Page images
PDF
EPUB

from the pulpit, with a zeal which made almost every white man in Paraguay their enemy, they appear to have left their religious instruction to the other monastic orders, by whom, from their vicinity to the principal towns, they might be easily and securely visited. They themselves performed the task of converting those tribes who were independent of the Spanish crown, and of gathering in their harvest of souls from the less frequented fields of the marsh and the wilderness : even here, however, the pernicious effects of the slave-system followed them. The Encomiendas were, by their nature, a growing evil; and, as the Spanish population increased, and as the Indian population of the first conquered lands melted away under the weight of their burthens, new applications were made to every governor for grants of those tribes and villages which had escaped the cupidity of former adventurers; while a regular slave-trade, of the true African character, was prosecuted with all its usual horrors of war and kidnapping in those remote and less accessible nations, which Encomiendas could not reach. Against these abominations, it was the first step of the Jesuits to obtain a royal edict from Madrid, expressly forbidding the Spaniards to make war against the Lurdians, unless in self-defence—and declaring that the king' would have none but missionaries employed to reduce them.'-'He wanted no subjects by compulsion, nor did he seek to deprive the people of these countries of their liberty, but to reclaim them from their savage and dissolute way of life; to make them know aud adore the true God, and render them happy here and hereafter.' Happy would it have been for Peru and Mexico had such sentiments actuated the Spanish government at the time of their discovery! In furtherance of these benevolent objects, the Jesuits were empowered by the same instrument to collect their converts into townships; to govern them independently of any town or fortress; to build churches; and, above all, in the king's name, to resist all persons who might attempt, under any pretext whatever, to subject these new Christians to the burthen of personal service.

The district of Guayra, a wide and fertile country, extending from the eastern bank of the Parana to the then 'undefined borders of Brazil, was the scene chosen by these missionaries for their first labours. The first fruits of their preaching, two hundred Indian families, were collected by their exhortation into a village, which they called Loretto; and they busied themselves in long journies among the surrounding tribes, to persuade them of the advantages which they would enjoy, if they consented to gather together and live under the new system. Their equipment for these expeditions was strikingly picturesque and simple:-a breviary, a cross six feet high, which served the itinerant for a staff, a flint and steel, and a few

converts

converts with axes to cut through the woods, and to serve as guides, interpreters, and fellow labourers. They had weapons against wild beasts, but no fire-arms; and even the Indian comfort of a hammock was thought an unnecessary luxury for the preacher. Their toils, and the dangers to which they were occasionally exposed, may be appreciated from the following anecdote :

In one of these excursions Ortega was caught by a sudden flood between two rivers; both overflowed, and presently the whole plain had the appearance of one boundless lake. The missionary, and the party of Neophytes who accompanied him, were used to inconveniences of this kind, and thought to escape, as heretofore, with marcha ing mid-deep in water; but the flood continued to rise, and compelled them to take to the trees for safety. The storm increased, the rain continued, and the inundation augmented; and, among the beasts and reptiles whom the waters had surprised, one of the huge American serpents approached the tree upon which Ortega and bis catechist bad taken refuge, and, coiling round one of the branches, began to ascend, while they fully expected to be devoured, having neither means of escape nor of defence: the branch by which he sought to lift himself broke under his weight, and the monster swam off. But though they were thus delivered from this danger their situation was truly dreadful : two days passed, and, in the middle of the second night, one of the Indians came swimming towards the tree by the lightning's light, and called to Ortega, telling him that six of his companions were at the point of death; they who had not yet been baptized intreated him to baptize them; and those who had received that sacrament, requested absolution ere they died. The Jesuit fastened his catechist to the bough by which he held, then let himself down into the water, and swam to perform these offices; he had scarcely completed them before five of these poor people dropped and sunk; and, when he got back to his own tree, the water had reached the neck of his catechist, whom he had now to untie, and help him to gain a higher branch. The flood, however, now began to abate. Ortega, in swimming among the thorny boughs, received a wound in his leg, which was never thoroughly healed during the two-and-twenty years that he survived this dreadful adventure.'

pp. 255, 256.

