientes and his former naughty life, Don Bernardino, casting about for another secretary, came on one Francisco Nieto, an apostate from the Order of St. Francis, and living openly with an Indian woman, by whom he had a son. Him the Bishop made his chaplain, then his confessor; and poor Nieto found himself obliged to send his Indian wife away in spite of all his protests and his wish to live obscurely as he had been living before his elevation to the post of secretary. A veritable beachcomber Father Francisco Nieto seems to have been, and the type of many a European in Paraguay, who asks no better than to forget the tedium of our modern life and pass his days in a little palm-thatched hut lost in a clearing of a wood or near some lake.


* Camalote is a species of water-lily which forms a thick covering on stagnant rivers and lakes in Paraguay and in the Argentine Republic. —

So in Asuncion things went from bad to worse. Such trade as then existed was at a standstill, and bands of starving people swarmed in the streets, whilst the incursions of the savage Indians daily became more frequent. In fact, Asuncion was but a type of what the world would be under the domination of any of the sects without the counterpoise of any civil power. The Governor, seeing the misery on every side, determined, like an honest man, to pocket up his pride and reconcile himself with Cardenas at any price. So, setting forth with all his staff, he came to Yaguaron. There, like a penitent, he had to bear a reprimand before the assembled village and engage to pay a fine before the rancorous churchman would relieve him from the ban. The weakness of the Governor had the effect that might have been expected, and heavy fines were laid on all and sundry who had in any manner displeased the Bishop or leaned to the other side in the course of the dispute.

Right in the middle of the struggle between the clerical and lay authorities, a band of over three hundred Guaycurus appeared before the town. Unluckily, all the chief officers of the garrison were excommunicated, and thus incapable of doing anything to defend the place. Foolish as Cardenas most indubitably was, his folly did not carry him so far as to leave the capital of his diocese quite undefended. Still, he would not give way first, and only at the moment when the Indians seemed prepared to attack the town, at the entreaty of a `pious virgin’, he raised the excommunication on the Governor and his officers for fifteen days. The Governor, instead of, like a sensible man, seizing the Bishop and giving him to the `cacique’ of the Guaycurus, led out his troops and drove the Indians off. That very night he found himself once more under the censure of the Church, and the conflict with his opponent more bitter than at first. The Viceroy of Peru, the Marquis of Mancera, indignant at the weakness of the Governor, wrote sharply to him, reprimanding him and telling him at once to assert himself and force the Bishop to confine himself to matters spiritual. On the Governor’s attempt to reassert himself, the answer was a general interdict laying the entire capital under the Church’s ban. On this, he marched to Yaguaron with all his troops, resolved to take the Bishop prisoner; but he, seeing the troops approach, went out at once, fell on the Governor’s neck, and straightway absolved him.

After the absolution came a banquet, which must have been a little constrained, one might imagine, and even less amusing than the regulation dinner-party of the London season, where one sits between two half-naked and perspiring women eating half-raw meat and drinking fiery wines with the thermometer at eighty in the shade. Thus disembarrassed from the Governor, Don Bernardino turned his attention to the Jesuits, and signified to them that he intended to take the education of the young out of their hands. This was a mortal affront to the Jesuits, as they have always understood that men, just as the other animals, can only learn whilst young. Hard upon this new step, Cardenas issued an edict forbidding them to preach or hear confessions. As for the Governor, the Bishop did not fear him, and the poorer people of Asuncion had always inclined to the Bishop’s party, either through terror of the Church’s ban or from their natural instinct that the Bishop was against the Government.

But Cardenas saw clearly that, to deal as he wished with the Jesuits, he must entirely gain the Governor’s confidence. This he tried to do by sending to him one Father Lopez, Provincial of the Dominicans. This Lopez was an able and apparently quite honest man, for he told the Governor that the wish of Cardenas was to expel the Jesuits from Paraguay, and from their missions, warning him at the same time not to allow himself to be made use of by the Bishop in his design. From that moment the two adversaries seemed to have changed characters, and Don Gregorio became as cautious as a churchman, whereas the Bishop seemed to lose all his diplomacy.

To all the protestations of friendship which were addressed to him, the Governor answered so adroitly that the Bishop fell into the trap, and thought he had secured a partner to help him in the expulsion of the Jesuits. Finally, at Yaguaron, during a sermon, he formulated his celebrated charges against the Jesuits, which, set on foot by him in 1644, eventually caused the expulsion of the whole Order from America, and, though refuted a thousand times, still linger in the writing of all those who treat the question down to the present day. The charges were seven in number, and so ingeniously contrived that royal, national, and domestic indignation were all aroused by them. The first was that the Jesuits prevented the Indians from paying*1* their annual taxes to the crown. Secondly, that the Jesuits kept back the tithes from Bishops and Archbishops.*2* Thirdly, he said the Jesuits had rich mines in their possession, and that the product of these mines was all sent out of the country to the general fund at Rome. This the Jesuits disproved on several occasions, but, as often happens in such cases, proof was of no avail against the folly of mankind, to whom it seemed incredible that the Jesuits should bury themselves in deserts to preach to savages, unless there was some countervailing advantage to be gained. Even the fact that at the expulsion of the Company of Jesus from America no treasure at all was found at any of their colleges or missions did not dispel the conviction that they owned rich mines. The fourth charge was that the Jesuits were not particular about the secrets of the confessional, and that they used the information thus acquired for their own selfish ends. Further, that Father Ruiz de Montoya had acquired from the King, under a misapprehension, a royal edict,*3* giving the territory of the missions to the Jesuits, thus taking the fruits of their conquest from the Spanish colonists. Fifthly, that the Jesuits entered Paraguay possessed but of the clothes upon their backs, that they had made themselves into the sovereign rulers of a great territory, but that he was going to expel them, as the Venetians had expelled them from Venetia.*4* Sixthly, that even the Portuguese of San Paulo de Piritinanga had expelled them.*5* His last assertion was that he himself, together with the Bishop of Tucuman and others, had secret orders from the King to expel the Jesuits from their dioceses, but that the other Bishops lacked the courage which he (Cardenas) was then about to show. He wound up all by saying that, once the Jesuits were gone, the King would once again enjoy his rights, the Church be once again restored to freedom, and, lastly, that there would be plenty of Indians for the settlers to enslave. Quite possibly enough, the public, ever generous to a fault with other people’s goods, cared little for the rights of a King who lived ten thousand miles away; and as for the Church, it seems most probable they failed to see the peril that she ran. But when the Bishop spoke of enslaving the Indians, they saw the Jesuits must go, for from the conquest the Jesuits had stood between the settlers and their prey. All things considered, Don Bernardino made a remarkable discourse that Sunday morning in the palm-thatched village by the lake, for the echo of it still resounds in the religious world against the Jesuits.


