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  1. TopTop #31

    Re: Columbus, Slavery, & Class War



    Various media of exchange used by the Mexicans — The official system consisted of cacao-butl and copper xiqui — Table of equivalents — Analogy of xiqui, sequin and zecchin — Probable common origin — Value of the cacao-butl maintained by monopoly and limitaticn of their issues — Prerogative of money — Method of notation — Antiquity of the score — Mexican mcarnation date probably Buddhic — Wonderful stability in the value of cacao-butl throughout three centuries of time — Demonetization of the xiqui by the Spaniards — Introduction of Spanish copper quartos and octavos — The natives toss these coins into the Lake — Spanish attempt to demonetize cacao-butl — Its failure — Return to the use of cacao-butl in 1536.

    MANY innocent people, whose sole conception of money is that of a coin, that is to say a piece of gold, silver or copper, stamped with figures or letters, have denied that the aboriginal Mexicans were acquainted with the use of money. This view is wholly erroneous. The Mexicans not only used money, they had several kinds of it. They used copper "chisel " money and cacao beans, the latter being called cacabutl or cacao money, also patlachte, or pataste, from patla, exchange. In provinces remote from commercial centres they also used for money cotton stuffs, called patolcuachtli, measuring, it, as the Norsemen of the same period did their vadmal, by the ell. They used linen-cloth in the same way. Small packets of feathers were also used as a medium of exchange in remote places, and probably also clay coins for small change. ' {The Smithsonian Report for 1876, p. 399, mentions clay-stamps for printing cotton-cloths. These could scarcely have failed to suggest baked clay coins, such as were used in China, Chaldea and Egypt.}

    Humboldt also mentions gold dust in transparent quills; but this was probably only after the Conquest. Previous to that event and for some reason unknown to us, possibly the Buddhic interdict upon the use of gold money, {See Del Mar's History of the Precious Metals, ch. xxiv.} gold was not used for money; and possibly for this very reason it was inferior in value to copper. It certainly was not for lack of skill in beating gold into plates, or fashioning the plates into coins, for the native gold jewellery proves that these arts were well known; indeed, very shortly after the Conquest, the gold ducats and castellanos of the Conquerors were counterfeited by the natives. {The viceroy Mendoza, in a letter to the king, dated Mexico, Dec. 10, 1537, says that the native goldsmiths had recently counterfeited the Spanish testoons minted at Axiquipilco. The cacao-butl were also cleverly imitated in clay.}

    Setting aside the commodities used in remote districts in the place of money, the usual currency of the Mexican empire consisted of chisel-shaped flat copper (sometimes tin) pieces and cacao beans, upon the following scale of equivalents:

    Mexican Money before the Conquest:

    20 cacao beans = 1 olotl.

    20 olotl = 1 zontle.

    20 zontle = 1 xiquipili.

    3 xiquipili = 1 carga.

    Carga is a Spanish word, meaning a load. The native word for the carga of 24,000 cacao beans has not been preserved. The name and value of the copper piece are also lost. In all probability it was called the xiquipili and was valued at 8,000 beans. As the carga of beans was afterwards valued by the Spaniards at 15 pesos (200 beans to the real de plata) it follows that the xiquipili was worth 5 pesos.

    Therefore, in a certain sense, this piece among the aboriginal Mexicans, represented, among other native moneys, what the "sovereign" now does in England, and the half eagle in the United States. This valuation must not be taken to relate to its purchasing power over commodities.

    There is curious resemblance between the xiquipili and the sequin of Venice. Sequin is a corruption of zecchin, from zeccha, the Arabian name for mint-house, a term derived from zekkeh or sikka, a die or stamp. "The privilege of sikkeh, i.e., of coinage, was among the first things Mahometan kings thought about, on ascending the throne." {Poole's "Essay on Coins", p. 162.}

    Zikka, again, is from Sicca, an Oriental term, which the Arabians brought into Europe from India, where it still exists in the name of the sicca rupee. Teleologically, sicca means a cutting instrument, alluding to the tool employed for cutting and rounding or otherwise shaping the coin. From this word we have chisel, sickle, scissors and several other English terms, used for cutting instruments. Xiquiseems to have been also the Mexican word for chisel. It appears not only in the name of the chisel-shaped copper and tin "coins" of Mexico, called xiquipili, it also appears in the name of the mint-house called Axiquipilco, where in 1535 the Spaniards established a mint for coining. Like sequin, which meant both a coin (the gold ducat) and a mint-house, xiqui appears to have had the same double meaning. It is quite probable that both words emanated from the same source — India. It might be added that there is no warrant for spelling the Mexican term as xiqui, except that it comes to us through the obsolete Spanish orthography of the sixteenth century. The same sounds would now be conveyed by means of ziki, or siki.

