R.B. Cunninghame Graham.

A Vanished Arcadia: being some account of the Jesuits in Paraguay 1607-1767 online

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`Historicus nascitur, non fit.' I am painfully aware that neither
my calling nor election in this matter are the least sure. Certain it is
that in youth, when alone the historian or the horseman may be formed,
I did little to fit myself for writing history. Wandering about
the countries of which now I treat, I had almost as little object
in my travels as a Gaucho of the outside `camps'. I never took a note
on any subject under heaven, nor kept a diary, by means of which,
my youth departed and the countries I once knew so well transmogrified,
I could, sitting beside the fire, read and enjoy the sadness of revisiting,
in my mind's eye, scenes that I now remember indistinctly as in a dream.
I take it that he who keeps a journal of his doings, setting down day by day
all that he does, with dates and names of places, their longitude and latitude
duly recorded, makes for himself a meal of bitter-sweet;
and that your truest dulcamara is to read with glasses the faded notes
jotted down hurriedly in rain, in sun, in wind, in camps,
by flooded rivers, and in the long and listless hours of heat -
in fact, to see again your life, as it were, acted for you
in some camera obscura, with the chief actor changed. But diaries,
unless they be mere records of bare facts, must of necessity,
as in their nature they are autobiographical, be false guides;
so that, perhaps, I in my carelessness was not quite so unwise
as I have often thought myself. Although I made no notes of anything,
caring most chiefly for the condition of my horse, yet when I think on them,
pampa and cordillera, virgin forest, the `passes' of the rivers,
approached by sandy paths, bordered by flowering and sweet-smelling trees,
and most of all the deserted Jesuit Missions, half buried
by the vigorous vegetation, and peopled but by a few white-clad Indians,
rise up so clearly that, without the smallest faculty for dealing with that
which I have undertaken, I am forced to write. Flowers, scents,
the herds of horses, the ostriches, and the whole charm of that New World
which those who saw it even a quarter of a century ago saw
little altered from the remotest times, have remained clear and sharp,
and will remain so with me to the end. So to the readers
(if I chance to have them) of this short attempt to give
some faint idea of the great Christian Commonwealth of the Jesuit Missions
between the Parana and Uruguay, I now address myself.
He who attacks a subject quite fallen out of date, and still not old enough
to give a man authority to speak upon it without the fear of contradiction,
runs grave risk.

Gentle, indulgent reader, if so be that you exist in these
the days of universal knowledge and self-sufficient criticism,
I do not ask for your indulgence for the many errors which no doubt
have slipped into this work. These, if you care to take the trouble,
you can verify, and hold me up to shame. What I do crave
is that you will approach the subject with an open mind. Your Jesuit is,
as we know, the most tremendous wild-fowl that the world has known.
`La guardia nera' of the Pope, the order which has wrought
so much destruction, the inventors of `Ciencia media',*
cradle from which has issued forth Molina, Suarez, and all those villains who,
in the days in which the doctrine was unfashionable, decried mere faith,
and took their stand on works - who in this land of preconceived opinion
can spare it a good word? But, notwithstanding, even a Jansenist, if such
be left, must yet admit the claim of Francis Xavier as a true, humble saint,
and if the sour-faced sectary of Port Royale should refuse, all men of letters
must perforce revere the writer of the hymn.

* The doctrine of the `Ciencia Media' occurs in the celebrated
`Concordia gratiae et liberi arbitrii', by Luis de Molina (1588).
The concilium de Auxiliis was held to determine whether or not
`concordia' was possible between freewill and grace. As the Jesuits
stuck by Molina and his doctrines in despite of councils and of popes,
the common saying arose in Spain: `Pasteles en la pasteleria
y ciencia media en la Compan~ia.'