*1* This was untrue, as the Jesuit missions were not at that time (1644) apportioned into parishes under the authority of the Jesuits, and such tribute as then was customary was all collected by government officials.
*2* This was also untrue, as the tithes were never regulated in Paraguay till 1649.
*3* This accusation was quite untrue, for the edict referred to was not obtained under misapprehension, but after a complete exposition of all the facts. Moreover, it was subsequently renewed on several occasions by the Spanish Kings. *4* The Venetians did not expel the Jesuits, they left Venetia of their own accord.
*5* Fathers Montoya and Tano went respectively to Rome and to Madrid to lay the sorrows of the Indians before the King and Pope. Having obtained the edict from the King that Cardenas referred to, and a brief from the Pope (Urban VIII.) forbidding slavery, they had the hardihood to appear within the city of San Paulo and affix both edicts to the church door. As was to be expected, the Paulistas immediately expelled them from their territories, and hence the semi-truth of the sixth charge made by Bishop Cardenas. —

Like other men after a notable pronouncement, it is most probable that Cardenas was unaware of the full import of his words. Perhaps he thought (as speakers will) that all the best portions of his sermon had been left unsaid. Be that as it may, he shortly turned his thoughts to other matters of more direct importance to himself. In judging of his life, it should not be forgotten that, by his sermon at Yaguaron, he placed himself upon the side of those who wanted to enslave the Indians. Perhaps he did not know this, and certainly his popularity amongst the Indians outside the missions was enormous. His next adventure was to try and eject the Jesuits from a farm they had, called San Isidro. The Governor having forbidden him to do so, he armed an army of his partisans to expel the Jesuits from their college in the capital.

Outside Asuncion the Lieutenant-Governor, Don Francisco Florez, met the Bishop’s secretary, Father Nieto, who informed him of the enterprise, exhorting him to enlist the sympathies of the Governor in so good a cause. Florez, a better diplomatist than his commanding officer, seemed to approve, and naturally deceived poor Father Nieto, who, like most hypocrites, became an easy prey to his own tactics when used against himself.

Florez informed the Governor at once, and he sent to the Jesuits, and put them on their guard. Next day he met the Bishop, and told him that his enterprise could not succeed, as the Jesuits were under arms. No doubt he learned these artifices in his campaigns against the Indians of Arauco, or it may have been that, like others who have had to strive with churchmen, he learned to beat them with their own controversial arms. The Bishop fell completely into the snare, and, thinking the Governor was a fast friend, confided all his plans to him for the expulsion of the Jesuits and the conquest of the mission territory. Just then Captain Don Pedro Diaz del Valle came from La Plata, and gave Don Bernardino a new decision of the High Court of Charcas, telling him to live in peace with all men, and govern his diocese with zeal. He certainly was zealous to an extraordinary degree, if not judicious. Therefore, the very mention of the word `zeal’ must have been peculiarly offensive to such a zealous man. The letter went on to say that all the fines he had exacted were illegal, and commanded him to give back the `yerba’ which he had extorted from his involuntary penitents, and in the future live on better terms with all around him. To all of this he paid no notice, as was to be expected, but, to avoid returning the `yerba’, sent a letter to his officers to have it burned. This letter, which he denied, was subsequently produced against him in the High Court at Charcas.

Seeing the Governor was bent on frustrating or on deceiving him, he tried to get from Don Sebastian Leon, who held an office under the Governor, an edict of the Emperor Charles V., which he had heard was in the archives, and which provided that, in case a Governor should die or be deposed, the notables of the place had power to appoint an interim Governor to fill his place. If such a paper ever existed, it must have been a very early document given by Charles V. at the foundation of the colony, for nothing was more opposed to the traditions of Spanish policy throughout America. Don Sebastian Leon having informed the Governor, the latter saw that things were coming to a crisis, and that either he or the Bishop would have to leave the place. Not being sure of all his troops, and the Bishop having the populace upon his side, he sent to the Jesuit missions for six hundred Indians. Thus the supremacy of the royal government fell to be supported by men but just emerging from a semi-nomad life, who owed the tincture of civilization they possessed to the calumniated Jesuits.

On many occasions armies of Indians from the Jesuit missions rendered important services to the crown of Spain: not only against the Portuguese, but against English corsairs, and in rebellions, as in the case of Cardenas; or as when, in the year 1680, Philip V. wrote to the Governor of Buenos Ayres to garrison the port with a contingent of Indians from the Jesuit reductions; in 1681, when the French attacked the port with a squadron of four-and-twenty ships; and at the first siege of the Colonia, in 1678, when three thousand Indians marched to the attack, accompanied by their Jesuit pastors, but under the command of Spanish officers.*


* Funes, `Historia Civil del Paraguay, Buenos-Ayres, y Tucuman’. —

An army from the Jesuit missions consisted almost entirely of cavalry. It marched much like a South American army of twenty years ago was wont to march. In front was driven the `caballada’, consisting of the spare horses; then came the vanguard, composed of the best mounted soldiers, under their `caciques’. Then followed the wives and women of the soldiers, driving the baggage-mules, and lastly some herdsmen drove a troop of cattle for the men to eat. When Jesuits accompanied the army, they did not enter into action, but were most intrepid in succouring the wounded under fire, as Funes, in his `Historia Civil del Paraguay’, etc.,* relates when speaking of their conduct at the siege of the Colonia in 1703. For arms they carried lances, slings, `chuzos’ (broad-pointed spears), lazos, and bolas, and had amongst them certain very long English guns with rests to fire from, not very heavy, and of a good range. Each day the accompanying Jesuits said Mass, and each town carried its particular banner before the troop. They generally camped, if possible, in the open plain, both to avoid surprises and for convenience in guarding the cattle and the `caballada’. In all the territories of South America no such quiet and well-behaved soldiery was to be found; for in Chile, Peru, Mexico, and Guatemala, the passage of an army was similar to the passing of a swarm of locusts in its effect.


