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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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 11 of 29)
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artifices, would continue in unchangeable dullness.
The real enthusiasm of a freeman, stands in no need of
these aids.

The day after the coronation, I went on shore in com-
pany with some gentlemen of the ship. The city as
may be supposed was let loose ; all was noise, uproar
and confusion. Seeing people going in and coming out,
of a long temporary building on one side of the chapel,
we approached, and were informed we might enter. It
was splendidly fitted up, probably for the performance
of some ceremony, as the regalia were displayed on a
table covered with rich purple ; the arms of Portugal
were also seen, and the whole was fitted up in a style of
extraordinary magnificence. At the door there were
four or five priests, who had fallen fast asleep, having,
as I supposed, set up all the preceding night, and it was
now in the afternoon.*

* It was humourously said, that numbers of the common people
gazed on the illumination with such blank amazement, as to fall
asleep with their eyes and mouths open.


The palace is a long row of buildings, no way re-
markable in point of architecture, but sufficient to lodge
comfortably twenty or thirty families. I saw a number
of ladies seated on their balconies, dressed in very
splendid attire, and their heads adorned with a profusioa
of feathers ; at first we took them all for princesses, but
aftenvards supposed that some might be maids of honour.
In front of the pajace, there stood at least a dozen
coaches, beside other caniages, waiting for some thirty
or forty of the royal family, who were going to the
cauntry palace, whither the king had already gone. The
coaches were splendid things, very heavy, with much
gilding about them, and apparently not less than a
hundred years old ; from which I conjectured, that these
vehicles were only used on great occasions. The
dresses of the coachmen, the postillions, of whom there
was one on every other mule, the footmen, and out-riders,
were the most outre imaginable ; their appearance car-
ried me back a couple of centuries at least, and led me
to reflect how much importance, in monarchies, is at-
tached to antiquities. Kings are very slow in adopting
the improvements of the age in which they live ; they
jire almost as hard to civilize, as our North American
Indians. I saw a great many of the nobility running to
and fro, and from the richness of their decorations, J
judged of very high orders, such as gentlemen of the
bed chamber, grooms of the stole, and royal rat-killers.
I wish I could speak with some respect of these things,
but for my soul 1 cannot; and I think it my duty to give
to my countrymen, a true copy of the impressions left
by them on my mind. Such is the first coronation of a
king in America — will it be the last? Leaving the
reader to make his own reflections on the sovereign, I
shall proceed to make some general observations on the
country, whose future destinies are to be so much
affected by the ceremonies I have described.


We have, in general, very inadequate conceptions of
the importance of the Brazilian empire. The books of
geography give extremely meagre and imperfect accounts
of this wonderful country. While in its colonial state,
the Portuguese pursued nearly the same policy with the
Spaniards, in the jealous exclusion of enlightened
strangers ; and they were rather fearful of exciting the
Cupidity of other nations, by permitting descriptions of
it to be published. But since the transfer of the throne,
this policy has ceased ; and therefore, it is natural to
expect, the prevailing wish or inclination, is to make a
display of the greatness and riches of the seat of empire.
Within a few years, w^ hav^ had several travellers,
especially Mawe and Koster, who have shed consider |
able light on the Brazils. Much information is col-
lected in Southey and Beauchamp, on the civil and poli-
tical history. I made diligent search after new works
published in the country, but I found that printing and
publishing here, are still at a very low ebb. There are
but two book-stores at Rio, most indifferently supplied ;
and the only periodical works published in the whole of
the Brazils, are two weekly newspapers, each about the
size of a [man's hand. The only work I could meet
with, is one published 'in 1817, entitled the Corografia
Brazilica. It is a kind of gazetteer, containing a mass
of curious local information, but singularly deficient in
those particulars, which we are in the habit of regard-
ing as indispensable in geographical works. It does
not, in a single instance, give the population of pro-
vinces, or cities ; the writer contenting himself with
some general expressions, that the population is large,
moderate, or small. It is, notwithstanding, the most
important work issued from the Brazilian press, since
the arrival of the royal family. The statistical part of
the work is vague and unsatisfactory ; it says not a


word of the amount of shipping, of exports, or imports ;
the produce of the mines, or royal revenues. The ac-
count however, of the navigation of rivers, the descrip-
tions of towns and settlements, which are very minute,
add considerably to the information already possessed.
No country except New Holland, opens so magnificent
a field to the enlightened and scientific traveller. The
men of science now engaged in exploring this inte-
resting countiy, may be expected before long to make
valuable additions to the stock of general knowledge.*

