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 11 of 25)
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plan of his own, while his intolerance for the opinion of
his neighbour, proved that some of the dross of despotism
continued to adhere to him. The press was only compa-
ratively free — the conduct of those at the head of the go-
vernment, does not appear to have been much canvassed.
Perhaps as the leaders of the revolution were acting
against a common enemy, it was not to be expected that
the newspapers would yet be taken up with family faults.
There was therefore a disposition to indulge, at least to
refrain from exposing — perhaps the government would
not permit itself to be weakened, when it required every
aid to give it strength. The American government
during our revolutionary war, (if this be considered a

• Ilumbnldt observes this diflferencc between the Mexicans aud th»
South Aniciiean.s

K 3


criterion of the libeity of the press,) was not much abused
by Whigs ; all good citizens endeavoured to support its
character abroad. The imprimatur was still kept up at
Buenos Ayres, and not abolished until the revolution
which took place the following year.

During the succeeding years, the taste for reading
rapidly increased, and publications also augmented.
The restrictions on the importation and circulation of
books, although not entirely removed, w^ere greatly
relaxed. Types and presses were imported, and printing
became a lucrative employment. A public library was
set on foot by Dr. Moreno, and the subjects discussed in
their publications were less abstract ; they became more
immediately interesting on account of their reasonings
upon real occuiTences among themselves, and the appli-
cation of those principles to the events of the day. It is
necessary first to learn the theory of political liberty,
and aftenvards its application.

The revolution of 1813 gave a new impulse to every
thing. In tracing the progress of the press, which may
be regarded as the progress of libert}^, I was^ indeed
astonished at the advancement made in three short years.
The quantum and the quality of their publications seem
to have kept pace. The republic had assumed a higher
tone, and their speculations were now of a bolder cast.
The oration of Monteagudo to the society of La Fatria,
neatly jjrinted, contains a number of admirable political
sentiments. It is pure republicanism: ignorance, he says,
is the cause of all the misfortunes of man in his present
stated-sovereignty resides in the people alone, and au-
thority in the laws ; he explains the words, equality, se-
curity, liberty, as we should. In fact, it is a production
highly creditable to the author, and to the people to
whom it is addressed. A political sermon of Funes, the
year following, might be cited, both as a specimen of


fine composition, and of the little respect now paid to
royalty ; it might further be cited as a proof, that the
idea, so common, of the catholic religion being incom-
patible with the principles of free government, is not cor-
rect. The following is the concluding sentence of a
most vivid exposition of the abuses practised in America,
by the kings of Spain : " Under his iron sceptre, there
was room for no virtue but that of enduring with resig-
nation the ills of slavery, from which there was no hope
of relief but in death. A man, bearing the name of king,
having annihilated every right, and made himself the
centre of all earthly power, seemed to say to us, — your
possessions and your blood are mine — go suffer and die.
Oh God ! can it be possible that fifteen millions of '^
souls, have been doomed to wretchedness, in order that
one man may be made wicked !"

Each succeeding internal revolution gave rise to nu-
merous publications. In 1815, after the fall of Alvear,
public liberty seemed to acquire an accelerated motion^
like water interrupted in its course, until its gathering
weight enables it to burst its mounds. A flood of pub-
lications v/as poured upon a people who had been gra-
dually acquiring the habit of turning their attention with
eagerness to the press, as the fountain of liberty. A pe-
riodical paper was established by the cabildo, called the
Censor, to be devoted to the interest of the people, as
the ministerial gazette was to the views of the government,
and a salary was assigned to its editor. It was made
his duty to publish a political essay every week, in order
to diffuse general information. A number of journals
were now attempted by individuals, but the greater 'par
were of short duration for want of support.* The

• I tliiitk it very donhtt'ul whether the liberty of the press, cau ex-
ist in its perfection in any country, where the trial by jukv is



