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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/44

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WHO ever hears the word "Comprachicos" now, and who knows its meaning?

The Comprachicos, or Comprapequeños, were a hideous and nondescript association of wanderers, famous in the seventeenth century, forgotten in the eighteenth, unheard of in the nineteenth. The Comprachicos are like the "succession powder," an ancient social characteristic detail. They are part of old human ugliness. To the great eye of history, which sees everything collectively, the Comprachicos are closely connected with the colossal evil of slavery. Joseph sold by his brethren is one chapter in their history. The Comprachicos have left their traces in the penal laws of Spain and England. You find here and there in the dark confusion of English laws the impress of this horrible truth, like the footprint of a savage in a forest.

Comprachicos, the same as Comprapequeños, is a compound Spanish word signifying "Child-buyers." The Comprachicos traded in children. They bought and sold them. They did not steal them; the kidnapping of children is another branch of industry. And what did they make of these children? Monsters. Why monsters? To laugh at. The populace must needs laugh; and kings too. The mountebank is wanted in the