The History Of The Conquest Of Peru
William H. Prescott

Part 3 out of 17

obligation of implicit obedience.

[Footnote 1: "No es licito, que ensenen a los hijos de los
Plebeios, las Ciencias, que pertenescen a los Generosos, y no
mas; porque como Gente baja, no se eleven, y ensobervezcan, y
menoscaben, y apoqueen la Republica: bastales, que aprendan los
Oficios de sus Padres; que el Mandar, y Governar no es de
Plebeious, que es hacer agravio al Oficio, y a la Republica,
encomendarsela a Gente comun." Garcilasso, Com. Real., Parte 1,
lib. 8, cap. 8.]

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 neighbourhood 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 generations. *3

[Footnote 2: Ibid., Parte 1, lib 7, cap. 10. The descendant of
the Incas notices the remains, visible in his day, or two of the
palaces of his royal ancestors, which had been built in the
vicinity of the schools, for more easy access to them.]

[Footnote 3: Ibid., Parte 1, lib. 4, cap. 19]

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

[Footnote 4: Conq. i Pob. del Piru, Ms. - Sarmiento, Relacion,
Ms., cap. 9. - Acosta, lib. 6, cap. 8. - Garcilasso Parte 1, lib.
6, cap. 8.]

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
archives. *5

[Footnote 5: Ondegardo expresses his astonishment at the variety
of objects embraced by these simple records, "hardly credible by
one who had not seen them." "En aquella ciudad se hallaron muchos
viejos oficiales antiguos del Inga, asi de la religion, como del
Govierno, y otra cosa que no pudiera creer sino la viera, que por
hilos y nudos se hallan figuradas las leyes, y estatutos asi de
lo uno como de lo otro, las sucesiones de los Reyes y tiempo que
governaron: y hallose lo que todo esto tenian a su cargo que no
fue poco, y aun tube alguna claridad de los estatutos que en
tiempo de cada uno se havia: puesto." (Rel. Prim., Ms.) (See also
Sarmiento, Relacion, Ms., cap. 9. - Acosta, lib. 6, cap. 8, -
Garcilasso, Parte 1, lib. 6, cap. 8, 9.) A vestige of the quipus
is still to be found in some parts of Peru, where the shepherds
keep the tallies of their numerous flocks by means of this
ancient arithmetic]
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 mnemonics.

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.

[Footnote 6: Ibid., ubi supra.]

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

[Footnote 7: Ibid., ubi supra. - Dec. de la Aud. Real., Ms. -
Sarmiento, Relacion, Ms., cap. 9.

Yet the quipus must be allowed to bear some resemblance to the
belts of wampum - made of colored beads strung together - in
familiar use among the North American tribes, for commemorating
treaties, and for other purposes.]
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.

[Footnote 8: Dec. de la Aud. Real., Ms. - Garcilasso, Com. Real.,
Parte 1, lib. 2, cap. 27.

The word haravec signified "inventor" or "finder"; and in his
title, as well as in his functions, the minstrel-poet may remind
us of the Norman trouvere. Garcilasso has translated one of the
little lyrical pieces of his countrymen. It is light and lively;
but one short specimen affords no basis for general criticism.]

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

[Footnote 9: Ondegardo, Rel. Prim., Ms.

Sarmiento justly laments that his countrymen should have suffered
this dialect, which might have proved so serviceable in their
intercourse with the motley tribes of the empire, to fall so much
out of use as it has done. "Y con tanto digo que fue harto
beneficio para los Espaoles haver esta lengua pues podian con
ella andar por todas partes en algunas de las quales ya se va
perdiendo." Relacion, Ms., cap. 21.

According to Velasco, the Incas, on arriving with their
conquering legions at Quito, were astonished to find a dialect of
the Quichua spoken there, although it was unknown over much of
the intermediate country; a singular fact, if true. (Hist. de
Quito, tom. I. p. 185.) The author, a native of that country, had
access to some rare sources of information; and his curious
volumes show an intimate analogy between the science and social
institutions of the people of Quito and Peru. Yet his book
betrays an obvious anxiety to set the pretensions of his own
country in the most imposing point of view, and he frequently
hazards assertions with a confidence that is not well calculated
to secure that of his readers.]

