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 12 of 29)
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coast, from the Amazon to the St. Pedro ; the propor-
tion residing beyond the mountains is much less than,
that of our western states. About one million are
Europeans, and their descendants ; about eight hundred
thousand are subdued Indians; the remainder are of
the African race. The Indians reside in their villages
under a kind of government, combined of the civil
and ecclesiastical, together with chiefs of their own
choosing, pretty much in the manner of the Spemish
missions. Many of them hire themselves as labourers,
and engage in the arduous task of clearing lands, and
many are employed as seamen. During the early pe-
riods of the settlement, the Portuguese engaged in
a continual chase after the natives, for the purpose of
reducing them to slavery ; and they pursued the same
policy with the slave-dealers of Africa, in stining up
wars between neighbouring nations, for the purpose of
purchasing their prisoners. The only excuse that
could be alleged for this, was the circumstance of their
being nearly all cannibals, and thus prevailed upon to
renounce their practices for the sake of profit. The
Indian slavery was carried to almost as great an extent,
as the negro slavery has been since ; and was only re-
nounced from their finding that the negroes answered
their purpose better, and could be obtained at a
cheaper rate. The Indians were fomid to pine away


in slavery, and to become liable to a variety of dis-
eases, from which they were exempt in their native
woods, in consequence of a total change in their ha-
bits and mode of life. The exertions of the Jesuits in
their favour, must ever entitle that society to respect
from the friends of humanity; they drew upon them-
selves, in consequence, the enmity of the colonists ; an
enmity exasperated to the highest degiee, by what
their selfish interest induced them to consider, a med-
dling interference with their personal rights and pos-
sessions. We can form some idea of what this hostility
would be, by observing the light in which abolition
societies are regarded in other countries where slavery
is tolerated. The Jesuits in this instance acted on
the principle, homo sum, et humani a me nil alienum
puto. The colonists, although disposed to yield obedi-
ence to temporal or ecclesiastical sovereignty, in
ordinary cases, it was found that the authority of both
the king and the Pope, when called in to the aid of the
Jesuits, was of no avail where private interests were
so deeply affected ; their maxim was, touch my property,
touch my life.

The reducing the Indians to slavery was finally ar-
rested, not by convincing the colonists of the inhumanity
of the practice, but by furnishing substitutes, whom
they preferred. The slave trade is therefore still car-
ried on extensively; the annual importation is estimated
at thirty thousand, chiefly males. The price varies
from two to three hundred dollars ; their natural in-
crease is discouraged, from the calculation that it is
much cheaper to import full grown slaves, than to bring
up the young ones. Every inducement is thus taken
away by the abominable traffic, to alleviate their con-
dition, or to render it comfortable. Where the sordid
passions have sway, they are almost always accompanied

\40 '^ VOYAGE TO

with erroneous reasonings, even as to the policy best
calculated for the attainment of their object. Expe-
rience has proved to us in the United States, that since
the abolition of the slave trade, and the improvement,
which has every where taken place in the condition of
the slaves, both their numbers and value have increased
in a proportion far beyond what had been previously
observed ; the latter, a painful circumstance to the phi-
lanthropists of our country, who see increasing difficul-
ties in the way of their emancipation. If we did not
look forward to the hope of being able to free ourselves
from them altogether, but regard merely our interests,
the circumstance would be remarked with satisfaction.
It serves to prove, however, that even injustice prospers,
by consulting as far as is compatible with its acts, the
dictates of humanity. The policy of the Brazilians, is,
therefore, utterly unsupported by experience, even on
their own principles. The idea of the necessity of
slavery at all in the torrid zone, any more than in the
frigid, is equally founded upon false reasoning. Lands
are better cultivated by freemen in all climates; and


plea is, that the Africans alone can withstand the heat
of the tropical sun ; without denying the fact, it can be
easily proved that the freeman, who labors with alacrity,
can do more in the mornings and evenings, than the
sinking, heartless slave, during the whole of the day.
There may not be as many idle and luxurious nabobs,
it is true ; but there will be a thousand times the niun-
ber of happy and virtuous families.

