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 13 of 25)
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ders and disturbances; but it is a well attested fact,^
that no individual received the slightest injury in his

* For the purpose of revolirtionizing the other provinces, and ex-
pelling the Spanish authorities.


person or property ; there was not even that kind of as-
semblage called mobs, so readily excited in cities used
to despotic government. In reading the following pas-
sage from a writer of the day, a solecism was suggest-
ed, which I was at a loss to explain. The writer,, after
speaking of the deep interest taken by the people in
these events, goes on to say : " It is worthy of admira-
tion, that during this period, not the slightest unto-
ward circumstance took place, there was no disturb-
ance of any account, the mechanics remained at work
in their shops, and the populace was for the greater
part, even ignorant of what was going forward."*
Such indifference, cannot but strike with surprise;
but it is not so difficult to accoimt for. It cannot be de-
nied that the lowest class was sunk in ignorance and
apathy, having never dared for centuries, to think of
the conduct of their magistrates and chief men, or the
internal concerns of their country; they pursued the
even tenor of their drowsy way, without even imagin-
ing that the details of the government in the least
concerned them. It could only be when some foreign
enemy threatened them with inveision, or when acted
upon by some of the few stronger and more violent
emotions that they could be roused from the benumb-
ing effects of a despotic government. This class is
composed of the labourers, domestics, and persons of
this description, who, of course, form a very large pro-
portion of the whole. The people, therefore, that is,
those who took part in the late revolution, did not per-

• Deve admirarse que durante este passage, no ha havido la me-
nor disgracia, ni oido ruido de consideration ; siguen los artistas
en sus telares, y para conclusion, Picede asegurarse que elpopulachci
ignoran avn los mas quanto se trataha.

Vol. II. M


hs^s, exceed at the outside, fifteen hundred or two
thousand, consisting of the wealthy, the merchants,
and shopkeepers, headed by the clergy and the law-
yers. From that day, the number of those who take
an interest in the conduct of persons in power, and
who ^re attentive to the course ol events, has been
constantly increasing ; but I know from my own expe-
rience, during a residence of some years, in what was
once a Spanish colony, how slowly men learn to take
a pleasure in participating in the cares euid uneasiness
of their government, in addition to those which are pe-
culiar to themselves as individuals — they regard it as a
burthen, rather than a privilege. There is another rea-
son which is entitled to weight ; the number of those in
absolute want, or entirely profligate, (the combustible
materials of mobs) are comparatively small in South
America, as well as in the north. From these ob-
servations it will be seen, that it is a mistake in such
as are unwilling to consider this a popular revolu-
tion, from the smallness of the proportion of those who
took an active part in it ; a ^ circumstance which arose,
not from any exclusive privilege or right in this por-
tion, but from an acquiescence on the part of the re-
mainder; for there was nothing more requisite to en-
title them to a participation in public affairs, than
inclination or capacity. As education advanced, and
the habit of attending to these concerns increased, the
whole population would sooner or later, come to feel
and exercise a lively interest in all the details of the

government. _

The first act of the junta was to provide a regular
force, which, until now, had been very inconsider-
able. They use the following language in their de-
cree, (bando) for this purpose ; " Although for the


true glory of the country, it is necessary to recognize
a soldier in every inhabitant, yet the public order, and
the security of the state, require the establishment of
a regular force, suitable to the dignity of these pro-
vinces." Some days after, follows another publica-
tion in the nature of a manifesto, in which, after
setting forth the unremitted attention which they had
bestowed to the duties entrusted to them by the people,
they express their satisfaction at the general tranquil-
lity which prevailed, and the approbation thus ma-
nifested of their conduct. After inveighing against the
mischiefs that may be wrought by the inconsiderate,
as well as the seditious, they declare themselves
bound to give an exact account of all the measures they
may think it necessary to adopt ; the people, say they,
have a right to be made acquainted with the conduct
of their representatives ; a newspaper is, therefore, to
be published weekly, to be exclusively devoted to
the explanation of political measures, and the in-
sertion of state papers, and for the purpose of mak-
ing known the state of the public revenues. Here
is the commencement of a new era, among a people
who had been habitually kept entirely unacquainted
with every thing of this nature ; an era contemptible,
perhaps, in the eyes of the impatient visionary,
who in the language of Burke, " rushes in where
angels fear to enter," but not so in the estimation of the
rational man.