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.

[Footnote 10: Garcilasso, Com. Real., ubi supra.]

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

[Footnote 11: Ondegardo, Rel. Prim., Ms.

Fernandez, who differs from most authorities in dating the
commencement of the year from June, gives the names of the
several months, with their appropriate occupations. Hist. del
Peru, Parte 2, lib. 3, cap. 10.]

[Footnote 12: Garcilasso, Com. Real., Parte 1, lib. 2, cap.

The Spanish conquerors threw down these pillars, as savouring of
idolatry in the Indians. Which of the two were best entitled to
the name of barbarians?]

[Footnote 13: Betanzos, Nar. de los Ingas, Ms., cap. 16. -
Sarmiento, Relacion, Ms., cap. 23. - Acosta, lib. 6, cap. 3.

The most celebrated gnomon in Europe, that raised on the dome of
the metropolitan church of Florence, was erected by the famous
Toscanelli, - for the purpose of determining the solstices, and
regulating the festivals of the Church, - about the year 1468;
perhaps at no very distant date from that of the similar
astronomical contrivance of the American Indian. See Tiraboschi,
Historia della Letteratura Italiana, tom. VI. lib. 2, cap. 2,
sec. 38.]
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

[Footnote 14: A tolerably meagre account - yet as full, probably,
as authorities could warrant - of this interesting people has
been given by Piedrahita, Bishop of Panama, in the first two
Books of his Historia General de las Conquistas del Nuevo Regno
de Granada, (Madrid, 1688.) - M. de Humboldt was fortunate in
obtaining a Ms., composed by a Spanish ecclesiastic resident in
Santa Fe de Bogota, in relation to the Muysca calendar, of which
the Prussian philosopher has given a large and luminous analysis.
Vues des Cordilleres. p. 244.]

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 neighbours. 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

[Footnote 15: Montesinos, Mem. Antiguas, Ms., lib. 2, cap. 7.
"Renovo la computacion de los tiempos, que se iba perdiendo, y se
contaron en su Reynaldo los anos por 365 dias y seis horas; a los
anos anadio decadeas de diez anos, a cada diez decadas una
centuria de 100 anos, y a cada diez centurias una capachoata o
Jutiphuacan, que son 1000 anos, que quiere decir el grande ano
del Sol; asi contaban los siglos y los sucesos memorables de sus
Reyes." Ibid., loc. cit.]

[Footnote 16: "Ansi mismo les hicieron senalar gente para
hechizeros que tambien es entre ellos, oficio publico y conoscido
en todos, . . . . . los diputados para ello no lo tenian por
travajo, por que ninguno podia tener semejante oficio como los
dichos sino fuesen viejos e viejas, y personas inaviles para
travajar, como mancos, cojos o contrechos, y gente asi a quien
faltava las fuerzas para ello." Ondegardo, Rel. Seg., Ms.]

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

[Footnote 17: See Codex Tel-Remensis, Part 4, Pl. 22, ap.
Antiquities of Mexico, vol. I. London, 1829.]

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
Sun. *18

[Footnote 18: Sarmiento, Relacion, Ms., cap. 16.

The nobles, also, it seems, at this high festival, imitated the
example of their master. "Pasadas todas las fiestas, en la
ultima llevavan muchos arados de manos, los quales antiguamente
heran de oro; i echos los oficios, tomava el Inga an arado i
comenzava con el a romper la tierra, i lo mismo los demas
senores, para que de alli adelante en todo su senorio hiciesen lo
mismo, i sin que el Inga hiciese esto no avia Indio que osase
romper la tierra, ni pensavan que produjese si el Inga no la
rompia primero i esto vaste quanto a las fiestas.' Conq. i. Pob.
del Piru, Ms.]

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 seasons that threatened the country with
inundation. *19

[Footnote 19: Sarmiento, Relacion, Ms., cap. 21. - Garcilasso,
Com. Real., Parte 1, lib. 5, cap. 24. - Stevenson, Narrative of a
Twenty Years' Residence in S. America, (London, 1829,) vol. I. p.
412; II. pp. 173, 174.