The British government has induced the king of Por-
tugal to agree to an abolition of the slave trade, for the
consideration of half a million sterling. But the act
will be very little relished by his subjects, and it is
thought by many, that it will be only nominal, on ac-



count of the vicinity to Africa, and the facility of smug-
gling the slaves, when it is presumed that no great pains
will be taken to prevent it.

The following is a statement of the population of the
different provinces of Brazil, and of the chief towns.*
It is derived from a source in which I place the greatest


Feruambuco • • • • 560,000

Bahia 500,000

Minas 884,000

Rio de Janeiro. . 400,000

St. Paulo 300,000

Rio Grande •••• 250,000

Maranham • • • • 200,000

Para 150,000

Matto Grosso . . 100,000

Goyaz 170,000

Chief Cities.

Pernambuco • • • • 40,000

Bahia 90,000

Villa Rica 20,000

Rio Janeiro 90,000

St. Paul 20,000

Portalegrc 3,000

Maranham 20,000

Para 15,000

Cuyaba 30,000

Villa Boa 5,000


The proportion of blacks in the great cities, is at
least fifteen for one ; that of the mixed breed, African
or Indian, I had no means of ascertaining. The whole
population probably increases with as much rapidity
as in the United States. There is every disposition
on the part of the present sovereign, to encourage emi-
grations, but it is not in his power to prevent vexa-
tions from being practised on the emigrants, and they
are not received with good will by the inhabitants.

* The political divisons are, 1. proTinces ; 2. camarcas, or coun-
ties; 3. cities; 4. villas or towns; 5. povacoas; 6. aldeas, or vil-


especially of cities. The obstacles in the way of ob-
taining lands, is very discouraging, on account of the
enormous fees and exactions of the public officers, or
the uncertainty of titles, where they purchase from in-
dividuals. As in all countries so thinly inhabited,
lands are worth little more than the improvements put
on them, and perhaps with greater reason here than
elsewhere, on account of the difficulties of clearing

With the exception of the three provinces, Minas,
Matto Grosso, and Goyaz, all the rest have a maritime
boundary. These three provinces may be called the
hack country of the Brazils. The province of Minas,
occupies the country in the valley of St. Francisco,
and on the heads of the Parana ; it is estimated at six
or seven hundred miles in length, and nearly the same
in breadth. Its mines of gold and diamonds, are pro-
bably the most productive in Brazil, and with the
mines of Cuyaba, to the westward, contribute chiefly
to enable the city of Rio Janeiro to outstrip St. Sal-
vador, the former capital. " The mining districts,'*
says Mawe, " being most populous, required the
greatest proportion of consumable goods, and in re-
turn, send the most valuable articles of commerce ;
hence, innumerable troops of mules are continually
travelling to and from those districts; their common
burden is about three hundred weight each, which they
carry to the almost incredible distance of fifteen hun-
dred to two thousand miles." The province of Goyaz,
still farther west, occupies the valley of the Tocantine,
and extends from six to twenty-one degrees, south.
This province, like most of those in the interior of this
immense country, is also possessed of valuable mines.
Its distance from the coast enables it to carry on very
little commerce J its agTicultural produce being too ex-*


pensive to be transported in any great quantities.
They depend chiefly on the produce of their mines,
which is usually carried to Rio Janeiro, to procure
the articles they want, such as salt, iron, cotton prints,
woollens, (particularly baizes,) hats, fire arms, powder
and shot, and hardware of every kind. When they
have any thing sufficiently valuable, over and above
procuring these articles, they lay it out in the purchase
of negroes, whom they make great exertions to pro-
cure. This province, is, however, very little known,
but has the character of being a fine country, possess-
ing numerous rivers, especially towards the heads of
the Tocantine, finely watered, the streams abounding in
fish, and the earth covered with a variety of valuable
woods. The cotton, sugar, and other products of this
vast district, instead of being carried over by land,
across immense chains of mountains, to St. Salvador
and Rio Janeiro, will pass down the river to the gulph
of Para, as soon as this district of country becomes
sufficiently peopled, and some great city, like New
Orleans, rises on its shores. ^

