Lapas attēli
PDF
ePub

are historically or mythologically to be considered. Suppose, as M. Champollion is sanguine enough to expect, he should be able to make out Manetho's succession of Egyptian kings, what would this Pseudology two irgus amount to? What would it prove? Nothing but the known antiquity of known falsehoods.

Our next position is, that we know nothing of the history of the Jews, unless from the books of the Old Testament; the profane writers taking no notice of the Jews as a nation, until after the settlement of Alexandria.

Josephus wrote two books against Appion, expressly to prove, that the Jewish nation had been anciently known, and noticed by the writers of other nations. We have no room to spare; and, therefore, we refer for a full and complete reply to every authority cited by Josephus, to the Opuscula of Daniel Wyttenbach; Amsterd. 1821. Vol. ii. p. 416, in the Dissertation de Unitate Dei. The passage we refer to, extends from p. 416 to 431. Those who have an opportunity of consulting Wyttenbach, will not require us to dwell longer on this part of our subject.

We have next to show the uncertainty of the first 400 years of Roman History.

This uncertainty is complained of by Polybius, by Dionysius Halicarnass. by Livy, and by Plutarch. In the year of Rome, 362, 390 years before the Christian era, Brennus, the Gaul, laid Rome completely in ashes. This of course destroyed all public documents, and left no authentic sources of previous history remaining. But it is enough to refer to the dissertation of M. de Beaufort Sur l'incertitude de l'Histoire Romaine, which, we think, fully settles this point, if the burning of Rome by the Gauls, were not, in itself, an event calculated to remove all doubt. Nor did the vanity of the Romans perinit their writers to tell the truth, when it was against them. As in the case of Porsenna, and of the Carthaginians.

Nert we assert, that we have no history, among profane historians, on which reliance can be placed, as to the Assyrians, Babylonians, or Arabians. What author, likely to have knowledge, what original author, what compiler of credit has reached us, on the history of these nations? we know of none, except the fragments of Berosus, (268 A. C.) preserved by Josephus, and in the extracts of Syncellus and others from Alexander Polyhistor, and the quotations of Eusebius. They are of authority to show the idle tales of the Babyloniarrs and Chaldeans, as to the Cosmogony; he furnishes us also with the list of ten kings, who reigned at Babylon before the flood, during ten Sares, or 432,000 years. But surely such accounts cannot be considered as authentic history. The Chaldean account of the Deluge, extracted by Eusebius from Berosus, cont. App. I. 1. $ 9. is so similar to the Mosaic account, that no doubt can be entertained but the one was borrowed from the other. Aş to Berosus himself, he seems to have been quite as credulous as any of his predecessors.

Neither is any thing known of Persian history, unless upon the authority of compilers subsequent to the Christian era. The accounts of the wars of Alexander and Darius, as the very learned and ingenious Mr. Richardson has briefly given them to us, in the preface to his Persian Dictionary, are extremely at variance in the Greek and Persian historians. The probability would be decidedly with the Persian narrations, but for some passages in the orations of Demosthenes. The subject we are now treating, would have been handled with more learning and ability by Mr. Richardson, than any other author we know of.

Of the Hindoo history and chronology, we shall say nothing: the subject is exhausted by Messrs. Gentil, Bailly, and Playfair, on one side, and by Mr. Davis, and Mr. Bentley, in the Asiatic transactions, on the other. The latter gentlemen have shown in what way the pretended ancient observations of the Hindoos may he obtained by calculating backward; and that the famous Sourga Siddhanta of the Hindoos, has no pretensions to date beyond the middle of the 11th century. De Lambre has given a full review of this curious question, in his Astronomie des Indiens, p. 400-556. v. i. of his Hist. de l'Astr. ancienne. Paris, 1817. To the same author we refer for a full and fair account of the astronomy of the Chinese, in the dissertation preceding, of the same volume. We know of no authority for any part of Chinese history beyond our Christian era.

As to modern history, every body knows that the whole of it, excepting the most general outline, is enveloped in obscurity and contradiction. Let any one peruse the discordant histories of the Reformation; or, in our own day, let him read the English account of the naval engagements between the Americans and the British, during the last war, as told by Mr. James, (lately deceased,) and then read the official despatches on the American side. The difference is such, as to excite the most indignant surprise on this side of the Atlantic, at the utter disregard to all the obligations of veracity.which the British historian exhibits; lying, without mercy, to wipe off the disgrace of frequent defeats: the British, on the contrary, will hardly give credit to facts, which, if true, are so much to their national discredit. Let any one peruse the observations on Hume's History, by Mr. Bro. die, and the misrepresentations of a man, whose motives to partiality are so difficult to divine, will appear surprising

ART. II.-MEXICO.

1.--Memoria del Secretario de Estado y del despacho Univer

sal de Justicia, dc. 1827. 2.-Memoria del Secretario de Estado y de la Hacienda, &c.

Mexico. Enero. 1827.

FROM the period of its earliest settlement by Europeans, Mexico has been the object of deep interest and eager curiosity. The general and philosophic inquirer felt a solicitude for some favourite theory, founded on the peculiarity of her history, and the policy of her rulers: the votary of science had heard too much of the physical peculiarities of her soil, not to be restless under exclusion; and the politician and the merchant, whilst framing new schemes of political influence and personal emolument, there fixed their gaze, as the spot best suited for both. To the latter, Mexico was not distinguished from the rest of Spanish America, except by the greater density of its population, and the supposed intellectual advance of its inhabitants; but, to one who could feel and acknowledge the force of abstract impulses, and the influence of literary associations, it was especially attractive. History and poetry had combined to excite curiosity, in relation to the realms, whither no eye had penetrated; and many a one has pined to visit scenes, of which so much had been reported, and so little known. To visit Mexico, the seat of ancient empire and heroic deeds, rising, Venice-like, from the bosom of the waters, with her palaces, her floating gardens, and snowy hills_10 pursue the path which led the Spanish soldiers over the mountains of Puebla, whence, from regions of eternal snow, they viewed the paradise that was to compensate for all their troubles-0 perform a pilgrimage to the fancied sepulchres of the Aztec monarchs, have formed the basis of many a' brilliant vision, and caused many a poet's fancy to glow.

