« PreviousContinue »
Thé HISTORY OF AMERICA.
S É C T. XII.
Government, Cuftoms, and Manners, of the ancient
HE origin of nations is so involved in obfcurity, that Account of little can be related with certainty, respecting the the ancient
earlier periods, and remoter ages, of the most civilized Peruvians, people, that has any pretensions to antiquity. What fables are intermixed with the histories of Rome and Athens! Even the origin of modern nations, though pofterior to the use of lettters, hath its difficulties, and every day furnishes matter of debate among antiquaries: how, therefore, can we expect to find truth unmixed with falfhood and absurdity, in the accounts given by the barbarous natives of the origin of those kingdoms and empires, whose subverfion afforded the first inlec to the enlightening beams of science, and the bright dawn diffused over every object; by the use of those characters invented happily to carry our ideas to posterity, with the same precision they occured to our own minds? Accordingly we find, that nothing can be more improbable, superstitious, and ridiculous, than the account given of the Peruvians, before they were reduced by their Incas to a regular form of government, unless we except the means by Mop. Hist. Vol. XXXIX.
which this extraordinary change, and revolution of manners, was effected. The genealogy of the sovereigns favours strongly of that adulation ever paid to the rulers of the world, who are often inferior to the brute creation; while they are regarded by their indiscriminating subjects as something above human.. Garcilaso de la Vega, the most authentic historian of Peru,. himself descended, by the mother, from the royal line;. lavelýes has Praises on the Incas, as the civilizers and humanizers of a barbarous people, who wandered about like the beasts of the beds without laws, government, or the least idea of vistie or rational religion. Perhaps he intended to compliment che:tègál dignity at the expence of human nature; certain: it is, that tho horrible picture he has drawn of the ancient Peruvians, before the foundation of their monarchy, is the highest panegyric on the conduct of the Incas. If we may credit this writer, the ancestors of the Peruvians were savages, distinguished from the brute creation only by speech, and the human form; they were fierce, ignorant, and cruel, almost beyond belief. We shall begin with their religion, if that term may be applied to fuch abominable superstitious institutions, every way suitable to their corrupt
manners, and grovelling notions. Religion. The ancient Peruvians, like the negroes on the coaft of
Africa, had a multiplicity of gods; almost every object that presented itself was raised into a deity. Nations, provinces, tribes, families, and individuals, had their peculiar gods; the Peruvians not being able to comprehend how the fame deity should be able to attend to the various actions of different persons. Herbs, flowers, trees, shrubs, caves, rivers, and all kinds of animals, were worshipped by this favage people, who facrificed to those material gods not only their enemies, but their own children. Mountains were adored for their height, trees for their shade, tigers for their ferocity, other animals for other qualities, and many for their power of doing mischief. Garcilasso confirms the account of Blas Valera, who relates, that the inhabitants of the mountains of the Andes were man-eaters, and sacrificed their fellow creatures and even their children to ferpents, whom they deified. Prisoners taken in war were immediately quartered and divided for the benefit of the captors, or sold in the shambles. Should any person of distinction happen to have fallen into the hands of this favage tribe, they stripped him of his garments, tied him to a Itake, cut him in pieces with knives and sharp stones, pared off all the fleshy muscular parts, and sprinkling the bye-ftanders with the blood, eat up the flesh with the utmost greediness, before the eyes of the unhappy victim, regarding his excru
ciating anguish as the most delicious fauce. The women wet their nipples with the blood, that their infant children might partake of the shocking facrifice. All this was performed by way of religious offering; and when the wretched victim expired in agonies, the remainder of his flesh and bowels were devoured with a more folemn and filent reverence. « Such," says Garcilaso," was the manner of these brutes, because the government of the Incas was not received into their country. Nor need we indeed be astonished at the profound veneration with which their race of princes was regarded, if the people ascribed to them the changes wrought on their
The government of the ancient Peruvians was equally Manners, barbarous with their religion. There was no regular system of policy; a few families lived together in caves, rocks, and forests, and roamed for their prey over the country like wild beafts. Neither the arts of building, sowing, planting, or cloathing themselves, were known to these barbarians. Nature produced sufficient for their wants, in the spontaneous roots, fruits, and herbs, of the earth; and the only luxury known, was that of feeding upon the Aesh of their fellow creatures. Sometimes a ruler started up among the Peruvians, and then they were reduced for a while to a kind of societies. Whoever had courage or policy enough to acquire a superigrity, might easily tyrannize over the whole, and treat them as flaves. When this kind of despotism was established, the situation of the Peruvians became still more wretched; no change was wrought in their manners, and they lost their liberty. Their daughters and wives became the property of the tyrant; even their lives were sacrificed to his caprice, and their skins employed in covering drums, to regale the ears of this monster of cruelty. In other parts they lived without lords, passing their days like so many sheep in all fimplicity; not that virtue moderated their nature, but that stupidity rendered them equally insensible to good and evil. Even their barbarity was the result of their intenfibility. It was no way shocking to them to dispose of the Aesh of their prisoners in the shambles, and fatten children, in order to be served up as delicacies to table. Lust unrestrained by laws, customs, or natural decency, was a ruling passion among the Peruvians, who propagated like beasts without discrimination, and gratified their appetites with the first woman that offered. Where there was no regular society, there could scarce be any idea of those refined paflions of love and friendship, which are the result of communication and mutual converse. Na tegard was paid to kindred, or affinity of blood, in the grati
fication of the senses; mothers, daughters, and fifters, were used without distinction.
In fome countries a kind of nuptial site was observed ; but it was no less depraved than the vicious impulse of nature. Those women who were the most lascivious and incontinent, were the moft esteemed. It was the most notorious prostitution of virginity, and most diflolute life in the maiden state, that best recommended to a husband. Certain tribes were charged with preserving inviolate the chastity of their female children to a marriageable age, when they were exposed in publick, and the proofs of their virginity Chewn to the whole world; others are taxed with the beastly sin of sodomy; and it is affirmed, that forcery, witchcraft, and the arts of poisoning, arrived at great perfection in feveral of the provinces of this empire. These, however, are the tales of tradition, blazoned out by the royal historian in the strongest colours, only to heighten the compliment intended the Incas, by demonstrating the happy effects of their government, and the surprising changes wrought on the manners of the most savage people on earth, by dint of prudence and policy. These effects being supposed to exceed human means, the following fable was invented, to account for the manner in which the Peruvians were civilized, and give luftre to the pedigree of the royal line. It is confidently related by Garcilaso as a tradition universally believed in his family; and, we fhall beg leave to transcribe it from his commentaries, rather to fhew the genius of the nation, than to gain the belief of the reader.
GARCIL ASSO having one day questioned the Inca, his uncle, concerning the origin of the nation, and the rise of the Incas, was anfwered in these words.
“ Coufin, I most willingly comply with your request; for it is of coosequence for you to know these things, and impress them deeply
heart. You must therefore understand, that all this region and country was formerly one intire forest and desart, and the people a kind of brutes, devoid of religion and goi vernment, destitute of all the arts necessary to fociety; and ignorant of sowing, reaping, building, spinning, or weaving: They dwelt in pairs in caves in the rocks and mountains, fed on roots, herbs, grass, or human Aesh. All their cloathing consisted of leaves, or the bark of trees, and the skins of beasts. In a word, they were altogether savage; they had no property in women, or single enjoyment of the sex, but used their females in common like the brutes, and gratified, their luft on the first object that occurred.
" This was the situation of our anceftors, when our fa ther the Sun, taking pity on their wretchedness, fent a fon
in your heart.