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History Of The Conquest Of Peru by William Hickling Prescott

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the people was "the tears wept by the sun," 17 and every part of the
interior of the temple glowed with burnished plates and studs of the
precious metal. The cornices, which surrounded the walls of the
sanctuary, were of the same costly material; and a broad belt or frieze of
gold, let into the stonework, encompassed the whole exterior of the

Adjoining the principal structure were several chapels of smaller
dimensions. One of them was consecrated to the Moon, the deity held
next in reverence, as the mother of the Incas. Her effigy was delineated
in the same manner as that of the Sun, on a vast plate that nearly covered
one side of the apartment. But this plate, as well as all the decorations of
the building, was of silver, as suited to the pale, silvery light of the
beautiful planet. There were three other chapels, one of which was
dedicated to the host of Stars, who formed the bright court of the Sister
of the Sun; another was consecrated to his dread ministers of vengeance,
the Thunder and the Lightning; and a third, to the Rainbow, whose
many-colored arch spanned the walls of the edifice with hues almost as
radiant as its own. There were besides several other buildings, or
insulated apartments, for the accommodation of the numerous priests
who officiated in the services of the temple.19

All the plate, the ornaments, the utensils of every description,
appropriated to the uses of religion, were of gold or silver. Twelve
immense vases of the latter metal stood on the floor of the great saloon,
filled with grain of the Indian corn;20 the censers for the perfumes, the
ewers which held the water for sacrifice, the pipes which conducted it
through subterraneous channels into the buildings, the reservoirs that
received it, even the agricultural implements used in the gardens of the
temple, were all of the same rich materials. The gardens, like those
described, belonging to the royal palaces, sparkled with flowers of gold
and silver, and various imitations of the vegetable kingdom. Animals,
also, were to be found there,--among which the llama, with its golden
fleece, was most conspicuous,--executed in the same style, and with a
degree of skill, which, in this instance, probably, did not surpass the
excellence of the material.21

If the reader sees in this fairy picture only the romantic coloring of some
fabulous El Dorado, he must recall what has been said before in
reference to the palaces of the Incas, and consider that these "Houses of
the Sun," as they were styled, were the common reservoir into which
flowed all the streams of public and private benefaction throughout the
empire. Some of the statements, through credulity, and others, in the
desire of exciting admiration, may be greatly exaggerated; but, in the
coincidence of contemporary testimony, it is not easy to determine the
exact line which should mark the measure of our skepticism. Certain it
is, that the glowing picture I have given is warranted by those who saw
these buildings in their pride, or shortly after they had been despoiled by
the cupidity of their countrymen. Many of the costly articles were buried
by the natives, or thrown into the waters of the rivers and the lakes; but
enough remained to attest the unprecedented opulence of these religious
establishments. Such things as were in their nature portable were
speedily removed, to gratify the craving of the Conquerors, who even
tore away the solid cornices and frieze of gold from the great temple,
filling the vacant places with the cheaper, but--since it affords no
temptation to avarice--more durable, material of plaster. Yet even thus
shorn of their splendor, the venerable edifices still presented an
attraction to the spoiler, who found in their dilapidated walls an
inexhaustable quarry for the erection of other buildings. On the very
ground once crowned by the gorgeous Coricancha rose the stately church
of St. Dominic, one of the most magnificent structures of the New
World. Fields of maize and lucerne now bloom on the spot which
glowed with the golden gardens of the temple; and the friar chants his
orisons within the consecrated precincts once occupied by the Children
of the Sun.22

Besides the great temple of the Sun, there was a large number of inferior
temples and religious houses in the Peruvian capital and its environs,
amounting, as is stated, to three or four hundred.23 For Cuzco was a
sanctified spot, venerated not only as the abode of the Incas, but of all
those deities who presided over the motley nations of the empire. It was
the city beloved of the Sun; where his worship was maintained in its
splendor; "where every fountain, pathway, and wall," says an ancient
chronicler, "was regarded as a holy mystery." 24 And unfortunate was
the Indian noble who, at some period or other of his life, had not made
his pilgrimage to the Peruvian Mecca.

Other temples and religious dwellings were scattered over the provinces;
and some of them constructed on a scale of magnificence, that almost
rivalled that of the metropolis. The attendants on these composed an
army of themselves. The whole number of functionaries, including those
of the sacerdotal order, who officiated at the Coricancha alone, was no
less than four thousand.25

At the head of all, both here and throughout the land, stood the great
High-Priest, or Villac Vmu, as he was called. He was second only to the
Inca in dignity, and was usually chosen from his brothers or nearest
kindred. He was appointed by the monarch, and held his office for life;
and he, in turn, appointed to all the subordinate stations of his own order.
This order was very numerous. Those members of it who officiated in
the House of the Sun, in Cuzco, were taken exclusively from the sacred
race of the Incas. The ministers in the provincial temples were drawn
from the families of the curacas; but the office of high-priest in each
district was reserved for one of the blood royal. It was designed by this
regulation to preserve the faith in its purity, and to guard against any
departure from the stately ceremonial which it punctiliously

The sacerdotal order, though numerous, was not distinguished by any
peculiar badge or costume from the rest of the nation. Neither was it the
sole depository of the scanty science of the country, nor was it charged
with the business of instruction, nor with those parochial duties, if they
may so be called, which bring the priest in contact with the great body of
the people,--as was the case in Mexico. The cause of this peculiarity
may probably be traced to the existence of a superior order, like that of
the Inca nobles, whose sanctity of birth so far transcended all human
appointments, that they in a manner engrossed whatever there was of
religious veneration in the people. They were, in fact, the holy order of
the state. Doubtless, any of them might, as very many of them did, take
on themselves the sacerdotal functions; and their own insignia and
peculiar privileges were too well understood to require any further badge
to separate them from the people.

The duties of the priest were confined to ministration in the temple.
Even here his attendance was not constant, as he was relieved after a
stated interval by other brethren of his order, who succeeded one another
in regular rotation. His science was limited to an acquaintance with the
fasts and festivals of his religion, and the appropriate ceremonies which
distinguished them. This, however frivolous might be its character, was
no easy acquisition; for the ritual of the Incas involved a routine of
observances, as complex and elaborate as ever distinguished that of any
nation, whether pagan or Christian. Each month had its appropriate
festival, or rather festivals. The four principal had reference to the Sun,
and commemorated the great periods of his annual progress, the solstices
and equinoxes. Perhaps the most magnificent of all the national
solemnities was the feast of Raymi, held at the period of the summer
solstice, when the Sun, having touched the southern extremity of his
course, retraced his path, as if to gladden the hearts of his chosen people
by his presence. On this occasion, the Indian nobles from the different
quarters of the country thronged to the capital to take part in the great
religious celebration.

For three days previous, there was a general fast, and no fire was allowed
to be lighted in the dwellings. When the appointed day arrived, the Inca
and his court, followed by the whole population of the city, assembled at
early dawn in the great square to greet the rising of the Sun. They were
dressed in their gayest apparel, and the Indian lords vied with each other
in the display of costly ornaments and jewels on their persons, while
canopies of gaudy feather-work and richly tinted stuffs, borne by the
attendants over their heads, gave to the great square, and the streets that
emptied into it, the appearance of being spread over with one vast and
magnificent awning. Eagerly they watched the coming of their deity,
and, no sooner did his first yellow rays strike the turrets and loftiest
buildings of the capital, than a shout of gratulation broke forth from the
assembled multitude, accompanied by songs of triumph, and the wild
melody of barbaric instruments, that swelled louder and louder as his
bright orb, rising above the mountain range towards the east, shone in
full splendor on his votaries. After the usual ceremonies of adoration, a
libation was offered to the great deity by the Inca, from a huge golden
vase, filled with the fermented liquor of maize or of maguey, which,
after the monarch had tasted it himself, he dispensed among his royal
kindred. These ceremonies completed, the vast assembly was arranged
in order of procession, and took its way towards the Coricancha.27

As they entered the street of the sacred edifice, all divested themselves of
their sandals, except the Inca and his family, who did the same on
passing through the portals of the temple, where none but these august
personages were admitted.28 After a decent time spent in devotion, the
sovereign, attended by his courtly train, again appeared, and preparations
were made to commence the sacrifice. This, with the Peruvians,
consisted of animals, grain, flowers, and sweet-scented gums; sometimes
of human beings, on which occasions a child or beautiful maiden was
usually selected as the victim. But such sacrifices were rare, being
reserved to celebrate some great public event, as a coronation, the birth
of a royal heir, or a great victory. They were never followed by those
cannibal repasts familiar to the Mexicans, and to many of the fierce
tribes conquered by the Incas. Indeed, the conquests of these princes
might well be deemed a blessing to the Indian nations, if it were only
from their suppression of cannibalism, and the diminution, under their
rule, of human sacrifices.29

At the feast of Raymi, the sacrifice usually offered was that of the llama;
and the priest, after opening the body of his victim, sought in the
appearances which it exhibited to read the lesson of the mysterious
future. If the auguries were unpropitious, a second victim was
slaughtered, in the hope of receiving some more comfortable assurance.
The Peruvian augur might have learned a good lesson of the Roman,--to
consider every omen as favorable, which served the interests of his

A fire was then kindled by means of a concave mirror of polished metal,
which, collecting the rays of the sun into a focus upon a quantity of dried
cotton, speedily set it on fire. It was the expedient used on the like
occasions in ancient Rome, at least under the reign of the pious Numa.
When the sky was overcast, and the face of the good deity was hidden
from his worshippers, which was esteemed a bad omen, fire was
obtained by means of friction. The sacred flame was intrusted to the care
of the Virgins of the Sun, and if, by any neglect, it was suffered to go out
in the course of the year, the event was regarded as a calamity that boded
some strange disaster to the monarchy.31 A burnt offering of the victims
was then made on the altars of the deity. This sacrifice was but the
prelude to the slaughter of a great number of llamas, part of the flocks of
the Sun, which furnished a banquet not only for the Inca and his Court,
but for the people, who made amends at these festivals for the frugal fare
to which they were usually condemned. A fine bread or cake, kneaded
of maize flour by the fair hands of the Virgins of the Sun, was also
placed on the royal board, where the Inca, presiding over the feast,
pledged his great nobles in generous goblets of the fermented liquor of
the country, and the long revelry of the day was closed at night by music
and dancing. Dancing and drinking were the favorite pastimes of the
Peruvians. These amusements continued for several days, though the
sacrifices terminated on the first.--Such was the great festival of Raymi;
and the recurrence of this and similar festivities gave relief to the
monotonous routine of toil prescribed to the lower orders of the

In the distribution of bread and wine at this high festival, the orthodox
Spaniards, who first came into the country, saw a striking resemblance to
the Christian communion; 33 as in the practice of confession and
penance, which, in a most irregular form, indeed, seems to have been
used by the Peruvians, they discerned a coincidence with another of the
sacraments of the Church.34 The good fathers were fond of tracing such
coincidences, which they considered as the contrivance of Satan, who
thus endeavored to delude his victims by counterfeiting the blessed rites
of Christianity.35 Others, in a different vein, imagined that they saw in
such analogies the evidence, that some of the primitive teachers of the
Gospel, perhaps an apostle himself, had paid a visit to these distant
regions, and scattered over them the seeds of religious truth.36 But it
seems hardly necessary to invoke the Prince of Darkness, or the
intervention of the blessed saints, to account for coincidences which
have existed in countries far removed from the light of Christianity, and
in ages, indeed, when its light had not yet risen on the world. It is much
more reasonable to refer such casual points of resemblance to the general
constitution of man, and the necessities of his moral nature.37

Another singular analogy with Roman Catholic institutions is presented
by the Virgins of the Sun, the "elect," as they were called,38 to whom I
have already had occasion to refer. These were young maidens,
dedicated to the service of the deity, who, at a tender age, were taken
from their homes, and introduced into convents, where they were placed
under the care of certain elderly matrons, mamaconas, who had grown
grey within their walls.39 Under these venerable guides, the holy virgins
were instructed in the nature of their religious duties. They were
employed in spinning and embroidery, and, with the fine hair of the
vicuna wove the hangings for the temples, and the apparel for the Inca
and his household.40 It was their duty, above all, to watch over the
sacred fire obtained at the festival of Raymi. From the moment they
entered the establishment, they were cut off from all connection with the
world, even with their own family and friends. No one but the Inca, and
the Coya or queen, might enter the consecrated precincts. The greatest
attention was paid to their morals, and visitors were sent every year to
inspect the institutions, and to report on the state of their discipline.41
Woe to the unhappy maiden who was detected in an intrigue! By the
stern law of the Incas, she was to be buried alive, her lover was to be
strangled, and the town or village to which he belonged was to be razed
to the ground, and "sowed with stones," as if to efface every memorial of
his existence.42 One is astonished to find so close a resemblance
between the institutions of the American Indian, the ancient Roman, and
the modern Catholic! Chastity and purity of life are virtues in woman,
that would seem to be of equal estimation with the barbarian and with the
civilized.--Yet the ultimate destination of the inmates of these religious
houses was materially different.