"Sacauan acequias en cabos y por partes que es cosa estrana
afirmar lo: porque las echauan por lugares altos y baxos: y por
laderas de los cabecos y haldas de sierras q estan en los valles:
y por ellos mismos atrauiessan muchas: unas por una parte, y
otras por otra, que es gran delectacio caminar por aquellos
valles: porque parece que se anda entre huertas y florestas
llenas de frescuras." Cieza de Leon, Cronica, cap. 66.]

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

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 allotted 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.

[Footnote 20: Pedro Pizarro, Descub. y Conq., Ms. - Memoirs of
Gen-Miller, vol II p. 220.]

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
uppermost was only large enough to accommodate a few rows of
Indian corn. *21 Some of the eminences presented such a mass 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 the 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

[Footnote 21: Miller supposes that it was from these andenes that
the Spaniards gave the name of Andes to the South American
Cordilleras. (Memoirs of Gen. Miller, vol II. p. 219.) But the
name is older than the Conquest, according to Garcilasso, who
traces it to Anti, the name of a province that lay east of Cuzco.
(Com. Real., Parte 1, lib. 2, cap. 11.) Anta, the word for
copper, which was found abundant in certain quarters of the
country, may have suggested the name of the province, if not
immediately that of the mountains.]

[Footnote 22: Memoirs of Gen. Miller, ubi supra. - Garcilasso,
Com. Real. Parte 1, lib. 5, cap. 1.]

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 of grain or vegetable. *23

[Footnote 23: Cieza de Leon, Cronica, cap. 73.

The remains of these ancient excavations still excite the wonder
of the modern traveller. See Stevenson, Residence in S. America,
vol. I. p. 359. - Also McCulloh, Researches, p. 358.]

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 appearance 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
manner. *24

[Footnote 24: Acosta, lib. 4, cap. 36. - Garcilasso, Com. Real.,
Parte 1, lib. 5, cap. 3.]

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

[Footnote 25: Ibid., Parte 1, lib. 5, cap. 2.]

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 neighbouring
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

[Footnote 26: Sarmiento, Relacion, Ms., cap. 19. - Garcilasso,
Com. Real, Parte 1, lib. 6, cap. 36; lib. 7, cap. 1. - Herrera,
Hist. General. dec. 5, lib. 4, cap. 3.]

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 vegetation.
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

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 cassava-tree 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

[Footnote 27: The prolific properties of the banana are shown by
M. de Humboldt, who states that its productiveness, as compared
with that of wheat, is as 133 to 1, and with that of the potato,
as 44 to 1. (Essai Politique sur le Royaume de la Nouvelle
Espagne, Paris, 1827, tom. II. p. 389.) It is a mistake to
suppose that this plant was not indigenous to South America. The
banana-leaf has been frequently found in ancient Peruvian tombs.]

[Footnote 28: The misnomer of ble de Turquie shows the popular
error. Yet the rapidity of its diffusion through Europe and
Asia, after the discovery of America, is of itself sufficient to
show that it could not have been indigenous to the Old World, and
have so long remained generally unknown there.]

[Footnote 29: Acosta, lib. 4, cap. 16.

The saccharine matter contained in the maize-stalk is much
greater in tropical countries than in more northern latitudes; so
that the natives in the former may be seen sometimes sucking it
like the sugarcane. One kind of the fermented liquors, sora,
made from the corn, was of such strength, that the use of it was
forbidden by the Incas, at least to the common people. Their
injunctions do not seem to have been obeyed so implicitly in this
instance as usual.]

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 coca
(Erythroxylum Peruvianum), 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

[Footnote 30: Garcilasso, Com. Real., Parte 1, lib. 2, cap. 25.]

[Footnote 31: The pungent leaf of the betel was in like manner
mixed with lime when chewed. (Elphinstone, History of India,
London, 1841, vol. I. p. 331.) The similarity of this social
indulgence, in the remote East and West, is singular.]

[Footnote 32: Ondegardo, Rel. Seg., Ms. - Acosta, lib. 4, cap.
22. - Stevenson, Residence in S. America, vol. II. p. 63. - Cieza
de Leon, Cronica, cap. 96.]

