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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tures of the different districts. (Appendix D.)

Of the fourteen provinces into which the ancient viceroyalty is
now divided, five were, at my departure, principally occupied by
the loyal forces, (which, in consequence of the victory of Maipu,
were expected soon to retreat to Lower Peru,) or partially under
their influence, viz. Potosi, La Plata, Cochabamba, La Paz, and
Puno ; and the nine following independent, defacto of Spain, were
in the possession of the patriots, viz. Buenos Ayres, Paraguay,
Mendoza, Salta, Corrientes, Entre Rios, and Banda Oriental.
But Paraguay, and the city of Santa Fee, act independently of
Buenos Ayres. Though Paraguay is not on unfriendly terms with
them, and it is hoped, by some, will before long join the union.
Entre Rios and the Baada Oriental, under General Artigas, in the
character of chief of the Orientals, are in a state of hostility with
Buenos Ayres.

Monte Video, the capital of the eastern shore, was occupied by
a Portuguese army, and a squadron of ships of war from Brazil,
blockaded the ports of Colonia and Maldovado, and prohibited the
entrance of neutral vessels, unless they paid them the same duties
on their cargoes, that were charged on the importation of the goods
when landed in the country.

The territory of the United Provinces is computed to contain
one hundred and fifty thousand square leagues, though it probably
exceeds that quantity. The lands occupied in the country, re-
mote from the cities, are generally converted by their owners into
estancias, or large grazing farms for cattle, and chacras for grow-
ing grain. 'J'he small farms, or quintas, m the neighbourhood of


cities, are in fine order. Those around Buenos Ayres, which fur-
nish their market with an ample supply of fruit and vegetables, are,
by irrigation, in the highest state of culture.

The population, exclusive of the Indians, is now calculated at
about one million three hundred thousand ; but adding the civilized
Indians only, who are of great importance, it would, in all, probably
exceed two millions.

The whole population consists of nations of Old Spain, and their
descendants born in the country, or as they style themselves. South
Americans ; of Indians civilized, or unreclaimed, with diiierent
" casts," or mixed blood ; of Africans and their descendants, or
Negroes and Mulattoes.

I could not ascertain, with satisfaction, the population of
the different provinces: the province of Buenos Ayres con-
tains about one hundred and twenty thousand, whilst the po-
pulation of Entre Rios and Banda Oriental, is computed at fifty

The city of Buenos Ayres contains a population cf sixty thou-
sand. The inhabitants of this place appear to be an amiable, and
interesting people. They are considered brave and humane, pos-
sessing intelligence, capable of great exertions and perseverance,
and manifesting a cheerful devotion to the cause of freedom and

There is also a certain mediocrity and equality of fortune pre-
vailing among them, extremely favourable to a union of the popular
sentiment, in support of the common weal. Many industrious
mechanics, and enterprising merchants, are, however, increas-
ing their estates, and adding to the stock of capital in the

The people of the province of Buenos Ayres, residing out of the
city, are, generally speaking, poor, and rather indolent. Though
a hardy race, and when excited to action, they become zealous
defenders of the liberties of their country. They are capable of
great improvement, and under the influence of a good example,
when a change takes place in their manner and habit of living,
they bid fair to become useful and industrious citizens.

The inhabitants of Cordova are said to be more superstitious.


and more industrious, but less patriotic. This is principally at-
tributed to the loss of the trade with Peru, occasioned by the
revolutionary war.

Tucuman, I was informed, possessed an excellent popu-

The people of Mendoza, or Cuyo, are moral, industrious, and
patriotic. They have sacrificed largely at the shrine of independ-
ence, supporting with zeal and confidence the cause of their
country ; whilst the citizens of Santa Fee are represented as im-
moral and insubordinate, and manifesting, on most occasions, an
extreme jealousy of their neighbours.

