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 22 of 29)
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could discover, that, like Belial, all within was false
and hollow; but I must honestly acknowledge, that
for my part, I could not.

After the usual compliments, and some conversation
on genera) topics, Mr. Rodney repeated, in substance,
what he had said, with respect to the object of the mis-
sion, to the secretary the day before.

On this, the director replied to the commissioners,
as follows : He declared, that for his country, and for
himself, he entertained the highest sense of the honour
conferred, by this friendly notice on the part of the
government of the United States. " We have long
since been aware," said he, " that the most friendly
feelings and wishes existed towards us, on the part of
your country and government. We have ever re-
garded your country \vith enthusiastic admiration.
We appreciate fully its high character for justice,
disinterestedness, and sincerity, and it is beyond the
power of words to express, how gratifying to us all,
is this proof of its good wishes. That there should
exist a real and unfeigned friendship and sympathy
between us is natural. We inhabit the same portion
of the globe, our cause has been once yours, and we
are in pursuit of the same objects, which you have so
happily achieved.

" You will see many things amongst us, to excite
your surprise. IF« are a people who are just hegin-

Vol. ;. T


ning to be. We have had great difficulties to en-
counter, and have laboured under extraordinary disad-
vantages. 1 feel confident, however, that when you come
to be better acquainted with our country, you will find
that the most ardent love of liberty and indepen-
dence, pervades every part of tliis community ; that in
pursuit of these great objects, we are all united, and
that we are resolved to perish, sooner than surrender
them. At the same time, we must confess with deep
regret, that dissentions still prevail between different
sections of this republic, and which have unfortunately
placed one of the most important portions of our country,
in the hands of a stranger.

" With respect to the objects of the mission, I am
anxious to meet the wishes of the commissioners in
every particular. I hope all forms of diplomacy may
be waived ; that all communications may be held as be-
tween friends and brothers ; that, whenever it may suit
the pleasure or convenience of the commissioners, they
will address themselves personally to me, or to the
secretary of state, who Avill always be found at leisure
to attend to them."

Mr. Rodney, having made a suitable reply to this
address, of which I have given the substance, we took
our leave.

In the course of the forenoon, a General Ascuenaga,
and some other officers of distinction, made their ap-
pearance, for the purpose of returning our visit to the
director, as I understand to be the custom on such oc-
casions.* The general made a long harangue, which

* I could not distinguish between officers of the regular forces, and
those who were only of the civic militia, the latter being in the habit
of wearing their uniforms much more commonly than is usual w ith us,
which gives the community more of a military cast.


did not amount to much, and then took his leave.
Shortly after, we were waited on by the city council,
or cabildo, and a number of other gentlemen of dis-
tinction, and amongst them, a very sensible and intelli-
gent man, Gascon, the secretary of the treasury. The
conversation, of course, on these occasions, was very
general. They were all, however, complimentary to
our country, while they spoke in a very humble manner
of the state of things in their own.

In the evening, a guard of honour and a band of
music, with the baron Ollenburg, a German officer, in
the service of the republic, and some other officers,
made their appearance in the patio. It was given to
be understood, that they had come by the orders of the
director. They were politely received by the com-
missioners, but it was suggested in a delicate manner,
that the guard could not be accepted. Upon this, it
withdrew, but the band continued playing for several
hours, and during that time, the patio was crowded
with ladies and gentlemen, and by a' great many that
could not with propriety be ranked under either of these

The dismissal of the guard was thought of sufficient
importance to merit an explanation with the director.
Mr. Rodney, and Mr. Bland, accordingly called upon
him the next morning for this purpose. Mr. Rodney
was going to state the circumstance, and the apology,
when the director requested permission to anticipate
what he was about to say. He said he was perfectly
aware of the motives of the commissioners in declining
to accept the guard. It was not offered under any idea
that it was necessary for their safety, but that, accord-
ing to the customs of the country, it was one of the
modes of shewing respect to distinguished strangers ;
who were, however, perfectly at liberty to accept or not,


276 -^ VOYAGE, Sec.

according to their pleasure. He said, that in order to
satisfy his fellow citizens, who were desirous that every
attention should be paid to the commissioners, as well
as for the purpose of gratifying his own feelings, he
was anxious that no mark of respect should be omitted.
He had discharged his duty, and satisfied the expecta-
tions of the public.