* The testimony of Funes is as follows: `A/ juicio de testigo ocular no es ma/s admirable la sangre fria de sus capellanes’ (`Historia Civil del Paraguay’, book iii., cap. viii.). —

Don Bernardino, on his side, was occupied in animating the populace against the Jesuits with all the fervour of an Apostle. Naturally, he first commenced by launching his usual sentence of excommunication against them, and having done so returned again to Yaguaron. This village, like other Paraguayan villages, many of which in times gone by have been the scenes of stirring episodes, retains to-day but little to distinguish it. Nature has proved too powerful in the long-run for men to fight against. On every side the woods seem ready to overwhelm the place. Grass grows between the wooden steps of the neglected church; seibos, lapachos, espinillos de olor, all bound together with lianas, encroach to the verges of the little clearings in which grows mandioca, looking like a field of sticks. All day the parrots scream, and toucans and picaflores dart about; at evening the monkeys howl in chorus; at night the jaguar prowls about, and giant bats fasten upon the incautious sleeper, or, fixing themselves upon a horse, leave him exhausted in the morning with the loss of blood.

When Cardenas used the place as a sort of Avignon from which to safely utter his anathemas, it must have worn a different aspect. No doubt processions and ceremonies were continual, with carrying about the saints in public, a custom which the Paraguayans irreverently refer to as `sacando a/ luz los bultos’.* Messengers (`chasquis’), no doubt, came and went perpetually, as is the custom in countries such as Paraguay, where news is valuable and horseflesh cheap. Thereto flocked, to a moral certainty, all the broken soldiers who swarmed in countries like Peru and Paraguay, with Indian `caciques’ looking out for work to do when white men quarrelled and throats were to be cut. Priests went and came, friars and missionaries; and Cardenas most certainly, who loved effect, gave all his emerald ring to kiss, and made those promises which leaders of revolt lavish on everyone in times of difficulty.


* Literally, `taking out the blocks to air’. The effigies are made of hard and heavy wood, and I remember once in Concepcion de Paraguay assisting on a sweltering day to carry a Madonna weighing about five hundredweight. —

When the Indian contingent arrived, the Governor marched upon Yaguaron, although the air was positively lurid with excommunications. The Bishop, rushing to the church, was intercepted by the Governor, who seized his arm and tried to stop him. Cardenas struggled with him, and declared him excommunicated for laying his hand upon the anointed of the Lord. But, most unfortunately, there was no Fitz-Urse at hand to rid the Governor of so turbulent a priest. A mulatto* woman rushed to the Bishop’s aid, together with some priests. This gave him time to gain the altar and seize the Host, which he exposed at once to the public gaze, and for the moment all present fell upon their knees. Turning to the Governor, he asked what he wanted with armed men in a church. The Governor replied he had come to banish him from Paraguay, by order of the Viceroy, for having infringed upon the temporal power. Cardenas, taken aback, replied he would obey, and, turning to the people, took them all for witnesses. The Governor, no doubt thinking he was dealing with an honest Araucan chief, retired. The Bishop immediately denounced the Governor in a furious sermon, after which he left the church, carrying the Host in full procession, accompanied by the choir singing the `Pange Lingua’, followed by a band of Indian women with their hair dishevelled, and carrying green branches in their hands. He then returned to the church, and from the pulpit denounced the Governor, who, standing at the door surrounded by a group of arquebusiers blowing their matches, answered him furiously.


* The proverb says in Paraguay, `No se fia de mula ni mulata’. —

The honours, so to speak, being thus equally divided, it remained for one side or the other to negotiate. Cardenas, knowing himself much abler in negotiations than his adversary, proposed a conference, in which he bore himself so skilfully that he made the Governor consent to dismiss his Indians, and allow him six days to make his preparations for the road. This settled, at dead of night he set out for the capital. Arrived there, he showed himself in public in his green hat, having upon his breast a little box of glass in which he bore the Host. A band of priests escorted him, all with arms concealed beneath their cloaks, in the true spirit of the Church militant. The bells were rung, and every effort strained to raise a tumult, but all in vain. He had to throw himself for refuge into the convent of the Franciscans.

At once he set about to fortify the place to stand a siege. In several places he constructed embrasures for guns, and pierced the walls for musketry. But, thinking that his best defence lay in the folly of the people — as public men always have done, and do — he sent to the Cathedral for a statue of the Blessed Virgin, and another of San Blas, and placed them at the gate. Then, remembering that calumny was a most serviceable weapon, he put about the town a report that the Indians from the missions had pillaged Yaguaron, and that they even then were marching on the place. Again recurring to the edict of Charles V., which he pretended to have found, he issued a proclamation that, as the present Governor was excommunicated, and therefore could not govern, the office being vacant, he intended to nominate another in his stead. His subsequent behaviour shows most clearly that he wished to nominate himself.

Again both sides sent off a relation of their doings to the High Court of Charcas. Don Bernardino wrote in his that the Jesuits had offered the Governor thirty thousand crowns, and placed a thousand men at his command, if he would expel the Bishop from the country, under the belief that he (Don Bernardino) knew of their hidden mines in the mission territory. His witnesses were students and priests, and one of these proving recalcitrant, the Bishop had him heavily chained, and then suspended outside the convent of the Franciscans.

This drastic treatment had the desired effect, as torture always has with reasonable men, and the poor witness signed, but afterwards protested, thus giving a good example in himself of the truth of the Spanish saying, `Protest and pay’.*


* `Pagar y apelar’.

By this time the patience and long-suffering of the Governor were quite exhausted. He therefore sent to the Bishop to say a ship was ready to take him down the river, and at the same time reminded him of his promise at Yaguaron to obey the order of the Viceroy of Peru. He sent the message by the royal notary, Gomez de Coyeso, who accordingly repaired to the convent of San Francisco. At the door a priest appeared, armed with a javelin, who three times tried to wound the notary, on which the Governor stationed a band of fifty soldiers at the convent gate, in spite of the presence of the statues of the Blessed Virgin and San Blas. Then, having published an edict that the Bishop was deposed, he proceeded to elect another in his stead.

