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Thus it will be seen that the missions were organized both agriculturally and commercially so as to be almost self-supporting, and that of the mere necessaries of life they had sufficient for exportation, no small achievement when we consider how averse from labour were the Indians with whom they had to deal. But that nothing should be wanting that a civilized community could possibly desire, they had their prisons, with good store of chains, fetters, whips, and all the other instruments with which the moral code is generally enforced. The most usual punishment was whipping;* and the crimes most frequent were drunkenness, neglect of work, and bigamy, which latter lapse from virtue the Jesuits chastised severely, not thinking, being celibates themselves, that not unlikely it was apt to turn into its own punishment without the aid of stripes.
-- * In the inventory of the mission of San Jose I find: `Item, doce pares de grillos'; but I am bound to say that in this instance they were for the use of `los Guaicurus infieles prisioneros que estan en dicha mision.' --
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
Much has been written of the interior government of the missions by the Jesuits, but chiefly by strong partisans, for and against, on either side, whose only object was to make out a case to fit the prejudices of those for whom they wrote. Upon the Jesuit side the Abbe Muratori* describes a paradise. A very Carlo Dolce amongst writers, with him all in the missions is so cloying sweet that one's soul sickens, and one longs in his `Happy Christianity' to find a drop of gall. But for five hundred pages nothing is amiss; the men of Belial persecute the Jesuit saints, who always (after the fashion of their Order and mankind) turn both cheeks to the smiter, and, if their purse is taken, hasten to give up their cloaks. The Indians are all love and gratitude. No need in the Abbe's pages for the twelve pair of fetters, which Brabo most unkindly has set down amongst his inventories. Never a single `lapsus' from the moral rule the Jesuits imposed -- no drunkenness, and bigamy so seldom met with that it would seem that Joseph Andrews had been a swaggerer judged by the standard of these moral Guaranis. Then comes Ibanez,** the ex-Jesuit, on the other side. In a twinkling of an eye the scene is changed. For, quite in Hogarth's vein, he paints the missions as a perpetual march to Finchley, and tells us that the Indians were savages, and quite unchanged in all their primitive propensities under the Jesuit rule. And for the Jesuits themselves he has a few home-truths administered with vinegar, after the fashion of the renegade the whole world over, who sees nothing good in the society that has turned him out. He roundly says the Jesuits were loafers, accuses them of keeping the Indians ignorant for their own purposes, and paints them quite as black as the Abbe Muratori painted them rose colour, and with as little art. So that, as usually happens in the writings of all polemists, no matter upon which side they may write, but little information, and that distorted to an incredible degree, is all that they afford.
-- * `Il Cristianesimo Felice nelle Missione dei Padri della Compagnia di Jesu nel Paraguay'. ** `L'Histoire du Paraguay sous les Je/suites', Amsterdam, 1700, lxxv. --
In general, curious as it may appear, the bitterest opponents of the Jesuits were Catholics, and Protestants have often written as apologists. Buffon, Raynal, and Montesquieu, with Voltaire, Robertson, and Southey, have written favourably of the internal government of the missions and the effect which it produced. No other names of equal authority can be quoted on the other side; but yet the fact remains that the Jesuits in Paraguay were exposed to constant calumny from the first day they went there till the last member of the Order left the land.
It is my object first to try to show what the conditions of their government really were, and then to try and clear up what was the cause of unpopularity, and why so many and such persistent calumnies were laid to their account. Stretching right up and down the banks of both the Parana and Uruguay, the missions extended from Nuestra Senora de Fe* (or Santa Maria), in Paraguay, to San Miguel, in what is now the Brazilian province of Rio Grande do Sul; and from the mission of Corpus, on the east bank of the Parana, to Yapeyu, upon the Uruguay. The official capital was placed at Candelaria, on the east bank of the Parana. In that town the Superior of the missions had his official residence, and from thence he ruled the whole territory, having not only the ecclesiastical but the temporal power, the latter, from the position in which he was placed, so many hundred miles from any Spanish Governor, having by degrees gradually come into his hands. The little town of La Candelaria was, when I knew it, in a most neglected state. The buildings of the Jesuits, with the exception of the church, were all in ruins. The streets were sandy and deserted, the foot-walk separated from them by a line of hard-wood posts, which, as tradition said, were left there by the Jesuits; but the hard woods of Paraguay are almost as imperishable as iron.
-- * In all, the missions amounted to thirty; and for their relative situations vide the curious map [not available in this ASCII text], the original of which was published in the work of Padre Pedro Lozano, C. de J., `Descripcion chorographica del terreno, rios, arboles y animales de las dilatadissimas provincias del Gran Chaco, Gualanba', etc. Cordoba, del Tucuman, en el Colegio de la Assumpcion, por Joseph Santos Balbas, 1733. --
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