H. M. (Henry Marie) Brackenridge.

Voyage to South America, performed by order of the American Government in the years 1817 and 1818, in the frigate Congress (Volume v.1) online

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cool stream gushing from the fountain. We threw
ourselves upon the rock, which was shaded by enor-
mous trees ; drank freely of the water, and with reluc-
tance thought of quitting the spot. Here commences
the aqueduct which supplies the city, and chiefly from
this fountain. It is a work which does much credit to
the viceroy by whom it was constructed, in the year
1740, as would appear from the inscription. It is re-
ceived in a kind of fannel built of brick about five feet
high, and about three in width; it passes along the
apex of the ridge which gradually declines to the
plain of Rio Janeiro ; where instead of being received
into pipes, it is canied into the city by an aqueduct com-
posed of a double row of arches, intended probably
for ornament, as it cannot be supposed that like the an-
cients, the constructors were ignorant of the principles
of hydraulics. This work is at present in a bad state
of repair, but we observed that workmen had been for
some time engaged in enlarging and improving it.
The prospect from this place is one of the most mag-
nificent I ever beheld. The scenery around the bay,
is like that on the borders of some extensive lake ; on
the eastern side, instead of the immense mountains
which enclose it on every other, the country is beauti-
fully sloping, and with the aid of a spy-glass we could
discover plantations of coffee, or cotton, on a much
larger scale than any we had seen in the course of our
walk. Towards the north-east, at a great distance,
we could discern the Organ mountains, so called from
A number of singular peaks, apparently at the termina-


tion of the ridge from their unequal elevation, and re-
sembling huge basaltic columns. The bay, or rather
lake, was studded with a great variety of beautiful
islands, one of them, perhaps the largest, several leagues
in circumference. A number of small villages could
be distinguished at intervals, and the water prospect
was enlivened by a great number of vessels of different

The fatigue and labour we had encountered, and the
time we had consumed in scrambling up the mountain
thus far, discouraged us from attempting to accomplish
our first design. It seemed to us in fact, that we had
scarcely gained more than the foot of the mountain we
had intended to scale. We approached near enough,
however, to form a tolerable idea of the Parrot's Head ;
we could distinctly see it to be a huge flat rock laid
horizontally as a kind of cap-stone, on the top of a bare
mass of granite ; and from some rude resemblance,
which I could not discover, it had received its name.
Below it on the same ridge stands the sugar loaf, whose
summit appeared to be on a level with us, but could
hardly have been so, as its height is estimated at nine
hundred feet from the water's edge, though not half that
height on the side where it joins the ridge. Behind us
the mountain rose to a great height, and was covered with
trees of a prodigious size. Having determined to return
to the city, we followed the path along the side of the
aqueduct, and with a much more gradual descent than
that by which we had ascended. On our way we re-
marked a considerable space where the granitic rock,
from which the soil had slipped off, was apparently in a
state of decomposition ; the point of a cane was thrust
in without experiencing any greater resistance than
from stiff clay ; this was also the case with the broad
veins of spar with which the mass was penetrated. As

Vol. I. I


we approached the city the path gradually widened, and
within a mile we found a spacious sloping walk planted
on each side with beautiful trees, of which we found
the advantage at this time, as the sun was beginning
to send forth his rays unobstructed by friendly clouds.
We were accosted repeatedly by negroes, who offered
to sell us some of the beautiful insects of the country,
upon which they had been taught to place a value,
probably by the recent visit of the European philoso-
phers, or by persons employed to make collections for
European cabinets. "We remarked a number of the
lower ridges or mounds carefully cultivated in grass ;
but the declivity was such as to require them to be
crossed in every direction in a reticulated manner,
with narrow paths. We observed in one instance a
deep vale but of small extent; enclosed on three
sides by steep hills, and on the only side where it was
open, occupied by a neat dwelling, a garden and some
adjoining buildings. This vale, which could not have
contained more than a few acres, was all in grass, and
being shaded nearly the whole day by the mountains
on each side, and the trees growing on them, had the
appearance of being a cool and delightful retreat. I
have been thus particular in my account of this little
ramble, because it has enabled me to describe many
of the features which are probably common, if not to
the whole, at least to a very great proportion of Bra-
zil. It is at least a specimen of the mountainous