The population of Entre Rios and Banda Oriental, is perhaps
not inferior in valour to that of Buenos Ayres ; nor is it deficient
in military skill, particularly in carrying on a partisan warfare, for
which its troops are admirably adapted. Their other good quali-
ties have been, probably, somewhat impaired by the system pur-
sued in that quarter, where they have been compelled to give up
every thing like civil avocations, and to continue without any re-
gular kind of government, under the absolute coutrol of a chief,
who, whatever may be his political principles, or professions, in
practice concentrates all power, legislative, judicial, and execu-
tive, in himself.

The General Congress of the United Provinces, assembled at
Buenos Ayres, on the third of December, 1817, established by a
provisional statute, a temporary form of government, which will
be found in Appendix marked (E.)

This Congress is comprised of deputies from the different pro-
vinces. It actually consists of twenty-six members. But as a re-
presentative is allowed for every fifteen thousand citizens, it would
be more numerous if all the provinces had sent delegates in that
ratio of population.

With some exceptions, and particularly of that palladium
of our rights, which is unknown to the civil law, the trial by
jury, the provisional constitution will be found, on an atten-
tive perusal, to contain a distinct recognition of many of the
vital principles of free government. A church establishment
also, that of the Catholic Faith, is eontrary to our ideas of


religious freedom ; though a measure adopted from necessity,
perhaps, by them.

It declares that all power, legislative, judicial, and executive,
resides in the nation. The congress are to be chosen by electors,
who are to be voted for by the people in the primary assemblies.
The cabildos, or municipalities, are to be elected immediately by
the citizens. It recognises the independence of the judiciary, and
declares the tenure of office, with respect to the superior judges,
to be held during good behaviour. It provides for the election of
a chief magistrate by congress, removeable when they choose to
appoint a successor, and responsible for the execution of the duties
of his office, which are defined and limited. In the oath of office,
he is sworn to preserve the integrity and independence of the

The three great departments of state, of the treasury, and of
war, are distinctly marked out, and their respective powers and
duties assigned.

On some subjects, it enters more into detail than is usual wilh
us, particularly in those of their array, navy, and militia. But this
perhaps, in their situation, was necessary.

It provides that no citizen shall accept a title of nobility, with-
out forfeiting the character of citizenship.

It provides also against general warrants, and the arrest of in-
dividuals, unless on probable proof of guilt.

It contains a salutary provision that a judge, having original
jurisdiction, before taking cognizance of a cause, shall use all
possible means of reconciling the parties. This constitution is but
temporary; the congress are engaged in the task of forming a per-
manent one. In the mean time no alteration can be made in the
present, unless with the consent of two-thirds of the members. In
this manner some alterations have been adopted.

The subject of a permanent constitution was before a commit-
tee of sixteen members of congress. There was a difference of
opinion prevailing amongst them, on the point of a confederated or
a consolidated government. If they should adopt the former, they
will frame the constitution, in all probability, nearly after the
model of that of the United States. Should they decide on the


latter, it is highly probable they will incorporate the leading fea-
tures of our system into their form of government. They seem
to concur in the proposition, to have a chief magistrate elected for
a term of years, and a representative legislature to consist of two
branches. A senate, to constitute the most permanent body, and
a house of representatives, whose term of service will be of shorter

Perhaps it would be better for them to delay the completion of
this all-important task, after the example of the United States, until
a period of peace. Their present provisional statute is an im-
provement on those which preceded it ; and we may expect their
proposed constitution will be still more perfect, as they advance
in the knowledge of those principles on which republican govern-
ments are constituted.

But however free in theory this provisional statute may be, it
is undoubtedly true, that unless administered agreeably to its let-
ter and spirit, it will not afford security to the citizen. Whether
any infractions have occurred since the date of its existence, I can-
not pretend to determine, not being in full possession of the facts.
When we recollect that they have the benefit of our example,
it may reasonably be expected, that they will, in general, adhere to
their written constitution. They have also the fatal result of the
French revolution, warning them of the dangers of its excesses,
of which they appear to be sensible.

