17 MAY 1884, Page 12

THE ORIGINAL AMERICANS. DROFESSOR REVILLE, who delivered the Hibbert Lectures

this year, has an exceptional power of condens- ing and, so to speak, clarifying masses of information ; and his

• • Now unto you the Lord has done what we had wished to do ; We would have trailed you up, and now 'Ms we are tren'd by you. With grief and tears, 0 children, do you your parents train, And lure us on and up to you, to meet in heaven again." discourses, considered as sketches of the ancient American civili- sations, were exceedingly instructive. There are passages in them, especially the references to the hieratic systems and ancient creeds absorbed and superseded by the priesthoods of Mexico and Peru, whom the Spaniards found in possession of power, which, if not novel to experts in the subject, are new to more general students, and of this we would gladly hear much more. But the main in- tellectual interest of his argument, which was a little choked and concealed by his wealth of illustration, rests upon the immense assumption contained in his first lecture, which, he will perhaps pardon us for saying, requires a great deal of proof before it is finally accepted. M. Revile says, very truly, that as nothing would interest students of physics like intimate acquaintance with another planet, with its obviously original physical con- ditions, so nothing should more interest the student of the laws of mind. If he found among sentient beings in Mars that ideas had sprung up akin to those which have arisen among men on earth — identical superstitions, similar religions, cognate views of the supernatural—he would be forced to the conclusion that such ideas were not self-derived fancies, but were results, natural or even inevitable pro- ducts, of certain given conditions. Creeds would be shown to be growths, not inventions,—growths so natural and inevitable that the observer, knowing the conditions and the people, would almost be able to predict the leading characteristics of their faiths. If we were about to discuss that matter, we should not accept that statement as fully true ; for it leaves out of sight the possibility that in both planets a few ideas may have been re- vealed and not have grown, and may have, by their overmastering force, produced a similarity which otherwise would not exist If in Terra and Mars both, the idea of forgiving your enemies has been revealed and has mastered the more natural notion of vengeance, there will be in Mars as well as Terra an identity of religious conception as to duty in that matter, and consequently of observances intended to teach that duty, which otherwise could not exist. The idea is, however, sufficiently true and complete to serve as a basis for argument; and M. Reville proceeds to say that in America we have this separate planet, and that therefore the self-derived American creeds, the ancient creeds of the continent, can teach us even more of the laws in obedience to which creeds grow, than the better known faiths of Europe and Asia. They are not borrowed results, but results which have come inde- pendently of any teaching from outside, and 'which must there- fore be in some sense inevitable results. Thehnman mind grows them wherever it is, and does not purchase, or steal, or borrow them. Granting the assumption that America is so separate as to be, for purposes of intellectual investigation, in the position of a new planet, that is a most interesting argument, and would justify severe and protracted investigation into the ancient American mind. But then, is that assumption true Have we enough evidence to justify us in using so startling a theory, even provisionally, as a basis upon which we are to expend time and labour in pursuing an inquiry which after all may lead us nowhere ? It is possible, of course, in the absence of knowledge, that the native Americans are antoch- thones,—that is, that wherever they came from, they were at one time in America so savage, so idealess, so nearly animals, that all their subsequent gains must be held to have been self- derived. It is also possible that they never possessed and, there- fore, never lost the power of communicating with other races —as it is almost beyond doubt the Hindoos and the Maoris possessed and lost it; that they were never visited by foreigners, or that, if so visited, they derived from those foreigners nothing which survived. All that is possible; but is it more than pos- sible, or even possible enough to be accepted as provisionally true? The evidence we as yet possess is thin, but the little we have of it points rather the other way. Navigators have shown that vessels from farther Asia might drift to the coast of America, under certain conditions, with living people on board. Astronomers are puzzled by certain similarities in Asia and

• America in describing, for instance, the signs of the zodiac, which hardly suggest the studies of two sets of astrono- mers. It is scarcely possible to look at the ruins scattered over Yucatan without believing them to 'be of Asiatic workmanship, or, at all events, influenced by recollections of Asiatic workmanship, even if the celebrated "elephant's trunk," which some observers see carved on a ruin in Thmal should be an accident, or an idea cleaved from the discovery by Indians of a buried mastodon, or possibly from tradition of the mastodon, as the latest traveller, Mr. F. A. Ober who is disposed to assign extreme antiquity to these remains, recently suggested. Above all, there is the certainty that the civilised Indians, aware in some unaccountable way of their own escape from savagery, which so many nations have forgotten, with one consent ascribe their civilisation to more or leas miraculous strangers, who visited them, taught them, gave them order and ideas, and then went up to heaven. That tradition, which is universal, and so undisputed that it facilitated Spanish conquests, is surely a very strange one to spring up among unvisited autochthones,—who, moreover, we know as absolute matter of fact, were visited from the external world. It is as certain that Vikings from Iceland reached the shores of America, as that they reached the shores of Scot- land ; or, to take a better illustration, as certain as that Brahmins once conquered, taught, and built in the island of Java. M. R,eville will not question that Hindoos sailed to, con- quered, and civilised Java, or that Hindoos now believe that feat impossible, or that all knowledge of navigation, foreign geography, and shipbuilding has perished among Hindoos. When we landed in India, they could as easily have conquered the moon as Java, and would have said so, nothing doubting ; yet they did conquer Java, and built there temples so vast that even earthquakes, as we saw the other day, only half destroy them. Why should not an incident like that, the marvellous strangeness of which so impresses all students of Javanese an- tiquities, have happened twice in the history of the world ? Is it not a little over-courageous, in the face of such facts, to assume an indigenous American civilisation as so fully proved, that it is of itself a grand contribution to the study of the natural religious development of the unaided human mind. That such development is a matter of the highest intellectual interest, we not only concede, but maintain ; but it is not made clearer by assuming as data facts so uncertain as the separate- ness of early American civilisation.

And this brings us to the smaller and more concrete object of this paper. Why do Europeans, and especially we English, who spend so much time in ransacking the history of the paste do so little towards the investigation of the early history of America ? That work has hardly begun ; it is, as M. Reville has pointed out, of extreme .interest, not only to the historian and antiquarian, but to the thinker; and yet we do nothing to advance it. We explore Palestine foot by foot, chiefly to discover perfectly useless evidence that the historical portions of the Bible are substantially true,—as if anybody would have invented the Cave of Macphelah ; we are deeply and wisely interested in M. Mareotti's researahes in Egypt; we explore, after some kind of fashion, the antiquities of India, for- getting in every new decade what we learned in the previous one; and we have measured the clam-mounds in Australia, to see how long fish-eating aborigines have lived on her coast. But we do nothing in America. Why ? Because the Spaniards have done so much ? They have done much more than is popularly believed in the way of collection, but they have done little compared with what remains to be done. They are not by nature good explorers, being persuaded that the early observers told the truth, which they probably did not ; and they have a special difficulty in explora- tion—the profound distrust with which Indians regard them and their race. It is not they who will discover the Indian city with its still unbroken native civilisation of which so many legends tell, and which may yet be found, not indeed alive,—that seems impossible, though the exploration of many Spanish-American States has been most imperfect ;—but, like Gour, or Mitla, or the old capital of Cambodia, dead, but undestroyed. Because it is the Americans' work P If it is, the Americans perform it very badly. They have settled nothing yet—not even the ages of the ruins they have examined, and are disputing at this moment, whether Mitla, with its monolithic halls, the photographs of which look as old as Stonehenge, is really three thousand years old, or only about three hundred. They do not use the right men as ex- plorers, either. Braver, more patient, or more devoted men do not exist ; but they one and all suffer from the American intel- lectual complaint, the absorption of the brain in America, and the consequent want of the power of comparison. The study needs to be commenced by men saturated with the old culture, and the old experience—younger Fergussons, in fact—to whom a sight of Mitla and Uxmal will not be merely an experience, but an experience recalling facts long known. The next man who sees the great temple at Mitla, which almost dazes the spectator with its inexplicable vastness and solidity,—there is a lintel in one chamber, which is a solid block of porphyry, 19 ft. long, which no native power now existing in America could raise to its place, and which no European architect would touch without hydraulic machinery,—ought to have seen both Egypt and India, and to have learned how other early peoples moved other blocks of stone. He ought, too, to know, what we believe no American explorer has ever known, all that the splendid Spanish collections can teach, and all the few and scat- tered accounts the early Conquistadores have left. And, above all, he ought to live among the Indians, to hear what their traditions are, and to excite their confidence in a way never yet attempted. We have a great respect for the last visitor to Mitla, Mr. Ober; but he, finding a mighty mono- lith in the temple, which, as Indians believe, gives death to all who embrace it, records with pleasure that "each of our party took particular pains to embrace that pillar most affectionately," to the horror of the Indians. That is not the spirit of true explorers. Why should not some English society or English millionaire do for Yucatan what has been done for Palestine, and if the secret cannot be torn from the ruins, at least collect the material on which alone investigation can be based ? It would be worthy work to waste wealth on, even if we discovered that the American mind had received impacts from outside,—which would be so fatal to M. Reville's charmingly interesting theory.