With regard to cannibalism, in spite of the confirmative assurances of the early Spanish chroniclers, we have the testimony of eminent authorities to the contrary; and the writings of Jesuit missionaries who have lived many years among the Caribs give us a not unfavorable idea of their character and social institutions.
Think of the unparalleled audacity of the author of the "History of Ferdinand and Isabella" in actually exercising his own judgment with regard to the credibility of the Spanish chroniclers, after so high an authority had pronounced against them! However, we are not yet prepared to abandon our own belief in Mr. Prescott's "good faith."
The ceremonials of these holidays were various; but the brief and sometimes unintelligible notices of the chroniclers give us sufficiently vivid and minute pictures of the boisterous jollity that marked the proceedings. Miracle plays and moralities, dancing and music, fantastic processions and mad pranks, spurred on the hours that were not devoted to heavy meals and deep potations.
I let nothing slip, however small; and feel myself actuated by the same motive which has prompted many worthy old chroniclers, to set down the merest trifles concerning things that are destined to pass away entirely from the earth, and which, if not preserved in the nick of time, must infallibly perish from the memories of man.
From the royal archives of Holland I have obtained many most important, entirely unpublished documents, by the aid of which I have endeavoured to verify, to illustrate, or sometimes to correct, the recitals of the elder national chroniclers; and I have derived the greatest profit from the invaluable series of Archives and Correspondence of the Orange-Nassau Family, given to the world by M. Groen van Prinsterer.
Prescott's account of the Inca civilization reads like a romance, yet it is practically borne out by all chroniclers who have discussed the subject, some of whom appear to desire to find the great American historian at fault. Large and populous cities existed, communication between which was had by great national roads traversing every part of the land.
It rained blood in Sweden, monstrous births occurred in France, and at Weimar it was gravely reported by eminent chroniclers that the sun had appeared at mid-day holding a drawn sword in his mouth a warlike portent whose meaning could not be mistaken. But, in truth, it needed no miracles nor prophecies to enforce the conviction that a long procession of disasters was steadily advancing.
The newspaper files, those chroniclers of current events, will show that the evils now complained of were quite as prevalent under Frémont, Hunter, Halleck, and Curtis, as under Schofield.... I do not feel justified to enter upon the broad field you present in regard to the political differences between radicals and conservatives.
This agreement at any rate excited the especial anger of the monastic chroniclers who wrote him down a limb of Satan, a robber instead of a shepherd, who seeing the wolf coming abandoned his sheep.
Harrison himself is an interesting character, and trustworthy above the general race of chroniclers. He was born in 1534, or, to use his exactness of statement, "upon the 18th of April, hora ii, minut 4, Secunde 56, at London, in Cordwainer streete, otherwise called bowe-lane."