If I might venture a conjecture, this is one of the
remnants of Spanish parade ; and when the guard was
ofiered, it was not expected to be accepted. There is
scarcely a country in the world but ours, in which this
practice of posting military guards for mere show, does
not prevail ; and if we have seen here the foot-prints of
liberty, it must be oivned, that the foot-prints of despo-
tism have not yet been worn out.



The Commissioners Visited by the Principal Inhabitants— Celebration
oj the Independence of Chili^The Bull Fights and Theatre.

After an ineflfectual search of several days for a
furnished house, where the mission might be accom-
modated, our consul, Mr. Halsey, had politely made
an offer of his, which was large and commodious. It
was accepted, though not without reluctance, from an
unwillingness to put him to inconvenience. Several
houses had been previously examined, but were not
found suited to our purpose, not to speak of the ex-
travagant demands of the owners. Some of the gen-
tlemen who had taken lodgings, were glad to change
their situations, in order to avoid being teazed to death
by a certain race, not to be named in good house-
wifery. The brick floors of the chambers are sup-
posed to favour the multiplication of these tormentors.
For my part, I had been fortunate enough to procure
a furnished room, for twelve dollars per month, in the
house of a decent elderly widow ; it was situated in the
patio, a beautiful aromatic shrub on one side of the
door, and a jessamine on the other, and the neatness
and cleanliness which prevailed every where, could
not be surpassed. T found my situation so comforta-
ble, that I was unwilling to change it, even after the
commissioners had been fixed in their new establish-
ment. Donna Marcella was, besides, an acquain-



tance of some importance ; she knew every one in the
city, was shrewd and intelligent, and far from being
inclined to hide her light under a bushel. Her house
was much frequented by the middle class of people,
and even occasionally by those of the higher ranks, if
there can properly be said to be any distinction; for
the equality prevailing in this respect, is much greater
than in the United States ; the transition is very sud-
den, from the respectable part of the community to the
lowest grades ; the difference can scarcely be consi-
dered as founded on the difference of occupations, and
not always on purity of character, and correctness of

After the formalities and ceremonies of our recep-
tion by the authorities of the state and city, we had
next to go through the duty of receiving and returning
visits, which was attended with no small consumption
of time. The proportion of the military and clergy
among our visitors, led us to form rather an unfavoura-
ble opinion of their influence in society. In our cities,
on occasions like the present, the most prominent per-
sons, after those in public life, would be of the profes-
sions, the clergymen, lawyers, and physicians, gentle-
men in easy circumstances, and merchants of standing.
But some allowance was to be made for the warlike
attitude this city has so long maintained, and the ten-
dency of arms to arrogate all public attention and im-
portance. I afterwards found, also, that many of the
military figurantes were something like Dr. Ollapod,
of the corps of the Galen's head, not soldiers by pro-
fession, but probably not wanting in courage to face
an invading enemy. In the short and superficial con-
versations which usually took place, much information
could not be gleaned ; they generally turned upon
the political events of the country. They uniformly


spoke with great humility of their political transactions,
but dwelt with satisfaction on their efforts in war, and
expressed no doubt or apprehension of their ultimate
success. They lamented the want of general informa-
tion, and in speaking of the Spanish mis-government,
the neglect of education and morals was always the
most prominent theme. The frequent changes and re-
volutions amongst them ; the dissentions between
different provinces, when a concentration of all their
strength was necessary, and the instability of the go-
vernment hitherto, were spoken of with evident regret.
They contrasted these evils with the Elysian fields,
which their imaginations represented to them in the
United States ; the country where factions and dis-
sentions are unknown; where unity of sentiment and
brotherly love every where prevail. This language
could only be considered complimentary, for some of
them, I found, were not ignorant of our " faults on
both sides," although they had never read Mr. Carey's
Olive Branch. We could do no less than compliment
them in turn, and speak in high terms of the proofs they
had given of national spirit.

