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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pense of many millions of dollars, Buenos Ayres suc-
ceeded in capturing this important city, with four
thousand Spanish troops, and an immense quemtityof
arms and munitions of war. The inhabitants were
called upon to establish a junta and government si-
milar to that of the other provinces. The achieve-
ment, or rather the good fortune of Alvear, raised him
at once to the pinnacle of fame, with his countrymen ;
and with that extravagance which seems to be pecu-
liar to republics, they set no bounds to their favour
and admiration. On his retain to Buenos Ayres, he
was appointed to take the command of the army in
Peru ; but this army, not being carried away by the
popular delirium, was unwilling to exchange a chief
in whom they had confidence, for one, for whose abili-
ties they entertained no great respect. Rondeau, him-
self, offered to submit, but his officers and troops re-
fused. In consequence of this, Alvear was elevated to the
directorship, Posadas having formally resigned in
January, 1815. After the capture of Monte Video,
Artigas, with a peculiar modesty, made a demand of
the city, which belonged to him as *' chief of the Orien-
tals/' Some troops had been left at this place under
the command of colonels Dorrego and Soler, who car-
ried on an active partisan war for some time, with Arti-


g*as, and his gauclios. The cabildo of Buenos Ayres,
as they afterwards alleged, by compulsion of Alvear,
issued a proclamation similar to that of Posadas ; but
the probability is, that Artigas, from his final desertion
until the downfal of Alvear, was generally regarded as
a traitor, and notliing else. Colonel Dorrego having
been defeated by Kivera, one of Artigas's generals, the
government of Buenos Ayres ordered Soler to withdraw
from Monte Video, with the troops under his command*
Possession was soon after taken by Artigas, who being
now settled in his dominion, and having regulated things
according to his own wishes, next thought of extending"
his empire by conquest. He crossed the Uruguay, and
in addition to his title of chief of the Orientals, assumed
that of " protector of the Entre Bios and Santa Fee."
The herdsmen of these countries would, obviously, in-
cline to his side, and there was every reason to fear
that those of the pampas, in the rear of Buenos Ayres,
would feel every disposition to join a chief of their
own stamp, who promised them every indulgence in
their wild and licentious life. The people of Buenos
Ayres became alarmed at the ci^dl war which threatened
to burst upon them from every side ; they repented of
the insulting proclamations, began to view Artigas in
a different light, as he gTCW powerful and dangerous;
they laid the whole blame upon their government, for
measures which had only been adopted in obedience to
the public voice, and were disposed to do any thing for
the sake of reconciliation. Alvear, in the midst of the
general distraction, made a military flourish, issued pro-
clamations calling the people to arms, and marched with
two thousand men for Santa Fee, which was then in the
possession of Artigas. A revolution took place in
Buenos Ayres, the former government was dissolved, and
Alveat, abandoned by his army, was compelled to fly.

220 '^ VOYAGE TO

The government having devolved upon the cabildo,
they immediately proceeded to take such measures, as
they thought would satisfy the chief of the Orientals,
and bring about a reconciliation. They not only con-
demned and reprobated every thing which had oftended
Artigas, but publicly burned the odious proclama-
tions in the public square, by the hands of the execu-
tioner. These proceedings were annomiced to him in
a formal address, to which he returned a gracious re-
ply, declaring himself perfectly satisfied, and joining
them in reprobating as traitors to their country, all
those who had before offended him, and coinciding
perfectly in the idea, that he himself was the only true
patriot. He further declared, that his enmity was only
personally directed against the individuals, who had
heretofore managed the affairs of state, and not against
the people of Buenos Ayres. In virtue of this dispo-
sition, a negotiation was set on foot by Alvarez, but
proved to be fruitless ; his professions of reconciliation
were found to be false and hollow. Not satisfied with
complete and entire independence, he made a demand
of the munitions of war, as well as of the vessels cap-
tured at Monte Video, in order that he might make
such disposition of them, for the good of the common
cause, as he should think proper. The correspondence
which took place on the occasion, was published by
Alvarez, and may be seen in the Appendix to Mr.
Rodney's Report. It satisfactorily proves, that Arti-
gas was actuated by the spirit of a despot, and that he
considered himself entitled to dispose of the fate and
fortunes of the country over which he ruled, according
to his mere will and pleasure. As it now became
evident, that hostilities would have to be renewed with
Artigas, a force, under Dias Velis, was ordered to
march to Santa Fee, and General Belgrano soon after.


