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self, were the words of the dying monarch. Not long after, on the 30th of June, 1520, he expired in the arms of some of his own nobles, who still remained faithful in their attendance on his person. • Thus,' exclaims a native historian, one of his enemies, a Tlascalan, thus died the unfortunate Montezuma, who had swayed the sceptre with such consummate policy and wisdom ; and who was held in greater reverence and awe than any other prince of his lineage, or any, indeed, that ever sat on a throne in this Western World. With him may be said to have terminated the royal line of the Aztecs, and the glory to have passed away from the empire, which under him had reached the zenith of its prosperity. The tidings of his death,' says the old Castilian chronicler, Diaz,' were received with real grief by every cavalier and soldier in the army who had had access to his person ; for we all loved him as a father, — and no wonder, seeing how good he was.' This simple, but emphatic, testimony to his desert, at such a time, is in itself the best refutation of the sus. picions occasionally entertained of his fidelity to the Christians.

“It is not easy to depict the portrait of Montezuma in its true colors, since it has been exhibited to us under two aspects, of the most opposite and contradictory character. In the accounts gathered of him by the Spaniards, on coming into the country, he was uniformly represented as bold and warlike, unscrupulous as to the means of gratifying his ambition, hollow and perfidious, the terror of his foes, with a haughty bearing which made him feared even by his own people. They found him, on the contrary, not merely affable and gracious, but disposed to waive all the advantages of his own position, and to place them on a footing with himself; making their wishes his law; gentle even to effeminacy in his deportment, and constant in his friendship, while his whole nation was in arms against them. Yet these traits, so contradictory, were truly enough drawn. They are to be explained by the extraordinary circumstances of his position.

“When Montezuma ascended the throne, he was scarcely twenty-three years of age. Young, and ambitious of extending his empire, he was continually engaged in war, and is said to have been present himself in nine pitched battles. He was greatly renowned for his martial prowess, for he belonged to the Quachictin, the highest military order of his nation, and one into which but few, even of its sovereigns, had been admitted. In later life, he preferred intrigue to violence, as more consonant to his character and priestly education. In this he was as great an adept as any prince of his time, and, by arts not very honorable to him. self, succeeded in filching away much of the territory of his royal kinsman of Tezcuco. Severe in the administration of


justice, he made important reforms in the arrangement of the tribunals. He introduced other innovations in the royal household, creating new offices, introducing a lavish magnificence and forms of courtly etiquette unknown to his ruder predecessors. He was, in short, most attentive to all that concerned the exterior and pomp of royalty. Stately and decorous, he was careful of his own dignity, and might be said to be as great an 'actor of majesty' among the barbarian potentates of the New World, as Louis the Fourteenth was among the polished princes of Europe.

“ He was deeply tinctured, moreover, with that spirit of bigotry, which threw such a shade over the latter days of the French monarch. He received the Spaniards as the beings predicted by his oracles. The anxious dread, with which he had evaded their proffered visit, was founded on the same feelings which led him so blindly to resign himself to them on their approach. He felt himself rebuked by their superior genius. He at once conceded all that they demanded, his treasures, his power, even his person. For their sake, he forsook his wonted occupations, his pleasures, his most familiar habits. He might be said to forego his nature; and, as his subjects asserted, to change his sex and become a

If we cannot refuse our contempt for the pusillanimity of the Aztec monarch, it should be mitigated by the consideration, that his pusillanimity sprung from his superstition, and that superstition in the savage is the substitute for religious principle in the civilized man.

" It is not easy to contemplate the fate of Montezuma without feelings of the strongest compassion ;- to see him thus borne along the tide of events beyond his power to avert or control ; to see him, like some stately tree, the pride of his own Indian forests, towering aloft in the pomp and majesty of its branches, by its very eminence a mark for the thunderbolt, the first victim of the tempest which was to sweep over its native hills! When the wise king of Tezcuco addressed his royal relative at his cor, onation, he exclaimed, Happy the empire, which is now in the meridian of its prosperity, for the sceptre is given to one whom the Almighty has in his keeping; and the nations shall hold him in reverence!' Alas! the subject of this auspicious invocation lived to see his empire melt away like the winter's wreath; to see a strange race drop, as it were, from the clouds on his land; to find himself a prisoner in the palace of his fathers, the companion of those who were the enemies of his gods and his people; to be insulted, reviled, trodden in the dust, by the meanest of his subjects, by those who, a few months previous, had trembled at his glance ; drawing his last breath in the halls of the stranger, a lonely outcast in the heart of his own capital ! He was the sad victim of destiny, - destiny as dark and irresistible in its march, as that which broods over the mythic legends of Antiquity !” – Vol. 11. pp. 342 - 351.