[Footnote 33: A traveller (Poeppig) noticed in the Foreign
Quarterly Review, (No. 33,) expatiates on the malignant effects
of the habitual use of the cuca, as very similar to those
produced on the chewer of opium. Strange that such baneful
properties should not be the subject of more frequent comment
with other writers! I do not remember to have seen them even
adverted to.]

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 neighbouring 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 centuries. *35

[Footnote 34: Malte-Brun, book 86.

The potato, found by the early discoverers in Chili, Peru, New
Granada, and all along the Cordilleras of South America, was
unknown in Mexico, - an additional proof of the entire ignorance
in which the respective nations of the two continents remained of
one another. M. de Humboldt, who has bestowed much attention on
the early history of this vegetable, which has exerted so
important an influence on European society, supposes that the
cultivation of it in Virginia, where it was known to the early
planters, must have been originally derived from the Southern
Spanish colonies. Essai Politique, tom. II. p. 462.]

[Footnote 35: While Peru, under the Incas, could boast these
indigenous products, and many others less familiar to the
European, it was unacquainted with several of great importance,
which, since the Conquest, have thriven there as on their natural
soil. Such are the olive, the grape, the fig, the apple, the
orange, the sugar-cane. None of the cereal grains of the Old
World were found there. The first wheat was introduced by a
Spanish lady of Trujillo, who took great pains to disseminate it
among the colonists, of which the government, to its credit, was
not unmindful. Her name was Maria de Escobar. History, which is
so much occupied with celebrating the scourges of humanity,
should take pleasure in commemorating one of its real

Chapter V:

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 any thing 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-land, "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

[Footnote 1: Walton, Historical and Descriptive Account of the
Peruvian Sheep, (London, 1811,) p. 115. This writer's comparison
is directed to the wool of the vicuna, the most esteemed of the
genus for its fleece.]

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

[Footnote 2: Ibid., p. 23, et seq. - Garcilasso, Com. Real.,
Parte 1, lib. 8, cap. 16. - Acosta, lib. 4, cap. 41.

Llama, according to Garcilasso de la Vega, is a Peruvian word
signifying "flock." (Ibid., ubi supra.) The natives got no milk
from their domesticated animals; nor was milk used, I believe, by
any tribe on the American continent.]

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, inferior 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

[Footnote 3: Ganado maior, ganado menor.]

[Footnote 4: The judicious Ondegardo emphatically recommends the
adoption of many of these regulations by the Spanish government,
as peculiarly suited to the exigencies of the natives. "En esto
de los ganados parescio haber hecho muchas constituciones en
diferentes tiempos e algunas tan utiles e provechosas para su
conservacion que conven dria que tambien guardasen agora." Rel.
Seg., Ms.]

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 Granada. *6

[Footnote 5: Malte-Brun, book 86.]

[Footnote 6: Ychu, called in the Flora Peruana Jarava; Class,
Monandria Digynia. See Walton, p. 17]

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 neighbourhood, 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.

[Footnote 7: Ondegardo, Rel. Prim., Ms.]

[Footnote 8: Sometimes even a hundred thousand mustered, when the
Inca hunted in person, if we may credit Sarmiento. "De donde
haviendose ya juntado cinquenta o sesenta mil Personas o cien mil
si mandado les era." Relacion, Ms., cap. 13.]

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

[Footnote 9: Ibid., ubi supra.

Charqui; hence, probably, says McCulloh, the term "jerked,"
applied to the dried beef of South America. Researches, p. 377.]

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

[Footnote 10: Sarmiento, Relacion, Ms. loc. cit. - Cieza de Leon,
Cronica, cap. 81. - Garcilasso, Com. Real. Parte 1, lib. 6, cap.

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

[Footnote 11: Acosta, lib. 4, cap. 41.]

[Footnote 12: "Ropas finisimas para los Reyes, que lo eran tanto
que parecian de sarga de seda y con colores tan perfectos quanto
se puede afirmar." Sarmiento, Relacion, Ms., cap. 13]

[Footnote 13: Pedro Pizarro, Descub. y Conq., Ms.

