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origin will perhaps always remain a mystery. I was surprised to see how the people have retained their separate distinct individuality. All the exertions of the Spaniards have not been able to destroy the distinctive characteristics of this race, and to mould their manners, habits and customs, to the standard of European life. Their religion alone has been changed, and, in most, if not in all other respects, they remain as Cortez found them. In visiting them in their little villages, and seeing their habits of life, I was induced to believe that they are the very same people Montezuma left, so much do all the manners and customs of their life correspond to those of the Aztec race. At the present time, the population of Mexico is something more than seven millions of people, of whom not more than one million have white blood in their veins; these are the Spaniards, their descendants, or the offspring of their intermarriage with the natives of the country. Of this population nearly five millions are Mexican Indians, the descendants of the ancient rulers of the country. The latter class, who form the great body of the population, and are emphatically the people of Mexico, are a wretched race of beings, poor, ignorant and servile. In many parts of the country they still retain the language of their ancestors, and when addressed in Spanish, they understand no more what is said to them than if they had been spoken to in Chinese. I found them a distinct people. They principally congregate in villages called Pueblos, containing from one hundred to one thousand inhabitants. Their costume, mode of life, and habitations, all indicate extreme poverty. The men dress in a very coarse cloth, which they make from the fibres of the American aloe, or in the skins of different animals. The women wear no other dress, for the most part, than a chemise and a skirt tied at the waist. Both sexes very generally go bare-headed, and some wear sandals upon their feet. These poor beings are the hewers of wood, and the drawers of water for their more lordly masters. They till the soil, fill up the ranks of the army, and pour riches into the coffers of the church. Their huts are very rude indeed, being built of mud, or poles covered with leaves or reeds, and very seldom containing more than one room, in which are seen, very frequently, the donkeys and dogs with the family. Their beds are a few mats upon the hard ground. They are filthy in their persons and lazy. Though indolent in their habits, they do much hard work. A large proportion of the produce of the country, which is taken to the town to be sold, is carried upon the backs of these poor creatures, and the loads which they carry are really astonishing. I have seen them carry, strapped to their backs, as much timber, charcoal or earthenware, as a mule could well carry.
When these people are travelling to market they seldom walk, but always move along on a trot in Indian file, and this, too, with heavy loads upon their backs, and the burden sometimes increased by the addition of one or two children.
Though nominally free, they are in fact and practically speaking,
slaves, and in a state of bondage much worse than negro slavery. There is a system of servitude in Mexico called peonism, and the subjects of it are called peons. There is a sort of implied contract between the master and his servant, by which the latter is to receive five dollars a month for his labour. These wages are to support the labourer and his family, and the master is under no obligation to take care of them in sickness or old age. The servant is compelled to purchase every thing he needs from the master's store, and cannot leave him while in his debt. The latter is always the case, and the practical working of the system is to reduce these people to abject slavery under a more charming name. When they once become attached to an estate they never leave it, since they are always in debt, and generally pass with it, if conveyed away. I knew one man in the state of Nuevo Leon whose estates numbered upon them seventy thousand of these poor people. They comprise more than three-fourths of the Mexican
The food of the common people is very simple and nutritious, and which strangers soon learn to like. They have two standard articles of food that are used by all classes, and which may be called national dishes. They are called Tortillas and Frigoles, the former being made of pounded corn, and baked in thin cakes; the latter is a black bean stewed in lard and water. No Mexican table is complete without these two national dishes upon it.
In our last Quarterly Chronicle we mentioned that we had received "from an English gentleman, of high character, a communication on the subject of the Canadian troubles;" and which we promised to insert in a future number. The writer takes strong ground against "the rebellion losses bill," and the policy of the present whig administration in Great Britain. Being in correspondence with the leading loyalists of Canada, his views will help to explain the origin of the excitement, and the cause of the unpopularity of Lord Elgin.
We shall, therefore, by its publication, be in the line of our prescribed duty, which is to enlighten the public mind in matters of general interest, and especially in those which belong to the political history of the times. As well, however, to do justice to the subject as to justify the strong language of the writer, who attributes the origin of the difficulty to the "ignorance of the British people" in regard to the VOL. III.-SEPT., 1849.
colonies, we precede his article with an extract from the London Sun, of May 16th, for the purpose of showing the sentiment and feelings on both sides. The reader will be able to see, too, how deep-seated is the animosity of the rival parties on this question, and that though the agitators may be repressed, as they undoubtedly will be by the arm of power, and by some alterations in the machinery of the colonial government, still the pent-up dissatisfaction of the ultra-royalists, fed by the rivalry of the two races, must, ere long, again show itself in hostile attitude to the home government, or in a separation from it.
A peculiar feature of the recent disturbance is, that the malcontents are Anglo-Saxons, composed of that part of the population who, in 1837, sustained the government against the then insurgents, who were principally French. Now the action is reversed, and the latter are the abettors of the government, and formed the special police to preserve the peace. In our June number will be found the particulars of the great riot which occurred on the 26th of April, at Montreal, and resulted in the destruction of the parliament house, and the assault upon the Governor-General, Lord Elgin, who, from that period, until very recently, has been shut up in a barricaded house through fear of the populace. In the mean time, Sir Allen McNab has been to England to procure, if possible, the disallowance of the obnoxious bill, and the recall of Lord Elgin.
