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Republic of Mexico,

When first discovered by the Spanish adventurers, was in the possession of the Aztecs, a semicivilized race of dark-hued people, who called their country Mexitli. Older occupants were the Toltecs, who came to the valley of Mexico, about the sixth century, and were the first known tribe on this continent who left a written account of their nationality and polity. Their empire ended in the twelfth century. The Aztecs appeared at the close of the thirteenth century, coming from Azatlan, an unknown region in the north. They seem to have first halted in their migrations southward at the Great Salt Lake in Utah; the next on the River Gila; and the last on the high plateau in the valley of Mexico, where they led a nomadic life until early in the fourteenth century, when they laid the foundation of a city upon an island in Lake Tezcuco, and called it Tenochtitlan; afterwards Mexitli (Spanish, Mexico), after their supreme god. It was a large and prosperous city when Cortez (q. v.) entered it on Nov. 8, 1519. Montezuma (q. v.) was then emperor of the extended domain of the Aztecs. He lived in a fine palace in the city. Another palace was assigned to the use of Cortez as a guest, large enough to hold his whole army. By treachery and violence that adventurer took possession of the city and empire, caused the death of Montezuma and his successor, and annexed Mexico as a province to Spain.

The Mexicans were then very much enlightened. They worked metals, practised [169] many of the useful arts, had a system of astronomy, kept their records in hieroglyphics, and practised architecture and sculpture in a remarkable degree. They had a temple, pyramidal in shape, constructed solidly of earth and pebbles, and coated externally with hewn stones. The base was 300 feet square, and its top was reached by 114 steps spirally constructed. The top was a large area paved with great flat stones, and on it were two towers or sanctuaries, and before each an altar on which fire was perpetually burning. There they made human sacrifices. The conquest by Cortez was accomplished by the aid of native allies who had been subjected by the Aztecs and hated them. He began to rebuild the city of Mexico on its present plan while he was governor, and it remained in possession of the Spanish government until 1821, or just 300 years.

After years of revolutionary movements the Spanish province of Mexico was declared independent, Feb. 24, 1821, with Don Augustin Iturbide, a native of Mexico, at the head of the government as a republic. He afterwards became emperor. In 1836 it lost the fine province of Texas by revolution, and ten years afterwards that portion of ancient Mexico was annexed to the United States. In 1864 Napoleon III. placed Ferdinand Maximilian (q. v.), archduke of Austria, on a throne in Mexico, with the title of emperor. Juarez, the deposed President of the republic, struggled for power with the troops of the usurper, and succeeded. The Emperor of the French withdrew his troops and

National Palace, City of Mexico.

abandoned Maximilian, who was captured early in 1867, and was shot on June 19. The republic was re-established. [170]

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