One of the canons, Don Cristobal Sanchez, who had governed the diocese during the interregnum before the advent of Don Bernardino, still lived in retirement near the town. The Governor approached him with the request that he would once more take the interim charge until the King should send another Bishop to replace Cardenas. Sanchez consented, on the understanding that the Governor would guarantee his personal safety. This being done, Sanchez was taken to the Jesuit college as the securest place.

So it fell out that everything concurred to strengthen the hatred of the Bishop to the Jesuits. To the Jesuit college came the Governor and all the notables, and, having taken Sanchez in procession through the streets, they placed him on the Bishop’s throne in the Cathedral, and invested him with all the power that he had held before the coming of Don Bernardino Cardenas. The proclamation set forth by the Governor alluded to the informality of the consecration of Don Bernardino, and to his actions during his time of power.

At last the Bishop saw that he must go. So, after launching a supreme anathema, and after having expressed his great unwillingness to tarry longer in a city where half the population had incurred the censure of the Church, and marked with a cross those churches where he permitted Mass to be celebrated, he went on board the ship. Before embarking, he drew a silver bell from underneath his cloak, and to the sound of it he solemnly proclaimed the town accursed. The bells of the Franciscan convent and the Bishop’s palace, according to his orders, all tolled loudly. This caused so much confusion that, in order to appease the tumult, the authorities ordered the bells of all the churches in the town to ring.

Entering the vessel, Don Bernardino sat himself upon the poop on a low stool, with all the clergy who were faithful to him grouped about the deck. With him he had the sacred wafer in a glass box, and not far off a group of sailors on the forecastle lounged about smoking and drinking `mate’ whilst they played at cards. Someone reminded him it was not fitting that God’s Body should thus be seen so near to sailors, and therefore the Bishop, according to the custom of the Church in cases of accident or desecration, consumed the offended wafer, and peace descended on the ship.

Thus, in 1644, he took his first departure from the place where for the last two years he had brought certainly rather a sword than peace. His friends assured the public that, at the moment he stepped on board the ship, stars were seen to fall from heaven towards the church of St. Luke, and passed from thence to the episcopal palace and disappeared; that at the same time a slight shock of earthquake had been experienced; that stones had danced about, and several hills had trembled. The sun, quite naturally, had appeared blood-red; trouble and desolation had entered every heart, and animals had prophesied woe and destruction, predicting ruin and misfortune to the town till the good Bishop should return once more.

The events of the past two years in Paraguay had not been favourable to the conversion of the Indians. Not only in the missions, where the neophytes had seen themselves obliged to furnish troops against their Bishop, but in the territory of Paraguay itself, the Indians had not had a good example of how Christians carry out the duties of their faith. As a general rule, the Indian (unlike the negro) cares little for dogma, but places his belief entirely in good works. Perhaps on this account the Jesuits, also believers in good works, have had the most success amongst them. Be that as it may, the Jesuits, after the departure of the Bishop, found that many of their recent converts had fallen away and gone back to the woods.

Whilst Jesuits in Paraguay were seeking to convert the Indians, and whilst the Governor, no doubt, was thanking his stars for the absence of his rival, in Rome the question of the Bishop’s consecration filled all minds. From May 9, 1645, to October 2 of the same year no less than four congregations of the Propaganda had been held about the case. The Pope himself was present at one of them. Nothing was arrived at till 1658, when finally the consecration was declared in order, but not until Don Bernardino was appointed to another see.

Just about this time (1644-45) a rumour was set on foot that the Jesuits had discovered mines near their reductions on the Parana. These rumours were always set about when there was nothing else by means of which to attack the Jesuits. An Indian by the name of Buenaventura, who had been a servant in a convent in Buenos Ayres, on this occasion was the instrument used by their enemies. For a short time everyone believed him, and excitement was intense; but, most unluckily, Buenaventura happened at the zenith of his notoriety to run away with a married woman, and, being pursued, was brought to Buenos Ayres, and then in public incontinently whipped. In any other country Buenaventura after his public whipping would have been discredited, but a letter arrived from the Bishop of Paraguay, telling the Governor of Buenos Ayres that the mines really existed. At that time a new Governor, one Don Jacinto de Lara, had just arrived. Being new to America and its ways, he started out himself to try the question, and with fifty soldiers, taking Buenaventura as his guide, went to the missions. As might have been expected, on the journey Buenaventura disappeared, this time alone. `Cette fuite lui donna beaucoup a\ penser,’ says Charlevoix. But having gone so far, the Governor determined to try the question thoroughly.

Father Diaz Tano, one of the best and hardest-working missionaries who ever entered Paraguay, besought the Governor to satisfy himself and search their territory for gold and silver, and requested him to call upon the Bishop for confirmation of the statements he had made. This he did, and then, accompanied by his soldiers, began his search. He gave out that the first man to find a mine should be at once promoted to be captain and have a large reward. After several days’ march, and having found no mines, letters were brought him from the Governor of Paraguay and from the Bishop. The first informed him that he had heard rumours of mines, but nothing certain. The second declined to specify the mines, which thus were destined to remain for ever, so to speak, `in partibus’. But he gave advice, and good advice is better than any mine, whether of silver or of gold. He told the Governor to start by turning out the Jesuits, and he would find the profits of their expulsion just as valuable as mines.

Whether this also made the Governor pensive I do not know, but, luckily, the Jesuits, who were concerned in exposing the imposture, had come on Buenaventura, and brought him ironed to the Governor. He, after having tried to make him confess his imposture without success, condemned him to be hung. The Jesuits, with their accustomed humanity (or ingenuity), begged for his life. This was accorded to them, and once again Buenaventura received a good sound whipping for his pains.

Thus ended the journey of Don Jacinto, without profit to himself, except so far as the experience gained. No doubt he saw and marked the Jesuit towns, the churches built of massive timber or of stone, and the contented air of Indians and priests, which always struck all travellers in those times. He saw the countless herds of cattle, the cultivated fields; enjoyed, no doubt for the first time since arriving in South America, the sense of perfect safety, at that time to be experienced alone in Misiones. But in despite of his exposure of the imposture, the rumour as to the existence of the mines never died out, and lingers even to-day, in spite of geological research in Paraguay.

