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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once the esteem of the respectable among his fellow-
citizens. By foreigners he was still more admired, than
by his own countrymen, as being more free from the
vices of the Creoles, and having the most enlarged and
liberal views. At first, the strict discipline which he
introduced, and the great application to study, which he
required of the young officers, made him enemies, and
afterwards friends. In 1S13, he was appointed governor
of Cuyo, and at the same time v/as invested with the mi-
litary command in this quarter. His strict justice, and
his general deportment gained the affections of these
people, and when on one occasion there was some idea
of removing him, they earnestly remonstrated against it.
On the conquest of Chili, the people of Mendoza, appre-
hensive of the Spaniards, reposed all their hopes of
safety on San Martin, who immediately set to work in
organizing an army for their defence, and, at the same
time, secretly cherishing the design of freeing Chili from
her enemies. We have seen that his success was com-

P ;3


plete. 1 am restrained from entering minutely into the
history of his life for the present ; I may resume the
subject at some future period.

There are some traits in his character, which I shall,
however, notice. His self-denial, in refusing any promo-
tion, liad its effect, ^vhere every one was striving for it,
without regard to his merits, and became a malcontent
if disappointed. The fact of many officers of superior
rank serving under him, is a proof that this compliment
is due to his personal merit ; and it must be admitted,
that the circumstance is either a very extraordinary one,
or a very high testimony in his favour. After the battle
of Chacabuco, when the Spaniaids were driven out of
Chili, the supreme director promoted him to the rank of
major-general, but he declined accepting, having already
publicly declared, that he would accept no higher rank,
than that which he held. The affair was referred to the
congress, which decided that for this time, San Martin
should have his own way ; but if, on a future occasion,
his sei*vices to the coimtry should be such as to merit
promotion, it would be his duty to accept. After the
battle ofMaipu, he was accordingly promoted. AVhen
we consider the necessity of checking that vicious im-
patience for promotion, by examples of self-denial and
noble disinterestedness, the conduct of San Martin will
be viewed in a more favourable light. He has publicly
declared his determination to accept of no civil office
ivhatever, and to renounce his military situation, as soon
as his country shall gain her independeiice^^ I have no
doubt, that the examples of self-denial, set by Belgrano,

* A number ot'intcrcslingdofumcnls icliitiiij^ to this dislini;uislic(!
man, have been published in the Dilaware AVatchmaH. as tianslated
by Mr. Jiead.


San Martin, and recently by Pueyrredon, will have the
most happy efFects on the character of the people. The
pains taken by San Martin to avoid all public demon-
strations of gratitude for his services, I have been told
by persons well acquainted with him, proceeds from na-
tural plainness and simplicity of manners. It was not pos-
sible for him to avoid them ; and to none of the chiefs of
the revolution, have such honours been paid by every de-
scription of jjeople. These are unbought and spontane-
ous demonstrations, which speak more in his favour,
than the abuse of his enemies in his dispraise. Except-
ing the entry of General Washington into Philadelphia,
of General Jackson at New Orleans, there is no insttince
in modern history, of respect paid to a mortal, equal to
that shown to San Martin, on his entry into Buenos
Ayres, after the battle of Maipu, in which Chili was a
second time rescued by him. No account of this has
ever been published in our papers ; I have learned it only
from information derived from private letters, and news-
papers from that place, giving the particulars. That
these demonstrations were unfeigned, there can be no
doubt, and prove incontestibly, that whatever we may
think of San Martin, or of his intentions, the people of
the United Provinces look upon him as the first and
greatest man among them.

