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 10 of 25)
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j;/ In the treasury 33,963 1^

In the foregoing statement, I have passed over the re-
venues of the different cities or cabildos, which are con-
siderable, and to which the state can have recourse in case
of necessity. Those of the city and province alone exceed
three hundred thousand dollars, and arise from a variety
of sources, such as the rents of property belonging to
the corporation, tax on retailers, on auctions, on the
theatre and circus, from the corrals ^ or places for con-
fining cattle brought to market, and a variety of minor
sources.f A considerable surplus is left, after defraying
all the expenses of the police, and the salaries of officers.
A few of the items of the account published while I was

* The salary of the director is twelve thousand dollars — of the
secretary of state, of the treasury of war, of the coiumissary-general,
three thousand each — the subordinate officers have about the same
salaries as those in the different offices in the government of the United

t About one hundred thousand head of cattle are confined in these
enclosures in the course of the year, at twenty-five cents, each. There
arc about six hundred retailers, who pay fifteen dollars each.


at Buenos Ayres, will shew that they have something to
spare after meeting the ordinary expenses.

Premium and expenses of celebrating the 25th of May, doll. 10,306

Widows and invalids , » 18,330

Church ceremonies » • • 1,530

Presents to Indians 527


The expenses of church ceremonies on great occa-
sions, amount to a considerable sum. A part is now
appropriated to the celebration of their political festi-
vals. There are some things in these celebrations .
that are worthy of imitation. Instead of civic feasts,
at which people strive to outdo each other in eat-
ing and drinking, they contrive a variety of public
exhibitions much more conformable to reason and good
taste. For instance, a certain number of the most
meritorious slaves are purchased and set free, sums
are set apart and drawn by lot, to aid mechanics who
are desirous of setting up their trades ; marriage por-
tions are also distributed among a certain number of
young girls. The names of those who are successful
are afterwards published, with an account of all the cere-
monies of the occasion- The whole no doubt tending to
produce very important effects on the minds of the com-
mon people.

Some observations have already been made on the
commerce of these countiies. The foreign commerce
might properly be called passive, as none of the na-
tives owned ships, and their produce was carried away
by foreigners or Spaniards. If there were merchants
here as in the United States, who could send the va-
rious products of the country to market, a considerable
commerce would soon grow up. The produce of the
plains, has for a long time formed the most important


item of the exports, next to the gold and silver brought
from Peru. The number of hides annually exported
exceeds half a million, with a proportion of tallow,
horns, salted and jerk beef. Horse skins, sheeps skins,
common wool, that of the guanaco aiid vicuna, furs,
goose wings, ostrich feathers, not as good as those of
Senegal, but in proportion much cheaper, are also
among the articles of export. The copper of Co-
quimbo, considerable quantities of which are brought
to Buenos Ayres from Chili, is said to contain a por-
tion of gold worth the expense of extraction. Tin is
brought from some of the mines of Peru, and fsold for
about twenty dollars the quintal. The Jesuits bark,
especially that of Loxa, could be more conveniently
shipped from Buenos Aj/res, than from the ports of
Peru. Dried apples and peaches, figs, raisins, walnuts,
olives, will become important articles of commerce.
I have tasted some of their peach brandy, and found
it of a very superior quality ; from the great extent of
their peach orchards, it can be made in any quantity.
Hemp and flax are well suited to the soil. Some flax-
seed has been exported. The salt of the prairies is
said to be equal in whiteness, strength, and purity, to
any in the world. The greater part of the articles
enumerated, may be exported either to Europe, or to
other parts of America to great advantage. Tobacco,
equal to that of Carracas, may be raised in the rich
alluvion of Buenos Ayres, and on the Parana. This
article was formerly monopolized by the government,
and the cultivator was compelled to take such price
only, as it chose to fix : his attention was of course
directed to something else,, and the tobacco of Brazil
was in consequence made use of. Wonderful progress
in agriculture has been made in this country since
Charles III. by his edict of the 3d of October, 1778,


Ranted the freedom of commerce >vith the mother conn-
try, instead of confining it to one of its ports, notwith-
standing the obstinate adherence to the odious system of

