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While in the silence of history it becomes impossible to positively know certain facts, there is little merit, on the other hand, in raising mere doubts by skepticism. For example, we have seen the mere whim urged, that there was no such person as Julius Cæsar or William Shakespeare. But the person desirous of investigating and ascertaining the truth in such matters must pass these silly equivocations with contempt. Are we to discredit the existence of a race, in the full tide of their prosperity as lately as the year 1521, and account them merely traditionary or chimerical because the roots of giant trees are growing upon the tops of their palaces, and their gorgeous temples buried in the leafy shadows of almost impenetrable forests ? Not at all. Copan, Palenque, Uxmal and Tula, are as well, if not better, defined and authenticated than Gizeh's immortal Pyramid of Cheops, or the subterranean laby.. rinths of the Catacombs. The explorations of Champollion, Layard, and Bayard Taylor, upon the borders of the Nile, and among the mighty wrecks which strew the sites of ancient Babylon and Nineveh, are not more strangely interesting than the marvelous cities and giant works of architecture so recently visited by John L. Stephens, Brantz Meyer, Mr. Norman, and Mr. Squiers, and so beautifully illustrated in the great work of Lord Kingsborough, and described with such romantic interest by Prescott, the American historian.
Without entering into any hypothesis or speculation touching the identity of Central American monuments and their hieroglyphics, with those of Egypt or the oriental world; or, adopting the conjecture of Dr. Siguenza, that St. Thomas the Apostle was identical with the famous Aztec divinity, Quetzalcoatl (about whose head the sun breathed a perpetual halo, and wherever he traveled preaching the true gospel corn grew to twice its usual size, fruits were in their fullest perfection, and birds hymned unending harmonies in a blooming paradise), there is, in this wonderful region of Central America, unsurpassed for its natural beauty and delicious climate, a mysterious charm upon every hand, from the multiplicity of ruins scattered around in all directions. Upon the borders of the magnificent Lake Nicaragua, whose banks are covered with palms, which look like so many giant plumes, while the shores are covered with a dense mass of verdure, coming down like a wall to the very edge of the water, there are the broad leaves of the plantain, the gigantic ceiba, the slender cocoa palm, beside a hundred other strange varieties bound together by vines covered with flowers, and hanging their long, pliant tendrils from every stem. In this mass of impenetrable verdure, which never fades, wild screaming parrots and noisy macaws glide in and out; and there is heard the perpetual chatter of apes and nimble mon. keys, leaping from bough to bough, and plucking the golden fruits which cluster upon those tropical trees. And a short distance to the south of this can be found the rival of the fabulous bird Roc, of the Arabian Nights, in that giant eagle. the Condor of the Andes. And throughout this portion of Guatemala and Mexico is to be seen almost everywhere the phenix of the vegetable world, the superb AGAVE AMERICANA, the century plant, which, after receiving the suns of a hundred summers upon its head, blooms but once, and perishes.
But, on the other hand, we are nou to accept everything, toucn. ing ancient or modern Mexico, with gross gullibility, such as the History of Mexico by the famous Theodore Bry, or Gage's work, in the General History of the Travels of Prevost, or the great work entitled La Galerie Agreable du Mond, which says that i ambassadors were sent in former times to the Court of Mexico mounted upon elephants.".
The plain facts are wese : here was a mighty wilderness .n the western world rich in its tropical luxuriance, a more than Arcadian region, under the name of Anahuac, the earliest twilight of whose history represents it as the home of a shadowy race called the Olmecs, whom the eye of tradition alone can discover through the thickening obscurity of the past; these were followed by the Toltecs, who were without doubt the Greeks of America, or more nearly resembled in their mighty monuments the Phænician ancestry of the Athenians ; the pyramid of Cholula being in all probability coeval with that of Cheops.
6. The empire of the Aztecs," says an American author, (by whom the three states of Mexico, Tezuco, and Tlacopan, under the general name of Anahuac, were holden,) “lasted about two hundred years, when it was conquered by the Spaniards under Cortez, being the same territory which had been possessed by the Toltecs, a race that passed mysteriously away, leaving a multitude of monuments which marked them as a mighty and wonderful people, who never, according to historians, stained their altars with human blood, nor debased their banquets by the still more horrible custom of cannibalism, as was the case with their Aztec successors, and also to a certain, but much smaller, extent with the Tezcu. cans.
“These Toltecs, who disappeared so mysteriously and unaccountably, were in all probability the founders of those vast cities whose solid superstructures of stone and giant works of architecture rival in beauty and magnificence, even in their ruins, the mighty wrecks which lie scattered in the desert sands of Egypt; but whence these Toltecs came, or whither they have vanished, must remain forever an inscrutable secret; all that we know is that a wonderful race, far advanced in civilization, once held their home in the Great Valley of Mexico : but when we seek to know their habits or their history, an unseen hand is stretched forth, and an impenetrable curtain of clouds is drawn across the sun of their glory, and we are left standing in double darkness, without a star to light the pathway of our wanderings."?..
In 1325, the Aztecs descended into the Vale of Mexico, whose Eden-like beauty drew from the honest old soldier of Castile,
Bernal Diaz, the exclamation : “When I beheld the scenes which were around me, I thought within myself, this was the garden of the world.” Fenced in by a circular wall of mountains lay the matchless valley, and shining along it for seventy miles were the seven silver lakes, including the fresh tide of Chalco, the Sweet Water, and the miniature salt sea of Tezcuco. Within the latter lake, upon the islands of Accocolco, whose bog-like character required them to bring stone from the mainland, they planted the first rude huts, and amid the reeds laid the foundation of an empire, which, in an existence of three hundred years, rose to the pitch of occidental grandeur with a rapidity unparalleled; and from this mimic sea the Venice of the West lifted her thousand temples and palaces out of the blue bosom of the waters.
