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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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 29 of 29)
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those in the service of the king, were almost all opposed to it, par-
ticularly at the time, and under the circumstances it took place,
Dissentions were the immediate result, and their long standing
jealousy and distrust of each other, have, by subsequent events,
been heightened into deadly hostility, which time alone can wear
away. These dissentions have been considered as one of the
causes that produced those which subsequently took place amongst
the patriots themselves, and which have been most serious obsta-
cles to the progress of the revolution. Other obstacles, however,
have been presented by the royal government in Peru, which has
hitherto not only been able to maintain itself there, but has found
means, by enlisting the native Peruvians into its service, to send,
at different times, considerable armies into the upper provinces
on the La Plata, where the war has been carried on from the com-
mencement of the revolution to the present day, with various
success ; the great extent and peculiar character of the country,
and the want of resources having prevented either party from
making a blow, decisive of the contest. When we came away,
the advantage in that quarter was on the side of the Spaniards,
as they were in possession of the provinces of Upper Peru, which
had, to a certain degree at least, joined in the revolution, and some
of which are represented in the congress. Every where else, they
have been obliged to yield up the government, and abandon the
country, or submit to the ruling power. The peculiar situation of
Monte Video, on the east side of the river La Plata, open to the



sea, and strongly fortified, enabled the Si)anish naval and military
forces, at an early period in the revolution, to make a stand there ;
they were ultimately obliged to surrender it, not, liowever, until
long protracted, and perhaps ill directed efforts on the part of the
assailants, had given rise to many jarring incidents between those
who came from the opposite shores of the rivers, probably the
effect, in part at least, of ancient jealousies, kept alive by the indi-
vidual interests of particular leaders ; these have been followed
by events calculated to produce a still greater alienation ; and
although several attempts have been made to bring about a union,
they have hitherto been unsuccessful. The provinces of the
Banda Oriental, and the Entre Rois, on the eastern side of
the river, under the direction of general Artigas, are now at war
with those on the western side, under the government of the con-
gress at Buenos Ayres.

This war has originated from a combination of causes, in which
both parties have perhaps, something to complain of, and some-
thing to blame themselves for.

General Artigas and his followers profess a belief, that it is the
intention of the government of Buenos Ayres to put them down,
and oblige them to submit to such arrangements as will deprive
them of the privileges of self-government, to which they claim to
have a right. They say, however, that they are willing to unite
with the people on the western side of the river; but not in such
a way as will subject them to what they call the tyranny of the
city of Buenos Ayres. On the other hand, it is stated that this is
merely a pretext ; that the real object of general Artigas, and of
some of his principal officers, is to prevent a union on any terms,
and to"preserve the power they have acquired, by giving an erro-
neous excitement to the people who follow them. That it is wish-
ed and intended to place these provinces on a footing with the
others. That the respectable portion of their inhabitants are
aware of this fact, and anxious for a union, but are prevented
from openly expressing their sentiments, from a fear of general
Artigas, whose power is uncontrolled by law or justice, and hence
the propriety and necessity of aiding them to resist it. Armies
liave accordingly been marched, within the present year, into


these provinces; but they were not joined by a number of llie
inhabitants, and were defeated with great loss.

This war is evidently a source of great injury and regret, and
at the same time of extraordinary irritation to both parties; for
independently of other causes of recrimination, each accuses the
other of having brought about that state of things, whicli
threatens to place a most important and valuable portion of their
country in the hands of a foreign power, who has invaded it with
a regular and well appointed army, and is gradually taking pos-
session of commanding points, from which it may be difficult for
their united force hereafter to dislodge them. That they will unite,
is, I think, to be calculated on, unless some event, disastrous to
the cause of the revolution itself takes place ; for their mutual
interest requires a union. But more of moderation and discre-
tion, may be necessary to bring it about, than is at this time to be
expected, from the irritated feelings of some of the principal
personages on both sides.

The city of Santa Fee, and a small district of country around
it, also refuse to acknowledge the authority of the government of
Buenos Ay res.

In Paraguay, the events of the revolution have differed from
those in any other province, as the inhabitants of that country
have uniformly resisted the efforts of the other provinces to unite
with them. After having aided the Spanish placed over them, to
repel a military force which had been sent to overthrow them, they
themselves expelled from their country these authorities, and esta-
blished a government of their own, totally unconnected with
that of the other provinces, with whom they manifest an unwil-
lingness to keep up even a commercial intercourse. This has
given rise to a suspicion in the minds of some, that there is a se-
cret predilection among them for the ancient order of things.
But from what is said of their cold and calculating character,
from the safe position of their country, and its capacity to supply
its own wants, it is probable that their object is to husband their
resources, and profit by the exertions of others, without giving
their own in aid of them ; and possibly in case of ultimate fai-
lure, to place their conduct in a less objectionable point of view

Vol. I. c


before the government of Spain. Whatever may have been their
iDotives, they have hitherto contrived to escape, in a great measure,
the evils of war.

Their resources in men and money are said to be considerable,
and no country is more independent of foreign supplies.

