« FöregåendeFortsätt »
shows what he thought of the spherical figure of the earth. Indeed, that doctrine was too well established by the Egyptians to admit of any doubt, (as appears from their monuments, and other evidences,) anterior not only to Columbus's voyage hither, but before the age of Abraham, the patri. arch.
Recent discoveries in the north having shown that Asia and America, at the west, aproximate near to each other, and Iceland and Greenland toward the east, several writers on the subject of American colonization, have thought it much easier to bring the original inhabitants of this country hither, across the ice, or in canoes, than by the southern route, through the Atlantic seas and islands; and some of their number, Dr. Robertson in particular, rejoices in having thus solved with apparent ease a complicated question, that for a long time had puzzled their predeces
It would seem, however, from recent discoveries in Central America, that these gentlemen are not yet "out of the woods ;” that they have raised the shout of victory before the battle has been fought, much more ere a victory has been won.
In our eagerness to bring this question to a close, we forgot to mention the theory of a learned New-England divine, who wrote in the seventeenth century; the Rev. Cotton Mather, of Massachusetts. He supposed the Indians were Europeans seduced here by the devil, to keep them out of the sound of the silver trumpets of the gospel, which at that time were shaking the papal throne to its foundation. It is impossible, however, to do justice to the learned doctor, without giving his own words: “But, as probably the devil, seducing the first inhabitants of America into it, there. in aimed at the leading them and their posterity out of the sound of the silver trumpets of the gospel, then to be heard through the Roman empire: if the devil had any expectation, that by peopling America, he should utterly deprive any European of the two benefits, literature and religion, which dawned upon the miserable world, (one just before, the other just after the first famed navigation hither,) 't is to be hoped he will be disappointed of that expectation.” And again : “ The nations of the Continent now possessed by the New-Englanders, had been forlorn and wretched hea. then, ever since their first herding here; and though we know not when or how these Indians first became inhabitants of this mighty Continent, yet we may guess, that probably the devil decoyed these miserable salv. ages hither, in hopes that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ would never come here to destroy or disturb his absolute empire over them. But our Elliot (a celebrated missionary to the Indians,) was on such ill terms with the devil, as to alarm him with the silver trumpets of Heaven, in his territories, and make some noble and zealous attempts toward ousting him of his ancient possessions here. There were, I think, twenty several nations (if I may call them so,) of Indians, upon the spot of ground which fell under the influence of the three united colonies, (Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New.Haven,) and our Elliot was willing to rescue as many
of them as he could, from that old usurping landlord of America, who is, by the wrath of God, the prince of this world.”
Having referred at considerable length to the sayings and doings of the ancients upon the subject of American colonization, it will, probably, be expected that we should say something in relation to the discoveries al. leged to have been made by the Norwegians and the Welch-of the exploits of Erick the Red, and of Madoc, in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries, and before the attention of Columbus was directed hither. There is, however, something so indefinite in their accounts, so unsatisfactory in their conclusions, that we have thought proper to pass them over in silence, or rather, to leave them for the consideration of others.
It is not, we believe, pretended that discoveries or conquests were made by either, to which importance was attached, either at the time they were made, or afterward. They cannot, therefore, be a subject of profitable discussion.
Strabo remarks, that the conquests of Alexander made known the East, those of the Romans made known the West, and those of Mithridates of Pontus, the North.
Little, to be sure, was at that time said by either, of a Western Conti. nent, and less probably was known. 'Tis not, however, to be inferred from thence, that America was uncultivated, wild, or barbarous. The Greeks and Romans in their day, made, it is true, some considerable progress in the arts, and by trumpeting abroad their own fame, filled the world with their renown. It does not, however, says Dr. Johnson, follow, “because a few grasshoppers happen to fill the air with their chirck, that they are the only tenants of the field; for all that appears, the stately ox may be chewing its cud in the shade.” Is it not, then, possible that, without the fact being known to Europeans, America may have been inhabited by millions of civilized, happy, and intelligent beings, long before Cadmus carried letters into Greece, or Cecrops introduced a colony of Phænicians thither ? Let the ancient monuments, now in ruins, answer. " It was once debated," said Lord Erskine, “ whether a man falling from a given height, could get up and walk; while, however, the discussion was pending, a man who had thus fallen, did get up and walk; and so the argument ended.” Just so in the present case. The researches of Humboldt in South America, and more especially the discoveries recently made in Yucatan and elsewhere, by Stephens, Catherwood, Norman, and others, when more fully developed, and the hieroglyphics by them exhumed, more fully understood, we have no doubt will put to flight whole volumes of argument, and, at a period not far remote, settle the question of American colonization at once and for ever.