The great establishment at Cuzco consisted wholly of maidens of the
royal blood, who amounted, it is said, to no less than fifteen hundred.
The provincial convents were supplied from the daughters of the curacas
and inferior nobles, and, occasionally, where a girl was recommended by
great personal attractions, from the lower classes of the people.43 The
"Houses of the Virgins of the Sun" consisted of low ranges of stone
buildings, covering a large extent of ground, surrounded by high walls,
which excluded those within entirely from observation. They were
provided with every accommodation for the fair inmates, and were
embellished in the same sumptuous and costly manner as the palaces of
the Incas, and the temples; for they received the particular care of
government, as an important part of the religious establishment.44

Yet the career of all the inhabitants of these cloisters was not confined
within their narrow walls. Though Virgins of the Sun, they were brides
of the Inca, and, at a marriageable age, the most beautiful among them
were selected for the honors of his bed, and transferred to the royal
seraglio. The full complement of this amounted in time not only to
hundreds, but thousands, who all found accommodations in his different
palaces throughout the country. When the monarch was disposed to
lessen the number of his establishment, the concubine with whose society
he was willing to dispense returned, not to her former monastic
residence, but to her own home; where, however humble might be her
original condition, she was maintained in great state, and, far from being
dishonored by the situation she had filled, was held in universal
reverence as the Inca's bride.45

The great nobles of Peru were allowed, like their sovereign, a plurality of
wives. The people, generally, whether by law, or by necessity stronger
than law, were more happily limited to one. Marriage was conducted in
a manner that gave it quite as original a character as belonged to the
other institutions of the country. On an appointed day of the year, all
those of a marriageable age--which, having reference to their ability to
take charge of a family, in the males was fixed at not less than
twentyfour years, and in the women at eighteen or twenty--were called
together in the great squares of their respective towns and villages,
throughout the empire. The Inca presided in person over the assembly of
his own kindred, and taking the hands of the different couples who were
to be united, he placed them within each other, declaring the parties man
and wife. The same was done by the curacas towards all persons of their
own or inferior degree in their several districts. This was the simple
form of marriage in Peru. No one was allowed to select a wife beyond
the community to which he belonged, which generally comprehended all
his own kindred; 46 nor was any but the sovereign authorized to dispense
with the law of nature--or at least, the usual law of nations--so far as to
marry his own sister.47 No marriage was esteemed valid without the
consent of the parents; and the preference of the parties, it is said, was
also to be consulted; though, considering the barriers imposed by the
prescribed age of the candidates, this must have been within rather
narrow and whimsical limits. A dwelling was got ready for the new-
married pair at the charge of the district, and the prescribed portion of
land assigned for their maintenance. The law of Peru provided for the
future, as well as for the present. It left nothing to chance.--The simple
ceremony of marriage was followed by general festivities among the
friends of the parties, which lasted several days; and as every wedding
took place on the same day, and as there were few families who had not
someone of their members or their kindred personally interested, there
was one universal bridal jubilee throughout the empire.48

The extraordinary regulations respecting marriage under the Incas are,
eminently characteristic of the genius of the government; which, far from
limiting itself to matters of public concern, penetrated into the most
private recesses of domestic life, allowing no man, however humble, to
act for himself, even in those personal matters in which none but himself,
or his family at most, might be supposed to be interested. No Peruvian
was too low for the fostering vigilance of government. None was so high
that he was not made to feel his dependence upon it in every act of his
life. His very existence as an individual was absorbed in that of the
community. His hopes and his fears, his joys and his sorrows, the
tenderest sympathies of his nature, which would most naturally shrink
from observation, were all to be regulated by law. He was not allowed
even to be happy in his own way. The government of the Incas was the
mildest, --but the most searching of despotisms.

Book 1

Chapter 4

Important Esculents

"Science was not intended for the people; but for those of generous
blood. Persons of low degree are only puffed up by it, and rendered
vain and arrogant. Neither should such meddle with the affairs of
government; for this would bring high offices into disrepute, and cause
detriment to the state.1 Such was the favorite maxim, often repeated, of
Tupac Inca Yupanqui, one of the most renowned of the Peruvian
sovereigns. It may seem strange that such a maxim should ever have
been proclaimed in the New World, where popular institutions have beer
established on a more extensive scale than was ever before witnessed;
where government rests wholly on the people; and education--at least, in
the great northern division of the continent--is mainly directed to qualify
the people for the duties of government. Yet this maxim was strictly
conformable to the genius of the Peruvian monarchy, and may serve as a
key to its habitual policy; since, while it watched with unwearied
solicitude over its subjects, provided for their physical necessities, was
mindful of their morals, and showed, throughout, the affectionate
concern of a parent for his children, it yet regarded them only as
children, who were never to emerge from the state of pupilage, to act or
to think for themselves, but whose whole duty was comprehended in the
obligation of implicit obedience.

Such was the humiliating condition of the people under the Incas: while
the numerous families of the blood royal enjoyed the benefit of all the
light of education, which the civilization of the country could afford;
and, long after the Conquest, the spots continued to be pointed out where
the seminaries had existed for their instruction. These were placed
under the care of the amautas, or "wise men," who engrossed the scanty
stock of science--if science it could be called--possessed by the
Peruvians, and who were the sole teachers of youth. It was natural that
the monarch should take a lively interest in the instruction of the young
nobility, his own kindred. Several of the Peruvian princes are said to
have built their palaces in the neighborhood of the schools, in order that
they might the more easily visit them and listen to the lectures of the
amautas, which they occasionally reinforced by a homily of their own.2
In these schools, the royal pupils were instructed in all the different kinds
of knowledge in which their teachers were versed, with especial
reference to the stations they were to occupy in after-life. They studied
the laws, and the principles of administering the government, in which
many of them were to take part. They were initiated in the peculiar rites
of their religion, most necessary to those who were to assume the
sacerdotal functions. They learned also to emulate the achievements of
their royal ancestors by listening to the chronicles compiled by the
amautas. They were taught to speak their own dialect with purity and
elegance; and they became acquainted with the mysterious science of the
quipus, which supplied the Peruvians with the means of communicating
their ideas to one another, and of transmitting them to future

The quipu was a cord about two feet long, composed of different colored
threads tightly twisted together, from which a quantity of smaller threads
were suspended in the manner of a fringe. The threads were of different
colors and were tied into knots. The word quipu, indeed, signifies a
knot. The colors denoted sensible objects; as, for instance, white
represented silver, and yellow, gold. They sometimes also stood for
abstract ideas. Thus, white signified peace, and red, war. But the
quipus were chiefly used for arithmetical purposes. The knots served
instead of ciphers, and could be combined in such a manner as to
represent numbers to any amount they required. By means of these they
went through their calculations with great rapidity, and the Spaniards
who first visited the country bear testimony to their accuracy.4

Officers were established in each of the districts, who, under the title of
quipucamayus, Or "keepers of the quipus," were required to furnish the
government with information on various important matters. One had
charge of the revenues, reported the quantity of raw material distributed
among the laborers, the quality and quantity of the fabrics made from it,
and the amount of stores, of various kinds, paid into the royal magazines.
Another exhibited the register of births and deaths, the marriages, the
number of those qualified to bear arms, and the like details in reference
to the population of the kingdom. These returns were annually
forwarded to the capital, where they were submitted to the inspection of
officers acquainted with the art of deciphering these mystic records.
The government was thus provided with a valuable mass of statistical
information, and the skeins of many-colored threads, collected and
carefully preserved, constituted what might be called the national

But, although the quipus sufficed for all the purposes of arithmetical
computation demanded by the Peruvians, they were incompetent to
represent the manifold ideas and images which are expressed by writing,
Even here, however, the invention was not without its use. For,
independently of the direct representation of simple objects, and even of
abstract ideas, to a very limited extent, as above noticed, it afforded great
help to the memory by way of association. The peculiar knot or color,
in this way, suggested what it could not venture to represent; in the same
manner-to borrow the homely illustration of an old writer--as the number
of the Commandment calls to mind the Commandment itself. The
quipus, thus used, might be regarded as the Peruvian system of

Annalists were appointed in each of the principal communities, whose
business it was to record the most important events which occurred in
them. Other functionaries of a higher character, usually the amautas,
were intrusted with the history of the empire, and were selected to
chronicle the great deeds of the reigning Inca, or of his ancestors.6 The
narrative, thus concocted, could be communicated only by oral tradition;
but the quipus served the chronicler to arrange the incidents with
method, and to refresh his memory. The story, once treasured up in the
mind, was indelibly impressed there by frequent repetition. It was
repeated by the amauta to his pupils, and in this way history, conveyed
partly by oral tradition, and partly by arbitrary signs, was handed down
from generation to generation, with sufficient discrepancy of details, but
with a general conformity of outline to the truth.

The Peruvian quipus were, doubtless, a wretched substitute for that
beautiful contrivance, the alphabet, which, employing a few simple
characters as the representatives of sounds, instead of ideas, is able to
convey the most delicate shades of thought that ever passed through the
mind of man. The Peruvian invention, indeed, was far below that of the
hieroglyphics, even below the rude picture-writing of the Aztecs; for the
latter art, however incompetent to convey abstract ideas, could depict
sensible objects with tolerable accuracy. It is evidence of the total
ignorance in which the two nations remained of each other, that the
Peruvians should have borrowed nothing of the hieroglyphical system of
the Mexicans, and this, notwithstanding that the existence of the maguey
plant agave, in South America might have furnished them with the very
material used by the Aztecs for the construction of their maps.7

It is impossible to contemplate without interest the struggles made by
different nations, as they emerge from barbarism, to supply themselves
with some visible symbols of thought,--that mysterious agency by which
the mind of the individual may be put in communication with the minds
of a whole community. The want of such a symbol is itself the greatest
impediment to the progress of civilization. For what is it but to
imprison the thought, which has the elements of immortality, within the
bosom of its author, or of the small circle who come in contact with him,
instead of sending it abroad to give light to thousands, and to generations
yet unborn! Not only is such a symbol an essential element of
civilization, but it may be assumed as the very criterion of civilization;
for the intellectual advancement of a people will keep pace pretty nearly
with its facilities for intellectual communication.

Yet we must be careful not to underrate the real value of the Peruvian
system; nor to suppose that the quipus were as awkward an instrument, in
the hand of a practised native, as they would be in ours. We know the
effect of habit in all mechanical operations, and the Spaniards bear
constant testimony to the adroitness and accuracy of the Peruvians in
this. Their skill is not more surprising than the facility with which habit
enables us to master the contents of a printed page, comprehending
thousands of separate characters, by a single glance, as it were, though
each character must require a distinct recognition by the eye, and that,
too, without breaking the chain of thought in the reader's mind. We
must not hold the invention of the quipus too lightly, when we reflect
that they supplied the means of calculation demanded for the affairs of a
great nation, and that, however insufficient, they afforded no little help to
what aspired to the credit of literary composition.

The office of recording the national annals was not wholly confined to
the amautas. It was assumed in part by the haravecs, or poets, who
selected the most brilliant incidents for their songs or ballads, which
were chanted at the royal festivals and at the table of the Inca.8 In this
manner, a body of traditional minstrelsy grew up, like the British and
Spanish ballad poetry, by means of which the name of many a rude
chieftain, that might have perished for want of a chronicler, has been
borne down the tide of rustic melody to later generations.

Yet history may be thought not to gain much by this alliance with poetry;
for the domain of the poet extends over an ideal realm peopled with the
shadowy forms of fancy, that bear little resemblance to the rude realities
of life. The Peruvian annals may be deemed to show somewhat of the
effects of this union, since there is a tinge of the marvellous spread over
them down to the very latest period, which, like a mist before the reader's
eye, makes it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction.