Before he went he
It is understood that he has been unsuccessful. is reported to have said, that if the bill were forced upon the country, "it would be a question for the people of Upper Canada to consider, whether it would not be better for them to be governed by the people on the other side of the river than by a French Canadian majority." And the Montreal Courier held the following language:-"Let parliament pass the bill, let the governor sanction it if he pleases, but while there is an axe and rifle on the frontier, and Saxon hands to wield them, their losses will not be paid."
Such bold language, connected with the violent and seditious conduct of the malcontents in Canada, on the occasion referred to, doubtless aroused the indignation of the supporters of the administration at home, and may account for the severity of the London Sun, which treats the subject in the following manner:
"Nothing can justify a precipitate condemnation of the course pursued by the government towards the Canadas, previous to the examination of those official despatches which will be laid, on Friday even
ing, before both houses of the Imperial Parliament. Whatever may be the nature of the provisions made in that Bill of Indemnity which has originated the insurrection at Montreal, the perfectly constitutional manner in which that measure has been carried through the Canadian Legislature leaves us, however, no reason to doubt that the recent outbreak is the infamous result of a conspiracy on the part of a lawless and unprincipled minority. We may each of us entertain a different opinion as to the advisability or non-advisability of indemnifying indiscriminately all those who may have happened to suffer pecuniary losses during the last deplorable rebellion. One may, another may not, conceive that some definite distinction ought to have been made between those individuals who were injured in their property through their sympathy for the government, and those who sustained losses from their complicity with the insurgents. Such is strictly a question of morality, of expediency, or of convenience, upon the merits of which the views of the multitude might remain divided until the day of judgment. But upon this point there neither does, nor can there exist, any hesitation whatever-namely, that the Indemnity Bill (good or bad, expedient or inexpedient, convenient or inconvenient as it may be to individuals,) has been passed into a law calmly, honestly, dispassionately, legally, constitutionally. No one can assert to the contrary. The fact is also notorious in both hemispheres. The bill itself is exclusively a Canadian measure. The mother country has not interfered in the matter to the extent of one tittle. The home government has dictated no policy, it has not even gone to the length of hinting a suggestion. The Indemnity Bill is, we repeat, an exclusively Canadian measure. It has emanated from Canadian intelligence; it has been sanctioned in principle and accepted in form by Canadian statesmen; it has received the countenance of two successive administrations-a conservative administration and a liberal administration. It has been passed with large majorities through the upper and lower chamber of the Imperial Parliament. Those majorities were not only majorities of the whole houses, but majorities of the members of British blood. Those majorities were not the packed majorities of a cabinet, they were the free and honourable majorities of Canadian representatives. Such was this Bill of Indemnity, which, on its receiving the royal assent through the lips of his Excellency the Governor-General, was made the pretext for an insurrectionary movement, more dastardly and infamous than any recorded in the annals of our colonial possessions.
Finding that their prejudices went for nothing against the force of public opinion, finding that they had been outnumbered by the members of their own legislature the rebel conspirators rose at a preconcerted signal. Mind-these rebels are the tory gang! They are that Orange faction whose virulence and insolence are unfortunately not restricted to Canada. True to their audacious principles, they rose. Availing themselves of their accidental local superiority in point of numbers,
they domineered over their loyal fellow-citizens. Montreal became a prey to their wanton brutality, and some of its noblest adornments have irreparably fallen under their licentiousness. The Parliament House was burned by incendiaries; the public records and state papers were consumed in the conflagration.
"One course, and one course alone, remains open to the government. The nature of that course is perfectly obvious. The robbers, the pillagers, and incendiaries, who have recently desolated the streets of Montreal, must be put down with the strong hand of the law, whose majesty they have violated. They must be compelled to make a bitter expiation. Their most prominent leaders must be subjected to summary and condign punishment. And as to the recall of Lord Elgin, justice requires that the policy of his administration should, first of all, be proved to have been harsh, peremptory, or in any respect unconstitutional. Hitherto, the fault of his government (if such, indeed, can be called a fault,) has been its excessive leniency. That leniency has, with the Orange minority of conspirators, produced its own evil fruits. This must henceforth be followed by a rigorous suppression of those rebellious passions, which are only fostered into maturity by the generosity of a genial administration. This we maintain to be the only rational course open to the government, as a beginning. First of all, the infliction of a tremendous penalty on the insurgents; then the resumption of a regenerative policy for the Canadas. Before that policy, however, is again taken up, the cabinet must act upon the following principle,-In the presence of rioters, not one shadow of a concession."
We may now introduce the communication of our correspondent, for the purpose, as we have before stated, of informing the public mind. Although his language is, at times, as strong and caustic as that in which the preceding extract is couched, there is no doubt of his sincerity, nor that he speaks the sentiments of a large party in Canada.
His communication is therefore given as we have received it; without intending, on our part, to express an opinion either on the policy of the British government, on the question of the independence of Canada, or of its annexation to the United States. It is due, however, both to ourselves and our readers to remark, that no British subject, residing in this country, stands higher in the esteem of our citizens than does the writer of the following article: