Item of the Day: History of California (1759)

Full Title: A Natural and Civil History of California: Containing An accurate Description of that Country, Its Soil, Mountains, Harbours, Lakes, Rivers, and Seas; its Animals, Vegetables, Minerals, and famous Fishery for Pearls. The Customs of the Inhabitants, Their Religion, Government, and Manner of Living, before their Conversion to the Christian Religion by the missionary Jesuits. Together with Accounts of Several Voyages and Attempts made for settling California, and taking actual Surveys of that Country, its Gulf, and Coast of the South-Sea. Illustrated with a Map of the Country and the adjacent Seas. Translated from the original Spanish of Miguel Venegas, a Mexican Jesuit, published in Madrid in 1758. In Two Volumes. Vol. I. London: Printed for James Rivington and James Fletcher at the Oxford Theatre, in Pater-Noster-Row, 1759.



Of the temper and manners of the Californians;

and of their government in peace and war.

To those who have seen any of the American nations, and observed their genius and disposition, it would be sufficient to say in general, that the ancient inhabitants of California did not in the least differ from them; except those of the two empires of Mexico and Peru, in which, as there was a greater union and intercourse, so the fruits of it were seen in the cultivation of their reason, in their laws, policy and military conduct, and in the other branches of government, as well as in the reciprocal and friendly dependencies on on one another. But all the other American nations differ very little, either in capacity, disposition, or customs. The characteristicks of the Californians, as well as of all the other Indians, are stupidity and insensibility; want of knowledge and reflections; inconstancy, impetuosity, and blindness of appetite; an excessive sloth and abhorrence of all labour and fatigue; an incessant love of pleasure and amusement of every kind, however trifling or brutal; pusillanimity and relaxity: and in fine, a most wretched want of every thing which constitutes the real man, and renders him rational, inventive, tractable, and useful to himself and society. It is not easy for Europeans, who never were out of their own country, to conceive an adequate idea of these people, for even in the least frequented corners of the globe, there is not a nation so stupid, of such contracted ideas, and so weak both in body and mind, as the unhappy Californians. Their understanding comprehends little more than what they see: abstract ideas, and much less a chain of reason, being far beyond their power; so that they scarce ever improve their first ideas; and these are in general false, or at least inadequate. It is in vain to represent to them any future advantages, which will result to them, by doing or abstaining from this or that particular immediately present; the relation of means and ends being beyond the stretch of their faculties. Nor have they the least notion of pursuing such intentions as will procure themselves some future good, or guard them against evils. Their insensibility, with regard to corporeal objects which lie before them, being so great, that it may easily be conceived, what sentiments they can have with regard to rewards and punishments in a future life. They have only a few faint glimmerings of the moral virtues and vices; so that some things appear good and others evil, without any reflection: and though they enjoyed the light of natural reason, and that divine grace which is given to all without distinction, yet the one was so weak, and the other so little attended to, that, without any regard to decency, pleasure and profit were the motives and end of all their actions. . . .



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Filed under 1750's, American Indians, California, History, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

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