Among our most distinguished visitors, were Alvarez
and Rondeau, the former a young man of twenty-
eight or thirty, of tine appearance and elegant man-
ners. He appeared to be extremely desirous of cul-
tivating our acquaintance : his conversation was
interesting and intelligent. He had been in the army
from his youth ; he is a native of Arequipa in Peru, and
has several brothers at this time in the Spanish service —
such is the nature of civil war. He is married to a
niece of General Belgrano, a very superior woman,
both in point of personal beauty and accomplishments ;
he possesses an elevation and manliness of character
that would do honour to any country. Rondeau is a

280 -^ VOYAGE TO

small man, but of a firm and manly carriage, appa-
rently about fifty years of age. He was one of the
prisoners taken by the British on their first invasion
of this country, and carried to England, whence he
found his way to Spain, and served some time in the
war of the Peninsula, but returned to Buenos Ayres,
like other Americans, when his country required his
services. He has taken a distinguished part in the
revolution, was several times entrusted with the siege
of Monte Video, and had brought it nearly to a close,
when superseded by Alvear. He gained two victories
over the Spaniards in Peru, but lost the battle of
Sipe-sipe in November, 1815, though not through
deficiency of skill and prudence, which was admitted
by his opponent, the Spanish general, Pezuela. He
was, however, recalled from the command, and his po-
pularity was for a time obscured. He has an amiable
family, but like most of the distinguished officers in
this service, his circumstances are rather narrow.
Another officer of distinction is General Soler, a re-
markably fine figure, six feet two or three inches in
height, and of a very soldierly appearance. In pri-
vate life, however, he is said to be dissipated, and
some anecdotes are related of him which give a some-
what unfavourable cast to the state of manners. His
wife is a very beautiful but high-spirited woman.
Soler commanded the vanguard which crossed the
Andes, and for his conduct at the battle of Chacabuco,
was presented with a sword on the field by San Martin.
This gave rise to a series of publications ; his enemies
not conceiving him entitled to the reward : those who
are inclined to take the middle course, say, that it was
an act of generosity on the part of San Martin ; that
the act for which he rewarded Soler, was in reality
performed by himself, but that Soler had rendered


important services as a disciplinarian, and in crossing
the mountains. Thus it will be perceived, that the
same jealousy of their military fame prevails in this
country as in others. A collection of the different pub-
lications of this description that have issued from the
press of Buenos Ayres, will furnish some valuable
materials for history. We were sometimes visited by
Sarratea, who has once been a conspicuous member of
the government, and afterwards an agent of the court
of London. He is a man of considerable talents and
general information ; but from all I could learn, does
not stand high in the government, and still lower with
the people.

We frequently saw a venerable old man, Funes,
dean of Cordova, and the author of the Civil History
of Buenos Ayres. Few have taken a more active
part in the political events of the country. He
received the rudiments of his education from the Jesuits,
and afterwards completed it in Spain. He is an
excellent belles lettres scholar, and his writings bear
evidence of his extensive reading and classic taste. In
the year 1810, at a council convened by Liniers and
Concha, he was the only one who voted in favour of
acknowledging the junta of Buenos Ayres ; when the
troops of that place marched against Cordova, he and
his brother interceded for the life of Liniers, and the
bishop Orillana ; but as respects the first, without suc-
cess. He was afterwards a member of the junta of
observation, and took an active part in the politics of
the day. In the revolutionary convulsions which en-
sued, he experienced his share of mortifications. He
does not seem to have foreseen the troubled and dis-
tracted state necessarily produced b}^ such events, and,
in consequence, to be somewhat under the influence of
chagiin and disappointment. His interests and feelings