Whilst this was going on in Misiones, in the remote and recently-converted district of the Itatines, in the north of Paraguay, the example set by the Bishop had borne its fruit. The Indians became unmanageable. One of the chiefs broke into open rebellion, and wounded a Jesuit father called Arenas at the very altar-steps. Soon the general corruption of manners became almost universal throughout the district. This, I fancy, must be taken to mean that the Indians reverted to polygamy, for the Jesuits always had trouble in this matter, being unable to persuade the Indians of the advantage of monogamy.

But most fortuitously, just as the general corruption gained all hearts, a tiger rushed into the town, and, after killing fourteen people and some horses, disappeared again into the woods.

The Jesuits, ever ready to take advantage of events like these, called on the Indians to see in the visitation of the tiger the wrath of Heaven, and to leave their wicked ways.

The Indians, always as willing to submit as to revolt, submitted, and the good fathers `prirent le parti de faire un coup d’autorite/, qui leur re/ussit,’ as Charlevoix relates.

They decoyed the chief, his nephew, and son, into another district, where they seized and shipped them off two hundred leagues to a remote reduction across the Uruguay. The Spaniards used to say of Ferdinand VII., when he had committed any great barbarity, `He is quite a King’ (`Es mucho Rey’), and the Indians of the Itatines esteemed the Jesuits for their `coup d’autorite’ in the same manner as the Spaniards their King.

His usual luck attended Cardenas in his exile in Corrientes. This town formed part of the diocese of Buenos Ayres, which happened to be vacant at the time. He therefore took upon himself to act just as he had acted in Paraguay — appointed officers of justice, held ordinations, and instituted a campaign against the Jesuits of the town.

Whilst he was thus occupied in his favourite pastime of usurping other people’s functions, two citations were sent him to appear before the High Court of Charcas. He disregarded them, and sent a statement of his case by the hands of his nephew to the Bishop of Tucuman. In the letter he set forth all his complaints against the Governor of Paraguay, calling him a violator of the Church, a heretic, and generally applying to him all those terms in which a thwarted churchman usually exhales his rage. Mixed up with this was a detailed accusation of the Jesuits, to whose account he laid all his misfortunes whilst in Paraguay. Lastly, he called upon the Bishop of Tucuman to summon a provincial council to condemn the monstrous heresies which he attributed to the Jesuits, reminding him that the Council of Trent had recommended the holding of frequent provincial councils, and stating his opinion that, unless a council were called at once, the Bishop would incur a mortal sin.

The answer Cardenas received from Tucuman was most ironically couched in the best style that his long-suffering friend was able to command. After addressing Cardenas as `your illustrious lordship’, he proceeded to demolish all his statements in such a manner as to argue that he had had much practice with refractory priests in his own diocese. He told him that the Jesuits were the only Order in Paraguay that really worked amongst the Indians. He reminded him that from that Order the `second Paul’, i.e., St. Francis Xavier, had himself issued. He asked him whether, as a churchman, he thought the yearly sum of twelve thousand crowns given by the King out of the treasury of Buenos Ayres towards the Jesuits’ work was better saved, or that the thousands of Indians whom the Jesuits had converted should be lost to God. And as to heresy, he said he was no judge, leaving such matters to the Pope; but that no one accused the Jesuits of corruption in their morals, or of any of the greater crimes to which the great fragility of human nature renders us liable. He reminded him the Jesuits had made no accusation on their part, but always spoke of him with moderation and respect. And as to a provincial council, he said that it was impossible, for the following good cause: The Bishop of Misque* was too infirm to travel; the Bishop of La Paz was lately dead, and the see still vacant; the Bishop of Buenos Ayres only just arrived, and too much occupied to leave his diocese. Therefore, the only Bishops available were himself and Cardenas, and that they never would agree.


* Misque is at least fifteen hundred miles from Tucuman. —

`Moreover,’ he remarked, `what is it that your illustrious lordship wishes me to do?

`To advise a Bishop?

`God has only given me the charge of my own sheep. Your lordship knows as well as I do how a Bishop should comport himself.’

He finished with a quotation, saying that a Bishop’s state was not to lie `in splendore vestium, sed morum; non ad iram, sed ut omnimodum patientium.’

What Cardenas replied is not set down in any history which has come under my observation, but what he must have thought is easy to divine.

The Governor of Paraguay, not content with having put his case before the Supreme Court of Charcas, sent also to the Council General of the Indies in Seville, detailing all the vagaries of the Bishop. The Jesuits also empowered an officer to represent them there.

During these preparations, and whilst everyone was off his guard, the Guaycurus endeavoured to surprise the capital, and would have done so had not some regiments of Guaranis arrived in time from the mission territory. This should have been an object-lesson to those who always tried to show the Jesuits in the light of enemies to the authority of the King of Spain. Nothing, however, proved of the least avail, and though on several occasions the Spanish power in Paraguay was only saved by the exertions of the Jesuits and their Indians, the calumnies of Cardenas had taken too deep root to be dispelled.

Meanwhile, in Corrientes, Cardenas schemed night and day to return to Paraguay. In his own city of La Plata naturally he had some friends, and these did all they could to get him reinstated. In spite of all their efforts, an order came from Charcas for him to leave the city under pain of banishment.* Anyone but Cardenas would have been disconcerted; he, though, pretended, as in the order he was still styled Bishop of Paraguay, that before leaving for Charcas, to present himself before the court, he had to go to Asuncion to name a Vicar-General, and towards the end of 1646 he embarked upon the river for Paraguay.


* `Que lo hagan salir de nuestros Reynos y Sen~orios como ageno y estran~o, por importar assi para la quietud de aquellas Provincias, y al servicio de su Majestad.’

The Governor was on the alert, and sent a vessel with orders to turn him back, which order was carried out in spite of his remonstrances, and he returned to Corrientes in a miserable state.

Then came another citation to appear at Charcas, and an intimation that he was appointed Bishop of Popayan. As Popayan (in New Granada) was at least three thousand miles from Asuncion, his joy at the appointment must have been extreme.

His fortunes now seemed desperate; as he said himself in a letter to the King, `at an advanced age he could not undertake so great a journey’; and on every side his enemies seemed to have got the upper hand.

