Imatges de pÓgina


climate due to difference in elevation afforded a most diversified and prolific flora which they studied with care. gardens afforded both useful and beautiful plants in the greatest variety.


Prescott: Conquest of Mexico.

Encyclopaedia Britannica.



The governmental system of Peru, as it existed prior to the Spanish conquest, is unique in some of its most essential features and worthy of the most careful study. For information with reference to it we have to look to the accounts of its fierce and fanatical conquerors, who probably failed to fully and clearly comprehend the spirit of it.

The native tribes of South America were generally as deficient in organization as those of North America. The Araucanians, inhabiting the country to the south of Peru, exhibited some capacity for concerted action and were a bold and vigorous race, but their institutions bore no resemblance to those of Peru. Why a great and strong government, so peculiar in form, should have developed amidst such surroundings, apparently with nothing to suggest the well digested policy pursued by the Incas from generation to generation, is an unsolved riddle. The tradition of Manco Capac and Mama Oello Huaco, children of the Sun, appearing near Lake Titicaca and proceeding to gather the fierce, warlike and cannibal tribes into communities and teach them the arts of peace and the duty and blessings of mutual helpfulness, is as charming as anything to be found in Greek Mythology, yet fails to account for the origin of the Empire, unless we are ready to concede, as did the Peruvian people, the divine origin of their rulers. In the claim of a divine origin for kings there is nothing new or uncommon.

The power of hereditary despots is universally exercised under claim of a divine commission. Generally this claim has been fortified by an organized priesthood, sedulously teaching the people to view the king with awe and reverence as the representative on earth of the Deity. Inferior officers civil and military have, through various motives, also instilled

into the minds of the multitude an idea of the sacredness of the prince and the divinity of his commission to rule over men. The government of Peru was a monarchy, hereditary in the male line. The Inca stood at the head of both the civil and religious orders. He married a sister of the full blood for his queen, whose issue succeeded to the throne, and also had numerous other wives. All descendants of the Incas. constituted the highest order of nobility, and from them all the great offices of state were filled. From a small territory in the vicinity of Cuzco the dominion of the Incas was gradually extended, by peaceful methods wherever possible, but by war when necessary, over adjacent tribes. The conquered people were never exterminated, but became subject to the same regulations as other subjects and received like protection. Their caciques constituted an order of nobility, inferior to that of the blood of the Incas, and exercised some authority over the tribes to which they belonged. They were required to visit the capital and allow their sons to be educated there, so that in the succeeding generations they became imbued with the principles of the government. The members of the family of the Inca are said to have been of a superior type to the mass of subjects. Whether this was due merely to difference in mode of life and opportunities for development or to a diversity of original stock cannot be very satisfactorily answered. Over the religious order stood a high priest or Villac Vmu as he was called, inferior only in dignity to the Inca, by whom he was appointed from his near kindred, to hold the office for life. The l'illac Vmu appointed to all the inferior stations of the order. Those officiating about the temple of the Sun at Cuzco were exclusively of the blood of the Incas, as were also the high priests in each district of the empire, but ministers in provincial temples were selected from the families of the native curacas. All members of the Inca nobility were looked up to with veneration as belonging to the holy order. The functions of the priestly order related exclusively to service in the temples and in connection with the very elaborate feasts, festivals and public worship. The Sun was the principal deity worshipped, with a small share

of devotion for the Moon, his sister wife, the stars, the rainhow, thunder and lightning. But the Incas, like the ancient Greeks and Romans, were exceedingly tolerant of other gods, and also had their Pantheon in which were set up the images of the deities of all the conquered tribes of the empire. Following the submission of a tribe worshipping a peculiar god or idol, the image was at once promoted and took its place among the gods at Cuzco, where it received appropriate homage at the expense of the state. Public sacrifices were made at the great festivals, and it is said at times in addition to animals, grain, flowers and sweet scented gums, children and maidens were also sometimes offered on the altar. It is certain, however, that human sacrifices were rare, and it is even disputed by some that any such were made. The "House of the Virgins of the Sun" at Cuzco was filled with fifteen hundred vestal virgins of the blood of the Inca, who kept the sacred fires, started at the annual feast of the Rayini, and wove from the hair of the vicuna the hangings for the temples and the clothing for the household of the Inca. Though called Virgins of the Sun they were really for the Inca, who selected such of them as he pleased for his seraglio. Such as were chosen were kept either at Cuzco or at the different palaces throughout the empire. In case he chose to dispense with any of these, they were returned to their former homes, where they were treated with marked distinction as brides of the Inca. If guilty of any loose conduct while in the House of the Virgins, however, they and all connected with them were punished with death.

The empire of Peru was divided into quarters, to each of which ran one of the four great roads diverging from the capital. Cuzco was likewise divided into four quarters, and the people of each tribe or district residing in the capital lived in the quarter nearest their native place. Each of these four great provinces was placed under a viceroy, who ruled with the aid of one or more councils for the several departments. The viceroys resided some of the time at the capital, where they formed a council of state to the Inca. The people were divided into bodies of ten, and the head of each decade was

responsible for their conduct. Above these were divisions into fifties, hundreds, five hundreds and thousands, with an officer having supervision at the head of each. A further division into departments of ten thousand people was also made, over each of which was placed a governor of the blood of the Inca.

The judicial system was exceedingly simple, and the law's delays found no place in it. There were regular courts in each town and community, having jurisdiction of petty offenses, while those of more serious character were heard by superior judges or governors of districts. The judges were all appointed by the Inca and removed at pleasure. They were obliged to determine every suit in five days from the time it was brought, and there was no appeal. A board of visitors traveled over the kingdom, inquired into the conduct of the magistrates and punished any misconduct. Inferior courts were required to make monthly returns of their proceedings to the superior ones, who in like manner reported to the viceroys.

Theft, adultery and murder were capital offenses, unless mitigating circumstances were found. Blasphemy against the Sun and malediction of the Inca were punished with death, as also was the burning of a bridge. There were few laws relating to property rights as between private citizens, for the reason that the general policy of the empire left no room for much in the line of private interests. To destroy landmarks, burn a neighbor's house or cut off his water supply was a serious offense. In its division of the land and superintendence of all the business of the people is exhibited the most marked peculiarity of the Peruvian polity. The whole territory of the empire was divided into three parts, one for the Sun, one for the Inca and the other for the people. The proportions varied according to circumstances. The lands of the Sun supported the religious establishments, fed the priesthood and supplied all things needed for their elaborate ceremonials. From that of the Inca the royal household and all the needs of the civil and military establishments were supplied. The remainder was divided in equal shares per capita among the people. The division of the soil was re

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