The poet found a convenient instrument for his purposes in the beautiful
Quichua dialect. We have already seen the extraordinary measures
taken by the Incas for propagating their language throughout their
empire. Thus naturalized in the remotest provinces, it became enriched
by a variety of exotic words and idioms, which, under the influence of
the Court and of poetic culture, if I may so express myself, was gradually
blended, like some finished mosaic made up of coarse and disjointed
materials, into one harmonious whole. The Quichua became the most
comprehensive and various, as well as the most elegant, of the South
American dialects.9

Besides the compositions already noticed, the Peruvians, it is said,
showed some talent for theatrical exhibitions; not those barren
pantomimes which, addressed simply to the eye, have formed the
amusement of more than one rude nation. The Peruvian pieces aspired
to the rank of dramatic compositions, sustained by character and
dialogue, founded sometimes on themes of tragic interest, and at others
on such as, from their light and social character, belong to comedy.10
Of the execution of these pieces we have now no means of judging. It
was probably rude enough, as befitted an unformed people. But,
whatever may have been the execution, the mere conception of such an
amusement is a proof of refinement that honorably distinguishes the
Peruvian from the other American races, whose pastime was war, or the
ferocious sports that reflect the image of it.

The intellectual character of the Peruvians, indeed, seems to have been
marked rather by a tendency to refinement than by those hardier qualities
which insure success in the severer walks of science. In these they were
behind several of the semi-civilized nations of the New World. They
had some acquaintance with geography, so far as related to their own
empire, which was indeed extensive; and they constructed maps with
lines raised on them to denote the boundaries and localities, on a similar
principle with those formerly used by the blind. In astronomy, they
appear to have made but moderate proficiency. They divided the year
into twelve lunar months, each of which, having its own name, was
distinguished by its appropriate festival.11 They had, also, weeks; but of
what length, whether of seven, nine, or ten days, is uncertain. As their
lunar year would necessarily fall short of the true time, they rectified
their calendar by solar observations made by means of a number of
cylindrical columns raised on the high lands round Cuzco, which served
them for taking azimuths; and, by measuring their shadows, they
ascertained the exact times of the solstices. The period of the equinoxes
they determined by the help of a solitary pillar, or gnomon, placed in the
centre of a circle, which was described in the area of the great temple,
and traversed by a diameter that was drawn from east to west. When the
shadows were scarcely visible under the noontide rays of the sun, they
said that "the god sat with all his light upon the column." 12 Quito
which lay immediately under the equator, where the vertical rays of the
sun threw no shadow at noon, was held in especial veneration as the
favored abode of the great deity. The period of the equinoxes was
celebrated by public rejoicings. The pillar was crowned by the golden
chair of the Sun, and, both then and at the solstices, the columns were
hung with garlands, and offerings of flowers and fruits were made, while
high festival was kept throughout the empire. By these periods the
Peruvians regulated their religious rites and ceremonial, and prescribed
the nature of their agricultural labors. The year itself took its departure
from the date of the winter solstice.13

This meagre account embraces nearly all that has come down to us of
Peruvian astronomy. It may seem strange that a nation, which had
proceeded thus far in its observations, should have gone no farther; and
that, notwithstanding its general advance in civilization, it should in this
science have fallen so far short, not only of the Mexicans, but of the
Muyscas, inhabiting the same elevated regions of the great southern
plateau with themselves. These latter regulated their calendar on the
same general plan of cycles and periodical series as the Aztecs,
approaching yet nearer to the system pursued by the people of Asia.14

It might have been expected that the Incas, the boasted children of the
Sun, would have made a particular study of the phenomena of the
heavens, and have constructed a calendar on principles as scientific as
that of their semi-civilized neighbors. One historian, indeed, assures us
that they threw their years into cycles of ten, a hundred, and a thousand
years, and that by these cycles they regulated their chronology.15 But
this assertion--not improbable in itself--rests on a writer but little gifted
with the spirit of criticism, and is counter-balanced by the silence of
every higher and earlier authority, as well as by the absence of any
monument, like those found among other American nations, to attest the
existence of such a calendar. The inferiority of the Peruvians may be,
perhaps, in part explained by the fact of their priesthood being drawn
exclusively from the body of the Incas, a privileged order of nobility,
who had no need, by the assumption of superior learning, to fence
themselves round from the approaches of the vulgar. The little true
science possessed by the Aztec priest supplied him with a key to unlock
the mysteries of the heavens, and the false system of astrology which he
built upon it gave him credit as a being who had something of divinity in
his own nature. But the Inca noble was divine by birth. The illusory
study of astrology, so captivating to the unenlightened mind, engaged no
share of his attention. The only persons in Peru, who claimed the power
of reading the mysterious future, were the diviners, men who, combining
with their pretensions some skill in the healing art, resembled the
conjurors found among many of the Indian tribes. But the office was
held in little repute, except among the lower classes, and was abandoned
to those whose age and infirmity disqualified them for the real business
of life.16

The Peruvians had knowledge of one or two constellations, and watched
the motions of the planet Venus, to which, as we have seen, they
dedicated altars. But their ignorance of the first principles of
astronomical science is shown by their ideas of eclipses, which, they
supposed, denoted some great derangement of the planet; and when the
moon labored under one of these mysterious infirmities, they sounded
their instruments, and filled the air with shouts and lamentations, to rouse
her from her lethargy. Such puerile conceits as these form a striking
contrast with the real knowledge of the Mexicans, as displayed in their
hieroglyphical maps, in which the true cause of this phenomenon is
plainly depicted.17

But, if less successful in exploring the heavens, the Incas must be
admitted to have surpassed every other American race in their dominion
over the earth. Husbandry was pursued by them on principles that may
be truly called scientific. It was the basis of their political institutions.
Having no foreign commerce, it was agriculture that furnished them with
the means of their internal exchanges, their subsistence, and their
revenues. We have seen their remarkable provisions for distributing the
land in equal shares among the people, while they required every man,
except the privileged orders, to assist in its cultivation. The Inca himself
did not disdain to set the example. On one of the great annual festivals,
he proceeded to the environs of Cuzco, attended by his Court, and, in the
presence of all the people, turned up the earth with a golden plough,--or
an instrument that served as such,--thus consecrating the occupation of
the husbandman as one worthy to be followed by the Children of the

The patronage of the government did not stop with this cheap display of
royal condescension, but was shown in the most efficient measures for
facilitating the labors of the husbandman. Much of the country along the
sea-coast suffered from want of water, as little or no rain fell there, and
the few streams, in their short and hurried course from the mountains,
exerted only a very limited influence on the wide extent of territory. The
soil, it is true, was, for the most part, sandy and sterile; but many places
were capable of being reclaimed, and, indeed, needed only to be
properly irrigated to be susceptible of extraordinary production. To
these spots water was conveyed by means of canals and subterraneous
aqueducts, executed on a noble scale. They consisted of large slabs of
freestone nicely fitted together without cement, and discharged a volume
of water sufficient, by means of latent ducts or sluices, to moisten the
lands in the lower level, through which they passed. Some of these
aqueducts were of great length. One that traversed the district of
Condesuyu measured between four and five hundred miles. They were
brought from some elevated lake or natural reservoir in the heart of the
mountains, and were fed at intervals by other basins which lay in their
route along the slopes of the sierra. In this descent, a passage was
sometimes to be opened through rocks,--and this without the aid of iron
tools; impracticable mountains were to be turned; rivers and marshes to
be crossed; in short, the same obstacles were to be encountered as in the
construction of their mighty roads. But the Peruvians seemed to take
pleasure in wrestling with the difficulties of nature. Near Caxamarca, a
tunnel is still visible, which they excavated in the mountains, to give an
outlet to the waters of a lake, when these rose to a height in the rainy
season that threatened the country with inundation.19

Most of these beneficent works of the Incas were suffered to go to decay
by their Spanish conquerors. In some spots, the waters are still left to
flow in their silent, subterraneous channels, whose windings and whose
sources have been alike unexplored. Others, though partially
dilapidated, and closed up with rubbish and the rank vegetation of the
soil, still betray their course by occasional patches of fertility. Such are
the remains in the valley of Nasca, a fruitful spot that lies between long
tracts of desert; where the ancient water-courses of the Incas, measuring
four or five feet in depth by three in width, and formed of large blocks of
uncemented masonry, are conducted from an unknown distance.

The greatest care was taken that every occupant of the land through
which these streams passed should enjoy the benefit of them. The
quantity of water alloted to each was prescribed by law; and royal
overseers superintended the distribution, and saw that it was faithfully
applied to the irrigation of the ground.20

The Peruvians showed a similar spirit of enterprise in their schemes for
introducing cultivation into the mountainous parts of their domain.
Many of the hills, though covered with a strong soil, were too precipitous
to be tilled. These they cut into terraces, faced with rough stone,
diminishing in regular gradation towards the summit; so that, while the
lower strip, or anden, as it was called by the Spaniards, that belted round
the base of the mountain, might comprehend hundreds of acres, the
upper-most was only large enough to accommodate a few rows of Indian
corn.21 Some of the eminences presented such a mess of solid rock,
that, after being hewn into terraces, they were obliged to be covered deep
with earth, before they could serve the purpose of the husbandman. With
such patient toil did the Peruvians combat the formidable obstacles
presented by the face of their country! Without the use of tools or the
machinery familiar to the European, each individual could have done
little; but acting in large masses, and under a common direction, they
were enabled by indefatigable perseverance to achieve results, to have
attempted which might have filled even the European with dismay.22

In the same spirit of economical husbandry which redeemed the rocky
sierra from the curse of sterility, they dug below the arid soil of the
valleys, and sought for a stratum where some natural moisture might be
found. These excavations, called by the Spaniards hoyas, or "pits," were
made on a great scale, comprehending frequently more than an acre,
sunk to the depth of fifteen or twenty feet, and fenced round within by a
wall of adobes, or bricks baked in the sun. The bottom of the
excavation, well prepared by a rich manure of the sardines,--a small fish
obtained in vast quantities along the coast,--was planted with some kind
or grain or vegetable.23

The Peruvian farmers were well acquainted with the different kinds of
manures, and made large use of them; a circumstance rare in the rich
lands of the tropics, and probably not elsewhere practised by the rude
tribes of America. They made great use of guano, the valuable deposit
of sea-fowl, that has attracted so much attention, of late, from the
agriculturists both of Europe and of our own country, and the stimulating
and nutritious properties of which the Indians perfectly appreciated.
This was found in such immense quantities on many of the little islands
along the coast, as to have the appeaarnce of lofty hills, which, covered
with a white saline incrustation, led the Conquerors to give them the
name of the sierra nevada, or "snowy mountains."

The Incas took their usual precautions for securing the benefits of this
important article to the husbandman. They assigned the small islands on
the coast to the use of the respective districts which lay adjacent to them.
When the island was large, it was distributed among several districts, and
the boundaries for each were clearly defined. All encroachment on the
rights of another was severely punished. And they secured the
preservation of the fowl by penalties as stern as those by which the
Norman tyrants of England protected their own game. No one was
allowed to set foot on the island during the season for breeding, under
pain of death; and to kill the birds at any time was punished in the like

With this advancement in agricultural science, the Peruvians might be
supposed to have had some knowledge of the plough, in such general use
among the primitive nations of the eastern continent. But they had
neither the iron ploughshare of the Old World, nor had they animals for
.draught, which, indeed, were nowhere found in the New. The
instrument which they used was a strong, sharp-pointed stake, traversed
by a horizontal piece, ten or twelve inches from the point, on which the
ploughman might set his foot and force it into the ground. Six or eight
strong men were attached by ropes to the stake, and dragged it forcibly
along, --pulling together, and keeping time as they moved by chanting
their national songs, in which they were accompanied by the women who
followed in their-train, to break up the sods with their rakes. The mellow
soil offered slight resistance; and the laborer., by long practice, acquired
a dexterity which enabled him to turn up the ground to the requisite
depth with astonishing facility. This substitute for the plough was but a
clumsy contrivance; yet it is curious as the only specimen of the kind
among the American aborigines, and was perhaps not much inferior to
the wooden instrument introduced in its stead by the European
conquerors .25

It was frequently the policy of the Incas, after providing a deserted tract
with the means for irrigation, and thus fitting it for the labors of the
husbandman, to transplant there a colony of mitimaes, who brought it
under cultivation by raising the crops best suited to the soil. While the
peculiar character and capacity of the lands were thus consulted, a means
of exchange of the different products was afforded to the neighboring
provinces, which, from the formation of the country, varied much more
than usual within the same limits. To facilitate these agricultural
exchanges, fairs were instituted, which took place three times a month in
some of the most populous places, where, as money was unknown, a
rude kind of commerce was kept up by the barter of their respective
products. These fairs afforded so many holidays for the relaxation of the
industrious laborer.26

Such were the expedients adopted by the Incas for the improvement of
their territory; and, although imperfect, they must be allowed to show an
acquaintance with the principles of agricultural science, that gives them
some claim to the rank of a civilized people. Under their patient and
discriminating culture, every inch of good soil was tasked to its greatest
power of production; while the most-unpromising spots were compelled
to contribute something to the subsistence of the people. Everywhere the
land teemed with evidence of agricultural wealth, from the smiling
valleys along the coast to the terraced steeps of the sierra, which, rising
into pyramids of verdure, glowed with all the splendors of tropical

The formation of the country was particularly favorable, as already
remarked, to an infinite variety of products, not so much from its extent
as from its various elevations, which, more remarkable, even, than those
in Mexico, comprehend every degree of latitude from the equator to the
polar regions. Yet, though the temperature changes in this region with
the degree of elevation, it remains nearly the same in the same spots
throughout the year; and the inhabitant feels none of those grateful
vicissitudes of season which belong to the temperate latitudes of the
globe. Thus, while the summer lies in full power on the burning regions
of the palm and the cocoa-tree that fringe the borders of the ocean, the
broad surface of the table-land blooms with the freshness of perpetual
spring, and the higher summits of the Cordilleras are white with
everlasting winter.