It is not for me to speak with confidence of the real
character of this man, or to say positively that his hu-
mility is genuine, or merely " young ambition's ladder."
To condemn for supposed intentions, would not be just ;
as long as a man's actions are great and honourable, it
is ungenerous to supply improper motives. Some of his
enemies, without stopping a moment to give him credit
for what he had done, fall foul of him with vulgar abuse
and insinuation, for leaving something undone, which
they fancy he had it in his power to accomplish. With-


out intending it, they tacitly acknowledge his merits, at
the same time that they betray their own injustice. If
he has rendered service, why not allow credit for it ? If
he has in reality accomplished nothing, why censure him
for leaving something undone ? ^Yhy not at once, deny
that he has rendered any service ? Why not say, that he
owes his elevation to trick, deception, or favour, and
then it would admit of argument, whether such a thing,
under all the circumstances, is probable. This is no-
ticed merely because it has been repeated by persons,
from whom sometln'ng better ought to have been ex-
pected. Let us not condemn, unless we can condemn
with good reason. We must leave it to time to disclose
whether he is a man of ordinary ambition, like the thou-
sands whose names have been enrolled in history, as dis-
tinguished for talents more than for virtue ; or whether
he is to be ranked among the few", who have justly won
the esteem of the good of all ages.

The national congress, during our stay at Buenos
Ayres, only assembled thrice a w^eek, on account of
the number which composed the committee, daily occu-
pied in preparing the constitution, and which would not
be reported under several months. They were resolved
not to go hastily to work, in formiiig this important in-
strument. The appearance of the congress as a body, is
highly respectable ; their sessions were held in a large
Iiall, but not generally attended by many spectators.
The president was elevated a few feet above the rest, at
the end of the hall ; the table or desk at which he sat,
covered with crimson velvet, which fell down on the
Turkey carpet, that covered the floor. The members
were seated along the sides of the room in arm chairs,
and fronting each other. On the subjects discussed,
they seldom rose to speak ; it is only on occasions of
formal debate, that they rise ; business is therefore


despatched much more speedily than with us. Most of
them are giave and venerable men, and the strictest de-
corum and propriety are observed. Out of twenty-six,
there were eleven clergymen, but one half of them were
probably merely politicians ; they were all speakers,
and men of the best education and talents the country
could afford ; they spoke in general closely, and to the
purpose, but all with great facility, and some with elo-
quence, in a language which is eloquent in itself. Very
frivolous and illiberal accounts have been published in
our newspapers, on the subject of this body, by persons,
who find it much easier to decry and abuse, than to un-

This volume having been unavoidably taken up with
subjects of more importance, 1 have been unable to
render it as amusing, as I could have desired, by re-
lating a variety of incidents, and making observations on
the manners of the people, and state of society. The
respectable class of people are polite and hospitable ;
their houses are genteely furnished, but with less display
of luxury, than in our cities. A very splendid ball was
given to us by Messrs. Zimmerman and Lynch, (brother-
in-law to the director,) an account of which was pub-
lished in our newspapers. There were upwards of two
hundred ladies present, and in point of elegance and
splendou]', the entertainment could not be surpassed in
this country.

The morals of the people are unfavourably spoken of
by strangers, and with too much truth ; but, at the same
time, there is much exaggeration ; they are not naturally
better or worse than other people, and I much question,
whether the greater part of their vices are not to be at-
tributed to the peculiar tendency of colonial society. I
have no doubt, but that we are a more virtuous people.


than we were before our revolution. Since that memo-
rable period, new and before mithought of jjaths have
been opened to us. Our ambition and our industry were
rewarded by success in the different professions ; the
hope of obtaining employments under the general and
state governments, stimulate hundreds besides those who
are successful. Connected also with them are a thousand
new branches of industry in the arts, sciences, trade, and
commerce. All combine to call into honourable and
useful employment, those talents which would otherwise
lie buried in indolence and vice. The observation vidll
apply to South America ; the Belgranos, the San Mar-
tins, the Rondeaus, the Pueyrredons, the Balcarces, and
the Tagles, and a hmidred others, who now figure there,
instead of being the leaders of armies, and engaged in
laying the foundation of empires, would have been per-
haps the leaders of broils, or engaged in disturbing the
peace of families by vile intrigues.

