From Empire to Republic - Arthur H. Noll

Mexico Under Spanish Rule

In the early years of the sixteenth century, the territory to which the name "Mexico" has since been given, was occupied, to an extent now unknown, by various Indian tribes. Of these, the farthest advanced toward civilization, and the most powerful, was that known as the Aztec tribe. It occupied the pueblo of Tenochtitlan, upon an island in the borders of Lake Texcoco, in the center of the Valley of Mexico. In the previous century this tribe had confederated with certain neighboring tribes for purposes of war, and had thereby become elevated to a position whence it could inspire with fear and dread other tribes far and near.

In the year 1519, Europeans appeared upon the coast of Mexico and advanced inland to the pueblo of Tenochtitlan. The capture and destruction of this pueblo by the Spaniards under Hernando Cortes in 1521, and the subsequent subjugation of the Indians of the surrounding country, comprise a series of events embalmed in history under the fascinating but misleading title of "The Conquest of Mexico." These events are too generally known to require recounting here. With San Hipolito's Day (August 13), 1521, when Cortes accepted the surrender of the last Aztec war-chief and formally took possession of the pueblo's site, begins the history of the territory as a province of Spain,—or, perhaps more properly speaking, as a kingdom of the vast Spanish Empire. Officially, it bore the name of Nueva Espana  or New Spain; though it continued to be popularly known as Mexico.

Exploration of this territory soon revealed the fact that it was by far the most beautiful, as well as the richest, of all the possessions ever gained by Spain in the New World. It possessed every feature of picturesque scenery, reaching in many places to unimaginable grandeur. Nature had furthermore been peculiarly lavish of her wealth; she had provided the mountain chains with some of the richest mines in the world, and had furnished the valleys with regions of the greatest fertility, capable of producing every vegetable growth of every clime, in sufficient quantities to support a population of one hundred and fifty millions.

The history of the Spanish Domination in Mexico extends over three centuries. It took a considerable time for Spain to devise and put into operation a system of government for her newly acquired possessions in the Western Hemisphere. The Consejo de las Indias  (Council of the Indies) and the Casa de Contratacion  (answering in Spain very nearly to the English India House) were already in existence in anticipation of the establishment of colonies in the New World; but neither of these agencies was prepared at once to arrange for the government of the vast country brought suddenly within its jurisdiction by the almost incredible exploits of Cortes. For several years the Conquistadores  assumed charge of the country as Military Governors; though the Ayuntamiento  (the Spanish form of municipal government) was established, first in Vera Cruz and afterwards in the City of Mexico. This provisional form of government was subsequently more widely adopted for the organization of cities, the division of land among colonists, and the greater security of the inhabitants of the Province. At the same time, the districts into which the Province was early divided were superintended by Cabildos  controlled by a central government in the City of Mexico. But to a great extent, the ordinances and rules of the Ayuntamiento  of Mexico have been in force in the country from 1522 up to very recent times.

Los Oficiales Reales  (the Royal Officers), appointed to govern the country in the absence of Cortes, were early added to the governing machinery of the new country; and Los Visitadores y Jueces de Residencia  (Visitors and Resident Judges), who were at first sent by the Crown to investigate the conduct of Cortes and the other Military Governors, soon superseded them in the government and exercised extraordinary powers.

In 1528 a body of men styled Audiencia Real  (Royal Audience) arrived in Mexico. It was composed of five commissioners known as Oidores  (Auditors), sent out by the King of Spain to impose a further check upon Cortes. The Audiencia  superseded the Military Governors, Oficiales Reales  and Visitadores y Jueces de Residencia  in the government of New Spain, and performed for a while all the functions relating to the administration of justice.

Mexico, however, had not become a colony in the sense in which that term would be used in England or France. It was governed, in common with the other Spanish possessions in the Western World, by codes of laws distinct from the laws of Spain and intended to suit what were considered the special exigencies of the trans-Atlantic Provinces. Mexico was, in fact, a separate kingdom, and was so termed in all legislation upon the subject; and, with Peru, Buenos Ayres, Chili, and other South American countries, contributed to form that vast empire whose sovereign was enabled thereby to call himself "King of Spain and the Indies."