The Peruvians turned this fixed variety of climate, if I may so say, to the
best account by cultivating the productions appropriate to each; and they
particularly directed their attention to those which afforded the most
nutriment to man. Thus, in the lower level were to be found the
cassavatree and the banana, that bountiful plant, which seems to have
relieved man from the primeval curse--if it were not rather a blessing--of
toiling for his sustenance.27 As the banana faded from the landscape, a
good substitute was found in the maize, the great agricultural staple of
both the northern and southern divisions of the American continent; and
which, after its exportation to the Old World, spread so rapidly there, as
to suggest the idea of its being indigenous to it.28 The Peruvians were
well acquainted with the different modes of preparing this useful
vegetable, though it seems they did not use it for bread, except at
festivals; and they extracted a sort of honey from the stalk, and made an
intoxicating liquor from the fermented grain, to which, like the Aztecs,
they were immoderately addicted.29

The temperate climate of the table-land furnished them with the maguey,
agave Americana, many of the extraordinary qualities of which they
comprehended, though not its most important one of affording a material
for paper. Tobacco, too, was among the products of this elevated region.
Yet the Peruvians differed from every other Indian nation to whom it was
known, by using it only for medicinal purposes, in the form of snuff.30
They may have found a substitute for its narcotic qualities in the coco
(Erythroxylum Peruvianurn), or cuca, as called by the natives. This is a
shrub which grows to the height of a man. The leaves when gathered are
dried in the sun, and, being mixed with a little lime, form a preparation
for chewing, much like the betel-leaf of the East.31 With a small supply
of this cuca in his pouch, and a handful of roasted maize, the Peruvian
Indian of our time performs his wearisome journeys, day ,after day,
without fatigue, or, at least, without complaint. Even food the most
invigorating is less grateful to him than his loved narcotic. Under the
Incas, it is said to have been exclusively reserved for the noble orders. If
so, the people gained one luxury by the Conquest; and, after that period,
it was so extensively used by them, that this article constituted a most
important item of the colonial revenue of Spain.32 Yet, with the
soothing charms of an opiate, this weed so much vaunted by the natives,
when used to excess, is said to be attended with all the mischievous
effects of habitual intoxication.33

Higher up on the slopes of the Cordilleras, beyond the limits of the maize
and of the quinoa,--a grain bearing some resemblance to rice, and largely
cultivated by the Indians,--was to be found the potato, the introduction of
which into Europe has made an era in the history of agriculture.
Whether indigenous to Peru, or imported from the neighboring country
of Chili, it formed the great staple of the more elevated plains, under the
Incas, and its culture was continued to a height in the equatorial regions
which reached many thousand feet above the limits of perpetual snow in
the temperate latitudes of Europe.34 Wild specimens of the vegetable
might be seen still higher, springing up spontaneously amidst the stunted
shrubs that clothed the lofty sides of the Cordilleras till these gradually
subsided into the mosses and the short yellow grass: pajonal, which, like
a golden carpet, was unrolled around the base of the mighty cones, that
rose far into the regions of eternal silence, covered with the snows of

Book 1

Chapter 5

Peruvian Sheep--Great Hunts--Manufactures--Mechanical Skill--
Architecture--Concluding Reflections

A Nation which had made such progress in agriculture might be
reasonably expected to have made, also, some proficiency in the
mechanical arts--especially when, as in the case of the Peruvians, their
agricultural economy demanded in itself no inconsiderable degree of
mechanical skill. Among most nations, progress in manufactures has
been found to have an intimate connection with the progress of
husbandry. Both arts are directed to the same great object of supplying
the necessaries, the comforts, or, in a more refined condition of society,
the luxuries of life; and when the one is brought to a perfection that
infers a certain advance in civilization, the other must naturally find a
corresponding development under the increasing demands and capacities
of such a state. The subjects of the Incas, in their patient and tranquil
devotion to the more humble occupations of industry which bound them
to their native soil, bore greater resemblance to the Oriental nations, as
the Hindoos and Chinese, than they bore to the members of the great
Anglo-Saxon family whose hardy temper has driven them to seek their
fortunes on the stormy ocean, and to open a commerce with the most
distant regions of the globe. The Peruvians, though lining a long extent
of sea-coast, had no foreign commerce.

They had peculiar advantages for domestic manufacture in a material
incomparably superior to anything possessed by the other races of the
Western continent. They found a good substitute for linen in a fabric
which, like the Aztecs, they knew how to weave from the tough thread of
the maguey. Cotton grew luxuriantly on the low, sultry level of the
coast, and furnished them with a clothing suitable to the milder latitudes
of the country. But from the llama and the kindred species of Peruvian
sheep they obtained a fleece adapted to the colder climate of the
table]and, "more estimable," to quote the language of a well-informed
writer, "than the down of the Canadian beaver, the fleece of the brebis
des Calmoucks, or of the Syrian goat." 1

Of the four varieties of the Peruvian sheep, the llama, the one most
familiarly known, is the least valuable on account of its wool. It is
chiefly employed as a beast of burden, for which, although it is
somewhat larger than any of the other varieties, its diminutive size and
strength would seem to disqualify it. It carries a load of little more than
a hundred pounds, and cannot travel above three or four leagues in a day.
But all this is compensated by the little care and cost required for its
management and its maintenance. It picks up an easy subsistence from
the moss and stunted herbage that grow scantily along the withered sides
and the steeps of the Cordilleras. The structure of its stomach, like that
of the camel, is such as to enable it to dispense with any supply of water
for weeks, nay, months together. Its spongy hoof, armed with a claw or
pointed talon to enable it to take secure hold on the ice, never requires to
be shod; and the load laid upon its back rests securely in its bed of wool,
without the aid of girth or saddle. The llamas move in troops of five
hundred or even a thousand, and thus, though each individual carries but
little, the aggregate is considerable. The whole caravan travels on at its
regular pace, passing the night in the open air without suffering from the
coldest temperature, and marching in perfect order, and in obedience to
the voice of the driver. It is only when overloaded that the spirited little
animal refuses to stir, and neither blows nor caresses can induce him to
rise from the ground. He is as sturdy in asserting his rights on this
occasion, as he is usually docile and unresisting.2

The employment of domestic animals distinguished the Peruvians from
the other races of the New World. This economy of human labor by the
substitution of the brute is an important element of civilization, interior
only to what is gained by the substitution of machinery for both. Yet the
ancient Peruvians seem to have made much less account of it than their
Spanish conquerors, and to have valued the llama, in common with the
other animals of that genus, chiefly for its fleece. Immense herds of
these "large cattle," as they were called, and of the "smaller cattle," 3 or
alpacas, were held by the government, as already noticed, and placed
under the direction of shepherds, who conducted them from one quarter
of the country to another, according to the changes of the season. These
migrations were regulated with all the precision with which the code of
the mesta determined the migrations of the vast merino flocks in Spain;
and the Conquerors, when they landed in Peru, were amazed at finding a
race of animals so similar to their own in properties and habits, and
under the control of a system of legislation which might seem to have
been imported from their native land.4

But the richest store of wool was obtained, not from these domesticated
animals, but from the two other species, the huanacos and the vicunas,
which roamed in native freedom over the frozen ranges of the
Cordilleras; where not unfrequently they might be seen scaling the snow-
covered peaks which no living thing inhabits save the condor, the huge
bird of the Andes, whose broad pinions bear him up in the atmosphere to
the height of more than twenty thousand feet above the level of the sea.5
In these rugged pastures, "the flock without a fold" finds sufficient
sustenance in the ychu, a species of grass which is found scattered all
along the great ridge of the Cordilleras, from the equator to the southern
limits of Patagonia. And as these limits define the territory traversed by
the Peruvian sheep, which rarely, if ever, venture north of the line, it
seems not improbable that this mysterious little plant is so important to
their existence, that the absence of it is the principal reason why they
have not penetrated to the northern latitudes of Quito and New

But, although thus roaming without a master over the boundless wastes
of the Cordilleras, the Peruvian peasant was never allowed to hunt these
wild animals, which were protected by laws as severe as were the sleek
herds that grazed on the more cultivated slopes of the plateau. The wild
game of the forest and the mountain was as much the property of the
government, as if it had been inclosed within a park, or penned within a
fold.7 It was only on stated occasions, at the great hunts, which took
place once a year, under the personal superintendence of the Inca or his
principal officers, that the game was allowed to be taken. These hunts.
were not repeated in the same quarter of the country oftener than once.
in four years, that time might be allowed for the waste occasioned by
them to be replenished. At the appointed time, all those living in the
district and its neighborhood, to the number, it might be, of fifty or sixty
thousand men,8 were distributed round, so as to form a cordon of
immense extent, that should embrace the whole country which was to be
hunted over. The men were armed with long poles and spears, with
which they beat up game of every description lurking in the woods, the
valleys, and the mountains, killing the beasts of prey without mercy, and
driving the others, consisting chiefly of the deer of the country, and the
huanacos and vicunas, towards the centre of the wide-extended circle;
until, as this gradually contracted, the timid inhabitants of the forest were
concentrated on some spacious plain, where the eye of the hunter might
range freely over his victims, who found no place for shelter or escape.

The male deer and some of the coarser kind of the Peruvian sheep were
slaughtered; their skins were reserved for the various useful
manufactures to which they are ordinarily applied, and their flesh, cut
into thin slices, was distributed among the people, who converted it into
charqui, the dried meat of the country, which constituted then the sole, as
it has since the principal, animal food of the lower classes of Peru.9

But nearly the whole of the sheep, amounting usually to thirty or forty
thousand, or even a larger number, after being carefully sheared, were
suffered to escape and regain their solitary haunts among the mountains.
The wool thus collected was deposited in the royal magazines, whence,
in due time, it was dealt out to the people. The coarser quality was
worked up into garments for their own use, and the finer for the Inca; for
none but an Inca noble could wear the fine fabric of the vicuna.10

The Peruvians showed great skill in the manufacture of different articles
for the royal household from this delicate material, which, under the
name of vigonia wool, is now familiar to the looms of Europe. It was
wrought into shawls, robes, and other articles of dress for the monarch,
and into carpets, coverlets, and hangings for the imperial palaces and the
temples. The cloth was finished on both sides alike; 11 the delicacy of
the texture was such as to give it the lustre of silk; and the brilliancy of
the dyes excited the admiration and the envy of the European artisan.12
The Peruvians produced also an article of great strength and durability
by mixing the hair of animals with wool; and they were expert in the
beautiful feather-work, which they held of less account than the
Mexicans from the superior quality of the materials for other fabrics,
which they had at their command.13

The natives showed a skill in other mechanical arts similar to that
displayed by their manufactures of cloth. Every man in Peru was
expected to be acquainted with the various handicrafts essential to
domestic comfort. No long apprenticeship was required for this, where
the wants were so few as among the simple peasantry of the Incas. But,
if this were all, it would imply but a very moderate advancement in the
arts. There were certain individuals, however, carefully trained to those
occupations which minister to the demands of the more opulent classes
of society. These occupations, like every other calling and office in
Peru, always descended from father to son.14 The division of castes, in
this particular, was as precise as that which existed in Egypt or
Hindostan. If this arrangement be unfavorable to originality, or to the
development of the peculiar talent of the individual, it at least conduces
to an easy and finished execution by familiarizing the artist with the
practice of his art from childhood.15

The royal magazines and the huacas or tombs of the Incas have been
found to contain many specimens of curious and elaborate workmanship.
Among these are vases of gold and silver, bracelets, collars, and other
ornaments for the person; utensils of every description, some of fine
clay, and many more of copper; mirrors of a hard, polished stone, or
burnished silver, with a great variety of other articles made frequently on
a whimsical pattern, evincing quite as much ingenuity as taste or
inventive talent.16 The character of the Peruvian mind led to imitation,
in fact, rather than invention, to delicacy and minuteness of finish, rather
than to boldness or beauty of design.