During our short stay at Rio, we neglected no
opportunity of making ourselves acquainted with the
manners and customs of the place, and in collecting
every information, curious or useful. Scarcely any
city in America has been so often spoken of by voy-
agers, as it has been the great stopping place of those


bound oii voyages of discovery to the South Seas, as
also of vessels bound to the East Indies. We pre-
ferred remaining on shipboard for various reasons;
one was, that we should thus escape the annoyance of
insects and vennin, we should have tp encounter at the
wretched inns of the city. Another reason was, th^t
on the water we enjoyed a cooler air than we could in
a town which was hemnied in by mountains. We were
in fa^t much more comfortably situated than we could
possibly be in the city, and as the boats were conti-
nually plying to the shore, \se could at any time
gratify our wish to go there. In the shade, the ther-
mometer seldom rose above eighty-four degrees of
Fareinheit, but the temperature was rendered more sup-
portable by the land and sea breezes. The mos|;
disagreeable part of the day wa§ from eight until teu
or eleven, until the sea breeze gradually freshened.
In the afternoon, during at least three days in the week,
the clouds gathered, and aftpr some thunder and light-
ning, they descended in rain ; the nights were extremely
pleasant and coqI. During one pr two days we had a
tolerably stiff breeze, so as to render it somewhat un-
pleasant to pass from the bpats tp shore; no wind,
however, can ever blow so as to endangey the safety of
the vessels at anchor.*

Thi3 country is extremely healthy, except in the
vicinity of particular situatipns. From the little at-
tention of the police at Rio, and the stagnant waters
in its immediate vicinity, it is only surprising that it
has never been visited at least viery seriously by the
fevers whiph are so dreadful a calamity to other cities

Th^ Portug^ese severity-foyr p9-rtqc| hqr caJtle> whiqli pply proved
to .119 that f he wa3 mi;scrab)j found.



situated in similar climates. No people in the world
enjoy better health than the inhabitants of the country.
The residents of the city appear to be, especially in
the lower classes, extremely lively, active, and cheer-
ful ; but from the facilities of gaining a livelihood,
and the frequent recurrence of holidays, the greater
part of their time is spent in amusements. Few beg-
gars are to be seen, and all, except the wretched bru-
talized slaves, are decently clad. The streets swarm
with children ; and in the country, according to Langs-
dorflf, they are even more prolific than in the United
States ; fifteen, and even twenty of a family, being not
unusual. Young children enjoy excellent health, and
are in general, weaned young, and nourished with the
banana, which is extremely wholesome, and well
adapted for the purpose. The upper classes are said
to lead a very inactive and indolent life, consulting
only the gratification of their pleasures ; in conse-
quence of which, their old age is overtaken by chronic
diseases, among them the elephantiasis ^ or swelling
of the legs, to such a degree as to bear a resemblance
to those of the elephant. I saw one case of this ma-
lady, at which I was greatly shocked. The inhabitants
in general are temperate in their living ; but if we may
credit the accounts we hear, very depraved, as well as
ignorant. This is not to be wondered at, considering
the nature of their composition ; all the mechanics are
either negroes or mulattoes ; and indeed almost every
business which requires attention, and assiduity, is
pursued by coloured people, a great proportion of whom
are free. The people in general are sunk in the lowest
state of political degradation ; they know nothing of
the measures of government ; afiairs of state are never
the subject of their conversation, unless indeed with a
very small number among the higher classes, who observe


, the greatest secresy and caution. The prejudice
with respect to complexion, did not appear to me
as strong as in the United States. This may be
owing to the great number of persons of colour, who
own large fortunes, and possess wealth and consequence.
I remarked several mulatto priests, and in one instance
a negro.