To estimate the American empires by their present
importance in the scale of nations, without taking into
view what they are destined to become, at no distant
day, would be to compare a young giant to a full grown
dwarf. As an American, I cannot but feel a kind of
pride in looking forward to the lofty destinies of this
new world.

* The king of Brazil deserves high praise for the facilities offer-
ed to literary and scientific men, in exploring this country. Seve-
ral of the courts of Europe, and many learned societies, have
sent out persons for this purpose. Mr. Swainson, F. R. S. during the
two last years, made extensive journeys through the provinces of
Pernambuco and Bahia ; Mr. Freyeries, and Dr. Sellow, sent out by
the Prussian government, had explored the coast from Bahia to Rio
Janeiro, in which they had occupied eighteen months. In the Stime
expedition which brought out the princess Leopoldina, a scientific
mission also arrived, consisting of the following persons : Professor
Meken, botanist; Mr. Schott, gardener; Dr. Pohl, mineralogist ; Mr.
Buckberger, botanical painter; and Mr. 'Enter, landscape painter;
Mr. Nataer, zoologist, with assistants. Some of them have set off
for Mato Grosso. Mr. Aug. de St. Hilair, a French naturalist, has
explored the province of Minas, and the banks of the St., Francisco.
Mr. Langsdorf, the present Russian minister, is engaged in studying
the natural history. The principality of Tascany, has sent pro-
fessor Raddi, of Florence ; and the king of Bavaria has sent two
naturalists, Messrs. Spix and Marlins, who are still in the interior.


-" A seat where gods might dwell,

Or wander with delight."

The only empires that can be compared to the Brazil,
in point of magnitude, are those of China, Russia, and
the United States ; and although at present the least in
point of population, the day will come, when it will be
the greatest. Brazil is, in fact, the body and heart of
South America; although covering a less extent than
the part which belongs to Spain, it possesses great
superiority in being more compact, and enjoying supe-
rior facilities of internal communication. It may seem
premature at this day to institute a comparison between
the Brazils and our country ; but the time will come,
when such a comparison will appear natural, and even
unavoidable. The fate of the Spanish colonies, con-
tending for independence under the beinners of lepubli-
canism, is still enveloped in doubt and conjecture.
Should the contest with Spain terminate fortunately, a
much greater uncertainty hangs over them, as to the
extent and nature of their confederacies ; whether they
will form a republic on a territorial scale, similar to that
of North America, or separate into small unconnected
States. There is, without doubt, in the countries now
contending for independence, an infinitely greater ten-
dency to anarchy among the members, than prevailed
with us, with much fewer means of binding them toge-
ther under one common head. This is not the case
with the Brazils ; it is one and indivisible, and the pro-
bability is, will continue so, unless the royal family
should resolve to return to Portugal. Here then, when
we consider the vast capacities and resources of Brazil,
it is not \isionary to say, that this empire is destined to
be our rival. If formed by the mighty genius of a Peter
the Great, and developed on a scale commensurate with

Vol. I. K


its extraordinary extent, resources, and advantages, it
would not be long before the truth of tliese observations
would be made evident. Looking at the Brazils there-
fore as a rival, and in the nature of things she must be
such, it may be well that she is placed under a race of
kings, not likely to inspire the nation with the formidable
energy of our republic, but rather to dissipate the force
of the body politic, in childish projects, and royal ex-
travagance. Without some master spirit at the head
of the government, the avowed and bold enemy, like
Pombal, of the power which stands between the people
and the throne, there is no likelihood of correcting the
mass of abuses, which must powerfully retard its growth,
and vitiate its formation. Obedience will be the first
thing to be secured ; and a free enlightened, enterpris-
ing American population, can never be sufficiently
passive for the best of kings. It is very certain, that a
young American nation, if left to itself, might outgrow
many of the original vices of its constitution ; but it
will be the policy of a monarchical government, to per-
petuate the worst, and correct only the least of them.

