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 17 of 29)
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" in this he has done right — they were bad men," and
then drew the character of each in revolting colours,
with what justice, or truth, I shall not pretend to say.
He spoke in the most unfavourable manner of the people
of Buenos Ayres, whom he seemed cordially to detest.
I afterwards remarked some inconsistency in his lan-
guage, when he and his companion. White, took every
means in their power to prejudice our minds against
Puerrydon, San Martin, and O'Higgins, whom they
represented as a pack of scoundrels ; which, with
respect to the first, I thought strange, after telling us,
that he was the most fit man to be at the head of the
government. I might have reconciled the contradiction,
by supposing him to mean that he was suited to the
people ; but I could not understand how, on principle,
he could justify the banishment of the citizens of Buenos
Ayres already spoken of ; I concluded, therefore, that
his seeming candour and liberality was merely intended
to enable him the more effectually to prejudice our minds
against the chief magistrate of Buenos Ayres. There
was one sentiment uttered by him, which, in my con-
ception, was incompatible with genuine patriotism. He
observed, in substance, that as long as the countiy was


still in danger from Spain, it would be well enough to
accept the aid of the array of San Martin ; but, that as
soon as the Spaniards were driven off, the army of
Buenos Ayres might be expelled in turn ! From this, it
was natural for me to infer, that he had already endea-
voured to excite his partisans in Chili to raise the
standard of civil war; but that on the approach of a
new danger from the common enemy, he had resolved ta
postpone his design, until they were a, second time
driven out by San Martin. For my part, I could see
no object to be answered by such an act, but that of
placing the family of Carrera in power. The story of
Buenos Ayres having made a conquest of Chili, and
intending to hold it under a kind of subjection, nearly
as bad as that of Spain, did not seem to me to carry
with it much probability. That some temporary po-
litical influence is exerted by Buenos Ayres, I have no
doubt, and it is a salutary one ; it will keep down, at
least until the danger Irom Spain be passed, the two
rival factions of the country, which have already caused
so much mischief. The common mind can easily dis-
cover great advantage in the strict union between Chili
and Buenos Ayres, until their independence shall be
established ; it would be an incredible act of madness
and folly on the part of the latter, to be actuated by the
thirst of conquest, when engaged in a doubtful contest
for existence, or to oppress their own brethren, when
they must stand so much in need of their friendship and
assistance. Besides, to think of holding them in a
state of subjection for any length of time, is utterly im-
possible ; the only mode in which the Spaniards could
effect it, was by disarming them, and depriving them of
all participation in the government ; the reverse of which
has been done by Buenos Ayres. Was not the expulsion
of the Spanish authorities a deliverance ? They are.


then, surely better off than they were before. But they
might have accomplished it themselves — General Car-
rera might have done it ; here is the drowning man
complaining of " the guilty familiarity of plucking him
up by the locks." Is the chance of freedom better than
the certainty ? It is much more probable that the idea
originated in the ambition of Carrera, whose conduct
proves that he considers the government of Buenos
Ayres, not so much inimical to his country as to his
own peculiar views. Such is the ambition which is
likely to distract these unhappy countries, and which
induces many to believe, that if left to themselves, their
independence will prove to them a curse.

His companion. White, from his own account, was
an expatriated A^ierican, and had been settled in the
country eighteen or twenty years ; had rendered impor-
tant services to the government of Buenos Ayres, for
which he had been treated with great ingratitude ; he
had been banished from that place, and had sued in vain
from the present director for permission to return. Ac-
cording to others, he was a desperate and unprincipled
adventurer, possessed of considerable talents, but hacj
got himself into many scrapes, and had been frequently
in prisons. It was said that he was a native of Boston,
and had been bred to the bar, but that he followed in
this country the profession of a merchant. I was told
that he was odious to the people of Buenos Ayres for
having rendered assistance to the expedition of Beres-
ford, and that he had made a large sum of money as the
auctioneer of the effects captured in the city by the
British. He had afterwards been employed by the go-
vernment of Buenos Ayres to purchase vessels for
Admiral Brown's squadron, and was accused of de-
frauding the state, was obliged to fly and take refuge
on board an English ship of war, where he claimed pro-


tection as a British subject. He wished the commis-
sioners to interfere in his business, and to procure an
adjustment of his claims on the government of Buenos
Ayres ; asserting his right to protection as an American
citizen. Mr. Rodney declined having any thing to do
with them ; he left his papers, however, with one of the
other commissioners.

