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In the notes to Book II of the Social Contract, Rousseau remarks:

"The Republic of Thiascala, enclosed by the Mexican Empire, preferred doing without salt to buying from the Mexicans, or even getting it from them as a gift. The Thiascalans were wise enough to see the snare hidden under such liberality. They kept their freedom, and that little State, shut up in that great Empire, was finally the instrument of its ruin."

I've googled Thiascala, but have come up with nothing (ie all results were references to his book). Is it a figment of his imagination? A parable to illustrate his theory?

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It is referred to as Tlaxcala nowadays.

However, even though the Aztecs managed to build the largest empire in Mesoamerica, they never did conquer Tlaxcala. By the time the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, Tlaxcala was an independent enclave nearly completely surrounded by the Aztec Empire. This left Tlaxcala economically isolated, leaving it without goods such as cotton and salt. This and the constant warfare with the Mexica would give the Tlaxcalans reasons to ally with the Spanish.

I guess Rousseau was right then.

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  • Nice of Rousseau to not restrict his examples to Europe. I had thought he was talking about Spanish Empire in Mexico. – Mozibur Ullah Dec 6 '12 at 18:28

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