In 1648 a change came over everything. Don Gregorio Hinestrosa was removed from Paraguay, and a new Governor, Don Diego Escobar de Osorio, appointed in his place. Immediately the news reached Cardenas he set out for Paraguay. Arriving at Asuncion, his friends all met him and took him in procession to the Cathedral. His first thought was to renew his persecution of the Jesuits. Most unfortunately for them, Don Juan de Palafox, Bishop of Puebla de los Angeles in Mexico, who had himself in Mexico had many quarrels with the Jesuits, wrote begging Cardenas and all the Bishops of South America to join against them.

This Palafox was afterwards beatified, and even in his lifetime enjoyed the reputation of a saint, so that his letter greatly strengthened Cardenas. Notwithstanding this, Palafox in subsequent works of his during the time that he was Bishop of Osma (in Spain) said many things in praise of the work done by the Jesuits in Paraguay.

The new Governor, himself a member of the Supreme Court of Charcas, had never been before in Paraguay, and therefore resolved to treat the Bishop (as Don Gregorio had done) with every respect due to his station. The Bishop wanted nothing better, and saw at once he had another fool to deal with. Therefore he made no secret of his intention of not complying with the citation of the court at Charcas, and set himself at once to preach against the Jesuits, and stir up popular resentment against them. Unluckily, proof was wanting of the crimes he alleged they had committed, so he resorted to the device of getting a petition signed by all and sundry, asking for the expulsion of the Order from Paraguay. Like all petitions, it was largely signed by women and by children and by those who had never thought before about the matter, but liked the opportunity to write their names after the names of others, as sheep go through a gap or members give their votes (out of mere sympathy) in the high court of Parliament.

This device having taken too much time, blank documents were passed about for all to write upon whatever they imagined to the disadvantage of the Jesuits. By an untoward chance, a bundle of these, sent to the agent of the Bishop in Spain, was taken on the voyage by an English corsair. The worthy pirate (no doubt a Protestant) was, if we can believe the Jesuits, extremely scandalized at the bad faith of those who used such means of wreaking their malevolence.

So all seemed once again to smile upon Don Bernardino, who no doubt resumed his flagellations, his midnight services, and his saying of two Masses, and once again became the idol of the people of Asuncion.

But in the north, in the wild district of Caaguayu, hard by the mountains of Mbaracaya, close to the great `yerbales’,* the Jesuits had formed two towns amongst the Indians. These two towns were destined to be the outposts of the country against the incursions of the wild Indians from the Chaco.


* A `yerbal’ is a forest chiefly composed of the `Ilex Paraguayensis’, from the leaves of which the `yerba mate’, or `Paraguayan tea’, is made. —

The Bishop prevailed upon the Governor to let him turn out the Jesuits and replace them by priests of another Order. This being done, the Indians all deserted, leaving the district quite uninhabited.

The court at Charcas, hearing of this folly, sent an order to the Governor to send the Jesuits back. A year was passed in ceaseless searching of the woods and deserts for the Indians, but only half of the population could ever be persuaded to return, and Father Mansilla, the ex-missionary, died of the hardships that he underwent.

From that date down to the time of Dr. Francia (circa 1812-35), the district remained a desert. Francia used it as a penal settlement, and to-day, save for a few wild, wandering Indians, known as Caaguas, and a sparse population of yerba-gatherers, it still remains almost unpopulated.

Meanwhile, the general indignation against the Jesuits seemed to infect all classes of the population. Certainly, the citizens of Asuncion had good and sufficient causes of complaint against the Jesuits. On several occasions the efforts of the Jesuits and their Indians alone had saved the capital from the wild Indians, and benefits are hard to bear, if only from their rarity.

Popular hatred, to the full as idiotic as is popular applause, fell chiefly upon Father Diaz Tano — he who had saved ten thousand Indians for the King of Spain in his celebrated retreat before the Mamelucos down the Parana — and he was frequently insulted in the streets. Father Antonio Manquiano, a quiet and learned man, was almost murdered in open day by a furious fanatic, who fell upon him with the openly expressed intent `to eat his heart’.

This was the moment Cardenas pitched on to declare the entire Order of the Jesuits excommunicated. As he had been a year away from the scene of his former exploits, people were not so used to excommunications, and therefore took them seriously.

At this eventful juncture the Governor, Don Diego, died so suddenly that suspicions of his having been poisoned were aroused. Scarce was he dead than all the population assembled at the palace to elect an interim successor. This was a most important thing, as to communicate with Spain took, at the very shortest time, about eight months. By acclamation the choice fell on the Bishop, who thus found himself head of the spiritual and the temporal power at once.

The election was absolutely illegal, as the Spanish law provided that, if a Governor of Paraguay should chance to die, the nomination of an interim successor should rest first with the Viceroy of Peru, and failing him with the High Court of Charcas.

Cardenas based his election on the pretended edict of the Emperor Charles V., but, if he had a copy of the edict, never produced it. As usual, `good men daring not, and wise men caring not’, but only fools and schemers taking part in the election, no serious opposition to his usurpation was encountered.

Cardenas never doubted for a moment that the function of a Governor was to govern, and he began at once to do so with a will.

Xarque, a Spanish writer, gives the following curious description of how he set about to get the people on his side to expel the Jesuits:*


* Xarque, book ii., cap. xl., p. 30. —

Preaching one day in the Cathedral, after the consecration he turned towards the people, and, showing the holy wafer, said, `Do you believe, my brethren, that Jesus Christ is here?’ All, being true believers, answered as one man that such was their belief. In the same way as at a scientific lecture, when the lecturer holds up some substance, and says, `You all know well that calcium tungstate or barium hydrocyanide has this or the other property,’ the hearers nod assent like sheep, being afraid to contradict so glib a statement from so eminent a man.

Then said Cardenas, `Believe as firmly that I have an order from the King to expel the Jesuits.’ The people all believed, and Cardenas forgot to tell them that by the expulsion of the Jesuits twenty thousand Indians would pass into his power, whom he could then distribute amongst his friends as slaves, as he proposed to divide the Indians of the missions amongst the Paraguayan notables to win them to his side.