The cotton raised in Paraguay, Cordova, and Co-
chabamba, is said to be very beautiful, but chiefly used
for home manufactures. The annual plant would be
as successful in the pampas as in the Attacapas, but
the inhabitants have not thought of introducing it ; the
perennial plant is the one cultivated throughout South
America, and which gives them great advantages over us,
in this important culture. The Brazil, however, in cot-
ton and sugar, in a very few years, will come into com-
petition with us in the European market. The sugar
of Paraguay is said to surpeiss that of Brazil and of the
West Indies, being drier and of a finer grain, which is
attributed to the circumstance of the country being less
exposed to heavy rains, than those within the tropics, or
to humidity in the neighbourhood of the sea, by which
the sugar is rendered damp. Rum of a very good
quality, molasses, wine, honey, and wax, will, in time,
be among the articles of export. The cocoa of Moxos
and Chiquitos, coffee from several of the upper provinces,
when the navigation of rivers shall be opened, good roads
and canals mad^, will be important articles, as also in-
digo and coehineztl.

According to an account of the trade of Buenos
Ayres, published in Wilcock, the exports in the year
1796, amounted to five millions, two hundred and forty-
three thousand three hundred and five dollars ; of which
four millions were specie. This of course must fall short
of the whole amount, from the great extent to which the
contraband was carried at that time. The imports of the
same year were two millions, eight hundred and fifty-
three thousand, nme himdred and forty-five dollars;


of which one million^ seven hundred and five thousand,
eight hundred and sixty-six dollars vvrere in articles
furnished by Spain. The foreign articles introduced
in a clandestine manner, probably exceeded this amount.
During the following years, while Spain was involved
in hostilities with England, a total stagnation took
place in the trade with Buenos Ayres, excepting the
contraband carried on by the United States, and which
increased rapidly on being connived at by the go-
veiTunent from imavoidable necessity. In the year
1798, three millions of hides were lying in the ware-
houses of Buenos Ayres and Monte Video, but through
our friendly aid, at the time of the capture by the
British, there was no more than the annual supply.
During the first part of this period, (on account of the
annual supply of European articles being cut off,) the
fabrics of the country increased rapidly, particularly
the cotton and woollen manufactures of Moxos, Chiqui-
tos, and of Cordova; and as brandies and wines were not
to be prociu-ed at any prices, those of Cuyo were gTcatly
encouraged. Goods were introduced into the audien-
«ia of Buenos Ayres, by the ports of Arica, through
Potosi and Chuquisaca, thus reversing the usual cur-
rent of interior trade. But when the supply came to
be once more somewhat regular, articles of European
manufacture regained their ascendency ; and when un-
der the control of Spain, it was not likely that do-
mestic manufactures would be permitted, to such ex-
tent as to interfere in any m£inner with Spanish mo-
nopoly. The quantity of European goods thrown in
since the revolution, has had very injurious effects on
the domestic manufactures, and has materially les-
sened the industry of a people, who are slow in adopt-
ing new plans. The increased value of agricultural
products, in some places, has not in general compen-


sated. A well written memorial, published at Buenos
Ayres, from the landholders and others at Cuyo, urges
the necessity of protecting the brandies of those pro-
vinces by still further duties on those imported. There
are a variety of partial evils connected with free trade,
which occasion dissatisfaction among those who only
reason %rom what they feel. The population has cer-
tainly not yet arrived at that state, when manufactures
ought to be fostered. The population is yet too incon-
siderable, and the number who cultivate the earth much
too small. Neither Breizil nor La Plata ought to force
manufacture ; they ought perhaps to be checked, in
order to force industry into other channels. The United
States have passed that state ; internal trade with us
must be fostered and encouraged, by varying occupa-
tions, and rendering one part of the country dependent
on another. Under the government of Spain, both the
foreign commerce, and domestic manufactures of the
colonies, would of course be repressed.