with reinforcements, took the command. Dias Veils
was deputed as an agent, to make another attempt at
negociation. The hostile measures of Alvarez, ex-
cited the alarms of the weak, who were fearful of kind-
ling the ire of Artigas anew ; it also furnished a pre-
text for enemies and demagogues, to accuse the admi-
nistration of rashness and imprudence. A person of the
name of Cosmo Massiel, was deputed to meet him,
and, singular as it may seem, the conditions proposed
on his part, and what is perhaps equally singular,
agreed to, was first, that General BelgTano should re-
sign the command to Dias Velis ; and secondly, that
the director Alvarez should resign his office. Stipu-
lations to this effect were actually signed. Alvarez,
,on receiving the despatches containing them, far from
giving vent to indignation at this insulting treatment>
proved that he was willing to make any sacrifice, that
might conduce to the restoration of peace and harmony ;
and at the same time, to furnish a practical refutation of
the charge alleged against him in the treaty, he ratified
it without a moment's delay. Assembling at his
place of residence, the cabildo and the principal ma-
gistrates of the city, he read to them the despatch he
had just received, and, after a few observations, in
which he modestly explained his conduct, he tendered
them his resignation. But, as there was some doubt,
whether it could be accepted, according to an article
in the provisional statute, without the concurrence
of the junta of observation, they at first declined
to accept his offer.* The junta being called in, how-

* The paper contained in its preamble, the following insulting
language respecting the director: '• Whereas, in order to put an
end to the civil war in which this province has been involved,
by the arl)itrary and despotic conduct of the director, Ignatio
Alvarez, &c."

^22 '^ VOYAGE TO

ever, it was received, and they jointly proceeded to a
new election of a director, pro tempore. The choice
fell upon General Antonio Balcarce; the conduct of
Alvarez on this occasion, drew forth a vote of thanks
from the national congress, then recently organized at
^ucuman. Alvarez resumed his place as colonel in
the service, and is still in the confidence both of the
government and the people.

- General Antonio Balcarce being elected to fill the
vacancy, made an attempt to settle the dispute with
Artigas, but with no better success than his prede-
cessors. The installation of the congress at Tucu-
"man, had put an end to the unfortunate dissentions
which manifested themselves in Cordova, and in some
of the upper provinces. All but the city of Santa Fee,
and the Entre Rios, of which Artigas claimed the
protectorship, had submitted to the general congress,
which declared independence in July, 1816. A de-
putation was sent to the chief of the Orientals, but he
evaded any negociation.* So favourable an occasion
of furthering their views, with respect to the Banda
Oriental, was not to be neglected by the Portuguese;
an army was assembled in the neighbouring province of
Rio Grande, and marched into the country in three
divisions. The sober inhabitants, who had thus far
submitted to the sway of Artigas, from the hope that
it would not be of long continuance, now became
alarmed, at the prospects of being permanently trans-
ferred to the dominion of Portugal ; they were, also,
anxious to take advantage of the opportunity to unite
themselves with the confederacy of La Plata. In

* Thus stated in the manifesto of the congress of the nth of
October, 1817.


Monte Video, and other towns, they fonned themselves
into volunteer corps, or civicos, the force of Artigas
being fit for nothing but skirmishing and partisan war,
and, therefore, of no use in opposing masses of troops
in an open country.* The opportunity was seized by
Pueyrredon, who was now at the head of affairs of the
united provinces, since the declaration of independence.
He protested against the Portuguese invasion, and in-
sisted that General Lecor should withdraw, but received
in answer the letter of this general, dated the 27th
November, 1816, in which he states, that he has no
hostile intentions against the territories of Buenos
Ayres, that the country he had invaded, had declared
itself independent. The director, at the same time,
opened a correspondence with Artigas, and proposed
a reconciliation. But, " to speak of reconciliation
with Artigas," says Funes, *' was to speak to the de-
sert, his obduracy could neither be softened by com-
passion, nor his pride humbled by dangers. Although
he received the donations,t he heard the proposal
with displeasure, preferring, that history should accuse
him of having sacrificed the occasion to his private
hatred, his duties to his caprice, and his country to
his interests." A struggle ensued between those in
favour of the union, and the partisans and followers of
Artigas, but the latter prevailed ; " it was well known,"
says Funes, " that Artigas would annihilate any one
who would oppose his authority." The Portuguese

took possession of Monte Video, and other principal

11 io J.