In 1535, with the arrival of the first of the Spanish Viceroys, the scheme of government finally settled down into that of a Vireinate;  and this system continued for three centuries, until the Mexicans, after long struggle, in 1821 threw off the yoke of Spain, and, as an independent nation, began a series of experiments in self-government. Throughout this long period, however, the Royal Audiences were continued as a permanent institution to which even the Viceroys were subject in judicial matters. The Audiences were to act as a check upon the Viceroys, and had the privilege of placing their President in charge of the government during any vacancy that might occur in the Viceregal office. In a number of cases the President of the Audiencia  not only discharged the functions of the Viceregal office, but took the title of Viceroy. All this was in accordance with Spain's usual policy with her possessions beyond the seas, of setting one part of a government to watch the other. For a similar purpose, an Intendente  was appointed by the Crown, charged with the duty of collecting and applying the taxes, revenues, and imposts, which in New Spain were predestined to be many and exceedingly vexatious.

The Viceroys were appointed for five years, by the King, at the instance of the Consejo de las Indias. They were to be the supreme rulers or chiefs of New Spain, representing in everything, as their political title implied, the King of Spain,—with their authority limited only in certain cases by the Audiencias  or by the Ayuntamientos. They were wholly without responsibility to the people whom they were sent to govern. All the powers of administration were concentrated in this Viceregal authority,—though the holders of the office were of necessity provided with Fiscales, or Administrators of various kinds, whom, because of their own too general lack of familiarity with the administration of justice, they were obliged to consult before taking any important step.

The Viceroys were for the most part Spanish nobles and courtiers who desired the position for their own selfish purposes, for repairing their dilapidated fortunes; and they generally returned to Spain with wealth wrung from the Mexicans, after maintaining a court in Mexico patterned after that of Madrid and accompanied by all the pageantry of the royal administration of the sixteenth century. In their government they seem to have been actuated chiefly by a desire (after recuperating their own fortunes) to secure all that was possible for the royal treasury, to build up and strengthen the government and wealth of Spain, and to extend the dominion of the Church.

As would naturally be expected under such circumstances, the Viceroys were not in every case wise and just rulers. Some were, indeed, distinguished for their honorable services in New Spain. But the list of these is not a long one, and includes few names besides those of Antonio de Mendoza (1535-1550), Luis de Velasco (1550-1566), Fray Payo de Rivera, Archbishop of Mexico (1673), the Marquis of Croix (1766-1771), Bucareli (1771-1779), Matlas de Galvez "the Diligent" (1783-1785), his no less diligent son Bernardo (1785-1787), and the eccentric second Count of Revillagigedo (1789-1794). A majority of the Viceroys exhibited characters reflecting too clearly the deplorable condition into which the affairs of Spain were falling.

Viceroys and Viceregal government were expensive luxuries for New Spain. The fact that some of the Viceroys were able to build churches and aqueducts, and make other expensive public improvements at their own cost and charges (as is so often recorded of those of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries), out of a salary of forty thousand dollars a year, increased about the year 1689 to seventy thousand dollars, indicates a state of affairs likely to awaken suspicion, to say the least. There were many ways by which the Viceroys could gain wealth in the discharge of their official duties. Some of these methods were looked upon as quite legitimate in the easy-going morality of those days. Titles and distinctions obtained from the King upon the recommendation of a Viceroy were made matters of bargain and sale from which the Viceroys derived a profit. The granting of licenses furnished another source of revenue; and there were some offices without salary, for which large sums were paid because of the opportunities they afforded the holders for peculation and the acceptance of bribes.

There were other methods, however, by which a Viceroy was enabled to amass a fortune, not so readily condoned by popular opinion, even in that age of loose public morals. The Viceroys were frequently coming into conflict with the people; and thus were occasioned the numerous insurrections recorded in the period of the Spanish Domination. And it is especially noticeable that on the occasions when the Audiencia  assumed ad interim  the supreme power in New Spain, it seldom failed to distinguish itself by some act that served to outrage the people.