General Carrera had paid a visit some time before
to Artigas, and from what I gathered from him, his
gratification was not high. He painted him as a kind
of half savage, possessing strong natural mind, taci-
turn, but shrewd in his remarks when he chose to
speak. He wore no uniform or mark of distinction,
and took up his abode in a cart or waggon, caring little
for the refinements or comforts of civilized life, to
which, in fact, he had never been much accustomed.
His life had been passed in the plains, and he had an
aversion to living in towns, and to the constraints of
polished society. His residence then, was at a small
village on the Rio Negro, called Purification, consist-
ing of a few huts constructed with mud, or ox hides ;
but his seat of government often shifted place. He
lives on the same fare, and in the same manner, with
the gauchos around him, being in truth nothing but a
gaucho himself. When told of a pamphlet published
against him at Buenos Ayres, he spoke of it with the
utmost indiiference, and said, " My people cannot
read." He has about him a small body of men, who
are considered regular soldiers, but his chief force con-
sists of the herdsmen of the plains ; its numbers, there-
fore, extremely fluctuating, as it cannot be kept long
together. His followers are greatly attached to him.
His fame and superior intellect commands their re-
spect, at the same time that he indulges them in a
certain kind of familiarity, which wins their afibc-


tioDS. * A few simple words, liberty, country, tyr
rants, &c. to which each one attaches his own meaning,
serve as the ostensible bond of their union, which in
reality arises from " their pre-disposition to an un-
restrained roving life." His authority is perfectly
absolute, and without the slightest control ; he sen-
tences to death, and orders to execution, with as little
formality as a dey of Algiers. He is under the guidance
of an apostate priest, of the name of Monterosa, who
acts as his secretary, and writes his proclamations and
letters ; for although Artigas has not a bad head, he is
by no means good at inditing. Monterosa professes to
be in the literal sense, a follower of the political doc-
trines of Paine ;t and prefers the constitution of Mas-
sachusetts as the most democratic, without seeming to
know that the manners and habits of a people are very
important considerations. The men bearing arms under
Artigas, probably amount to six or eight thousand, but
the number at any time embodied is much less ; the
want of commissaries and regular supplies, rendering it
impossible to keep them together. The neighbouring
Indian tribes are also devoted to him, principally
through the means of his adopted son, an Indian named
Andres.J I give the impression left on my mind from

• They address him by the familiar name oipepe.

t Paine's Common Sons*?, and the American constitutions, have
been widely circulated in every part of South America.

X These Indians have occasioned great terror in the settlements on
the Parana. I saw several families at Buenos Ayres, who had fled
down the river in consternation, even from the neighbourhood of
Santa Fee. Mr. Bonpland, the celebrated naturalist, had intended
to ascend the river for the purpose of pursuing his reseurche.",
hut was prevented by the accounts he heard of the Indians around

Vol. f. P


the conversation of the general : it is possible I may hava
mingled in this statement something of what 1 may have
heard from others.

I shall take this opportunity of giving a sketch of
the principal incidents in the life of this singular man,
as far as I have been enabled to do it, from conversa-
tions with persons during my stay at this place and at
Buenos Ayres, as well as from such documents as I
could procure after the most diligent inquiry. He is a
native of Monte Video, born of respectable parents,
but when quite a youth, became enamoured of the wild
life of the herdsmen, and strayed away from the paternal
roof. He joined a band of robbers and smugglers, who
infested the country, and in the course of time became a
noted leader. I have already remarked, the trouble
which this class of men, so little under the restraint of
law and government, and inhabiting bomidless plains,
have always given to the Spaniards and Portuguese, and
especially in this quarter. So many depredations and
murders were committed by the idle and abandoned
part, who formed themselves into montons, * or bands,
that about the year 1798, it was found necessary to
establish a provincial corps, designated by the name of
Blendengues, for the purpose of scouring the country,
and repressing their lawless practices. At the earnest
solicitation of the father of Artigas, who saw in this a
mode of reclaiming his son, in which the government

that place ; the defeat of the troops of Buenos Ayres was chiefly
effected by them in the thick woods of the Entre Rios. This phi-
losopher, whose opinion is worth attending to, observed to rae, " It
is a fortunate circumstance that Artigas is very old, and cannot
live long, otherwise it would be in his power to do irreparable mis-

