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order to be sent to Montezuma, the king of the country, who was likewise to be informed that the white men, who had arrived on his coast, desired to be allowed to come and see him in his capital.

Here we pause to present a short account of the Mexican empire, in which Cortes had landed; also of the character and government of this monarch, Montezuma, whom the Spaniards expected soon to be permitted to visit.

If a traveller, landing on that part of the coast of the Mexican gulf where Cortes and his Spaniards landed three hundred and thirty years ago, were to proceed westward, across the Continent, he would pass successively through three regions or climates. First, he would pass through the tierra caliente, or hot region, distinguished by all the features of the tropics-their luxuriant vegetation, their occasional sandy deserts, and their unhealthiness at particular seasons. After sixty miles of travel through this tierra caliente, he would enter the tierra templada, or temperate region, where the products of the soil are such as belong to the most genial European countries. Ascending through it, the traveller at last leaves wheatfields beneath him, and plunges into forests of pine, indicating his

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entrance into the tierra fria, or cold region, where the sleety blasts from the mountains penetrate the very bones. This tierra fria constitutes the summits of part of the great mountain range of the Fortu Andes, which traverses the whole American continent. nately, however, at this point the Andes do not attain their greatest elevation. Instead of rising, as in some other parts of their range, in a huge perpendicular wall or ridge, they here flatten and widen out, so as to constitute a vast plateau, or table-land, six or seven thousand feet above the level of the sea. On this immense sheet of table-land, stretching for hundreds of miles, the inhabitants, though living within the tropics, enjoy a climate equal to that of the south of Italy; while their proximity to the extremes both of heat and cold, enables them to procure, without much labour, the luxuries of many lands. Across the table-land there stretches, from east to west, a chain of volcanic peaks, some of which are of immense height, and covered perpetually with snow.

This table-land was called, by the ancient Mexicans, the plain of Anahuac. Near its centre is a valley of an oval form, about

two hundred miles in circumference, surrounded by a rampart of porphyritic rock, and overspread for about a tenth part of its surface by five distinct lakes or sheets of water. This is the celebrated Valley of Mexico-called a valley only by comparison with the mountains which surround it, for it is seven thousand feet above the level of the sea. Round the margins of the five lakes once stood numerous cities, the relics of which are yet visible; and on an islet in the middle of the largest lake, stood the great city of Mexico, or Tenochtitlan, the capital of the empire which the Spaniards were now invading, and the residence of the Mexican emperor, Montezuma.

The origin of the Mexicans is a question of great obscurity-a part of the more extensive question of the manner in which America was peopled. According to Mr. Prescott, the latest and one of the best authorities on the subject, the plains of Anahuac were overrun, previous to the discovery of America, by several successive races from the north-west of the Continent where it approaches Asia. Thus, in the thirteenth century, the great table-land of Central America was inhabited by a number of races and sub-races, all originally of the same stock, but differing from each other greatly in character and degree of civilization, and engaged in mutual hostilities. The cities of these different races were scattered over the plateau, principally in the neighbourhood of the five lakes. Tezcuco, on the eastern bank of the greatest of the lakes, was the capital of the Acolhuans; and the Tenochtitlan, or Mexico, founded in 1325, on an island in the same lake, was the capital of the Aztecs.

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the dominant race in the plains of Anahuac was the Acolhuans, or Tezcucans, represented as a people of mild and polished manners, skilled in the elegant arts, and possessing literary habits and tastes-the Athenians, if we may so call them, of the New World. The most celebrated of the Tezcucan sovereigns was Nezahualcoyotl, who reigned early in the fifteenth century. By this prince a revolution was effected in the political state of the valley of Anahuac. He procured the formation of a confederacy between Tezcuco and the two neighbouring friendly cities of Mexico and Tlacopan, by which they bound themselves severally to assist each other when attacked, and to carry on wars conjointly. In this strange alliance, Tezcuco was the principal member, as being confessedly the most powerful state; Mexico stood next; and lastly, Tlacopan, as being inferior to the other two.



Nezahualcoyotl died in 1470, and was succeeded on the Tezcucan throne by his son Nezahualpilli. During his reign the Tezcucans fell from their position as the first member of the triple confederacy which his father had formed, and gave place to the Aztecs or Mexicans. These Aztecs had been gradually growing in consequence since their first arrival in the valley. Decidedly inferior to the Tezcucans in culture, and professing a much more bloody and impure worship, they excelled them in certain qualities, and possessed, on the whole, a firmer and more compact character. If the Tezcucans were the Greeks, the Aztecs were the Romans of the New World. Under a series of able princes they had increased in importance, till now, in the reign of Nezahualpilli, they were the rivals of their allies, the Tezcucans, for the sovereignty of Anahuac.

In the year 1502, a vacancy occurred in the throne of Tenochtitlan, or Mexico. The election fell on Montezuma II., the nephew of the deceased monarch, a young man who had already distinguished himself as a soldier and a priest or sage, and who was noted, as his name-Montezuma (sorrowful man-implied, for a certain gravity and sad severity of manner. The first years of Montezuma's reign were spent in war. Carrying his victorious arms as far as Nicaragua and Honduras in the south, and to the shores of the Mexican gulf in the east, he extended the sovereignty of the triple confederacy, of which he was a member, over an immense extent of territory. Distant provinces he compelled to pay him tribute; and the wealth of Anahuac flowed from all directions towards the Valley of Mexico. Haughty and severe in his disposition, and magnificent in his tastes, he ruled like an Oriental despot over the provinces which he had conquered; and the least attempt at rebellion was fearfully punished, captives being dragged in hundreds to the capital to be slaughtered on the stone of human sacrifice in the great war temple. Nor did Montezuma's own natural-born subjects stand less in dread of him. Wise, liberal, and even generous in his government, his inflexible and relentless justice, and his lordly notions of his own dignity, made him an object less of affection than of awe and reverence. In his presence, his nobles spoke in whispers; in his palace he was served with a slavish homage; and when he appeared in public, his subjects veiled their faces as un

* Besides the ordinary sacrifice in which the victim's heart was cut out and laid on the altar, there was a gladiatorial sacrifice, where the victim contended with a succession of warriors before being offered up.

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worthy to gaze upon his person. The death of Nezahualpilli, in 1516, made him absolute sovereign in Anahuac. On the death of that king, two of his sons, Cacama and Ixtlilxochitl, contended for the throne of Tezcuco. Montezuma sided with Cacama; and the dispute was at length ended by compromise between the two brothers, by which the kingdom was divided into two parts-Cacama obtaining the southern half with the city of Tezcuco, and Ixtlilxochitl the northern half.

Thus, at the period of the arrival of the Spaniards, Montezuma was absolute sovereign of nearly the whole of that portion of Central America which lies between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean the kings of Tezcuco and Tlacopan being nominally his confederates and counsellors, according to the ancient treaty of alliance between the three states, but in reality his dependents. The spot where Cortes had landed was in one of the maritime provinces of Montezuma's dominion.

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