The offices of the government under the Viceroys were generally conferred upon those needing positions. Offices were created for the purpose of providing for such as had claims upon the good graces of the sovereign. And as new abuses were discovered in the new country, new offices were created for the purpose of correcting them, or with the object of espionage; and so the official list grew, until the number of officials and the amount of governing exercised in New Spain exceeded that of any province on record. Yet for all that, even when Spain was made aware of some of the maladies that afflicted her provinces beyond the Atlantic, growing out of defects in her governing system, she showed herself incompetent to cure them.

Even earlier than the Vireinate, an Ecclesiastical government was established in New Spain. As its development proceeded, it supplied to some extent an added check upon the government of the Viceroys; for so closely were Church and State allied in Spain, that interference in the government by the religious and secular clergy was not only possible in New Spain, but was scarcely to be avoided.

This Ecclesiastical government might be traced, as to its origin, to the bull of Pope Alexander VI.,—himself a Spaniard,—who, when news of the wealth of the New World first came to Europe, promptly divided the New West between Spain and Portugal, upon condition that the King of Spain should assume charge of the spiritual destinies of the natives. In 1502 the King of Spain was constituted the head of the Church in America, with the sole right of appointing to benefices and offices therein. Ecclesiastical government was destined, from the start, to exert an important influence upon the affairs of New Spain, and to entail some serious problems for settlement by the subsequent Republic of Mexico. The evangelization of the country kept pace with, or even in many cases outstripped, its colonization, in the early years of New Spain. It was effected by the religious orders, whom Cortes preferred to the secular clergy, as best fitted for the work awaiting them in a new country; and as a consequence, the members of these orders increased in number more rapidly than the secular clergy.

In this work of evangelization by the religious orders, the Franciscans took the lead. They were followed by the Dominicans, and later by a number of other orders. The work of all these extended rapidly, until in a short time the colonized portions of New Spain resembled one vast ecclesiastical establishment. A glance at the map of Mexico serves to strengthen this assertion as well as to illustrate it. The Spanish names to be found thereon are for the most part religious names, and mark points at which the missionaries established their work in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. So widespread had the system of the Franciscans become in 1606 that the entire country was divided into six provinces. Mexico was erected into a Bishopric before the Viceregal government was established therein. New Bishoprics were organized so rapidly that in 1545 Mexico was advanced to the dignity of an Archbishopric, including four other dioceses. Two more dioceses were added within a few years subsequently.

It may be frankly admitted that the influence of the religious orders was in the main beneficial to the country throughout the sixteenth century. The Archbishops and Bishops of Mexico exercised great influence in the affairs of government. They were respected by the civil authorities and venerated by the natives. The Franciscans, by zealous missionary work among the natives, gained a powerful influence over their converts, which they used judiciously to strengthen the position obtained for the Spaniards through conquest, and maintained by force of arms. The Jesuits, who arrived in the year 1572, true to the purpose of their order, tried to foster learning in the new land, though with but limited success. Other religious orders established and maintained admirably appointed hospitals and asylums in every large city.

The Dominicans were not slow in establishing the detestable Inquisition; but it was for the express and very plausible purpose of keeping the colonists and foreigners in order, and advancing the spiritual interests of the Church. The Indians were, by specific command, exempted from its operations. Of all the orders, the Dominicans exerted the most powerful influence in political affairs. It was upon the suggestion of Zumarraga, a Dominican, who was the first Bishop of Mexico, that the Viceregal system of government was adopted for New Spain. And the government was more frequently under Dominican than Franciscan or any other religious influence. The Archbishopric of Mexico was likewise filled with members of the Dominican order. Under the Viceregal system, combined as it was with the system of Royal Audiences, in case of a vacancy a prelate would frequently hold the office of Viceroy ad interim; and thus the names of ten prelates, nearly all Dominicans, appear in the list of the sixty-two Viceroys of New Spain.

In the seventeenth century the beneficial influence of the religious orders began to wane. They had grown rich and worldly; the Carmelites, who had come to Mexico as late as 1585, had become so wealthy that they owned estates in the province of San Luis Potosi one hundred leagues in extent, reaching from the city of that name to Tampico on the Gulf coast. The protection of the Indians from the aggressions of the colonists, previously afforded by the orders, was greatly relaxed. It is not without significance that one great source of the Church's wealth during this period was found in the opulent colonists, who by their munificent gifts to the Church were able to acquire an ascendancy over the ecclesiastical authorities and maintained it ready for use whenever an emergency arose rendering it serviceable.

