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For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
[Continued from page 264.]
NO. 11. Having a ccomplished, in No. I, what we proposed on the geography of Spanish South America, we shall now dismiss this topic until the other subjects proposed in our plan shall have received a proper attention, and then resume this, when the Brazilian empire shall come under our notice. In accordance with our previous arrangements, the present No. will be devoted to the aborigines of the new world south of the northern temperate zone. From what countries of the old world these ancient tribes emigrated is a question whose solution must baffle the skill of the ablest antiquarian. So dense is the darkness that rests on that distant event, and so deep is the silence of even traditional records, that the inquirer has no guide to lead him even to probability on the subject. But that the hundreds of nations found in the new world never originated in the same section of the eastern hemisphere, and that they could not have emigrated at the same period to the western hemisphere, very strong probabilities concur to prove. That some of these nations came to America at a very remote antiquity appears from their having been without the knowledge of many of those arts which were known, both in Europe and Asia, centuries before the Christian era, and without many of those conveniences of life which, When once known, could scarcely ever be forgotten. Among many of these may be instanced the use of wax and oil for light. This may also be inferred from the facts, that some of these nations preserved in their traditions and paintings the memory of the creation of the world of the building of the tower of Babel- of the confusion of languages-and of the dispersion of the people, but had no knowledge of the most marked events that have since occurred in Lurope, Asia, or Africa, though many of those events once known are of such a character that the knowledge of them could never have been entirely lost; while that of earlier events was retained.
or was there among the earliest nations of America any knowledge of the inhabitants of the old continent, or the least trace there Vol. IX.-Oct., 1838.
of their passage to this. From these and kindred considerations it appears that the first emigrations occurred at a subsequent period, not very remote from the dispersion from Babel. Nor is it less evident that some of these nations came to America at much later periods. Evidence of this is furnished by physical facts, American paintings, and historical documents. The vast number and astonishing variety of aboriginal languages could never consist with that identity of origin, and period of emigration, which have so often been ascribed to the Americans. By languages are not intended merely those various dialects and idioms with which the new world abounds: of these many hundreds have been recorded :* but languages which have no more affinity than the eastern and western languages of the old world, which are most dissimilar. As grammars and lexicons have been formed of more than twenty native languages, it is ascertained with the utmost certainty that there are five languages in Mexico, and more than twice that number in South America, which are as radically different as the Latin and the Hebrew, and therefore could never have originated in the same nation. Philological learning has for three centuries exhausted all its resources to find points of resemblance between these ancient languages; but the result has been a complete failure. It has also sought, with the greatest patience and labor, for some likeness between the oldest of these languages and any of those known in Europe, Asia, and Africa ; but not a feature of resemblance is discernible. As, then, these languages nowhere exist in the world, the nations that used them must have long since disappeared from the families of the earth. The new world has afforded a refuge to the remnants of those nations of the old world whom war and revolution have consigned to oblivion. The striking contrast between many languages of America proves the tribes to have had a very various origin. Some of these are poor and inexpressive to an extent that would adapt them only to savage life. Others are copious and forcible beyond several of the polished languages of Europe. The inadequacy of the former to express any complex idea with precision, or communicate any sentiment with vigor-to clothe any general ideas, or to furnish terms for the most simple principles of science, proves it to have originated in very remote antiquity, or at least to have continued in use for many ages in the lowest and most uncivilized state of society. On the other hand, the rich and powerful languages used by several nations of America direct us to seek their origin in far more cultivated nations, and their emigration to the woods of America at much later periods. It is true, that the fact of any of these Indian languages being copious and refined has been denied by authors of some name. At the head of these is found M. De Paw, a Prussian philosopher, who, though he was never nearer South America than the city of Berlin, speculates and dogmatizes on the native Americans as though he had been born in their country, and had mingled with their tribes. He positively affirms that "in no one of these languages can they count more than three; that it is impossible to translate a book into the Mexican or the Peruvian language, because of their great deficiency in terms to express general ideas.” Dr. Robertson, who evidently derived . * Of these fifteen hundred have been counted south of the north temperate zone.
many of his materials from such philosophical speculations on the new world, has been led to the most erroneous conclusions on this and kindred matters. But with regard to their numeral terms, the most ample evidence is adducible to refute that groundless assertion. A highly qualified historian, distinguished for his scrupulous accuracy,* who has long resided in Spanish America, and made deep researches into the antiquities of that country, gives us the ancient Mexican terms by which they counted from a unit to fortyeight millions, and those by which they could ascend to any assignable number. The same accomplished author shows with equal clearness that directly the reverse of the alleged poverty of the Mexican language is true. He shows from his personal knowledge of that language that it possesses a rich variety of terms both for moral and metaphysical subjects; and after carefully comparing it with the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish, he concludes that in abstract terms it far exceeds any of those languages. Indeed, from the specimen he gives us of this class of their words, it appears that there is scarcely an operation of the human mind, or a known attribute of the infinite Creator, for which the Mexican language does not supply a term. No European has deeply studied this native language without eulogizing it as admirably adapted to express the most delicate sensations of the heart and the loftiest emotions of the mind. These opposite characters in the Indian languages are not peculiar to those of Mexico, but have been observed in numerous parts of South America. Of these our limits will permit us to notice only a single instance in Peru. The early inhabitants of that empire used the Guichua language, which was radically unlike that of the incarial race. So total was the dissimilarity of the languages of these two nations that those who perfectly understood one had not the least knowledge of the other. Indeed, a knowledge of the language used by the incas was confined entirely to the royal family. No subject in this vast empire, not even the nobles themselves, was permitted to become acquainted with it. So entirely was it diverse from the ancient language of the empire that messages were transmitted in it, viva voce, by persons stationed at intervals to the extremities of the country. Thus all the councils of the monarch were matured and communicated to any section of the empire in a state of secrecy deep as the arcana of the future. None but the royal family could suspect his plans till they burst into execution. Though this language was lost in less than two ages after the Spanish conquest, it survived the fall of the incarial throne long enough to be examined and found far superior to the ancient language of Peru, both in force and copiousness. All the traditions of the Peruvians entirely accord with the inference flowing from this contrast in the two languages. The following may be given as an epitome of these traditional records of the origin of that race that so long governed them. About twelve generations anterior to the Spanish invasion there appeared in Peru two extraordinary personages by the names of Manco Capac and Mama Orollo. Their complexion was fair, their appearance majestic, and their apparel was cotton garments of the most glittering white. They claimed to be children of the sun, whom that beneficent parent of our race had sent, in his deep commiseration for the miseries of