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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number, was marched into the arena, and after going
through a variety of evolutions, were divided into small
detachments, and distributed through the different
parts of the toro. The different combatants who were
to display their skill and courage on the occasion,
came forward, and made their obeisance to the town-
major, and then retired to their places. The first
two, called the picadores, were on horseback, one a
Chilian, of enormous stature and bodily strength, the
other a half Indian, of a more delicate frame, and a
more sprightly countenance. They had both been
convicted of crimes, and condeumed to fight bulls for
the amusement of the public; their irons were not
taken off until immediately before entering the toro.
There were five or six others, called bandaleros, with
different coloured flags, for the purpose of provoking


and teasing the bull ; the last were the mattadores,
having in the left hand a flag, and in the right a
sword. The picador es were armed with pikes, about
twelve feet in length, with the point so shaped, as to
wound the animal without penetrating deeply; they
posted themselves on the left side of the place whence
the bull was to be let out, and at the distance of fifteen
or twenty paces from each other. On the signal given,
the gate flew open, and a furious animal rushed forth.
He Immediately made at the Chilian, but feeling the
point of the steel in his shoulder, he suddenly wheeled
round and ran towards the middle of the arena,
when the handaleros endeavoured to provoke him with
their flags. It was the turn of the mestiso to receive
him next on his lance, but, it was not until after the
bull had chased both several times round the circus,
that he could venture to take such a position as would
justify his engaging him; it was necessary to be near
the enclosure, so as to have its support, otherwise, in
a furious assault of the bull, he might be overturned.
The animal attacked the half Indian with greater fury
than the other, but on feeling the steel, withdrew in
the same manner ; after this was repeated several
times, the bull seemed no longer inclined to attack the
picadores. At the tap of the drum, the picadores
withdrew from the contest; the handaleros next ad-
vanced with crackers, which they dexterously thrust
into different parts of the animal's body, who had
now become rather sullen, but as soon as they ex-
ploded and scorched him severely, he grew furious,
and ran about bellowing with rage and agony : no one
Irat a savage could witness this scene, for the first
time, witliout being shocked. The crackers being
'consumed, the animal stood still, his tongue lolling
out, with panting sides, and eyes blind with rage. The


mattadore now came forward ; at first, the generous
animal shewed reluctance to take notice of him, but
on being provoked, he made a plunge at the flag held
in his hand, while the mattadore, dexterously avoid-
ing him, thrust his sword between the neck and
shoulder, thus giving him a mortal wound. The band
of music struck up, the gates of the toro were thrown
open, five or six gauchos rushed in on horseback,
threw their lassoes about him, some fastening round
his horns, others about his legs and body, and in this
manner, in an instant bore him out of the circus, in the
midst of the shouts of the multitude. Seven other
bulls were let out in succession, and the same circum-
stances repeated with very little variation. The whole
was terminated with a feat, performed by a wild
gaucho; the bull being let out, he was immediately
lassoed by the gauchos on horseback, who threw him,
and held him fast by pulling in opposite directions ;
he was then tied, and a saddle girt put on him by the
gaucho, who was bare-legged, and had nothing on but
a shirt, and a kind of petticoat, something like a Scotch
kilt, the ordinary dress of these people. The animal
being properly prepared, he was sufiered to rise with
the gaucho on his back, and ran perfectly wild and
furious around the circus, leaping, plunging, and bel-
lowing, to the great diversion of the spectators, while
the gaucho was continually goading him with an enor-
mous pair of spurs, and lashing him with his whip.
When the animal was sufficiently tortured in this way,
the gaucho drew his knife and plunged it into the
spinal marrow ; the bull fell as if struck by lightning,
rolled upon his back with his feet in the air, which
were not even seen to quiver. Such is the barbarous
atmisement of bull-fighting, formerly the delight of the
representatives of the kings of Spain, and their mimic


royalty ; in a more enlightened and a happier age, con-
fined here to the coarse and vulgar, and it is to be hoped,
that, in the progress of science, liberty, and civilization,
will disappear for ever.

The theatre was attended by respectable people, but
I found it in a low state, though I had not expected
much. It is but an indifferent building, yet capable
of containing a considerable number of persons
The ladies were dressed with taste and elegance, and
some of them handsome. With respect to the interior
arrangements, the orchestra, the scenery, the dresses
of the actors, and the whole of the performance, I
presume they were about equal to our theatre during
our revolutionary war. When the curtain rose, the
national hymn was sung by the whole of the theatric
corps, accompanied by the orchestra, during which, it
is the etiquette for every person to stand up ; the song
was followed by thunders of applause. The perform-
ance is about equal to that of New Orleans, except
that the prompter takes rather too audible a part.
Between the acts, the audience flow into an extensive
coffee-house, which communicates by a folding door.
Here hundreds are seen, officers and citizens, walking
about promiscuously, or in groups around small tables,
drinking chocolate or coffee, or taking other refresh-
ments. The men of Buenos Ayres idle away a great
deal of their time at these places, of which, there
are six or eight in the city ; they are always crowded at
noon and in the evening, as at New Orleans.

There is a society de buen gusto, for the purpose of
improving the stage ; it is one of the modes in a free
country, ©f inculcating patriotic sentiments. Several
very good plays have been translated and performed,
and occasional pieces got up. In honour of the victory
of Chacabuco, a dramatic production of some merit was


produced, entitled the battle of Marathon, the incidents
of which somewhat resemble each other.* The tragedy
of Pizarro has been translated, and is sometimes per-
formed, and also several other pieces.

* The same play was performed after the victory of Maipu,
Mith still greater propriety, as it was actually reported that San
Martin had been entirely defeated. The picture of San Martin
was exhibited on the stage, and I had an opportunity of witnessing
the popular enthusiasm in favour of el heroe, as he is generally

; bffc J




Mr. Rodney to the Secretary of State.



I have the honour to present the report herewith inclosed,
agreeably to the desire of Mr. Graham, who, on reflection, prefer-
red submitting some additional remarks, in a separate paper. For
this purpose, two of the documents referred to in the report, re-
main in his possession — Dr. Fune's outline of events in the United
Provinces, since the revolution, and the manifesto of independence
by the Congress at Tucuman.

I have the honour to be,
With great respect.

Your most obedient servant,
(Signed) C. A. RODNEY.

Hon. John Q. Adams, Secretary of State.

Mr. Rodney to the Secretary of State.


I have now the honour to submit to your consideration, my
report on the subject of the late mission to South America, em-
bracing the information derived from the various sources within
my power, so far as I had an opportunity of improving the advan-
tages possessed.
Vol. I. a


With the history of the conquest of the Spanish possessions in
America, you must be familiar. They were principally, if not ex-
clusively, achieved by private adventurers. When completed, a
most oppressive system of government, or rather despotism, was
established by the parent country.

These extensive regions were originally swayed by two vice-
roys. The dominions of Spain in North America were under the
government of the viceroy of Mexico, and all her possessions in
South America were at the control of the viceroy of Peru.

The remoteness of some parts of the country from the residence
of the viceroy at Lima, occasioned, in 1718, the establishment of
another viceroyalty at Santa Fee de Bogota, in the kingdom of
New Grenada. In 1731, New Grenada was divided, and a num-
ber of the provinces composing that kingdom, were separated from
it. These were put under the jurisdiction of a captain-general and
president, whose seat of government was at Caraccas.

In loG8, Chili was erected into a separate captain-generalship;
in 1778, a new viceroyalty was established at Buenos Ayres, com-
prehending all the Spanish possessions to the east of the western
Cordilleras and to the south of the river Maranon.

This immense empire seems, according to the laws of the Indies,
to have been considered a distinct kingdom of itself, though united
to Spain, and annexed to the crown of Castile. In this light, it is
viewed by Baron Humboldt, in his essay on New Spain.

With some slight shades of difference in the regulations esta-
blished in these governments, the prominent features of their po-
litical institutions, exhibit a striking resemblance, as the general
system was the same.

Their commerce was confined to the parent country, and to
Spanish vessels exclusively. They were prohibited, under the
penalty of death, to trade with foreigners. The natives of Old
Spain composed tiie body of their merchants. Though this part
of the system had, previously to the revolution, been relaxed in
some degree, particularly by the statute of free commerce, as it is
styled, the relief was partial, and the restrictions continued severe
and oppressive.

All access to the Spanish settlements was closed to foreigners^


and even the inhabitants of the different provinces were prohibited
from intercourse with one another, unless under the strictest

The various manufactures, that might interfere with those of
Spain, were not permitted. They were prevented, under severe
penalties, from raising flax, hemp, or iiaffron. In chmates most
congenial to them, the culture of the grape and the olive was pro-
hibited ; on account of the distance of Peru and Chili, and the
difficulty of transporting oil and wine to these remote regions,
they were permitted to plant vines and olives, but were prohibited
the culture of tobacco. At Buenos Ayres, by special isdulgence
of the viceroys, they were allowed to cultivate grapes and olives
merely for the use of the table.

They were compelled to procure from the mother country,
articles of the first necessity ; and were thus rendered dependent
on her for the conveniences of life, as well as luxuries. The
crown possessed the monopoly of tobacco, salt, and gunpowder.

To these oppressive regulations and restrictions was added an
odious system of taxation. From the Indians, was exacted a
tribute in the shape of a poll tax, or a certain servitude in the mines,
called the mita. A tenth part of the produce of cultivated lands,
was taken under the denomination of tithes. The alcavala, a
tax varying from two and a half to five per cent, on every sale
and re-sale of all things moveable and immoveable, was rigidly
exacted, though in some cases a commutation was allowed. Royal
and municipal duties were laid on imports and on the tonnage,
entrance and clearance of vessels, under the different appella-
tions of almoxarifasgo, sea, alcavala, corso, consulado, armada,
and armadilla. To these may be added the loyal fifths of the
precious metals, the most important tax in the mining districts.
Besides all these, there were stamp taxes, tavern licenses, and
sums paid for the sale of offices, of titles of nobility, papal bulls,
the composition and confirmatioa of lands, with a number of
others of inferior grade.

Under the Spanish monarchs, who had early obtained from the
pope the ecclesiastical dominion, and thus had united in their
royal persons, all civil and religious authority, a most oppressive

a 2


hierarchy was established with its numerous train of offices and
o rders, succeeded by the inquisition.

The posts of honor and profit, from the highest to the lowest,
were filled almost exclusively by natives of old Spain.

The priucipal code of laws which thus maintained the supremacy
of Spain over those distant regions, almost locked up from the rest
of the world, emanated from the council of the Indies established
by the king, in which he was supposed to be always present. The
royal rescripts, the recopilationes of the Indies, and the partidas
furnished the general rules of decision ; and when these were silent
or doubtful, recourse was had to the opinions of professional

This system was generally executed by the viceroys, captains-
general, and by the tribunals of justice, with a spirit correspond-
ing with the rigorous policy that produced it. To this form of
government, the country had for centuries submitted with implicit
obedience ; and probably would have continued to submit much
longer, but for events in this country and the changes in

The sagacious minds of many able writers, penetrating into the
future, had predicted, at some distant date, a revolution in South
America, before that in North America had commenced. From
the period of the successful termination of our own struggle for in-
dependence, that of the inhabitants of the South has been with
more confidence foretold ; and there is reason to believe it has been
hastened by this fortunate event. The conduct of Spain, during
the war of our revolution, was calculated to make a lasting im-
pression on her colonies. This result was then foreseen by intel-
ligent politicians ; many were surprised that she could be so blind
to her own interests, after she had on one occasion manifested the
strongest suspicion of Paraguay ; for to her scrupulous jealousy of
this power, the expulsion of the Jesuits from that country in 1750
is to be attributed.

The wars that arose from the French revolution, have produced
in Europe, changes of the greatest magnitude, which have had
an immense influence on the affairs of South America. When
Spain joined France against tlie combined princes, she exposed


lier distant possessions to Briiisli liostiiities, Tlie great naval
power of England gave her ready access to the American colo-
nies. Engaged in an arduous contest, she was prompted by her
feelings and interests, to retaliate on Spain, the conduct she expe-
rienced from her during the war of our independence. Encou-
raged, perhaps, by the councils of her enemies, the first symptoms
of insurrection, in the continental possessions of Spain, were ex-
hibited in the year 1797, in Venezuela. These were succeeded
by the attempts of Miranda in the same quarter, which were ac-
companied, or were followed, since the vacillating state of the
Spanish monarchy, by revolutionary movements in Mexico, Gre-
nada, Peru, Chili, and Buenos Ayres ; and from which scarcely any
part of the Spanish dominions in America has been entirely

The occurrences that led the way to the subsequent important
events in the provinces of La Plata, were the invasion of the Bri-
tish under Pophara and Beresford in the year 1806, and their
expulsion a few months afterwards by the collected forces of the
country under Leniers and Pueyrredon. These incidents fortu-
nately gave to the people a just idea of their own strength, and^
they afterwards repelled with a firmness and bravery, that did them
great honour, the formidable attack of the British under General

The wretched state to which Spain was reduced by the policy,
the power, and the arts of Napoleon, the resignation of Charles
IV. in favour of Ferdinand VII. and the renunciation by both
in favour of Napoleon, were productive of the most important re-
sults. They threw the kingdom into the greatest confusion.
The alternate success and disasters of the French armies, pro-
duced a new era in Spain. The people generally revolted at the
idea of being governed by the brother of Napoleon, to whom he had
transferred the crown. Juntas were established, who acted in the
name of Ferdinand, then confined in France. These were sub-
stituted for the ancient Cortes, and the regular council of the
nation, to which in times of imminent danger, they ought to have
recurred agreeably to their usages. Conflicting authorities pro-
duced a distracted state of affairs. In the scenes that ensued, the



proper attention was not paid to the American provinces. Their
conduct towards them was versatile and inconsistent ; they were
lost sight of or neglected until it was too late. Conceiving they
were abandoned by the parent state, they thought it justifiable
to act for themselves. It was not very long before the inhabitants
of Buenos Ayres, embracing the example of their brethren in
Spain, established a junta, which assumed the reins of go-
vernment; and, finally, in the year 1810, sent off the viceroy,
Cisneros, and his principal adherents. For a summary of events
subsequent to this period, until the time of my departure, I beg
leave to refer to the outline subjoined, (Appendix A.) from the
pen of Dr. Funes, drawn up, in part, at my request. Without
vouching for the perfect accuracy of the work, I think, from the
information received, it will probably be found to contain, in ge-
neral, a correct and impartial sketch of the prominent transactions
and occurrences.

In perusing this interesting document, I have to lament, that
its pages are marked with some cases of severity and cruelty, which
seem almost inseparable from great revolutions. It must, how-
ever, be consoling to observe, that they appear to have passed
through that state which might possibly have rendered examples
necessary ; and to have arrived, perhaps, at that stage when the
passions becoming less turbulent, and the people more enlight-
ened, a milder system may be expected to prevail.

Their dissentions have produced most of their calamities. In
such seasons they were naturally to be expected. But their dis-
putes have been principally healed by the prudent and energetic
measures of the Congress, which commenced its sittings in Tu-
cuman in the year 1815, and adjourned in the year following from
thence to Buenos Ayres, where it remained in session, occupied
with the task of forming a permanent constitution. This respect-
able body, besides acting as a convention or a constituent assem-
bly, exercises, temporarily, legislative power^. Their sittings are
pubhc, with a gallery of audience for citizens and strangers. The
debates are freq^uently interesthig, and are conducted with ability
and decorum. They are published every month for the informa-
tion of the people.


The dispute with Artigas, the chief of the Orientals, has not
been adjusted. This, with a certain jealousy of the superior in-
fluence of the city of Buenos Ayres, on the general affairs of
the provinces, the conduct of the government of Buenos Ayres
towards the Portuguese, and the high tariff of duties, which I un-
derstand have been since reduced, appeared to constitute the
principal causes of dissatisfaction at the time of ray departure.

The declaration, by Congress, of that independence which they
had for many years previously maintained in fact, was a measure of
the highest importance, and has been productive of a unanimity and
a decision before unknown. This summit of their wishes was only
to be reached by slow and gradual progress. The public mind
had to be illumined on the subject by their pulpits, their presses,
and their public orations. The people were to be prepared for
the event. When the season arrived, they cut the knot which
could not be untied. The declaration of independence was adopted
in the directorship of Mr. Pueyrredon, on the 9th day of July,
1816. It was succeeded by an able exposition of the causes that
extorted it, to justify to their fellow-citizens and to the world the
measure they had deliberately voted to support with their fortunes
and their lives.

Believing the latter paper might be thought worthy of perusal,
a translation has been annexed. (Appendix B.)

The salutary influence of this bold and decisive step was at
once felt throughout the country. It gave new life and strength
to the patriotic cause, and stability to the government. The vic-
tories of Chacabuco and Maipu, achieved by the arms of Chili
and Buenos Ayres, have produced and confirmed a similar decla-
ration of independence by the people of Chili, which is also an-
nexed, (Appendix C.) and cemented the cordial union existing
between the confederate states. The consequence has been, that
within these extensive territories, there is scarcely the vestige of
a royal army to be found, except on the borders of Peru.

Having thus, in connexion with the succinct account given
by Dr. Funes, traced the principal events since the revolution in
Buenos Ayres, I shall proceed to state the result of the infor-
mation received, according to the best opinion I could form, of


the extent, population, government and resources of the United
Provinces, with their productions, imports and exports, trade, and

The late viceroyalty of Buenos Ayres, of which that city was
the metropolis, was by many considered the largest, as well as the
most valuable of all the Spanish dominions in South America, ex-
tending in a direct line from its north to its south boundary, a dis-
tance of more than two thousand miles ; and from its eastern to its
western, not less than eleven hundred.

It was composed, at the commencement of the revolution, of
the nine provinces or intendencies following : Buenos Ayres, Pa-
raguay, Cordova, Salta, Potosi, La Plata, Cochabamba, La Paz,
and Puno.

Watered by the great river La Plata and its numerous tributary
streams, which afford an easy communication with countries of an
immense extent, and furnishing an easy access to the treasures of
South America, it has always been regarded by Spain as one of
her most precious acquisitions. Enjoying every variety of cli-
mate to be found between different and distant latitudes, and blessed
with a large portion of fertile soil, it is capable of producing all
that is to be found in the temperate or torrid zones. Immense
herds of cattle and horses graze on its extensive plains, and con-
stitute, at this time, their principal source of wealth. The mines
of Potosi are also included within its boundaries. Tliere are no
woods for a very considerable distance from Buenos Ayres. No
forest trees are to be seen on the widely-extended pampas, except
at intervals, a solitary umboo. After passing the Saladillo, in a
northerly direction, the woods begin, and proceeding in the upper
provinces, the hills appear, and mountains rise in succession, in-
terspersed with rich vallies. On the east side of the rivers La
Plata and Parana, the country is said to be very fine. The Entre
Rios is represented as capable of being made a garden spot ; and
the Banda Oriental presents hills and dales, rich bottoms, finC;
streams of water, and at a distance from the great river, on the
banks of the smaller streams, some excellent woodland. Between
Maldonada and Monte Video, the east ridge of the Cordilleras
terminates on the river La Plata.


Since the revolution, five more provinces have been creeled,
makinc. in all, fourteen within the limits of the ancient viceroy-
alty, viz. Tucuman, taken from Salta ; Mendoza, or Cuyo, taken
from Cordova; Corrientes, Entre Rios, comprising the country
between the Uraguay and the Parana, and the Banda Oriental, or
eastern shore of the river La Plata. The two last were taken from
the province of Buenos Ayres, which was thus reduced to the ter-
ritory on the south-side of that river. The subordinate divisions
of the country, with the principal towns, will be found in the Ap-
pendix to this report, with aa account of the produce or manufac-

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 26 of 29)