Matto Grosso, as has been said, embraces all the
upper branches of the great rivers of Brazil, and is the
most interior province. Its chief wealth consists in its
valuable mines ; its distance, at present, being too great
for the transportation of heavy articles by land. It
however possesses, naturally, the greatest facilities
for carrying its produce to market by means of the Par
raguay, or branches of the Amazon. From this pro-
vince, however, as well as from Goyaz, cattle are
sometimes driven to the capital. T^e merchant
at Cuyaba, sometimes carries his ingots to Bahia,
by the way of Goyazes, or to the metropolis by the
same road, or by that of Camapyan ; it is ascertained,
that a trade may be also carried on with the inhabi-


tants of Gran Para, by means of the river Tapajos.
A number of other communications may be opened;
two to the last named port, one by the Chingu, the
other by the Rio des Mortes and Araguaya. Two
others may be opened to St. Paul and the metropolis ;
the first by the rivers St. Lorenzo, Piquire, Sucurui,
and Tiete ;* the second by land, across the Boro-
roma, and Coyaponia, crossing the Parana between the
confluence of the Paranahyba, and the falls of Urubu-
punga. This road would be eighty leagues shorter than
that pursued by the way of Villa Boa.

The foreign commerce of Brazil is every day in-
creasing, in a proportion commensurate with the rapid
advancement of the country. The principal articles
of export have already been noticed. In cotton, rice,
tobacco, and sugar, they are already our rivals in
Europe, and lying more contiguous to the West Indies,
will rival us in the trade of lumber and live stock.
The province of Rio Janeiro, besides gold and precious
stones, already exports ten thousand chests of sugar,
four millions of pounds of coflfee, some manufactured
tobacco, and fifteen or twenty thousand bags of cotton,
besides hides and rum.

Bahia exports twenty-eight or thirty thousand chests
of sugar, of twelve or fourteen hundred weight each,
thirty thousand bags of cotton, of five arrobas each,
forty thousand rolls of tobacco in twists, and three
thousand bales of leaf, averaging about five hundred
weight. Also some coffee and rice, coarse earthen ware.

• It is worthy of remark, that nearly all the rivers of Brazil,
are much obstructed by falls and cataracts. The Tiete has a great .
number. Perhaps no country has so many cataracts and cascades,
as the Brazil.


and grass cables, besides salted hides, tanned leather,
and rum.

Pemambuco exports sixty or seventy thousand bales
of cotton, eleven to fourteen thousand chests of sugar,
and one hundred thousand salted hides ; Maranham ex-
ports nearly the same quantity of cotton as Pernambuco,
and four or five thousand chests of sugar, some rice and
cocoa. Para exports cotton, rice, cocoa, and drugs, as
also woods of various kinds.

The province of St. Paul, whose trade is chiefly
dependent on the metropolis, not being situated itself
on the sea coast, exports sugar, cofiee, cattle, hogs,
&c. It also has a considerable trade with the interior
provinces of Minas and Matto Grosso ; it has some
manufactures of cotton cloths. /nndb

.Rio Grande exports beef, hides, and tallow, to a
great amount, probably not less than three millions of
dollars. The exports of beef and tallow, are how-
ever principally to Rio, Bahia, and Pernambuco.
This province formerly exported, and supplied the
others on the sea coast, with flour and wheat ; but, for
the last two years, there has been no export of conse-
quence, raising scarcely sufficient for the supply of the
troops which have been thrown into the southern part
of Brazil, for the purpose of keeping up the war with

To speak of the different mines of Brazil, with the
minuteness which their number and importance de-
serve, would require itself a volume. Next to the
possessions of Spain, those of Portugal exceed all
other countries of the world in mineral wealth. Im-
mense sums have been drawn from the gold mines
since their first discovery by the inhabitants of St.
Paul, in 1557. They were formerly placed under
great restrictions, but at present they are thrown open