The installation of the junta was followed by an at-
tempt to prevail on the inhabitants of Monte Video,
to follow the example. Dr. Passo, one of the junta,
was sent there with this view ; a congress similar to
that which had taken place at Buenos Ayres was
called ; but the native inhabitants, although actuated by
the same feelings with their countrymen at Buenos Ayres



were prevented from coming to the same determination
by the interference of the naval officers, and the influence
of the European Spaniards. In the mean time, a vessel
arrived with the news of the installation of the regency,
and the false intelligence, that the tide of fortune on the
Peninsula, had turned in favour of the Spaniards, who
were represented as every where victorious. Passo was
obliged to return without success.

In the month of June, the audiencia communicated
the manifesto of the Spanish regency, and called upon
the junta to recognise this new government. In the cor-
respondence which ensued, the junta denied the docu-
ment to be either officially authenticated or communi-
cated, while it bore at the same time internal evidence
of the desperate fortunes of the Peninsula.* It is a
curious paper, and has been frequently referred to as ac-
knowledging most of the essential objects for which they
contended. The Spanish power in its last agonies had
become just, and even somewhat generous.f Another

• According to the laws of the Indies, it will be recollected, all
official communication with the colonies must come through the
council of the Indies, in which the king is supposed to be present.
In the case of a total interruption of the royal authority, (the king
being then a prisoner, and actually signing renunciations of his right
to the crown,) the Spaniards could only set up a regency for Spain.

t It contains the following remarkable passage. " From this mo-
ment, Spanish Americans ! you perceive yourselves elevated to the
dignity of freemen ; you are no longer what you were, while pressed
down by a yoke the more intolerable by reason of your distance from
the centre of power ; regarded with indifference, vexed by cupidity,
and destroyed by ignorance. Keep present to your minds, that in
pronouncing or writing the name of him whom you are to send to the
national congress, your destinies no longer are dependent on ministers,
or viceroys, or governors ; they are in your own hands.*' Such was
the language of extraordinary concession to the oppressed colonies,
by the regency of Spain iu this desperate moment of her affairs.


congress was called at Buenos Ayres, and it was re-
solved not to acknowledge the regency ; on the contrary,
an oath wavS now admmistered to those who composed
the congress, to support the new government. The
oidores, deeply chagrined at what had occurred, could no
longer restrain their expressions of displeasure within
the bounds of prudence, and as there was no good will
towards them on the part of the junta, an opportunity
was seized of shipping them off to the Canaries, along
with Cisneros the viceroy. Their judicial functions were
afterwards supplied by a new tribunal, styled the Cham-
ber of Appeals.

There was now, de facto, a complete separation from
Spain. The oidores, it is true, had been compelled to
own that they held their authority from the people, as
the source from which they originally received it had
ceased to flow ; but they were not the choice of the peo-
ple, or of those now in power. The ostensible motive
still continued to be the preservation of these territories
of their beloved sovereign Ferdinand, in the event of his
being restored to the throne. Whether the adoption of
such a fiction was required by circumstances, or was
useless, is a question I shall not now attempt to discuss.
It is worthy of being stated in this place, that the junta
almost as soon as it commenced its duties, opened a cor-
respondence with Lord Sti-angford, the British Minister at
Rio Janeiro, bespeaking his goodoflSces, and making known
their wish to be on friendly terms with the neighbouring-
court. An English vessel which arrived in the month of
July, brought a favourable answer to them from the
minister, who declared his intention of treating the new
government with the same respect and consideration, as
if it had been actually acknowledged ; applauding their
zeal in the cause of Ferdinand, and advising them to en-
tertain no other design, than that of preserving the