Tlieir conduct furnishes a striking contrast to that of the peo-
ple of Buenos Ayres, who entered into the revolution with un-
bounded zeal and energy, and have ever been ready to meet the
difficulties of so great an undertaking. This circumstance, con-
nected with their local situation, greater resources, and more ge-
neral information ; and perhaps the fact of their having been the
first to get power into their hands, have had the effect to give
them a controling influence over the revolutionary government,
which has not failed to excite, in some degree, the jealousy of the
other provinces, and amongst themselves a feeling of superiority
little calculated to allay that jealousy. Great evils were, at one
time, apprehended from this state of things, but the congress
v?hich met at Tucuman, in March, 1816, composed of deputies
from the several provinces then united, assumed the sovereign
power of the country, boldly declared its absolute independence,
and adopted a provisional form of government, which is under-
stood to have the effect of allaying dissentions, and of introducing
a more regular administration of public affairs.

It will be seen from the documents in your possession, that
this provisional constitution recognises many of the principles of
free government ; but with such drawbacks as are little calculated
to enforce them in practice. Great allowances are doubtless
to be made for the circumstances of the times, and the danger
and difficulty of tearing up ancient institutions, or of adapting
new principles to them ; but after due allowance for all these
considerations, it did not appear to me that so much had been
done for tke cause of civil liberty, as might have been expected,
or that those in power were its strongest advocates.

It is generally admitted, however, that some changes for the
better have been made. Much care seems to be taken to educate
the rising generation, and as those who are now coming on the
theatre of action liave grown up since the commencement of the



revolution, and have hat) tlie advantage of the light thrown in by
it, it is fair to sappose, that they will be better prepared to sup-
port and administer a free government than those whose habits
were formed under the colonial government of Spain.

The commerce and manufactures of the country have grown
beyond its agriculture. Various causes, however, have contributed
to lessen some branches of manufacture since the revolution, but
commerce is understood to have increased by it. A much greater
variety and quantity of foreign goods are imported, and a greater
demand is open for the productions of the country. The city
of Buenos Ayres is the seat of this commerce. From it, foreign,
and some domestic goods, are spread through the interior as far as
Chili and Upper Peru, and in return, the various productions are
drawn to it. This trade is carried on principally by land, as
is that between the different provinces, though some small portion
of it iinds its way up and down the large rivers forming the
La Plata ; which is itself not so much a river as a great bay.
The abundance of cattle, horses, and mules, and some other ani-
mals peculiar to the country, which are used in the mountainous
regions of Peru, furnish facilities for transportation, not to be
found in any other country so little improved ; hence, the price of
transportation is very low, and the internal trade greater than
it otherwise would be, though it bad been materially lessened in
some important branches by the war with Peru, and the system
adopted in Paraguay.

The export and import trade is principally in the hands of the
British, though the United States and other nations participate
in it to a certain degree. It is depended on as the great source
of revenue to the state — hence they have been tempted to make
the duties very high, and to lay them upon both imports and ex-
ports, with the exception of lumber and military stores. This
circumstance, connected with the fact, that payment is demanded
at the custom house before the goods are delivered, has led to a
regular system of smuggling, which is said to be carried to great
excess, and doubtless occasions the otficial returns to fall short
of the actual amount of the trade. This may be the reason why
they were not given to us. The articles imported are almost

c 2


every variety of European and East India goods, principally from
England. Rum, sugar, coffee, tobacco, cotton, and timber from
Brazil. Lumber of almost every description, cod fish, furniture,
gin, and some smaller articles, from the United States, together
with military stores, which, however, find their way into the coun-
try directly from Europe, and are thus furnished at a cheaper rate
than we can sell them. The principal articles of export are taken
from the various animals of the country, tame and wild, from the
ox to the chinchilla, copper from Chili, and some of the precious
metals, drawn principally from Peru ; but as gold is worth 17 dollars
pr. oz. and passed by tale at that rate, very little of it is exported.
Hence the currency of the country is gold, for they have no
paper money. The *' Libranzas," or bills of credit, issued by
the government, are, however, an article of traffic among the mer-
chants, as they are received in payment of one half of the duties.
No distinction is made in favour of the trade of any nation, save
only that the British merchants have some peculiar facilities
granted them in relation to their letters, which are an object
of taxation, at least so far as applies to those sent out of the

In the oflicial statements given to us, and to which I beg leave
generally to refer for information as to the foreign relations, the
productions, military and naval force, revenue and population, the
latter is stated at 1,300,000, exclusive of Indians. This is under-
stood as comprehending the population of all the provinces ; but
as some of them are not under the government at Buenos Ayres,
I have thought it proper to annex the several estimates 1 collected
of the population of each province, as they may serve to give
some general information on that point. The most immediate
difficulty felt by the government whilst we were in the country,
seemed to arise from the want of money ; for although the debt
was small, their credit was low. It had not been found practi-
cable to adopt a system of finance adequate to the exigencies of
the times, though it would seem, from the statement given to us,
that the revenue of the last year exceeded the expenses. The im-
portant events of the present year in Chili, of which you are in-
formed, will doulitlcss, have the effect to raise the credit of the


country, and to lessen the pressure upon it at least for a time ;
and will probably leave the government more at leisure to attend
to its internal affairs.