    The xiqui (or xiquipili) was current not only in Mexico but also in Yucatan, where the inferior money consisted of bell-shaped copper pieces, something like the bell-shaped pieces of China; also of cacao-beans and shells, the latter suggesting the cowries of India. The shape of the xiqui was like that of the blade of the domestic meat chopping-knife of the present day. The xiqui measured about 4” inches from tip to tip, and 4” inches from the extremes of blade and shaft, and was about one-twelfth of an inch thick. The edges were raised by being beaten back. {A full sized engraving of the xiqui appeared in the American Journal of Numismatics, Vol. V, No. 2. One of these " coins " was exhibited at a meeting of the Boston Num. Soc. in May, i860.}

    It was this peculiar shape that constituted its " mark of authority ". Similar shaped " coins " were minted by the Chinese of a remote age, some of which are in the possession of the writer. Specimens of the Mexican xiqui, also of the Chinese coins of the same shape are in the collection of Paris, where the writer has studied them. The earliest allusion to the xiqui is in a letter of Cortes to the king, dated October 15, 1524, in which he says that tin money circulated in Taxco and other provinces of the empire. The earliest mention of the cacao-butl of New Spain is by Columbus, in his journal or log-book of 1502. Mr. Brevoort adds that in Guatemala they were called zicarfa and zapote; the former term being another reminiscence of zikka or sicca. Butl, meaning money, has also a resemblance to the Scotch word bootle, and Danish buidel having the same meaning. Its modern anonym is boodle.

    Returning from this verbal digression to the Mexican system of money, the value of the cacao-bean was maintained by limitation. The growing of cacao trees was a prerogative of the crown, and where the imperial authority was weak, it became a prerogative of the feudal lords. Reasoning by analogy, the control of the copper mines must have been similarly monopolized in order to maintain the value of the xiqui. By this it is not intended to assert that these mines were worked as the Spaniards afterwards worked them, namely, by deep excavations. The Mexicans had no iron or steel tools. Their excavations were, therefore, very superficial; and only such mines were worked at all as contained native copper close to the surface.

    Although no mention of the fact occurs in the works consulted by the author, it is believed that the monopoly of growing the trees of the cacao beans used for money, which was exercised by the native government before the Spanish Conquest, was continued by the Spaniards after that event; otherwise, it is difficult to understand how the value of the beans was maintained, as it certainly was maintained. There is nothing surprising in the absence of such a record; for the Spanish writers as a rule took but little heed of anything relating to the natives, beyond the precious metals, the encomienda system and the mita, both of which were agencies for the production of gold and silver and for the control of native labour.

    Concerning a people of whom so little is known as the aboriginal Mexicans, the slightest clue may be of importance. It will be observed that in their monetary system the multiplier is always, except in the last instance, twenty. Multiplying by the score is an Indian custom of very high antiquity, antedating the period of the second Buddha, whose followers altered the common system of notation by using the dozen for a multiplier, in place of the score. Traces of both of these notations were preserved in the Roman system of dating. {“Hist. Mon. Sys., ed. 1895, chap. vii."}

    From these considerations the establishment of the Mexican system of money may reasonably be dated far backward into antiquity, though not so far backward as their area of Votan or Woden, B. C. 955, which is a Buddhic date of the Incarnation still employed in Tartary, Tibet and China.
    {"The Worship of Augustus," chap. vii.}

    It may reasonably he conjectured that this date was brought to Mexico by the Buddhic missionaries of A. D. 488, the account of whose voyage is given by Mr. Vining { Vining's "Inglorious Columbus."} and employed, as most of the incarnation seras were employed, retrospectively.{* Such was the case with all of the Indian, Chaldean, Egyptian, Greek and Roman ideal incarnation seras. Cf. " The Worship of Augustus."}

    The cacao beans, so commonly employed for money both in Mexico, Yucatan and other American states, were the product not of the common, but of a peculiar cacao-tree, whose pods contained from 20 to 40 beans each. The term olotl may, therefore, have also been employed for pod. The equivalents employed by the Spaniards were 10 olotl to the real or 80 olotl or 1,600 cacao-butl to the peso.

    In Humboldt's time, in the early part of the present century, {i.e., nineteenth; 1800’s} cacao-butl were still employed by the natives in suburban districts for small change, the equivalents being 72 to the medio, or 1,152 to the peso. The rise in the value of cacao-butl, compared with Spanish silver coin, was therefore less than 39 per cent, in the course of three centuries; a record for stability which neither gold nor silver coins, compared with commodities, can show in any age or country known to the writer. That the cacao-butl should have risen in value as between a period, that of Cortes, when the precious metals were freely acquired by plunder and that of Humboldt, when they were expensively obtained by means of capital and labor employed in mining, is an evidence of their merit as an equitable measure of value.

    After the Conquerors had exhausted the resources of plunder and cruelty they found it necessary to trade with the natives and even among themselves. For this purpose there was no other than the native money. In order to avoid the use of what to them was an unaccustomed and uncouth currency, the Spaniards, according to Mr. J. C. Brevoort, struck or cast a number of round copper coins, quartos and octavos, in the name of the King of Spain, the designs and legends upon which are given in the American Numismatic Journal for October, 1881. They probably at the same time demonetized or decried the native xiqui, for the reason that with their resources for mining copper, that metal must have so enormously declined in value as to render the xiqui comparatively valueless as multipliers for the cacao-butl. Whether in resentment for such demonetization, or for some other reason which the Spanish historians have failed to mention, the natives, though obliged to accept, declined to pass, this money; and contemptuously tossed it into the Lake of Mexico. According to Herrera this was in 1522; while Torquemada less explicitly assigns it to some time previous to 1535.

    In 1527 the Spaniards, in order to force the currency of their copper coins, forbade the cacao-butl to be passed by count and ordered it to be sold by the heaped measure; an attempt to degrade it from the function of money to the condition of a commodity. This attempt resulted in so much difficulty, friction and evasion, that in 1536 the edict was repealed and the cacao-butl resumed its ancient sway as a convenient and acceptable measure of value among the natives; precisely as cowrie shells still maintain their ancient sway as money in some portions of India. {The number of cacao-butl to the peso de plata and that of Chinese " cash " to the same coin was not unlike; that is to say about 1,600 to 1.}

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  2. TopTop #32

    Re: Columbus, Slavery, & Class War



    A stable system of money essential to the organization of states — Peru had evidently repeatedly tried metallic systems and failed — Superabundant but fitful supply of the precious metals — Attempt to regulate this by monopolizing the mines — Failure of this measure — Final abandonment of metallic money — Adoption of barter with "Country Pay" for money and capsicum pods for small change.

    A NATION consists of land and a people organized for defense, attack, social intercourse and the administration of justice. The things most essential in effecting such organization are military advantages and a stable monetary system. Thus, in the great re-organization of France which followed the Revolution of 1789, the ancient arms and tactics were abandoned in favour of the artillery and improved military methods advocated by Napoleon ; in the reorganization of Japan, after the Revolution of 1867, the feudal bow and arrow, and the control of the daimios over the issues of money, were superseded by European arms and a national mint; and in the reorganization of Afghanistan, in 1880, the Ameer, (Abdul Rahman,) began by establishing simultaneously a manufactory of cannons, rifles and ammunition, and a national mint, both located at Caubul [Kabul] and both under European superintendence. Should the European powers, instead of partitioning China, permit her to reorganize her government, it is safe to predict that her first efforts will be directed towards establishing an army and other national military advantages founded upon the character and resources of the land and people; and a monetary system based upon the national power and credit, supported by such improved military system.