Feuds arose between the religious and the secular clergy, and led to contentions in the Church. The Franciscans and the Dominicans had but to transfer to their homes in the New World the bitter jealousies that had characterized them in the Old. The management of the Indians furnished a constant occasion of strife between the friars of all the orders and the civil authorities.

So it came about most naturally, and as one of the repetitions to which history is proverbially committed, that the influence of the religious orders proved exceedingly harmful during the last of the three centuries of Spanish rule in Mexico. The Dominicans, who had all along been a dominating power, had, by the exercise of the functions of the Holy Office, engendered a deep feeling of hatred for the religious government, and this hatred reacted upon the political government so closely connected with it. The Dominicans alone might be said to have furnished a powerful cause for the overthrow of Spanish rule, at the very time that they were laboring hardest to uphold it as it manifested signs of tottering. And all the orders,—by seizing and holding vast amounts of property, by building churches and monasteries in times when the people were suffering the most abject poverty, and by enforcing the law of tithes and thus gaining control of wealth which should have been applied to encouraging industry and relieving the needs of the people,—conspired to stimulate the popular discontent which finally broke out into open revolt.

It is too often the custom of nations dominating foreign peoples, or founding colonies, to extort as much as possible of the products of their subjects, and make their happiness and progress a mere secondary consideration or leave them out of the account altogether. Spain exemplified this custom in regard to her possessions in America. After the abdication of Carlos and the accession of his narrow-souled and bigoted son Felipe II. (more generally known to English-speaking readers as Philip II.), the colonial policy was lowered from the high standard set for it by the father. Felipe cared nothing for the New World, save as a source of supply for gold and silver, and as a field for the exercise of his religious bigotry. From the time of Felipe II., the Inquisition, the power of the Church, and unjust taxation, marking the downward course of the Spanish Empire, exercised a dominating influence upon the colonial policy in Mexico. The unwholesome spirit of absolutism in the court of Madrid manifested itself likewise in the Viceregal court of New Spain.

Under Carlos III. (1759-1787), a reform was undertaken in Spain, and the effects thereof were felt in Mexico. The Inquisition was stifled, the power of the Church was curtailed, and taxation was reduced. Viceroys who were men of energy and probity were sent out to New Spain, and with them a Visitor-General with full power to investigate and reform all parts of the government and especially the financial system employed there. Special privileges were granted to the natives, and an attempt was made to give the Europeans in Mexico a better opportunity for self-government. All this, however, lasted but for a time. Then affairs relapsed into their former state, and the evils of that state were worse than at first.

Colonization resulted in the creation of various social classes among his Majesty's subjects in New Spain. There were, first of all, the white colonists of pure Spanish blood. These comprised the only recognized society in the social organization that existed in Spanish America. They were attached to the Viceregal court, or were in thorough sympathy therewith, under a policy of government that permitted only Spaniards to fill the offices in New Spain. They were wild adventurers for the most part,—gold-thirsty traders, often less civilized in their notions of truth and in the refinement of their manners and mode of life than the races whose land they had invaded. Yet to them only were the doors open for preferment in the Church, in the army, or at the bar, for many years previous to the opening of the nineteenth century. They inhabited chiefly the table-lands of the interior of the country, and were inclined to uphold Spain's unjust policy of government in the Western World as against all the other social classes. In the later period of Spanish Domination they became known as "Old Spaniards "; and to the Indians they were known as Gachupines,—a word of dubious origin, always applied opprobriously and probably meaning "thieves."

In the opposite social scale were the Indians, the pure native races,—Aztecs, Zapotecs, Tarascans, Otomies, and many others,—who were scarcely recognized as having any rights which the Spaniards were bound to respect. It is evident, from various decrees of the Crown and of the Viceroys, that the Spanish government never recognized as vested in the Indians any but possessory rights in the land to which they were indigenous, and that it never intended to grant them anything more than this. These people were concentrated mainly in the vicinity of the large cities of the table-lands,—Mexico, Puebla, Oaxaca, Guanajuato and Valladolid.

