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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mother, who is a widow, is considered one of the most
genteel in the city; I have seen few ladies of more
polished manners, and I had frequent opportunities of
meeting here, the most fashionable people.

Soon after our amval, we became acquainted with
a number of strangers, and some Americans settled
here. We were frequently visited by the British
officer, at present commanding on that station, a man of
free and obliging manners and address, but somewhat
inclined to be caustic and severe in his remarks, so
that considerable allowance was necessary to be made
for this propensity, for at times, he gave a much more
favourable account of things, than at others. Mr.
Staples, the British consul, or agent, though a much
plainer man, appeared to be more solid and judicious,
as well as consistent in his observations, and having


been here several years, he was qualified to speak
with more confidence. He spoke highly of the natural
good qualities of the people in general, but espe-
cially of the agricultural population in the neighbour-
hood of the city, and in the villages ; he thought them
all highly susceptible of improvement, and stated
many changes in their habits and character, for the
better. He said, that the British officers bore testi-
mony to their mildness and hospitality, when prisoners
among them. The letters which passed between them
and the different cabildos, were published at the
time by the officers, in order to manifest their gra-
titude. A number of the soldiers settled in the country,
and others, were with difficulty persuaded to re-
turn. Some of the officers declared, that, but for their
sense of honour, they never would leave the country.
The natives, in general, were delighted to see strangers,
the very reverse of which was the case with the
European Spaniards, who regarded all foreigners with
a kind of growling jealousy, as if they had any
better right to be here themselves.* Nothing more
strongly evinced their mildness of character, than the
rare occurrence of violence and bloodshed, in the
course of the sudden changes and revolutions of their
government. In being released from the shackles of
their old system, and without any settled re-organiza-
tion, it was naturally to be expected, that during the sway
of the passions, scenes, such as occurred in France, would
take place. The general equality which prevailed, seemed
to bring men closer together, and to produce a stronger
sympathy in each other's sufferings and misfortunes. The

♦ Since the revolution, they are themselves regarded as strangftiB,
and th« least favoured of any.


triumph of one party over another, even after the most
violent struggles, was at most followed by the banish-
ment of a few individuals ; that in a few instances, where
the proscribed were put to death, they produced the most
lively sensations on the whole community, and its dis-
pleasure was strongly expressed; that the vices of
the people, were the vices of education only; that, pre-
vious to the revolution, they were brought up in idle-
ness, at least, seldom induced to embrace useful and
industrious callings. The sons of Europeans were
never employed in the business of their fathers, who
preferred taking any kind of a lad, that happened to
be bom in Spain ; there was a want of an interest on
the part of the Spaniards, in the future welfare and
advantage of their own offspring.* They left them
to follow the billiard tables and gaming houses, in pre-
ference to initiating them into employments, which they
appeared to think, exclusively appertained to those born
in Europe. The revolution was producing a sensible
change throughout all society.

From these gentlemen, and several English mer-
chants settled here, we received every mark of atten-
tion. Although few of them, beside the consul, said
much in favour of the people, they appeared all to en-
tertain a sincere wish for their success, which was not

* Azara declares, that such was the antipathy between the Eu-
ropeans and Americans, that it was felt even in the relations of
father and son, and an instance was related of a son, who in)pu-
dently told his father that he renounced the relationship ; that
the Pampas Indians Mere his parents ! Eut such instances must
have been rare. I saw, in one instance, the daughter of a Euro-
pean Spaniard, very warmly resent some general expressions, unfa-
vourable to the Europeans, although her father was on the side of the
revolution. . .. . ^ v, .^..a )