Among the better classes of the people, Lisbon
is the model upon which their manners are formed;
and it is probable, that this has not changed since the
arrival of the royal family. The Portuguese are said
to be the only people in Europe, who preserve that
Moorish jealousy, which has been banished even from
Spain. The female part of their families are shut up
in the strictest manner, and never venture abroad, un-
less it be to church ; and then, their faces wrapt up in
a black mantle, which passes over the head. Men sel-
dom introduce their most intimate friends to their wives
or daughters ; and except at the theatre, they are rarely
seen in public. Sometimes indeed, they venture to sit
in the evening at their windows, and from their actions,
strangers unacquainted with the customs of the country,
would be apt to form unfavourable inferences. The
throwing flowers at persons passing along, is known to
be an innocent display of gaiety, to which custom at-
taches nothing improper. It is also very probable, that
this frivolity is not very common among the better class
of people, and that strangers, from observing these things
in a few instances, of persons of a diflferent cast, have
been led to form a mistaken idea of the rest. The
accounts given by Frezier and others, who consider the
Brazilian women as totally devoid of that delicacy which
characterizes the sex in other countries, and as continu-
ally engaged in the most shameful intrigues, cannot but


j|g A VOYAGE to

be exaj^gei-ated. At t!ie satole time, it is natural to sup-
pose, that when thus immured froin society, aud deprived
of daily and free intercourse with the world, those very
effects would be produced, against tvhich this cruel
jealousy is intended to guard. There is but one day in the
year, on which they are permitted to walk freely abi^oad
in the streets ; a kind of saturnalia, as insulting to them
as their imiprisonment. Marriage^ of inclination, are
rarely made ; they are usually bargains between the
husband and the parents. There is a species of cruelty
practised by the rich in the cities, that is really shocking
to the mind of an American. It is not uncommon for
nien to compel their daughters to take the veil, merely
with a view to preserve greater wealth in the family, as
without this unfeeling practice, they would be under
the obligation of settling a part of their estates as a mar-
riage portion, or for their support.

Tn consequence of this state of inftnners, society
is on a wretched footing at Rio Janeiro. Social
intercourse is almost exclusively confined to foreigners.
The people of the country, especially the small planters,
are represented to be remarkably kind and hospitable.
Several of our officers Who inade excursions around the
shores of the bay, spoke very highly of the civility arid
frankness with which they were treated by the peasantry,
who live very much as in the United States, scattered
over the country. In a little excursion with Mr. Rodney,
who was extremely anxious to see the ckirimoya, the
most exquisite fruit of South America, we landed near
the cottage of a peasant in search of it, and were treated
by him in the most friendly and hospitable manUer.
We did not succeed, the fruit being either known imder
a different name, or peculiar to Peru, where Ulloa speaks
of it. While on this excursion, We met several German


naturalists, who informed us that they were preparing to
set off in a canoe, or perogue, which they showed us, to
coast it along to Rio Grande.

There is but little skill displayed here in the me-
chanic arts. Although they have the finest wood
in the world for cabinet work, their furniture is very
badly constructed, and the defect is supplied by a pro-
fusion of gilding. They excel, however, in making
ornaments of gold, such as chains, crosses, &c. ; but
precious stones are not well set by them, and in ge-
neral, they display but little taste. As to the fine
arts, they are extremely low. The king's library, of
sixty thousand volumes, has been thrown open for the
use of the public ; but within this capital of a great em-
pire, it will be long before there will be any thing that
will deserve the name of literature. The rich native
inhabitants have generally other tastes; there is no-
thing to call forth public discussions from the press ;
there is yet, in fact, no public. The art of printing,
itself, which was restricted in the colonial state, is not
yet sufficiently spread to satisfy the demand, small as
it is. There is more printing in any one of our smallest
cities, than in all Brazil. A botanical garden has
been established in the neighbourhood of the city, and
is said to be respectable. There are but few of the
usual accompaniments of European monarchy. The
king has imported a company of opera performers from
Italy, at an expense that would build a frigate. Several
of our officers attended the theatre, and spoke highly of
their performance. There is something truly ridiculous
in such importations, to a country which stands so much
in need of an increase of population. A royal amuse-
ment, for which Lisbon is particularly celebrated, the
bull fights, has not been successfully introduced here.
Repeated attempts were lately made in a circus erected


near the country palace, but they utterly failed, as the
bulls were found good for nothings in all probability to
the great joy of the bull fighters.