Cronica Argentina, was more successful ; it was con-
ducted with some spirit, and approached nearer to what
we should call a party paper, than any yet established.
The utmost boldness and freedom appears to prevail in
the pages of this journal, whose editor at once stepped
up to the mark of democracy ; from which we may infer,
that its sentiments at this time were popular. Unfortu-
nately, it was often too inflammatory and abusive towards
individuals, and therefore calculated to produce a bad
effect on a people so little accustomed to the licentious-
ness of the press ; with whom, even simple strictures on
the conduct of public men, become denunciations. There
was, however, no cry of a la lanterne, as among the
French. They might, perhaps, have had their Robes-
picrean demagogues, but they were not surrounded by
such inflammable materials as the mob of Paris. A
people must be giadually accustomed to the blessings of
a free press, it seems, as well as to the otlier blessings
of a free government, before the good which flows from
its legitimate use, will counterbalance the evils which
arise from its abuse. Reason, it is true, is left free to
combat error ; and with us reason is strong enough to
combat it, but this may not be the case every where. It
must be in a community where the people are in some
measure enlightened, for every community is not equally
capable of reasoning, although it may possess m^ny in-
dividuals of great learning and talents. It is the pride of
the United States, that if there be not persons here as
profoundly learned as in France or England, our citizens
are in general better informed. But a people not in the
habit of reasoning on all political subjects, are apt to
consider words as things. The unbounded liberty of the
press, was well advocated in the Cronica, and supported
by English and American authority ; but the editor of
the Censor, who subscribed to the proposition in the


abstract, contended that the country was not yet ripe for
its full enjoyment ; that the effect of a printed accusation,
upon a people just emerging from total darkness, would
be to place the best government in the hands of the
worst men ; that when false warnings are frequently re-
peated, the people become heedless when warned of real
danger, and despotism enters without opposition.

A paper war was earned on by these editors for some
months, on a subject calculated to put to test the public
opinion. General Belgrano, and Guemes, (governor of
Salta,) in opening the campaign in the upper provinces,
issued proclamations announcing to the Indians, the re-
solution of restoring the Incas. These people are known
to venerate the memory of the kings, who ruled over
them, before they were reduced to barbarous slavery by
the Spanish conquerors, and the insurrection of Tupac
Amaru, was still fresh in their memories. Upon them,
the words liberty and independence, the rights of man, and
topics calculated to rouse the Spanish Americans, could
not be expected to have as much effect, as the restoration
of their beloved Incas, whose reign is considered by them
as the golden age. The editor of the Cronica took up
the affair seriously, aud a contest ensued between him
and the editor of the Censor, who undertook to defend
Belgrano, and to maintain the idea of a limited monarchy.
On reading the discussion, it is very easily seen which
had the popular side. The Cronica dressed up all the
usual argimients, urged among us against kings and
nobles ; frequently qi^oting Paine, and the writers of our
country ; his ideas possessed all the zest of novelty in
Buenos Ayres, and probably produced a good effect, not-
withstanding the unnecessary abuse of Belgrano and
Guemes. On the side of the Censor, the limited mo-
narchy was but feebly supported, the editor frequently
asserting his right to entertain and express what opinions


he pleased. The Cabildo put an end to this newspaper
war, the first which had been known here, by peremptorily
ordering the Censor to cease, on the score that the public
tranquillity had been disturbed. The editorship was not
long after changed to other hands, and the paper has
since advanced nothing but republican principles ;* its
editor, Henriques, is a Chilian of considerable literary
acquirements, of a philanthropic turn of mind, and an
enthusiastic admirer of our institutions, which he has
endeavoured to explain to his fellow citizens. He un-
derstands the English language extremely well, and trans-
lates from our newspapers such articles as are likely to
be useful.