* The war between Bueuos Ayres and Artigas, in which the
latter was victorious, was curried on in the Entre Rios, chiefly a
wooded conntry.

t A supply of arms sent by the director.


places, with scarce an opposition. Many of the most
respectable inhabitants, as well as the regiment of
Libertos, having agreed to a reconciliation with the
government of Buenos Ayres, contrary to the wishes
of the chief of the Orientals, now crossed the river and
joined the standard of the united provinces, leaving
Artigas to pursue his own inclinations.

The Portuguese invasion, every thing considered,
was probably a fortunate circumstance; it gave em-
ployment to Artigas and his guerillas, and enabled
the government of Buenos Ayres, to pursue, without
vexation and interruption, those more extensive plans,
which have resulted in events of so much importance.
It was enabled to strengthen the army in Peru, and
gradually to recover itself in that quarter, after having
been brought almost to the brink of ruin, by the defeat
at Sipe-sipe. It had been enabled to carry its arms
across the mountains into Chili, and ito convert a
country, from whence La Plata was continually harassed
by enemies, into an ally, furnishing additional strength
and security, and holding out new hopes to the
philanthropist, of the ultimate success of the great
cause of South American emancipation. La Plata,
perhaps too much elated by good fortune, thought
of regaining the provinces which Artigas had in-
vaded and placed under his protection. The Entre
Rios is, itself, of but little moment, containing
hardly any population but Indians, excepting on the
borders of the Parana ; but the town of Santa Fee, on
the south side of the river, is a point of importance,
as by holding possession of it, Artigas might be pre-
vented from crossing over, disturbing the back country
of Buenos Ayres, and spreading the contagion of mis-
chief and licentiousness among the gauchos of the
pampas, or, of intercepting, by means of his roving


bands, the trade carried oa by the city of Buenos
Ayres with the interior. Two expeditions, one under
Montes de Oca, and the other under Balcarce, proved
equally unfortunate; they, in both instances, fell into
ambuscades, composed of Indians and gauchos. The
further prosecution of this design is, for the present, at
least, abandoned.

The commerce of the Banda Oriental, may almost
be said to be at an end. The Portuguese have pos-
session of all the ports where it was carried on, on this
side of the river La Plata. Besides holding this
place, Colonia, an inconsiderable village, was block-
aded, the island of Goritti was in their possession,
and several of their ships of war anchored in the har-
bour of Maldonado. The town of Maldonado, at the
distance of two or three miles from the beach, had
been abandoned by the Portuguese, and English or
American vessels were permitted to carry on a trade
with the inhabitants. The whole coast was, in fact,
under the controul of the Portuguese, and was main-
tained by not less than eight or ten vessels of war.
The Banda Oriental does not even own a single ton
of shipping, and I question much, whether Artigas has
half a dozen seamen in the whole extent of his go-
vernment. Since my return to this country, I saw in
the newspapers, the names of several ports under his
jurisdiction, but I heard nothing of them while I was
there. Some trade up the Uruguay is carried on in
small sloops, by individuals from Buenos Ayres, mider
a kind of special license and favour from Artigas, and
winked at by the government of that place. They
ascend this river to the Rio Xegro, which is mentioned
as one of the ports of Artigas. It is probable, that
in the interior, there may be small craft and canoes,
but this is the extent of the Oriental navy. That these

Vol. I. Q


people are capable of making a long and desperate
resistance, fiom the nature of the country, there can
be no doubt. Azara informs us, that the conquest of
the Charua Indians, who inhabited from Maldonado
to the Uruguay, cost the Spaniards more bloodshed
than their wars with the Incas, and with Montezuma.
This nation, which was then numerous, was reduced,
at the close of the 14th century, to about four hundred
men; they are united to Artigas. The gauchos differ
from them in this, that they cannot be said to belong
to any distinct clan or tribe, possessing few common
ties, their principal bond of union being their simi-
larity of habits, " their predisposition to an unrestrained
roving life," and their attachment to a leader, who
happens to suit them. It is also to be understood,
that there are amongst these people a blue, and a
better blue; that is, some difference in point of
respectability and intelligence among the individual
gauchos, as well as among their chiefs. In general
descriptions, such exceptions are always to be under-
stood ; indeed, it is always difficult to avoid the danger
of raising the character too high, or of sinking it
too low.