• IJrnce the word montoneros.


also found its interest, Artigas then received a com-
mission and was pardoned, after having been nearly
tv\ enty years an outlaw. According to the old adage,
he justified their expectations; he so effectually pur-
sued and hunted down his old companions, that the
country was restored to comparative tranquillity and
security. At the commencement of the civil war be-
tween Monte Video and Buenos Ajrres, he had risen to
the rank of captain ; but in the two invasions by the
British, he seems to have been no way distinguished, at
least I have not been able to meet with his name in any
of the numerous printed documents and papers of that

The reader will recollect, that in 1810, a junta was
established by the patriots of Buenos Ayres, while the
Spanish authority was triumphant at Monte Video.
Hostilities ensued. Artigas was still in the service of the
royalists, but deserted them the year following, and
came to Buenos Ayres. The immediate cause of this
desertion is stated to. have been an insult offered him
by the governor of Colonia ; who, after repeatedly re-
primanding him for not keeping his gauchos in a
proper state of subordination, threatened to put him
in irons. I will not vouch for the truth of the stor^^,
but I have not heard it contradicted ; the probability
is, that in serving under a regular officer, he fcmnd
himself in a very different situation from that of a
free and independent commander of a scouring party
on the frontier. His habits had disqualified him for
the observance of a rigid discipline, and, it is proba-
ble, he would have lost his influence over his gauchos
by attempting to enforce it. He was gladly received
by the government of Buenos Ayres, which was then
meditating an invasion of the Banda Oriental, and
which perceived at once that this man might be used

P 2



to great advantage, from his known intrepid character,
and his repute among the inhabitants of the plains.
They accordingly furnished him with a quantity of
arms and ammunition, and sent him over for the
purpose of raising the gauchos. General Rondeau
followed soon after with two thousand regulars. Un-
der the command of this general, assisted by Artigas,
with his guerillas, the war was carried on with rapid
success; Artigas gained considerable reputation by
defeating the Spanish troops under Elio, at Las Piedras ;
and Maldonado, Colonia, and the principal villages,
fell into his possession. Rondeau next laid siege to
Monte Video, and which was kept up until the
close of the year. At this time the situation of Buenos
Ayres was extremely critical ; its forces had been
entirely defeated in the provinces of Peru ; the royalists
were in possession of the country as low down as
Salta ; while, at the same time, an army of four thou-
sand Portuguese, under General Sousa, was marching
on Monte Video. In this state of things, the junta was
compelled to patch up a kind of truce with Elio, by
which it was agreed that, on condition the Portuguese,
who had been called in by Elio, should withdraw their
forces from the Eanda Oriental, the patriots would
raise the siege, and retire beyond the Uruguay, into
the province of Entre Rios. Rondeau and his troops
returned to Buenos Ayres for the purpose of being
employed in another quarter, while Artigas remained
in the Entre Rios, at the head of his guerillas ; here
he was supplied with arms and money, but the war
in the upper provinces, carried on against the army
of Lima, called for all the exertions of this infant re-
public. If overwhelmed in that quarter, the royalists
in all probability would have formed a junction on
the Parana, with (lie forces of Monte Video, as has


been stated by Mr. Poinsett. It was, therefore, equally
the interest of Paraguay and Banda Oriental, as well as
of Buenos Ayres, that the progress of the Limanian
army should be effectually arrested.