When we came away, it was understood that a committee of the
congress was engaged in drafting a new constitution ; the power
of forming and adopting it being exclusively vested in the con-
<^ress. Whether it will assume a federal or national character is
somewhat doubtful, as there are evidently two parties in the
country, whose views in this respect are very different, and it is
believed that they are both represented in the congress. The one
party is in favour of a consolidated, or national government — the
other wishes for a federal government, somewhat upon the prin-
ciple of that of the United States, The probability seems to be,
that although there might be a majority of the people in the pro-
vinces, generally in favoar of the federal system, that it would
not be adopted, upon the ground that it was not so well calculated
as a national government, to provide for the common defence,
the great object now in view. The same general reason may be
urged perhaps, for giving to the latter, should it be adopted, less
of a republican character than probably would have been given
to it, in more quiet and peaceful times. There is danger too, as
the power of forming and adopting the constitution is placed in
the hands of a few, that the rights and privileges of the people
may not be so well understood, or attended to, as they should
have been, had the people themselves had a more immediate
agency in the affair. It is not to be doubted, however, that it
will at least have a republican form, and be bottomed upon the
principles of independence, which is contended for by all descrip-
tions of politicians in the country, who have taken part in the re-
volution, and will, it is believed, be supported by them in any
. event, to the last extremity.

The means of defence of which they are fully aware, are in

proportion to their numbers, greater perhaps, than those of almost

. any other people, and the duration, and the events of war, have

strenghtened the general determination never to submit to Spain.

, This determination rests upon the recollection of former suffer-

/ings and deprivations ; upon a consciousness of their ability to


defend and to govern tliemselves : and upon a conviction, that inp
case of submission, on any terms, they would sooner or later, be
made to feel the vengeance of the mother country. These con-
siderations doubtless have the most weight upon the minds of
those, who have taken a leading part. They of course use all
their influence to enforce them, and thus to keep up the spirit of
the revolution. In this they probably have had the less difficulty,
as although the sufferings of the people have been great, particu-
larly in military service, and in raising the contributions necessary
for that service ; yet the incubus of Spanish power being thrown
off, and with it that train of followers who filled up almost every
avenue to wealth and consequence, the higher classes have been
awakened to a sense of advantage they did not before enjoy.
They have seen their commerce freed from legal restraints.
Their articles of export become more valuable, their supplies
furnished at a lower rate, and all the offices of government, or
other employments, laid open to them, as fair objects of competition.
The lower classes have found their labour more in demand and
better paid for ; and their importance in society greater than it
formerly was.

They are yet, however, from their indolence, general want of
education, and the great mixture of " casts" among them, in a de-
graded state, but little felt in the affairs of the government. The
stimulus now given will operate to produce a change in them for
the better, and it is to be presumed will gradually have its effect,
as their docility, intelligence, and activity, when called into ser-
vice, give evidence that they are not deficient in natural or physi-
cal powers.

Labour, as it becomes more general, will become less irksome
to individuals, and the gradual acquisition of property, which
must necessarily result from it in such a country, under a good
government, will doubtless produce the happy effects there which it
has uniformly produced elsewhere ; and more especially in coun-
tries where the population is small when compared to the extent of

I am very sensible that I may have been led into errors of fact,
or inference. In that case, I can plead honesty of intention and



the difficulty of collecting at a single point, and within aspmited
time, correct information ; or of analyzing that which was col-
lected, respecting a people in a state of revolution who are spread
over an immense country, and whose habits, institutions, and lan-
guage are so different from our own.

I have only to add that we were politely received by the su-
preme director, who made every profession for our government,
and every offer of accommodation to us, as its agents, which we
had a right to expect ; and tkat the people manifested on all occa-
sions the most friendly dispositions.

Estimate of the population of the United Provinces,
represented in Congress,

5 T- c« C


= 2 -5 -5







ons an


9 a

— hH





.2 bx)£

2 6D



fl V> S 0)



c« •- ^5 ^

E-S '



>»c s*-

>, 3






Buenos Ay res, . .





Cordova, . , . .





Tucuman, . . .




Santiago del Estero,



Valle de Calamarca,



Rioja, . . . .



San Juan, . . .



Mendoza, . , .



San Luis, , . .



Jujuy, . . . .











Not represented.

Provinces of Upper
Potosi, . . .
Plata, or Choreas,
La Paz, . . .
Puno, . . . .

Paraguay, . . .

Banda Oriental, and
Entre Rios, . .

100,000 120,000
112,000 ' 112,000
112,000 I 112,000

I 50,000


Note — It is not understood that any part of the province of Corrientes,
or that of the city, or district of Santa Fee, is included in this estimate ;
and some districts of some'of the other provinces may be omitted.


Printed bj w. SMITH, King Street, Long Acre.

Deacidified using the Bookkeeper process.
Neutralizing agent: Magnesium Oxide
Treatment Date: Dec. 2004



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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 29 of 29)