But these natural obstacles were by no means the most serious which they encountered in their work of civilization and conversion :—the Spanish slave-dealers, at whose trade a deadly blow was levelled, made use of every means of fraud and intimidation to cross their schemes and to deter the Indians from joining them. In one of their earliest expeditions a man, from Ciudad Real, accompanied them as a volunteer interpreter, • They noticed with some surprise that his baggage gradually diminished till all was gone, and that his apparel then disappeared piece by piece, so that at length he had no other clothing than a wrapper

round the loins. Upon inquiring the cause of this, he replied, “ You, fathers, VOL, XVIII. NO. XXXV.

preac!

JI

preach in your fashion, and I preach in mine; you have the gift of the word, which God has not given to me; and I endeavour to supply it by works. I have distributed all that I had among the principal Indians of the country, in hope that when this liberality has gained the chiefs, it may be easier to win the rest.”. He concluded by requesting leave to return home, now that he had given away all, and was no longer ne cessary, they themselves being now sufficiently conversant in the Guarani tongue. He had not long taken his leave, before it was discovered that his real business had been to purchase slaves, a whole herd of whom he bore away with him. The Jesuits could not without difficulty clear themselves from the suspicion of having been partners in this traffic.'-p. 267.

On other occasions these traders assumed the disguise of Jesuits, and, when the natives approached them as friends, surprized and kidnapped them. They had continual intrigues to wrestle with at Assumpcion, and in the mother-country; the bishops, the secular clergy, and the other religious orders of South America were their enemies alınost to a man: and they had need of all their extensive influence in Madrid to support them against the common voice of the colonists of Paraguay. Among the Indians themselves they encountered considerable opposition :-the sudden change from a roving to a settled life, from the alternations of hunting and repose to regular daily labour, was productive at first of a great mortality, and a still greater alarm among their converts. Many grew weary of the restraints imposed on them, and returned to their woods, or secretly practised the vices of their former heathenism. Others suspected the missionaries of being actuated by motives merely selfish and treacherous ; of designing to make them slaves in a new and more effectual way; or by collecting them into villages, as into nets, to give them, in droves, to their enemies. Some of the more ambitious, observing and emulating the power which these fathers acquired by their preaching, set up for themselves as prophets and Anti-Christs, and attenipted to blend the ancient superstitions of their country with the more singular and attractive features of the new doctrine. Three instances are given, in which individuals assumed the name of the Almighty, and, on their own authority, threatened the converts with fire from heaven if they did not forsake their new guides. One of these impostors applied the doctrine of the Trinity to himself and two associates, of whom he spoke as his emanations, and consubstantial with him. Some of the ancient conjurors, finding their craft in danger, betook themselves to new and more interesting ceremonies--sacrifices on the tops of mountains, with a perpetual fire-oracles, relics, and female votaries. Others, more bold and sanguinary, had recourse to open war; and one of the Reductions (as the new villages were called) was the scene of a massacre, and of the martyrdom of a Jesuit.

This last event was ultimately favourable to the cause.—'Savages, says Mr. Southey, are accustomed to the contempt of death; but for what followed, upon the death of the missionaries, they were unprepared, and it impressed them with astonishment.' The Jesuits, as a matter of course, reported many and wonderful miracles, as consequent to this murder; and all these the Indians readily believed; while the pageantry and exultation, with which the relics of the new saints were received, not only by the Jesuits. themselves, but by all the Spaniards, affected them as much by its singularity as its sincerity. The conduct of the Jesuits themselves, so strangely contrasted with that of all the whites whom they had seen, completed this astonishment. They who had only heard of those wonderful men became curious to see them; but they who once came within the influence of such superior minds, and felt the contagion of example, were not long in adopting customs which obviously tended to their advantage. The number and size of the Reductions rapidly increased, when a circumstance, which at first threatened their total ruin, gave a still greater consistency to their fabric, and occasioned one of the most singular circumstances in their subsequent constitution.