But into the whole question of the Jesuits I cannot enter,
as it entails command of far more foot and half-foot words
than I can muster up. Still, in America, and most of all in Paraguay,
I hope to show the Order did much good, and worked amongst the Indians
like apostles, receiving an apostle's true reward of calumny,
of stripes, of blows, and journeying hungry, athirst, on foot,
in perils oft, from the great cataract of the Parana
to the recesses of the Tarumensian woods. Little enough I personally care
for the political aspect of their commonwealth, or how it acted
on the Spanish settlements; of whether or not it turned out profitable
to the Court of Spain, or if the crimes and charges of ambition
laid to the Jesuits' account were false or true. My only interest
in the matter is how the Jesuits' rule acted upon the Indians themselves,
and if it made them happy - more happy or less happy
than those Indians who were directly ruled from Spain, or through
the Spanish Governors of the viceroyalties. For theories of advancement,
and as to whether certain arbitrary ideas of the rights of man,
evolved in general by those who in their persons and their lives
are the negation of all rights, I give a fico - yes, your fig of Spain -
caring as little as did ancient Pistol for `palabras',
and holding that the best right that a man can have is to be happy
after the way that pleases him the most. And that the Jesuits
rendered the Indians happy is certain, though to those men who fudge
a theory of mankind, thinking that everyone is forged upon their anvil,
or run out of their own mould, after the fashion of a tallow dip
(a theory which, indeed, the sameness of mankind renders at times
not quite untenable), it seems absurd because the progress of the world
has gone on other lines - lines which prolonged indefinitely
would never meet those which the Jesuits drew. All that I know
is I myself, in the deserted missions, five-and-twenty years ago
often have met old men who spoke regretfully of Jesuit times,
who cherished all the customs left by the company, and though they spoke
at secondhand, repeating but the stories they had heard in youth,
kept the illusion that the missions in the Jesuits' time had been a paradise.
Into the matter of the Jesuits' motives I do not propose to enter,
holding that the origin of motives is too deeply seated
to be worth inquiry until one has more information about the human mind
than even modern `scientists' seem able to impart. Yet it is certain
the Jesuits in Paraguay had faith fit to remove all mountains,
as the brief stories of their lives, so often ending with a rude field-cross
by the corner of some forest, and the inscription `hic occissus est'
survive to show. Some men - such is the complexity of human nature -
have undergone trials and persecutions for base motives,
and it is open for anyone to say the Jesuits, as they were Jesuits,
could do nothing good. Still, I believe that Father Ruiz Montoya -
whose story I have told, how falteringly, and with how little justice
to his greatness, none knows better than myself - was a good man -
that is, a man without ulterior motives, and actuated but
by his love to the poor Indians with whom he passed his life.
To-day, when no one can see good in anything or anybody
outside the somewhat beefy pale of the Anglo-Saxon race, I do not hope
that such a mere dabbler in the great mystery of history as I am myself
will for an instant change one preconceived opinion; for I am well aware
that speeches based on facts are impotent in popular assemblies
to change a single vote.

It is an article of Anglo-Saxon faith that all the Spanish colonies
were mal-administered, and all the Spanish conquerors
bloodthirsty butchers, whose sole delight was blood. This, too,
from the members of a race who . . .; but `In the multitude of the greyhounds
is the undoing of the hare.' Therefore, I ask those who imagine
that all Spaniards at the conquest of America were ruffians,
to consider the career of Alvar Nunez, who also struts through
his brief chapter in the pages of my most imperfect book.
Still, I admit men of the stamp of Alvar Nunez are most rare,
and were still rarer in the sixteenth century; and to find many
of the Ruiz Montoya brand, Diogenes would have needed a lantern
fitted with electric light. In the great controversy which engaged
the pens of many of the best writers of the world last century,
after the Jesuits were expelled from Spain and her colonial possessions
(then almost half the world), it will be found that amongst all the mud
so freely flung about, the insults given and received, hardly anyone
but a few ex-Jesuits had any harm to say of the doings of the Order
during its long rule in Paraguay. None of the Jesuits were ever tried;
no crimes were charged against them; even the reasons for their expulsion
were never given to the world at large. Certain it is
that but a few years after their final exit from the missions
between the Uruguay and Parana all was confusion. In twenty years
most of the missions were deserted, and before thirty years had passed
no vestige of their old prosperity remained.

The semi-communism which the Jesuits had introduced was swept away,
and the keen light of free and vivifying competition (which beats so fiercely
upon the bagman's paradise of the economists) reigned in its stead.
The revenues declined,* all was corruption, and, as the Governor,
Don Juan Jose Vertiz, writes to the Viceroy,** the secular priests
sent by the Government were brawlers, drunkards, and strikers,
carrying arms beneath their cloaks; that robbery was rife;
and that the Indians daily deserted and returned by hundreds to the woods.

* Dean Funes, `Ensayo de la Historia Civil del Paraguay', etc.,
Buenos Aires, 1816.
** Idem. The letter is dated 1771 and the Jesuits were expelled in 1767.
As the writer of the letter was on the spot in an official position,
and nominated by the very Viceroy who had been the expeller of the Jesuits,
his testimony would seem to be as valuable as that of the ablest theorist
on government, Catholic or Protestant, who ever wrote.

All the reports of riches amassed in Paraguay by the Jesuits,
after the expulsion of their order proved to be untrue;
nothing of any consequence was found in any of the towns,
although the Jesuits had had no warning of their expulsion,
and had no time for preparation or for concealment of their gold.
Although they stood to the Indians almost in the light of gods,
and had control of an armed force larger by far than any
which the temporal power could have disposed of, they did not resist,
but silently departed from the rich territories which their care and industry
had formed.

Rightly or wrongly, but according to their lights, they strove to teach
the Indian population all the best part of the European progress of the times
in which they lived, shielding them sedulously from all contact
with commercialism, and standing between them and the Spanish settlers,
who would have treated them as slaves. These were their crimes.
For their ambitions, who shall search the human heart,
or say what their superiors in Europe may, or perhaps may not,
have had in view? When all is said and done, and now their work is over,
and all they worked for lost (as happens usually with the efforts
of disinterested men), what crime so terrible can men commit as to stand up
for near upon two centuries against that slavery which disgraced
every American possession of the Spanish* crown? Nothing is bad enough
for those who dare to speak the truth, and those who put their theories
into practice are a disgrace to progressive and adequately taxed communities.
Nearly two hundred years they strove, and now their territories,
once so populous and so well cultivated, remain, if not a desert,
yet delivered up to that fierce-growing, subtropical American plant life
which seems as if it fights with man for the possession of the land
in which it grows. For a brief period those Guaranis gathered together
in the missions, ruled over by their priests, treated like grown-up children,
yet with a kindness which attached them to their rulers,
enjoyed a half-Arcadian, half-monastic life, reaching to just so much
of what the world calls civilization as they could profit by and use
with pleasure to themselves. A commonwealth where money was unknown
to the majority of the citizens, a curious experiment by self-devoted men,
a sort of dropping down a diving-bell in the flood of progress
to keep alive a population which would otherwise soon have been suffocated
in its muddy waves, was doomed to failure by the very nature of mankind.
Foredoomed to failure, it has disappeared, leaving nothing of a like nature
now upon the earth. The Indians, too, have vanished, gone to that limbo
which no doubt is fitted for them. Gentle, indulgent reader,
if you read this book, doubt not an instant that everything that happens
happens for the best; doubt not, for in so doing you would doubt
of all you see - our life, our progress, and your own infallibility,
which at all hazards must be kept inviolate. Therefore in my imperfect sketch
I have not dwelt entirely on the strict concatenation
(after the Bradshaw fashion) of the hard facts of the history of the Jesuits.
I have not set down too many dates, for the setting down of dates
in much profusion is, after all, an ad captandum appeal
to the suffrages of those soft-headed creatures who are styled serious men.

* This, of course, applies to the possessions of all European States
in America equally with Spain.

Wandering along the by-paths of the forests which fringe the mission towns,
and set them, so to speak, in the hard tropical enamel of green foliage,
on which time has no lien, and but the arts of all-destroying man
are able to deface, I may have chanced upon some petty detail which may serve
to pass an hour away.

A treatise of a forgotten subject by a labourer unskilled, and who, moreover,
by his very task challenges competition with those who have written
on the theme, with better knowledge, and perhaps less sympathy;
a pother about some few discredited and unremembered priests;
details about half-savages, who `quoi! ne portaient pas
des haults de chausses'; the recollections of long silent rides
through forest paths, ablaze with flowers, and across which the tropic birds
darted like atoms cut adrift from the apocalypse; a hotch-potch, salmagundi,
olla podrida, or sea-pie of sweet and bitter, with perhaps the bitter
ruling most, as is the way when we unpack our reminiscences -
yes, gentle and indulgent reader, that's the humour of it.