Vol. 1. L


to every person who chooses to search for, or work
them, on paying the established duty to the king.
Mawe has given us much interesting information as to
the manner of working the different mines. It appears
that their produce has much diminished, at least, there
are none now worked that produce gold in such asto-
nishing abundance as the mines of Villa Rica. They are
scattered over a prodigious extent of country, and are
found chiefly imbedded in the sands of rivers. Not-
withstanding the wonderful enterprise and activity of
the Paulistas, who traversed so much of this country
during the seventeenth century, in pursuit of gold
mines and Indian slaves, it must be considered as still
but imperfectly explored. One of the most extraor-
dinary mines ever discovered in Brazil, remains at
this day a Subject of curious speculation among the in-
habitants of that country; the discoverer, Buenos, an
enterprising Paulista, on his return to it with imple-
ments and negroes, was, by various circumstances di-
verted from his course, when he accidentally fell on
the mines of Goyaz where he feinained. His son,
afterwards, with the assistance of his father's journal,
endeavoured to find the place, but in vain. The pre-
sent produce of the gold mines i^, iabottt five hundred
arrobas, the arroba estimated at thirty-tWo pounds,
each fourteen ounces, which may be considered equal
to about three millions and a half of dollars; one
fifth of which goes to the king. The diamond mines
tire entirely under monopoly and se^nere restrictions,
being worked exclusively on account of government;
tlieir produce is estimated at seven or «ight huUdred
thousand dollars. The diamonds of the king of Brazil
are valued at three millions sterling; he has in his
possession the largest in the world, but they are not
*1s%)posed equal to those of the tidies in point x)r'bril-


liancy. It is somewhat surprising, that no silver
mines of any great productions have yet been dis-
covered in his territories. Some silver, it is said,
was found at an early period, in the possession of the
Indians on the Parana, who, being seen by the only
Spanish adventurers, they gave the name of Rio de
La Plata to the river in which it discharges itself.
Considering the connexion, which no doubt exists be-
tween the mountains of Brazil and those of Peru, it is
somewhat strange, that this metal has not been met
with in greater abundance. Brazil, however, possesses
great quantities of iron ore, which is said to be equal
to any in the world. To make a rough estimate, I
should say that the exports of the whole of Brazil,
exceed twenty millions of dollars.

- The amount of imports, I presume, is about equal to
the exports. They consist chiefly in English manufac-
tured goods of every kind ; but the balance is consider-
ably against Portugal, which for a century past has been
thrown into the back ground by the advantages which
the Ikiglish have gained in the trade with the colonies.
On the opening of the trade with Brazil, the market was
immediately glutted, as well as injudiciously supplied
with articles not suited to it. The losses expeiienced
by the British merchants, was a subject of serious com-
plaint, but was doubtless ultimately beneficial, from its
tendency to increase the demand and consumption. The
Brazils afford a growing market of vast importance to
England. The trade of the United States with this
comitry, is comparatively inconsiderable,* but will
gradually increase. We already supply them with heavy

* The following is the number of vessels which entered Eahia, in
1817. British vessels, sixty-nine; American, thirty; French, twelve;
other foreigners, eight. TotaJ, one hnndred aud nineteen,

L 2


articles of manufacture, such as household furniture,
carriages, &c. to a considerable amount ; but our prin-
cipal articles of export to this country, are flour, salt
provisions, tar, staves, and naval stores in general. We
possess many advantages for carrying on a kind of cir-
cuitous trade with this country, as well as with other
parts of South America ; first by disposing of our own
produce in Europe, purchasing French and German
goods, disposing of them in South America, and taking
from thence dried beef to the West Indies, or hides and
the produce of the south in general, to the United States
or Europe. It is not uncommon for American vessels,
after disposing of their cargoes at Rio, to go down to
Rio Grande, lay in a cargo of dried beef, carry it to
Havanna, and there dispose of it for articles suited to
the American market. Of late years, it is not uncom-
mon for the people of the northern states, to engage in
these trading voyages.

With respect to the government of Brazil, it of course
retains the leading features of that established over the
colony. At the head of each province there is a cap-
tain-general, from which circumstances they are some-
times called capitanias. The camarcas have ouvidores,
or judges, for civil affairs. The cities and towns, have
camaras, or a senate elected annually ; a sort of muni-
cipality to which the povasoas and aldeas, are subject
for their local concerns ; but, for their military affairs,
each camarca is divided into districts, and has officers
called captain-mohro. In civil matters an appeal lies
from the camara or senate, to the ouvidores, and from
these to the supreme tribimals at Rio Janeiro, called
cassa da souplicagoes, when the subject matter involves
an amount exceeding twelve thousand dollars. Each
province has also an ouvidore for criminal matters?
whose 8<^nteuces must be confirmed by the relas§oe/5