The colossal character of Cortés, however, absorbs our attention, to the exclusion of almost every thing else. He fills the whole canvass with his mighty stature, and every other personage seems dwarfed by his side. The details which Mr. Prescott has given us of his life, before and after the Conquest, supply us with the means of tracing the connexion and affinity between his tumultuous youth, — restless and uneasy, like that of Oliver Cromwell, from the want of a sphere adequate to his vast energies, - his fiery and enterprising manhood, and his dignified and peaceful decline. We commend entirely the course adopted by Mr. Prescott, in continuing the narrative to the death of Cortés, though the story of the Conquest terminates with the fall of the capital. This impairs, it is true, the proportions of the subject as a narrative of the Conquest, but preserves them more entire as a biography of Cortés, which, in fact, the work really is. The Conquest was only a chapter, though a long and important one, in the crowded life of this extraordinary man. The transition, too, from the horrors of an exterminating contest, and the sickening details of famine and carnage, to the quiet walks of civilization, the aspect of reviving prosperity, the hum of regular industry, the peaceful victories of agriculture, and the progress of maritime discovery, will be felt as a grateful relief to the mind, grown familiar with so much that makes war hateful, so little that makes it stirring. Many of the facts in his life, subsequent to the Conquest, have been drawn from original materials, and will have all the attraction of novelty. The reader will learn with surprise the interesting details of a career of adventurous enterprise after that event, which, in the apprehension of most persons, comprises all the claims of Cortés to be remembered as a historical personage. The respect and admiration, which were awakened by the energy and capacity displayed in the Conquest, will be enhanced by the wisdom which he showed in the government of the country he had won, and by the generous ardor with which, at the lavish sacrifice of his own resources, he prosecuted his schemes of maritime discovery. Most men would have thought the distinction acquired by so wonderful an achievement, a sufficient apology for a life of ease and self-indulgence ; especially as the gratitude of his sovereign had rewarded his inestimable services with honor and wealth, — those glittering prizes which awaken all the faculties in their pursuit, but which, when won, are more likely to blunt than to sharpen the edge of enterprise. He surely might have been pardoned, if, after the toils and perils of the Conquest, he had retired to his ample estates, and quietly occupied himself with their cultivation and improvement, entertaining the friends whom he had gathered round his hospitable table with stories of the dangers he had passed, and perhaps, (as he could handle the pen no less than the sword,) amusing himself with writing a full and connected narrative of those events, of which he had transmitted official reports to his sovereign. But Cortés was a man of another stamp. His indefatigable energy was of that kind which neither wealth, nor honor, nor advancing years had any power to chill or repress. His terrible march to Honduras shows, in their unabated force, all those astonishing qualities of hardihood, resolution, and constancy, which had raised a nameless adventurer to a level with the highest and proudest of the nobles of his country. The voyages of discovery, which he planned with so much sagacity and prosecuted with so much ardor, would, as Mr. Prescott justly observes, have made the glory and satisfied the ambition of a common man ; but they are lost in the brilliant renown of his former achievements. In his fifty-eighth year, we find him embarked as a volunteer in the memorable expedition against Algiers, and, with all his youthful fire, offering to undertake the reduction of the place himself, with the support of the army, and save the arms of Spain from the humiliation of a repulse. The regulations, too, which he made, immediately after the Conquest, for the government of the country he had won, the means which he adopted to repair the ravages of war, to accomplish the settlement of unoccupied territories, and to augment its agricultural resources, show the farsighted views of a wise statesman, and that great injustice is done by those who confound him with the common herd of successful military adventurers. His is certainly one of the memorable names in history ; endowed with extraordinary qualities of mind and character, which we should never overlook or be insensible to, however strongly our moral indignation may be awakened by the ends to which he dedicated them.

We quote a portion of Mr. Prescott's eloquent and discriminating estimate of the character of Cortés.

“The personal history of Cortés has been so minutely detailed in the preceding narrative, that it will only be necessary to touch on the more prominent features of his character. Indeed, the history of the Conquest, as I have already had occasion to remark, is necessarily that of Cortés, who is, if I may so say, not merely the soul, but the body, of the enterprise ; present everywhere in person, in the thick of the fight, or in the building of the works, with his sword or with his musket, sometimes leading his sol. diers, and sometimes directing his little navy. The negotiations, intrigues, correspondence, are all conducted by him; and, like Cæsar, he wrote his own Commentaries in the heat of the stirring scenes which form the subject of them. His character is marked with the most opposite traits, embracing qualities apparently the most incompatible. He was avaricious, yet liberal; bold to desperation, yet cautious and calculating in his plans ; magnanimous, yet very cunning; courteous and affable in his deportment, yet inexorably stern; lax in his notions of morality, yet (not uncommon) a sad bigot. The great feature in his character was constancy of purpose ; a constancy not to be daunted by danger, nor baffled by disappointment, nor wearied out by impediments and delays.

“ He was a knight-errant, in the literal sense of the word. Of all the band of adventurous cavaliers, whom Spain, in the sixteenth century, sent forth on the career of discovery and conquest, there was none more deeply filled with the spirit of romantic enterprise than Hernando Cortés. Dangers and diffi. culties, instead of deterring, seemed to have a charm in his eyes. They were necessary to rouse him to a full consciousness of his powers. He grappled with them at the outset, and, if I may so express myself, seemed to prefer to take his enterprises by the most difficult side. He conceived, at the first moment of his landing in Mexico, the design of its conquest. When he saw the strength of its civilization, he was not turned from his purpose. When he was assailed by the superior force of Narvaez, he still persisted in it; and, when he was driven in ruin from the capital, he still cherished his original idea. How successfully he carried it into execution, we have seen. After the few years of repose which succeeded the Conquest, his adventurous spirit impelled him to that dreary march across the marshes of Chiapa ; and, after another interval, to seek his fortunes on the stormy

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