The withdrawing ot the troops of Buenos Ayres,
is said by some to have been the first cause of dissa-
tisfaction to Artigas, who thought the siege ought to
have been carried on at all events. It is alleged, that
from his limited information and capacity, he was
unable to take an enlarged and comprehensive view of
the situation and policy of Buenos Ayres ; that he was
unable to calculate remote consequences, that his mind
embraced only the comparatively small district in
which he was placed, and could not enlarge itself to
the general emancipation of the viceroyalty ; without
which it would be in vain to expect emancipation of
a particular district. The reverses experienced in
Peru, formed therefore, with him, no justification for
the step which Buenos Ayres had taken. The friends of
Artigas allege, that he was disgusted at this time with
intrigues, jealousies, and factions, which manifested
themselves in the democracy of Buenos Ayres ; but
these persons do not reflect on the consequences of
every military officer, from a commander in chief to
the commander of a detachment, taking upon himself
to determine whether the government is managed
wisely and faithfully, or of his refusing obedience and
renouncing its authority. Besides, this plea is made
by every traitor, whether it has any foundation or not.
Artigas was regarded as an ignorant man, but useful
in his way; the hopes of the new republic, however,
rested upon men of a very different stamp, upon the
Rondeaus, the Belgranos, the Balcarces, and others
of this description, who adhered to the fortunes of

their country in the midst of all the turbulence, faction,

P 3


and changes to which 2in unsettled republic would un-
avoidably be subject. These things Artigas could not
understand ; he was more pleased with that simplicity
and unity of action which arises from absolute power.
Whatever the causes may be, it is certain^ that from this
time, Artigas manifested symptoms of disaffection and
obeyed the orders of the junta with reluctance, and
sometimes not at all.

The affairs of Buenos Ayres being placed on a some-
what better footing, a new army, consisting of four
thousand men, was again sent over to the Banda Orien-
tal, early in 1812, under the command of Sarratea. The
Portuguese, alarmed at their approach, accepted the me-
diation of Lord Strangford, and entered into the armis-
tice of the 10th of June ; in pursuance of which, the
Portuguese withdrew from the territory of Buenos
Ayres. The truce which had been agreed to with Elio,
having been broken, it was resolved by Buenos Ayres,
a second time, to besiege Monte Video. The new
triumvirate, consisting of Sarratea, Chiclana, and Passo,
sent Rondeau, with three thousand men, to recommence
hostilities. On the 31st of the month, this general was
attacked by Vigodet, who had succeeded Elio, and who,
on this occasion, was repulsed with loss. Considerable
reinforcements were soon after sent from Buenos Ayres,
and the town regularly besieged under Sarratea, who
superseded Rondeau in the command, the services of
this experienced officer being thought necessary in Peru.
Great complaints were made by Sarratea, of the insu-
bordination of Artigas and his guerillas. Artigas, at
length, entirely refused obedience, and withdrew his
people, declaring that unless Sarratea was recalled, he
would no longer co-operate with the forces of Buenos
Ayres. The difficulty of managing this man was now
beginning to be felt, but his services were of such im-


portance, that it was thought necessary to sacrifice a
good deal for the purpose of conciliating him. Men
of this description are often indulged in a latitude which
would be thought entirely inadmissible in others; but
this indulgence generally leads to an unbounded license,
and a total disregard of authority. In order to appease
this warrior, Sarratea was recalled in February, 1813,
and Rondeau, who it was supposed would be accepta-
ble to him, was again placed at the head of this army.
He had no pretensions, himself, to the command of any
thing but his guerillas ; his habits of life and want
of education, entirely disqualified him for taking the
command of regular troops. With this measure he
appeared at first, to be satisfied, and once more returned
to his duty; but his subordination was of short conti-
nuance ; every effort to procure a permanent reconcilia-
tion was fruitless ; possessing unbounded control him-
self oyer his guerillas, who idolized him as their chief,
he could not brook the idea of being commanded by
another. It is probable, also, that at this time, he had
formed the design of entirely renouncing the authority
of Buenos Ayres ; chiefly actuated, I have no doubt, by
his impatience of control. An act of a most arbitrary
and despotic character, done by him about this time, is
related by Funes.* A criminal correspondence was