    In his somewhat romantic but popular "History of Peru," Prescott repeatedly lays down the sweeping assertion that the Peruvians "had no knowledge of money ; " but this is a very superficial view of the matter. The Peruvians not only had a knowledge of money, they had evidently had a very unhappy experience of the subject, especially with money of the precious metals. As explained in another work, gold and silver, far from being the best, are among the worst materials out of which to fabricate the symbols of money; {Del Mar's " Hist. Money in Ancient States," Ch. I.} because they are the least destructible of all substances; and unless the conditions under which they are employed are favourable to their rapid and continuous consumption in the arts, they would soon become superabundant and rapidly decline in value. In Peru they had got to make water pipes and tanks of gold; and household utensils, and even planking of silver. The arts could consume no more.

    Owing to her isolation (for according to Prescott, Peru was unaware of the existence of, and was certainly not in communication with Mexico, or indeed with any other organized state,) another and more striking danger attended the use of gold or silver for money-symbols. There being no international stock on hand of these metals to act as a buffer against the effects of new supplies, it followed that the discovery and working of every new placer or quartz vein threatened to entirely revolutionize prices and disintegrate the social order. The monopoly of the mines of copper, gold and silver, by the sovereign-pontiff of Peru, a fact which Prescott himself admits almost amounts to a conclusive proof that coins of these metals had been tried in Peru and abandoned as an impracticable measure of value. {The Mines of Peru, both of copper, silver and gold, were made by law the exclusive property and prerogative of the Inca. Prescott, "Conquest of Peru," ed. 1874, 1, 32, 56.} Precisely the same thing had happened in ancient times in India, in the Greek states of Sparta, Byzantium, Clazomenae, etc., in Carthage and even in Rome. All these states had tried gold or silver and sometimes both of these metals for coins and had eventually given them up and resorted to numerary moneys as a refuge from fluctuating prices and unstable social conditions.

    But several of these states, when they abandoned gold and silver moneys, neglected to alter those laws relating to gold and silver mining which the original use of such moneys had rendered necessary. { Rome was not one of these neglectful states. When she abandoned gold and silver coins for a numerary system, about B. C. 385, she very wisely closed her gold and silver mines. Pliny, N. H., Ill, 24; xxxiii, 21. China did the same thing. "Hist. Precious Metals," p. 346.} Hence, even after they resorted to numerary moneys, the old mining laws remained. Such also was apparently the case in Peru. At the period of the Spanish Conquest, the gold and silver moneys had disappeared and given place to farm produce, with peppers in pods for small change, something like the "country pay " of the British-American Colonies, mentioned further on in the present work. {* As with individuals, the childhood and old age of states often present similar characteristics or surroundings. There is a period, common to both individuals and societies, when the lines of growth and decay cross each other. " Science of Money," Ch. II. } But the old mining laws remained; and the Inca, for no other imaginable reason than neglect to alter them, retained that exclusive control over the product of the precious metals which had evidently belonged to a period when it was necessary in the public interest to attempt to regulate their production.

    Something of the same sort may be witnessed today in the United States of America. There, the mining laws are those of ancient Rome and medieval Spain; while the monetary laws are those of the British Mercantile era. The mining laws were designed to stimulate the production of gold and silver, in order to provide an ample supply of those materials for coinage. There are no royalties, no licenses, nor no taxes on mines, in the United States; a mine belongs to anybody who can find one; and he even has the right to pursue his vein under the surface of another man's land. The monetary laws, copied from the British Act of i8, Charles II., c. 5, entirely defeat the object of these provisions; for they oblige gold and silver to be coined by the government and endowed with its credit (the function of legal tender) free of charge. As there is no interdict or tax upon exportation, they enable the beneficiaries under this act to melt such metal down or else ship it away to foreign countries, without loss or hindrance. { These absurd laws make it criminal to melt coins within the country, while they facilitate and promote their melting abroad.} These privileges, which were formerly granted to both metals and are still idiotically attached to gold, entirely defeat the mining laws, whose object it was to afford the country an ample metallic supply.

    The monetary system of the United States is suffering from the escape of the precious metals to foreign countries and their absence or fitful presence in the home circulation. That of native Peru suffered from a superabundance of these metals. Yet the empire was so weak and disunited that with all its affluence of gold and silver, Atahualpa found it difficult to collect his Ransom within the time prescribed by his captors. { The Ransom was erroneously computed in my " History of the Precious Metals," ed. 1880, p. 110, at 3,500,000{pounds, sterling}. It really amounted to about 900,ooo pounds or $4,500,000. The principal obstacle to its collection within the time prescribed by Pizarro was the reluctance of the native priesthood to part with the treasures of the temples. Prescott.} That the government of the Incas was in a moribund state, its arts, institutes, religion and feudal condition indicate as plainly as possible. Already had the hierarchy split in twain.

