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

. (page 24 of 29)
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 24 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

doubt, that San Martin would have been justifiable in
excluding the leaders of both factions from power, and
accepting the authority which was tendered him. I


could urge no stronger reason, than the fact stated in
the report of Mr. Poinsett : " Unfortunately, this coun-
try has been divided into two violent and irreconcilable
factions, by two powerful families. The Carreras
and Larrians, both equally anxious to liberate their
country, and both using every means in their power to
obtain the command." The fact is not denied, that it
was in consequence of this rivalry, that Chili fell a
prey to the royalists. What was then left to San
Martin, after having expelled the common enemy?
Was it not his duty to prevent the renewal of these
contentions for power, which in all probability would
have exposed Chili to a second conquest ? By what
means was he to do this? Either by expelling the
leaders of both factions, in which case he would ex-
cite the dissatisfaction of both, or by selecting one of
the two. It seems he preferred the latter ; whether be-
cause he considered O'Higgins the best patriot, or that
he had the strongest party, I am unable to say. My
ovm opinion is, that he found O'Higgins less disposed
to be carried away by those local and narrow in-
terests, which have constantly marred the great cause of
emancipation; and, on the contrary, willing to join
with the United Provinces, in order to render it

What is, in fact, the present situation of Chili,
since the royal authorities have been expelled ? In-
stead of being overpowered and oppressed by a ruth-
less despotism, her ports have been thrown open to
all the world; she ostensibly, to say the least, has a
government of her own, although time has not yet
been allowed to form a regular and permanent consti-
tution; a work which ought not to be done with too
much haste. Whether there be any secret influence


exercised by the United Provinces, by the British, or
by any other nation, I regard it of little moment in
comparison to the direct dominion of Spain. It is
certain that she carries her flag, has a fleet and army,
is freely permitted the use of arms, coins, money ; may
enter into treaties, or pacts, with foreign poAvers, and
is publicly acknowledged by the United Provinces,
as an independent nation. This is surely better than
being a remote, oppressed colony of Spain; when
thus restored to the enjoyment of these essential rights,
any subjection imposed by the United Provinces must
be of a very short duration. Possessing twice tlie
physical strength, with the mountains as a barrier, it
is utterly impossible that a state of subjection would
long exist. It is much more probable that ChOi, with
the advantages she now enjoys, with a population
more homogeneous and compact, with funds and
means much less pi-ecarious, would be able to dictate
to the other republics. Even now, according to some,
she is thought to be more powerful than the United
Provinces; her naval force is, unquestionably, supe-
rior, and even the honour of the late victory of
Maipu has been awarded to her by some writers. Hu-
manly speaking, merely, for I pretend to no super-
natural insight into the secrets, sinister policy, way-
ward faults, and mismanagements of the leading men
in those countries, I regard it as a happy circumstance
that Chili and the United Provinces have combined
.their strength in the common cause, by which it has
been rendered sure, at least, if not " doubly sure." .^
It was frequently suggested by the friends of Car-
rera, that the Carrera party was friendly to the United
States, |while that of O'Higgins is inclined to the Bri-
tish. I regarded this nierely as a bait, for the purpose


of catching our national feelings, or, at least, for the
purpose ot enlisting the republican party of the
United States. It cannot be supposed that on account
of their excessive love to us, the Carreras would
neglect any thing that might conduce to the interest of
their own country. It is very plainly the interest of
both parties to cultivate a good understanding with
the British, and to derive from them all the assistance
they can; it would be folly in either to reject it. If
the people of Chili, in general, are friendly to us, and
I firmly believe they are so, of what importance is the
private opinion of a few individuals ? We should
desire the friendship and affection of the people of Chili
and not of San Martin or O'Higgins ; unless, indeed,
these were "princes and the people nothing. I am at a
loss to conceive what motive could actuate any govern-
ment set up in those countries, in rejecting our proffered
good will and friendship, or any thing else that our
situations would permit us to offer.