The productions and the manufactures of the different provinces,
will be found in Appendix D. ; but I was unable to procure any
satisfactory estimates of the probable value or amount in each pro-
vince. There is, however, a coasiderable internal trade carried on
in the interchange of various articles, between the several pro-
vinces ; cattle, horses, and mules, furnish a considerable source of
barter; with the latter, Peru is usually supplied: the Paraguay tea
is a great article of trade throughout the country ; the brandy,
wine, raisins, and figs of Mendoza and San Juan, are becoming
important ; the hides of oxen, the skins of the vacuna and gra-
naco, with a number of fine furs, afford valuable articles of ex-
change. These, with the foreign goods, transported in every
direction from Buenos Ayres, very readily, by oxen and mules


Their navy is small, and some of their vessels are laid up ia
which also furnish the means of carrying their native productions
to their sea ports, form a branch of trade of great magnitude, con-
sidering the population of the country.

Their exports are calculated with some degree of accuracy, at
ten millions of dollars. These consist principally of ox hides,
jerk beef, and tallow, the present great staples of the country. A
variety of furs and peltry, some grain, copper, mostly brought
from Chili; with gold and silver in bullion, and in coin, chiefly
from the mines of Potosi.

The imports are computed to be about equal to their exports,
British manufactures form the principal mass, and they are to be
had in great abundance. They consist of woollen and cotton
goods of every description ; some of them wrought to imitate the
manufactures of the country: ironmongery, cutlery, hardware,
saddlery, hats, porter, ale, and cheese, are among the remaining

From the United States they receive lumber of all kinds, and
furniture of every description, coaches and carriages of all sorts,
codfish, mackerel, shad and herring, leather, boots and shoes,
powder and munitions of war, and naval stores, ships and vessels,
particularly those calculated for their navy or for privateers.

From Brazils, they receive sugar, coffee, cotton, and rum.

From the north of Europe they receive steel and iron, and from
France, a number of articles of its manufacture.

Their foreign commerce is principally carried on by British ca-
pitalists, though there are some Americans, a few French, and
other foreign merchants, also settled at Buenos Ayres; they are all
placed, I believe, on the same footing of equality.

The revenue of the state may be estimated at about three mil-
lions of dollars annually ; but their system of finance is very im-
perfect, and although their debt is small, their credit is low ; they
have hitherto avoided the issuing of paper money, and they have
established no bank ; but they have sometimes anticipated their
revenue, by giving due bills, receivable in payment for duties, or
goods imported, or articles exported; the impost furnishes the
principal part of the revenue. A copy of their tariff, as at first
established, was some time since transmitted, I believe, to the de-


partment of state. In this, the duties were generally specific and
high. I understand they have been lately reduced, as their exor-
bitancy had occasioned much smuggling.

Voluntary contributions from those friendly to the revolution,
and forced loans from the old Spaniards, have constituted another
portion of their funds. To show the public capital adequate to
all exigencies, their different civil, military, and naval establish-
ments have been taken into view, and are comprised in the esti-
mate furnished ; a thing unusual with us, but they have omitted
their public lands, which, if a prudent use is made of them, must,
at no distant day, become a very productive source of revenue to
the state.

The mines of Potosi, which, in all probability, will very soon
fall into their hands again, may furnish them with a considerable
supply of the precious metals. It is stated on respectable autho-
rity, that so late as the year 1790, the amount of gold and silver
coined at Potosi, in that year, was calculated to have been 299,846
dollars in gold, and 2,983,176 dollars in silver.

The state of their army, and the condition of their navy, will
be seen by a reference to the original return presented. (Ap-
pendix F.) "^ '

Their army is composed of regular troops, civicos, and militia.
In one or other of these classes, they are educated to the mili-
tary art, and as far as I had an opportunity, and was capable of
judging, they appeared to be well acquainted with the elements of
their profession. Their forces, according to the paper furnished,
are estimated at nearly thirty thousand men. They are composed
of one thousand two hundred and ninety-six artillery, thirteen
thousand six hundred and ninety-three infantry, and fourteen
thousand seven hundred and eighteen cavalry ; of which, twelve
thousand one hundred and forty-three are troops of the line, seven
thousand and forty-one are civicos, and ten thousand five hundred
and seventy-three are militia. These form the different armies
of the centre, of Peru, of the Andes, of Cordova, and the auxili-
ary forces in the Entre Rios. This statement, however, only in-
cludes the militia of the province of Buenos Ayres itself. Their
supply of arms and munitions of war is ample, as will be seen by
the statement annexed, on that subject.