The eastern frontier of the province, which the Jesuits had selected as the scene of their operations, adjoined on the Portugueze colony of St. Paulo; or, to speak more properly, no limit whatever was settled between the Spaniards and Portugueze ; but the Jesuits pushing eastward and the Paulistas westward, they encountered on a sort of debateable ground to which either party might pretend a claim. Of the singular race, with whom the fathers had to contend, very strange and exaggerated notions have long been entertained in Europe.-One writer, quoted by Mr. Southey, speaks of them as a kind of independent republic, composed of the banditti of several nations, who pay a tribute of gold to the king of Portugal. Another gravely tells us, that virtuous actions are carefully punished with death by the Paulistas. The truth is, that the inhabitants of the captaincy of Santo Paulo had all the virtues and vices incident to back-settlers, and paid about as much respect to the laws of their mother-country as the Porkeaters, and · Coureurs des Bois' of Upper Canada, appear to have lately done to the charters granted to their rivals in trade by his Britannic Majesty. The only difference appears to have been, that, being professionally traders, not in the furs of animals, but in the flesh and blood of their own species, the mixed breed of South America were even more prompt in their appeals to arms, and more regardless of human life, than the Gallo-Scotish Indian savages of Red River and Lake Winnipeg. On one occasion, indeed, the people of Santo Paulo were in

H 2

clined

clined to set up a king of their own; and it was certainly a moment when, if ever, a colony is fairly entitled to such a privilege,when Portugal and the rest of Brazil had revolted against Spain ; and when the option was presented to them, either to adhere to the allegiance which they had lately professed to Philip, or to receive Braganza as their sovereign; or, which they themselves preferred, to bid adieu both to Castile and Portugal.

To carry this plan into effect they had very ample means before them. Their population was not inconsiderable-increasing rapidly-and, by the prevalence of Indian blood, (which here more than in any other part of Portugueze America composed the basis of the stock,) admirably adapted to the climate, and uniting the intelligence of their European fathers with the hot and enterprizing blood of their maternal tribes. Their territory was extensive, very fertile, well situated for trade, and absolutely inaccessible to invasion ; and it is probable, that, had their intention of establishing an independent government been, at that time, carried into effect, the germ would have been formed of an empire which would ere this have overshadowed the whole of South America.

But the most respectable planters were, in their hearts, attached to the land of their fathers. The individual on whom the popular choice fell defended himself, sword in hand, against the tumultuous efforts of his fellow-citizens to crown him; and though it is possible this transaction may have given rise to the exaggerated reports, above-mentioned, of their independence and lawless liberty, it is certain that their allegiance to the mother-country, though probably little thought of where it interfered with their local interest, was, thenceforward, in name at least, unbroken. Nor can there be any doubt, that it was their resistance to the extension of Jesuit missions eastward, however much to be lamented on grounds of general humanity, which preserved to the Portugueze monarchy the ample regions between the Parana and the Tiete, with the mines of Goyazes, Mato Grosso, and Cuyaba.

Unhappily for the Jesuits and their new converts, this country, which the Paulistas had always regarded as belonging to Portugal, and more peculiarly as their own mining and slaving ground, was among the first scenes of the labours of the missionaries. Both Portugal and Spain indeed were at that time under the same sovereign; and it ipight have been supposed that the court of Castile, which protected them against the Spanish slave-dealers, would have been equally able and willing to support them against the Brazilians. But, by a singular impolicy, the Spanish government had made no attempt to unite the nations as well as the crowns. Each country was to keep the exclusive advantage of its own colonįes: the Paulistas were little disposed to be either cajoled or

alarmed

« PreviousContinue »