Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/500

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How many of them actually did survive can not be told, but the number was relatively very small. The decree for the disestablishment of the missions was made by the Spanish Cortes in 1813, but it was not carried into final effect until 1834. Between 1820 and 1830 there was a gradual but marked decline in mission prosperity. In 1834 the twenty-one missions contained fifteen thousand converts; but earlier than this the constant drafts upon the native tribes had about exhausted the supply, and by 1830 no more converts were to be had within reach of most of the missions. In fact, most of the natives had been converted out of existence.

The wealth of the missions was no mean dowry for the surviving neophytes, for collectively they now contained among other property one hundred and forty thousand cattle, twelve thousand horses, and one hundred and thirty thousand sheep; which totals, though reduced from previous years, will afford some idea of the wealth resulting from convert labor and missionary overseeing. The missions had been more successful in the accumulation of property than in civilizing the Indians.

As has been stated, the original plan of colonization contemplated the Indian as a citizen in individual possession of land, each with his share of the accumulated mission property, consisting of horses, cattle, sheep, etc. The experiment of giving the Indian his freedom, so long contemplated, was now (1834) to be tried. The fathers, facing the inevitable, recommended that a partial trial be made first, as they believed that the Indian was not ready for the experiment; and, indeed, how was it possible that he should be? Had the intention from the very first been to unfit him for independent existence, no better plan could have been devised than the one actually followed. Educated he was not, except in the necessary portions of the-ritual of the Catholic Church, and in so far as a certain number spoke Spanish. Civilized he certainly was not, since his knowledge of the art of husbandry and of the manual arts was only sufficient to enable him to be a producer under task-masters. He was, in fact, master scarcely of the rudiments of civilization. In short, at the end of mission rule, the Indian was really less capable of taking care of himself than at the beginning: he was found a free man—he was left a dependent.

Could the provisions of the secularization act have been carried out gradually and honestly by capable officers and with the co-operation of the missionaries, even then it may be doubted if the intelligence and civilized attainments of the Indian would have been equal to the occasion. As it was, political considerations prevented a fair trial of the plan, and the final act in the mission drama is little else but a history of robbery and oppres-