    Had the Spaniards delayed their arrival for another century, the government would have inevitably gone to pieces; when the natives would have probably degenerated into savages. It was not without a reason that the richest fields of Spanish plunder in Peru were the graves, the temples and the houses of the princes and nobles. Sarmiento says that 100,000 castellanos (each of about the weight of a half sovereign) of gold were sometimes got from a single tomb (graveyard). Las Casas says that within 20 years of the Conquest more than half a million ducats (about a-fifth less in weight than castellanos) were taken from the graves of Truxillo. Humboldt says that in 1576 a Spaniard got from the sepulchre of a Peruvian prince near the same place a mass of gold worth a million of dollars. The temple at Cuzco was literally a mine of gold. The vases, domestic vessels, pipes and even the reservoirs for water, were made of gold or silver. The statues of gods and animals, even the flowers of the temple-altars, were made of these metals. On the march to Cuzco the Spaniards captured ten slabs of solid silver each 20 feet long, one foot wide and two or three inches thick, which were intended to decorate the dwelling of an Inca noble. This mass was sufficient to coin nearly half a million dollars. All these facts are narrated by Prescott himself, who nevertheless wholly fails to detect their significance. The European economists unanimously decide that gold and silver are the substances best fitted by nature for the purposes of money, some of them even impiously call them the money of Providence, God's money, Nature's money, etc. Yet Prescott avers that the people who had more of God's money than ever any other people had, "knew nothing of money." {Prescott, I, 157, 170.} It might be added that they (or the Spanish) knew little more of God.

    On the contrary, the discerning mind can scarcely fail to perceive that the Peruvians had long used these metals for money, but had been constrained to abandon them on account of their singular un-suitableness for that purpose. They had doubtless learned, from repeated experiments and failures lasting through many ages, that the value of money and its usefulness as a measure of value, depend not upon the material of which the pieces are made, but upon the number of such pieces; and they therefore, though reluctantly, had abandoned such material to the baser purposes of decorative art and house-hold implements.

    The fact that copper was more valuable than gold (Helps, iii, 478,) was due to the fact that gold was to be obtained and doubtless was obtained for the most part from placers; while copper had to be got from subterranean mines. Without iron or steel tools such mines could only be worked superficially, and probably none at all were worked except such as contained native metal near the surface. The same may be said of silver ; and though we have no record of the fact, this metal in aboriginal Peru was probably more valuable than gold. {* The Incas are said to have at least superficially worked the silver mines of Porcos before the Conquest. Their excavations consisted of small holes driven into the sides of the hills. Prescott.}

    A numismatic work of recognized authority explicitly states that in Peru before the Spanish Conquest, the pod of the uchu or capsicum was in common use as money. {* "London Numismatic Journal," 1836-7, p. 158. A similar money was after-wards used by the far less civilized tribes on the Amazon. This consisted of cakes of wax, weighing about a pound each. Smyth, "Journey from Lima to Para,'' 1836.} This statement is fully borne out by reference to the Spanish historians; yet in none of them does there appear any succinct account of this money, nor of its value in other commodities, nor its equivalents in the Spanish metallic money which succeeded it. The social system of Peru was already so near dissolution that, like the Roman empire during the Middle Ages, but little money of any kind was necessary. The lands of Peru belonged to the Inca and were held of him by his nobles. The cultivators were merely feudal tenants, who paid their taxes with one-third of their produce, which went to the Inca, and their rents with another third, which went to the Inca lords; the remaining third forming the sole personal reward for their exertions. The state was dying; and like all moribund subjects, it had gradually divested itself of even the means to live. The dissolution of Peru probably originated in the loss of such military advantages as had previously enabled it to resist foreign attack and suppress domestic sedition, but this loss was undoubtedly accompanied by, if indeed it did not originate in, the decay of its monetary system; an event which no state can long survive.

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