M 3


country for the sovereign, in case of his return to the

The next, and the most important step, was to ob-
tain the concurrence of all the different towns and pro-
vinces of the viceroyalty. Buenos Ayres claimed this
as the capital, from those districts which had previously
been dependencies ; at least of the audiencia of La Pla-
ta.f Governing in the name of Ferdinand, she profess-
ed to retain the viceroyalty entire, until the sense of the
people of the viceroyalty could be taken, as to the modi-
fication or administration of the government. The towns
and villages of the province of Buenos Ayres, with the
exception of Monte Video, acknowledged the provi-
sional Government ; the other towns of the Banda Orien-
tal, (Colonia, Maldonado, and Conception,) with the
principal part of the population, did not follow the ex^
ample of their capital, but recognised the junta. The
districts of Mendoza, St. Louis, and San Juan, sent in
their adhesion to Buenos Ayres, as the capital of the
viceroyalty. The province of Cordova, then under the
government of Concha, an European Spaniard, who had

• The Encjiish minister could not have been ignorant of the real
intentions of the revolutionists of Buenos Ayres. But to enable him
to shew them countenance, it was necessary that they should profess
to be loyal to the sovereign for whom the English were then contend-
ing. That Lord Strangford did side with the Buenos Ayreans, was
so evident, that they offered him as a present, a valuable grant of
land, which he declined accepting. The friendship of the Englisli
was a most important circumstance, as it prevented the Spanish naval
force from completely putting a stop to the trade of Buenos Ayres,
in which, by the by, England was deeply interested.

t The audiencia of Charcas, although subject to the orders of the
viceroy, yet in many respects, exercised similar authority within its
jurisdiction ; it might therefore be regarded, in some measure, as a
separate and distinct government.


been rewurded with this post for his conduct in the de-
fence against the British, was at first restrained from
entering into the confederacy by his influence, supported
by the exertions of Liniers,* who had retired to this
place, and those of the bishop Orillana. At a meeting
convened for the purpose of taking the subject into con-
sideration, Funes, the dean of Cordova, and historian
of the country, was the only person who ventured to take
the side of the junta ; which he did in an eloquent dis-
course afterwards published. The wishes of the people
in tbis quarter, were by no means in accordance \vith the
determination of their chiefs, and when a military force
soon after arrived under Ocampo, the chiefs were aban-
doned by the troops they had collected on the spur of the
occasion. The bishop. Concha, and Liniers, were
seized, and notwithstanding the intercessions of Funes
and his brother, the two latter were putto death, in alleged
retaliation for the murders committed in Peru ; thus stain-
ing the cause of the revolution by blood. It was unfortu-
nate that one of the first victims should have been a
man, to whom the country was so much indebted ; who,
whatever might have been his ultimate intentions, cer-
tainly enabled the people to take the first step towards
their emancipation. It has been said, that the leaders
among the patriots of Buenos Ayres, feared his popu-
larity, which was still great, and was apprehensive of his
thwarting all their plans. That these leaders cherished
at this time the idea of a total separation from Spain, I en-
tertain no doubt ; although it was thought necessary to

* Liniers when superseded by Cisneros, was dismissed with a title
of nobility, and a pension. The Spaniaids distrusted the only man
who coukl have saved them, and who was faithful to their cause.
Such is the effect of weak jealbusy.


conceal it for the present.* There is said to have been
in the junta a diflference of opinion, as to the sanguinary
measures just related ; for this body was scarcely orga-
nized, when it was divided into two parties, that of Mo-
reno, the secretary, a lawyer of talents ; and of Saavedra,
the president of the junta. As in all other party dis-
putes, and they are inseparable from all free govern-
ments, there were no doubt faults on both sides.

