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 25 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 25 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

and the personal services of the tenants consist, prin-
cipally, in tending the cattle ; they are expected at all
times, however, to be ready to obey the orders of the
landlord." It is not at all sui-prising, that the land-
holders, or aristocracy of Chili, should have been timid
in beginning the revolution. All agree, however, that
the population is good, and that the difficulty of ele-
vating their condition is not great, and that much
has been done towards it since the late expulsion of
the Spaniards.* In Buenos Ayres, nothing of this
kind existed, the people were essentially demo-
cratic ; and, consequently, less timid than the rich
landholders of Chili, who had much at stake, and
were, therefore, more exposed to the hazards of a
change, whose consequences could not easily be cal-
culated. The same cause, I am convinced, has very
much embarrassed the progress of the revolution in other
parts of South America, as well as in New Spain, while

• Nobility has been entirely abolished since O'Higgins, (or, if
you will, since San Martin, for I have heard hiui censured for it by
a British officer, at Buenos Ayres,) became director. Mr. Bland
states in his report, that the mayorasyos, or feudal privileges,
have been in like manner abolished. What more important steps
to elevate a people ? A constitution ! a constitution ! some cry
out ; but is it not by such measures that they are fitted for a con-
stitution ?


the secret of the greater energy in the population of
Buenos Ayres, is this democratic character of its po-

The year after the revolution, (April, 1811,) a con-
gress was called from the several provinces of Chili;
but in the mean time, the same intrigues were set on
loot by tiie audiencia, as in Buenos Ayres, with a view
of giving the ascendancy to the Spaniards. Figueroa,
a Spanish officer, who had been taken into the service
of the junta, was the instrument by which this was to
be effected. He attempted to put down the patriots
on the day appointed for the election of the deputies
of Santiago ; a battle ensued in the public square, in
which the royalists were defeated. On this occasion,
the elder of the three Carreras, (sons of the member
of the junta,) then a major of grenadiers, greatly
distinguished himself, and made a commencement of
the important part which he afterwards acted in the
affairs of this country.* The audiencia was put down,
the chamber of appeals established, and the viceroy

Disputes soon after took place in the congress ; the
members for Conception, complained that this portion
of Chili was not fairly represented. The dispute
was finally settled between the provinces of Concep-
tion and that of Santiago, as would appear by a kind

* This is the Carrera of whom I have spoken ; like many other
young Americans, he was serving in the Spanish armies when the
revolution broke out in America, and made his escape in order to
enlist in the cause of his country. He has published a manifesto,
justifying his conduct, and criminating his political enemies; it is
well written, but there is no reason why the good old rule should be
departed from in this instance, audi alterem partem.


of treaty, containing articles of confederation, signed
by O'Higgins, on the part of the province of Con-
ception. In this paper, the name of Carrera does
not appear. The congress, after this, proceeded in its
sessions for a time, with apparent harmony, and passed
the various decrees which have uniformly marked the
incipient stages of the revolution. Tliere was much
to be done before there could be said to be scaj positive
advancement towards civil liberty. A writer in the
Marylcind Censor, professedly an advocate of Ge-
neral Carrera, (as he appears to think him entirely in
the right,) makes a remark which deserves attention :
" It may be necessary here to remark, that the whole
power was, at this time, in the hands of the Larrains ;
between them and the Carreras there has always
existed a family feud. We believe firmly, that both
families were the friends of liberty, or to speak more
correctly, of the independence of South America ; for
these unhappy countries have never known civil liberty
under the authority of either." While this ad-
mission from a writer who avowedly takes the side of
Carrera, satisfies me of the uselessness of entering into
the question of the comparative merits of the parties,
I am not a little surprised at the pains he has taken to
enlist the public feeling in favour of one of them. With
respect to the concluding part of what I have quoted,
if the writer means that civil liberty as is enjoyed in
this country, was never experienced under either, he
only says, in other words, that the revolution in Chili
was not attended by a prodigy ! We ought to look at
the previous condition of the people, and see whether any
change has taken place : that the great work should be
perfected in a day, or a year, or even ten years, was not
to be expected by any rational man. If the writer means
that there was not as much done as might have been ex-