• Those citizens who loved order, laboured with zeal and dex-
terity to extinguish a flame menacing ruin to the state. This end
appeared to b« obtained by an Oriental congress, which general
Rondeau convened, in the name of the governmeni, for the purpose
of nominating deputies for a national congress, and a provincial
governor. All was on the eve of being verified, when general Ar-
tigas, as chief of the Orientals, commanded, in the name of the
same government, that the electors should present themselves at
his head quarters, in order to receive instructions from him. This



some time after discovered between Otorgnese, one of
Artigas's chieftains, and Vigodet, the governor of Monte
Video ; a circumstance which is often alleged, as ren-
dering doubtful the attachment of Artigas to the patriot
cause. It is certain, that on this occasion, he deserted
Rondeau, with all his guerillas, and betook himself to
the plains. Rondeau thus abandoned by a great pro-
portion of his numerical force, would have found himself
in a critical situation, but that, fortunately, the Spa-
niards mistook the whole for a ruse de guerre.

Rondeau being sent to take the command of the army
in Peru, the siege of Monte Video was earned on by
Alvear, who was appointed to succeed him. In the
mean time, the govermnent of Buenos Ayres had under-
gone a change. What was called the sovereign assem-
bly had been installed, and instead of a triple execu-
tive, a single one was appointed under the title of direc-
tor, in January, 1813. The choice had fallen upon
Posadas, and when the last desertion of Artigas was
made known at Buenos Ayres, he proceeded at once to

proceeding, so strongly savouring of despotism, offended every oiie.
The electors assembled in the chapel of Maciel, and fulfilled their
tnist The real disposition of general Artigas then discovered
itself; he annulled the congress, thus assuming absolute power;
but this daring measure had no eflect upon what this body had
done. The selection of deputies, and a governor, was celebrated
in all the encampments, and the last named officer began to exer-
cise his functions. General Artigas viewed these measures with
a haired, lively as dissembled, and prepared to avenge himself.
Under various pretexts he withdrew his countrymen, and at last,
in the garb of a gaucho, deserted his post, thus leaving exposed the
right of our line. This rash proceeding made it apparent, that he
preferred his own interests to those of his country ; but many offi-
cers, and others of the Orientals, did not follow this pernicious ex-
ample." I'uncs, p. (33.


consider him as a traitor^ and offeied a reward for his
apprehension. Funes considers this measure to have
been rash and ill-advised ; not but that he looked upon
Artigas as a deserter, but that he thought it imprudent
and unwise, inasmuch as the proscription of Artigas
became that of the whole country, which his gauchos
enabled him to sway. Experience, he says, has shown
that moderation would have been wiser than this vio-
lence. It is no easy matter to say what would have been
the best manner of managing a man of this description ;
no dependence could longer be placed upon him, nor
could there be any expectations of any further aid or
assistance from him in the common cause. The only
question was, how to render him as little mischievous as
possible. From the writings and publications of the
day, the public mind at Buenos Ayres appears to have
been much exasperated against him, and it is probable,
that Posadas, in issuing his proclamation, merely obeyed
the impulse of public feeling; it is not likely that he
would have ventured to have taken such a step, merely
for his ovvTi gratification. It was natural enough that
his enemies should afterwards charge him with obeying
the dictates of private resentment or passion, when the
measure turned out unfortunate, or that it should be
used for party purposes even by persons who detested
Artigas, and, such is the unfortunate nature of party
spirit, would be willing to resort to any topic, calcu-
lated to produce popular ill will. It might, also, at the
same time, have been thought worth the experiment,
whether this proscription of Artigas, might not induce
his followers to abandon him ; particularly as it was
known that the sober and respectable population was
unfriendly to him. But they did not reflect that Artigas
had in his hands, the efl'ective force of the country, and
had declared himself its chief. ...


■< f The siege was carried on with success ; the Buenos
Ayreans having become possessed of the mines of Po-
tosi were enabled to make a considerable effort. They
fitted out a squadron under the command of an En-
glishman of the name of Brown, and sent consider-
able reinforcements to Alvear. Brown, after a well-
fought action, captured the Spanish squadron before
Monte Video ; which place, being closely invested by
land and water, surrendered to Alvear, in June, 1814.
Thus, after a continued siege of tw^o years, at the ex-

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 17 of 29)