That they should have accomplished these difficult works with such tools
as they possessed, is truly wonderful. It was comparativeIy easy to cast
and even sculpture metallic substances, both of which they did with
consummate skill. But that they should have shown the like facility in
cutting the hardest substances, as emeralds and other precious stones, is
not easy to explain. Emeralds they obtained in considerable quantity
from the barren district of Atacames, and this inflexible material seems
to have been almost as ductile in the hands of the Peruvian artist as if it
had been made of clay.17 Yet the natives were unacquainted with the
use of iron, though the soil was largely impregnated with it.18 The tools
used were of stone, or more frequently of copper. But the material on
which they relied for the execution of their most difficult tasks was
formed by combining a very small portion of tin with copper.19 This
composition gave a hardness to the metal which seems to have been little
inferior to that of steel. With the aid of it, not only did the Peruvian
artisan hew into shape porphyry and granite, but by his patient industry
accomplished works which the European would not have ventured to
undertake. Among the remains of the monuments of Cannar may be seen
movable rings in the muzzles of animals, all nicely sculptured of one
entire block of granite.20 It is worthy of remark, that the Egyptians, the
Mexicans, and the Peruvians, in their progress towards civilization,
should never have detected the use of iron, which lay around them in
abundance; and that they should each, without any knowledge of the
other, have found a substitute for it in such a curious composition of
metals as gave to their tools almost the temper of steel; 21 a secret that
has been lost--or, to speak more correctly, has never been discovered-by
the civilized European.

I have already spoken of the large quantity of gold and silver wrought
into various articles of elegance and utility for the Incas; though the
amount was inconsiderable, in comparison with what could have been
afforded by the mineral riches of the land, and with what has since been
obtained by the more sagacious and unscrupulous cupidity of the white
.man. Gold was gathered by the Incas from the deposits of the streams.
They extracted the ore also in considerable quantities from the valley of
Curimayo, northeast of Caxamarca, as well as from other places; and the
silver mines of Porco, in particular, yielded them considerable returns.
Yet they did not attempt to penetrate into the bowels of the earth 'by
sinking a shaft, but simply excavated a cavern in the steep sides of the
mountain, or, at most, opened a horizonal vein of moderate depth. They
were equally deficient in the knowledge of the best means of detaching
the precious metal from the dross with which it was united, and had no
idea of the virtues of quicksilver,--a mineral not rare in Peru, as an
amalgam to effect this decomposition.22 Their method of smelting the
ore was by means of furnaces built in elevated and exposed situations,
where they might be fanned by the strong breezes of the mountains. The
subjects of the Incas, in short, with all their patient perseverance, did
little more than penetrate below the crust, the outer rind, as it were,
formed over those golden caverns which lie hidden in the dark depths of
the Andes. Yet what they gleaned from the surface was more than
adequate for all their demands. For they were not a commercial people,
and had no knowledge of money.23 In this they differed from the
ancient Mexicans, who had an established currency of a determinate
value. In one respect, however, they were superior to their American
rivals, since they made use of weights to determine the quantity of their
commodities, a thing wholly unknown to the Aztecs. This fact is
ascertained by the discovery of silver balances, adjusted with perfect
accuracy, in some of the tombs of the Incas.24

But the surest test of the civilization of a people--at least, as sure as any--
afforded by mechanical art is to be found in their architecture, which
presents so noble a field for the display of the grand and the beautiful,
and which, at the same time, is so intimately connected with the essential
comforts of life. There is no object on which the resources of the
wealthy are more freely lavished, or which calls out more effectually the
inventive talent of the artist. The painter and the sculptor may display
their individual genius in creations of surpassing excellence, but it is the
great monuments of architectural taste and magnificence that are
stamped in a peculiar manner by the genius of the nation. The Greek, the
Egyptian, the Saracen, the Gothic,--what a key do their respective styles
afford to the character and condition of the people! The monuments of
China, of Hindostan, and of Central America are all indicative of an
immature period, in which the imagination has not been disciplined by
study, and which, therefore, in its best results, betrays only the
illregulated aspirations after the beautiful, that belong to a semi-civilized

The Peruvian architecture, bearing also the general characteristics of an
imperfect state of refinement, had still its peculiar character; and so
uniform was that character, that the edifices throughout the country seem
to have been all cast in the same mould.25 They were usually built of
porphyry or granite; not unfrequently of brick. This, which was formed
into blocks or squares of much larger dimensions than our brick, was
made of a tenacious earth mixed up with reeds or tough grass, and
acquired a degree of hardness with age that made it insensible alike to
the storms and the more trying sun of the tropics.26 The walls were of
great thickness, but low, seldom reaching to more than twelve or
fourteen feet in height. It is rare to meet with accounts of a building that
rose to a second story.27

The apartments had no communication with one another, but usually
opened into a court; and, as they were unprovided with windows, or
apertures that served for them, the only light from without must have
been admitted by the doorways. These were made with the sides
approaching each other towards the top, so that the lintel was
considerably narrower than the threshold, a peculiarity, also, in Egyptian
architecture. The roofs have for the most part disappeared with time.
Some few survive in the less ambitious edifices, of a singular bell-shape,
and made of a composition of earth and pebbles. They are supposed,
however, to have been generally formed of more perishable materials, of
wood or straw. It is certain that some of the most considerable stone-
buildings were thatched with straw. Many seem to have been
constructed without the aid of cement; and writers have contended that
the Peruvians were unacquainted with the use of mortar, or cement of
any kind.28 But a close, tenacious mould, mixed with lime, may be
discovered filling up the interstices of the granite in some buildings; and
in others, where the wellfitted blocks leave no room for this coarser
material, the eye of the antiquary has detected a fine bituminous glue, as
hard as the rock itself.29

The greatest simplicity is observed in the construction of the buildings.
which are usually free from outward ornament; though in some the huge
stones are shaped into a convex form with great regularity, and adjusted
with such nice precision to one another, that it would be impossible, but
for the flutings, to determine the line of junction. In others, the stone is
rough, as it was taken from the quarry, in the most irregular forms, with
the edges nicely wrought and fitted to each other. There is no
appearance of columns or of arches; though there is some contradiction
as to the latter point. But it is not to be doubted, that, although they may
have made some approach to this mode of construction by the greater or
less inclination of the walls, the Peruvian architects were wholly
unacquainted with the true principle of the circular arch reposing on its

The architecture of the Incas is characterized, says an eminent traveller,
"by simplicity, symmetry, and solidity."31 It may seem unphilosophical
to condemn the peculiar fashion of a nation as indicating want of taste,
because its standard of taste differs from our own. Yet there is an
incongruity in the composition of the Peruvian buildings which argues a
very imperfect acquaintance with the first principles of architecture.
While they put together their bulky masses of porphyry and granite with
the nicest art, they were incapable of mortising their timbers, and, in their
ignorance of iron, knew no better way of holding the beams together that
tying them with thongs of maguey. In the same incongruous spirit, the
building that was thatched with straw, and unilluminated by a window,
was glowing with tapestries of gold and silver! These are the
inconsistencies of a rude people, among whom the arts are but partially
developed. It might not be difficult to find examples of like
inconsistency in the architecture and domestic arrangements of our
Anglo-Saxon, and, at a still later period of our Norman ancestors.

Yet the buildings of the Incas were accommodated to the character of the
climate, and were well fitted to resist those terrible convulsions which
belong to the land of volcanoes. The wisdom of their plan is attested by
the number which still survive, while the more modern constructions of
the Conquerors have been buried in ruins. The hand of the Conquerors,
indeed, has fallen heavily on these venerable monuments, and, in their
blind and superstitious search for hidden treasure, has caused infinitely
more ruin than time or the earthquake.32 Yet enough of these
monuments still remain to invite the researches of the antiquary. Those
only in the most conspicuous situations have been hitherto examined.
But, by the testimony of travellers, many more are to be found in the less
frequented parts of the country; and we may hope they will one day call
forth a kindred spirit of enterprise to that which has so successfully
explored the mysterious recesses of Central America and Yucatan.

I cannot close this analysis of the Peruvian institutions without a few
reflections on their general character and tendency, which, if they
involve some repetition of previous remarks, may, I trust, be excused,
from my desire to leave a correct and consistent impression on the
reader. In this survey, we cannot but be struck with the total
dissimilarity between these institutions and those of the Aztecs,--the
other great nation who led in the march of civilization on this western
continent, and whose empire in the northern portion of it was as
conspicuous as that of the Incas in the south. Both nations came on the
plateau, and commenced their career of conquest, at dates, it may be, not
far removed from each other.33 And it is worthy of notice, that, in
America, the elevated region along the crests of the great mountain
ranges should have been the chosen seat of civilization in both

Very different was the policy pursued by the two races in their military
career. The Aztecs, animated by the most ferocious spirit, carried on a
war of extermination, signalizing their triumphs by the sacrifice of
hecatombs of captives; while the Incas, although they pursued the game
of conquest with equal pertinacity, preferred a milder policy, substituting
negotiation and intrigue for violence, and dealt with their antagonists so
that their future resources should not be crippled, and that they should
come as friends, not as foes, into the bosom of the empire.

Their policy toward the conquered forms a contrast no less striking to
that pursued by the Aztecs. The Mexican vassals were ground by
excessive imposts and military conscriptions. No regard was had to their
welfare, and the only limit to oppression was the power of endurance.
They were over-awed by fortresses and armed garrisons, and were made
to feel every hour that they were not part and parcel of the nation, but
held only in subjugation as a conquered people. The Incas, on the other
hand, admitted their new subjects at once to all the rights enjoyed by the
rest of the community; and, though they made them conform to the
established laws and usages of the empire, they watched over their
personal security and comfort with a sort of parental solicitude. The
motley population, thus bound together by common interest, was
animated by a common feeling of loyality, which gave greater strength
and stability to the empire, as it became more and more widely extended;
while the various tribes who successively came under the Mexican
sceptre, being held together only by the pressure of external force, were
ready to fall asunder the moment that that force was withdrawn. The
policy of the two nations displayed the principle of fear as contrasted
with the principle of love.

The characteristic features of their religious systems had as little
resemblance to each other. The whole Aztec pantheon partook more or
less of the sanguinary spirit of the terrible war-god who presided over it,
and their frivolous ceremonial almost always terminated with human
sacrifice and cannibal orgies. But the rites of the Peruvians were of a
more innocent cast, as they tended to a more spiritual worship. For the
worship of the Creator is most nearly approached by that of the heavenly
bodies, which, as they revolve in their bright orbits, seem to be the most
glorious symbols of his beneficence and power.

In the minuter mechanical arts, both showed considerable skill; but in the
construction of important public works, of roads, aqueducts, canals, and
in agriculture in all its details, the Peruvians were much superior.
Strange that they should have fallen so far below their rivals in their
efforts after a higher intellectual culture, in astronomical science, more
especially, and in the art of communicating thought by visible symbols.
When we consider the greater refinement of the Incas, their inferiority to
the Aztecs in these particulars can be explained only by the fact, that the
latter in all probability were indebted for their science to the race who
preceded them in the land,--that shadowy race whose origin and whose
end are alike veiled from the eye of the inquirer, but who possibly may
have sought a refuge from their ferocious invaders in those regions of
Central America the architectural remains of which now supply us with
the most pleasing monuments of Indian civilization. It is with this more
polished race, to whom the Peruvians seem to have borne some
resemblance in their mental and moral organization, that they should be
compared. Had the empire of the Incas been permitted to extend itself
with the rapid strides with which it was advancing at the period of the
Spanish conquest, the two races might have come into conflict, or,
perhaps, into alliance with one another.