excepting in cases of mere correctional punishment.
It is not each pro\ince which has a court of relasgoa ; Rio
Janeiro, Bahia, Minas, St. Paul, and Maranham, only,
I believe, have these courts, which receive appeals from
inferior tribunals of other provinces, according as their
jurisdiction respectively are settled by law. The relas-
§oa of Bahia, for instance, has jurisdiction over the pro-
vince of Pernambuco. The revenues of the king are
derived fiom the following sources, and considering the
amount of the population, it is scarce surpassed by any
other country. 1. A fifth upon all gold obtained in any
part of Brazil, which amounts to seven or eight hundred
thousand dollars, and the produce of the diamond mines
about the same. 2. Duty, fifteen per cent, on all mer-
chandise entered at the custom house. 3. A tax on
exports. 4. The tythes which the king of Portugal
became entitled to, in the same manner as the king of
Spain ; as also to the proceeds of the sale of indul-
gences, under the same grant from the pope. 5. A duty
on merchandise entering the mining districts, payable
to the different barriers or registers. Besides these,
there are other taxes on spirituous liquors, on house
rents, and paper money peculiar to the mine districts,
which has been issued to the amount of an hundred
thousand pounds. The whole amount is probably be-
tween five and six millions of dollars, which together
with the surplus revenues of Portugal, scarcely suffices
to defray the expenses of the government. The royal
domains, like our public lands, will one day or other
furnish sources of immense revenue. The government
had long been sensible of the great error committed
by the extensive grants of land to the nobility, or per-
sons of distinction. These grants must throw great
obstacles in the way of improvement of some of the
most valuable districts. Should the king, however,


150 ^^ VOYAGE TO

pursue a diflferent policy, and select certain tracks of
country to be laid off in the same manner as the pub-
lic lands in the United States, and to be sold to in-
dividuals on advantageous terms, it would not be
long before he would reap the advantages of such a

The military force of Brazil, is composed of between
twenty and thirty thousand regulars, distributed over an
immense extent of country, besides the militia, which is
not very well armed or disciplined. The regulars are
composed of native Brazilians, Indians, and negroes, the
two latter forming a considerable proportion. Where
men are wanted for an emergency, or when it is neces-
sary to fill up the ranks, impressment is resorted to from
among the lower classes of people, in the same manner
as the British impress their seamen. Their pay is tri-
fling, and term of service indefinite.

The navy consists of several ships of the line, eight
or ten frigates, and a number of light vessels of w^ar.

The emigrant from almost any country in Europe, in
moderate circumstances, would better his fortune by
removing to Brazil. But the American, educated in
the ideas of a government so different from those Avhich
fit a man to live under a monarchy, would find himself
exposed to many vexations. An American who has
been accustomed to a liberty apparently without con-
troul, who knows not what it is to be eternally hedged
Avith bayonets, or to meet at every step with the display
of military power, would find his situation extremely
irksome. The frowns of haughty lordlings, the abuses
and oppressions practised by persons, dressed in a little
" brief authority," must either keep his mind conti-
nually disturbed, or break down his spirit. There are
so many restraints on personal liberty, and so much naked
steel to enforce them, that he feels a repugnance to take


a single step, through fear of having his pride wounded
by some insolent mercenary wretch, who thinks himself
privileged to be a tyrant. Those who are minutely
acquainted with the ways of the country, may possibly
steer clear of the like mortifications, to which the
stranger must inevitably be exposed. How diflferent
from this is our country, where the coercive power of
the government is so studiously concealed, and where
the laws and the force of public opinion, are infinitely
more powerful than all the bayonets of despotism ! The
stranger who lands on our happy soil, carries within his
own breast the guide of his actions — a guide which will
enable him with confidence to avoid giving ofi"ence, or
incur displeasure, by following the golden rule, of
" doing unto others as he would that others should do
unto him." By simply following this rule, he may go
wheresoever he pleases, say what he pleases, do what he
pleases, without feeir of being arrested on maUcious
suspicions, or of ha\dng his property torn from him by
-despotic avarice.

This question has suggested itself to me, what dif-
ference would have been made in our character and
condition, had it been our fortune to have been placed
in this countiy, instead of the one which we possess ?

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 12 of 29)