"Ropa finissima para los senores Ingas de lana de las Vicunias.
Y cierto fue tan prima esta ropa, como auran visto en Espana: por
alguna que alla fue luego que se gano este reyno. Los vestidos
destos Ingas eran camisetas desta opa: vnas pobladas de
argenteria de oro, otras de esmeraldas y piedras preciosas: y
algunas de plumas de aues: otras de solamente la manta. Para
hazer estas ropas, tuuiero y tienen tan perfetas colores de
carmesi, azul, amarillo, negro, y de otras suertes: que
verdaderamente tienen ventaja a las de Espana." Cieza de Leon,
Cronica, cap. 114.]

The natives showed a skill in other mechanical arts similar to
that displayed by their manufacturers 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

[Footnote 14: Ondegardo, Rel. Prim. et Seg., Mss. - Garcillaso,
Com. Real., Parte 1, lib. 5, cap. 7, 9, 13.]

[Footnote 15: At least, such was the opinion of the Egyptians,
who referred to this arrangement of castes as the source of their
own peculiar dexterity in the arts. See Diodorus Sic., lib. 1,
sec. 74.]

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.

[Footnote 16: Ulloa, Not. Amer., ent. 21. - Pedro Pizarro,
Descub. y Conq., Ms. - Cieza de Leon, Cronica, cap. 114. -
Condamine, Mem. ap. Hist. de l'Acad. Royale de Berlin, tom. II.
p. 454-456.

The last writer says, that a large collection of massive gold
ornaments of very rich workmanship was long preserved in the
royal treasury of Quito. But on his going there to examine them,
he learned that they had just been melted down into ingots to
send to Carthagena, then besieged by the English! The art of war
can flourish only at the expense of all the other arts.]
That they should have accomplished these difficult works with
such tools as they possessed, is truly wonderful. It was
comparatively easy to cast and even to 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
so 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.

[Footnote 17: They had turquoises, also, and might have had
pearls, but for the tenderness of the Incas, who were unwilling
to risk the lives of their people in this perilous fishery! At
least, so we are assured by Garcilasso, Com. Real., Parte 1, lib.
8, cap. 23.]

[Footnote 18: "No tenian herramientas de hierro in azero."
Ondegardo, Rel. Seg., Ms. - Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 5, lib.
4, cap. 4.]

[Footnote 19: M. de Humboldt brought with him back to Europe one
of these metallic tools, a chisel, found in a silver mine opened
by the Incas not far from Cuzco. On an analysis, it was found to
contain 0.94 of copper, and 0.06 of tin. See Vues des
Cordilleres, p. 117.]

[Footnote 20: "Quoiqu'il en soit," says M. de la Condamine, "nous
avons vu en quelques autres ruines des ornemens du meme granit,
qui representoient des mufles d'animaux, dont les narines percees
portoient des anneaux mobiles de la meme pierre." Mem. ap. Hist.
de l'Acad. Royale de Berlin, tom. II. p. 452.]

[Footnote 21: See the History of the Conquest of Mexico, Book 1,
chap. 5.]

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 horizontal
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

[Footnote 22: Garcilasso, Com. Real., Parte 1, lib. 8, cap. 25.]

[Footnote 23: Ibid., Parte 1, lib. 5, cap. 7; lib. 6, cap. 8. -
Ondegardo, Rel. Seg., Ms.

This, which Bonaparte thought so incredible of the little island
of Loo Choo, was still more extraordinary in a great and
flourishing empire like Peru; - the country, too, which contained
within its bowels the treasures that were one day to furnish
Europe with the basis of its vast metallic currency.]

[Footnote 24: Ulloa, Not. Amer., ent. 21.]

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 ill-regulated aspirations after the beautiful,
that belong to a semi-civilized people.

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

[Footnote 25: It is the observation of Humboldt. "Il est
impossible d'examiner attentivement un seul edifice du temps des
Incas, sans reconnoitre le meme type dans tous les autres qui
couvrent le dos des Andes, sur une longueur de plus de quatre
cent cinquante lieues, depuis mille jusqu'a quatre mille metres
d'elevation au-dessus du niveau de l'Ocean. On dirait qu'un seul
architecte a construit ce grand nombre de monumens." Vues des
Cordilleres, p. 197.]