pected, he ought to have stated, specifically, the quantum
of improvement that we had a right to expect ; for with-
out fixing some standard, it is difficult to come to any
agreement. Some men are much more sanguine, per-
haps visionary, than others, and some, perhaps, ex-
pect too little ; the man of experience and discretion
will avoid extremes. It is far from my intention to
go into a minute examination of the family feuds between
the Carreras and the Larrains ; I have said enough to
show, that the profit or advantage to be derived from
settling the merits of the dispute, would not repay the
difficulty and labour of the investigation. This is cer-
tain, that it has been the cause of serious misfortunes to
the country.

After the affair of April, 1811, the next' occasion in
which the Carreras were conspicuous, was in Sep-
tember of the same year ; when, at the instigation of
the Larrains, who were then the leaders in the con-
gress, the three brothers, the eldest a major, and the
others in lower ranks, attacked the artillery barracks,
and seized the commander: this officer was an Euro-
pean, and suspected of being favourable to the princess
of Brazils. Mr. Poinsett states, " that after this ac-
tion, some reform was made in the representation, and
the congress commenced business by inviting all who
were inimical to the present order of things, to retire
from the kingdom. They rendered the clergy inimical
to the cause of independence, by forbidding them
to receive any money from their parishioners, for the
performance of their clerical duties; assigning a mo-
derate salary to the curates in lieu of fees. They
passed an act manumitting the future offspring of
slaves, and declared, that all slaves brought into
Chili after this period, should receive their freedom


after six monthvS residence. They opened the ports
to commerce, and published commercial regulations.
The members of the cabildo were made elective. The
first junta, or executive council, was composed of seven
members. The struggle for power between the family of
the Larrains and that of the Carreras, commenced at this
period. After the successful attack on the artillery bar-
racks, the eldest was promoted to the colonelcy of the
grenadiers, and the youngest to that of the artillery ;
from the barracks of these officers, a remonstiance was
addressed to the congress, which induced that body to
depose the junta of seven, and to appoint an executive
of five. The elder Carrera entered into the government
on this occasion. This junta did not long endure the
control of the legislative body, and the congress was
dissolved on the 2d September, 1811. Some of the mem-
bers of the executive resigned on this occasion, and a
new junta was formed, consisting of three persons ;
J. M. Carrera, J. Portales, and J. M. Cerda. The
members of the southern provinces protested loudly
against this flagrant breach of the privileges of the peo-
ple, and upon their arrival in Conception, excited their
constituents to oppose the executive of Santiago, and
to take up arms in defence of their rights." If these
facts be correct, and there is no reason to doubt them,
the Carreras are represented as conmiencing the civil
feud, if not by usurpation, at least by high-handed
and flagrant outrage. The statement of Mr. Poin-
sett, is supported by " The Outline," but in strong
language of reprobation. " The Carreras being en-
couraged by the happy result on the 4th of Septem-
ber, formed a plan for placing themselves at the head
of the government; one of them was major in the gre-
nadiers, another a captain in the artillery. Having


succeeded in ? gaining an ascendancy over the men in
their different corps, they put themselves at the head
of the troops on the 15th of November, 1811, and
compelled the congress to depose the members which
composed the junta, and to nominate in their stead
three new members, one of whom was J. M. Garrera.
The junta decreed that a new regiment of cavalry,
which was called grand guardia nacional, should be
formed, and J. M. Carrera was appointed colonel of
it, that they might succeed in keeping their usurped
power. Thus strengthened, the junta proceeded to
dissolve the congress; which they did on the 2nd of
December, 1811. The new junta was entirely biassed
by the Carreras, to whom the young military were
likewise devoted. They ruled without controul, aud,
notwithstanding the acknowledgment of king Ferdi-
nand, which had been made by the proceeding govern-
ment, they changed the Spanish for a tri-coloured flag.
The Carreras did not peaceably enjoy their usurped
power, they were threatened with four conspiracies;
which they succeeded in suppressing."

It appears that in consequence of this conduct of
the Carreras, the flames of civil war were lighted up.
Forces were collected on both sides, and marched to
the banks of the river Maule, which separates San-
tiago from Conception. The latter being destitute of
resources, was forced to submit to the capital. A cir-
cumstance took place shortly afterwards, which places
the conduct of the Carreras, in a light, if possible,
still more unfavourable. The second brother, who had
now become colonel of the grenadiers, attempted to
awe the executive into his own measures. J. M. Car-
rera resigned his office in the junta, and his father
was appointed in his stead. These are facts, which
cannot be satisfactorily explained away; they clearly
prove, that whatever virtues the Carreras might have


possessed, whatever merit is due to their exertions in
the cause of independence, their insatiate thirst for
power proved their own ruin and that of their coun-
try. The brothers were afterwards reconciled, and J.
M. Carrera was reinstated in the junta. A constitu-
tion was framed, and being signed by the military,
the cabildo, and all the respectable inhabitants, was
adopted by the government ; one of its principal fea-
tures was, a provision that the power of the state should
foe invested in a senate. The first junta had been acknow-
ledged by the regency of Spain, and the intercourse
with Lima had been uninterrupted ; during this time
the dissentions, however, between the two provinces,
had induced the viceroy to attempt the execution of a
plan for extinguishing the flame of the revolution;
troops were thrown into the province of Conception,
and possession was taken of the principal military
points on the south of Chili. Exertions were now
made by the Carreras to repel them, they marched
with their forces to the banks of the Maule. J. M.
Carrera, at the head of five hundred men, crossed the
river in the night time, and surprised the enemy's
camp at Yerbas Buenas, on which they retreated to-
wards Conception, but were overtaken by the Chilians
at St. Carlos, and an obstinate engagement ensued,
in which both claimed the victory. The royalists
then retired to Chilian. While J. M. Carrera left
his brother at the head of the main body, he marched
against Talcaguana, which he took by assault.* Chil-
ian was afterwards besieged, but without success.

It is stated by the author of "The Outline," that the
junta, being freed from the influence of the Carreras,

* " The garrisons left at Pereja in Talc.ignana and La Concep-
tion, were inconsiderable, and their chiefs escaped to Peru at the
approach of the patriots, who thus recovered those pUceg.''— The
Outline, p. 173.


by their absenge in the army, proceeded to re-model
the army, and establish themselves at Talca, so as to
be near the seat of war. He further states, " that the
army continued under the command of J. M. Carrera,
who ruled without contoul over the country where his
troops were stationed, but the people growing weary
of his despotism, as well as of the devastations com-
mitted by his army, openly declared throughout the
whole intendency of Conception for the royalists.
Carrera proved himself, likewise, an unskilful general,
and the government determined to remove him. On
the 24th of November, 1813, O'Higgins was appointed
to the conmiand of the army. Carrera refused to re-
sign, but the army declaring in favour of O'Higgins,
he was obliged to yield, and afterwards on his way to
Santiago he was taken prisoner and conducted to
Chilian." Mr. Poinsett simply states, that the
junta proceeded to re-model the army, and appointed
O'Higgins general in chief, in place of Carrera, at
which the three brothers took offence, and withdrew
from it. General Gainsa arrived from Lima with
reinforcements, and an active campaign immediately
opened, in which, according to " The Outline," O'Hig-
gins displayed activity and military skill. The roy-
alists being better supplied with cavalry, endeavoured
to reach the capital by forced marches, but were in-
duced, by the generalship of O'Higgins, to abandon
their plan, after they had crossed the Maule, and
taken possession of Talca. The capture of this place
by the royalists, and the precipitate retreat of the
junta, occasioned a commotion in Santiago,* the

* There appears to have always been some leayen of malcon-
tents in this place, to take advantage of the reverses of the pa-
triots, not openly in favour of Spain, but covertly, by taking sides

Vol. I. Y


junta was dissolved, and Lastra, the governor of Val-
paraiso, declared supreme director. At this critical
juncture, the capital being still threatened, an accom-
modation was effected through the mediation of com-
modore Hillyar, commanding the British squadron in
the Pacific ; by this, it was agreed, that the royalists
should evacuate the territory of Chili, in the course of
two months, that the Spanish regency should be ac-
knowledged, and that deputies should be sent to the
Spanish cortes. The treaty was signed on the 5th
May, 1814. In the mean time, the Carreras had
escaped from their place of confinement in Chilian,
and were actively engaged in collecting their parti-
sans. The troops in Santiago joined their standard,
and they deposed Lastra on the 23rd August, 1814.
The junta was re-established with J. M. Carrera as its
president. The author of "The Outline" states, that
the inhabitants of Santiago, had no particular attach-
ment to Lastra, but highly disapproved of this new
revolution which again placed the Carreras at the
head of the government; and that the return of
O'Higgins with his army from Talca, was immediately
desired. He, in consequence, marched towards the
capital. According to Mr. Poinsett, his object on
this occasion, was to enforce the treaty entered into
with the royalists, and that the conduct of the Car-
reras arose from their not being included in the general
amnesty and stipulation for the release of prisoners.*

with one of the factions, as convenience suited. I entertain no doubt
but that infinite pains have been taken by the royalists to blow the
flames of civil discord.

* Would this have justified them in deposing tho government ?
I am not disposed to decide hastily whether it would or would
no*. It must bo kept in mind thai none of the parties^ at this tinuy


The armies of Carrera and O'Higgins met on the
plains of Maypo, then the scene of a disgraceful civil
feud, but afterwards of the glorious victory that will
ever be celebrated in the annals of American liberty.
According to Mr. Poinsett, a bloody battle was fought,
which terminated in favour of Carrera. It appeared
that the viceroy of Lima had refused to ratify the
treaty, and that Osorio was advancing with reinforce-
ments he had brought with the intention of striking
a decisive blow ; the civil war was instantly ended,
and both parties united against the common enemy^
Carrera is said to have given dissatisfaction by dis-
placing a number of officers, who were the best in
the service, as soon as he had the power in his hands,
which gave rise to discontents and desertions. He
resigned the command to O'Higgins and returned to the
capital. Osorio, at the head of four thousand men,
advanced as far as Cachapoal, and O'Higgins shut
himself up in Remcagua, against which a succes-
sion of attacks was made during thirty-six hours. Car-
rera approached with reinforcements, which induced
Osorio at first to retreat, but Carrera falling back
upon Santiago, he renewed the attack, and O'Higgins
was entirely defeated. J. M. Carrera escaped across
the mountains with about six hundred troops, and in all
about tw^o thousand refugees of every age and sex,
sought protection from the neighbouring republic. A
number of them went down to Buenos Ayres, or dis-
persed in the neighbouring provinces. The whole of

were contending for absolute independence jrora Spain; that was
reserved for San Martin and 0'.Higgins, on the expulsion of the
Spanish authorities.

Y 2

324 '^ VOYAGE TO

the captain-generalship fell into the hands of the roy-
alists, in October, 1814, and numerous proscriptions,
arrests, and punishments followed. Upwards of a
hundred of the principal inhabitants, among whom
was the father of the Carreras, were transported to
the island of Juan Fernandez. Every thing done by
the patriots was annulled, the schools were shut up, the
revolutionary writings were destroyed wherever they
could be found, the printing presses demolished, and
the penalty of death denounced against those who
would not bting in their arms and surrender them up.
No pains were spared to obliterate every trace of the
revolution. The European Spaniards, and a consi-
derable proportion of the clergy, again raised their
heads. It is said, that even some among the native
Americans, disgusted with the feuds and dissentions
which had prevailed, gladly embraced the promises
of quiet and security in a return to their former state.
There can be little doubt that the combined forces
of the Larrains and Carreras, would have been suffi-
cient, if not to have expelled the enemy, at least to
have protracted the contest, and have worn them out.
Tlie Spaniards evidently saw the advantages to be
derived from these divisions in Chili, and probably
used every means to foment them; it would not be a
wild conjecture that the Carreras had been sulFered to
escape from Chilian, with the express view of seeing
the flames of civil war once more lighted up between
these factions, whose mutual hatred had been gra-
dually increasing. While at Buenos Ayres, I had fre-
quent opportunities of seeing the deadly hatred of the
partisans of Carrera to San Martin and O'Higgins ; it
even exceeded that of the old Spaniards, who look upon
the former as the most serious enemy their cause has


ever had in America.* After the reverses experienced
by San Martin at Talca, it is said, that some attempts
were made at Santiago, by the old Spaniards, and the
Carreras conjointly, to produce a counter revolu-
tion ; I think this improbable, yet such is the violence
of the party animosity between the leaders, that such a
thing is far from being impossible.

San Martin, who was about this time appointed go-
vernor of Cuyo, immediately sat about organizing an
aimy, for the purpose of attempting the re-conquest of
Chili. But this was the work of time. It was not
until the beginning of the year 1817, more than two
years after the conquest, that he found himself fully
prepared to scale the Andes, with an army of four
thousand men, an enterprise which has been justly
ranked amongst the boldest military achievements.
Like a great and prudent general, he risked nothing
until he found himself perfectly prepared, having
trained and disciplined his army with incredible pains.
His march across the mountains was executed with
so much skill, that he descended into Chili before it
was known that he was on his way. I shall, pro-
bably, have occasion to say more of the passage of the
Andes, in the course of this work. It has been stated.

• I took some pains to ascertain their feelings towards San
Martin. I was enabled to do this by an intimacy wilh a person
"wlio was friendly to the old order of things, and at the same
time personally intimate with the Carreras. I particularly ob-
served that they were both extravagantly elated at the dispersion
of San Martin's army at Talca; but, I believe there was no under-
standing between them; the Spaniards rejoiced, because there
was a hope for them in the ruin of San Martin — the Carrera party
saw in it a prospect of being again elevated to power — it was not
unlikely that they might combine to effect the same object with very
different views.


that his army consisted of two thousand Chilian re-
fugees, and two thousand negroes from Buenos Ayres !
This, with a view at once to detract from the merit
of San Martin, and to take away from the United
Provinces, all the credit of the achievement. The number
of Chilians in the army of San Martin, did not ex-
ceed a few hundred; the number of negroes, pro-
bably amounted to a thousand or twelve hundred ; the
remainder were whites of the United Provinces. The
gieat reliance of San Martin, was on his own corps
of cavalry, twelve hundred strong, disciplined with
great pains by himself; as a cavalry officer in parti-
cular, he is said greatly to excel. It would have
been unnecessary to have noticed these particulars,
if certain writers, who, listening only to their preju-
dices, had not taken pains to detract from the merits
of this officer. There is but one sentiment among the
disinterested and impartial, with respect to the part
of the United Provinces, and of their general, San
Martin, in this great military achievement, and nothing
can more strongly evince the deeply-rooted prejudice of
those who would attempt to deprive them of their just
share of its honours.

Our arrival at Buenos Ayres happened to be during
Lent; the circus and theatre were closed, and public
amusements suspended. I felt some curiosity to
witness the buli-fights, the favourite amusement in
all Spanish countries. As soon as the circus was
opened, I took the earliest opportunity of attend-
ing it. It is a circular amphitheatre, capable of
containing between four and five thousand persons.
The arena is about one hundred and fifty feet in dia-
meter, with an enclosure of about six feet high, with
openings at intervals, sufficiently wide to admit the
body of a man j at one end, there is a small covered


pTen, with stalls, in which the bulls are confined,
and opening into the arena by a gate. On the oppo-
site side there is a large gate, at which the bulls
are dragged out after being killed. I found the
place considerably crowded, but chiefly by the lower
classes of people, at least, the females appeared to be
such. At one side of the toro, there was a seat ap-
propriated to the city authorities; formerly, the vice-
roy, and some of the principal public functionaries,
had also their places set apart, but this is no longer
the case, as it is considered even disreputable for
those persons to be seen here. The town-major, who
is the chief officer of the police, always attends on
these occasions, and presides, in order to prevent any
disorder or disturbance. Immediately below his seat
there was a band of music, which played before the
commencement of the bull-fights, and during the in-
tervals between them. When the spectators had begun
to assemble, a guard of soldiers, about thirty in

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 25 of 29)