ordinary. A list of them, as well as of their privateers, will be
found in Appendix F. Their private armed vessels are subjected
to very strict regulations, agreeably to their prize code, which is
among the original papers presented and herewith delivered. It
may he proper, in this place to introduce the subject of the irre-
gular conduct of the privateers under the patriot flag, against
which, the commissioners were directed to remonstrate. Having
taken an opportunity of explaining to Mr. Tagle, the secretary
of state, the proceedings of our government relative to Amelia
island and Galveztown, agreeably to their instructions, the com-
missioners embraced a suitable occasion, to urge the just cause of
complaint, which the malpractices of private armed vessels, wearing
the patriot colours, had furnished our government with. On both
topics, they had long and interesting conversations. With the
conduct of the government respecting Amelia island and Galvez-
town, Mr. Tagle expressed himself perfectly satisfied, and he dis-
claimed for his government, any privity or participation in the
lodgments made at those places, by persons acting in the name of
the patriots of South America. In reference to the acts of cruiz-
ers under the patriot flags, he said he was sensible that great ir-
regularities had occurred, though his government had done every
thing in their power to prevent them, and were willing, if any in-
stance of aggression were pointed out, to direct an inquiry into
the case, and if the facts were established, to punish those con-
cerned, and redress the injured individuals. He professed his
readiness to adopt any measures that would more effectually pre-
vent a recurrence of such acts, in which he expressed his belief,
that the privateers of Buenos Ayres, had rarely participated,
though the character of the government had suffered from the
conduct of others. He stated that they had, on one occasion,
sent out some of their public vessels to examine all cruisers wear-
ing the Buenos Ayrean flag, to see that they were lawfully com-
missioned, and to ascertain whether they had violated their in-

Among the causes of dissatisfaction, to which I have alluded,
the preponderance of the capital has been mentioned. Its great
weight in the scale of national affairs, is to be ascribed to its


greater exertions in the national cause. These are owing to its
comparative wealth, and to its active, intelligent, and enterprising
population. The armies that have been raised in this city and
the neighbouring country, with the supplies in money and muni-
tions of war, drawn from these sources, have been truly extraor-

It would be a difficult task to n^ake an exact calculation, or
to form even a probable estimate, but all seemed to concede the
superior merit claimed on account of their exertions, when com-
pared with their wealth and population : and it is not unlikely
that Buenos Ayres has in consequence assumed a higher tone,
and acquired a controuling influence, which she has sometimes

Another source of discontent is, the unfortunate dispute between
the Banda Oriental, and Buenos Ayres, which had also an influence
on the proceedings of the latter towards the Portuguese.

The original cause of division, may be traced to a jealousy, long
subsisting between the rival cities of Monte Video and Buenos
Ayres. This has become habitual, and has extended to the coun-
try. Private interests, and personal views have also increased their

General Artigas (who bears the character of chief of the Orien-
tals, as has been already stated, and has also assumed that of the
protector of the Entre Rios and Santa Fee,) was originally in the
royal service, a captain in a provincial corps. In this he conti-
nued for some time after the revolution had commenced at Buenos
Ayres. But in the year 1811, taking offence, as it is said, at some
conduct of the Spanish commandant of Colonia, he abandoned the
royal cause, and entered into the service of the patriots. So early
as the year 1813, when acting against Monte Video, he became
dissatisfied with Sarratea, the commander-in-chief from Buenos
Ayres. On his removal from the head of the army, he quarrelled
with general Rondeau, , who it was supposed would have been ac-
ceptable to him, and finally withdrew, before the siege of Monte
Video was finished under general Alvear. For this conduct, Po-
sadas, when he succeeded to the government, treated him as a de-

VoL. I. b


serter from their service. By a proclamation, he offered a reward
for his apprehension, and set a price upon his head : an act which
general Artigas never forgot or forgave.

During the subsequent directorship of Alvear, he induced the
cabildo of Buenos Ayres, to issue a similar proclamation against
general Artigas. When Alvear was dismissed, the people of
Buenos Ayres endeavoured to atone for their conduct, by burning,
with every mark of ignominy, the degrading proclamation. They
also addressed a conciliatory letter to the general, and received
from him a corresponding answer. These were preliminary to a
fruitless attempt at reconciliation, made by the director ad interim,
colonel Alvares, who succeeded Alvear. The correspondence on
this occasion is annexed. (Appendix II.) Other endeavours to
reconcile him have failed, notwithstanding the changes in the of-
fice of director at Buenos Ayres. On one occasion, the proposi-
tion was made, that the Banda Oriental, should remain indepen-
dent of Buenos Ayres, and merely send deputies to the general
congress, to concert measures against the common enemy. On
another, when the Portuguese army was approaching the frontiers
of the Banda Oriental, an effort was made by Pueyrredon to re-
concile him, and to unite him in the common defence. Ample
supplies of arms, and munitions of war were offered, and some fur-
nished, but this attempt also failed.

In order that a fuller view of this subject may be had, I have
subjoined a translated copy of an animated letter from general
Artigas, to Mr. Pueyrredon. (Appendix I.) It is but justice to
add, that general Artigas, is thought by persons entitled to credit,
to be a firm friend to the independence of the country. To ex-
press a decided opinion on this delicate question, would scarcely
be expected of me, as my position did not command a view of the
whole ground. I had not the satisfaction to be derived from a per-
sonal interview with general Artigas, who is, unquestionably, a
man of rare and singular talents. But if I were to hazard a con-
jecture, I think it not improbable, that in this, as in most family
disputes, there have been faults on both sides. It is to be lamented,
that they are in open hostility. The war has been prosecuted


with great animosity, and in two late engagements, the troops of
Buenos Ayres have been defeated with great loss. By some it was
said, that the inhabitants of the eastern shore were anxious that a
reconciliation would take place, whilst the people in the country
preferred their present state.

I must not omit to take a glance at the situation of Paraguay.
This province presents a singular spectacle. It stands aloof from
the rest. The people, with the aid of the few remaining royal
troops, repulsed an army, sent to compel them to join the common
standard. Very soon afterwards they expelled the royalists, and
set up for themselves. Since this period, they appear to have
adopted a partial non-interceurse system. But Buenos Ayres, on
one occasion, succeeded in obtaining an understanding with them.
Some suspect that they are secretly inimical to the existing order
of things, and wish to keep themselves within their shell in case of
a change, that they may profit by future events ; others, calculate
with some confidence, on their ultimate union with Buenos Ayres,
with which, at present, they indulge a limited, and reluctant inter-
course. Paraguay is under the immediate controul of a person
named Francia, who styles himself dictator of Paraguay.

From the domestic concerns of the provinces, we naturally turn
to their foreign relations. On this subject, the commissioners
were informed, that they had nothing more than a friendly under-
standing with any foreign nation. With the Portuguese govern-
ment, they concluded an arrangement in 1812, under the media-
tion, it is said, of the British, with respect to the Banda Oriental.
They have since had a correspondence with them, on the subject
of their entrance into that province, and the forcible occupation,
by a Portuguese army, of the city of Monte Video, of which a copy
is annexed. (Appendix J.) This will present the state of afiairs
between Buenos Ayres and the Brazils, which has been the theme
of much discussion. The superior naval force of the Portuguese,
stationed in the river La Plata, could have effectually blockaded
all the ports of Buenos Ayres. By this means, they would have
prevented supplies of arms and munitions of war, and entirely
destroyed the great source of revenue to the state, the duties on

b 2


imports and tonnage, at a season when money was much wanted.
For about this period, Buenos Ayres had a powerful army to con-
tend with on the side of Peru, and had taken the burden of the re-
newed contest of Chiii with Spain. Under such circumstances,
they were, in some measure, oWiged to adopt a cautious and mo-
derate policy. Their conduct, in this respect, seems to have been

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 27 of 29)