The former restrictions on exports necessarily tend-
ed to depress agriculture. The industry of every por-
tion of the country, would have been stimulated by a
free exportation of their produce to whatsoever place
a market could be found. The inhabitants of La
Plata are not essentially different from the rest of the
human race, and if we find them indolent and addict-
ed to vice, we must look to those causes which inva-
riably produce these effects ; the want of a proper sti-
mulus to industry. It is true, the cause which inva-
riably urges to exertion, necessity, is weaker here
than in most countries, on account of the facilities
of obtaining a mere subsistence ; but the greater part
would desire, or at least might be made to desire,
something more, by offering objects of comfort and lux-


ury, which their successful industry may obtain.*
Our industry in the United States, is chiefly stimu-
lated by artificial wants, and many things which in
other nations are ranked among the luxuries of life,
are looked upon by us as merely necessaiies. The la-
bourers of the poorer class, subsist in Buenos AyreSj
on little else than beef and a few vegetables; and in
Paraguay, on the mandioca and Indian com; they
are beyond the reach of starvation. But as the condi-
tion of society improves^ as it inevitably must, by a
free intercourse with strangers;, they will be desirous
of dressing better, living better, and furnishing their
houses more decently. The country people here are
easily improved, and as their wheat and other pro-
ductions find a more ready sale, they will be tempted
to purchase many articles from the shops, which they
before never thought of. With the more wealthy in*
habitants of Peru, a luxury absolutely Asiatic, pre-
vails. It is there a matter of pride to have many
clothes, made of the most costly materials. No peo-
ple of America, in proportion to their number, con-
sume so many goods of European manufacture, as the
Peruvians ; there is scarcely any country in the world,
that ofiers such a market for British manufactures ; and
England will find it necessary to look out for some in-
denmity for the diminution, she is about to experience in
the markets of the United States. We have no alterna-
tive, but to foster our manufactures ; it is forced upon
us ; whether wise or not, is no longer the question-*-we
umat manufacture.

* Formerly there was al\rays beef enough left in the market for the
use of the poor, after those who could bujr were served. Persons
a^Ieto bu}' harre been known to take advatitage of the circanistan«<?»
but they were as much scandalized by it, as if they had committed


While at Buenos Ayres, there was much discussion
among their political economists, in relation to one of
their principal staples, the herds of cattle. Of late
years, they were observed to have so far lessened in
numbers, as to produce considerable uneasiness ; much
was written on the subject ; some were in favour of pro-
hibiting the exportation of salted beef, and others were
of opinion, that the free exportation of this article, was
in reality the most effectual mode of preventing the
cattle from being wantonly destroyed, for the sake of the
hides, which they alledge to have been the principal cause
of the decrease. Papers were written on the subject,
meetings of the owners of grazing farms were held, and
the director by public notice, requested all such as could
throw light on a subject so interesting to the community,
to wait on him at certain hours. The subject is fully
discussed in a speech by Zavaletta, delivered at a public
meeting, and published in a pamphlet. It appears that
before the opening of trade in 1778, the herds had multi-
plied prodigiously, and there were memy millions running
wild; but when their skins and tallow suddenly came
in demand, vast numbers were killed and skiimed,
while the carcasses were left to rot. It is not, there-
fore, surprising that they rapidly decreased. Depons
states, that the some circumstance took place on the
plains of the Oronoko ; that it did not take place in the
interior provinces of New Spain, was owing to there
being no markets. The Semanario states, that the
decrease of fee herds had attracted attention, but the
cause was supposed to be the vast number of wild
dogs, which prejred upon the calves ; it was also said
that many were known to perish in the dry seasons, and
that thousands had been swept off by epidemics.

The price of hides has more than doubled, and as the
supply diimnishes to a certain degree, the prrce^ will con-

128 -^ VOYAGE TO <

tinue to rise. In the plains of Buenos Ayres, the flesh
of the cattle will be an object as well as the hides. In-
stead of prohibiting the Saladeros, under an idea that
they encourage the destruction of the herds, they ought
to be supported as they tend to preserve them. Perhaps,
after all, the decrease of their vast herds ought not to be
regarded as a public misfortune, miless the conversion of
a nation of shepherds into a nation of agriculturists, be
so. The capitalists will be compelled to turn their at-
tention to the other resources of the country, and which
will be productive of effects much more favourable to
the national character.