attaching him to Cordova, his native place, he is in-
clined towards what is called here the federative system,
which is essentially different from ours ; but he also
thinks that until their independence can be accom-
plished, it is absolutely necessary to waive all preten-
sions of this kind, for the sake of a concentration of their
strength. I cultivated his acquaintance with assiduity,
and through him became acquainted with a number of
others who frequented his house. The native priests, in
general, though enthusiastic in the cause, and fond of
indulging in eloquent declamations, are rather timid po-
liticians. They want nerve for action, and they have
a kind of time-serving suppleness, acquired by the
early habits of slavish and monastic education. In
the profession of the law there is much more bold-
ness, arising from their daily intercourse with the
world, and ordinary transactions of life. Funes is
thought to be rather unfriendly to the present adminis-
tration, but his having withdrawn from political scenes
is rather to be attributed to alarm at finding him-
self on a rougher sea than he had been accustomed to

A visit was received from the bishop of Salta, a
man of very advanced years, upwards of eighty, and
who was thought not to be much attached to the cause
of the revolution; indeed it has been hinted that his
residence here is very little else than a kind of re-
spectful surveillance. He said little on the subject of
politics, but dropped something about the want of
stability in the government, the turbulent and restless
spirit that prevailed, and then shook his head. It would
certainly have been a phenomenon to have found a re-

♦ He is at this time Prcsidcni of Coiii^iess.


volutionary patriot at his years, with his previous edu-
cation and habits.

Mr. Rodney and myself paid a visit to a respectable
old man, who fills the ofiice which we should call post-
master-general ; he appeared to be about the same age
w4th the bishop, but we found him a much more agree-
able character, his conversation remarkably sprightly
and entertaining. He told us that he had organized the
establishment, and had occupied the same arm-chair in
which he then sat at his desk, upwards of fifty years.
Although a native of Spain, he was attached to the
patriot cause, having children and grand- children who
were all natives of the country. We inquired of him
the news from Chili, and he informed us that from the
last accounts. General Osorio was advancing into the
province of Conception, at the head of five or six
thousand men. We learned, that besides the regular
post establishment which brought the mail once a week
from the different provinces, there were expresses con-
tinually employed between this place and Chili, as
also the provinces of Peru, so as to bring intelligence
from the armies of San Martin and Belgrano, with a
speed almost incredible.* He told us that his esta-
blishment was so arranged, as to enable him, in the
course of- ten days, to collect horses enough for the
different posts to enable the government to send rein-
forcements of a thousand, or tw^o thousand men, to
these different points, with a rapidity unknown in any
other country. He said, that since the commencement

* The journey from Mendoza to Eueuos Ayres, upwards of nine
hundred miles, was performed by the express, Escalera, in five
days, and from Potosi to Buenos Avrcs, 550 leagues, by Dobo, in
twelve days.


of the war, he had contributed his assistance, in send-
ing three armies to Peru ; one of four, another of five,
and a third of seven thousand men, and in speaking
of the perseverance of these people in the midst of
all their defeats and reverses, he exclaimed, " Que
pecho, que pecho, tiene esta genteT " What fortitude do
these people possess !"

We were also visited by Iregoyen, the secretary at
war, a young man of thirty-five years of age ; he had
been a cadet in the Spanish naval service, and had
travelled a good deal in Europe. He is rather a shewy
man, and from what I could learn, extremely ambitious.
We were also visited by members of congress, Zava-
letta, Pacheco, Villegas, and a number of others.
Among the priests who called on us, was Dr. Belgrano,
brother of the general, and who appeared to be a man
of solid and respectable talents. The term doctor,
is given indiscriminately to lawyers and clergymen,
but not to physicians ; in fact, the science of medicine
is extremely low in all the Spanish colonies, and it is
very unusual to meet with a Spanish physician of
science and learning.