A third class was composed of Creoles, as they were called,—the white natives of New Spain of pure European descent. These, although the possessors of wealth, and arrogating to themselves positions of equality with the Spaniards, were regarded by the latter in almost the same category as the native Indians. Usually classed with the Creoles, and going by their name, were people of mixed Indian and Spanish blood, more properly known as Mestizos.

There were, besides these three chief classes, various kinds of half-castes,—the mixture of whites and negroes, or mulattoes; Indians and negroes, called Zamhos  or Chinos;  and there were some African negroes, principally upon the Gulf and Pacific coasts, whither the African slaves imported into Mexico were sent because of the unhealthfulness of those regions for the Europeans.

In 1793, according to a report made to the King by the Viceroy of that time,—the energetic but eccentric Count of Revillagigedo,—the proportion of these various classes was about as follows: out of a population of five and a quarter millions in New Spain, there were less than ten thousand Europeans, about two-thirds of a million of white Creoles, a million and a half of the different half-castes, and over two and a quarter millions of Indians. The number of Europeans is supposed to have increased to eighty thousand within the next quarter of a century, and that of the white Creoles to about a million.

The asperities resulting from the mutual repugnance of the Mexican and Spanish stocks were increased by the refusal of the Spaniards, in their pride, to make any distinction between the Indians and the Creoles, even though the latter might be as rich as themselves, and certainly were more numerous; and although, also, they were numerically strong enough at any time, either alone or by uniting with the Indians, to overthrow the power of Spain and set up a government of their own. Yet so great was the Spanish contempt for all but "Old Spaniards" that one of the later Viceroys, after the question of "home rule" had arisen, declared that as long as a Castilian remained in the country, though he were no more than a cobbler, he ought to rule in New Spain.

Not only had the conquest and subjugation of the country been marked by extreme cruelty to the native races, but with the earliest schemes for colonization, the iniquitous system of encomiendas  and repartimientos  had been introduced into Mexico. Thus had been established a kind of slavery for the Indians, partaking somewhat of the nature of feudal vassalage in different forms, ranging from mere wardship to absolute servitude of the most abject type. It is true that laws were enacted by the Consejo de las Indians, apparently emanating from a desire to protect the Indians and put some curb on the extortions and cruelty of the colonists. But Spain was too far distant, and communication was too difficult, for the cry of the oppressed to be distinctly heard, or to enable the mother country to exercise any supervision or exert any great influence in ameliorating their condition.

Some of the decrees for the amelioration of the Indians illustrate, as nothing else can, the extent of the evils sought to be remedied. For example, a royal ordinance of 1554 decreed that no slaves should be made in future wars; that the system of assigning slaves to each colonist should be abandoned; and that the Indians should not as a class be solely devoted to ignoble pursuits. Thirty years later the attempt was made to secure for the Indians employed in the mines, regular hours of repose, and some time to "breathe the fresh air on the surface of the earth."

Decrees abolishing slavery were numerous. Luis de Yelasco, the second Viceroy, by his act manumitting one hundred and fifty thousand Indians held as slaves by the Spanish colonists, gained for himself the title of "The Emancipator." Yet upon a division of the royal domain, sometime subsequently, the government established a bad precedent of inconsistency with its own decrees, by transferring the Indians with the soil. And notwithstanding decrees of manumission and restriction, slavery continued under various forms throughout the Spanish regime;  and cruelty to the slaves bore fruit from time to time in terrible pestilences, whereby nearly two millions of Indians are said to have perished.

The colonists eagerly sought the revocation of the decree of 1554, and were wont to plead, in defense of their cruel treatment of the Indians, that only by the employment of slave labor could they hope to make the country produce the exorbitant taxes levied upon colonial products by the Spanish government. There may have been something in the plea by which they sought to hold Spain responsible for the continuance of an institution which she was ostensibly endeavoring to keep within bounds and eventually to abolish.

