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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Would the germs of liberty have taken root in this
soil, and flourished as they have done in a more rigid
climate, where necessity urged to a more laborious and
.enterprising life? Would tho^e principles of liberty,
carried with them by the colonists, from a stock which
liad been maturing for ages, have withered when trans-
4>lant€d into this fertile soil, and under this warm sun ?
^r would that liberty wliich is so much prized, have
-lost her -dominion in a covmtry, whose rivers flow over
lieds of diamonds, and w hose sands are gold ? The dif-
ferent result in the same situations on difl'crent people.


is exemplified in the conquest and possession of a part
of this country by the Dutch. Pemambuco is the most
populous province of Brazil, and has the most extensive
exports ; and this may be accounted for, by the simple
fact of its having been in the possession of a free and in-
dustrious people. With the Dutch, commerce and agri-
culture were honourable arts ; not so with the Spaniards
or Portuguese, who thought of nothing but running
about in search of mines, or attempting to reduce to
slavery, the very people whose country they had vio-
lently seized. The first thing that a free English popu-
lation would have thought of, would in all probability
have been, the cultivation of the earth, and the navi-
gation of the seas ; the discovery of gold mines would
have been the last. Would the working of gold mines
have proved more detrimental to our national character,
than those of tin or copper ?

It is difficult to say, what would have been the efie cts
on a people, of the habits and character of those who
settled the United States. I am far from being con-
vinced, that climate alone would have been sufficient
to make the diiference in favour of our country. Per-
haps what would be most to be feared, would be, that
our motive for exertion might not be the same, from the
greater facilities of obtaining the first necessaries of life.
But would this be the case among men habituated to
free government, and therefore anxious to rise ? A mo-
tive in itself sufficient for every exertion, in order to
better their condition. The Brazilians have hitherto
shewn little activity in commerce, or industry in agri-
culture ; but has not this been owing to the nature of
the government under which they were bred, and to the
colonial restrictions ? To what other cause can we at-
tribute the poverty and wretchedness of the lower
classes of people, in countries where they are surrounded


by the means of creating an abundance ? Yet even since
the colonial restrictions have been taken off, an evident
improvement in their condition is beginning to be seen.
As a further proof that the climate does not necessarily
relax the springs of industry and enterprise, we may
cite the restless expeditions of the Paulistas through the
interior, while engaged in their laborious search of mines.
An activity, it must be confessed, that might have been
much more usefully directed. Their example gave rise
to a dangerous spirit of gaming and speculation. A
most seducing temptation was held out by the success
of a few, for others to engage in similar undertakings, to
the neglect of what would be attended with more cer-
tainty for themselves, and at the same time be more
generally beneficial. Precious metals are not obtained
without great expense and risk, even to the individual who
is successful ; but to the community, the expense is enor-
mously disproportionate, on account of the numbers
who engage in the pursuit and prove unfortunate. A
spirit of gaming, takes the place of the sober plans of
industry. The earth is not cultivated, no manufactures
are established, commerce is on the lowest footing, and
the country continues for centuries a wilderness. So
evident was the injurious effect of this spirit on the colo-
nies, that it was even recommended by some ministers,
to prohibit the working of mines entirely.* But for this
intoxicating effect, there is no reason why industry em-
ployed in the preparation of the precious metals, should
be more injurious than when employed in manufactures.
It is apt to entice away from every other pursuit, and a
country must always be in a state of great dependence
upon all others, when possessed of but one branch of

* Ti-avels in Portugal by the Duke de Chutelet, vol. i. p. 2ir.