A nearer survey of the empire of Brazil, will give a
more adequate idea of its importance. Its shores are
washed by the waves of the Atlantic from the river
Arauary, north of the entrance of the Amazon in two
degrees north, to Rio de St. Pedro in thirty-three, south.
On the north it is bounded by the Amazon, as high up
as the mouth of the Javari, and up that river to the
seventy-fourth degree of west longitude, and thence in
a southerly direction to the great river Madeira, and
along the river Items, and ranges of mountains to the
Paraguay ; across this river and along a range of moun-
tains to the south of Rio Grande St. Pedro, terminating
as before mentioned. The disputes between Spain and
Portugal, with respect to boundaries are well known.


These unavoidably arose in the same manner as in
other parts of America, on the gradual approximation
of the settlements of different nations, commenced in
the first instance at sufficient distances from each other.
The Portuguese, from the earliest period, claimed the
whole left bank of the Parana and La Plata, while their
progress in this direction was considered by the Spa-
niards as encroachments. There was no rational prin-
ciple for the termination of disputes of this nature, but
that of the more complete occupancy, or express stipu-
lation. In both of these particulars the cause of Spain
was decidedly the best. The quarrels which arose from
time to time, were settled by the treaties of 1680, 1750,
and 1760, which however produced but temporary sus-
pensions, until finally settled by the treaty of Ildefonso,
of the first of October, 1777, confirmed by the treaty of
Pardo, of the year following. By this treaty the boun-
daries were settled as far as they could be by mere de-
scription, and they were perhaps the most extensive ever
agreed upon between two sovereigns. Except the boun-
dary of the United States settled by the treaty of 1783;
I know of none that can be compared with it. The
articles of treaty, from the third to the tenth inclusive*
trace this wonderful boundary along the ridges and
mountains, and along the courses of rivers, leaving the
connecting links where these natural boundaries fail, to
be settled by commissioners whom the parties agree to
appoint for this purpose. One of these on the part of
Spain, (Azara) was actually sent out, but in the preface
of his valuable work on South America, he complains of
a want of good faith on the part of the Portuguese govern-
ment, in the fulfilment of its engagements. After remaining
nine years in the country, the business was left unfinished.
Although the line was therefore never formally established ;
yet the natural boundaries are in general, of so bold and

K 2


permanent a character, as to leave little room for dispute.
The Portuguese geographers, however, still continue to
claim the same extent as if no treaties had been entered

Some writers in describing the Brazil, speak of it as
an immense triangle, each of its sides two thousand
miles in length. The Corografia Brazilica, calls it a
Peninsula formed by the Atlantic ocean on the east, on
the west by the Madeira, and on the south by Paraguay,
which interlocks with this river. The Isthmus of no
great width, and formed by the dividing ridge between
the waters of the two greatest rivers in the world. Lying
within the tropics, or immediately on their borders, the
diversity of climate, is of course not striking as respects
the variations of the seasons, or the productions of the
earth. Although generally a hilly and mountainous
country, it has no mountains that approach the eleva-
tion of those of Peru, where under the torrid zone there
may be found the temperature of the mildest climates.
Their height is sufficient, however, in many parts to in-
fluence the temperature considerably, although elevated
plains, similar to those described by Himiboldt, are
probably not to be met with. There are powerful causes
however, which cannot but have great influence on the
temperature of Brazil. The piercing south-west winds
sweeping over the pampass of Buenos Ayres, pass over
a great part of it, and the cool air from the immense
snowy ridges of the west, must no doubt have a great
effect in tempering the heat to which the immense open
plains below them would otherwise be subject; while
at the same time the pcirts exposed to the ocean are
fanned ]>y the unceasing current of the trades.*

* On the Paraguay, even as high as latitude twenty-five, the south-
west wind is at times cold and i)icrcing, and in the Amazon directly