There are at present two weekly journals published on
a small scale ; but as they are yet but little in the habit
of inserting public notices and advertisements, which
render a paper profitable, and useful to men in business,
their circulation is perhaps less general than it would
otherwise be. Copies of notices are multiplied with
the pen, instead of being printed, which may in part be
owing to the expense ; even the play bills are in manu-
script. About two thousand of each of the established

• The folio wiDg are a few of the subjects of the political essays
of the Censor for 1817 : An explanation of the constitution of the
United States, and highly praised — the Lancasterian system of educa-
tion— on the causes of the prosperity of the United States — Milton's
essay on the liberty of the press — a review of the work of the late
President Adams, on the American constitution, and a recommenda-
tion of checks and balances, continued through several numbers, and
abounding witli much useful inforn;atiou for the people — brief notice
of the life of James Monroe president of the United States — examina-
tion of the federative system— on the trial by jury — on popular elec-
tions — on the effect of enlightened productions on the condition of
mankind — an analysis of the several state constitutions of the Union,
&c. &c.


journals are circulated every week; they find their way
to the most remote parts of the country ; and, as was
somewhat the case with some parts of our country, one
newspaper serves a whole neighbourhood ; it is usually
read by the curate after mass, at the same time with the
manifestoes.* The proceedings of the congress are
printed every month, and circulated in the same manner.
A great number of essays are also published in loose
sheets, and retailed at the stalls, instead of being inserted
in the journals. In the collection of these papers which
I made, I have several anniversary orations, an eulogium
on the United States, an essay by an European Spaniard
showing the advantages of the present government of
Buenos Ajres, and its superiority over that of Spain ; a
pamphlet against Artigas, a defence of the conduct of
Alvear in the capture of Monte Video,t ^^ answer to the
accusation of the Spanish General Vigodet, and before
the do^vnfall of Alvear ; a tolerable tianslation of the
tragedy of Pizarro, the Battle of Marathon, an original
play, and a play by C. Henriques; memorial of the
landholders of Mendoza, vindication of the conduct of
Pueyrredon from the attacks made in the Baltimore Pa-
triot ; discussion on a question of political economy,
carried on at some length on the subject of saladeros,
(places -for salting beef for exportation.) But by far the
most fruitful source of these productions, is the quarrels
between the aspirants to distinction, who frequently call
upon the tribimal of the republic, to applaud or con-
demn. These papers are all extremely well >vritten. It
is not alone in these lighter publications, that the press

• Those published during; the revolution, would make a folio vo=
Inme of considerable size.

t ^^ riifcn by Garcia, who is one of tlieirbc'l writers.


is employed ; the work of Dean Funes. already men-
tioned, in three large octavo volumes, would do honour
to the literature of any country. In the opinion of the
best judges, in point of purity and elegance of style, it
is equal to any work in the Spanish language ; the de-
dication to his country is a fine specimen of eloquence.
There being no direct communication with Spain,
nearly all the school books are printed in the country.
I have an excellent original grammar of the language,
and a system of arithmetic, published in 1817. Their
catechisms and books for schools, are mostly original,
it being necessary to expunge the monarchical dog-
mas which they usually contain. There are three print-
ing offices, and all seem to be doing a good business.
I was much pleased with that of Dr. Anchores, who
has three presses almost always employed. He told
me that he had gone to England himself to procure
types and presses : " I considered," said he, " that I
was perfonning my part in this revolution if I could
succeed in my project of spreading the mechanic art
of printing. I took a number of boys, to whom I
have paid w ages, as an enducemeut to them to engage
in the business, and to render it desirable to others ;
the number of workmen will in a few years be suffi-
cient to enable us to establish presses in all the prin-
cipal towns ; and printing, which has already fallen
one-third, will bear a due proportion to other labour.
I know well the importance of this precious art, to k
country which aspires to be free. I shall have con-
tributed my full share to the independence of my
country, if I succeed." He was then printing for the
government, a system of military discipline, to be
introduced into the armies, adapted by some of their
military men to the situation of the country. He was
also publishing the celebrated letters of Itnrry, in