154 A VOYAGE, &c.

industry. Even here there is a difference between the
monopoly of industry by the mining business, and the
situation of a country compelled by necessity to confine
itself to one pursuit ; in the latter case, it is necessity
alone which will induce it to do so ; for if possessed of
any other resources or capacities, there is no danger of
their being despised or neglected ; but where the pre-
cious metals form the staple commodity, their seductive
influence will be such as to monopolize every attention.
Considering the wonderful variety and value of the
products of Brazil, the possession of mines was perhaps
more injurious than beneficial. Southey informs us,
that it was proved by experiments nearly a century ago,
that the spices of the Indies, cinnamon, cloves, and nut-
meg, could be naturalized in this happy climate. Their
cultivation was suggested at the time as a mode of un-
dermining the power of the Dutch. The sugar, coffee,
and cotton of Brazil, can be tiansported as cheaply to
Europe as from the West Indies, or the United States.
Brazil has no competitor with respect to its valuable
woods, of which there is the most wonderful variety,
•adapted to cabinet work and ship building.* The oak
wood and cedar, are equal to any in the w orld ; Brazil
excels all other countries in the facilities for building
vessels ; an art which is rapidly improving here. The
valuable fisheries on the coast and the coasting trade,
daily increasing, will in time, furnish seamen to navigate
an immense navy.

* Mr. Hill, niir consul at St. Salvador, presented commodore
Sinclair witli upwards of a hundred specimens equal in beauty to
awy 1 over ^aw.



Departure from Bio— Provinces of St. Paul, St. Catherine, and Rio
Grande — Island of Flores — Arrival at Monte Video.

JlIaving no further business at ^this port, and the
ship being supplied with every thing necessary for the
prosecution of the voyage to La Plata, the commodore
announced his intention to put to sea. It had previously
been intended to proceed to St. Catherine's, for the pur-
pose of procuring a tender to ascend the Plata. The
great draft of water of the Congress, (upwards of
twenty-two feet,) rendered it impossible to carry her up
to Buenos Ayres. Besides, the season of pamperos, or
south-west winds, was approaching, and from the known
dangers and difficulties of the navigation, the com-
modore felt a reluctance to run a greater risk than was
absolutely unavoidable. Partty, however, in compli-
ance with the wishes of the commissioners, and partly in
consequence of an understanding with captain Hickey of
the Blossom, who was also bound for the river, he
changed his original intention, and resolved to go directly
to Monte Video, and there procure the necessary vessel.
The Blossom drawing much less water, and her com-
mander having some acquaintance with the river, it was
thought that being in company with him, would be an
advantage of some importance.

An occurrence took place some days previous to our
sailing, of somewhat an unpleasant nature, and as
some notice has been taken of it in the public prints.


it may be proper to give a statement of the circum-
stances. One of the seamen, who had served as inter-
preter to the watering parties, or other purposes on
shore, had taken advantage of the opportunity to stray
from his comparJons, whether for the purpose of fro-
licking, or of desertion it was not known. The day
after, however, two of our lieutenants, (Ramsey and
Berry,) accidentally met him in the street, and ordered
him to his duty, to which he seemed to submit, al-
leging as an excuse for his fault, that he had been in-
toxicated. Intending to see him embark in the boat,
they proceeded with him some distance, when he sud-
denly attempted to escape, and was seized by one of
the lieutenants. He cried out for help, declaring him-
self a Portuguese subject, and that he had been im-
pressed. A pair of soldiers happening to be near,
interfered, rescued the seaman, and at his request car-
ried him to the admiral of the port. The officers
without knowing where they were taking him to, fol-
lowed close after, in order that they might be able to
report the circumstance satisfactorily to their comman-
der. As the subsequent part of this affair is explained
in the correspondence, with which the commodore has
politely furnished me, to this I shall refer the reader,
simply observing, that the commodore's letter was
drawn forth by a request on the part of our minister,
to be informed of the particulars. The first letter it
will be seen, is from the Portuguese minister of state,
to Mr. Sumpter.

February 3d, 1818.

The undersigned.