Vol. I. U


at all surprising, considering the deep interest they
have at stake. Most of them express doubts of their
capacity to establish a solid government, from their
want of information, and from their vicious habits ;
they held out the idea, that if they were placed under
the guardianship of some other nation, for twenty or
thirty years, so as to keep down their local dissen-
tions, and prevent the recurrence of their internal
revolutions, there would be no doubt of their ultimate
success. At present, there was a want of stability,
from their having no settled institutions, or possessing
men among them of such weight and influence, as to
be able to repress factions. It was owing to this
cause, that the state had been so frequently split up
with feuds and parties. The drift of all this was not
difficult to be discovered ; I have seen the same idea of
guardianship suggested in the Quarterly Review ; it
means, the guardianship of England, But the dis-
covery of such a disposition on her part would only
serve to excite unfriendly feelings towards her; they
discover important advantages in mutual intercourse,
and are very desirous of cultivating a good under-
standing with Great Britain, but would be indignant
at the idea of any design to exercise a control over

Our acquaintance with Mr. Bonpland, the compa-
nion of Humboldt, was highly gratifying, especially
to Dr. Baldwin. Mr. Bonpland removed to this place
with his family about a year ago, and is settled on a
quinta, about two miles from town. Such a man is a
great acquisition to the country, in making known its
resources and advantages. Several French officers
were also introduced to us; they had come here to
seek their fortunes, but from their conversations, I dis-
covered they had been somewhat disappointed in their


expectations, which were not very moderate or ra-
tional. One of them had made up his mind to return
to France ; " this will be a fine country," said he,
" quand nous serons Men sous terre, when we shall
be well under ground." They complain of there be-
ing a good deal of jealousy on the part of the native
officers, at seeing foreigners among them, at w^hich I
was not at all surprised. The Irish officers are better
received than any others ; but in general those who
enter the service must calculate on meeting with
many mortifications ; the government is sufficiently
.disposed to be liberal, but they are not so well re-
^ceived in the army. It is highly probable that some
cause for this has been given, by their indiscretion in
, betraying their feelings of superiority, whether real or
-false, and by their setting up pretensions they have not
been able to realize. They do not reflect, that during
this protracted war, many valuable officers have been
' found among the natives, and that the people of these
countries have a greater inclination to the profession of
arms, than for any other pursuit.

I found with some regret, that the most unfavourable
representations as to the state of things in this country,
■were made by some of our own countrymen ; my obser-
vation is, however, by no means general. From these
1 had expected something difierent ; I had expected to
£nd them,

" To their virtues very kind.
To their faults a little blind ;"

but whether owing to the habit of indulging in party
spirit at home, or the circumstance of being acci-
dentally connected with some of the factions, which
are always virulent in proportion to the smallness of
their numbers, and to their w eakness ; certain it is, that



some of them were very desirous of producing unfa-
vourable impressions on our minds. On the superficial,
on those already disposed to be biassed, and on the
warm hearted and generous, whose opportunities did
not enable them to judge for themselves, these persons
were sure to fasten, and too generally succeeded in
implanting prejudices. These persons immediately
surrounded us, and were extremely anxious to be clo-
seted, in order to disclose damning secrets against the
men now in power, as if it were the business of the
mission to sit in judgment on the political conduct
and motives of those who had the management of the
government, like the visitadores under the Spanish
system. As the secretary of the mission, I was par-
ticularly exposed to this kind of importunity, from a
supposition that I would be a convenient channel;
and through curiosity, I sometimes attended to what
they had to say ; but I was well aware, that errors
come, generally, unbidden, while truth must he sought
for with diligence. I found it necessary to institute
an inquiiy into the characters and situations of these
individuals, in order to ascertain the degree of credit
which they deserved. To extract information that
might be depended upon, from this dross, required
every variety of test ; I found few among them pos-
sessing enlarged and liberal views, independently of
their being linked in with some petty interest. Some
who were connected with, or were friendly to the pri-
vateering business, seemed to be very bitter against
the administration, and had lately made a discovery
that Artigas was the true patriot and friend of his
country.* I had no great difficulty in discovering.

• It is not more than a year or eighteen months ago since we
knew any thing about Artigas in this country.


that this arose from their impatience for a war with
Portugal, whose commerce could be preyed upon to
much more advantage than that of Spain, now almost
driven from the sea. The independence of South
America, with these foreigners, chiefly American and
English, was only a secondary object ; no one can
doubt that, with them, the primary motive for enter-
ing the service, was to advance their fortunes. It was
now whispered about, that as the government of
Buenos Ayres could not be urged into a war with Por-
tugal, the privateers would enlist under the banners of
Artigas; that is, they would send over commissions
to the Banda Oriental, to be signed by him in blank.
This design, however, was studiously concealed, as
otherwise it might be prevented by the government,,
and, at all events, be disapproved of by the public.
The inveterate enemies of the administration among
the native citizens, would naturally coalesce with
those who agreed with them in this particular, how-
ever they might otherwise dislike each other. From
our experience in politics and parties, we know that
in such things there is nothing wonderful. About the
time of our arrival, it was also hinted, that a revo-
lution, as they called it, was about to take place ; hav-
ing for its principal object, to make war against Por-
tugal. But in conversing with the sober and rational
part of the community, I could learn, that however
they disliked the Portuguese, and their taking pos-
session of the Banda Oriental, they considered it evi-
dently their policy to avoid war as long as possible.
They distinguished between a contest with Spain
for independence, and the war between Artigas and a
nation, who had no pretensions to the sovereignty over
South America generally. It was a private and local

U 3


war between Artigas and the Portuguese, which was
not necessarily connected with the general cause. It
was brought on by Artigas, in consequence of his
revolt, and unless he chose to enter into the confede-
racy, he had no right to expect any assistance from
the other provinces, mere especially as he had in-
vaded one of them, and was continually embarrassing
the intercourse between the others.* It was asked,
what object could be gained, even if by the assistance
of the confederated provinces, the Portuguese could be
expelled? As long as Artigas declined entering into
the union, of what importance was it that this territory
should be in his possession, or in the possession of
Portugal, or of any other nation that would remain at
peace ? The case was different ivhen in the possession
of the Spaniards, they could annoy the commerce of
the United Provinces, by holding the key of this
river ; but after having expelled them, they were suc-
ceeded by an enemy scarcely less troublesome, in the
very man who was now urging a war with the Por-
tuguese. Independently of these considerations, it
was imprudent in the United Provinces to try the
doubtful chances of a war with a new enemy. A war
with the Portuguese would be a powerful diversion
in favour of Spain, as it would compel the patriots to
withdraw their troops from other quarters, at the same
time that it would greatly increase the expenses of
the war, and expose their commerce to be seriously in-
jured by the superior naval force of Portugal. At all

* The roving bands, or montoneros, sent over by Artigas, do not
merely distress Buenos Ayres, but all the other provinces, by cut-
ting off their connexion with their emporinm, and thus jeopardis-
ing the cause of general cuhancipatioo, to gratifyhis private pi<fue.


events, Buenos Ayres had enough to contend with
already, and it would be folly to think of a new war,
without an adequate object.

I became acquainted with several persons who are
engaged in a small trade with Artigas, from this place,
and who are in the habit of visiting him frequently.
They seemed to be worthy respectable men, but rather
of narrow views ; they took great pains to impress
every one of the mission with a favourable opinion of
Artigas ; but after the most careful and strict exami-
nation to come at the reality of what they urged in
his behalf, they only increased the unfavourable opi-
nion I had begun to entertain. They said that he was
a plam old man, with no show or parade, that he has
no riches, and indulges himself is none of the luxu-
ries or ornaments with which men are generally
pleased; that he is the true friend of independence,
and the genuine lover of liberty; that the Spaniards
offered him a brigadier's commission, which he re-
fused. They also said much of his good intentions,
and keen, discriminating mind. It was observed by
one, that he was a great lover of justice, that when a
culprit was brought before him, there was no chica-
nery of the lawyers, no artful subterfuges, his sentence
was passed at once. They admitted, as to his poverty,
and mode of life, that he had never known much
else; I could not, therefore, see any great merit in
this. As to his refusing a bribe, I thought it rather
an equivocal evidence of integrity, because the cir-
cumstance of its being offered, shews the estimation
in which his integrity was held by the person making
the offer. I considered it a much] higher complimen
to the other generals, that no attempt had been made
to bribe them. They admitted that he was absolute,
that he had established no civil government, and had


no form or constitution whatever; ])ut they declared
that this was owing to his present situation. When
I asked them if they thought him a proper person
to be at the head of the confederacy, as the chief
magistrate, they at once admitted that this would not
do, that he did not aspire to it, being conscious of his
own deficiency in education, and in the necessary ta-
lenti to manage the affairs of a regular government.
I asked them if it was his intention to be entirely
independent of the United Provinces ? They said not,
but that if there were men at the head of the government
who pleased him, he would join it. I inquired whether
they could tell me his ultimate aim, if he neither
aspired to be at the head of the confederacy himself,
nor was determined to be entirely independent; for
the idea of his waiting until some persons to his liking
should assume the reins appeared to me unsatisfactory ;
since, in all the different changes, not one could be
found to please him. It was evident, that his emnity
was not to any particular ineriy from his unwillingness
to take part in the congress of Tucuman, formed from
all the other provinces excepting Paraguay, and those
in the actual possession of the Spaniards ; they replied
that is intentions were good, that he was a truly honest
patriot, and a great lover of his country.

We can only infer the intentions of men from their
acts ; let us for a moment examine what has been the
conduct of Artigas. To form a just estimate of his
pretensions, it will be necessary to cast a retrospective
glance at the early events of the revolution, and also
to consider the relative importance of the population
he is supposed to represent. When Buenos Ayres, in
1810, established a junta independent of the temporary
governments of Spain, she stood perfectly alone in the
viceroyalty, eilthough its metropolis, Banda Oriental,


reposed under the royal government.* A revolutionary
movement had been attempted in the city of La Paz,
but had been put down; the Spaniards were, therefore,
also triumphant in Peru. Buenos Ayres was thus
hemmed in by enemies, who were in possession of the
upper branches of the river, and who had command of
the waters of La Plata, so as to bar her communication
with the sea; her first step was to prevail upon those
provinces, which at present compose the union, to
assist in expelling the Spanish authorities, from the
whole extent of the viceroyalty. The enterprise, ac-
tivity, and intrepidity of Buenos Ayres, took the lead
in organizing and marching armies, for the purpose of
effecting this object. Paraguay, of her own accord,
expelled the Spanish authorities, and has remained ever
since unmolested by any external enemy. Buenos
Ayres was, at the same time, obliged to contend with the
Spanish armies in Peru, and to prosecute the siege of
Monte Video. She twice obtained possession of the
provinces of Peru, but was as often compelled to sub-
mit to the fate of war. The capture of Monte Video
has already been related. Without the assistance of
Buenos Ayres, the inhabitants of the Banda Oriental,
would never have been able to have expelled the Spa-
niards, if they would even have attempted it. What
then was the least to have been expected from the gra-

* Banda Oriental was but a district or county of the inten-
dency of Buenos Ayres ; the conduct of the European Spaniards,
in refusing to acknowledge the government of the capital of the
intendency, was regarded as a kind of treason, and thus denounced.
Artigas would, no doubt, consider it treason, if any of the smaller
districts under him should renounce his authority, by following his
own principles of anarchy. By reading the observations in Ihe Intro-
duction, the question will be more clearly understood.


titude> generosity or justice, of this district ? Certainly,
to have joined the confederacy — upon its own terms?
No ; upon the same terms with the other provinces.
It is true, a jealousy did prevail, of the ascendancy
which Buenos Ayres had acquired ; an ascendancy ab-
solutely necessary to have existed somewhere. But
its abuses, which could at worst have been only tem-
porary, were remedied by the general congress, to
which all the provinces (with the exception of those
under the immediate controul of the Spaniards, of
Paraguay, which had achieved its own independence,
and Banda Oriental, which had revolted under Arti-
gas,) sent their deputies to Tucuman to deliberate on
the common welfare. Passing then, the provinces of
Peru, which are forcibly kept down, that of Paraguay^
which is under no direct obligations to the confede-
racy, and the dispute lies between Banda Oriental
and the United Provinces. Let us, for a moment,
consider their comparative weight in the political
scale. The United Provinces contain little short of
five hundred thousand souls, entirely free from the
molestation of a foreign enemy.* They possess an
extensive commerce with all the world ; they are in-
creasing in population, and are cultivating all the arts
of peace. On the other side, the country of which
Artigas calls himself the chief, together with those imder
his protection, contains, at the outside, fifty thousand
souls, the greater part of whom are far from being the
most valuable citizens ; an enemy is in the possession
of the most important points, having controul over the
settled inhabitants, many of whom are dissatisfied with
Artigas; a country without commerce, and without
government; without attention to the education of

* This includes civilized Indians. Sec the report of Mr. Graham.


youth, and declining rapidly from the state of civiliza-
tion. Is it not unjust, that such a country as this, or
its leaders, should attempt to thwart the plans of the
confederacy, or should be aiTOgant enough to denounce
the general government as treacherous ? The territory,
it is true, is valuable to the confederacy, and its position

Is there any personal dignity in the character or
abilities of Artigas, that would justify him in dictating
to the rest of the provinces? For my part, I can see
nothing in his conduct, that deserves the name of a
friend of liberty and independence. He has not even
declared independence from Spain, nor has he ever
satisfactorily announced his intentions to his own coun-
trymen. It is an easy thing to dress up a character
with a few sounding phrases, calculated to deceive
those, who do not take the trouble to inquire whether
they are accompanied by the substance. Is it rational
to suppose, that in a quarrel between such a man as
Artigas, or the people whom he sways, with all the pro-
vinces of the union, that he should not be in the
wrong ? I have given the subject a most impartial ex-
amination, and it is utterly impossible for me to come
to any other conclusion. There is undoubtedly a merit
in his being able to maintain the war as he does ; and
the common mind is apt to take sides with those who
seem to have the most difficult part to act, even when
it cannot but condemn the cause in which they are en-
gaged. Artigas is admired as an intrepid and daring
leader, determined and persevering, though in a bad
cause, and in reality of small importance in the cause
of South American independence.

The advocates and friends of Artigas, of whom I
have been speaking, were also in favour of Carrera, but
evidently for the same reason ; fhe enmity of Carrer^


and his friends to the existing government. There
were some among the latter who appeared to be ex-
tremely virulent, but their numbers small; they were
chiefly persons immediately connected in the fortunes
of Carrera, and whose minds had been soured by dis-
appointment. They took great pains to detract from
the military capacity of San Martin, and bestowed
abundance of epithets and harsh names ; but I heard
nothing like a direct charge of dishonourable conduct,
either in public or private life ; in fact, what I heard
from these, his enemies, tended greatly to increase my
respect for his character. Their story was, that the
people were continually calling out for Carrera ; that
they wished to be commanded by their own officers.
But where were these officers, when the Spaniards
held possession of the country ? Why did they not
call on them at that time ? If this be true, all that can
be said is, that they manifest their gratitude in a most
extraordinary manner. The two factions in Chili are
well known ; prudence would require that these fac-
tions should be kept down. The possession of the
country by the Spaniards was entirely incompatible
with the safety of the United Provinces. A single
glance at the map will suffice to satisfy any one on
this head. They were, therefore, justifiable not only
in expelling the Spaniards, but in placing things on
such a footing as to prevent the recurrence of the
former mischief. The same course would have been
pursued by us, had we made ourselves masters of
Canada, during the late or revolutionary war, and
the same principle would have justified us in taking
possession of East Florida. No impartial man can

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 23 of 29)