The laws enacted by the Consejo de las Indias  for the government of the colonists (who were, however, denied all voice in their enactment) had little or no regard for the needs of the Spanish subjects in New Spain; they were involved in contradictions, and were arbitrarily enforced. The Consejo  was in some respects the most peculiar governing body known to history. It was established in 1511, and gradually usurped exclusive control of the Spanish possessions in the New World. It enacted all the laws and regulations for the government of Spanish America, and made or confirmed all appointments—civil, military, and even ecclesiastical—for that country. The higher officials of New Spain received from the Consejo  orders and instructions regarding the performance of their duties, which had to be explicitly obeyed; and the Consejo  was a final Court of Appeals in all cases involving important questions arising in the New World. Over all its proceedings the monarch reserved the right of veto; but this right was seldom exercised.

Vacancies in the Consejo  were filled upon its own recommendation; consequently it was a self-perpetuating body, both as to its constituency and as to its policy. It soon became forgetful that it owed any obligations to the native Mexicans, or that those people were any other than beasts of burden, bound to eternal vassalage to the Spanish people quite as much as to the Spanish monarch. Someone has remarked that "the worst features of the two worst governments in the world—the Gothic rule and that of the Spanish Moors—had been combined to form the government of Spain; and then the worst features of this mongrel government had been carefully preserved to oppress the native population of Mexico, in the code sent out to it by the Supreme Council of the Indies."

The law in New Spain was exceedingly slow in its course. Redress sought by appeal to the Viceroy might have to go to the Council of the Indies; and matters that ought to have been settled by the Alcalde or Regidor of a provincial town must be delayed until they could reach the Viceroy and await his deliberations. In fact, so impossible was it to obtain, through the Council and the officials sent from Spain, redress for injuries which those in Mexico might receive, that a maxim came into vogue to the effect that "God is in Heaven, and the King is in Spain,"—implying that there was no limit to the power of the royal representatives, and no remedy for the wrongs done to the subject; significant also of the forgetfulness of all humanity on the part of Spanish officials and hopeless submission of the subjects to their rule. In other parts of the Spanish possessions a proverbial expression was current and was applied to any official whose conduct proved unjust, arbitrary, or tyrannical: Es muy Rey, He is very much King!

In regard to commerce, the Spanish monarchs, aided and abetted by the Consejo  and the Casa de Contratacion, manifested a peculiar phase of absolutism. That the trade might be controlled for the sole advantage and benefit of the home government, the colonists were prohibited, under penalty of death and forfeiture of property, from trading with any country but Spain. Even a carrying trade between one colony and another was forbidden; and commerce with Spain was so trammeled with burdensome regulations as to render it far from profitable save to the favored few.

The Casa de Contratacion  had been established in 1501, for the purpose of directing the course of commerce between the colonies and the mother country. It was a court of judicature, and had jurisdiction over the conduct of all persons connected with the trade between the two countries. An appeal from it could be made to the Consejo  after that body was created.

By the regulations of the Casa, all commerce was to be carried on in Spanish ships. Not a vessel could unload a cargo except at a given port,—Sevilla at first, and until Cadiz was made a like favored city,—and an outgoing vessel could receive only such goods as had passed through that port. No foreign vessel could enter any harbor in Mexico. Other ports of Spain were opened to trade in the time of Carlos III., but only for a short time. In Mexico, commerce was restricted to the port of Vera Cruz.

All English goods had to be carried first to Spain, there landed, and thence once more shipped for their first destination in the New World; so that the price was enhanced a hundred-fold by the time the goods reached the consumer in Mexico. Such restrictions upon trade threw it into the hands of a few business houses, and created monopolies with all their attendant evils. When Sevilla enjoyed exclusive commerce with Mexico, the whole amount of shipping employed did not exceed twenty-eight thousand tons. For a long time fifteen ships, voyaging at intervals of one or two years, carried all the trade between Spain and Mexico. The number was afterward increased to fifty or sixty.

The system of prohibitive duties was so exacting that three-fourths of the imports into Mexico were smuggled. The custom-house officers were bribed to connive at the violation of laws which decreed death as a penalty for their infraction. The great wonder is that Spain succeeded for so long a time in maintaining a trade monopoly that, by all the rules of political economy ever formulated, was destined from the start to decline and shrink to dwarfish proportions, and sooner or later to collapse.