The Mexicans and Peruvians, so different in the character of their
peculiar civilization, were, it seems probable, ignorant of each other's
existence; and it may appear singular, that, during the simultaneous
continuance of their empires, some of the seeds of science and of art,
which pass so imperceptibly from one people to another, should not have
found their way across the interval which separated the two nations.
They furnish an interesting example of the opposite directions which the
human mind may take in its struggle to emerge from darkness into the
light of civilization,

A closer resemblance--as I have more than once taken occasion to
notice--may be found between the Peruvian institutions and some of the
despotic governments of Eastern Asia; those governments where
despotism appears in its more mitigated form, and the whole people,
under the patriarchal sway of its sovereign, seem to be gathered together
like the members of one vast family. Such were the Chinese, for
example, whom the Peruvians resembled in their implicit obedience to
authority, their mild yet somewhat stubborn temper, their solicitude for
forms, their reverence for ancient usage, their skill in the minuter
manufactures, their imitative rather than inventive cast of mind, and their
invincible patience, which serves instead of a more adventurous spirit for
the execution of difficult undertakings.34

A still closer analogy may be found with the natives of Hindostan in their
division into castes, their worship of the heavenly bodies and the
elements of nature, and their acquaintance with the scientific principles
of husbandry. To the ancient Egyptians, also, they bore considerable
resemblance in the same particulars, as well as in those ideas of a future
existence which led them to attach so much importance to the permanent
preservation of the body.

But we shall look in vain in the history of the East for a parallel to the
absolute control exercised by the Incas over their subjects. In the East,
this was rounded on physical power,--on the external resources of the
government. The authority of the Inca might be compared with that of
the Pope in the day of his might, when Christendom trembled at the
thunders of the Vatican, and the successor of St. Peter set his foot on the
necks of princes. But the authority of the Pope was founded on opinion.
His temporal power was nothing. The empire of the Incas rested on
both. It was a theocracy more potent in its operation than that of the
Jews; for, though the sanction of the law might be as great among the
latter, the law was expounded by a human lawgiver, the servant and
representative of Divinity. But the Inca was both the lawgiver and the
law. He was not merely the representative of Divinity, or, like the Pope,
its vicegerent, but he was Divinity itself. The violation of his ordinance
was sacrilege. Never was there a scheme of government enforced by
such terrible sanctions, or which bore so oppressively on the subjects of
it. For it reached not only to the visible acts, but to the private conduct,
the words, the very thoughts, of its vassals.

It added not a little to the efficacy of the government, that, below the
sovereign, there was an order of hereditary nobles of the same divine
original with himself, who, placed far below himself, were still
immeasurably above the rest of the community, not merely by descent,
but, as it would seem, by their intellectual nature. These were the
exclusive depositaries of power, and, as their long hereditary training
made them familiar with their vocation, and secured them implicit
deference from the multitude, they became the prompt and well-practised
agents for carrying out the executive measures of the administration. All
that occurred throughout the wide extent of his empire---such was the
perfect system of communication--passed in review, as it were, before
the eyes of the monarch, and a thousand hands, armed with irresistible
authority, stood ready in every quarter to do his bidding. Was it not, as
we have said, the most oppressive, though the mildest, of despotisms?

It was the mildest, from the very circumstance, that the transcendent rank
of the sovereign, and the humble, nay, superstitious, devotion to his will
make it superfluous to assert this will be acts of violence or rigor. The
great mass of the people may have appeared to his eyes as but little
removed above the condition of the brute, formed to minister to his
pleasures. But, from their very helplessness, he regarded them with
feelings of commiseration, like those which a kind master might feel for
the poor animals committed to his charge, or--to do justice to the
beneficent character attributed to many of the Incas--that a parent might
feel for his young and impotent offspring. The laws were carefully
directed to their preservation and personal comfort. The people were not
allowed to be employed on works pernicious to their health, nor to pine--
a sad contrast to their subsequent destiny--under the imposition of tasks
too heavy for their powers. They were never made the victims of public
or private extortion; and a benevolent forecast watched carefully over
their necessities, and provided for their relief in seasons of infirmity, and
for their sustenance in health. The government of the Incas, however
arbitrary in form, was in its spirit truly patriarchal.

Yet in this there was nothing cheering to the dignity of human nature.
What the people had was conceded as a boon, not as a right. When a
nation was brought under the sceptre of the Incas, it resigned every
personal right, even the rights dearest to humanity. Under this
extraordinary polity, a people advanced in many of the social
refinements, well skilled in manufactures and agriculture, were
unacquainted, as we have seen, with money. They had nothing that
deserved to be called property. They could follow no craft, could
engage in no labor, no amusement, but such as was specially provided by
law. They could not change their residence or their dress without a
license from the government. They could not even exercise the freedom
which is conceded to the most abject in other countries, that of selecting
their own wives. The imperative spirit of despotism would not allow
them to be happy or miserable in any way but that established by law.
The power of free agency--the inestimable and inborn right of every
human being--was annihilated in Peru.

The astonishing mechanism of the Peruvian polity could have resulted
only from the combined authority of opinion and positive power in the
ruler to an extent unprecedented in the history of man. Yet that it should
have so successfully gone into operation, and so long endured, in
opposition to the taste, the prejudices, and the very principles of our
nature, is a strong proof of a generally wise and temperate administration
of the government.

The policy habitually pursued by the Incas for the prevention of evils
that might have disturbed the order of things is well exemplified in their
provisions against poverty and idleness. In these they rightly discerned
the two great causes of disaffection in a populous community. The
industry of the people was secured not only by their compulsory
occupations at home, but by their employment on those great public
works which covered every part of the country, and which still bear
testimony in their decay to their primitive grandeur. Yet it may well
astonish us to find, that the natural difficulty of these undertakings,
sufficiently great in itself, considering the imperfection of their tools and
machinery, was inconceivably enhanced by the politic contrivance of
government. The royal edifices of Quito, we are assured by the Spanish
conquerors, were constructed of huge masses of stone, many of which
were carried all the way along the mountain roads from Cuzco, a
distance of several hundred leagues.35 The great square of the capital
was filled to a considerable depth with mould brought with incredible
labor up the steep slopes of the Cordilleras from the distant shores of the
Pacific Ocean.36 Labor was regarded not only as a means, but as an
end, by the Peruvian law.

With their manifold provisions against poverty the reader has already
been made acquainted. They were so perfect, that, in their wide extent of
territory,--much of it smitten with the curse of barrenness,--no man,
however humble, suffered from the want of food and clothing. Famine,
so common a scourge in every other American nation, so common at that
period in every country of civilized Europe, was an evil unknown in the
dominions of the Incas.

The most enlightened of the Spaniards who first visited Peru, struck with
the general appearance of plenty and prosperity, and with the astonishing
order with which every thing throughout the country was regulated, are
loud in their expressions of admiration. No better government, in their
opinion, could have been devised for the people. Contented with their
condition, and free from vice, to borrow the language of an eminent
authority of that early day, the mild and docile character of the Peruvians
would have well fitted them to receive the teachings of Christianity, had
the love of conversion, instead of gold, animated the breasts of the
Conquerors.37 And a philosopher of a later time, warmed by the
contemplation of the picture--which his own fancy had colored---of
public prosperity and private happiness under the rule of the Incas,
pronounces "the moral man in Peru far superior to the European." 38

Yet such results are scarcely reconcilable with the theory of the
government I have attempted to analyze. Where there is no free agency,
there can be no morality. Where there is no temptation, there can be
little claim to virtue. Where the routine is rigorously prescribed by law,
the law, and not the man, must have the credit of the conduct. if that
government is the best, which is felt the least, which encroaches on the
natural liberty of the subject only so far as is essential to civil
subordination, then of all governments devised by man the Peruvian has
the least real. claim to our admiration.

It is not easy to comprehend the genius and the full import of institutions
so opposite to those of our own free republic, where every man, however
humble his condition, may aspire to the highest honors of the state,--may
select his own career, and carve out his fortune in his own way; where
the light of knowledge, instead of being concentrated on a chosen few, is
shed abroad like the light of day, and suffered to fall equally on the poor
and the rich; where the collision of man with man wakens a generous
emulation that calls out latent talent and tasks the energies to the utmost;
where consciousness of independence gives a feeling of self-reliance
unknown to the timid subjects of a despotism; where, in short, the
government is made for man,--not as in Peru, where man seemed to be
made only for the government. The New World is the theatre in which
these two political systems, so opposite in their character, have been
carried into operation. The empire of the Incas has passed away and left
no trace. The other great experiment is still going on,--the experiment
which is to solve the problem, so long contested in the Old World, of the
capacity of man for self-government. Alas for humanity, if it should fail!

The testimony of the Spanish conquerors is not uniform m respect to the
favorable influence exerted by the Peruvian institutions on the character
of the people. Drinking and dancing are said to have been the pleassures
to which they were immoderately addicted. Like the slaves and serfs in
other lands, whose position excluded them from more serious and
ennobling occupations, they found a substitute in frivolous or sensual
indulgence. Lazy, luxurious, and licentious, are the epithets bestowed on
them by one of those who saw them at the Conquest, but whose pen was
not too friendly to the Indian.39 Yet the spirit of independence could
hardly be strong in a people who had no interest in the soil, no personal
rights to defend; and the facility with which they yielded to the Spanish
invader--after every allowance for their comparative inferiority--argues a
deplorable destitution of that patriotic feeling which holds life as little in
comparison with freedom.

But we must not judge too hardly of the unfortunate native, because he
quailed before the civilization of the European. We must not be
insensible to the really great results that were achieved by the
government of the Incas. We must not forget, that, under their rule, the
meanest of the people enjoyed a far greater degree of personal comfort,
at least, a greater exemption from physical suffering, than was possessed
by similar classes in other nations on the American continent,--greater,
probably, than was possessed by these classes in most of the countries of
feudal Europe. Under their sceptre, the higher orders of the state had
made advances in many of the arts that belong to a cultivated
community. The foundations of a regular government were laid, which,
in an age of rapine, secured to its subjects the inestimable blessings of
tranquillity and safety. By the well-sustained policy of the Incas, the
rude tribes of the forest were gradually drawn from their fastnesses, and
gathered within the folds of civilization; and of these materials was
constructed a flourishing and populous empire, such as was to be found
in no other quarter of the American continent. The defects of this
government were those of overrefinement in legislation,--the last defects
to have been looked for, certainly, in the American aborigines.

Note. I have not thought it necessary to swell this Introduction by an
inquiry into the origin of the Peruvian civilization, like that appended to
the history of the Mexican. The Peruvian history doubtless suggests
analogies with more than one nation in the East, some of which have
been briefly adverted to in the preceding pages; although these analogies
are adduced there not as evidence of a common origin, but as showing
the coincidences which might naturally spring up among different
nations under the same phase of civilization. Such coincidences are
neither so numerous nor so striking as those afforded by the Aztec
history. The correspondence presented by the astronomical science of
the Mexicans is alone of more importance than all the rest, Yet the light
of analogy, afforded by the institutions of the Incas, seems to point, as
far as it goes, towards the same direction; and as the investigation could
present but little substantially to confirm, and still less to confute, the
views taken in the former disquisition, I have not thought it best to
fatigue the reader with it.

Two of the prominent authorities on whom I have relied in this
Introductory portion of the work, are Juan de Sarmiento and the
Licentiate Ondegardo. Of the former I have been able to collect no
information beyond what is afforded by his own writings. In the title
prefixed to his manuscript, he is styled President of the Council of the
Indies, a post of high authority, which infers a weight of character in the
party, and means of information, that entitle his opinions on colonial
topics to great deference.

These means of information were much enlarged by Sarmiento's visit to
the colonies, during the administration of Gasca. Having conceived the
design of compiling a history of the ancient Peruvian institutions, he
visited Cuzco, as he tells us, in 1550, and there drew from the natives
themselves the materials for his narrative. His position gave him access
to the most authentic sources of knowledge, and from the lips of the Inca
nobles, the best instructed of the conquered race, he gathered the
traditions of their national history and institutions. The quipus formed,
as we have seen, an imperfect system of mnemonics, requiring constant
attention, and much inferior to the Mexican hieroglyphics. It was only
by diligent instruction that they were made available to historical
purposes; and this instruction was so far neglected after the Conquest,
that the ancient annals of the country would have perished with the
generation which was the sole depositary of them, had it not been for the
efforts of a few intelligent scholars, like Sarmiento, who saw the
importance, at this critical period, of cultivating an intercourse with the
natives, and drawing from them their hidden stores of information.