R. B. Cunninghame Graham.

March 30, 1900.


Chapter I
Early history - State of the country - Indian races - Characteristics of
the different tribes - Dobrizhoffer's book - Various expeditions -
Sebastian Cabot - Don Pedro de Mendoza - Alvar Nunez -
His expedition and its results - Other leaders and preachers -
Founding of the first mission of the Society of Jesus

Chapter II
Early days of the missions - New settlements founded -
Relations of Jesuits with Indians and Spanish colonists -
Destruction of missions by the Mamelucos - Father Maceta -
Padre Antonio Ruiz de Montoya - His work and influence -
Retreat of the Jesuits down the Parana

Chapter III
Spain and Portugal in South America - Enmity between
Brazilians and Argentines - Expulsion of Jesuits from Paraguay -
Struggles with the natives - Father Mendoza killed -
Death of Father Montoya

Chapter IV
Don Bernardino de Cardenas, Bishop of Paraguay - His labours
as apostolic missionary - His ambitions and cunning -
Pretensions to saintliness - His attempts to acquire supreme power -
Quarrels between Cardenas and Don Gregorio, the temporal Governor

Chapter V
Renewal of the feud between the Bishop and Don Gregorio -
Wholesale excommunications in Asuncion - Cardenas in 1644
formulates his celebrated charges against the Jesuits -
The Governor, after long negotiations and much display of force,
ultimately succeeds in driving out the Bishop - For three years
Cardenas is in desperate straits - In 1648 Don Gregorio
is suddenly dismissed, Cardenas elects himself Governor,
and for a short time becomes supreme in Asuncion - The Jesuits
are forced to leave the town and to flee to Corrientes - A new Governor
is appointed in Asuncion - He defeats Cardenas on the field of battle -
The latter is deprived of his power, and dies soon after as Bishop of La Paz

Chapter VI
Description of the mission territory and towns founded by the Jesuits -
Their endeavours to attract the Indians - Religious feasts and processions
- Agricultural and commercial organizations

Chapter VII
Causes of the Jesuits' unpopularity - Description of the lives and habits
of the priests - Testimony in favour of the missions -
Their opposition to slavery - Their system of administration

Chapter VIII
Don Jose de Antequera - Appoints himself Governor of Asuncion -
Unsettled state of affairs in the town - He is commanded
to relinquish his illegal power - He refuses, and resorts to arms -
After some success he is defeated and condemned to be executed - He is shot
on his way to the scaffold - Renewed hatred against the Jesuits -
Their labours among the Indians of the Chaco

Chapter IX
The Spanish and Portuguese attempt to force new laws on the Indians -
The Indians revolt against them - The hopeless struggle goes on
for eight years - Ruin of the missions

Chapter X
Position of the Jesuits in 1761 - Decree for their expulsion
sent from Spain - Bucareli sent to suppress the colleges and drive out
the Jesuits - They submit without resistance - After two hundred years
they are expelled from Paraguay - The country under the new rule -
The system of government practically unchanged

Chapter XI

A Vanished Arcadia
Being Some Account of the Jesuits in Paraguay
1607 to 1767

Chapter I

Early history - State of the country - Indian races - Characteristics of
the different tribes - Dobrizhoffer's book - Various expeditions -
Sebastian Cabot - Don Pedro de Mendoza - Alvar Nunez -
His expedition and its results - Other leaders and preachers -
Founding of the first mission of the Society of Jesus

With the exception of the French Revolution, perhaps no event
caused so much general controversy at the end of the eighteenth century
as the expulsion of the Jesuits from Spain and Portugal
and their colonial possessions. As no definite charges were ever brought,
at least in Spain, against the members of the Company of Jesus
(King Charles III. having kept the reasons `ocultas y reservadas'
and the proofs `privilegiados'), curiosity is to some extent not satisfied
as to the real reason of their expulsion from the Spanish possessions
in America.