[Footnote 26: Ulloa, who carefully examined these bricks,
suggests that there must have been some secret in their
composition, - so superior in many respects to our own
manufacture, - now lost. Not. Amer., ent. 20.]

[Footnote 27: Ibid., ubi supra.]

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 well-fitted 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.

[Footnote 28: Among others, see Acosta, lib. 6, cap. 15. -
Robertson, History of America, (London, 1796,) vol. III. p. 213.]

[Footnote 29: Ondegardo, Rel. Seg., Ms. - Ulloa, Not. Amer., ent.
Humboldt, who analyzed the cement of the ancient structures at
Cannar, says that it is a true mortar, formed of a mixture of
pebbles and a clayey marl. (Vues des Cordilleres, p. 116.)
Father Velasco is in raptures with an "almost imperceptible kind
of cement" made of lime and a bituminous substance resembling
glue, which incorporated with the stones so as to hold them
firmly together like one solid mass, yet left nothing visible to
the eye of the common observer. This glutinous composition,
mixed with pebbles, made a sort of Macadamized road much used by
the Incas, as hard and almost as smooth as marble. Hist. de
Quito, tom. I. pp. 126-128.]

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 key-stone.

[Footnote 30: Condamine, Mem. ap. Hist. de l'Acad. Royale de
Berlin, tom. II. p. 448. - Antig. y Monumentos del Peru, Ms. -
Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 5, lib 4, cap. 4. - Acosta, lib. 6,
cap. 14. - Ulloa, Voyage to S. America, vol. I. p 469. -
Ondegardo, Rel. Seg., Ms.]

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 than 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.

[Footnote 31: "Simplicite, symetrie, et solidite, voila les trois
caracteres par lesquels se distinguent avantageusement tous les
edifices peruviens.' Humboldt, Vues des Cordilleres, p. 115.]

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.

[Footnote 32: The anonymous author of the Antig. y Monumentos del
Peru, Ms., gives us, at second hand, one of those golden
traditions which, in early times, fostered the spirit of
adventure. The tradition, in this instance, he thinks well
entitled to credit. The reader will judge for himself.
"It is a well-authenticated report, and generally received, that
there is a secret hall in the fortress of Cuzco, where an immense
treasure is concealed, consisting of the statues of all the
Incas, wrought in gold. A lady is still living, Dona Maria de
Esquivel, the wife of the last Inca, who has visited this hall,
and I have heard her relate the way in which she was carried to
see it.

"Don Carlos, the lady's husband, did not maintain a style of
living becoming his high rank. Dona Maria sometimes reproached
him, declaring that she had been deceived into marrying a poor
Indian under the lofty title of Lord or Inca. She said this so
frequently, that Don Carlos one night exclaimed, 'Lady! do you
wish to know whether I am rich or poor? You shall see that no
lord nor king in the world has a larger treasure than I have.'
Then covering her eyes with a handkerchief he made her turn round
two or three times, and, taking her by the hand, led her a short
distance before he removed the bandage. On opening her eyes,
what was her amazement! She had gone not more than two hundred
paces, and descended a short flight of steps, and she now found
herself in a large quadrangular hall, where, ranged on benches
round the walls, she beheld the statues of the Incas, each of the
size of a boy twelve years old, all of massive gold! She saw
also many vessels of gold and silver. 'In fact,' she said, 'it
was one of the most magnificent treasures in the whole world!'"]

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 hemispheres.

[Footnote 33: Ante, chap. 1.]

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

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 overawed 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 loyalty, 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

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

[Footnote 34: Count Carli has amused himself with tracing out the
different points of resemblance between the Chinese and the
Peruvians. The emperor of China was styled the son of Heaven or
of the Sun. He also held a plough once a year in presence of his
people, to show his respect for agriculture. And the solstices
and equinoxes were noted, to determine the periods of their
religious festivals. The coincidences are curious. Lettres
Americaines, tom. II. pp. 7, 8.]

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 founded 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 made it superfluous to assert
this will by 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
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
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.