To give still further authenticity to his work, Sarmiento travelled over the
country, examined the principal objects of interest with his own eyes,
and thus verified the accounts of the natives as far as possible by
personal observation. The result of these labors was his work entitled,
"Relacion de la sucesion y govierno de las Yngas Senores naturales que
fueron de las Provincias del Peru y otras cosas tocantes a aquel Reyno,
para el Iltmo. Senor Dn Juan Sarmiento, Presidente del Consejo Rl de

It is divided into chapters, and embraces about four hundred folio pages
in manuscript. The introductory portion of the work is occupied with the
traditionary tales of the origin and early period of the Incas; teeming, as
usual, in the antiquities of a barbarous people, with legendary fables of
the most wild and monstrous character. Yet these puerile conceptions
afford an inexhaustible mine for the labors of the antiquarian, who
endeavors to unravel the allegorical web which a cunning priesthood had
devised as symbolical of those mysteries of creation that it was beyond
their power to comprehend. But Sarmiento happily confines himself to
the mere statement of traditional fables, without the chimerical ambition
to explain them.

From this region of romance, Sarmiento passes to the institutions of the
Peruvians, describes their ancient polity, their religion, their progress in
the arts, especially agriculture; and presents, in short, an elaborate
picture of the civilization which they reached under the Inca dynasty.
This part of his work, resting, as it does, on the best authority, confirmed
in many instances by his own observation, is of unquestionable value,
and is written with an apparent respect for truth, that engages the
confidence of the reader. The concluding portion of the manuscript is
occupied with the civil history of the country. The reigns of the early
Incas, which lie beyond the sober province of history. he despatches
with commendable brevity. But on the three last reigns, and fortunately
of the greatest princes who occupied the Peruvian throne, he is more
diffuse. This was comparatively firm ground for the chronicler, for the
events were too recent to be obscured by the vulgar legends that gather
like moss round every incident of the older time. His account stops with
the Spanish invasion: for this story, Sarmiento felt, might be safely left to
his contemporaries who acted a part in it, but whose taste and education
had qualified them but indifferently for exploring the antiquities and
social institutions of the natives.

Sarmiento's work is composed in a simple, perspicuous style, without
that ambition of rhetorical display too common with his countrymen. He
writes with honest candor, and while he does ample justice to the merits
and capacity of the conquered races, be notices with indignation the
atrocities of the Spaniards and the demoralizing tendency of the
Conquest. It may be thought, indeed, that he forms too high an estimate
of the attainments of the nation under the Incas. And it is not
improbable, that, astonished by the vestiges it afforded of an original
civilization, he became enamoured of his subject, and thus exhibited it in
colors somewhat too glowing to the eye of the European. But this was
an amiable failing, not too largely shared by the stern Conquerors, who
subverted the institutions of the country, and saw little to admire in it,
save its gold. It must be further admitted, that Sarmiento has no design
to impose on his reader, and that he is careful to distinguish between
what he reports on hearsay, and what on personal experience. The
Father of History himself does not discriminate between these two things
more carefully.

Neither is the Spanish historian to be altogether vindicated from the
superstition which belongs to his time; and we often find him referring to
the immediate interposition of Satan those effects which might quite as
well be charged on the perverseness of man. But this was common to the
age, and to the wisest men in it; and it is too much to demand of a man to
be wiser than his generation. It is sufficient praise of Sarmiento, that, in
an age when superstition was too often allied with fanaticism, he seems
to have had no tincture of bigotry in his nature. His heart opens with
benevolent fulness to the unfortunate native; and his language, while it is
not kindled into the religious glow of the missionary, is warmed by a
generous ray of philanthropy that embraces the conquered, no less than
the conquerors, as his brethren.

Notwithstanding the great value of Sarmiento's work for the information
it affords of Peru under the Incas, it is but little known, has been rarely
consulted by historians, and still remains among the unpublished
manuscripts which lie, like uncoined bullion, in the secret chambers of
the Escurial.

The other authority to whom I have alluded, the Licentiate Polo de
Ondegardo, was a highly respectable jurist, whose name appears
frequently in the affairs of Peru. I find no account of the period when he
first came into the country. But he was there on the arrival of Gasca, and
resided at Lima under the usurpation of Gonzalo Pizarro. When the
artful Cepeda endeavored to secure the signatures of the inhabitants to
the instrument proclaiming the sovereignty of his chief, we find
Ondegardo taking the lead among those of his profession in resisting it.
On Gasca's arrival, he consented to take a commission in his army. At
the close of the rebellion he was made corregidor of La Plata, and
subsequently of Cuzco, in which honorable station he seems to have
remained several years. In the exercise of his magisterial functions, he
was brought into familiar intercourse with the natives, and had ample
opportunity for studying their laws and ancient customs. He conducted
himself with such prudence and moderation, that he seems to have won
the confidence not only of his countrymen but of the Indians; while the
administration was careful to profit by his large experience in devising
measures for the better government of the colony.

The Relaciones, so often cited in this History, were prepared at the
suggestion of the viceroys, the first being addressed to the Marques de
Canete, in 1561, and the second, ten years later, to the Conde de Nieva.
The two cover about as much ground as Sarmiento's manuscript; and the
second memorial, written so long after the first, may be thought to
intimate the advancing age of the author, in the greater carelessness and
diffuseness of the composition.

As these documents are in the nature of answers to the interrogatories
propounded by government- the range of topics might seem to be limited
within narrower bounds than the modern historian would desire. These
queries, indeed, had particular reference to the revenues, tributes,--the
financial administration, in short, of the Incas; and on these obscure
topics the communication of Ondegardo is particularly full. But the
enlightened curiosity of government embraced a far wider range; and the
answers necessarily implied an acquaintance with the domestic policy of
the Incas, with their laws, social habits, their religion, science, and arts,
in short, with all that make up the elements of civilization. Ondegardo's
memoirs, therefore, cover the whole ground of inquiry for the
philosophic historian.

In the management of these various subjects, Ondegardo displays both
acuteness and erudition. He never shrinks from the discussion, however
difficult; and while he gives his conclusions with an air of modesty, it is
evident that he feels conscious of having derived his information through
the most authentic channels. He rejects the fabulous with disdain;
decides on the probabilities of such facts as he relates, and candidly
exposes the deficiency of evidence. Far from displaying the simple
enthusiasm of the well-meaning but credulous missionary, he proceeds
with the cool and cautious step of a lawyer accustomed to the conflict of
testimony and the uncertainty of oral tradition. This circumspect manner
of proceeding, and the temperate character of his judgments, entitle
Ondegardo to much higher consideration as an authority than most of his
countrymen who have treated of Indian antiquities.

There runs through his writings a vein of humanity, shown particularly in
his tenderness to the unfortunate natives, to whose ancient civilization he
does entire, but not extravagant, justice; while, like Sarmiento, he
fearlessly denounces the excesses of his own countrymen, and admits the
dark reproach they had brought on the honor of the nation. But while
this censure forms the strongest ground for condemnation of the
Conquerors, since it comes from the lips of a Spaniard like themselves, it
proves, also, that Spain in this age of violence could send forth from her
bosom wise and good men who refused to make common cause with the
licentious rabble around them. Indeed, proof enough is given in these
very memorials of the unceasing efforts of the colonial government, from
the good viceroy Mendoza downwards, to secure protection and the
benefit of a mild legislation to the unfortunate natives. But the iron
Conquerors, and the colonist whose heart softened only to the touch of
gold, presented a formidable barrier to improvement.

Ondegardo's writings are honorably distinguished by freedom from that
superstition which is the debasing characteristic of the times; a
superstition shown in the easy credit given to the marvellous, and this
equally whether in heathen or in Christian story; for in the former the eye
of credulity could discern as readily the direct interposition of Satan, as
in the latter the hand of the Almighty. It is this ready belief in a spiritual
agency, whether for good or for evil, which forms one of the most
prominent features in the writings of the sixteenth century. Nothing
could be more repugnant to the true spirit of philosophical inquiry or
more irreconcilable with rational criticism. Far from betraying such
weakness, Ondegardo writes in a direct and business-like manner,
estimating things for what they are worth by the plain rule of common-
sense. He keeps the main object of his argument ever in view, without
allowing himself, like the garrulous chroniclers of the period, to be led
astray into a thousand rambling episodes that bewilder the reader and
lead to nothing.

Ondegardo's memoirs deal not only with the antiquities of the nation, but
with its actual condition, and with the best means for redressing the
manifold evils to which it was subjected under the stern rule of its
conquerors. His suggestions are replete with wisdom, and a merciful
policy, that would reconcile the interests of government with the
prosperity and happiness of its humblest vassal. Thus, while his
contemporaries gathered light from his suggestions as to the present
condition of affairs, the historian of later times is no less indebted to him
for information in respect to the past. His manuscript was freely
consulted by Herrera and the reader, as he peruses the pages of the
learned historian of the Indies, is unconsciously enjoying the benefit of
the researches of Ondegardo. His valuable Relaciones thus had their
uses for future generations, though they have never been admitted to the
honors of the press. The copy in my possession, like that of Sarmiento's
manuscript, for which I am indebted to that industrious bibliographer,
Mr. Rich formed part of the magnificent collection of Lord
Kingsborough,--a name ever to be held in honor by the scholar for his
indefatigable efforts to illustrate the antiquities of America.

Ondegardo's manuscripts, it should be remarked, do not bear his
signature. But they contain allusions to several actions of the writer's
life, which identify them, beyond any reasonable doubt, as his
production. In the archives of Simancas is a duplicate copy of the first
memorial, Relacion Primera, though, like the one in the Escurial, without
its author's name. Munoz assigns it to the pen of Gabriel de Rojas, a
distinguished cavalier of the Conquest. This is clearly an error; for the
author of the manuscript identifies himself with Ondegardo, by
declaring, in his reply to the fifth interrogatory, that he was the person
who discovered the mummies of the Incas in Cuzco; an act expressly
referred both by Acosta and Garcilasso, to the Licentiate Polo de
Ondegardo, when corregidor of that city.--Should the savans of Madrid
hereafter embrace among the publications of valuable manuscripts these
Relaciones, they should be careful not to be led into an error here, by the
authority of a critic like Munoz whose criticism is rarely at fault.

History of the Conquest of Peru

by William Hickling Prescott

Book 2

Discovery of Peru

Chapter 1

Ancient And Modern Science--Art Of Navigation--Maritime Discovery--
Spirit Of The Spaniards--Possessions In The New World-
Rumors Concerning Peru

Whatever difference of opinion may exist as to the comparative merle of
the ancients and the moderns in the arts, in poetry, eloquence, and all
that depends on imagination, there can be no doubt that in science the
moderns have eminently the advantage. It could not be otherwise. In the
early ages of the world, as in the early period of life, there was the
freshness of a morning existence, when the gloss of novelty was on every
thing that met the eye; when the senses, not blunted by familiarity, were
more keenly alive to the beautiful, and the mind, under the influence of a
healthy and natural taste, was not perverted by philosophical theory;
when the simple was necessarily connected with the beautiful, and the
epicurean intellect, sated by repetition, had not begun to seek for
stimulants in the fantastic and capricious. The realms of fancy were all
untravelled, and its fairest flowers had not been gathered, nor its beauties
despoiled, by the rude touch of those who affected to cultivate them.
The wing of genius was not bound to the earth by the cold and
conventional rules of criticism, but was permitted to take its flight far
and wide over the broad expanse of creation.

But with science it was otherwise. No genius could suffice for the
creation of facts,--hardly for their detection. They were to be gathered in
by painful industry; to be collected from careful observation and
experiment. Genius, indeed, might arrange and combine these facts into
new forms, and elicit from their combinations new and important
inferences; and in this process might almost rival in originality the
creations of the poet and the artist. But if the processes of science are
necessarily slow, they are sure. There is no retrograde movement in her
domain. Arts may fade, the Muse become dumb, a moral lethargy may
lock up the faculties of a nation. the nation itself may pass away and
leave only the memory of its existence but the stores of science it has
garnered up will endure for ever. As other nations come upon the stage,
and new forms of civilization arise. the monuments of art and of
imagination, productions of an older time, will lie as an obstacle in the
path of improvement. They cannot be built upon; they occupy the
ground which the new aspirant for immortality would cover. The whole
work is to be gone over again, and other forms of beauty--whether higher
or lower in the scale of merit, but unlike the past--must arise to take a
place by their side. But, in science, every stone that has been laid
remains as the foundation for another. The coming generation takes up
the work where the preceding left it. There is no retrograde movement.
The individual nation may recede, but science still advances. Every step
that has been gained makes the ascent easier for those who come after.
Every step carries the patient inquirer after truth higher and higher
towards heaven, and unfolds to him, as he rises, a wider horizon, and
new and more magnificent views of the universe.