The cattle of this province are small, and the market
is supplied from Rio Grande or St. Catharines; but,
after being driven several hundred miles in this hot
climate, over the worst roads in the world, they are
miserably poor by the time they reach this place.
The crops of coffee, or cotton, from the interior, are
brought on the backs of mules, the former generally
put up in raw hides. I could not learn whether the
cotton gin has been introduced, but I am inclined to
think it has not. While we were here, a cargo of
wheat arrived from Chili. The market for this article,
or flour, is extremely uncertain, from the smallness of
the quantity requisite to supply it. The great body of
the people use the mandioca, not merely as a substi-
tute, but even in preference. This root is of great im-
portance throughout all South America, and is culti-
vated with care. It yields two crops a year, and is pre-
pared by boiling and expressing the juice, which is
poisonous; the sediment which remains, after pouring
off the water, is the tapioca of the shops. There is no
doubt, but that the use of flour will increase, and of
course, the demand from the United States, which can
always supply it on better terms and of a better quality,
than La Plata or Chili, or the southern provinces of
Brazil. Grapes are raised at Rio, but not for the pur-
pose of making wine. It is only in poor lands, and very
populous countries, that the vine can be cultivated ex-
tensively; the culture of cotton, tobacco, sugar, and
indigo, are so much more profitable, that it is not likely
that wine will be made for use or exportation. To
the south, the vine flourishes much better than in this


The inhabitants are represented, as being much de-
voted to the ceremonies of their religion. The Inqui-
sition was never established here, very fortunately for
the Jews, who are numerous, and whose outward con-
formity has never been strictly scrutinized. The kings
of Portugal obtained from the pope, nearly the same
grant of ecclesiastical supremacy over their American
possessions, as the king of Spain over theirs. There
is a primate at St. Salvador, to whom all the churches
of Brazil acknowledge obedience. The chief busi-
ness of the colonists of a general interest, consists in
the public ceremonies of their religion, such as proces-
sions in the streets, and masses. Devotion has become
rather a matter of amusement, than a serious duty. At
every hour of the day, rockets are let off, a singular
accompaniment to religious exercises.* The clergy
are said to be licentious, and even the nuns have been
spoken of, as not possessing the sanctity enjoined by
their vows. An occurrence took place some time ago,
which scandalized the faithful, perhaps, much more
than acts of a more reproachful kind. Two British
officers, one a lieutenant, and the other a surgeon, of
a ship of war, prevailed on two of the nuns to elope
with them; the ladies fell upon the expedient of let-
ting themselves down from the second story window
of the convent, by means of their bed clothes. The
enamorada of the lieutenant came safely to his aims,
but the other had the misfortune to fall, and was so
severely hurt, that her lover, though a physician, could

• " The religious system which held its empire with such happy
effects so long, has now some resemblance to a machine, of which
the spring, by its own internal working, has slackened at length, and
wearing out.'' — Macartney's Embassy. .^ u.:^


afford her no relief, and was obliged to leave her
behind. The lieutenant carried his nun on board the
ship, and was married by the chaplain.

An interesting description of the province of Rio
Janeiro, is given by the author of the Corographia. The
name was given to the bay in 1532, by the intrepid
navigator de Sousa, in consequence of his mistaking
it for a river, and the name was extended to the
province.* It was not settled until about the year
1567, and after a French colony of Protestants sent by
Admiral Coligny, had been dispossessed by the go-
vernor of Bahia, or St. Salvador. Rio Janeiro did not
become the capital of the province until 1663, when
the colony had acquired some importance, and the
value of this noble harbour was becoming better known.
The province extends along the coast about sixty
leagues, and is about twenty-five in width. It is di-
vided into two parts by the Organ mountains. On the
other side of these is the river Paraiba, which flows
between them and the chain of Mantequera, in a valley
not more than sixty miles across in its widest part.
This river takes its rise in the district of St. Paul,
and is navigable five or six hundred miles from its
mouth. About eight leagues below the town of Lo-
renzo, where it has already acquired considerable vo-
lume, the whole of its waters are compressed into a
channel of five fathoms wide, between two natural
walls, upwards of seventy feet high, and several hun-
dred long. From the narrowness of its valley, it re-
ceives few rivers of any magnitude, although it dis-

