Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/266

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
258
TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

improved and utilized the labors of others that the whole territory bears the impress of his mighty mind. His work, "A Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain," though now chiefly useful as giving statistical information regarding the country previous to and at the period of his visit, must yet be taken, as a later writer truly says, as the point d'appui for the works of all travellers coming after him. Though perhaps he did not discover here much that was new, or throw any new light upon the history of the people, he yet brought afresh to the notice of the world the writings of the old historians, revived an interest in archaeology, and set before all Europe the great natural resources of a country then inhabited by an oppressed people. His books have been a mine of wealth for subsequent historians, and have indeed served not only as a point d'appui, but as a very material portion of their productions.

No building in the city, except the former residence of Humboldt, so forcibly brings to mind the great savant as the mint,—the Casa de Moneda. Though all the prominent points of the valley, such hills as Chapultepec, El Penon, and the Cerro of Guadalupe, are associated with his astronomical observations and trigonometrical surveys, yet this Casa de Moneda recalls that vast array of figures with which he demonstrated the actual coinage of Mexico from remote times up to the period of his visit. Not millions, but billions, are necessary in expressing in dollars the vast treasure that has passed through this mint, entering in crude ingots and departing in glittering pesos. The wealth of Montezuma and the Incas of Peru combined has been poured into this establishment since its foundation, since its first coinage in 1535 to the present day. The accumulated treasures of those great monarchs represented the slow accretions of centuries, but the silver flood that is now flowing into the apartado represents a stream that promises to increase rather than diminish,—to augment as the rich veins are developed and the old and abandoned mines pumped out and reworked.

The coinage here, for the first three hundred years, was not far from $2,200,000,000! Though I cannot give exact statis-