[Footnote 35: "Era muy principal intento que la gente no holgase,
que dava causa a que despues que los Ingas estuvieron en paz
hacer traer de Quito al Cuzco piedra que venia de provincia en
provincia para hacer casas para si o pa el Sol en gran cantidad,
y del Cuzco llevalla a Quito pa el mismo efecto, . . . . . y asi
destas cosas hacian los Ingas muchas de poco provecho y de
escesivo travajo en que traian ocupadas las provincias
ordinariamte, y en fin el travajo era causa de su conservacion."
Ondegardo, Rel. Prim., Ms. - Also Antig. y Monumentos del Peru,

[Footnote 36: This was literally gold dust; for Ondegardo states,
that, when governor of Cuzco, he caused great quantities of gold
vessels and ornaments to be disinterred from the sand in which
they had been secreted by the natives. "Que toda aquella plaza
del Cuzco le sacaron la tierra propia, y se llevo a otras partes
por cosa de gran estima, e la hincheron de arena de la costa de
la mar, como hasta dos palmos y medio en algunas partes, mas
sembraron por toda ella muchos vasos de oro e plata, y hovejuelas
y hombrecillos pequenos de lo mismo, lo cual se ha sacado en
mucha cantidad, que todo lo hemos visto; desta arena estaba toda
la plaza, quando yo fui a governar aquella Ciudad; e si fue
verdad que aquella se trajo de ellos, afirman e tienen puestos en
sus registros, paresceme que sea ansi, que toda la tierra junta
tubo necesidad de entender en ello, por que la plaza es grande, y
no tiene numero las cargas que en ella entraron; y la costa por
lo mas cerca esta mas de nobenta leguas a lo que creo, y cierto
yo me satisfice, porque todos dicen, que aquel genero de arena,
no lo hay hasta la costa." Rel. Seg., Ms]

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

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

[Footnote 37: "Y si Dios permitiera que tubieran quien con celo
de Cristiandad, y no con ramo de codicia, en lo pasado, les
dieran entera noticia de nuestra sagrada Religion, era gente en
que bien imprimiera, segun vemos por lo que ahora con la buena
orden que hay se obra." Sarmiento, Relacion, Ms., cap. 22.

But the most emphatic testimony to the merits of the people is
that afforded by Mancio Sierra Lejesema, the last survivor of the
early Spanish Conquerors, who settled in Peru. In the preamble
to his testament, made, as he states, to relieve his conscience,
at the time of his death, he declares that the whole population,
under the Incas, was distinguished by sobriety and industry; that
such things as robbery and theft were unknown; that, far from
licentiousness, there was not even a prostitute in the country;
and that every thing was conducted with the greatest order, and
entire submission to authority. The panegyric is somewhat too
unqualified for a whole nation, and may lead one to suspect that
the stings of remorse for his own treatment of the natives goaded
the dying veteran into a higher estimate of their deserts than
was strictly warranted by facts. Yet this testimony by such a
man at such a time is too remarkable, as well as too honorable to
the Peruvians, to be passed over in silence by the historian; and
I have transferred the document in the original to Appendix, No.

[Footnote 38: "Sans doute l'homme moral du Perou etoit infiniment
plus perfectionne que l'Europeen." Carli, Lettres Americaines,
tom. I. p. 215.]

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 on 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 in 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 pleasures 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.

[Footnote 39: "Heran muy dados a la lujuria y al bever, tenian
acceso carnal con las hermanas y las mugeres de sus padres como
no fuesen sus mismas madres, y aun algunos avia que con ellas
mismas lo hacian y ansi mismo con sus hijas. Estando borrachos
tocavan algunos en el pecado nefando, emborrachavanse muy a
menudo, y estando borrachos todo lo que el demonio les traia a la
voluntad hacian Heran estos orejones muy soberbios y

. . . . . Tenian otras muchas maldades que por ser muchas no las
digo." Pedro Pizarro, Descub. y Conq., Ms.

These random aspersions of the hard conqueror show too gross an
ignorance of the institutions of the people to merit much
confidence as to what is said of their character.]

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 over-refinement in legislation, - the
last defects to have been looked for, certainly, in the American

Note. I have not thought it necessary to swell this Introduction
by an inquiry into the origin of 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
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 R1 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
endeavours 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
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,
he 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
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 endeavoured 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

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


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