Robert Mackenzie.

America. A history

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The monks were throughout the warm friends and protectors of the Indians. At a very early period the Dominicans preached against Indian slavery “with very piercing and terrible words.” They refused to confess men who were cruel to Indians – a privation which was severely felt; for to the Spaniard of that day, with his over-burdened conscience, confession was a necessary of life. 1537 A.D. The Pope himself pronounced the doom of excommunication against all who reduced Indians to slavery or deprived them of their goods. We have seen how nobly and how vainly the good Las Casas interposed in defence of the Indians. The efforts of the well-meaning fathers were, in almost every direction, unsuccessful. But this failure resulted from no deficiency either in zeal or in discretion. The record of the Church of Rome is darkened by manifold offences against the welfare of the human family; but she is able to recall with just pride the heroic efforts which her sons put forth on behalf of the deeply-wronged native races.

The servants of the Church enjoyed, on two memorable occasions, the opportunity of exhibiting their capacity for government in striking contrast to that of the civil rulers whom the mother country supplied.

Bordering on the province of Guatemala was a tract of forest and mountain, inhabited by an Indian nation of exceptional fierceness. Thrice the Spaniards had attempted the subjugation of this people, and thrice they were driven back. They hesitated to renew an invasion which had brought only defeat and loss, and the brave savages continued to enjoy a precarious independence. 1537 A.D. Las Casas made offer to the Governor that he would place this territory under the King of Spain, on condition that it should not be given over to any Spaniard, and that, indeed, no Spaniard, excepting the Governor himself, should for the space of five years be suffered to enter it. The offer was accepted, and the brave monk, confident in the power of truth and kindness, made himself ready to fulfil his contract.

Having devoted several days to prayer and fasting, Las Casas and his companions proceeded to draw up a statement of the great doctrines of the Christian religion. They told of the creation of the world, of the fall of man, of his expulsion from the pleasant garden in which he had been placed. Then they told of his restoration, of the death and resurrection of Christ, and of judgment to come. They closed with emphatic denunciation of idols and of human sacrifices. The work was in verse, and in the language of the people for whom it was destined. The fathers next obtained the co-operation of four native merchants who were accustomed for commercial reasons to visit the country of the warlike savages. These friendly traders were taught first to repeat the verses and then to sing them to the accompaniment of Indian instruments.

The merchants were received by the chief into his own house; and they requited his hospitality and gained his favour by offering to him certain gifts of scissors, knives, looking-glasses, and similar matters with which the thoughtful fathers had provided them.

When they had finished a day of trading, they borrowed musical instruments and proceeded to sing their message to the crowds by whom they were surrounded. They commanded the immediate and rapt attention of the savages, who hailed them as the ambassadors of new gods. Every day of the next seven the song was repeated by desire of the chief, and every repetition seemed to deepen the effect produced. Then the merchants told of the good fathers by whom they were sent – of their dress, of their manner of life, of their love for the Indians, of their indifference to that gold which other Spaniards worshipped. An embassy was despatched to entreat a visit from some of the fathers. The request was immediately granted; but knowing the fickleness of the savage mind, the prudent monks would not as yet risk the loss of more than one of their number. Father Luis went back with the ambassador. A church was instantly built: the chief in a short time avowed his conversion to the new faith, and was loyally followed by his people. The change was enduring, and the arrangements made by Las Casas for the protection of the Indians being enforced by the King, were in large measure effective. 1630 A.D. A century afterwards the town of Rabinal, which the monks founded, was described by a Spaniard who visited it as in a most flourishing condition, with a population of eight hundred Indian families, who were in the enjoyment of “all that heart can wish for pleasure and life of man.”

A century after the conquest, the Jesuits had made their way into the vast interior region of Paraguay. They came as religious teachers, but they were empowered to trade with the natives, that they might, by their commercial gains, defray the cost of their missionary operations. In both provinces of their enterprise they found themselves frustrated by the excesses of their countrymen. The savages traded reluctantly with men so unscrupulous as the commercial Spaniards; they refused to accept a new faith on the suggestion of men so avaricious and so dissolute as the ecclesiastical Spaniards. The Jesuits, whose sagacity and skill in the management of affairs were then unequalled, obtained from the King the exclusion of all strangers from the land of Paraguay; they in return for this privilege becoming bound to pay to his majesty a yearly tax of one dollar for every baptized Indian who lived under their dominion. Thus protected, the missionaries proceeded to instruct the savages and form them into communities. Their lives were irreproachably pure; the sincerity of their kindness was assured by their manifest self-denial; the wisdom of the measures which they introduced was quickly approved by the increasing welfare of the population. In a very few years the Jesuits had gained the confidence of the Indians, over whom they henceforth exercised control absolute and unlimited.

