Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/493

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

found any loitering within them, they exercised with tolerable freedom a long lash, with a broad thong at the end of it—a discipline which appeared the more tyrannical, as the church was not sufficiently capacious for all the attendants, and several sat upon the steps without.

"The congregation was arranged on both sides of the building, separated by a wide aisle passing along the center, in which were stationed several alguazils with whips, canes, and goads to preserve silence and maintain order; and, what seemed more difficult than either, to keep the congregation in their kneeling posture. The goads were better adapted to this purpose than the whips, as they would reach a long way, and inflict a sharp puncture without making any noise. The end of the church was occupied by a guard of soldiers under arms, with fixed bayonets—a precaution which I suppose experience had taught the necessity of observing." The spectacle presented of church doors guarded by soldiers, and of attendants provided with whips' and goads to prick the unwilling or ignorant into kneeling, is certainly not a very edifying spectacle according to later ideas, and savors far too much of slavery. Indeed, the resemblance was suggested to more than one eye-witness; and Pérouse finds in the system an unhappy resemblance to the slave plantations of Santo Domingo. He says: "With pain we say it, the resemblance is so perfect that we have seen men and women in irons or in the stocks; and even the sound of the lash might have struck our ears, that punishment being also admitted, though practiced with little severity."

It is not improbable that there were occasional instances in which undue severity was exercised in punishment, but it is safe to conclude that cases of actual cruelty were not common. When such occurred, it is probable that they were the acts of the subordinate officers of the missions, who were chiefly Indians, and that they were not sanctioned by the priests. Nevertheless, the charge was more than once made by the Government authorities. Offenders were punished by fetters, the whip, and the stocks, and by imprisonment. Estudillo says that the friars treated the neophytes as their children, correcting them with words, and for serious offenses with from twelve to twenty-five lashes. Subsequently the latter number was the extreme limit fixed by authority, the implication being that occasionally at least this number had been exceeded. A deserter, says Langsdorff, was bastinadoed, and an iron rod a foot or a foot and a half long was fastened to one of his feet.

From the very first the fathers adopted the policy of compelling the neophytes to work. By this means not only were they instructed in certain useful occupations and kept out of mischief, but by the products of their labor the missions were largely sup-