Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

round of incessant toil, with the consciousness that, however profitable the results to the state, they were nothing to him.

But this is the dark side of the picture. If no man could become rich in Peru, no man could become poor. No spendthrift could waste his substance in riotous luxury. No adventurous schemer could impoverish his family by the spirit of speculation. The law was constantly directed to enforce a steady industry and a sober management of his affairs. No mendicant was tolerated in Peru. When a man was reduced by poverty or misfortune it could hardly be by fault), the arm of the law was stretched out to minister relief; not the stinted relief of private charity, nor that which is doled out, drop by drop, as it were, from the frozen reservoirs of

the parish," but in generous measure, bringing no humiliation to the object of it, and placing him on a level with the rest of his countrymen.39

No man could be rich, no man could be poor, in

39 "Era tanta la orden que tenia en todos sus Reinos y provincias, que no consentia haver ningun Indio pobre ni menesteroso, porque havia orden i formas para ello sin que los pueblos reciviesen vexacion ni molestia, porque el Inga lo suplia de sus tributos." (Conq. i Pob. del Piru, MS.) The Licentiate Ondegardo sees only a device of Satan in these provisions of the Peruvian law, by which the old, the infirm, and the poor were rendered, in a manner, independent of their children and those nearest of kin, on whom they would naturally have 'eaned for support; no surer way to harden the heart, he considers, han by thus disengaging it from the sympathies of humanity; and no circumstance has done more, he concludes, to counteract the influence and spread of Christianity among the natives. (Rel. Seg., MS.) The views are ingenious; but in a country where the people had no property, as in Peru, there would seem to be no alternative for the supernumeraries but to receive support from government or to starve.

Peru; but all might enjoy, and did enjoy, a competence. Ambition, avarice, the love of change, the morbid spirit of discontent, those passions which most agitate the minds of men, found no place in the bosom of the Peruvian. The very condition of his being seemed to be at war with change. He moved on in the same unbroken circle in which his fathers had moved before him, and in which his children were to follow. It was the object of the Incas to infuse into their subjects a spirit of passive obedience and tranquillity,—a perfect acquiescence in the established order of things. In this they fully succeeded. The Spaniards who first visited the country are emphatic in their testimony that no government could have been better suited to the genius of the people, and no people could have appeared more contented with their iot or more devoted to their government. 40

Those who may distrust the accounts of Peruvian industry will find their doubts removed on a visit to the country. The traveller still meets, especially in the central regions of the table-land, with memorials of the past, remains of temples, palaces, fortresses, terraced mountains, great military roads, aqueducts, and other public works, which, whatever degree of science they may display in their execution, astonish him by their number, the massive character of the materials, and the grandeur of the design. Among them, perhaps the most remarkable are the great roads, the broken remains of which are still in sufficient preservation to ettest their former magnificence. There were many of these roads, traversing different parts of the king.

40 Acosta, lib. 6. cap. 12, 15.-Sarmiento, Relacion, MS., cap ia

dum ; but the most considerable were the two which extended from Quito to Cuzco, and, again diverging from the capital, continued in a southerly direction towards Chili.

One of these roads passed over the grand plateau, and the other along the lowlands on the borders of the ocean. The former was much the more difficult achievement, from the character of the country. It was conducted over pathless sierras buried in snow; galleries were cut for leagues through the living rock; rivers were crossed by means of bridges that swung suspended in the air; precipices were scaled by stairways hewn out of the native bed; ravines of hideous depth were filled up with solid masonry: in short, all the difficulties that beset a wild and mountainous region, and which might appall the most courageous engineer of modern times, were encountered and successfully overcome. The length of the road, of which scattered fragments only remain, is variously estimated at from fifteen hundred to two thousand miles; and stone pillars, in the manner of European mile-stones, were erected at stated intervals of somewhat more than a league, all along the route. Its breadth scarcely exeeded twenty feet. It was built of heavy flags of

41 Dec. de la Aud. Real., MS.-" Este camino hecho por valles on. ros y por sierras altas, por montes de nieve, por tremedales de agua por peña viva y junto á rios furiosos por estas partes y ballano y mpedrado por las laderas, bien sacado por las sierras, deshechado, .or las peñas socavado, por junto a los Rios sus paredes, entre nieves 1.Jn escalones y descanso, por todas partes limpio barrido descomvado, lleno de aposentos, de depositos de tesoros, de Templos del Sol, de Postas que havia en este camino." Sarmiento, Relacion, MS., cap. 60.

42

freestone, and, in some parts at least, covered with a bituminous cement, which time has made harder than the stone itself. In some places, where the ravines had been filled up with masonry, the mountain-torrents, wearing on it for ages, have gradually eaten a way through the base, and left the superincumbent mass-such is the cohesion of the materials—still spanning the valley like an arch!

Over some of the boldest streams it was necessary to construct suspension-bridges, as they are termed, made of the tough fibres of the maguey, or of the osier of the country, which has an extraordinary degree of tenacity and strength. These osiers were woven into cables of the thickness of a man's body. The huge ropes, then stretched across the water, were conducted through rings or holes cut in immense buttresses of stone raised on the opposite banks of the river and there secured to heavy pieces of timber. Several of these enormous cables, bound together, formed a bridge, which, covered with planks, well secured and defended by a railing of the same osier materials on the sides, afforded a safe passage for the traveller. The length of this aërial bridge, sometimes exceeding two

42 “On avait comblé les vides et les ravins par de grandes masses de maçonnerie. Les torrents qui descendent des hauteurs après des pluies abondantes avaient creusé les endroits les moins solides, et s'étaient frayé une voie sous le chemin, le laissant ainsi suspendu en l'air comme un pont fait d'une seule pièce." (Velasco, Hist. de Quito, tom. i. p. 206.) This writer speaks from personal observation, having examined and measured different parts of the road, in the latter part of the last century. The Spanish scholar will find in Appendix No. 2 an animated description of this magnificent work and of the obstacles encountered in the execution of it, in a passage borrowed from Sarmiento, who saw it in the days of the Incas.

H

hundred feet, caused it, confined as it was only at the extremities, to dip with an alarming inclination towards the centre, while the motion given to it by the passenger occasioned an oscillation still more frightful, as his eye wandered over the dark abyss of waters that foamed and tumbled many a fathom beneath. Yet these light and fragile fabrics were crossed without fear by the Peruvians, and are still retained by the Spaniards over those streams which, from the depth or impetuosity of the current, would seem impracticable for the usual modes of conveyance. The wider and more tranquil waters were crossed on balsas-a kind of raft still much used by the natives—to which sails were attached, furnishing the only instance of this higher kind of navigation among the American Indians. 43

The other great road of the Incas lay through the level country between the Andes and the ocean. It was constructed in a different manner, as demanded by the nature of the ground, which was for the most part low, and much of it sandy. The causeway was raised on a high embankment of earth, and defended on either side by a parapet or wall of clay; and trees and odoriferous shrubs were planted along the margin, regaling the sense of the traveller with their perfumes, · and refreshing him by their shades, so grateful under the burning sky of the tropics. In the strips of sandy

43 Garcilasso, Com. Real., Parte 1, lib. 3. cap. 7.-A particular account of these bridges, as they are still to be seen in different parts of Peru, may be found in Humboldt. (Vues des Cordillères, p. 230, et seq.) The balsas are described with equal minuteness by Stevenson. Residence in America, vol. ii. p. 222, et seq.

« ZurückWeiter »