Depons remarks the great aptitude of the South
Americans for the sciences, and Azara thinks their
natural capacities superior to the Europeans. Hum-
boldt and Depons remark the avidity with which
they procure foreign books, especially French ; as also
their extravagant thirst for distinction, and great de-
sire to obtain offices. In Carracas, nothing pleased
a young American so much, as to be told that he
looked like a Frenchman. When a colonial militia
was established, and the appointment of captains, colo-
nels, &c. distributed among them, they diverted a great
part of the youth from the study of theology and
law, as they had then some kind of employment, al-
though without a salary or emolument. The law,
however, has always been a favourite study with them,
and the acquaintance which I obtained of the Spa-


nish jurisprudence, while at New Orleans, induced
me to form a very different opinion of it, from that ge-
nerally entertained. Depons considers the Spanish Ame-
ricans much superior to the French in sold attain-
ments, but inferior in elegant accomplishments. The
profession of the law, he observes, holds a much higher
rank in the colonies, than in Spain, as does also the
mercantile profession ; but the class of American no-
bility is much less respected, than in the old coun-
try. The importance attached to ceremonies and to
etiquette, as stated by this author, is truly singular,
and is to be taken into view in judging of their
actions, to distinguish what is form from what is
substance; but, in truth, form appears to be regarded
among them as substance. The neglect of any of the
numerous ceremonies, established by the tacit laws of
society, is attended with serious quarrels ; to strangers,
they are extremely troublesome, and appear ridicu-
lous. Much less of this prevails at Buenos Ayres,
than at Carracas, at least if we place implicit faith
in the account of Depons. There is a remarkable
fact, which I observed while at Buenos Ayres, and
found afterwards confirmed by Depons : the duel has
never prevailed in any part of South America, and
no distinction is made in public opinion, between the
common murderer, and the man who kills another in
a duel. I observed in one of the papers of Buenos
Ayres, of some years back, a very serious remon-
strance on the part of the government, against two
British officers who fought in the neighbourhood of
that city. Some may be disposed to say, that this
accounts for the frequency of assassinations ; but these
prevail in Spain much more than in America; and
Depons declares, that the assassinations, with scarcely


an exception, are perpetrated either by foreigners, or
among the very lowest class of natives, who never
fight duels. He gives, perhaps, the true reason for
this vile blot on the Spanish character, when he says,
" the Spaniards pay less attention to police, for public
tranquillity J than any other people."* During our stay
at Buenos Ayres, there was but one instance of a mur-
der in the city ; the body was publicly exposed
before the cabildo, where the inquisition was held ;
a barbarous custom tending to harden the people,
by habituating them to sights of horror. But these
occurrences had been much more frequent, before
the establishment of the military commission by the
congress, at the recommendation of the director ; it was
established for six month, and entrusted to General Ra-
mon Balcarce; its salutary effects had begun to be
felt and acknowledged in freeing the country from the
rufiians and vagabonds, who were ready to commit
any crime, and would probably be continued for some
time longer.

The private quanels among the Creoles, give rise to
numerous law suits, the Spanish laws furnishing more
extensive redress for injuries, particularly of reputa-
tion, than the common law. It is a great evil in their
society ; and in what society are there not evils ? The
following observations of Depons, although not en-
tirely applicable to Buenos Ayres, are mifortunately
but too much so. " An unguarded word, a neglected
etiquette, is enough to make eternal enemies — there is
no generous forgiveness — they can never do any justice
to their enemy after this, he is the subject of their detes^

♦ Dcpoiis, v(^l. iii. p. 9i.


tation, and they take all occasions to vent their hatred
by abuse."

Great attention is paid to the forms of their religion ;
the common class of people may have become somewhat
less superstitious, but their religious opinions have un-
dergone no change, while the more enlightened are ob-
liged to pretend a more than ordinary degree of venera-
tion for it, in proportion as their actions become more
liberal. The public mind is not yet prepared for re-
ligious toleration, and will not be for many years to
come ; perhaps not until the extinction of the monastic
orders, which will take place in the course of fifteen
or twenty years. A brief account of the present [state
of these institutions may be interesting. At Monte
Video there is a monastery, which contains ten or a
dozen monks of the Franciscan order. At San
Lorenzo, on the Parana, below Santa Fee, there is
also a monastery of Franciscans, but their numbers
are also small. At Buenos Ayres, there are five mo-
nasteries, one of Dominicians, two of Franciscans, one
de la Merced, and one de Belermites. The three first
are what are called casas grandes, that is, have a cer-
tain jurisdiction over other monasteries, according to
the peculiar monastic divisions or provinces in South
America ; for there are what may be called monastic
as well as ecclesiastic and civil divisions.* The casas
grandes of Buenos Ayres have jurisdiction over four
ecclesiastical provinces. The monks are about twenty-
five or thirty in number in each, and are supported by
rents from their real estate, from funds at interest, and