Among our acquaintances, there were two or three
with whom I was particularly pleased ; the first, a re-
spectable old man, and a near neighbour, of the name
of Escalada, the father-in-law of San Martin ; this old
man was what we should have called, in our revo-
lutionary war, a true Whig. He has a large and fine
family of children, and grand children ; his house, the
place of most agreeable resort for all strangers, of
any in the city. I frequently spent my evenings here,
being almost always sure to find an agreeable party
of ladies and gentlemen; the evening ^^as usually
passed in sprightly conversation, or in dances, which
the old gentleman seemed to take a peculiar pleasure


in promoting, very frequently taking part himself,
though upwards of seventy years of age : these dances
were minuets, to the music of the piano, touched
by one of the young ladies. He had adopted a beau-
tiful and interesting girl, then about seventeen, the
daughter of a Spanish governor intendant, and seemed
to treat her with the same affection and kindness
that he did his own children. The wife of General
San Martin, was, at this time, living with her
father, but appeared to be much dejected in spirits
on account of her anxiety for her husband, to whom,
from all accounts, she is devotedly attached. She
had accompanied him to the foot of the Andes,
wished to follow his fortunes across, and was, with
much difficulty, dissuaded. Perceiving that she par-
took in none of the amusements, on inquiring the
cause, I was told that she had made a vow of some
kind for the success of her husband, which I could
not w^ell understand. These private and imobtrusive
virtues in the family of San Martin, gave me a very
favourable opinion of the man; the excellence and
purity of private life, is, after all, the best foundation of
public confidence. There can be no dignity of cha-
racter without them, and we are seldom mistaken in
the purity of the actions of men, when this fountain
is pure. While in Buenos Ayres, I have frequently
heard San Martin and his wife cited as an example
of a happy marriage ; which is by no means negative
praise, in a country where morals are, unfortunately
depraved, and where the marriage state is held in too
little respect. They have but one child, a daughter,
three or four years of age. Escalada is a plain citizen,
and has never taken any other part than that of
a private individual, but he has been enabled, from
the possession of considerable wealth, to render ser-


vice to the cause ; he presented each of us with copies
of different political works, which he had purchased,
for the purpose of distributing gratis ; among them, was
a history of the United States, with our declaration of
independence. General Washington's Farewell Address,
and other pieces. Besides his son-in-law, his wife's
brother, Quintana,* is in the army of Chili, and his
two sons, one eighteen, the other twenty years of age,
both gallant youths, are serving under the eye of San
Martin. We experienced on all occasions, from this
old gentleman, the utmost kindness and attention, and
were invited by him to a splendid entertainment, at
a moment when his whole family appeared to be
depressed by the most anxious feeling for the fate
of their near relations, exposed to the hazards of a
dreadful war.

Mr. Frias, a young lawyer of respectability^ and
secretary to the cabildo, was one of our most agree-
able acquaintances ; his manners were highly polished
and refined, and he possesses a generosity of heart,
a warmth and earnestness of feeling, which shewed,
that although born under a despotic government, his
character was formed in a republic. He seemed to
be peculiarly anxious to cultivate our acquaintance,
and to acquire a knowledge of the details of our po-
litical institutions. I derived considerable information
from him, as well as assistance in procuring papers
and documents. He has been married some years
to an amiable woman. The ladies are much less

• This ofBcer was one of those who distinguished themselves in
the defence against the British. Sec Funes, Vol. III. p. 487. It is
■worthy of notice, that many of those who are now most conspicuous,
were distinguished at that period ; Dias Velis, Viamonte, and Montes
dc Oca, then but a youtii.


addicted to literature than in the United States, in
general, but much more so than those of New Orleans.
The Spanish literature is, in fact, richer in works
which combine moral instruction with amusement,
than the French; I observed the sister of Mr. Frias,
reading a translation of Pamela, and I learned that
the novels of Richardson are much esteemed among

Mr. Riglos is another of those, whose acquaint-
ance we found particularly agreeable. He is of a
liighly respectable family, and educated in England;
he is also a specimen of the young South Americans,
whose mind has been formed under the new order of
things. He has nothing of the Spanish reserve and
distrust in his deportment ; his manners, like those of
Ms countrymen, are highly polished, but without that
fastidious attention to etiquette, which is so trouble-
some to a stranger. This gentleman spoke the English
remarkably well. The house of Madam Riglos, his

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 22 of 29)