They drew together into little settlements a number, fifty or thereby, of wandering families, to whom they imparted the art of agriculture. The children were taught to read, to write, to sing. In each settlement a judge, chosen by the inhabitants, maintained public order and administered justice. The savages received willingly the faith which the good fathers commended to their adoption. They were lenient to the superstitions of their subjects, and the reception of the new faith was hastened by its readiness to exist in harmonious combination with many of the observances of the old. In time the sway of the Jesuits extended over a population of one million five hundred thousand persons, all of whom had received Christian baptism; and they could place sixty thousand excellent soldiers in the field.

The fathers regulated all the concerns of their subjects. All possessions were held in common. Every morning, after hearing mass, the people went out to labour according to the instructions of the fathers. The gathered crops were stored for the general good, and were distributed according to the necessities of each family. No intoxicants were permitted. A strict discipline was enforced by stripes administered in the public market-place, and received without murmuring by the submissive natives. When strangers made their unwelcome way into the country, the missionaries stood between their converts and the apprehended pollution. The stranger was hospitably entertained and politely escorted from one station to another till he reached the frontier, no opportunity of intercourse with the natives having been afforded.

1640 to 1770 A.D. The government of the Jesuits was in a high degree beneficial to the Paraguans. The soil was cultivated sufficiently to yield an ample maintenance for all. Education was widely extended; churches were numerous and richly adorned; the people were peaceable, contented, cheerful. In every condition which makes human life desirable, the Jesuit settlements, during a period of considerably over a century, stand out in striking and beautiful contrast to all the other colonial possessions of Spain.

But while the Jesuits of Paraguay were thus nobly occupied in raising the fallen condition of the savages over whom they ruled, their brethren in Europe had incurred the hatred of mankind by the wicked and dangerous intrigues in which they delighted to engage. 1767 A.D. The Church of Rome herself cast them out. They were expelled from Spain. The Order was dissolved by the Pope. The fall of this unscrupulous organization was in most countries a relief from constant irritation and danger; in Paraguay it was disastrous. 1773 A.D. The country accepted new and incapable rulers, and was parcelled out into new provinces. It speedily fell from the eminence to which the fathers had raised it, and sunk into the anarchy and misery by which its neighbours were characterized.


King John of Portugal, to whom Columbus first made offer of his project of discovery, was grievously chagrined when the success of the great navigator revealed the magnificence of the rejected opportunity. Till then, Portugal had occupied the foremost place as an explorer of unknown regions. She had already achieved the discovery of all the western coasts of Africa, and was now about to open a new route to the East by the Cape of Good Hope. Suddenly her fame was eclipsed. While she occupied herself with small and barren discoveries, Spain had found, almost without the trouble of seeking, a new world of vast extent and boundless wealth.

Portugal had obtained from the Pope a grant of all lands which she should discover in the Atlantic, with the additional advantage of full pardon for the sins of all persons who should die while engaged in the work of exploration. The sovereigns of Spain were equally provident in regard to the new territory which they were now in course of acquiring. They applied to Pope Alexander Sixth, who, as vicar of Christ, possessed the acknowledged right to dispose at his pleasure of all territories inhabited by heathens. From this able but eminently dissolute pontiff they asked for a bull which should confirm them in possession of all past and future discoveries in Western seas. The accommodating Pope, willing to please both powers, divided the world between them. 1493 A.D. He stretched an imaginary line, from pole to pole, one hundred leagues to the westward of the Cape de Verd Islands: all discoveries on the eastern side of this boundary were given to Portugal, while those on the west became the property of Spain. Portugal, dissatisfied with the vast gift, proposed that another line should be drawn, stretching from east to west, and that she should be at liberty to possess all lands which she might find between that line and the South Pole. Spain objected to this huge deduction from her expected possessions. 1494 A.D. Ultimately Spain consented that the Papal frontier should be removed westward to a distance of two hundred and seventy leagues from the Cape de Verd Islands; and thus the dispute was happily terminated.