Stephens, in speaking of the ruins of Copan, observes :
“ The wall was of cut stone, well laid, and in a good state of preservation. We ascended by large stone steps, in some places perfect, and in others thrown down by trees, which had grown up between the crevi. ces, and reached a terrace, the form of which it was impossible to make out, from the density of the forest in which it was enveloped. Our guide cleared a way with his machette, and we passed, as it lay half-buried in the earth, a large fragment of stone elaborately sculptured, and came to the angle of a structure, with steps on the sides ; in form and appearance, so far as the trees would enable us to make it out, like the sides of a pyramid. We next came to a square stone column, about fourteen feet high, and three feet on each side, sculptured in very bold relief, and on all four of the sides from the base to the top. The front was the figure of a man, curiously and richly dressed, and the face evidently a portrait, solemn, stern, and well fitted to excite terror. The back was of a differ. ent design, unlike anything we had seen before ; and the sides were coy. ered with hieroglyphics. This our guide called an idol ; and before it was a large block of stone, also sculptured with figures and emblematical devices, which he called an altar. The sight of this unexpected monu. ment put at rest, at once and for ever, in our minds, all uncertainty in regard to the character of American antiquities; and gave us the assu. rance, that the objects we were in search of were interesting, not only as the remains of an unknown people, but as works of art; proving, like newly discovered historical records, that the people who once occupied the Continent of America, were not savages. With an interest, perhaps stronger than we had ever felt in wandering among the ruins of Egypt, we followed our guide, who conducted us through the forest, among half: buried fragments, to fourteen monuments, of the same character and appearance, some with more elegant designs, and some in workmanship equal to the finest monuments of the Egyptians. One displaced from its pedestal by enormous roots; another locked in the close embrace of branches of trees, and almost lifted out of the earth ; another hurled to the ground, and bound down by huge vines and creepers; and one standing, with its altar before it, in a grove of trees which grew around it, seemingly to shade and shroud it as a sacred thing. In the solemn still. ness of the woods, it seemed a divinity mourning over a fallen people. We then returned to the base of the pyramidal structure, and ascended it by regular stone steps ; in part, they were ornamented with sculptured figures, and rows of death's-heads. Climbing over the ruined top, we reached a terrace overgrown with trees; and crossing it, descended by stone steps into an area, so covered with trees, that at first we could not make out its form ; but which, on clearing the way with the machette, we ascertained to be a square, and with steps on all the sides, almost as per. fect as those of the Roman amphitheatre. The steps were ornamented with sculpture, and on the south side, about half-way up, forced out of its place by roots, was a colossal head, evidently a portrait. We ascended these steps, and reached a broad terrace a hundred feet high, overlooking the river and supported by a wall. The whole was covered with trees, and even at this height from the ground, were two gigantic Ceibas, or wild cotton-trees of India, above twenty feet in circumference, extending
their half-naked roots fifty, or a hundred feet around, binding down the ruins, and shading them with their branches. We sat down on the very edge of the wall, and strove, in vain, to penetrate the mystery by which we were surrounded. Who were the people that built this city ? In the ruined cities of Egypt-even in the long lost Petra, the stranger knows the story of the people whose vestiges are around him. America, say historians, was peopled by savages; but savages never reared these structures; savages never carved these stones. We asked the Indians who made them, and their dull answer was, 'Quien sabe ? who knows? There were no associations connected with the place ; none of those stirring recollections which hallow Rome, Athens, and
• The world's great mistress on the Egyptian plain ;'
but architecture, sculpture, and painting-all the arts which embellish life, had flourished in this overgrown forest; orators, warriors, and statesmen; beauty, ambition, and glory, had lived and passed away, and none knew that such things had been, or could tell of their past existence. Books, the records of knowledge, are silent on this theme. The city was desolate! No remnant of this race hangs round the ruins, with traditions handed down from father to son, and from generation to generation. It lay before us like a shattered bark in the midst of the ocean; her masts gone-her name effaced-her crew perished; and none to tell whence she came, to whom she belonged, how long on her voyage, or what caused her destruction ; her lost people to be traced only by some fancied resemblance in the construction of the vessel, and perhaps never to be known at all. The place where we sat-was it a citadel, from which an unknown people had sounded the trumpet of war ? or a temple for the worship of the God of peace ? or did the inhabitants worship the idols made with their own hands, and offer sacrifices on the stones before them? All was mystery-dark, impenetrable mystery-and every circumstance increased it. In Egypt, the colossal skeletons of gigantic temples stand in the unwatered sands, in all the nakedness of desolation ; here, an im. mense forest shrouded the ruins, hiding them from sight; heightening the impression and moral effect, and giving an intensity and almost wildness to the interest.