Being at the head of everything in Asuncion, Cardenas no longer hesitated, but ordered an officer, Don Juan de Vallejo Villasanti, with a troop of soldiers to march to the college of the Jesuits. This he did, and finding the gates all barred, he burst them open, and, entering the college, signified to the rector an order from the Governor (duly countersigned by the Bishop) to leave the city with all his priests, and to evacuate all the missions on the Parana. The rector answered that the Jesuits had a permission from Philip II., renewed by his successors, to found a college, and Father Tano exhibited the documents. Villasanti, who had but little love for documents, snatched the parchments from his hand, and the soldiers forced the Jesuits in a body to the port like sheep. There they were tied and thrown into canoes almost without provisions, and sent off down the river to Corrientes, the certain haven of the party in Paraguay which has got the worst of an election or a revolution, and wishes to gain time.

Arrived in Corrientes, Don Manuel Cabral, a pious officer, received them in his house, and, curiously enough, the population welcomed the Jesuits with enthusiasm, and pressed them earnestly to build a college in the town.

Their college at Asuncion was treated like a town taken by storm: pulpit and font, confessionals and doors, all were torn down and burnt, and, with a view of justifying what was done, the Bishop’s partisans spread a report that, as the Jesuits were heretics, their temple was unclean.

The population, more artistic in its instincts than the Bishop, refused to allow the altar, which had been brought from Spain, to be destroyed. Besides the altar, there were also statues of San Ignacio and San Francisco Xavier. These the Bishop wished to turn into St. Peter and St. Paul. With this design he gave them to an Indian carpenter to work upon. The poor man did his best, but only managed to turn out two monstrous blocks, which looked like nothing human.

A statue of the Blessed Virgin which had the eyes turned up to heaven the Bishop wished to alter, and replace the head by another with the eyes turned down to earth, as being more befitting to the statue’s sex. The people, less mad or superstitious than the Bishop, refused to allow it, and the image, too, was placed in the Cathedral.

In 1649 the expulsion of an Order so powerful as were the Jesuits caused some commotion through the world at large. Miracles happened opportunely to strengthen waning faith. A fire placed round their church, though it destroyed, refused to blacken; and ropes fixed to the tower of the church, although attached to windlasses, refused to pull it down, so that the tower and church, though gutted, still remained almost intact, and, on the Jesuits’ return, were easily repaired, and served as a monument of victory.

Uneasy lies the head that wears a mitre, as poor Cardenas found out. His popularity suffered some decrease by the lack of treasure found in the Jesuits’ college, for he had always dangled millions in prospective before the people’s eyes to engage them on his side, and, most unluckily, he had no millions to bestow. So, to make all things right, he sent Fray Diego Villalon* to Madrid to represent his interests.


* This Villalon has left some curious memoirs in the case which he submitted to the Council of the Indies which sat in Seville. —

The Jesuits upon their side were not inactive. By virtue of a brief of Gregory XIII. they had the privilege of appointing an official called a judge conservator in cases where their honour or their possessions were attacked. Therefore Father Alfonso de Ojeda was sent to Charcas to arrange about the case. At Charcas they found that Cardenas had been before them, and had instituted proceedings against their Order in the High Court. Father Pedro Nolasco, Superior of the Order of Mercy, was appointed judge conservator. He at once summoned the Bishop to appear before him, and arranged to try the case and hear the evidence.

Cardenas having refused to appear, sentence went by default against him. The High Court, being convinced that the pretended edict of the Emperor Charles V. did not exist, appointed Don Andres Garabito de Leon to be interim Captain-General of Paraguay, and gave him power, if necessary, to restore order by force of arms. The court then issued a decree summoning Cardenas to appear at once at Charcas and give his reasons why he had had himself made Governor and had expulsed the Jesuits from Paraguay. It then communicated with the Marquis of Mancera, Viceroy of Peru, who quite concurred in its decision as to Cardenas.

Apparently upon the principle which prevails amongst Mohammedans of always appointing, first an officer, and then a caliph to that officer to do the work, the High Court of Charcas also appointed a commander to proceed to Paraguay, pending the time that Don Andres should feel inclined to start himself. As the caliph’s name was Sebastian de Leon, it is not improbable that he was a relation of the first-appointed man.

Don Sebastian de Leon seems to have been in Paraguay already, for both Charlevoix and Xarque agree that he and his brothers, after the expulsion of the Jesuits by Cardenas, had retired to an estate some distance from Asuncion. At the estate the news of his appointment reached him, and must have placed him in a most difficult position as to what to do.

On several occasions in the various rebellions which occurred in South America during the Spanish rule, men were appointed to quell rebellions, pacify countries, and restore order, and all without an army or any forces being placed at their command. This was the case with the celebrated La Gasca, who was sent from Spain to put down the rebellion of Gonzalo Pizarro, and succeeded in so doing, though he left Spain without a single soldier in his train. In this connection it is to be remembered that none of the rebellions in Spanish America from the days of Charles I. (i.e., the Emperor Charles V.) to those of Charles III. were for the object of separation from the metropolis, but merely risings against Governors sent out from Spain. It seems that both in Peru and Paraguay the very name of the imperial power was able to draw hundreds of men to the standard of whatever officer held a commission from Madrid, such as that held by Garabito de Leon or by La Gasca on the Parana.

At first Don Sebastian did not show himself in Asuncion, but sent out messengers on every side to summon soldiers, requisition horses, and collect provisions. He also sent to Corrientes to tell the Jesuits he was ready to reinstate them in their possessions.

Don Bernardino meanwhile was preparing for the great adventure of his life. He seems to have believed most firmly that no power on earth had any right to remove him from the governorship of Paraguay. In a letter which he addressed to Don Juan Romero de la Cruz* he says he is on the point of distinguishing himself by heroic exploits and great victories; that he had on his side justice and force (a most uncommon combination); that the entire capital was favourable to him; and that he was resolved neither to readmit the Jesuits nor to recognise Don Sebastian de Leon as Governor.


* Charlevoix, book xii., p. 115.

Asuncion was once again convulsed, and all was preparation for the holy war. The Bishop had given out that angels were to help him, and this so reassured his soldiers that they provided themselves with cords to bind the Indians in the army of Don Sebastian Leon, thinking they would fall an easy prey to them. This matter of the cords explains, perhaps, why the population of Asuncion was almost unanimous in favour of the Bishop.