vindication of America, and of the Americans. This
is truly an admirable performance ; it may be regarded
as a sequel to that part of Mr. Jefferson's notes on
Virginia, which treats of the same subject. There is
a translation of Mr. De Pradt's Six Months, by Ca-
via, one of the secretaries in the department of state,
a young man of fine talents. Political writings seem
to be for the present almost exclusively in demand.
I saw a translation of Bisset's " Sketch of Democra-
cy," which I was informed by the booksellers, had
met with a rapid sale. This work might possibly
have a salutary effect on a people who are in dan-
ger of running wild in their notions of liberty ; and
who, like the French, would be desirous of taking
Greece or Rome as their model. The work is not
worth much ; it selects all that is bad in the ancient
and modem republics, (it is honourably silent, how-
ever, on the subject of the United States,) without
any of the good ; and this is contrasted with the meagre
list of doubtful advantages of a limited monarchy, like
that of England.

All restraints on the circulation of books, no mat-
ter what may be the subject treated of, are not merely
removed, but in order to encourage the importation,
they are suffered to be introduced free of duties. A
domiciliary visit would now be an insult. I have seen
the works of Voltaire publicly offered for sale in the
book stores, w^hich would formerly have been a penal
offence. The French is much more familiar to them
than the English, which is, perhaps, to be regretted;
as the French revolutionary politics have been proved
by experience to be unsafe. The writings of Frank-
lin, the Federalist, and other American works, are
frequently quoted ; but, in general, even the best
English and American productions find their way


through the medium of French translations. Th«
English language is, however, beginning of late to be
much more attended to than formerly. There are in
circulation, Spanish translations of many of our best
revolutionary writings. The most common are two
miscellaneous volumes, one containing Paine's Com-
mon Sense, and Rights of Man, and Declaration of
Independence, several of our constitutions, and Ge-
neral Washington's Farewell Address; the other is
an abridged History of the United States, down to the
year 1810, with a good explanation of the natme of
our political institutions, accompanied with a transla-
tion of Mr. Jefferson's inaugural speech, and other
state papers. I believe these have been read by
nearly all who can read, and have produced a most
extravagant admiration of the United States, at the
same time accompanied with something like despair.
Of the state library, I have already spoken; it is a
noble monument of the public spirit of these people,
and their dcvsire to elevate their national character.
Should Spain ever succeed in subjugating them, the
library, like that of Alexandria, will probably be con-
signed to the flames.

It remains to speak of the public schools, and the
progress of education. This is a subject which ex-
cites the deepest interest. There are at present about
one hundered and fifty students at the university of
Cordova, and the course of studies there has been en-
tirely reformed.* The college of the Union of the
South, is said to be a spleiidid establishment ; twenty
thousand dollars have been expended in fitting it up, and
in purchasing philosophical apparatus.

• The American clergy ami lav vers are in gtti^t6\ Very fkrAtfiar
Tfilh the Latin classie.i.


^ The cabildo of Buenos Ayres expends annually
about ten thousand dollars for the support of common
schools ; and at the different monastries there are not
less than three hundred scholars taught to read by the
monks, who are thus rendered useful. A part of the
tythes has been appropriated for the establishment of
primary schools in the country. No people were ever
more sensible of their deficiency in point of educa-
tion, than these appear to be, or more anxious to re-
medy it. The public examinations take place in the
presence of the supreme director, and the other pub-
lic functionaries ; and an account is published in the
papers, with the names of those who have excelled
in the different branches of learning. There are se-
veral military academies, where a number of youth,
who intend to embrace the military profession, are
instructed, so that in the course of a few years, they
will have officers enough to supply all South Ame-
rica. The military seems to engross, for the present,
the attention of the aspiring youth of the country ; the
study of theology is almost entirely neglected ; that of
the law has increased, and a much greater number
than formerly apply themselves to commerce. It is the
opinion of every enlightened man, that in the course
of another generation, the monastries will be entirely