“ The extent of this ruined city along the river, is more than two miles. There is one monument on the opposite side of the river, at the distance of a mile, on the top of a mountain two thousand feet high. Whether the city ever crossed the river, and extended to that monument, it is impossible to say. All the rear is an unexplored forest, in which there may be ruins. There are no remains of palaces or private buildings, and the principal part is that which stands on the bank of the river, and may, perhaps, with propriety, be called the temple.
“ This temple is an oblong inclosure. The front, or river wall, extends on a right line north and south, six hundred and twenty-four feet, and is from sixty to ninety feet in height. It is made of cut stones, from three to six feet in length, and a foot and a half in breadth. In many places the stones have been thrown down by bushes growing out of the crevices; and in one place there is a small opening, from which the ruins are sometimes called by the Indians, Las Ventanas, or the windows. The other three sides consist of ranges of steps, and pyramidal structures, rising from thirty to one hundred and forty feet on the slope.
“Near the southwest corner of the river wall and the south wall, is a recess, which was probably once occupied by a colossal monument, fronting the water. Beyond are the remains of two small pyramidal structures, to the largest of which is attached a wall, running along the west bank of the river. This appears to have been a gateway, or principal entrance from the water. The south wall runs at right angles to the river, beginning with a range of steps about thirty feet high, and each step about eighteen inches square. At the southeast corner is a massive pyramidal structure, one hundred feet high on the slope. On the right, are other remains of terraces and pyramidal buildings; and here also was probably a gateway, by a passage about twenty feet wide, into a quad. rangular area two hundred and fifty feet square, two sides of which are massive pyramids, one hundred and twenty feet high on the slope.
“At the foot of these structures, and in different parts of the quadrangular area, are numerous remains of sculpture; among others a colossal monument richly sculptured, fallen and ruined. Behind it, fragments of sculpture thrown from their places by trees, are strewed and lying loose on the side of the pyramid, from the base to the top ; and among them our attention was forcibly arrested by rows of death's-heads of gigantic proportions, still standing in their places about half-way up the side of the pyramid. The effect was extraordinary. Among the fragments lying on the ground near this place, is a remarkable portrait. It is probably the portrait of some king, chieftain, or sage. The mouth is injured, and part of the ornament over the wreath that crowns the head. The expression is noble and severe, and the whole character shows a close imitation of nature. Another column, or idol, stands with its face to the east, about six feet from the base of the pyramidal wall. It is thirteen feet in height, four feet in front, and three deep, sculptured on all four of its sides from the base to the top, and one of the richest and most elaborate specimens in the whole extent of the ruins. Originally it was painted, the marks of red color being still distinctly visible. Before it, at a distance of about eight feet, is a large block of sculptured stone, which the Indians call an altar. The subject of the front is a full-length figure, the face wanting beard, and of a feminine cast, though the dress seems that of a man. On the two sides are rows of hieroglyphics, which probably recite the history of this mysterious personage.
Near this is a remarkable altar, which presents as curious a subject of speculation as any monument in Copan. The altars, like the idols, are all of a single block of stone. In general, they are not so richly