1500 A.D. Six years after this singular transaction, by which two small European States parted between them all unexplored portions of the Earth, a Portuguese navigator – Pedro Alvarez Cabral – set sail from the Tagus in the prosecution of discovery in the East. He stood far out into the Atlantic, to avoid the calms which habitually baffled navigation on the coast of Guinea. His reckoning was loosely kept, and the ocean currents bore his ships westward into regions which it was not his intention to seek. After forty-five days of voyaging he saw before him an unknown and unexpected land. In searching for the Cape of Good Hope, he had reached the shores of the great South American Continent, and he hastened to claim for the King of Portugal the territory he had found, but regarding the extent of which he had formed as yet no conjecture. Three Spanish captains had already landed on this part of the continent and asserted the right of Spain to its ownership. For many years Spain maintained languidly the right which priority of discovery had given. But Portugal, to whom an interest in the wealth of the New World was an object of vehement desire, took effective possession of the land. She sent out soldiers; she built forts; she subdued the savage natives; she founded colonies; she established provincial governments. Although Spain did not formally withdraw her pretensions, she gradually desisted from attempts to enforce them; and the enormous territory of Brazil became a recognized appanage of a petty European State whose area was scarcely larger than the one-hundredth part of that which she had so easily acquired.

For three hundred years Brazil remained in colonial subordination to Portugal. Her boundaries were in utter confusion, and no man along all that vast frontier could tell the limits of Portuguese dominion. Her Indians were fierce, and bore with impatience the inroads which the strangers made upon their possessions. The French seized the bay of Rio de Janeiro. The Dutch conquered large territories in the north. But in course of years these difficulties were overcome. 1654 A.D. The foreigners were expelled. The natives were tamed, partly by arms, partly by the teaching of zealous Jesuit missionaries. Some progress was made in opening the vast interior of the country and in fixing its boundaries. On the coast, population increased and numerous settlements sprang up. The cultivation of coffee, which has since become the leading Brazilian industry, was introduced. 1750 A.D. Some simple manufactures were established, and the country began to export her surplus products to Europe. There was much misgovernment; for the despotic tendencies of the captains-general who ruled the country were scarcely mitigated by the authority of the distant Court of Lisbon. The enmity of Spain never ceased, and from time to time burst forth in wasteful and bloody frontier wars. Sometimes the people of cities rose in insurrection against the monopolies by which wicked governors wronged them. Occasionally there fell out quarrels between different provinces, and no method of allaying these could be found excepting war. 1711 A.D. Once the city of Rio de Janeiro was sacked by the French. Brazil had her full share of the miseries which the foolishness and the evil temper of men have in all ages incurred. These hindered, but did not altogether frustrate, the development of her enormous resources.

During the eighteenth century the Brazilian people began to estimate more justly than they had done before the elements of national greatness which surrounded them, and to perceive how unreasonable it was that a country almost as large as Europe should remain in contented dependence on one of the most inconsiderable of European States. The English colonies in North America threw off the yoke of the mother country. The air was full of those ideas of liberty which a year or two later bore fruit in the French Revolution. A desire for independence spread among the Brazilians, and expressed itself by an ill-conceived rising in the province of Minas Geraes. But the movement was easily suppressed, and the Portuguese Government maintained for a little longer its sway over this noblest of colonial possessions.

During the earlier years of the French Revolution, Portugal was permitted to watch in undisturbed tranquillity the wild turmoils by which the other European nations were afflicted. At length it seemed to the Emperor Napoleon that the possession of the Portuguese kingdom, and especially of the Portuguese fleet, was a fitting step in his audacious progress to universal dominion. 1807 A.D. A French army entered Portugal; a single sentence in the Moniteur informed the world that “the House of Braganza had ceased to reign.” The French troops suffered so severely on their march, that ere they reached Lisbon they were incapable of offensive operations. But so timid was the Government, so thoroughly was the nation subdued by fear of Napoleon, that it was determined to offer no resistance. The capital of Portugal, with a population of three hundred thousand, and an army of fourteen thousand, opened its gates to fifteen hundred ragged and famishing Frenchmen, who wished to overturn the throne and degrade the country into a French province.