Brazil contains upwards (Jf two millions of square
miles, and when we consider the small proportion to be
deducted for lakes and marshes, or for excessive rigor
of climate, as in the case of Russia, we may form some
idea of its greatness. It is washed on the north for
three thousand miles by the mighty course of the Ama-
zon, and it has a sea coast of nearly twice the extent of
that of the United States. From the capital to its
northern extremity at the mouth of the Javari, it is in a
straight line, between three and four thousand miles.
From the Rio Janeiro to Cuyaba, in the province of
Mato Grosso, the distance is upwards of a thousand
miles by land. No country is better supplied with
ports and harbours, those of Rio Janeiro, and St. Sal-
vador, are not surpassed, if equalled, by any in the
world ; and those of Para, Maranham, Olenda, Paraiba,
Seguro, Espiritu, Santo, St. Catherine, Rio Grande,
and many others. The position of Brazil in relation
to Europe, Asia, and Africa, is amongst those advantages
usually pointed out by those who seem to be of opinion
that this country is destined to hold the highest rank
among commercial nations. The possessions of Por-
tugal may be said to occupy both shores of the Atlantic.
The distance from Cape St. Roque to the nearest point
on the African continent, is estimated at five hundred

To give an idea of the interior is not easy, when we
consider how little of it has been described with ac-

under the equator, a fact is related in the voyage of Texcir down
this river, which appears more singular than the occurrence related by
Sir Joseph Banks and Dr. Solander, at the southern extremity of the
continent; while descending the Amazon, it suddenly grew so cold,
that the men were compelled to change their clothing, and even then
found it unpleasant.

K 3


curacy. Some of the bolder features we may venture
to delineate. It has already been said, that its sur-
face is in general mountainous, with the exception
of the vast plains, of what width is not accurately
known, stretching along the right bank of the Amazon.
The great ridges of mountains have generally been as-
certained with some accuracy. From what I have seen
and heard, these mountains bear a greater resemblance
to those of the West Indies than to the AUeghanies.
Their summits are generally covered with lofty forest
trees, and their sides in most places with a fertile soil.
In fact the prevailing character of Brazil, is that of a
perennial forest, where nature multiplies her produc-
tions with a most lavish profusion. The most remark-
able mountains are those of Borborema, to the north ;
of Mantequera, in the province Minas ; those of
Aymores, and those of Mangabeira. The first great
range commences at the northern extremity of the pro-
vince of Bahia, and stretches along the coast as far as
St. Catherine's, generally about the distance of one
hundred and fifty miles. Tlie length is about the same
with our AUeghanies, but they leave a greater extent of
territory than is occupied by our Atlantic states from
Maine to Georgia. Many fine rivers flow over this in-
clined plain, such as the Paraiba, Rio Doce, Higiton-
honha, Rio Real, and others that may be compared to
the Delaware, Susquehanna, or Potomac. This range c^
mountains is brought nearer to the sea, as the coast
tends more to the west in the province of Rio Janeiro ;
it also sends out a spur called the Organ mountains,
which renders the country on the south side of Paraiba
extiemely rugged and mountainous. The next range
commences between the provinces of Pemambuco and
Maranham ; it is longer and more considerable than the
former, and forms with it the valley of the river San


Francisco, * which appears to contain almost as much
territory as the country which lies to the east of the
mountains along the sea coast. This range afterwards
rises into broken alps, connected with the great Cordil-
lera of Brazil. Here are probably some of the most
elevated mountains in South America east of the Andes ;
it is here that some of the principal rivers of Brazil take
their rise ; such as the Parana, the Tocantins, and San
Francisco. Beyond the last mentioned range of moun-
tains, there is a track of unexplored country watered by
the Tocantine and its branches, particularly the Araguaya,
which when united with the former, flows into the bay
of Para. The two great branches, the Tocantine and
Araguaya, are separated by a range of the Cordillera,
and therefore form distinct vallies, the valley of the
Tocantines equal to that of the San Francisco, the other
considerably larger. A chain of mountains runs along
the east side of the Tocantine for several hundred miles,
narrows its valley considerably, and separates its waters
from those of the Pamaiba and other large rivers, which
discharge themselves into the ocean, north of Pemam-
buco, in the province of Maranham.
i A great proportion of the valley of the Araguaya
consists of plains and steppes, and is even represented
as forming an exception to the general fertility of
Brazil.f West of this valley, there is another as-*
semblage of mountains, about the sixtieth degree of