* An ecclesiastical province means nothing more than a bishopric ;
the jurisdiction of the casas grandes is arbitrary.


other property ; they have enougli to live upon, but
are not rich. There are two convents, that of San
Catalina, and of San Juan. The first is possessed of
sufficient funds for the comfortable subsistence of thirty
or forty nuns ; in the other, they support themselves
by their own industry, with some occasional pious do-
nations; they also undertake the education of young'
ladies, as at New Orleans. Cordova contains four
monasteries and two convents, and about the sarae
number of monks and nuns as at Buenos Ayres ; the
inhabitants of Cordova are said to be the ^catest de-
votees in the United Provinces, as those of Buenos
A5rres are the most liberal. Santiago del Estero, Tu-
cuman, Catarmarca, Salta, and Jujuy, have eleven
monasteries, but the monks support themselves with
difficulty in the present state of things. The revolution
has fallen very heavily on this class of people every

Potosi contains six monasteries and two convents.
They were formerly richly endowed, but on account
of the rapid decay of the city, their revenues are
barely sufficient to support them ; but they find an in-
exhaustible fund in the superstition of the Peruvians.
Chuquisaca (or Charcas) has five monasteries and
three convents ; all richly endowed, and enjoying ex-
tensive revenues, as these are derived from culti-
vated lands. Cochabamba has five monasteries and
four convents, one of them in Misque, and another
in Clisa ; they are all rich. Santa Cruz has four mo-
nasteries, which are poor. Oruro has four, but all
extremely poor. The province of La Paz, has by
far the greatest number, and with revenues nearly
equal to all the rest put together. It will be seen
by the foregoing statement, that there is a surpris-


ing difference between the religious establishments of
the lower provinces, and those on the heads of La

During our stay, the festival of Corpus Christi oc-
curred. For a whole week the inhabitants abstained
from all labour, the shops were shut up, the churches
constantly crowded with people, while a great num-
ber of ladies were continually seen going to and from
the different churches ; and as they have a prescribed
number of ave marias to say, they mutter them as they
pass along. Some of them go to nine or ten churches,
and are never accompanied by gentlemen, but move
along in family groups, the children going before,
preceded by a black servant carrying a small carpet
to kneel upon, the mother following the flock. [ was
struck with the imcommon neatness of their dress,
generally black, with silk stockings, of which they
are passionately fond. The last day of the festival
was closed by pompous processions, carrying saints,
and chaunting at all the different comers of the
streets. So many authors have described these mag-
nificent processions, that I shall not trouble the reader
with a minute account of them. They prove that
veneration for their religion has not ceased as it did
in the revolution of France, although the attention
of the people has been diverted to a variety of other

I am aware that in the course of this work, I have
seen things in a more favourable light than most others,
perhaps from a natural inclination to be pleased instead
of finding fault. There is no doubt that much might be
said of the faults discoverable on the reverse of the
medal. Favourable accounts of countries, without any
of the counterbalancing disadvantages, are very apt to


deceive; aware of my natural inclination, and warm
feelings in favour of the success of the cause, I have en-
deavoured to guard against too favourable a representa-
tion, and perhaps may in some particulars, have from
this caution, done them injustice. On the whole, I do
not know that even if I could reconcile it to my feel-
ings to expatriate myself for any country on earth, I
should like to settle at present in the United Pro-
vinces, and still less in the dominions of Artigas ; and
I do not know that I would advise any friend to
do so, no matter what his occupation might be. I am
writing for my own country, and not for others. Al-
though Buenos Ayres cannot be said to be toto devisos
ah orhe, yet it is very far removed from the civilized
world. The difference in the municipal laws, the re-
mains of Spanish despotism, the want of that feeling of
comfort and security in private life, perhaps known only
among us, and the present unsettled state of affairs, are
serious objections. There is no certainty that some fac-
tion will not league with the military and overturn the
government. The savage character of the population
of the plains, the gloominess of the colonial catholic
faith, the low state of literature and the aits, compared
to other civilized countries, and in fact, the newness of
all the arts of civilization, are serious considerations.
The feverish state of the public mind from the doubt still
hanging over them as to the result of the contest— one
day depressed, and the next extravagantly elated — dis-
trusts sown among them, a thousand warring interests,
jealousies, hatreds, envies, shew themselves when we
look at the counterpart of the picture.