Before this humiliating submission was accomplished, the Royal Family had gathered together its most precious effects, and with a long train of followers,5757
  There were in all fifteen thousand persons; and it was said that they carried with them one-half the coinage then in circulation in Portugal.

set sail for Brazil. The insane Queen was accompanied to the place of embarkation by the Prince Regent and the princes and princesses of the family, all in tears: the multitudes who thronged to look upon the departure lifted up their voices and wept. Men of heroic mould would have made themselves ready to hold the capital of the State or perish in its ruins; but the faint-hearted people of Lisbon were satisfied to bemoan themselves. When they had gazed their last at the receding ships, they hastened to receive their conquerors and supply their needs.

The presence of the Government hastened the industrial progress of Brazil. The Prince Regent (who in a few years became King) began his rule by opening the Brazilian ports to the commerce of all friendly nations.5858
  He also ordered a printing-press to be purchased in England at a cost of ?100. No such apparatus had heretofore existed within Brazilian territory.

1815 A.D. Seven years later it was formally decreed that the colonial existence of Brazil should cease. She was now raised to the dignity of a kingdom united with Portugal under the same Crown. Her commerce and agriculture increased; she began to regard as her inferior the country of which she lately had been a dependency.

1820 A.D. The changed relations of the two States were displeasing to the people of Portugal. The Council by which the affairs of the kingdom were conducted became unpopular. The demand for constitutional government extended from Spain into Portugal. The Portuguese desired to see their King again in Lisbon, and called loudly for his return. The King consented to the wish of his people reluctantly; for besides other and graver reasons why he should not quit Brazil, his majesty greatly feared the discomforts of a sea-voyage. 1821 A.D. His son, the heir to his throne, became Regent in Brazil.

The Brazilians resented the departure of the King. The Portuguese meditated a yet deeper humiliation for the State whose recent acquisition of dignity was still an offence to them. There came an order from the Cortes that the Prince Regent also should return to Europe. The Brazilians were now eager that the tie which bound them to the mother country should be dissolved. The Prince Regent was urged to disregard the summons to return. After some hesitation he gave effect to the general wish, and intimated his purpose of remaining in Brazil. 1822 A.D. A few months later he was proclaimed Emperor, and the union of the two kingdoms ceased. Constitutional government was set up. But the administration of the Emperor was not sufficiently liberal to satisfy the wishes of his people. 1831 A.D. After nine years of deepening unpopularity, he resigned the crown in favour of his son, then a child five years of age, and now (1881), although still in middle life, the oldest monarch in the world.

Brazil covers almost one-half the South American Continent, and has therefore an area nearly equal to that of the eight States of Spanish origin by which she is bounded. She is as large as the British dominions in North America; she is larger than the United States, excluding the untrodden wastes of Alaska. One, and that not the largest, of her twenty provinces is ten times the size of England. Finally, her area is equal to five-sixths that of Europe.5959
  The area of Europe is 3,848,000 square miles; that of Brazil is 3,287,000 square miles, although some estimates place it much higher.

She has a sea-coast line of four thousand miles. She has a marvellous system of river communication; the Amazon and its tributaries alone are navigable for twenty-five thousand miles within Brazilian territory. Her mineral wealth is so ample that the governor of one of her provinces was wont, in religious processions, to ride a horse whose shoes were of gold; and the diamonds of the Royal Family are estimated at a value of three million sterling. Her soil and climate conspire to bestow upon her agriculture an opulence which is unsurpassed and probably unequalled. An acre of cotton yields in Brazil four times as much as an acre yields in the United States. Wheat gives a return of thirty to seventy fold; maize, of two hundred to four hundred fold; rice, of a thousand fold. Brazil supplies nearly one-half the coffee which the human family consumes. An endless variety of plants thrive in her genial soil. Sugar and tobacco, as well as cotton, coffee, and tea, are staple productions. Nothing which the tropics yield is wanting, and in many portions of the empire the vegetation of the temperate zones is abundantly productive. The energy of vegetable life is everywhere excessive. The mangrove seeds send forth shoots before they fall from the parent tree; the drooping branches of trees strike roots when they touch the ground, and enter upon independent existence; wood which has been split for fences hastens to put forth leaves; grasses and other plants intertwine and form bridges on which the traveller walks in safety.

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