Restrictions upon commerce with Mexico might have been to the advantage of that country in stimulating the development of her industries and of her natural resources. But so anxious was Spain to monopolize every possible advantage, that it was made illegal in Mexico to erect factories, or to cultivate any raw products that would come into direct competition with home industries. Mexico was looked to for a supply of the precious metals only. Saffron, hemp, olives, grapes in vineyards, and many other things that Mexico might have raised for her own use or for shipment to Spain, were inhibited by law. Immigration was thoroughly discouraged. No foreigner could enter New Spain without the express permission of the Spanish government. It was in the enforcement of this law that the Holy Office was expected to render its greatest assistance.

Education was discouraged in all the Spanish possessions. It is customary to cite as historic facts, in contradiction of this statement, the setting up in Mexico, in 1535, of the first printing-press in the New World, and the establishment there, in 1551, of the first University on this continent. But neither the printing-press nor the so-called University proved very powerful agents in the dissemination of learning. The printing-press was necessarily limited in its usefulness by circumstances; the one newspaper emanating from it—the Gaceta—was published immediately under the direction of the government, and carefully excluded anything which might be opposed to the Viceregal Court or Audiencia. Newspapers were allowed to be imported from Spain only, and such as came from that quarter once or twice a year gave information only of the movements of the Spanish Court and of the Church. The University was restricted in its usefulness to those who inherited or otherwise possessed a knowledge of the Spanish tongue; and it never had more than two hundred students at any one time. What other schools and colleges there may have been were kept under the sole direction of ecclesiastics who were charged with keeping the people in ignorance rather than with extending their knowledge, and who carefully excluded from the course of instruction such branches of study as were likely to elevate the feelings or strengthen the mind.

The Index Expurgatorius  of the Roman See was extended in its scope to meet the requirements of the Indies; and the literary productions of Mexico belonging to the period of the Spanish Domination comprise a few poems and plays of small value, and some works on natural history and on the antiquities of the country which it would be far from safe for the modern student to accept as authoritative.

The laws which excluded Spaniards born in America—that is, the Creoles proper—from equal rights with those who were of direct importation from Spain, and especially from any share in the government or of the higher dignities of the Church, were sufficient in themselves to make the Creoles discontented and unhappy. Their unhappiness and discontent were readily communicated to the Mestizos, with whom they had much in common, and added to those feelings which the latter had derived from their Indian ancestors. Three centuries of Spanish rule, under Military Governors, Royal Audiences, Viceroys, Religious Orders, and Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, were not sufficient to subdue the proud spirit of the Indians with which Cortes and his soldiers had to contend in the sixteenth century, and which has since been the inheritance of every Mexican born with so much as a drop of Indian blood in his veins. The cruel treatment they had received left a legacy of hatred for their European masters stored up by each successive generation of Indians. It has not yet been exhausted. It is in no way surprising that they should have become sullen and vengeful; nor that they fostered, until it became inveterate, a hatred of the very name of Spaniard.

The most important and the most disastrous result of the long period of misgovernment in New Spain, however, was not the destruction of the present happiness of the people, but the almost total destruction in them of all capacity for self-government in the future. The Mexican people were so long oppressed, that, like all people thus treated, they were unable to establish good government of their own until they had learned by the most painful experiences that freedom is not merely the absence of restraint, but a rule, the correct administration of which requires the sacrifice of the wishes of the individual to the interests of the commonwealth.

Few countries have passed through more political calamities in order to attain to a knowledge of what Constitutional government is, and how people are to be served thereby, than Mexico. The lesson is really in process of learning still; but to appreciate the advancement already made toward that knowledge, and the difficulties to be encountered in the approach thereto, it is not only necessary to consider the three centuries when Mexico was under the domination of Spain, and when her national character was being imperfectly formed, but also the means by which she gained her independence, and her various failures in self-government ere a few of her people awoke to a sense of the obstacles that presented themselves to her progress, and of the means by which these obstacles could be surmounted.