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.2) 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.2) → online text (page 1 of 25)
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Darlington Memorial Library


Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2010 with funding from

University of Pittsburgh Library System






IN THE YEARS 1817 ANJ) 1818,


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VOL. 1[.



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Printed bjr W. SMITH, King Street, Long Acre.




Observations on the geography and history of the United

Provinces • 1


Th^ subject of the foregoing chapter continued 51


Military force — Public revenues — Commerce — State of
learning and general information • • • 1 03


The principal occurrences at Buenos Ayres since the com-
mencement of their revolution 147


Miscellaneous observations on the police, state of society,

and manners • • 200


Departure from Buenos Ayres — ^Touch at San Salvador —
Island of Margaritta — Victory of Maipu— Its effects in
Venezuela — New Grenada, &c. — Position ef the military
force there • 227


A letter on South American Affairs 243

{^ Manifesto directed to all nations, by the general constituent

<* Congress of the United Provinces of Rio de la Plata • • 293

Exposition of the proceedings of the supreme government
^ of the United Provinces of South America, during the
^ present administration • 308








Observations on the Geography/ and History of ihe United Province i.

Xncluding Patagonia, the viceroyalty of La Plata was
the most important in extent of territory of any of the
Spanish governments in America. The provinces of Upper
alone (added to it in 1778,) are as extensive as New
Grenada, and more so than Low er Peru or Lima, and
equal, at least, to the whole of the United States east
of the Mississippi . La Plata stretches from the northern-
most part of the province of Moxos, in twelve degrees
south, to Cape Horn ; it extends to the Pacific between
Lower Peru and Chili, in the province of Atacama ; it is
bounded by the Portuguese dominions on the north and
east, and separated from Peru by the river Desaguadero,
or drain of lake Titicaca ; on the east it is washed by the
Atlantic, and on the west separated from Chili by the
Cordilleras. The only portion of this vast territory"
which is generally believed to be imfavourable to a
numerous population, is what is called the pampas of
Vol. II. B


Buenos Ayres : the interior of Patagonia is but little
known, and respecting' it, difterent opinions are enter-
tained. After deducting about one-tenth for these plains,
the remainder is equal in fertiliy to the Brazils, or any
other part of South America; but, at least, one half
enjoys a much more delightful climate ; lying in tem-
perate latitudes, or from elevation, possessing the same
advantages. If peopled in the same proportion as
Great Britain, it would contain at least one hundred
millions of souls.

From its great length in proportion to its breadth,
this countiy is not to be compared to the Brazils, or
the United States, or even to New Spain, as respects
the dependence and connection of one part with
another ; and thus, therefore, not so well suited to the
establishment of one entire government. Some of its
great rivers open communications with immense tracks
of country; an advantage hitherto but little regarded.
The three greatest of these on the north, are the Para-
guay, whose navigation is equal to that of the Mis-
sissippi ; the Parana, which may be compared to the
Missouri as to its length, and the quantity of wa-
ter gathered by its nmnerous branches in Brazil; the
Pilcomayo, which may be compared to the Ohio, but
a larger river, and watering a country still more ex^
tensive and fertile ; and although kno\NTi for three
hundred years, and its navigable branches flowing
through the richest provinces of Peru, it was never
ascertained, until a few years ago, whether it afl'orded
a good navigation to the main stream. It is destined,
at some future day, to be the channel of an immense
inland trade. To the south of the pampas of Buenos
Ayres, the Colorada and Rio Negro will afford the
means of trimsporting, by water, the products of the
countries which lie along tlie eastern base of the


Andes, and which, at present, feel the want of a mar-
ket, from the expence of transportation by land to
Buenos Ayres. In the northern part of the viceroyalty,
the great southern branches of the Amazon, seera^
designed by nature to open a communication to the
greater part of Upper Peru with the rest of the world ;
and a century hence, it will be worth disputing the
passage down the great river at present closed by

In glancing at the map of this country, it will ap-
pear to be naturally divided into six different sections :
1. The part which lies on the east side of the Para-
guay; 2. That which lies opposite, on the west side of
the same river ; 3. The track which stietches along the-
base of the Cordilleras ; 4. The pampas of Buenos
Ayres ; 5. Patagonia ; 6. The provinces of Upper
Peru. Under the Spanish government, the viceroy-
alty was divided into eight intendencies, (a teiin, for
which that of the province has been substituted since
the revolution ;) but one of these, Paraguay, was si-
tuated on the east side of the river ; on the west side,
there were three, Cordova, Salta, and Buenos Ayres;
but some of the districts on the east side of the
river, were included within the jurisdiction of the
latter ; the remainder, Potosi, La Paz, Charcas, Co-
chabamba, are the upper provinces of Peru.* Seve-
ral of the subordinate districts aie now called pro-
vinces, and are represented in the congress, according
to their population. There were also two audiencias,
or courts of appeal, for the other intendencies, that of

* The number of intendencies is variously stated ; some speak of
Santa Cruz de la Sierra, or Puno, Moxos and Chicquitos ; but in tlie
Guia de foraiteros, a kind of court calendar, these are only subordi-
nate districts.



Charcas for the provinces of Peru and that of Buenus
Ayres. Each of the intendencies had their train of
officers ; civil, ecclesiastical, and military. The eccle-
siastical, however, did not follow the political divisions ;
there was the archbishop of Charcas, and six bishops,
or suffragans.

Before entering on the description of the first of
these sections, I shall say something of the Paraguay
river. It takes its source in the mountains of Matto
Grosso ; a vast number of streams flow from these
towards the main channel, but entering the vast plains
which stretch across the continent from the Cordil-
leras of Peru and Chili, its current suddenly dimi-
nishes. In latitude seventeen, there is found the cele-
brated lake Xarayes ; if it can be called a lake,
which is nothing more than a periodical inundation
of the adjacent country, similar to some of the lakes
west of the Mississipi ; * but it is of extraordinary
magnitude ; according to Azara, twenty-five leagues in
width and one hundred in length. The heavy rains
which fall from the month of November to February,
in that quarter, fill the channel in such a manner as to
overflow its banks. According to the writer just men-
tioned, this great river, between sixteen and twenty-
two degrees south, has not more than a descent of one
foot per mile. From this latitude, until its junction
with the Parana, the water is sufficiently confined by
its banks ; which are in some places tolerably high.
Here is a singular instance of a river inundating the
adjacent country near its head, and afterwards being-
confined within its channel. There are other smaller

* In my " Views of Louisiana," I have (iescribed the Catahoula
lake, uhidi is precisely similar.


lakes of this description, in the province of Paraguay ;
and below the Parana there is a very extensive one^
called Ybera, supposed to be formed by the v*ater
which escapes from this immense river. The great
number of these overflown gi-ounds, east and west of
the main river, and of the numerous tributary stieams,
are thought to reduce the proportion of habitable sur-
face far below that of Europe."^ The Paraguay is
navigable for sloops, from latitude sixteen, with-
out the slightest interruption ; its channel, although
narrow, is deep. Its periodical rise begins about the
middle of February, and subsides in July. The wa-
ter at Assumption is clear and excellent. The Parana
is the larger river, but its navigation is interrupted by
cataracts and falls. A comparison has been drawn
between the great falls of the Parana, those of the Ara-
guay in Brazil, and of Niagara in North America ; from
which, some idea may be formed of the magnitude of the
two first.

Having already spoken of the Banda Oriental, I
shall proceed to make a few observations on the pro-
vince of Paraguay. It is bounded on the north by
the dominions of Portugal, on the east by the Parana,
and on the west by the river Paraguay ; and is about
400 miles in length by 200 in breadth. Excepting
the Cordillera of Maracayu in the north, it is almost
an unvaried level, but it is generally agreed that the soil
is extremely fertile. Nearly one half on the east, along

* The accounts given by Azara, are contradicted by others in the
Semenario, which give a much less favourable character to the
country. From many interesting particulars respecting the natural
configuration of this interesting country, I refer the reader to the
author above mentioned, and to the Analcctic Review for Novem-
ber, 1818.