The more calculating were liable-to no less powerful allurements. The foreign statesman could foresee, without much sagacity, in the crumbling fabric of Spanish power, and in the general advance of the age, the day, when the gates to these hidden regions were to be burst open, and could easily calculate the consequences that abounded. The merchant saw, in the relaxation of colonial monopoly, a vast untrodden field of enterprise and adventure. The diplomatic net was woven; and, we may perhaps say, the invoices were prepared, in expectation of the period, when the iron grasp of European dominion was to be relax:1, and the restrictions of ancient institutions were to be removed.

on these, particularly, the revolution in New Spain, and its

a

happy result, produced an equally lively impression, and all rushed on with equal avidity, to gratify curiosity or share the spoil. In Great Britain, it became the occasion of the wildest speculations, not of a mere commercial nature, but of a more uncertain, and, as experience has shown, of a more desperate character: the gambling propensities of a monied community were put in action by the artifices of stockjobbers, and the novel inducements they were enabled to hold out; loans were effected with no other security than the faith of a nation of untried principles and capacity, and investments made in mines, of which little was known but that they had once been productive, and of whose present condition there was no further evidence than ex parte certificates, and glowing statements of those who adorned the article for market. What the result has been we all know. Among those immediately interested, a bitter disappointment, that is coldly commiserated; while the public mind has been filled with an honest indignation against the individuals in whose prolific brains these schemes originated, and with contempt for the weakness that allowed them to succeed.

In relation to our own countrymen, whose commercial enterprise is proverbial, results of a similar nature were perceptible. Every Spanish port was crowded with adventurers from all parts of our Union ; each one jostled his neighbour; and, beside the foreign competition, there soon ensued such a collision between citizens of the same country, as to prevent the benefits which every one anticipated. The markets being suddenly overstocked, many, in the outset, were ruined, while those that persevered, were compelled to suffer not only the common anxieties of commercial life, but anxieties enhanced by the peculiar habits of the people with whom they were obliged to associate, and the still lingering effects of the ancient political establishment. Fortunately, their schemes and speculations were merely of a commercial nature; and as in these, unlike the lottery of mining operations, much depends on intellect and exertion, however mortified and disappointed many may have been, they are safe from the reproach of having been accessary to schemes of doubtful character, and from compunction at having sacrificed their capital in speculations, which their sober sense must utterly condemn. Our merchants, however, even such as have been successful, have a tale of injury and sufferings to repeat, which will appear almost incredible; and the contrast which is presented between their hope and experience, will afford a solemn lesson for the benefit of those who follow them.

With respect to our immediate neighbour, the Republic of Mexico, disappointment has not been confined to the classes to which we have just referred, but is general, (we had almost said universal,) and seems to be the theme of all, whom business or VOL. II. -N0. 4.

44

a

curiosity has made acquainted with the disposition and manners of the inhabitants. This unanimity is, we confess, to our minds at least, prima facie evidence of the soundness of the conclusion. The sojourners in Mexico, complain that they have been disappointed, not only in the physical aspect of the country, but in the character of the people, and the narrow limits within which intellectual inquiry of all kinds is confined,--that, let investigation be directed as it may, it is baffled and frustrated by circumstances over which they have no control ; that the opportunities, which such individuals as have gone before them are said to have enjoyed, exist no longer ; and that, even when relinquishing in despair all efforts to prosecute scientific research or liberal inquiry, they have been willing to content themselves with the great spectacle of a community in the process of revolution, they have found so large a remnant of ancient habits and manners, as to disturb all theory, and darken all anticipation.

In raising inordinate expectation of all kinds on this subject, no work has had so large a share as the Political Essay on New Spain. Beside being the only book that carried with it the stamp of authority, the peculiar intellectual habits of its author, his previous pursuits apparently little calculated to encourage the vagaries of fancy, or to render him liable to deception, as well as the imposing details of his work, gave it an air of impartiality, and great weight of authority. We feel little disposed, at this time, to enter into a minute examination of the various statements of this justly celebrated Essay; but we have little hesitation in avowing our conviction that the general impression it leaves on the mind is erroneous, and our belief that the stranger, who imagines he has taken an antidote to the illusions of history, so called, by poring over Humboldt's statistical details, will find himself wofully disappointed ; that his estimate of Spanish American character is incorrect; his delineation of society and manners unwarrantably coloured; and that the strain of uniform complacency, which, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, was so natural, is such as none of the weary sojourners, whom either curiosity or the speculating passion of the age has induced to follow his steps, have ever been able to adopt. Not being of either of these descriptions of persons, we may be excused for being exempt from that exasperation of feeling, under which some of our contemporaries seem to labour, and may be permitted, whilst on this point, to pay the tribute of respect to which the author to whom we have referred is justly entitled.* It is allowable, in our opinion, to point out the inaccuracies which may be detected; but it is a mere act of justice, in doing so, to allow their due weight to circumstances which do not seem always to have been

Vid. London Quarterly Review, No. 62.

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »