What Early Conquistadors Say About The Inca Civilization
Agriculture was a fundamentally important step in the development of civilization, because it constituted the discovery of a way to live and let others live, too. As long as primitive man remained dependent upon hunting or wild fruit and vegetables there was usually not enough to go around. The natural attitude of non-agricultural tribes roaming about in search of food and to fight all strangers on sight persists in many nations that did not accept agriculture as an ideal or philosophy of existence.
Dominance of the predatory instinct is seen when people would rather raid the harvests of others than raise crops of their own. How much agricultural were the ancient Peruvians in habits and instincts is evidenced by their greater freedom from the predatory instincts in comparison with our European race. In this respect the Inca Civilization was admittedly superior. Several of the early historians give testimony to this aspect of the Inca civilization. Cieza de Leon and other thoughtful men among the conquerors saw very clearly that something had been destroyed that could not be replaced.
The most convincing testimony was given by one of the soldiers who came with Pizarro, the last survivor of the original band, who had the best opportunity of knowing what the Inca civilization was before the conquest, and after all of his companions were gone, the idea of regret and remorse for the destruction that had been wrought grew in the mind of this aged warrior. He set about for a way to discharge his conscience by telling the King of Spain the truth about the Inca civilization.
He knew that the king had been sought by many adventurers, who knew of wrongs to the Indians as a means of securing their own advantage, and that others had countered with tales of barbarous practices among the Indians, some of them fabricated and others carried over from the savage tribes of other parts of America. Also the truth was bitter, and the king might not hear it willingly, certainly nobody who hoped for royal favor would undertake to deliver such a message.
The problem was not easy, but the old warrior had a resourceful mind as well as an active conscience, and he found a way to give his testimony a lasting record. Instead of setting out in vain to the court of Spain, he waited quietly at Cuzco and let his will after death deliver his message to the king. As the last of the conquistadors, he claimed the right to send the king a legacy of truth regarding the Incas:
“First, before beginning my will, I declare that I have desired much to give notice to his Catholic Majesty King Philip, our lord, seeing how good a Catholic and Christian he is, and how zealous in the service of the Lord our God, concerning that which I would relieve my mind of, by reason of having taken part in the discovery and conquest of these countries, which we took from the Lords, Incas, and placed under the royal crown, a fact which is known to his Catholic Majesty.
“The said Incas governed in such a way that in all the land neither a thief, nor a vicious man, or a bad, dishonest woman was known. The men all had honest and profitable employment. The woods, and mines, and all kinds of property were so divided that each man knew what belonged to him, and there were no lawsuits. The Incas were feared, obeyed, and respected by their subjects, as a race very capable of governing, but we took away their land, and placed it under the crown of Spain, and made them subjects.
“Your Majesty must understand that my reason for making this statement is to relieve my conscience, for we have destroyed this people by our bad examples. Crimes were once so little known among them that an Indian with one hundred thousand pieces of gold and silver in his house, left it open, only placing a little stick across the door, as the sign that he was out, and nobody went in. But when they saw that we placed locks and keys on our doors, they understood that it was from fear of thieves and when they saw we had thieves amongst us, they despised us. All this I tell your Majesty, to discharge my conscience of a weight that I may no longer be a part to these things. And I pray God to pardon me, for I am the last to die of all the discoverers and conquerors, as it is notorious that there are none left but me, in this land or out of it, and therefore I now do what I can to relieve my conscience.”
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