In the army of Don Sebastian, as well as the militia of the province, marched three thousand Indians from the Jesuit reductions on the Parana. The Spaniards of the capital were all determined not to kill any of them, but keep them alive for slaves, and hence the cords with which they armed themselves.

The sacred generalissimo led out his army from Asuncion in person, celebrating Mass himself, and then heading his troops like many another Spanish ecclesiastic has done before and after him, and continued doing even to the latest Carlist war.

The armies met not far from Luque, in a little plain known as the Campo Grande. An open plain with sandy soil, which gave the horses a good footing, with several little stagnant pools in the centre where the wounded men could drink and wash their wounds, with a most convenient forest on all sides for the deserters and the cowards to hide in, made a good battlefield. The village of Luque, grouped round its church, and with a little plaza in the middle in which sat Paraguayan women selling mandioca, chipa,*1* and rapadura,*2* with sacks of maize and of mani,*3* stood on the summit of a little hill. Upon the plain the earth is red, and looks as if a battle had been fought upon it and much blood spilt. In all directions run little paths, worn deep by the feet of mules and horses, and in which the rider has to lift his feet as if he were going through a stream. To Asuncion there leads one of the deep-sunk roads planted with orange and paraiso*4* trees, constructed thus (as Barco de la Centenera tells us in his `Argentina’) so as to be defensible against the Indians after the country was first conquered by the Spaniards.


*1* Chipa is a kind of bread made of mandioca flour. *2* Rapadura is a kind of coarse sugar, generally sold in little pyramid-shaped lumps, done up in a banana leaf. It is strongly flavoured with lye.
*3* Mani is ground-nut. [“Peanut” in American English. — A. L., 1998.] *4* The paraiso is one of the Paulinias. —

On the Bishop’s side hardly a soldier but thought himself an emissary of God, or doubted of the victory for a moment in his heart. Angels themselves had promised victory to their leader, who, to make all things safe, had issued a proclamation punishing surrender with the pain of death; so they stood quietly in array of battle waiting to be attacked.

Upon his side, Don Sebastian Leon, seeing the attitude of the enemy, immediately ordered an advance, and charged himself, with all his cavalry, upon the Bishop’s men. They, with the firmness that fanatics so often show, stood firmly in their ranks, thinking themselves invulnerable. Their valour proved but momentary, for at the second charge they broke their ranks and fled. Flight turned to rout, and Don Sebastian having commanded that they should not be pursued, they still fled on, no man pursuing them.

The Governor then entered the capital without resistance. On the plaza he stopped, and having gathered up the wounded without respect of party, he sent them to the hospital. Then, having seen to the safety of the town, he rode to the Cathedral to give thanks to God for having preserved him from the dangers of the fight. Dressed in his robes and seated on his throne was Cardenas. Don Sebastian entered the church, dismounted, and kissed his hand respectfully, like a true Spaniard, and asked him ceremoniously to deign to give him the baton of the civil power. Cardenas answered not a word, but handed him the baton, and then retired, accompanied by all his priests.

The victory did not terminate the work of Don Sebastian. After a reasonable interval, and before witnesses, he cited the Bishop to appear before the court of Charcas. The Bishop promised to obey, thinking he had another Don Gregorio Hinostrosa to deal with, but quite determined never to comply, acting according to the custom of Governors in South America, who, when an order reached them from Madrid, either absurd or quite impossible to execute, solemnly answered, `I obey, but I do not comply,’* saving by the phrase the honour of their sovereigns and themselves. Upon their side the Jesuits pressed the judge conservator, Father Nolasco, to issue his sentence, and free them from the charges under which they lay. This he did, and gave as his opinion they were quite innocent of all that Cardenas had laid to their account.


* `Obedesco, pero no cumplo.’

As in a palace,* things go slow in Spain, and it was not till 1654 that a royal decision confirmed the judgment of Nolasco, and freed the Jesuits from all the charges raised against them.


* `Cosas de palacio van despacio.’

Order restored, Cardenas deprived of his usurped authority, and the Jesuits reinstated, the temporary commission of Sebastian Leon was at an end. Therefore he retired again to plant his mandioca under his own guayaba-tree. Yet feeling ran so high that he was hardly safe from the vengeance of the partisans of Cardenas, so that he found himself once more obliged to summon the militia of the province, and lead them to a perfunctory campaign against the Payaguas. These Indians the earlier historians of the conquest, Barco de la Centenera and Rui Diaz de Guzman, describe as river-pirates, almost living in canoes, and dashing out on any passing Spanish vessel that they thought weak enough. The Jesuits Montoya and Dobrizhoffer tell us that they went naked, painted in many colours, with a hawk’s or parrot’s wing passed through the cartilage of their left ear, and that they were, of all the Indians of Paraguay, the most indomitable. A few, when I knew Paraguay some twenty years ago, hung round Asuncion, squalid and miserable, passing their time in fishing in canoes, and as attached to their own mode of life as when the first discoverers called them `sweet-water pirates’ and the `most pestilent of all the Indians on the river Paraguay.’ The Payaguas chastised, Don Sebastian, upon one pretext or another, did not disband his troops, keeping them always by him, and thus making the position of the Bishop quite untenable, till by degrees his followers fell away and left him almost deserted and his party all dissolved. Seeing the game was up, the Bishop, after having named one Don Adrian Cornejo as his suffragan, took his departure (1650) for Charcas to appear before the court. For eight tumultuous years he had kept his bishopric in a perpetual turmoil, having been the evil genius of the land.

What sort of man he really was is hard to-day to judge, for Xarque, Villalon, Charlevoix, and Dean Funes,* who chronicle his doings, were all, on one side or the other, partisans. The Jesuits condemn him as a spoliator, the Franciscans hold him up as one who fought throughout his life for the honour of the founder of their rule. Tracts, books, and pamphlets for and against him have been written in numbers, and in the history of the times in Paraguay his name bulks large. One thing is certain — that the Indians loved and revered him, and followed him up to the end. Even in Charcas, where he lived for years upon a pension of two thousand crowns allowed him by the King whilst his case dragged its weary course to Rome, Madrid, back to Peru, and then to Rome again, the Indians, when he appeared in public, greeted him with flowers. He may have been a saint: so many men are saints,