Has received orders from the king, his
master, to communicate to the minister of the United


States, the irregular and oflfensive conduct, with which,
on the 2d of this month, two officers and two midship-
men of the frigate Congress, now lying at anchor in
this port, proceeded to attempt to carry on board of the
said frigate, a Portuguese sailor, who had left her to
enter into the service of his own king in this capital.
In the prosecution of their object, they forced the dwel-
ling-house of the major-general of the royal marines,
the vice-admiral Ignacia da Corta Quintilla, pretending
to retake and conduct him on board by force, which,
however, they did not succeed in doing, in conse-
quence of the prudent exertions used by this general
officer. Such an insult cannot fail to deserve a serious
reprehension, and a satisfaction such as ought to be
expected in such a case ; and his majesty hopes that
the minister of the United States will take such mea-
sures on it, that those officers shall be properly repre-
hended for this act of excess, and that the commander
of the frigate will set at liberty the Portuguese sailors
which are on board, and who desire, as it is their duty
to do, to return to the service of their king and country.
The undersigned is well persuaded, that the minister of
the United States will acknowledge the moderation
with which his majesty has acted in this case, and will
be ready to render that competent satisfaction which is

Thoj^as Antonia Villa Nova de Portugal.

Palace of Rio Janeiro.

February 4th, 1818.

The minister plenipotentiary of the United States,
has the honour to inform his excellency Thomas An-


tonia Villa Nova de Portugal, &c. &c. that having re-
ceived the complaint addressed to him yesterday even-
ing respecting the proceedings of some officers and
midshipmen of the frigate Congress, in endeavouring to
recover a deserter on shore, who represents himself to be
a Portuguese subject, and desirous to serve his own
country rather than any other, he will take an early op-
portimity of inquiring into the facts of the case, after
which he will be enabled to answer his excellency in
form, and he hopes satisfactorily.

The minister of the United States profits by this oc-
casion to renew to his excellency the assurance of his
high respect and consideration. : donH o

i tfioi;


Rio Janeiro, Feb. 6th , 1818.

I have the honour to acknowledge your note of tlie
4th inst. containing a translation of the Portuguese
minister's statement of an affair which took place on
the 2d inst. between two of the lieutenants of this ship
and some officers of the Portuguese government.

So far as relates to that part of the minister's note,
complaining of insults offered to a major-geneml and
an admiral in the service of the King of the Brazils,
I can safely assure you that none could possibly have
been intended, as these young men, on whose asser-
tions I place the most implicit reliance, declare, that
being perfectly strangers in the place, and not under-
standing the language of the country, they were in-
voluntarily led by a guard to the house of one or both
of those gentlemen, from the desire of not losing
sight of the seaman belonging to their boat, until they
saw where he was deposited. That they did not


know into whose presence they were ushered, neither
of the above officers being in uniform ; nor was it known
to them until they were treated with great violence,
contumely, and gross abuse : one of my officers hav-
ing his hat snatched off his head, at the moment when
inadvertently he had put it on, according to the custom
of our country, when about to retire, and one of the
Portuguese officers before mentioned, clenching his fist
in the face of the other, while they were both threatened
with personal violence, at the same time that they were
permitted to be insulted by a mob, which the Portuguese
officers did not attempt to repress.

The instructions received from my government, in-
dependently of my own sense of propriety, when seek-
ing refreshment iti a friendly port, most positively for-
bid my pursuing any course of conduct, which might
be offensive to any individual of the country, much
less, that I should knowingly suffer any thing like in-
sult to be offered to the constituted authority of that
country. I had with great confidence hoped, that the
strict etiquette I had uniformly observed since my
arrival, would have forbidden the possibility of my
being even thought capable of acting otherwise than in
conformity to these regulations. I had, with equal con-
fidence believed, that the character of American offi-
cers for politeness, etiquette, strict subordination, and
respect to officers superior or inferior in rank, of
all nations, was sufficiently well established to have
equally forbidden the belief for a moment, that they
would knowingly have offered an insult to officers
of the grade above alluded to, sooner than they would
tamely receive abuse or insult, if in their power to
redress it.