Before I bid adieu to Monte Video, I shall make
a few general remarks on the Banda Oriental, and
the province of Entre Rios. In order to convey a
more distinct idea to my countrymen, I have com-
pared the former to the Mississippi territory; the river
Uruguay, which separates it from the latter, is of
greater magnitude than the Ohio; it is little short of
fifteen hundred or two thousand miles in length, and,
although interrupted by a cataract, and a nmnber of
rapids, it affords an extensive navigation. The Entre
Rios, (so called from its lying between the rivers
Uruguay and Parana,) is about four hundred miles in


length, by one hundred in breadth. The greater part
of it is well supplied with wood and water, but is,
in general, level. About the twenty-sixth degree of
south latitude, the two rivers approach very near each
other, and then separate. The Entre Rios is yet but
little known, the only settlements of any consequence
are on the banks of the Parana; the most important
are Conientes, at the junction of this river and the
Paraguay, and the Baxada de Santa Fee, opposite
to the city of Santa Fee.* There are a number of
half Indian and Spanish villages along the river, but
the whole of the population does not exceed ten or
twelve thousand. The town of Comentes, has re-
mained quiet and undisturbed since the revolution; it
has its cabildo and subordinate magistrates, free from
the controul either of Paraguay or Buenos Ayres, and
is sufficiently remote from Artigas to be out of his
reach. Situated at the entrance into Paraguay, it is
the mart of the little trade that is still permitted on the
Parana. The matte, sugar, cotton, tobacco, &c. of
Paraguay, find the way here, but in very small quan-
tities, and European goods are introduced by the same
channel. The Entre Rios could furnish Buenos
Ayres with a sufficient supply of wood for all uses,
provided the navigation were free and uninterrupted.
The interior country, which is level, is but thinly in-
habited, even by Indians. t The Guaranys, the most
numerous, are distributed into small bands, without

* This confluence is said to be the most magnificent in the world.
Azara says, the Parana discharges a quantity of water, equal to one
hundred of the greatest rivers in Europe .

t The Indians, who chiefly infest the Parana above Santa Fee,
arc those wlio inhabit the Grav Chace, on the south side of the

Q 2


any connexion, and being unwarlike, hide themselves
in the recesses of the woods, or have been induced to
come within the pale of civilization. The Charuas, and
some of the smaller tribes leagued with them, are the
most formidable. Their combined numbers probably,
is less than a thousand, exclusive of the Guaranys,
from the Parana to the Portuguese frontier. North
of the Entre Rios, comes the celebrated province of
Paraguay, containing nearly the some number of square
miles as the Banda Oriental. It is bounded on the
north by Brazil, and on the other sides by the rivers
Paraguay and Parana.

It has been mentioned, that the warlike character of
the Indians, north of the Parana, especially in the
Banda Oriental, opposed great obstacles to the settle-
ment of the country. The city of Monte Video was
not founded until the year 1724, and it was even many
years afterwards, before the Charuas could be so far
kept in check, as to enable the Spaniards to establish
estancias. Instead of directing their attention to raising
grain, for which the country is well adapted, vast tracks
of land were granted for grazing estates, where
cattle were permitted to multiply to such a degree,
that they could no longer be kept in a domesticated
state, but when the trade was opened in 1798, so many
were slaughtered for their hides, and they diminished
so rapidly, that fears began to be entertained lest they
should be exterminated. Measures were in consequence
taken to prevent the decrease, by restricting the number
to be killed.