The die was now cast ; there was no course left to the
leaders of the revolution, but to advance ; they were
placed between victory and death ; they had boldly as-
serted, that the dependence of the Indies, had tempora-
rily ceased with the captivity of the king ; that no sepa-
rate or distinct jurisdiction or government of the mo-
narchy, had a right to assume authority over another ;
but that each distinct and separate government had a
right in this state of things, to take care of itself. This
doctrine was, undoubtedly, as just as it was flattering to
the wishes of the people, but it was also the cause of
much dissention between the subordinate jurisdictions
and the capital. Each district conceiving itself entitled
to set up a government, not only independent of the vice-
royalty, but even of the province to which it was attach-
ed ; the same reasoning would have justified any indivi-
dual in taking care of himself, and acting according to
the dictates of his own mind. It was, in fact, not easy
to draw the line ; but the most rational seems to be this :
each viceroyalty and captain-generalship constituted a

♦ Linicrs lias been spoken of in terms of disgusting- abuse in the
writings of the Buenos Ayrean patriots j even Funes seems to be
afraid of doing him justice. That those who advised the sanguinary
measure, should attempt to blacken his reputation, is not surprising ;
but I am not sufficiently acquainted with the private history of that
period to say Mho the persons were. ; i /[ ; ; -


government independent of the others, as well as of the
provinces and kingdoms of Spain, but united in the per-
son of the king, as their common head. On the cessa-
tion of the kingly power, their was not an universal dis-
solution of all government, for this would be anarchy,
but only a separation of the different feudatories ; and as
to the domestic or internal governments, the change should
be effected by the majority of the people, and not at the
will of every petty district. The situation of the United
States, when British colonies, was nearly similar, with
this difference, that at Buenos Ayres from the necessity
of the case, the revolution commenced in the capital,
and no convention could be called, until the capital had
by force expelled the Spanish authorities from the other
districts. As soon, however, as circumstances would
permit, a convention ought to have been called, and the
revolution sanctioned by the majority of the people. It
would, therefore, have become the duty of the other dis-
tricts, to submit in the same manner that the different
counties of Maryland would have been required to sub-
mit, during the revolutionary war.

A few months after the revolution at Buenos Ayres,
Pueyrredon arrived from Rio Janeiro,* and was imme-
diately appointed governor of Cordova, while Belgrano
marched against Velasco, the Spanish governor of Para-
guay, who still maintained the Spanish authority. Ye-
dras, with the regular troops and militia, worsted Bel-
grano, in two successive engagements, probably having
a great superiority of force. The general, however, opened
a communication with some of the principal inhabitants,
in consequence of which, they put down the Spanish

• His friends state, that he was instrumental in inducing Lord
Strangford to pursue the course he did in favour of the revolutionists.


authorities, sending Velasco a prisoner to Bueiios Ayres,
and establishing- a junta, but without acknowledging that
of the capital.* With these steps Belgrano was satis-
fied, and withdrew his forces. While Buenos Ayres was
thus engaged in sending agents to the different towns and
districts of the viceroyalty, for the purpose of enlisting
them in the general cause, a confidential person was
■ despatched to the neighbouring government (Chili) with
the view to excite revolutionary movements in that quar-
ter, for the same reasons that, during our revolutionary
war, an attempt was made to produce a revolt in Canada.
I have already noticed the events of the revolution in
Peru. The corporations of the different cities, in the
iiame of the people, acknowledged the junta of Buenos
Ayres, and in the course of the year 1810, the whole
viceroyalty, excepting the town o^" Monte Video, and
the intendency of Paraguay, one in the possession of the
Spaniards, the other pursuing independence in its own
way, voluntarily agreed to substitute the junta, provi-
sionally, for the royal authority, which had ceased.
With the exception of the town of Monte Video, the
w^hole of the viceroyalty had become, de facto, inde-
pendent of Spain, professing an intention to return to
their allegiance to Ferdinand, on his restoration to the
throne, which few of the leaders expected, and certainly
none desired. The viceroy of Lima strained every nerve
to arrest the progress of this revolution ; all the reinforce-
ments tliat could possibly be spared, were sent to Goy-
neche ; who partly through treachery, as well as by su-
periority of numbers, defeated Balcarce at Huaqui. The

• In 1811, a treaty was entered into between Buenos Ayres and
Paraguay, but shortly after that period, all communication ceased, for
what cause, I know not.


incidents of the war which ensued between the capital,
and the Spaniards of Monte Video, have been already