On the subject of internal trade, I have already said a
good deal in speaking of the different provinces or dis-
tricts, I shall therefore only make a few additional re-
marks. It will have been observed, that this is carried
on chiefly by land, but at some future day, the naviga-
tion of the rivers will give it a new direction. At present
the transportation of commodities between Buenos Ayres
and Jujuy, is effected by ox waggons. The price of
freight varies considerably. In Peru, every commodi-
ty is transported on the backs of mules, asses, and lamas.
A mule load is twelve arrobas, that of an ass five, and
of the lama, three. The roads to Jujuy, as well as to Men-
doza, do not pursue the most direct courses, on account
of the savage hordes, who uihabit the plains on either
side. The roads in Peru are the same which were tra-
velled in the time of the Incas, and are, therefore, rough
and steep. The price of transportation from one pro-
vince to another, is very high ; for example, a mule will
go from Tacma to Potosi for twenty-four dollars, which
is the price of the animal itself; the distance is one hun-
dred and twenty leagues. The freight is seldom less than
a dollar per arroba, for every twenty leagues. A waggon
load of goods from Buenos Ayres to La Paz, and carry-


ing one hundred and fifty arrobas, (twenty-five pounds
the arroba,) will cost three hundred dollars, to Jujuy ;
from this place to Potosi, two hundred and eight dollars,
and to La Paz, one hundred and fifty dollars ; the whole
amount for this immense distance, six hundred and sixty

The Paraguay tea is thus conveyed to Peru and to
Chili. The mules sent to Peru, are purchased by
drovers, who bring honey, wax, cocoa, and other arti-
cles to market, together with specie. They are driven
by easy journies to Salta, and as there is an abundance
of grass on the road, their food costs little or nothing,
until they reach the place just mentioned, where they are
turned into pastures, let for the purpose. There is a
great destruction of these animals in working the mines,
it is therefore necessary that the supply should be con-
stantly renewed. In the province of Buenos Ayres,
Sta Fee, and Cordova, about sixty thousand are
purchased annually. Tucuman also furnishes a number,
as well as about twenty thousand head of cattle and
sheep.* The balance of trade was at one time
more than a million against Buenos Ayres, but as the
foreign commerce of this place extended, it was gradually
reduced. The wars of Spain were most sensibly felt by
Buenos Ayres, as she became immediately dependent on
Peru for a supply of foreign articles, which could only
be introduced into Lima when the long navigation to Rio
Plata, exposed to British cruizers, interrupted the direct
intercourse with Spain.

The traffic with the neighbouring Indians, and those on

• In the year 1789, one hundred and twenty thousand sheep were
imported by the route of Cusco, from the jurisdiction of Buenos
Ayres into tat of Pern.



the Parana and Uruguay, requires at least the amount of
a million of dollars in European goods, such as are
suited to the Indian trade in North America. There was
also formerly a small contraband trade carried on with
the Portuguese. This trade might become important.

After what has already been said on the state of litera-
ture and general inforaiaton in South America, it would
seem unnecessary to speak of its progress at Buenos
Ayres. But as this subject is closely connected with their
political character, it will be proper to be somewhat
more minute. To discover what advancement they may
have made in the midst of wars and dissentions, in that
which is so essential to their respectability and happi-
ness, is worthy of attention. But little w as to have been
expected, especially when we consider the depth of ig-
norance whence they had to emerge. Yet, when we com-
pare the present state of information, with that which
preceded the revolution, we shall rather have cause for
surprise. The strictness of the Inquisition, the discou-
ragement of schools, the prohibition of foreign books,
the want of printing, the absence of subjects of general
interest, are to be considered. The colonial state, is for
many reasons, besides those peculiar to Spanish colonies,
extremely unfavourable to the progress of science and
literature. The metropolis must give its sanction before
the work of the colonist can take its rank with the national
productions. Many are the prejudices it must encounter
before it can pass the ordeal of the high court of criti-
cism. The provincial writer must always keep in view
the judgment of this high court, whose stamp of appro-
bation is indispensible. It is, perhaps, an incident of
national sovereignty, for previous to the revolution, we
never ventured to speak of American literature ; this is
now but forty years old, and we are not even yet en-
tirely exempt from the jurisdiction of British criticism ;


we must indeed bear wdith it, for a generation or two
more, and by that time, the works published in England,
will have to come to us for our sanction before they
can venture to take their station.