Towards the latter part of our stay the affairs of the
country wore a most gloomy aspect. Accounts were
daily received that the Spanish army was continually ad-


vancing towards Santiago. The uneasiness of the pub-
lic mind cannot well be conceived. But when the news
arrived of the dispersion of the army of San Mar-
tin at Talca, the effect was such as to produce a kind
of settled gloom over the city. The streets were al-
most deserted, and an anxiety prevailed among all
classes which could not have been greater if their own
fate had been at issue. The enemies of San Martin
were busily at work ; placards were stuck up, it was
supposed by the old Spaniards, and the friends of
Carrera experienced a secret satisfaction, which they
could with difficulty conceal. Before this they repre-
sented San Martin as a deep designing man, who
made a tool of O'Higgins, they now spoke of him as
an imbecile pretender; and one of them observed to
me, " If he can get out of this scrape, I will acknow-
ledge that he is a clever fellow.'* They told me that
he had resigned the command of the army to general
Brayere, on finding himself entirely incomijetent to the
task, and had resolved to fight at the liead of his ca-
valry.* If true, the fact only proved, that he was
actuated by a higher motive than selfish pride. A
few days, however, brought the account of the splen-
did victory of Maipu. I shall not attempt to de-
scribe the sensation produced in the city by this im-
portant event, and which greatly surpassed all ex-
pression of popular feeling I had ever witnessed.
" The capital," says Funes, " from its extreme de-
pression was now elevated to the highest pitch of
joy. The streets, before silent and fearful, were sud-
denly filled by the inhabitants; like the blood, which

* Brayere left the army after the affair of Talca in disgrace.
Vol. II. Q

226 A VOYAGE, &e.

after some moments of deep suspense, and anxious
fear, rushes again from the heart to the extremities of
the body. The scenes which ensued, can only be con-
ceived by those who have witnessed the sublime eflPu-
sion of popular feeling, when each thinks his own happi-
ness that of his posterity, his Mends, and his country
are entirely involved. There was a general and almost
universal exclamation, * at last we are indepen-
dent !' While San Martin was hailed as the genius of
the revolution."




Departure from Buenos Ayres — Touch at San Salvador — Island of
Margaritta — Victory ofMaipu — Its effects in Venezuela-— -New Gre-
nada, ^c.'— Position of the militart/ forces there,

A^a the time of our departure drew near, our impa-
tience to return to our native country increased . Towards
the latter end of April, we bid adieu to Buenos Ayres,
a number of the most respectable citizens attending us
to the beach. On the 29th the Congress weighed anchor
from off Monte Video, and touched at Maldonado, to
take in supplies. Here we experienced a dreadful
pampero, from which we considered our escape pecu-
liarly fortmiate. On the 4th of May, we took our de-
parture from this place with a favourable wind. We
had a fine nm to Cape Frio, which we made the seventh
day after leaving the river.

The commodore observes, " It was on the llth of
May I fell in with Cape Frio, and passed it within a few
leagues. Kept upon a wind heading north-east. At ten
o'clock, p. rn. got bottom in twenty-five fathoms, coral
rock. No sounding of this kind being laid down in my
chart, I felt much alarmed, and more particularly so as
the night proved very dark and rainy, with heavy squalls,
sometimes heading off north by east. At meridian lost
soundings, having passed, as I imagine, over this ledge
of rocks lying off St. Thome, distant at least thirty miles.
Cape St. Thome is laid down in twenty-one degrees fifty

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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 17 of 25)