* The same ridges, like the Alleghanies, are known by different
names in tbeir course. ..

t On the upper part of the Araguaya are situated the Campos
Pareixis, so called from a nation of Indians inhabiting them. They
are said to be extensire sand plains, with little or no vegetation,
except oil the borders of the streams, which are said to be numeroiis,
notwithstanding the moving sands through which they flow. - >


west longitude, in which the most considerable rivers
of South America take their sources ; such as the
Paraguay, the Madiera, the Chingu, and the Topajos.
The district of Mato Grosso embraces the heads of
these rivers, compared Avith which the greatest of
Europe are but riils. The south side of the valley of
the Amazon is the least known in South America, hav-
ing been visited only by occasional missionaries. All
that is known with certainty is, that it is covered with
deep forests, and traversed by a great number of large

When I reflect on the myriads of human beings
which \\dll swarm along its banks, and on the banks
of its southern tributaries, the Jaty, the Jurua, the
Tefe, the Carori, the Paros, the Madiera, the Tapajos,
and Chingu, I am lost in wonder and amazement.
That the germ already planted in this empire will ex-
pand in magnitude, in a manner never witnessed
except in the United States, I entertain no doubt ;
and in spite of all we may say of the tendency of cli-
mate on the human faculties and energies, wisdom should
teach us, that man is no where to be despised. His-
tory tells us, that his powers may be equally exerted
in the torrid zone, as in the most invigorating climates,
provided there be a sufficient excitement to call them
into action.

The trade of Brazil has been thrown open, foreigners
have been encouraged to settle, the savage tribes of
the forest will vanish before the approach of civilization,
and before a century goes round, this empire will
develope itself on a scale of which few at present
dream. I rejoice that we are separated by so great
a distance by sea and land, as it will secure to us re-
lations of friendship and mutual interest, unless either
of us happens to be led astray by pride, prejudice, or


folly, for what object could there be held forth to
tempt even our ambition? The only place where we
can possibly meet as enemies, is on the ocean, and
here it becomes us to be friends. Brazil is destined
to become a great naval power, and England will find,
sooner than she expects it, that her nursling will
throw aside her leading strings. I have said, and still
repeat, that it is proper and wise in us to cherish
good will with this rising empire. With the i rmo-
narchical government let them do as they please, we
are not in search of proselytes to republicanism ; it is
enough for us to know that our own institutions are the
best ; others have the same right t6 their opinions, and
to the enjoyment of the kind of government best adapted
to their situations. At the same time I am not insen-
sible to the feelings awakened by seeing a monarchy
set up in our neighbourhood, which we should regard
with indifference if on the other side of the Atlantic.
Things so utterly dissimilar when brought almost in
contact, are apt to be seized with a hatred to each
other, merely on account of that dissimilarity. But
this is not wise — it can tend to no good purpose, when
we reflect that to hold intercourse, and entertain rela-
tions with them is unavoidable. But I find myself
entering on a difiicult subject ; possibly if our dislike to
monarchy should diminish, our love for republicanism
would diminish also ; but why should we hate any one
merely for being less fortunate than ourselves ? There
is no danger for the present, at least, that the great
body of the American people will look upon monarchy
with a dangerous complacency ; but there is danger of
their declining, on account of their antipathy to certain
forms of government, friendly and profitable relations
with foreign states. There is also danger that our re-
publican feelings may degenerate into a vicious pride.


which will cause us to be the objects of just hatred to
other nations. It behoves us to be careful not to fall
into those habits which we so severely condemn in

Brazil contains, according to the best information I
could procure, about three millions of souls, indepen-
dently of the uncivilized Indians who inhabit the inte-
rior, and even in some places on the sea coast. Nearly
the whole of this population is scattered along the

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 11 of 29)