For some years before the revolution, a vast number
of manifestoes, pamphlets, and addresses, published
in Spain, during the invasion of Napoleon, were re-
printed at Buenos Ayres. They were intended to ani-
mate the patriotism of the Spaniards, but in the colonies,
had a tendency to awaken a dangerous spirit of inquiry,
and to open their eyes with respect to their own condi-
tion ; for by a very slight change of terms, they were in
reality so many invitations to the Americans to throw off
the Spanish yoke. After the revolution of the 25th May
1810, the Gazette of Buenos Ayres was established, and
conducted in a very different spirit from the Semanario,
as may be supposed from the motto prefixed ; Rara tern-
pormn felicitate, ubi sentire que velis ; et que sentias
dicere licet : " Rare felicity of the times, when every
cme may think what he pleases, and what he thinks may

Every paper contained some sprinkling of republican
doctrines, and numerous essays explanatory and justi-
ficatory of the measures of the junta. Passages occa-
sionally occur, whose boldness is very little compatible
with the idea of enthusiastic attachment to Ferdinand.
In a paper of 1810, there are the following words. " No-
thing so much recommends a government, as the firm-
ness with which it attacks old abuses, which have been
sanctioned by many years of impunity. Smuggling, that
vice so destructive to the prosperity of states — was ex-
exercised in this city with so much indifference, that it
appeared to have lost its deformity. We must blush to
remember those rulers, before whose eyes, was exhibited
that criminal luxury, which had no other entrance, than



the contraband they protected ! Eternal hatred to those
mercenary and dishonourable men, who, insensible to
the good of the state, have ruined its commerce, corrupted
its morals, and smothered the seeds of its felicity." The
Gazette was also filled with ofiicial letters, and addresses
from the corporations of the different cities, from military
chiefs, or from the junta. All appears to be life and
bustle ; every communication seems to breathe enthu-
siasm. It is the intoxication of a youth, who is permit-
ted at last, after having been kept under the severest re-
strictions, to think and act for himself. The breath of
liberty is on the pages of the Gazette, which forms a
most singular contrast with the " still life" of the Sema-
nario. A long account is given of the mathematical
school established in the capital, on th© most liberal
principles, and opened in the presence of all the public
functionaries, with addresses and replies, and many po-
pular flomishes, all conveying a censure upon the old
regime. The state of the treasury, the contributions of
patriotic individuals, published quarterly — the enlighten-
ed essays of Blanco, editor of the Espagnol— extracts from
the newspapers of the United States, one in particular
from a Philadelphia paper, which gave an account of
the revolution in Caraccas, noticing the words salus
populi, suprema lex esto, as a sign of better times — all
these and a variety of other articles, were inserted with-
out comment, and therefore tacitly approved. Besides
the Gazette, there was a variety of fugitive productions,
as at Caraccas, according to the accounts of an eye
witness.* " The press, in particular, was busily em-
ployed ; which may be accounted for from the severity
with which it was restricted under the former govern-

♦ Majrer^s Mtinoii* ou th« JK evolution of Caraccas,


inent ; a vast number of pamphlets made their appear-
ance; written with purity and elegance of style,* but
containing more words than solid ideas. The Creoles
seemed to be desirous of indemnifying themselves for
past privations, in publishing satiric pamphlets against
their rivals in ambition, and in abusing the Spanish

Among the productions issued from the press during
the first year of the revolution, I observ- ed a translation
of Rousseau's Social Compact, by Dr. Moreno. The
translation is well executed, and seems to have been
much relished by the middle class of people. But it is
difficult to say whether it was not more injurious than
beneficial ; it was likely to make raw and visionary poli-
ticians, whose notions not having sound practical ex-
perience, (perhaps the only way in which nations can
be instructed,) for their basis, would be as wild as various ;
every man, as in the French revolution, would have a

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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 10 of 25)