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Conquest of Mexico

Page 13 (1).—About 62° Fahrenheit, or 17° Réaumur. (Humboldt, Essai Politique, tom. i. p. 273.) The more elevated plateaux of the tableland, as the Valley of Toluca, about 8500 feet above the tea, have a stern climate, in which the thermometer, during a great part of the day, rarely rises beyond 45° F.—Idem. (loc. cit.), and Malte-Brun (Universal Geography, Eng. Trans., book 83), who is, indeed, in this part of his work, but an echo of the former writer.

Page 13 (2).—The elevation of the Castiles, according to the authority repeatedly cited, is about 350 toises, or 2100 feet above the ocean. (Humboldt's Dissertation, apud Laborde, Itinéraire Deicriptif de l'Espagne [Paris, 1817], tom. i. p. 5.) It is rare to find plains in Europe of so great a height.

Page 13 (3).—Archbishop Lorenzana estimates the circuit of the Valley at ninety leagues, correcting at the same time the statement of Cortés, which puts it at seventy, very near the truth, as appears from the result of M. de Humboldt's measurement, cited in the text. Its length is about eighteen leagues, by twelve and a half in breadth. (Humboldt, Essai Politique, tom. ii. p. 29.—Lorenzana, Hist, de Nueva España, p. 102). Humboldt's map of the Valley of Mexico forms the third in his Atlas Géographique et Physique, and, like all the others in the collection, will be found of inestimable value to the traveller, the geologist, and the historian.

Page 14 (1).—Humboldt, Essai Politique, tom. ii. pp. 29, 44-49.—Malte-Brun, book 85. This latter geographer assigns only 6700 feet for the level of the Valley, contradicting himself (comp. book 83), or rather Humboldt, to whose pages he helps himself, plenis manibus, somewhat too liberally, indeed, for the scanty references at the bottom of his page.

Page 14 (2).—Torquemada accounts, in part, for this diminution, by supposing that, as God permitted the waters, which once covered the whole earth, to subside, after mankind had been nearly exterminated for their iniquities, so he allowed the waters of the Mexican lake to subside, in token of goodwill and reconciliation, after the idolatrous races of the land had been destroyed by the Spaniards! (Monarchia Indiana [Madrid, 1723], tom. i. p. 309.) Quite as probable, if not as orthodox an explanation, may be found in the active evaporation of these upper regions, and in the fact of an immense drain having been constructed, during the lifetime of the good father, to reduce the waters of the principal lake, and protect the capital from inundation.

Page 14 (3).—Anahuac, according to Humboldt, comprehended only the country between the 14th and 21st degrees of N. latitude. (Essai Politique, tom. i. p. 197.) According to Clavigero, it included nearly all since known as New Spain. (Stor. del Messico, tom. i. p. 27.) Veytia uses it, also, as synonymous with New Spain. (Historia Antigua de Mejico [Mejico, 1836], tom. L cap. 12.) The first of these writers probably allows too little, as the latter do too much, for its boundaries. Ixtlilxochitl says it extended four hundred leagues south of the Otomie country. (Hist. Chichemeca, MS., cap. 73.) The word Anahuac signifies near the water. It was, probably, first applied to the country around the lakes in the Mexican Valley, and gradually extended to the remoter regions occupied by the Aztecs, and the other semi-civilised races. Or, possibly, the name may have been intended, as Veytia suggests (Hist. Antig., lib. i, cap. l), to denote the land between the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific.

Page 14 (4).—Clavigero talk of Boturini's having written "on the faith of the Toltec historians." (Stor. del Messico, tom. i. p. 1 28.) But that scholar does not pretend to have ever met with a Toltec manuscript himself, and had heard of only one in the possession of Ixtlilxochitl. (See his Idea de una Nueva Historia General de la America Septentrional [Madrid, 1746], p. 110.) The latter writer tells us, that his account of the Toltec and Chichimec races was "derived from interpretation" (probably, of the Tezcucan paintings), "and from the traditions of old men"; poor authority for events which had passed centuries before. Indeed, he acknowledges that their narratives were so full of absurdity and falsehood that he was obliged to reject nine-tenths of them. (See his Relaciones, MS., No. 5.) The cause of truth would not have suffered much, probably, if he had rejected nine-tenths of the remainder.