By the beginning of the sixteenth century, their sway extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the region of the barbarous Olmecs upon the north, to the furthest limits of Guatemala upon the south. Their language was spoken by seven tribes in and around the Great Valley. They were the Zochimilcas, Topanecas, Colhuas, Tlahuicas Mexicans, and Tlascalans. The latter tribe threw off their allegiance, and repulsed by repeated defeat, the other six tribes had established themselves as an independent republic, some seventy miles from the city of Tenochtitlan, or Mexico, where they remained the rivals for years, and ultimately became the cause of the final overthrow and downfall of the Aztec power.
Of the conquest of Hernando Cortez, it is unnecessary to speak at length, or to tell how he cut his cables, and stood out by night from Cuba, in search of the unknown empire of the west, to the time when he planted his triumphant banner of the Cross and of Castile on the pinnacle of the Temple of Mexitli, and was master of the mightiest monarch that ever swayed the rod of empire in the land of the setting sun. Tracing a course with a handful of chivalrous associates, until by unequaled prowess he had conquered countless hosts, and leagued them to himself and to his cause ; how they had started forth a few poor soldiers of fortune, adventurers, whose chief means consisted of a suit of mail or a stout-limbed steed, with scarce ducats enough to have bought a peasant's hut upon the slopes of the Sierra Morena, or a fisherman's shed on the silver shores of the Guadalquiver, by a sudden freak of fortune, and their own indefatigable fortitude and enterprise, suddenly changed to the possessors of riches which would have purchased the palaces of a Venetian duke, or the Doge himself. Thus bidding defiance to Velasquez, in Cuba, and the threatened thunders of the Bishop of Burgos, in Spain, Cortez burst in upon a silent land with his few cavaliers, emerged suddenly on the golden glories of El Dorado, and found himself, like Sindbad of the Oriental romance, in the midst of the valley of diamonds.
It is unnecessary to dwell upon this theme, the history of the conquest of Mexico has grown familiar, and the exploits of
chivalry in the New World have become as classic as the Crusades. The heroism of the last great chieftain of the Aztecs, who bore the barbarian torture of the Christians with unfaltering fortitude, calling the glowing embers“ flowers of fire,” draws from the most distinguished man of his day, Alexander Von Humboldt, the expression—"Ce trait est digne de plus beau temps de la Gréce et de Rome. Sous toutes les zones quelle que soit la couleur des hommes, la langage des ames fortes lorsqu'elles luttent contre malheur. Nous avons vu plus haut quelle fut la fin tragique de cet infortune Quauhtemotzin."
Without further pursuing the subject of Aztec history, we will pass on without stopping to speculate too curiously upon the various hypotheses touching the origin of the inhabitants of this portion of America : we will not insist upon their being one of the lost tribes of Israel, as Dr. Siguenza and Lord Kingsborough will have it, nor with certain others, that they are of Siberian origin ; for in their likeness to Jewish or Asiac tribes there is not sufficient identity, nor even with the Egyptian, to warrant an assertion that they are the same race. Of their variance from the North American Indian (the red men), there needs no proof, even to the most casual observer; the difference is so distinctive, indeed, from the Caucasian, the Mongolian, the African and Red American races, that the mere glance is sufficient to carry conviction of their separate individuality, as a race ; and the more careful examination of the ethnologist goes but to strengthen the fact of their perfectly distinct character, physiologically and phrenologically.
It might be considered just, with great propriety, to class these remarkable specimens of humanity with fabulous existences, if the truth of their being rested upon mere individual assertion—BUT HERE THEY ARE! LIVING ! and open to public view and examination -not merely imaginary creatures, like the strange men of Africa mentioned by Herodotus, the phonix or the mermaid. Not a fictitious people, like the fauns and dryads of the Arcadian vales— not the moonlight fairies—the little gray men of the Norse legends -not nymph, sprite, nor elf, but human beings, of flesh and blood -the remnant of a strange and wonderful race, the greatest marvel of the land of wonders, and of the nineteenth century-more strange than the vast skeletons of the mastodon, which have been exhumed in the same region, but, like the black swan of New Holland, formerly regarded as a myth, but now a well-established existence. In short, as curious and as well substantiated as the singular sightless fish of the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.
In brief, these Aztec Children present the most extraordinary phenomenon in the human race ever witnessed by the modern world: let their origin be what it may-let their history and their country's history be ever so vague and traditionary-doubt the truth of Velasquez's narrative or believe it wholly, these children present themeselves the eighth wonder of the world. They are, without exception, the most remarkable and intensely interesting objects that were ever presented to the European public.
In America they have been the marvel of a million beholders, and wherever they travel they must become the centre of attraction of every inquiring mind, and will doubtless prove a puzzle to the profoundest philosophers and ethnologists of the age.
All the learned and scientific men in the United States have submitted them to critical examination, and unite in pronouncing them the most unique and extraordinary beings that have ever fallen under observation.
The attention of European men of science, ethnologists, physiologists, philosophers and physicians, has been called to these most curious and remarkable children. They have critically examined and fully investigated the subject, and with the scientific men of America have united in pronouncing the AZTEC Children the most startling and extraordinary curiosities that have been exhibited in the present century.