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tree, or of that plant. To represent suits of military clothing, armour, or shields, they exhibited their respective figures; the different sorts of mantles, whether of feathers or of other materials, were signified by their respective figures, differently coloured. The number of each article was expressed either by circles, each of which signified ten, or by a kind of pine-apple, which meant five, painted at the top of the basket, or by the side of each individual article; and if their quantity was so great as to amount to a burthen, or a load, this was expressed by another mark, which had the same signification. The like must be said of their paper, their cups, pots of honey, cochineal, wood, planks, beams, timber, loaves of salt, hatchets, lumps of copal, refined and unrefined, shells, wool, stones, canes to make darts, eagles, skins of animals; in short, of every thing which each town had to pay, for the maintenance of the state. It would be impossible for me to give you a minute account of their civil and religious institutions, which form the third, and by far the largest department, in this most extraordinary picture. Every trade, every office, every employment, is differently delineated. The rites attending the several ceremonies of burial, marriage, and baptism, (for they certainly had some sort of baptism,) are minutely set down. But, above all, it seems that the education of children, from their infancy to manhood, had attracted the greatest attention of their legislature. The quantity of food, the quality of
labour, the different pursuits attached to each distinct age, the various punishments decreed for the different faults, are stated with a precision and clearness which is quite astonishing. The age of the child can always be made out by the number of circles placed above its head. The figure of the mother, and indeed of any woman, by her kneeling posture, and sitting on her legs ; while the figure of the father, the priest, the teacher, and indeed of all men, besides the different attributes, which designate the employment, is always represented either standing, or sitting on a low stool, with his knees to his breast.
As a specimen, I offer you a table of the ceremonies attending their marriage. (Table 8. fig. 2.) This was generally brought about by an old woman, whom they called Amantesa, (t) that is, a marriage broker, who was to carry the bride (w) on her back to the house of the bridegroom, at the beginning of the night, accompanied by four women, (x and x) bearing torches of pine-tree. When arrived at the house, the bride (1) and the bridegroom (m) were seated near to the fire, on a mat, the woman, as usual, sitting on her legs, the man on a stool. There they were tied together by the corner of their garments, after which they offered to their gods a perfume of copal ; two old women, (n and v) and two old men, (i and r) being present as witnesses. This ceremony over, they were allowed to dine, upon two different sorts of meat, (p and q) and some pulse (s). Thus, not only
the dishes which were to be used are marked, but also the cup (a) out of which they were to drink. The witnesses were allowed to dine after the newly married couple, which circumstance is expressed by their being seated at the four corners of the mat, which served for a dining-table. The sign which is added to the mouth of these four witnesses, signifies, that before they retired they had the right to give, and in fact they gave, to the married folks, good counsel, how to behave themselves, that they might live in peace and happiness. The position of one of the women, (n) holding up her right hand, means that the portly matron is already making use of the privilege allowed, to give a little exercise to her tongue; while the folded arms of the remaining witnesses prove that they are waiting for their turn. In the punishments of their children, the Mexicans seem to have been ingeniously cruel. Most of the chastisements I find marked down consisting in unmerciful castigations; in driving into the hands, arms, legs, and into the body of the culprit, thorns and prickles. Sometimes they singed his head with fire, at other times they tied him down to a board, and threw him into a bog; and occasionally they held the head and nose of the unfortunate child upon the smoke of a particular wood, which they called axi. The crimes, for which they inflicted punishments so severe and so cruel, are the same with those which are condemned by the laws of the most
civilized nations of Europe, and cannot but inspire us with a very favourable, nay, exalted opinion, of the moral notions of the Mexicans. They seem even to have gone beyond us, for the sake of preserving proper habits of industry and morality among the people ; for they not only punished drunkenness with death, but also idleness ; for if drunkenness, said they, renders a man capable of committing a crime, idleness exposes him to drinking, and to bad company. This law, however, lost its power with men and women as soon as they reached the age of seventy ; they were then allowed to pass their lives in idleness, and to get drunk, both in public and private. The reason assigned for this extraordinary regulation is, that as they could no longer work, and had but a short time to live, the law indulged them with the enjoyment of what seems to have been considered, by the Mexicans, as one of the greatest pleasures of life.
Such is the short account that I can give you of this most singular mode of expressing ideas by pictures, which is, I think, an exemplification of the first mode of writing by hieroglyphics. It is, besides, one of the most interesting monuments by which we can arrive at the knowledge of the history of Mexico. For it is evident, that, from the wisdom of their regulations, from the quantity of taxes which, as is recorded in these pictures, were levied upon the different towns and nations, from the minuteness of the details, and from the
pictures themselves, which shew some knowledge of perspective and drawing, the Mexicans had made no inconsiderable progress in knowledge, in civilization, and in the cultivation of the arts. And yet these are the people whom the intolerance and bigotry of the rulers of Spain condemned to destruction, as if a superior sort of brutes, but by no means worthy to be considered as rational beings, or possessing souls. Oh how often, in reading the history of mankind, have I blushed at the excesses committed by man! This mode of writing by signs, whether symbolical, figurative, or conventional, has been often adopted even by the modern inhabitants of our part of the globe. Among the many instances which I could quote, I shall select a curious almamack, which is considered to have been the performance of a monk of Brittany, so late as the year 1468. It was found in the year 1731, in a hollow square place of a wall, built over by brickwork, in the castle of Coëdic. It was engraved on both sides of a piece of wood, five inches long, and half an inch thick. The extraordinary appearance of the characters could not, as you may easily suppose, but excite the curiosity of the nation; and as the idea which even the learned at that time had of these past ages was not very correct, some considered this extaordinary piece of wood as a table calculated to tell people's fortunes, or draw horoscopes; others looked upon it as a talisman; but the most part regarded it as a spe