All admit that there is an astonishing difference
in the boys of the present generation, from those that
have gone before them. One day while listening to
four or five hundred, who were singing their na-
tional songs in the public square, a gentleman ob-
served to me ; " Sir, these are the independents of South
America — ^we are good for nothing." They are thus
at an early age, taught to consider themselves the hope


of their country ; and they know that in a few years,
they will be the men who will fix its destinies. Every
thing concurs to impress this idea on their minds.
Their education is the special care of the state ; in the
presence of its highest authorities, they are already
called upon to act a part; and in celebrating the
praises of the nation, its independence, and its achive-
ments, they have acquired an importance before
unfelt. The words liberty and country are connect-
ed with all that is dear to the heart. A gentleman
related to me an anecdote, which shows how power-
fully these feelings have seized upon their youthful
affections. Passing along the street, he observed a
crowd of boys round two of their companions who were
fighting : " How is this,'' said he, *' are you not ashamed
to fight with each other? If you must fight, has the
country no enemies?" This simple appeal had an elec-
tric effect— the boys embraced, and joined with their com-
panions in shouts of viva la patria ! Such sentiments
impressed on the honest and generous minds of infancy,
must naturally constitute the darling illusions of the
future man. These boys already engage in the political
discussions of the day, and are much more free and bold
in their opinions than their parents or teachers. Even
in private life, there is no longer that arbitrary and des-
potic authority exercised over them, which in a mo-
narchy seems to partake of the very nature of the govern-

Upon the mass of society, it is natural to suppose
that the long protracted contest must have been produc-
tive of great effects ; the variety of interesting occur-
rences which have passed before their eyes, since the in-
vasion of the British, down to the present day, have
changed the face of society. They are no longer the in-
sipid automatons of despotism, but anxious about events


to which they never before elevated their minds, and
are continually inquiring for news. Man needs this ex-
citement to call forth his latent virtues, and to bring his
faculties into employment. They have followed tjie good
and bad fortune of their country, until their affections are
completely enlisted. The history of the varied scene of
the last ten years, furnishes even the commonest peasant
with inexhaustible subjects of thought and conversation.
The news of a battle, a victory, or defeat, is felt as if it
individually benefitted or injured them. I might almost
venture to say, that from the moment they expelled the
British, they ceased to be fit for colonists— a national
spirit was formed. The defence of Louisiana did more
to Americanize the people of that state, than the diffu-
sion of information for the preceding ten years, [n a
few yeans more, there will scarcely be a trace remaining
of despotism. I have no hesitation in saying, that in
point of national feeling, these people are already far
advanced ; and a progress more rapid has been made in
this respect than even in Louisiana. That country for
nearly ten years after its annexation, slumbered in a state
of quiescence, while Buenos Ayres for the same period,
was thrown upon its own energies, and was compelled to
encounter every vicissitude of fortime. There are few
who have not in some way or other, been actors in the
scenes that transpired ; all their talents have been called
into requisition ; the whole community has frequently ex-
perienced that wholesome agitation, which produces
health and purity. They have been compelled to study
the nature of government. They have been continually
acquiring importance in their own opinion. Their na-
tional songs, and their printed papers every where dis-
tributed, have kept the public attention continually
awake ; and the common stock of ideas j has been pro-
Vol. II. L

146 A voYACri:, &c.

digiously augmented. It is only necessary to clear the
fountain, and the stream will soon run pure. This is an
enlightened age — open the windows and the light will
burst in. I may be mistaken as to the real policy of
those in power, hut as to the progress which the people
have made in the acquirement of information^ I can-
not be.



The Principal Oecnrrenees at Buenos Ai/res since the eommencement oj

their Revolution^

X HE revolution at Buenos Ayres, maybe dated as far
back as the first invasion by the British under Beresford,
in June, 1806. The country was at that time almost in
a state of abandonment on the part of Spain. She had a
few wretched troops at Buenos Ayres and Monte Video ;
and an indiiFerent naval force, chiefly stationed at the lat-
ter of these places, which from the circumstances of being
nearer the ocean, and having a better harbour, was the
naval depot. While Napoleon was preying on the Spa-

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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 11 of 25)