Geography partook of the embarrassments which belonged to every other
department of science in the primitive ages of the world. The knowledge
of the earth could come only from an extended commerce; and
commerce is founded on artificial wants or an enlightened curiosity,
hardly compatible with the earlier condition of society. In the infancy of
nations, the different tribes, occupied with their domestic feuds, found
few occasions to wander beyond the mountain chain or broad stream that
formed the natural boundary of their domains. The Phoenicians, it is
true, are said to have sailed beyond the Pillars of Hercules, and to have
launched out on the great western ocean. But the adventures of these
ancient voyagers belong to the mythic legends of antiquity, and ascend
far beyond the domain of authentic record.

The Greeks, quick and adventurous. skilled in mechanical art, had many
of the qualities of successful navigators, and within the limits of their
little inland sea ranged fearlessly and freely. But the conquests of
Alexander did more to extend the limits of geographical science, and
opened an acquaintance with the remote countries of the East. Yet the
march of the conqueror is slow in comparison with the movements of the
unencumbered traveller. The Romans were still less enterprising than
the Greeks, were less commercial in their character. The contributions to
geographical knowledge grew with the slow acquisitions of empire. But
their system was centralizing in its tendency; and instead of taking an
outward direction and looking abroad for discovery, every part of the
vast imperial domain turned towards the capital at its head and central
point of attraction. The Roman conqueror pursued his path by land, not
by sea. But the water is the great highway between nations, the true
element for the discoverer. The Romans were not a maritime people. At
the close of their empire, geographical science could hardly be said to
extend farther than to an acquaintance with Europe,--and this not its
more northern division,--together with a portion of Asia and Africa;
while they had no other conception of a world beyond the western waters
than was to be gathered from the fortunate prediction of the poet.1

Then followed the Middle Ages; the dark ages, as they are called, though
in their darkness were matured those seeds of knowledge, which, in
fulness of time, were to spring up into new and more glorious forms of
civilization. The organization of society became more favorable to
geographical science. Instead of one overgrown, lethargic empire,
oppressing every thing by its colossal weight, Europe was broken up into
various independent communities, many of which, adopting liberal forms
of government, felt all the impulses natural to freemen; and the petty
republics on the Mediterranean and the Baltic sent forth their swarms of
seamen in a profitable commerce, that knit together the different
countries scattered along the great European waters.

But the improvements which took place in the art of navigation, the more
accurate measurement of time, and, above all, the discovery of the
polarity of the magnet, greatly advanced the cause of geographical
knowledge. Instead of creeping timidly along the coast, or limiting his
expeditions to the narrow basins of inland waters, the voyager might now
spread his sails boldly on the deep, secure of a guide to direct his bark
unerringly across the illimitable waste. The consciousness of this power
led thought to travel in a new direction; and the mariner began to look
with earnestness for another path to the Indian Spice-islands than that by
which the Eastern caravans had traversed the continent of Asia. The
nations on whom the spirit of enterprise, at this crisis, naturally
descended, were Spain and Portugal, placed, as they were, on the
outposts of the European continent, commanding the great theatre of
future discovery.

Both countries felt the responsibility of their new position. The crown of
Portugal was constant in its efforts, through the fifteenth century, to find
a passage round the southern point of Africa into the Indian Ocean;
though so timid was the navigation, that every fresh headland became a
formidable barrier; and it was not till the latter part of the century that
the adventurous Diaz passed quite round the Stormy Cape, as he termed
it, but which John the Second, with happier augury, called the Cape of
Good Hope. But, before Vasco de Gama had availed himself of this
discovery to spread his sails in the Indian seas, Spain entered on her
glorious career, and sent Columbus across the western waters.

The object of the great navigator was still the discovery of a route to
India, but by the west instead of the east. He had no expectation of
meeting with a continent in his way, and, after repeated voyages, he
remained in his original error, dying, as is well known, in the conviction
that it was the eastern shore of Asia which he had reached. It was the
same object which directed the nautical enterprises of those who
followed in the Admiral's track; and the discovery of a strait into the
Indian Ocean was the burden of every order from the government, and
the design of many an expedition to different points of the new continent,
which seemed to stretch its leviathan length along from one pole to the
other. The discovery of an Indian passage is the true key to the maritime
movements of the fifteenth and the first half of the sixteenth centuries. It
was the great leading idea that gave the character to the enterprise of the

It is not easy at this time to comprehend the impulse given to Europe by
the discovery of America. It was not the gradual acquisition of some
border territory, a province or a kingdom that had been gained, but a
New World that was now thrown open to the Europeans. The races of
animals, the mineral treasures, the vegetable forms, and the varied
aspects of nature, man in the different phases of civilization, filled the
mind with entirely new sets of ideas, that changed the habitual current of
thought and stimulated it to indefinite conjecture. The eagerness to
explore the wonderful secrets of the new hemisphere became so active,
that the principal cities of Spain were, in a manner, depopulated, as
emigrants thronged one after another to take their chance upon the
deep.2 It was a world of romance that was thrown open; for, whatever
might be the luck of the adventurer, his reports on his return were tinged
with a coloring of romance that stimulated still higher the sensitive
fancies of his countrymen, and nourished the chimerical sentiments of an
age of chivalry. They listened with attentive ears to tales of Amazons
which seemed to realize the classic legends of antiquity, to stories of
Patagonian giants, to flaming pictures of an El Dorado, where the sands
sparkled with gems, and golden pebbles as large as birds' eggs were
dragged in nets out of the rivers.

Yet that the adventurers were no impostors, but dupes, too easy dupes of
their own credulous fancies, is shown by the extravagant character of
their enterprises; by expeditions in search of the magical Fountain of
Health, of the golden Temple of Doboyba, of the golden sepulchres of
Zenu; for gold was ever floating before their distempered vision, and the
name of Castilla del Oro, Golden Castile, the most unhealthy and
unprofitable region of the Isthmus, held out a bright promise to the
unfortunate settler, who too frequently, instead of gold, found there only
his grave.

In this realm of enchantment, all the accessories served to maintain the
illusion. The simple natives, with their defenceless bodies and rude
weapons, were no match for the European warrior armed to the teeth in
mail. The odds were as great as those found in any legend of chivalry,
where the lance of the good knight overturned hundreds at a touch. The
perils that lay in the discoverer's path, and the sufferings he had to
sustain, were scarcely inferior to those that beset the knight-errant.
Hunger and thirst and fatigue, the deadly effluvia of the morass with its
swarms of venomous insects, the cold of mountain snows, and the
scorching sun of the tropics, these were the lot of every cavalier who
came to seek his fortunes in the New World. It was the reality of
romance. The life of the Spanish adventurer was one chapter more--and
not the least remarkable --in the chronicles of knight-errantry.

The character of the warrior took somewhat of the exaggerated coloring
shed over his exploits. Proud and vainglorious, swelled with lofty
anticipations of his destiny, and an invincible confidence in his own
resources, no danger could appall and no toil could tire him. The greater
the danger, indeed, the higher the charm; for his soul revelled in
excitement, and the enterprise without peril wanted that spur of romance
which was necessary to rouse his energies into action. Yet in the motives
of action meaner influences were strangely mingled with the loftier, the
temporal with the spiritual. Gold was the incentive and the recompense,
and in the pursuit of it his inflexible nature rarely hesitated as to the
means. His courage was sullied with cruelty, the cruelty that flowed
equally--strange as it may seem--from his avarice and his religion;
religion as it was understood in that age,--the religion of the Crusader. It
was the convenient cloak for a multitude of sins, which covered them
even from himself. The Castilian, too proud for hypocrisy, committed
more cruelties in the name of religion than were ever practised by the
pagan idolater or the fanatical Moslem. The burning of the infidel was a
sacrifice acceptable to Heaven, and the conversion of those who survived
amply atoned for the foulest offences. It is a melancholy and mortifying
consideration, that the most uncompromising spirit of intolerance--the
spirit of the Inquisitor at home, and of the Crusader abroad-should have
emanated from a religion which preached peace upon earth and good-
will towards man!

What a contrast did these children of Southern Europe present to the
Anglo-Saxon races who scattered themselves along the great northern
division of the western hemisphere! For the principle of action with these
latter was not avarice, nor the more specious pretext of proselytism; but
independence---independence religious and political. To secure this,
they were content to earn a bare subsistence by a life of frugality and toil.
They asked nothing from the soil, but the reasonable returns of their own
labor. No golden visions threw a deceitful halo around their path and
beckoned them onwards through seas of blood to the subversion of an
unoffending dynasty. They were content with the slow but steady
progress of their social polity. They patiently endured the privations of
the wilderness, watering the tree of liberty with their tears and with the
sweat of their brow, till it took deep root in the land and sent up its
branches high towards the heavens; while the communities of the
neighboring continent, shooting up into the sudden splendors of a
tropical vegetation, exhibited, even in their prime, the sure symptoms of

It would seem to have been especially ordered by Providence that the
discovery of the two great divisions of the American hemisphere should
fall to the two races best fitted to conquer and colonize them. Thus the
northern section was consigned to the Anglo-Saxon race, whose orderly,
industrious habits found an ample field for development under its colder
skies and on its more rugged soil; while the southern portion, with its
rich tropical products and treasures of mineral wealth, held out the most
attractive bait to invite the enterprise of the Spaniard. How different
might have been the result, if the bark of Columbus had taken a more
northerly direction, as he at one time meditated, and landed its band of
adventurers on the shores of what is now Protestant America!

Under the pressure of that spirit of nautical enterprise which filled the
maritime communities of Europe in the sixteenth century, the whole
extent of the mighty continent, from Labrador to Terra del Fuego, was
explored in less than thirty years after its discovery; and in 1521, the
Portuguese Maghellan, sailing under the Spanish flag, solved the
problem of the strait, and found a westerly way to the long sought Spice-
islands of India,--greatly to the astonishment of the Portuguese, who,
sailing from the opposite direction, there met their rivals, face to face, at
the antipodes. But while the whole eastern coast of the American
continent had been explored, and the central portion of it colonized,--
even after the brilliant achievement of the Mexican conquest,---the veil
was not yet raised that hung over the golden shores of the Pacific.

Floating rumors had reached the Spaniards, from time to time, of
countries in the far west, teeming with the metal they so much coveted;
but the first distinct notice of Peru was about the year 1511, when Vasco
Nunez de Balboa, the discoverer of the Southern Sea, was weighing
some gold which he had collected from the natives. A young barbarian
chieftain, who was present, struck the scales with his fist, and, scattering
the glittering metal around the apartment, exclaimed,---"If this is what
you prize so much that you are willing to leave your distant homes, and
risk even life itself for it, I can tell you of a land where they eat and drink
out of golden vessels, and gold is as cheap as iron is with you." It was
not long after this startling intelligence that Balboa achieved the
formidable adventure of scaling the mountain rampart of the Isthmus
which divides the two mighty oceans from each other; when, armed with
sword and buckler, he rushed into the waters of the Pacific, and cried
out, in the true chivalrous vein, that "he claimed this unknown sea with
all that it contained for the king of Castile, and that he would make good
the claim against all, Christian or infidel, who dared to gainsay it!"3 All
the broad continent and sunny isles washed by the waters of the Southern
Ocean! Little did the bold cavalier comprehend the full import of his
magnificent vaunt.

On this spot he received more explicit tidings of the Peruvian empire,
heard proofs recounted of its civilization, and was shown drawings of the
llama, which, to the European eye, seemed a species of the Arabian
camel. Bat, although he steered his caravel for these golden realms, and
even pushed his discoveries some twenty leagues south of the Gulf of St.
Michael, the adventure was not reserved for him. The illustrious
discoverer was doomed to fall a victim to that miserable jealousy with
which a little spirit regards the achievements of a great one.

The Spanish colonial domain was broken up into a number of petty

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