Alexander von Humboldt.

The travels and researches of Alexander von Humboldt online

. (page 28 of 35)
Online LibraryAlexander von HumboldtThe travels and researches of Alexander von Humboldt → online text (page 28 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Zimapan, 241J.0OO

Sum for five years, 9,730,000=5,9'J7,<)33 troy pounds.

Mean pro- The mean produce of the mines of New Spain, in-

duce, cludinfi; the northern part of New Biscay and those of

Oaxaca, is estimated at above 1,541,015 troy pounds of
silver, — a quantity equal to two thirds of what is
aimually extracted from the whole globe, and ten
times as much as is furnished by all the mines of
Europe.
Produce of On the other hand the produce of the Mexican mines

k'''^''^- in gold is not much greater than those of Hungary and

Transylvania ; amounting in ordinary years only to
4315 troy pounds. In the former it is chieHy extracted
from river-deposites by washing. Auriferous alluvia
are common in the province of Sonora, and a great deal
of gold has been collected among the sands with which
the bottom of the valley of the Rio Hiaijui, to the east
of the missions of Tarahumara, is covered. Farther to
the north, in Pimeria Alta, masses of native gold
weighing five or six pounds liave been found. Part of
it is also extracted from veins intersecting the primitive
mountains. Veins of this metal are most frequent in
the province of Oaxaca, in gneiss and mica-slate. The
last rock is particularly rich in the mines of Rio San
Antonio. Gold is also found pure, or mixed with
silver-ore, in most of those which have been wrought in
Mexico.

The silver sui)plicd by the Mexican veins is extracted
from a great variety of minerals. Most of it is obtained
from sulphuretted silver, arsenical gray-copper, muriate



GOLD AND SILVER OF AMERICA. 339

of silver, prismatic ])lack silver-ore, and red silver-ore. CHAP. XXVL
Pure or native silver is of comparatively rare occurrence, qi]^^

Copper, tin, iron, lead, and mercury, are also procured metal*,
in New Spain, but in very small quantities, although it
would appear that they might be found to a great
extent. The meicury occurs in various deposites, in
beds, in secondary formations, and in veins traversing
porphyries ; but the amount obtained has never been
sufficient for the process of amalgamation.

The total value of gold and silver extracted from the Value of tho
mines of America, between 1499 and 1803, is estimated ^"ygr^"
by Humboldt at 5,706,700,000 piasters, or (valuing the
piaster at 4s. 4|d,) £1,248,340,625 sterling.

The annual produce of the mines of the New World,
at the beginning of the present century, is estimated as
follows : —

Gold Silver Value in

Marl<s. Marks. Dollars.

New Spain, 7,000 2,^38.220 23,0110,000

Peru, 3,400 611,0y0 6,240,000

Chili, 12.212 29,700 2,OKO,000

Buenos Ayres, 2,200 481,830 4,850,000

New Grenada, 20,505 . . . 2,990,000

Brazil, 29,900 . . . 4,360,000

75,217 3,46e,84fl 43,500,000

Valuing the dollar at 4s. 3d., the total annual produce
would be £9,243,250.*

' Accordinjj;' to Mr Ward (Mexico in 1827, vol. ii. p. 38), the
annual average produce of tlie Mexican mines, before the revolution
in 1810, amounted to 24,000,000 dollars, or £5,1 1 0,000, and the
average exports to 22,000,000, or £4,675,000; but since the revo-
lution the produce has been reduced to 11,000,000 dollars, or
£2,337,500, while the exports in specie have averaged 13,587,05iJ
dollars, or £'2,887,253 each year. This reduction, ii is unnecessary
to say, has been caused by the unsettled state of the country, the •

emigration of the Old Spaniards, and the withdrawing of the funds
which kept the mines in operation. In 1812, according to the- same
authority, the coinage had fallen to four and a half millions of dot
lars. It rose successively to six, nine, eleven, and twelve millions,
which was the amount in 1819 in the capital alone. In 1820 the
revolution in Spain caused a considerable ttuctualion, and the coin-
age fell to 10,406,154 dollars. In 1B21, when the separation from



340



RECAPITULATION.



Aspect of tlie
country.



CHAP.XXVI. To conclude our brief account of Humboldt's Political
Essay on New Spain, it may be useful to present a few
of the more interesting facts in the ibrni of a recapitu-
lation.

Fhyiiicnl Aspect — Along the centre of the country
runs a chain of mountains, having a direction from
south-east to north-west, and afterwards from south to
north. On the ridge or summit of tliis chain are
extended vast table-lands or platforms, which gradually
decline towards tlie temperate zone, their absolute
height within the tropics being from 7545 to 7873 feet.
The declivities of the cordilleras are wooded, wliile the
central table-land is usually bare. In the equinoctial
region the different climates rise as it were one above
another from the shore, where the mean temperature is
about 78°, to the central plains, where it is about 62°.

Population. — The whole population is estimated at
5,840,000, of which 4,500,000 are Indians, 1,000,000
Creoles, and 70,000 European Spaniards.

Agriculture. — Tlie banana, manioc, maize, wheat, and
potatoes, constitute the principal food of the people.
The maguey or agave may be considered as the Indian
vine. Sugar, cotton, vanilla, cocoa, indigo, tobacco,
wax, and cochineal, are plentifully produced. Cattle
are abundant on the great savannalis in the interior.

Mines. — The annual produce in gold is 4289 lb. troy :
in silver, 1,4.39,832 lb. ; in all, 23,000,000 of piasters
(£5,03], 250), or nearly half the quantity annually
extracted from tlie mines of America. The mint of
Mexico fiirnisiied from 1090 to 1803 more than
1,353,000,0(10 piasters (£295,968,750), and from the
discover}- of New Spain to the commencement of the
nineteenth century, probably 2,028,000,000 piasters



Population.



Agriculture.



Mines,



llie niofliiT-coiintrv bpcame inevitable, the coinap;e sunk to five
millions; f'ri)ni wliicli it (ell tn three and a liaif; and continued in
that .state (iiiii:i^ l}t2|{ and l(i24. In lH2i} the forei^-n capital.s in-
vested hei^am to produre some eflert ; hut in lH2*i, the total amount
<^(■coina^'■f• in the five minis o( the IMe.vican republic did not exceed
7,4«a,;jO(t <|„l!ars, or .£1,583,950



RECAPITULATION. 341

(£443,625,000). Three mining districts, Guanaxuato, CHAP. XXVI
Zacatecas, and Catorce, yield nearly halt' of all the gold
and silver of New Spain.

Manufactures. — The value of the produce of the Manufac-
manufacturing industry of New Spain is estimated at ''"'es.
7,000,000 or 8,000,000 of piasters (valuing the piaster
of exchange at .3s. 8|d., £1,152,083 to £1,316,667).
Cotton and woollen cloths, cigars, soda, soap, gunpowder,
and leather, are the principal articles manufactured.

It is scarcely necessary to add, that the regions of p ,.j. . .
America, which at the time of Humholdt's visit were dependence.
Spanish colonies, have, after a series of sanguinary
struggles, excited by the real or imagined grievances
under which the inhabitants laboured, now succeeded in
acquiring independence. This condition is more suitable
than subjection to a remote power, protracted beyond
the period at which such settlements are themselves fit
to become empires. With colonies it is in some degree
as with children. They i-eceive the protection necessary
for their growth, and obey at first from weakness
and attachment ; but beyond the stage at which they
acquire a right to think for themselves, the attempt to
perpetuate subordination necessarily excites a hatred
which effectually quenches the feeble gratitude that
man, in any condition, is capable of cherishing. The
political divisions of America — the land of republican
principles — are foreign to our object, and would require
a more particular description than they could receive in
this volume.



342 VOYAGE TO EUROPE.



CHAPTER XXVII.

hassagc from Vera Cruz to Cuba and Philadelphia,
and Voyage to Europe.

Departure from Mexico — Passage to Havannah and Philadelphia^
Return to Europe — Results of the Journeys in America.

CHAFfER Leaving the capital of New Spain our travellers de-
^^^- scended to the port of Vera Cruz, which is situated
Departure to among sand-hills, in a burning and unhealthy climate,
avauna i. n^hay happily escaped the yellow fever, — which prevails
there and attacks persons who have arrived from the
elevated districts as readily as Europeans wlio have
come by sea, — and embarked in a Spanish frigate for
Ilavannah, where they had left part of their specimens.
They remained there two months ; after which they set
sail for the United States, on their passage to which
tliey encountered a violent storm that lasted seven
Arrival at days. Arriving at Philadelphia, and afterwards visiting
I'Miiadeipiiia. Washington, they spent eight weeks in that interesting
country, for the purpose of studying its political consti-
tution and commercial relations. In August 1804 they
returned to Europe, carrying with tlieiu the extensive
collections wliich they had made during their perilou*
and fatiguing journeys.
ResuUsofthe Tlie results of this expedition, conducted with so
eipc I ion. njucjj courage and zeal, have been of the highest impor-
tance to science. With respect to natural history, it
may be stated generally, that tlie mass of information
dlready laid beiore the public, as obtained from the



RESULTS OF THE JOURNEYS IN AMERICA. 343

observation of six years, exceeds any thing that had chaptei:
been presented by the most successful cultivators of the ^'^^i'-
same field during a wjiole lifetime. Much ligiit has American
been thrown on tlie migrations and relations of the ^' '°°^"S^'
indigenous tribes of America, their origin, languages,
and manners. Tlie Vues des CordilUeres et Monumens
(ies Peuples Indigenes de I'Amerique, 2 vols, folio,
published in 1811, contains tlie fruit of researclies into
the antiquities of Mexico and Peru, together with the
description of the more remarkable scenes of the Andes.
It has been translated into English by Mrs H. M. Wil-
liams. The animals observed have been described in a
work entitled Recueil d' Observations de Zoologie et d'Ana-
tomie Compuj-ees, faites dans un Voyage aux Tropiques,
2 vols. 4to.

In the department of Botany the most important Botany
additions have been made to science. Our travellers
brought with them to Europe an herbarium consisting
of more than six thousand species of plants, and Bon-
pland's botanical journal contained descriptions of four
thousand. The valuable works on this subject, ihat
have appeared in consequence of the journey to America,
form a new era in the history of botany. They are as
follow : —

1. Essai sur la Geographie des Plantes, ou 2'aWecm -^'orks on
Physique des Regions Equinoxiales, fonde sur des Obscr- f'e subject.
rations et des Mesures faites depuis le \Ome dcgre de
latitude australe, jusq^au lOme degre de latitude boreale.

4to.

2. Plantes Equinoxiales recueillies au Mexique, dans
File de Cuba, dans Ies Provinces de Caracas, de Cumana,
&c. 2 vols. fol.

3. Monographie des Melastomes. 2 vols. fol.

4. Graminees Rares de l' Amerique Equinoxiale. 1vol.
fol.

5. Famille des Mimosas et autres Plantes Legumincuses,
1 vol. fol.

6. Nova Genera et Species Planturuni. 7 vols, fol.,
containing 700 plates ; with a Synopsis in 4 vols. 8vo.



344



RKSULTS OF THE JOCKNEVS



CHAPTER
XXVII.



Gpoprajiliy
of Plants.



AstTonnmical
Ojservatiuus.



7. De Dlstrihutione Geographlca Plantarum sccanduni
CaeliTeniperieMi etAlHtndinem Montium jirolvgoniena. 8vo.

The Essay on the Geograpliy of Plants presents a
general view of the vegetation, zoology, geological con-
stitution, and other circumstances, of the equinoctial
region of the New Continent, from the level of the sea
to the higliest summits of the Andes. The second work
is by I\I. Bim])land, and contains methodical descriptions,
in Latin and French, of the species observed ; together
with remarks on their medicinal properties and their
uses in the arts. The Monography of the IMelastomse,
which is also from the pen of M. Bonpland, contains
upwards of 150 species of these plants, with others
collected by ^I. Ricb.ard in the West Indies and French
Guiana,*

In his Essdi Geognostique sur le Gisement des Roches
dans les deux Hemispheres, published in 1826, and
translated into Englisli, Humboldt presents a table of
all the formations known to geologists, and institutes a
comparison between the rocks of the Old Continent and
those of the cordillcra of the Andes.

The astronomical treatises liave been published in two
quarto volumes, under tiie iiileo'i Recueil d" Observations
Astronomiqufs ct de Mesurcs executces dans le Nouveau
Continent. This work contains the original observations
made between the 12tli degree of south latitude and the
41st degree of north latitude, transits of the sun and
stars over the meridian, occultations of satellites, eclipses,
&c. ; a treatise on astronomical refractions under the
torrid zone, considered as the effect of the decrement of
caloric in the strata of the atmcsphere; the barometric
measurement of the Andes of Mexico, Venezuela, Quito,
and New Grenada ; together with a table of nearly 700
geographical positions. The greatest pains have been
taken to verify the caleulatitms. Our author presented
to tiic Bureau des Longitudes his astronomical observa-



* The works nmikeil 4, 5, and (! above, liave been preijarptl by
M. Kiinlli, one ol'lhe directors of tlie Botanical Garden ot Berlin.



IN AMERICA. 345

tions on the lunar distances and the eclipses of Jupiter's CHAJTEP.

satellites, together with the barometrical elevations, '

which have been calculated and verified by M. Prony
according to the formulae of La Place.

In 1817 Humboldt laid before the Academie des Geograpliiciii
Sciences his map of the Orinoco, exhibiting the junction ° senfations.
of that river with the Amazon by means of the Casiqui-
are and Rio Negro.

The brief account of New Spain which is presented in
the preceding pages has been extracted from the Essai
Politique sur la Nouvelle Espagne, originally published
in 2 vols. 4to, and translated into English. With respect
to Humboldt's translators it may be remarked, that their
want of scientific knowledge, and more especially of
natural history, renders the English very much inferior
to the French editions.

Most of the above-mentioned publications have ap- Extensive
peared in the names of both travellers. The various ^^
works relating to the journey will make, when complete,
twenty-eight volumes, of which seventeen are in folio
and eleven in quarto. The detailed narrative of the ex-
pedition occupies four of these volumes ; but an octavo
edition has also been published under the title of Voyage
aux Regions Equinojciales du Nouveau Continent, pendant
lesanneea 1799, 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803, et 1804. The
translation of this work by Mrs Williams is familiar to
the English reader.

The labour necessary for reducing the observations Great liter-
made by our travellers to a condition fit for the public ^'^
eye must have been very great ; yet, possessed of a mind
not less characterized by activity than the vastness of its
acquirements, Humboldt in the mean while engaged in
various investigations, which he has partly published in
the foreign journals. In concert with M. Gay Lussac,
with whom he lived for several years in the most intimate
friendship, he has made numerous magnetic experiments,
and verified Biot's theory respecting the poi^itien of the
magnetic equator. They have found that the great



346



BONPLAND S CAPTIVITY,



Return to
Americii.



CHAPTER mountain-chains, and even the active volcanoes, have no
" li^'" appreciable influence on tlie magnetic power ; and liave
established the foct, that it gradually diminishes as we
recede from the equator.
Prnmotion of On the return of the philosophers horn America,
Uoi.piand. Bonpj.^Hd ^vas appointed by Bonaparte to the office of
superintending tlie gardens at Malmaison, where the
Empress Josepiiine, Avho was passionately fond of flowers,
had formed a splendid collection of exotics. His amiable
disposition, not less than his acquirements, procured for
him the csteeni of all who knew him. In 1818 he went
to Buenos Ayres as Professor of Natural History. In
1820 he undertook an excursion to the interior of Para-
guay ; but when he arrived at St Anne on the eastern
bank of the Parana, where he had established a colony
of Indians and a tea-jjlantation, he was unexpectedly
surrounded by a large body of soldiers, who destroyed
the plantation and carried him off a prisoner. This was
done hy the orders of Dr Francia, the ruler of Paragua}^ ;
and the only reason assigned was his having planted the
tea-tree ])eculiar to that country, and which forms a
valuable article of exportation. He was confined chiefly
in Santa Martha, but was allowed to practise as a phy-
sician. lIuml)oldt applied in vain for the liberation of
his friend, for whom he appears to have cherished a
sincere affection. According to a late report, however,
he has obtained his libert}'.

In October 1818 our author was in London, where it
was said that the allied powers had requested him to
draw up a political view of the South American colonics.
In November of the same year the King of Prussia
granted liim an annual pension of 12,000 dollars, with
the view of facilitating the execution of a plan which he
liad formed of visiting Asia, and especially the mountains
of 'J'hiliet. In the year 1822 he accompanied liis majesty
to tlic congress of Verona, and afterwards visited Venice,
Rome, and Naples; and, in 1827 and 1828, delivered at
Berlin a course of lectures on the physical constitution



Imprison-
ment.



Huinbnl'll's
visit to Lull
dou.



I



riS LECTURES AT BERLIN. 347

of the globe, which was attended by the royal family CHAFTEn
and the court. But, e:!tccpting the results, of his investi- -XXVII.
gations, which have appeared at intervals, we have no Journey to
particular account of his occupations until 1829, when he ■^''"*"
undertook another important journey to tlie Uralian
Mountains, the frontiers of China, and the Caspian Sea.



343 QUALIFICATIONS FOR TRAVEL.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

Journey in Central Asia,

Qualifications as a Traveller — Great Designs — Invitation by the
Emperor of Russia — Uralian fountains — Ores — Volcanic
Phenomena — Geological Observations — The Chinese Frontier
— Relations of Plains and Mountain Systems — Depth of the
Sea — Climatology — Ethnology — Altaic Mountain Range — Thian
Clian — Himalaya System — Lunar Plienomena — Isothermal
Zones — Magnetic Currents — Conclusion.

CHAPTER The previous narrative has sufficed to show how indo-

mitable is the energy and perseverance, and how re-

Quaiifica- markable are the quahfications which Humboldt possesses
Humboldt, as a scientific traveller. With all the love of travel
which frequently springs only from the same adventur-
ous spirit that can find its reward in the chase, or the
sports of the field, he possesses the intelligent and
patient perseverance which can master every detail re-
quisite for the purposes of science. Still more, he has
ever been bent on carrying out scientific induction to its
legitimate conclusions, and establishing general laws. In
Value of bis this respect his services have been of immense value to
scrvicea. science, and it was from a desire of securing the moet
ample scope for the necessary comparison of i)]ienomena,
and accumulation of facts, that, so soon as he had com-
pleted his observations on the continent of America, he
sought to make the same minute investigation of the
parallel scenes of Northern and Central Asia.
Compnrbon A distinguished critic and historian, Dr. Archibald
cniveUeia.^ Alison, has recently remarked, when contrasting the
general inferiority of British travellers, with the remark-
able men producul by various continental nations, and