It is almost impossible to understand nowadays the feelings
which possessed the average man in regard to the Jesuits
from the middle of the last century till a relatively short time ago.
All the really great work done by the Society of Jesus
seemed to have been forgotten, and every vulgar fable
which it was possible to invent to their prejudice found ready acceptance
upon every side. Nothing was too absurd to be believed.
From the calumnies of the Jansenists to the follies of Eugene Sue
the mass of accusation, invective, and innuendo kept on increasing
in intensity. Indiscriminate abuse and unreasoning hatred,
mixed with fear, seem to have possessed all minds. Even Pascal
confesses (in a postscript to the ninth Provincial Letter) that
`after having written my letter I read the works of Fathers Barry and Binet.'
If such a man as Pascal could be so grossly unfair as to write a criticism
on works which he had not read, what can be expected from
the non-judicial and uncritical public which takes all upon trust?

From Japan to the interior of Bolivia there is scarcely a country
in which the Jesuits have not laboured assiduously, and in which
they have not shed their blood freely without hope of reward,
yet it would require much time and a lengthy catalogue to enumerate
the list of satirical and calumnious works which have appeared against them
in almost every language in Europe. Of these, perhaps the most celebrated
is the well-known `Monarquia de los Solipsos',* by Padre Melchior Inshoffer,
an ex-Jesuit, who describes the company in the worst possible terms.
It is interesting chiefly on account of the portraits of well-known
people of the time (1615 to 1648), as Pope Clement VIII., Francisco Suarez,
Claudio Aquaviva, and others, veiled under easily distinguishable pseudonyms.
The object of the writer, as the title indicates, is to show that the Jesuits
endeavoured to turn all to their own profit. In this, if it was the case,
they do not seem to have been greatly different from every other associated
body of men, whether lay or clerical. The celebrated Spanish proverb,
`Jesuita y se ahorca, cuenta le hace', meaning, Even if a Jesuit is hung
he gets some good out of it, may just as well be applied
to members of other learned professions as to the Jesuits.

* Madrid, 1770.

The world has rarely persecuted any body of men conspicuous by its poverty,
or if it has done so has rarely persecuted them for long.
The Inquisition of Spain, violent against the wealthy Jews
and comfortable Moriscos, took little notice of the Gipsies;
but, then, `Pobre como cuerpo de Gitano' was and is a common saying in Spain.

As in the case of the Templars, persecution only began against the Jesuits
when it became worth while to persecute them. Ignatius Loyola,
Francisco Xavier, and Diego Lainez, as long as they
confined themselves to preaching and to teaching, were safe enough.
Even the annals of theological strife, bloodthirsty and discreditable
to humanity as they are, contain few examples of persecutors
such as Calvin or Torquemada, to whom, ruthless as they were
in their savage and narrow malignity and zeal for what they thought the truth,
no suspicion of venal motives is attributed.

Of the Jesuits' intrigues, adventures, rise and fall in Europe,
much may be said in attack or in extenuation; but it is not
the intention of the present work to deal with this aspect of the question.
It was in Spanish America, and especially in Paraguay and Bolivia,
where the policy of the Company in regard to savage nations
was most fully developed, as it was only the Jesuits who ever succeeded
in reclaiming any large number of the nomad or semi-nomad tribes
of those countries.

Many excellent works in French, and the celebrated `Christianismo Felice
nel Paraguay' of the Abbate Muratori in Italian, certainly exist.
But neither Father Charlevoix, the French historian of the missions,
nor Muratori was ever in Paraguay, and both their books contain
the faults and mistakes of men, however excellent and well intentioned,
writing of countries of which they were personally ignorant.
Both give a good account of the customs and regimen of the missions,
but both seem to have believed too readily fabulous accounts
of the flora and fauna of Paraguay.* The fact of having listened too readily
to a fable about an unknown animal in no way detracts from
the general veracity of an author of the beginning of the eighteenth century,
for in all other respects except natural history Charlevoix keeps
within the bounds of probability, though of course as a Jesuit
he holds a brief for the doings of the Company in Paraguay.
Muratori is more rarely led into extravagances, but is concerned in the main

Online LibraryR.B. Cunninghame GrahamA Vanished Arcadia: being some account of the Jesuits in Paraguay 1607-1767 → online text (page 1 of 25)