XIX.10 On the character of the Spaniards and of the Chinese

The various cha­rac­ters of nations are incor­po­rate vir­tues and vices, good and bad qua­li­ties. The happy mix­tu­res are those which yield great advan­ta­ges, and often you would not sus­pect them ; there are some that do great harm, and these too you would not sus­pect.

The good faith of the Spanish has fore­ver been renow­ned. Justin tells us of their depen­da­bi­lity in kee­ping things entrus­ted to them : they have often suf­fe­red death to keep them secret.1 That depen­da­bi­lity which they used to have, they still have today. All the nations that do busi­ness in Cadiz entrust their for­tune to the Spanish ; they have never had cause for regret. But this admi­ra­ble qua­lity com­bi­ned with their indo­lence forms a mix­ture that results in effects that are per­ni­cious to them ; the peo­ples of Europe conduct before their very eyes all of their monar­chy’s busi­ness.

The cha­rac­ter of the Chinese makes for an enti­rely dif­fe­rent mix­ture which contrasts with the cha­rac­ter of the Spanish. Their pre­ca­rious life2 gives them pro­di­gious acti­vity, and such exces­sive desire for gain that no tra­ding nation can trust them.3 This reco­gni­zed unre­lia­bi­lity has kept the Japan trade for them ; no European mer­chant has dared attempt it in their name, howe­ver sim­ple it might have been to attempt it through their nor­thern mari­time pro­vin­ces.


By the nature of the climate and the terrain.

Father du Halde, vol. II.