In compliance with your request, and to satisfy you
that the cause of complaint lies on the side of my


government, I will give you a brief statement of tbe
affair as it happened. With respect to the seaman,
whom the Portuguese minister is pleased to call a de-
serter, the penalties of our laws prohibiting the enlist-
ment of any but American seamen in our naval ser-
vice, are too severe to admit a doubt, that we should
knowingly receive any that are not of this description,
on board our ships of war. And if any to appear-
ance should not be such, the fact is well known of our
having within our own territory, people of every
origin, and speaking almost every language of Europe,
particularly since the acquisition of Louisiana, for-
merly belonging to Spain, and whose inhabitants have
become citizens of the United States, by treaty ; it there-
fore does not follow as a necessary consequence, that
such are not Americans. From the circumstfince of this
ship having been stationed in that quarter, and hav-
ing recruited a number of men resident in the ceded
territory before mentioned, some of whom speak the
Spanish and Portuguese, I am under the impression
that the seaman in question is of that description. All
1 know with certainty is, that he enlisted as an Ameri-
can, and I shall feel myself bound to consider him as
such, until satisfied of the contrary, of which no evi-
dence has been exhibited to me, and from his speaking
our language, without the slightest foreign accent, I am
induced to believe, that if not a native of the United
States, he is at least a native of Louisiana. r -

The man was taken on shore by some of the ofiicers
of the ship, to serve them as interpreter, from whom
he strayed off, and, as he stated to my officers, who
afterwards accidentally met him in the street, had been
intoxicated. By our laws, he could not be regarded
as a deserter, not having been absent a sufficient length
of time for that purpose — he was considered as a de-


linquent from duty, and as such, was ordered to the^
boat. To this order he at first submitted, and was pro-
ceeding on his way, the officers before mentioned con-
sidering it their duty to bring him on board, when he
was forcibly taken from them in the manner above

I cannot admit that my authority over my own men,
who have voluntarily enlisted in the service, and re-
ceived the bounty of my government, ceases while on
shore on the duty of the ship. If under the necessity
of calling in the civil authority in all cases of delin-
quency, in disobedience of orders, it would be absolutely
impossible for us to sufier our boats to leave the ship
while in foreign ports.

Such I believe to be a correct statement of the case.
It is a case, in which my officers while engaged in
compelling one of my men to do his duty, he was
forcibly taken from them, and themselves grossly
abused ; where, instead of securing the man, that his
claim to liberation, if he had any, might be properly in-
vestigated by some civil tribxmal, he was taken by a mi-
litary guard before military officers, (who could not even
be known as such to strangers, by any uniform they
wore) and then at once discharged, or rather, as I am
informed, taken into the service of his majesty the king
of the Brazils, while my officers were treated in a most
unbecoming and ungentlemanly manner.

I consider it my duty, therefore, to demand the man
in question, as an American seaman, regularly enlisted
and paid as such, on the books of this ship ; forcibly
and irregularly taken out of my possession, by the
officers of his majesty, the king of the Brazils ; unless
satisfactory proof can be exhibited, of his being a na-
tive subject of his majesty. In which event, you will
act as the laws of the country in which you reside, and

Vol. I. M


your sense of what is due to your own country may
dictate. After the manifest disposition I have evinced,
of my desire to tieat with marked respect, every
constituted authority of this government, I should not
do justice to my own feelings, or to the dignity of the
nation I represent, were I not to dwell upon the insult
offered to my country, in the abuse y of two officers
bearing her commission, while in the lawful and regular
exercise of their duty, and require that redress adequate
to the abuse be given.

With respect to the general demand of the Portu-
guese minister, for the surrender of all Portuguese
subjects who may be on board this ship, it is of so
extraordinary a nature, that until it assumes a more
definite and specific shape, I have only to reply, under
present circumstances, that the flag of my country pro-
tects every man in the ship, which I have the honour to

I have the honour to remain,

with high respect. Sir,

your obedient servant,

(Signed,) A. Sinclair.