the Parana, is still a desert, inhabited by Guarany In-
dians. On the south, on both sides of the river just
mentioned, are the far-famed missions, or as are they were
formerly called, the reductions of the Jesuits. The great
body of the civilized white and mixed population, scarce-
ly extends a hmidred miles from Assumption, the capi-
tal. The principal rivers are Xejuy on the north, which
rises in the Cordillera and Tebiquari, which flows from
the plains near the Parana, and enters the Paraguay
about a hundred miles above the mouth of that river.
The climate of this countiy is delightful, its productions
nearly similar to those of the interior provinces of
Brazil ; abounding in particular in a vast variety of fine
woods. When its trade was open, tobacco, rice, cot-
ton, molasses, and sugar of a very superior quality,
were exported. The non-intercouise which has been
adopted for seven or eight years past, is one of the most
singular to be met with in the history of a wealthy and
civilized people. Perhaps if any comitry in the world
can be entirely independent of another, it is Paraguay.
Whether any intercourse is held with the Portuguese to-
wards the head of the river, is unlinown ; but it is cer-
tain that they will hold no intercourse with any of those
below. No person is permitted to enter their territories ;
I am acquainted with several individuals who endea-
voured to procure permission to visit Assumption, but
without success. Little or nothing is known of the
occurrences among them since the revolution ; they are
supposed to go on quietly and peaceably under the
government of their cabildo and the dictator Francia,
a lawyer, who has been at their head for the last
five or six years. The population has been
variously estimated, from one hundred and fifty to
three hundred thousand; including civilized Indies.
Their capital, Assumption, situated on the left b^nk of
the river, about twelve hundred miles above Buenos


Ayres, contains about fifteen thousand souls; one half of
whom are reputed whites, but the greater part of the po-
pulation of this country is mixed. A remarkable fact is
stated with respect to this province, as well as some of
the provinces of Peru, that after a few generations, the
mixed race becomes fairer than the Emopean Spaniards,
and much superior in point of personal beauty. There is
said to be very considerable wealth in Paraguay ; there
are a number of large proprietors of estates, and it is not
unlikely that the aristocracy, or great landholders, have
unlimited sway over the tame and submissive Guarany,
or the neighbouring half-civilized subdued Indians. A
certain cast was given to the revolution by the equality
of fortunes and conditions at Buenos Ayres, which could
not be relished at Assumption, and still less the licen-
tious life of the herdsmen of Banda Oriental.

After the discovery of the river La Plata, by Solis,
in 1516, it was neglected until about ten years afterwards ;
when Sebastian Cabot entered the estuary, in conse-
quence of the mutinous state of those under his com-
mand. His orders from Charles V. by whom he
was employed, were, to proceed to the South Seas, to
discover the famed land of Ophir and Tharsis, and to
load his ships there with gold and silver. Cabot ex-
plored the country for a considerable distance up the
Uruguay and Parana, and then ascended the Paraguay ;
on his return, he was attacked by a body of Indians,
whom he defeated, and took from them a great quantity of
gold and silver; generally supposed to have belonged to a
Portuguese adventurer of the name of Garcias, who had
been killed and robbed by the Indians. Deceived by
this circumstance, Cabot was induced to change the name
of the river as has been stated. He returned to Spain,
where he not only triumphed over his enemies, but in
virtue of his exaggerated accounts of the wealth of the


countries discovered by him, came to be considered second
only to Columbus as a discoverer. The minds of the
Spaniards were inflamed to the highest pitch by his se-
ductive descriptions, and as this happened shortly after
the close of the wars in Italy, a great number of military
adventurers, of the first families in Spain, eagerly sought
an opportunity of emulating the fortunes of Cortez and
Pizarro. Pedro Mendoza, cup-bearer to the emperor,
was appointed to the command of an expedition, with
many important prerogatives. Applications from per-
sons desirous to engage were so numerous, that he was
obliged to limit the number. The expedition consisted
of fourteen ships, and upwards of twelve hundred men;
a number of them of the first nobility of Spain.* To-
wards the latter end of February, 1535, the fleet reached
the island of St. Gabriel, at the mouth of the Parana.

They next looked out for a suitable situation for a
town, and fixed on the present site of the city of Bue-
nos Ayres. Their establishment was so dreadfully har-
rassed here by the neighbouring Indians, and suffered so
much from famine, that they were at last compelled to
abandon this place, in 1539, and remove to Assumption.
They subdued the Payagua, Guarany, and Guiacuru
Indians, who resided on the river. Many of the Spa-
niards intermarried with the natives, and thus laid the
foundation of a colony, from which many others took
their rise in this country .f The government had been

• " No Sppinish colony boasts of such illustrious names amon^ its
founders, and tlie posterity of many of them still subsist in Para-
guay; especially in the capital of that proyince." Wilcocke,
J). 229.

t A remarkable circumstance in the history of the American set-
tlements, has escaped the attention of most writers. The new colo-
jijsts which took their rise, or were sent ont from the old settlements.


entrusted to Ayolas, who had penetrated to Peru in pur-
suit of discoveries, and was killed by the Indians. In
his absence, Irala was left in command, until the arrival
of Nunes de Vaca, in 1542, as captain-general of La
Plata. The usual incidents of Indian wars fill up the
first half century of the settlement; the illusions of gold
and silver mines having faded away, they indenmified
themselves by enslaving the Indians ; at least, reducing
them to a state of servitude in their encomiendas, where
they were compelled to labour for the conquerors. The
affairs of the colony were conducted by Nunes de Vaca,
with wisdom and success; but, unfortunately, a dif-
ference^ arose between him and Irala, who, it is said,
was jealous of his superior merit. At this distemce from
Spain, intrigues and machinations might be carried on,
which would be easily detected and speedily arrested in
the vicinity of the throne. Nunes had greater popularity,
but Irala had numerous partisans, who calculated on ad-
vancing their own fortunes by his success. The rivalry
of ambitious men had, generally, a tendency to elevate
tlie colonists in these times to much greater importance
than the inhabitants of Spain, where there was no such
thing as looking for partisans among the people. Irala
procured Nunes de Vaca to be arrested and sent to Spain
on feigned charges ; after which, he seized the reins of
power. Although improperly raised to this staticm, by
various turns of fortune, he was confirmed in his autho-
rity, when, in reality, his conduct deserved punishment
and disgrace. During a long absence, exploring the

ceased at once to look to Spain as the parent stock. Humboldt, io
speaking of the colonies, having forgot the parent state, makes an
allovranre for this circumstance. The immediate parents of the new
settlements, ^vere in America, the remote ancestry across the ocean.


upper part of the river and adjacent country, he was sup-
posed to have shared the fate of Aj^ola ; and, in conse-
quence, two opposite factions declared themselves in
Assumption, in favour of rival pretenders to the govern-
ment ; the distance from the centre of power, rendering it
utterly impossible to provide speedily the remedy for
evils like these. The people elected Diego Ebreu, but
on the unexpected return of Irala, he was compelled to
fly with a few of his followers to the interior, where he
was killed. Irala, at first, proved a merciless tyrant,
and indulged his soldiery in the most licentious prac-
tices; but what is somewhat singular, he afterwards, in
a great measure, atoned for his misconduct and usurpa-
tions, by a wise and useful administration, and died
generally esteemed and respected.

The encomiendas had been introduced into Paraguay
by the conquerors, and if we examine strictly, it may be
foimd, that the boasts of Azara, of the Spaniards having
done more to preserve their Indians than other nations,
may not be so well founded ; they imre reduced to servi-
tude, and placed under the controul of masters, while the
Indians in our country, were permitted to retain their hunt-
ing life ; and, therefore, disappeared with the deer and
buffalo. Perhaps they were possessed of a less haughty
spirit, or had already been broken to subjection; they
certainly bore a much stronger resemblance to the bar-
barous nations of the old world, than to the North Ame-
rican Indians. I doubt whether it would have been
practicable to have subdued any of our Indian tribes by
force, and then have compelled them to plant them-
selves down around the conqueror in a state of servitude !
This was the mode in which the conquests of the Incas
were effected, and we find in the history of Paraguay,
that about the year 1557, forty thousand Indians were
reduced in the province of Guayara, near the Parana,