r



CONTINENTAL TRAVELLERS. 349

especially vith Humboldt, Chateaubriand, and Lamar- chapter
tine : — " It is impossiljle to contemplate the works of xxvilL
these great men without arriving at the conclusion, that Continental
it is in the varied and discursive education of the conti- *'^^^ ^^^
nent that a foundation has been laid for the extraordi-
nary' eminence which its travellers have attained. It is
the vast number of subjects with which the young men
are in some degree made acquainted at the German uni-
versities, which has rendered tlieni so ca{)able in after
life of travelling with advantage in any quarter of the
globe, and writing their travels with effect. This advan-
tage is in a peculiar manner conspicuous in Humboldt, Peculiar
whose mind, naturally ardent and capacious, had been of n'^^bTdt.
surprisingly enlarged and extended by early and vai'ious
study in the most celebrated German universities. He
acquired, in consequence, so extraordinary a command of
almost every department of physical and political sci-
ence, that there is hardly any branch of it in which facts
of importance may not be found in his travels. He
combined, in a degree perhaps never before equalled in
one individual, the most opposite, and generally deemed
irreconcilable, mental qualities. To an ardent poetical
temperament, and an eye alive to the most vivid im- combination
pressions of external things, he united a power of elo- of powers
quence rarely given to the most gifted orators, and the
habit of close and accurate reasoning which belongs to
the intellectual powers adapted for the highest branches
of the exact sciences. An able mathematician, a pro-
found natural philosopher, an exact observer of nature,
he was at the same time a learned statistician, an indefa-
tigable social observer, an unwearied philanthrophist,
and the most powerful describer of nature that perhaps
ever undertook to portray her great and glorious features.
It is this extraordinary combination of qualities that
render his works so surprising and valuable. The intel-
lectual and imaginative powers rarely coexist in remark-
able vigour in the same individual ; but when thej' do,
they produce the utmost triumphs of the human mind."



350



DISAPPOINTMENTS.



CHAPTER
XXVIII.



Longings.



UTjaccom-
pUslied plans.



Pnblislied
works.



Great
designs.



Obstacles.



The insatial)]e longings of Humboldt for access to new
and sufficiently ample fields of research have already
been referred to. Disappointed in his earlier ]>lan for tra-
velling through Egypt and the East, he visited Spain, in
the hope of being able to pass from thence to Africa, when
he obtained permission to explore the far more extended
field of research in Central America, the fruits of which
are narrated in the previous chapters. After comment-
ing on the valuable results which science has reaped
fi'om the labours and researches of Humboldt in South
America, Dr. Alison remarks : — " The remainder of
Humboldt's life has been chiefly devoted to the various
and important publications, in which he has embodied
the fruit of his vast and extensive researches in the New
World. In many of these he has been assisted by M.
Aime Bonpland, who, his companion in literary labour
as in the danger and fatigues of travelling, has, with the
generosity of a really great mind, been content to dimin-
ish, perhaps destroy, his prospect of individual celebrity,
by associating himself with the labours of his illustrious
fiiend. Pursued even in mature years by the desire of
fame, the thirst for still greater achievements, which be-
longs to minds of the heroic cast, whether in war or
science, he conceived, at a subsequent period, the design
of visiting the upper piovinces of India and the Himalaya
range. After having ascended higher than man had yet
done on the elevated ridges of the New World, he was
consumed with a thirst to surmount the still more lofty
summits of the Old, wliich have remained in solitary and
unapproachable grandeur since the waves of the Deluge
first receded from their sides. But the East India Com-
pany, within whose dominions, or at least beneath whose
influence, the highest ridges of the Himalaya are sita-
ated, gave no countenance to the design, and even, it is
said, refused liberty to the immortal naturalist to visit
their extensive territories."

How far the proceedings ascribed to the merchant
rulers of British India affected the plans of the great



PREPARATIONS FOR TRAVEL. 351

tiaveller we are not prepared to say. Their jealousy of chapter
the schemes of conquest entertained by some of the Euro- XXVIIL
pean powers, were not unlikely to stimulate them even
to such an excess of care, yet it is hardly conceivable that



Online LibraryAlexander von HumboldtThe travels and researches of Alexander von Humboldt → online text (page 28 of 35)