The junta of the capital now recommended the esta-
blishment of subordinate juntas in all the principaLpro-
vinces in addition to the other local authorities. Con-
sequent upon these events, there was a chang^e of all the
different civil officers, their places being filled by adhe-
rents to the cause. It is highly probable, that in this dis-
tribution of the loaves and fishes, the citizens of the
capital received much more than came to their share.
The prospect of obtaining an office, has made many a
patriot, and disappointments as readily unmade : here is
at once a fruitful cause of disaffection. That Buenos
Ayres, did not abuse the advantages she possessed, is
scarcely to i>e believed, because it would not be human
nature. One of the strongest inducements held out to the
provinces to acknowledge the junta, was the promise of
convening a congress of deputies, so that every part of
the viceroyalty might shaje in the government ; a promise
which there is every reason to believe, was not a^ faith-
fully complied with as it might have been. There may
be reasons for and against, which I do not feel inclined
to weigh. It is reasonable to suppose,, that those who
held the reins of power, would endeavour to monopo-
lize all authority, for this is natural, and would give rise
to serious evils ; it is also to be taken for granted, that
the subordinate districts would exaggerate, and often
complain of fancied grievances. Jealousy of the town,
on the part of the. country, is not peculiar to Buenos

Ayres; there is a striking instance of it in the state of
Maryland. vit^.u;,.. .M../...|m..w. ^^i-iui.;;:. /,n

In being thus prolix, in tracing the first steps of the
revolution, a prolixity seemingly more suited to a his-


jiyg ^ A VOYAGE TO

torical narrative, than to a work like the present, it was
my intention, to enable the reader to form a more satis-
factory opinion of the subsequent transactions, over
which I intend rapidly to pass. It will, at the same
time, enable him to form a distinct idea of the principles,
on which the revolution was commenced and carried on.*
From this period, the democracy of Buenos Ayres (as
it has been styled by the editor of the Quarterly Review)
displayed a degree of vigour and spirit, not unworthy of
ancient Rome ; and the history of their dissentions^
their rivalries, and ambition, as is justly observed by
Funes, may be read in Livy, in Plutarch, and in the
history of all republics ; for under similar circumst2aices,
men are pretty much the same.f The viceroyalty, or
province was cut adrift from its ancient moorings ; some-
times the helm was entrusted to the hands of the veteran
and experienced mariner ; at other times it was seized
by the ambitious aspirant, and anon the noisy, mis-
chievous demagogue infused suspicion, alarm, or mad-
ness into the minds of the crew. " Happy the juncture
when popular phrensy prevailing, there shall be found at
the helm, an upright and wise man, with flexibility or
firmness, according to the exigency of the moment, and
who disregeirding the false fears of the crew, has no view
in running out to sea, or steering into port, but to save
the vessel entrusted to his care; such a man may not
kave monuments of marble or brass, erected to his me-

• It would require another volume, to complete what I have to say
ou South America. I have been compelled to leave a great part of
my materials unemployed. It is possible that I ir.ay prepare them for
som^ periodical work.

•j- It is worthy of remark, that the colonies of despotic govemments,
almost always grow up republics. The causes are not difficult to be


mory, but he will live in the hearts of those, whom his
firmness and virtues have saved."

It has been stated, that it was made the duty of the
junta at the time of its erection, to call a general con-
gress from the different provinces, for the purpose of
establishing the government on a proper basis. This
was the only course, by which the viceroyalty could be
effectually prevented, from splitting into distinct sec-
tions, with jarring interests. To restore a chaos like this
to order, it might have been foreseen, would have been a
very difficult undertanding ; at the same time, that the
country might in the meanwhile, become an easy con-
quest. The junta despatched circular letters to the corpo-
rations, requesting them to send their deputies to Buenos
Ayres. The form of elections, or the number of de-
puties, was not prescribed. The corporations of those
cities which were not tranquil, Mendoza, Cordova, Tu-
cuman, and in some of the provinces of Peru, proceeded
to the election of their deputies. In general, not more
than one person was sent for each city. On their arrival
at Buenos Ayres, their organization was delayed to their
great disgust ; this was in consequence of the difference
between the Moreno and Saavedra factions. The former,
who had the ascendency in the junta, from his superior

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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 13 of 25)