in the direction where the Jesuit missions were after-
wards established.* Nicholas de Chaves, about the
same time, in what is called the country of the Chiqui-
toSf founded a town called Santa Cruz de la Sierra, and
reduced sixty thousand Indians of the nation of the
Moxos. In Tucuman, it was found, as early as the
year 1658, that eighty thousand Indians paid tribute to
the king. From these facts, we may form some idea of
the extent to which the system of encomiendas must
have been carried, even in these countiies, at an early
period of the conquest. Their abuses, however, were
gradually diminished by the termination of the estates,
by the repeated orders of the Spanish Court (at first dis-
regarded), and, finally, by the gradual improvement in
their condition, and intermixture with the Spaniards.
Eut the first conquest was not always enough ; repeated
attempts w ere made by the Indians to regain their free-
dom in the neighbourhood of Assumption, and in the
province of Guayra, which served only to rivet their
chains more effectually, vmtil they were finally incorpo-
rated and amalgamated with the conquerors, altttough
forming an inferior and baser part of the composition.f
The an'ival of the Jesuits in this country, is an impor-
tant era in its history. This took place in 1586. The
first twenty or thirty years were taken up in desultory
excursions among the unconquered nations, and in huma-
nizing those who had been reduced. They, at first.

* The city founded here was called Ciudad Real, and was one of
Ihose afterwards destroyed by the Paulistas ; who carried away the
Indians into a more cruel captivity.

t Their numbers rapidly diminished in the first period of the con-
quest, in consequence of the oppressions practised by the conquerors,
among whom the natives were parcelled out, in order that they might
make the most of their labour.


gained the confidence of the encomenderos, as well as
the affection of the Indians ; but gradually became ob-
jects of hatred to the former, in consequence of their fre-
quent interferences in favour of the latter.* The Je-
suits perceiving that something of more importance
might be accomplished, by having fixed and permanent
establishments, obtained a special order, by which, they
were permitted to bring the wild Indians from the woods,
and collect them into villages ; provided no other means
were resorted to but persecution. Hitherto, the sword
had always attended the cross, and the conversion of the
Indians was a mere pretext to reduce them to servitude.
As an encouragement to this experiment, they were ex-
empted from the immediate control of the Spanish colo-
nial authorities. The principal obstacles encountered in
the first instance, were the hostility of the owners of
encomiendas, and their partisans, and the attacks of the
Paulistas, which commenced as soon as the missions be-
came numerous and flourishing. The Indians, them-
selves, were with difiiculty persuaded that the whole was
not a contrivance of the fathers to collect them together,
in order that they might be carried off into slavery. It is
calculated that, in the course of two years, from 1630 to
J 631, upwards of sixty thousand were kidnapped by the
Paulistas. The missions were removed to the west of
the Uruguay and Parana, but greatly diminished, as many
of the Indians conceived themselves more safe by dis-
persing in small parties through the woods. In the year
1639, the Jesuits obtained permission to procure fire-

* " The Jesuits continued to plead, with unshaken constancy, the
cause of the oppressed Indians ; and thus clashing with the pride,
prejudices, and interests of the Spaniards, they subjected themselves
to much obloquy, and, in some instances, to ill-treatment." Wilcocke,
p. 281.


arms, to enable their Indians to defend themselves from
their merciless assailants. From this time, they enjoyed
tranquillity, and rapidly increased ; in 1742, the missions
amounted to twenty- nine, containing each from one to
five thousand souls.

To trace the history of this singular republic, or to
enter into an examination of its merits, would greatly
exceed the limits of these cursory remarks. Much has
been said both in favour and against it ; the charges
usually brought against the Jesuits of Paraguay, appear
to be unfounded ; their ambitious designs, and the de-
fects of their system, are the only remaining topics of
those, who think unfavourably of the policy adopted by
them in America. Southey, in his history on Brazil, has
examined the reasons on both sides with perfect impar-
tiality, and he acquits the Jesuits of every charge, except
that of their designedly retaining the Indians in a state
of perpetual pupilage, instead of fitting them to engage
in any intercourse with civilized nations. In this, how-

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.2) → online text (page 1 of 25)