• A number of small rivers discharge themselves into the bay
from the sides of tlie Organ mountains which border on the
western side, but none of them navigable more than two or three


thatges a great bo% of water into the ocean. Its
banks are big-hly cultivated; some of the most valu-
able sugar plantations of Brazil, are isituated on theta.
With the exception of the district of Goytaeazes, the
province is extremely mountainous. In the district
just mentioned, there are some low lands, marshes,
and swamps. In the mountain districts, it is hatural
to expect a number of cascades and water falls; no
cotintry can be more picturesque and romantic. The
fall of Tejouco, in the vicinity of the capital, is parti-
cularly described, as benig worthy the attention of those
^ho admire sUch objects.

The coronation, for which so much preparation had
been made, was at last announced for the 6th of Fe-
bruary. The morning was ushered in by salutes from
all the forts, as well as from the ships of war at anehor
in the harbour. As a mark of respect to the government
of the country, whose hospitality we enjoyed, the com-
modore joined the other commanders of foreign vessels
in firing a salute. All the ships were dressed in the
colours of the different nations of the world, and exhibited
one of the most splendid appearances I ever witnessed ;
but whether to be attributed to accident or design,
we know not, on examining the different flags, it was
discovered that ours was not among them. The com-
modore on making this discovery, resolved to go no
further in the demonstrations of respect for the occa-
sion. The ceremony took place about noon, in the
Grecian temple we had seen in the public square.
With the nature of the ceremony I am unacquainted,
as none of tis were near enough to see and hear. It
was followed by the shouts of the assembled multi-
tude, and tremendous discharges of artillery, whieh I
thought would never cease. The regular troops, four
or five thousand, together with the disciplined militia


about the same number, had been drawn out, and at
the close of the ceremony, fired vollies of musquetry.
At sun down, the firing of cannon was renewed, first
from the different forts in succession, and then from
the ships of war ; and as the sound was repeated by
the echoes of the mountains, a tremendous roaring con-
tinued even for some time after the firing had ceased.
It was no sooner dark, than the illuminations, whose
splendour eclipsed the starry vault above us, were
displayed along the whole front of the city, and also
from the different forts, from the detached build-
ings on the heights, and around the harbour. All the
vessels, except the Congress, which seemed to mourn
the event, were also illinninated in the most curious
and tasteful manner. Nothing could have a finer effect,
than the glittering of so many lights, and their bril-
liant reflection upon the water. The ingenuity dis-
played in the arrangement of the illuminations, was
very great. By the aid of small glass lamps of
various colours, a great variety of curious and beau-
tiful figures were formed, representing triumphal arches,
temples, and a number of other objects. Columns
and pyramids, were erected for the purpose of enabling
them to display curious festoons and other figures.
Large sums were said to have been expended by
individuals, who vied with each other in the taste
and splendour of their illuminations; and in parti-
cular, the owner of a country seat fronting the har-
bour, is said to have expended twenty thousand dol-
lars; a number of large arches were raised on high
columns, so contrived as to represent a crown, its
base more than a hundred feet, and beautifully pro-
portioned, displaying near the top the arms of Por-
tugal. The person who was thus distinguished in
the display of his loyalty, we were informed, had


in view a title of nobility, being only a rich ple-

The two succeeding days passed in the same way,
until eyes and ears could no longer bear this dazzling
and astounding manifestation. It was natural for us to
draw a comparison between the simple and unaffected
ceremony, of installing the chief magistrate chosen by
a free people to guide their affairs, and all this noise
and glitter calculated to intoxicate, astound, and stupify,
the human intellect. I could not but reflect how small
the number among this wretched rabble, that reasoned
justly and wisely, on the scene before them ! It was not
the joyous emotions of the soul, but stupifying amaze-
ment. How different is the enthusiasm of the free, from
the noisy acclamation of a people, who, without these

Online LibraryH. M. (Henry Marie) BrackenridgeVoyage to South America, performed by order of the American Government in the years 1817 and 1818, in the frigate Congress (Volume v.1) → online text (page 10 of 29)