The affair had been buzzed abroad through the city,
and was no doubt represented very unfavourably, as to
the part taken in it by our officers. The jealous and im-
friendly disposition we had at first remarked, among
those generally collected at the common lounging
place, was evidently heightened, and studiously dis-
played in their looks. It became unpleasant for us to
go on shore, from the apprehension of being exposed
to insult, and the commodore laid his injunctions on
the two lieutenants to remain on board. But the most
disagreeable circumstance, was the singular demand
Q)ade by the Portuguese minister, of all the Port»-.


guese seamen on board the Congress; thus takmg it
for granted, that there were such. It is probable, that
this was founded upon the statement of the deserter,
who would naturally enough be inclined to ingratiate
himself with his new friends, by inventing such stories,
as he supposed would feed their antipathies to us.*
But it is surprising, that there should have been so
little decency and good sense in the minister, as to
make a formal and unqualified demand, without pre-
vious inquiry or investigation. The names, or at least
the numbers, of the pretended Portuguese seamen,
ought to have been given. When properly consi-
dered, the manner in which the demand was made from
a national vessel, was in itself a gross insult, and as
such, properly resented. Mr. Sumpter suggested the
propriety of waiting a few days, until the affair could
be terminated ; but being on the eve of departure^ and
it being uncertain what length of time would be neces-
sary for its adjustment, the commodore determined to
depart, without paying any further attention to the
affair. On the evening previous to departure, some of
our officers who had been on shore on business, received
an intimation, that an attempt would be made to pre-
vent the Congress from sailing, and compel her to sur-
render the seamen, whom the minister's imagination'
had conjured on board. The commodore was now de-
termined to attempt to pass the forts at all hazards.

• There is but little doubt, the foolish fellow has long since had
ample cause of repentance. He forfeited his \>a.y, amounting to
several hundred dollars, and as his term of service had nearly ex-
pired, he would have been disch,arged on the return of the Congress;
instead of this, he is novr provided for dnynng life, unless he has ihi
good luck to desert.

M 2


Accordingly, next morning, a pilot having come on board,
the Congress weighed anchor, and stood out with a
light breeze, the men called to quarters, and the
matches lighted, determined to give Santa Cruz a
broadside or two, at least, before she could sink us. As
we neared the fort, we were overtaken by a boat, which
had been rowed swiftly, and having on board a Portu-
guese officer. We waited for some moments with
anxious suspense, to know the object of his mission, but
were soon relieved, on being informed that his visit was
only in compliance with the usual ceremony, of board-
ing every vessel about to leave the port, for the pur-
pose of ascertaining, whether any, and what passengers,
had been taken; having made these inquiries, the
officer retired, apparently with some surprise and agi-
tation, at the preparations on board the Congress.
It is unnecessary to say, that we passed the fort
without molestation, and soon after had a fine breeze,
which enabled us towards evening, to overtake
captain Hickey, although he had had several hours
start of us.

From the ninth of February, the day of our depar-
ture, until the fifteenth, nothing material occurred in our
voyage; we had generally a fair wind, but were consi-
derably detained by the slow sailing of the Blossom.
The Congress was obliged to be stripped of most of
her canvas, so as to keep company with the British
ship, which was probably one of the dullest sailors in
their navy. We now experienced, in latitude thirty-
three degrees, thirty-five minutes, a head wind, which
continued from the same point until the nineteenth.
We had also to contend with a current, which along
this coast, always sets with the wind. During these
four days, we made about a hundred miles by beating ;
and in latitude thirty-three degrees, thirty-nine mi-


nutes south, stood into nine fathoms water, hard sand,
the water very thick and yellow. We could at this
time just discern from deck, the low broken sand hills
along this part of the coast. The commodore observed,
that he would not think it advisable to stand in nearer
than twelve or thirteen fathoms soundings, as every
cast of the lead varies several fathoms ; he ventured to
act differently, only from the circumstance of there
being another vessel sounding a-head.

We made Cape St. Mary's on the nineteenth, and
were abreast of the island of Lobos, at twelve o'clock
of that night. The next morning at eleven o'clock,
we were compelled to come to anchor in nineteen
fathoms, below this island, having been drifted at least
twenty miles during a calm which ensued, and which,
on account of the great draught of the Congress,
operated more powerfully on her than on the Blossom ;
this vessel was now out of sight. Having run down
twelve or thirteen hundred miles of the Brazilian coast,
I shall avail myself of the opportunity, to give the
reader a few sketches of the provinces along which we

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 13 of 29)