Before the revolution, the number of estancias was
estimated at three hundred and twenty, and the cattle
at about a million and a half, which was a great
diminution. To every five thousand head, six or
seven peons, and a hundred horses^ at least, were


required to attend them, to drive them into inclosures,
and giye them salt occasionally, by this means retained
in a state not absolutely wild. There was besides,
on each estancia, a number of tame cattle, greatly
superior to those before mentioned. A judicious
writer observes, that the same space of ground would
support at least, twice as many as of the half wild
cattle, owing to their not being subject to continual
frights, and then not destroying so much herbage by
trampling it down, as is the case with immense herds
moving together. The owner of the estate seldom re-
sided on it ; the management of it was entrusted to an
overseer, or capatace, furnished with a requisite number
of peons. The yeomanry in these colonies, is much
inferior to that of the United States, or England. The
rural population is every where inferior to that of the

By the treaty of 1750, the seven missions established
by the Jesuits, towards the head of the Uruguay,
were ceded to the Portuguese, but the Indians refused
to come under their dominion. The Jesuits have
been charged with countenancing the resistance made
by them, and on this chiefly rests the accusations of
ambitious designs against them. The Indians were,
however, compelled to yield, and a line of posts was
established, as well as a considerable track of country
declared neutral. The Spanish government prohibited
any trade with the neighbouring provinces, but with-
out efiect ; great numbers of homed cattle were driven
into the province of Rio Grande, and thence to Rio
Janeiro, besides a vast number of horses and mules.*
The Portuguese were in the habit of making excursions

* Estimated at thirty thousand aiiniiallj.


^30 A VOYAGE, &c.

into the Banda Oriental, and robbing the estancias ; to
repress this practice, is said to have been one of the
purposes for which the Spanish government established
the provincial corps spoken of. It is generally admitted,
that the number of cattle is at present diminishing.
There is every reason to believe, that the estancias have
been entirely neglected, if not ruined. The peons have
had other employments ; vast numbers of cattle have no
doubt been slaughtered in the general anarchy and dis-
organization. The Portuguese would succeed more
effectually in their plan of conquest, by destroying the
herds, than by making war upon the gauchos, if the vast
extent of the country did not render such an expedient



Passage from Monte Video to Buenos At/res — Description of Buenos
Ayres — Interview with the Supreme Director,

V^ONSIDERABLE difficulties were experienced in pro-
curing a vessel at Monte V^ideo, to carry the mission
to its place of destination. Several small vessels were
examined, and found unsuited to the purpose ; the idea
of chartering one at this place, was therefore given
up, and it was perceived too late, that an error had
been committed, in not stopping for this purpose at St.
Catherines. Some trade is carried on with Buenos
Ayres, but of very little moment; two or three small
sloops suffice for the purpose. Both American and
English ships coming to this river, at present, are ex-
posed to serious inconvenience from the desertion of
their crews to join the privateers, which is as injurious
to commerce, as it is demoralizing to the seamen. We
were fortunate in meeting a young man who was going
up in a small brig to Buenos Ayres ; and who cheer-
fully consented to take us as passengers, otherwise,
it is probable we should have been detained here for
some time.*

* Captain Hickey arrived at Buenos Ayres several days before ns,
and announced our coming. We afterwards learned, that it had
been in contemplatioji, to send down a government vessel for us, but
we arrived before it was made ready to sail.


On the evening of the twenty-sixth of February, we
got all our baggage on board, and embarked. Our
Argo would have caused uneasiness, even to Charon
and his ghosts; she was certainly much better suited
for crossing the river Styx, than the river La Plata.
She was an hermaphrodite brig, called the Malacabada,
or unfinished ; the hand of time, however, had nearly
completed what had been left undone by the ship-
builder. The deck had not been swabbed for a year.
There had been putrid grain in the hold, which had
bred insects and vermin, and sent forth a most dis-
agreeable effluvia; the cabin, which was very small,
contained several women, who w^ere going to Buenos
Ayres. The sails and rigging corresponded with the
rest ; by way of ballast, she had several puncheons of
water in her hold, which kept a constant dashing and
splashing, to our great annoyance. Thus crowded to-
gether on deck, with scarcely room to turn round in
this crazy vessel, no one would have suspected, that
the Malacabada carried a mission from the great re-
public of the north, to the rising republic of the south.

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 18 of 29)