But these are selfish ideas, narrow and contemptible.
If there be persons in this country, as has been asserted
in our public papers, and not contradicted, who mi^hi
expect personal favours and advantages from the Car^
rera party, that is a different matter; but I can tell
those gentlemen, that if they think to enlist our national
feelings in order to subserve their private purposes,
they are greatly mistaken. What effect might be pro-
duced on the people of Chili, by holding out the idea
that our attachment to the Carrera party is so great,
that the only obstacle in the way of our acknowledgment
of their independence, is their exclusion from the govern-
ment, I know not; but I can assure them, that our
declining to acknowledge their government, for the
present, does not arise from antipathy to O'Higgins,
and partiality for Carrera, any more than a refusal ^f

304 ^^ VOYAGE TO

the same as aspects the United Provinces, arises from
dislike to its supreme director and congress, and friend-
ship for Artigas. These, I hope, are but trifling consi-
derations in the great and important questions ; let
these men, and their partisans, dispute as they please
about their respective claims to merit.

The principal cause of those contradictory accounts,
that we so frequently see in our newspapers, is the
ready ear which strangers give to the tales of these
disafiected persons; they do not stop to investigate,
nor, indeed, have they the time or capacity.* They
do not reflect that those who are unable to gratify a
deep revenge, yet derive satisfaction in causing their
enemies to be hated, and in representing them in the
most odious colours. They lose no opportunity, and
leave nothing undone, to infuse into the breasts of
others the same inveterate hatred they feel them-
selves. Passing strangers are immediately accosted
by these people; supercargoes, commercial agents,
and others, have their minds poisoned by their tales
of grievances and oppressions; they adopt and give
these circulation without stopping a moment to in-
quire, how far they are reconcileable with probability.
The common accounts, therefore, of the character and
views of the South Americans, ought to be received,
from such sources, with great distrust. The extracts
of letters published in our newspapers, are generally

♦ The following extract from Nile's Register needs no coniments :
*' The same letter informs ns, that every thing is under the di-
rection of the priests, and execwted at the point of the bayonet,
that the congress," &c. But a brief letter to the editor of the re-
gister from Mr. Rodney, observes, ** I have been agreeably sur-
prised with the appearance of things in this country." .Vol. xi^.
p. 327. ?f':ihiyT ISuji •


derived from persons of this description; they take
their impressions from some discontented individual,
who, probably, if seriously called upon, would have
sufficient regard to his character not to give them his

A few days after our arrival, I was a good deal
amused with a young American, with whom I had
some slight acquaintance. He came to me, and in a
kind of half whisper, as if afraid of being overheard,
and a mysterious face, related to me all those horrors
which I have already noticed, and many more. I
asked him whether he had been long here? Whether
he had been much among the difierent classes of the
people; whether he spoke the language; and whether
he had ever been out of the United States before ? He
answered all these questions in the negative ; but said
he had obtained his information from several gentle-
men, who had voluntarily tendered their services to
give him correct statements. I asked him if he were
intimately acquainted with them; how long he had
known them ; what were their characters ; whether they
were free from bias or prejudice, or linked with one
of the smaller factions of the country ? He did not
know, and had never reflected upon these matters ; but
they seemed clever people; he saw no motive for
their deceiving him; and he thought he could trust to
his own judgment, as to the probability or improba-
bility of what they told him. I asked him what he
should think of a Frenchman, or Englishman, or Spa-
niard, who should come to our country with the in-
tention of remaining a few months, in order to study
the genius of the people and government; and in-
stead of making himself acquainted with the differ-
ent classes of people, be content with the opinions
of a few of his own countrymen, accidentally met
Vol. j. X


with ill the streets ? There are, no doubt, occasional
prodigies, who, without ever having been out of their
own country, or having travelled much even in that,
unacquainted with any language but their mother
tongue, by force of wonderful native sagacity, have
been enabled, at a glance, to penetrate all the recesses
of society. The ordinary mode, however, of acquiring
information, is much more slow and tedious. It is like
one finding his way through the woods ; he must take
many a wrong path, before his good stars will direct
his steps into the right one. There is, however, an
easier way of avoiding such difficulties ; and that is, by
having his opinion formed before coming to the country,
which can easily be done by becoming a partisan of one
of the factions, and receiving its political creed, with
becoming faith and submission. The young man, some
time afterwards, told me he thought he had formed his
opinions rather too hastily.

In a familar conversation with one of their most
intelligent men, but entirely friendly to the present
administration, I ventured to ask him what was the
nature of the complaints of the provinces against the
capital, and whether it was really true that there had
been an abuse of power towards them. He admitted
that there had been causes of complaint, both on ac-
coimt of the acts of the government, and of its agents ;
but, said he, was it to be expected that every cause
of dissatisfaction could be prevented? There are local
demagogues enough to aggiavate and magnify these
complaints, and thus exasperate a people not accus-
tomed, heretofore, to think for themselves on public
affairs ; and, therefore, easily led astray. Here, said
he, is one of the great difficulties we have had to
struggle with in our contest for independence. Each
province, or government, as well as each petty dis-


trict of such province, although zealous in the com-
mon cause, wishes to pursue its own course. It,
therefore, becomes necessary for the capital to exert
itself continually to bring them to unite their efforts.
To this salutary end, compulsion and coercion are,
sometimes, unavoidable ; but they can never give plea-
sure to those who feel them. Here is the true reason
for the dislike to Buenos Ayres ; and yet, such is the
inconsistency of the human passions, should the con-
test terminate happily, she will be regarded as the
common benefactress. We were not inattentive spec-
tators, said he, of your late contest with Great Bri-
tain, and we observed that your confederative system
opposed gTcat obstacles to your caiT^dng on the war
with efficiency ; several of your states almost refused
to join, and your general government appeared to
want power to coerce a union of your strength and
resources. From this, you can readily conceive the
difficulty of coercing a people who have formed the
most extravagant ideas of independence, and who,
enjoying a momentary security from Spain through the
very means taken by Buenos Ayres, are, notwith-
standing, desirous of placing themselves beyond her
control. And what, sir, would be the result should
every province and petty district follow the example
of Artigas ? Buenos Ayres would not be able to raise
those armies which have kept the Spanish power in
check in the upper provinces, and which, like the
stone of Sysiphus, threatens to roll down and crush
those below. Salta, Tucuman, Cordova, Mendoza,
and the rest, each acting in its own way, would sepa-
rately fall an easy conquest to the army of Lima;
which now requires the combined forces of all to re-
sist. The capital would be reduced to very narrow



limits, its resources would be cut off, its commerce
with the interior destroyed; and, although we should
make a brave resistance, we would probably be sub-
dued at last, and this flourishing city, like Monte
Video, Caraccas, Cumana, and Barcelona, would ex-
hibit only a heap of ruins, instead of being what
it is now, the most formidable enemy to the Spanish
power in America. The re-conquest of Chili, which
has filled the Spaniards with despair, would not have
taken place ; Paraguay, which hugs herself in her in-
glorious security, purchased by the blood and treasure
of Buenos Ayres, could not resist the Spanish army
descending from Peru, or ascending the Parana ; and
as to Artigas, although he might for a time enjoy his
wild independence, in consequence of having no fixed
habitation, yet this would not be the case with the
inhabitants of towns, and those engaged in the pursuit
of agriculture, should Spain resolve to adopt the plan
of extermination which has been followed by Morillo.
The war in Peru could not be continued a single mo-
ment without the aid of Buenos Ayres ; for what
ultimate object could be gained by mere bands of gue-
rillas, unsupported by a regular army? Buenos Ayres
has mtroduced a regular system, the want of which
has given such advantages to the Spaniards in other
parts of America, and she has been the nursery of
officers, regularly instructed in the newest and best
principles of the military art. This is no time to be
over scrupulous about form, when we are endeavouring
to save the state from threatened destruction.

Whatever weight there may be in these remarks, it
is certain, that very little good sense is evinced by
those persons who fonn their opinions of what they
see and hear in these countries, by applying the rules


and principles they have acquired under an order
of things entirely difterent. It requires a mind ren-
dered liberal by the contemplation of human nature,
under its various modifications, to judge coiTCctly of
any foreign country; this is one of the reasons why
the observations of strangers are regarded by the
people of the countries described, as ridiculous and
impertinent. A Hollander admires no country that is
not flat and marshy, the Swiss must have mountains,
and the Greenlander thinks there is no feast without
whale-oil and blubber.

About ten days after our arrival, the independence
of Chili was celebrated in the city. The illumi-
nations, and other public demonstrations, were con-
tinued during three successive days, as is usual on
all occasions of this kind. The flags of Chili, and
the United Provinces, were suspended from the cabildo,
and the independence of Chili publicly announced
by bajido, or proclamation, in the plaza. The
pyramid of the revolution was elegantly ornamented
with flags, and a variety of patriotic inscriptions. I
observed great satisfaction expressed in the coun-
tenances of the people, especially those of the country,
very different from the stupid gaze of amazement I
had remarked at Rio. In the afternoon, the youth
from some of the higher seminaries of learning,
about seventy or eighty in number, marched to the
pyramid in procession, headed by the professors, and
after reading the inscriptions and making their ob-
servations, dispersed. Soon after, the boys from
the different schools marched with flags, in different
companies, to the number of at least six or eight hun-
dred. They formed a hollow square, enclosing the
pyramid, and raised the national song ; each side of a
square singing a stanza in succession, and the whole

X 3


joining in the chorus; at the same time waving their
flags. When they had sung their hymn, some of
those who excelled in speaking, stood forward and
delivered patriotic orations. After this, a dialogue
was kept up for some time, which consisted of ques-
tions put by one for the sake of the answers given by
another, containing some simple propositions of poli-
tical and civil liberty, or patriotic sentiments, together
with professions of veneration for their religion. The
combination of such expressions as " los derechos del
hombre" and ^' nuestra santa religion catolica" had
a strange effect to my ear, but I do not, for this, pre-
tend to condemn it, although it differs from what I
have been accustomed to, circumstances may render
it necessary and proper here. I am disposed to be-
lieve, that the rising generation are far from being
inclined to superstition and bigotry ; the danger is, their
neglecting religion, which is so essential to every well
regulated state ; it may be prudent, also, to associate
in the minds of their youth, the cause of religion with
that of their country, so that both may be esteemed by
this means, more sacred. Few of these boys appeared
to exceed twelve years of age ; they were dressed,
in general, like those of our cities, but a proportion,
sufficient to be remarked, were a good deal bronzed,
the greater part, however, had good complexions,
and all had animated and expressive countenances.
Amongst the crowd of people collected in order to be
amused, or to catch the fire of patriotism from this ex-
hibition, the figures which most attracted my notice,
were several of the gauchos of the neighbouring
pampas, who sat on their horses with much gravity and
composure, apparently pleased with what was passing,
but that pleasure very faintly expressed in their
countenances. There is no doubt, that these exlii-


bitions must have a powerfal effect on all classes of
society, and, with the youth, they give rise to senti-
ments and feelings inseparable from their very exist-
ence. I afterwards foimd, that it is the custom for the
boys to go through the same ceremony once a week.
I have been informed, that much more of this enthu-
siasm,, resembling that of the French revolution, pre-
vailed some time ago, from which, it has been in-
tierred, that the interest in the cause itself, is on the
w^ane; in this, however, I do not agree, but rather
believe that it is owing to its having settled down into
something more deep and solid than the first effer-
vescence of public spirit; there is evidently, less de-
monstration of enthusiasm in the cause of independence
in our country, than during the period of the revolution,
but no one can suppose that it rests upon a less solid

Printed copies of the declaration of independence
of Chili were sent to each of the commissioners, to-
gether with medals, struck on the occasion, in gold
and silver. I attended a theatre in the evening, where
a funcion, or ceremony, was got up for the occasion.
I shall defer the description of this amusement, until
I shall make some further observations on the event
just described. From this public and solemn ex-
pression, there was no room left to doubt, that the
idea of holding Chili in subjection, had nothing in it
of reality. This I could gather from a thousand minor
circumstances, while on the spot, which produced a
much stronger conviction in my mind of their sin-
cerity, than any thing I am able to state. As the re-
conquest of Chili has been variously related, I will
give the reader what I have been able to collect from
the means and opportunities afforded me.

The first revolutionary movement in Chili, was at


Santiago, the capital, on the 18th of July, 1810, when
the captain-general, Carrasco, was deposed, and the
Count de la Conquista was appointed to succeed him.
On the 18th of September following, a meeting was
held of the great land holders, in the city before men-
tioned, and it was determined to establish a provi-
sional government, on the same principles with those
set up in other parts of South America, to govern for
the time being, in the name of the king.* Mr. Poinsett
observes, that the Creoles of Chili rejoiced at the
success of Buenos Ayres, " they wished to follow
what they considered a noble example, but were re-
strained by their natural timidity." But the impulse
was given by the arrest of three of the principal in-
habitants of Santiago, Ovalle, Roxas, and Vera; the
two first were sent to Lima, the latter, a Buenos
Ayrean, feigned himself sick, and according to Mr.
Poinsett, " from the castle of Valparaiso, where he

• It is stated in " The Outline," that " the junta of Buenos
Ayres, conscious of the advantages which would result from the
provinces of Chili joining the revolution, sent to .Santiago, Don
A. Jonte, a person well acquainted with the inhabitants of that
capital, with instructions, to endeavour to hasten the deposition of
the Spanish governors ;" also, that when the revolution took
place, Jonte remained there as charge d'affaires, and in that ca-
pacity, succeeded in persuading the junta of Chili, to send three
hundred men to 4he assistance of Buenos Ayres, p. 149. The
supplement, or gazette extraordinary of JSuenos Ayres, of February
18th, 1811, contains a letter from the junta of Santiago, making
a voluntary tender of assistance to Buenos Ayres, which was re-
ceived with the strongest expressions of gratitude. The junta of
Chili, at this time, was composed of the following persons : the
Marquis de la Plata, Dr. Juan Martinez de Rosas, Ignacio Car/era^
(fatluT of the Carreras,) Francisco Xavier de Reyna, Juan Enrique
Kosalcs, with two secretaries.


was confined, incited the Chilians to reclaim their
countrymen, and to protest ag^ainst this act of oppres-
sion, which he represented as the prelude to a general
persecution of the Creoles. He excited their fears to
such a degree, that they gathered courage from des-
pair, and addressed a strong remonstrance to the cap-
tain-general, which alanned him, and induced him to
recal those gentlemen he had accused of treasonable
practices." This step was followed up by deposing
the captain-general, as already stated, and (he esta-
blishment of a provisional government ; a measure
which naturally led to others of a still bolder cast,
until they were fairly launched on the tempestuous sea
of liberty. When Mr. Poinsett speaks of the " na-
tural timidity" of the Chilians, I presume he does not
mean that they are any way deficient in constitutional
courage or enterprise ; his meaning is to be gathered
from \\hat he says of the composition of the society,
the prevalence of the feudal system, without its war-
like character ; nearly the same reason why no revo-
lutionary movements have taken place in Lower
Lima.* " The condition of the people of Chili is-
different from that of any of the other Spanish colo-
nies ; the country is for the most part in the hands of
large proprietors, who let out their lands to tenants,
upon the condition of personal service, and of the

♦ " In Lima there has been no revolutionary movement. Tho
landed estates are in the hands of large proprietors, and are cultivated
by slaves ; they are fearful that any attempt to change the form of
government, would be attended by a loss of their property, and from
the great number of blacks and mulattoes in this viceroyalty, the con-
test would probably terminate in the same manner as the revolution of
St. Domiuiio."


payment of a moderate rent in produce ; as the land-
lord may, at will, drive the tenant from his farm, or
augment the rent according to the increased value.
The farmers are deterred from improving their houses
or land, and content themselves with raising what
is necessary to pay the landlord, and to subsist their
families ; most of the large estates are grazing farms,

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 24 of 29)