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 19 of 25)
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experienced officer. The army of the coast, imder the
command of Gf eneral Bennudtez, is composed of about the
samenumber^ and twelve hundred English troops> xmA&i


the command of General Urdinatta (formerly under
Colonel English.) The legion of General Devereux will
form a part of this army, when it arrives. These forces
will probably march towards Caracas, as soon as the
season of rains shall have ceased ; and with the assist-
ance of Bolivar from the opposite side, must, in all
human probability, terminate the contest; — an event,
for the sake of human nature, greatly to be desired^

Vol. It. R







" More powerful each, as needful to the rest,
And in proportion as it blesses, blest." pope.

Sir — The discovery of America, the separation of the British
colonies, and the present struggle for independence in the colonies
of Spain, are three of the most interesting occurrences of the last
thousand years. Columbus, in search of a passage which would
change the track of eastern commerce, discovered a new world,
possessing greater riches than the east, and capable of sustaining
a population nearly equal to all the rest of the globe. Although
disappointed in one object, he succeeded in opening sources of
wealth to Europe, which have changed its condition for the better,
in every department of life. The discovery of America enabled
Europe to reach a point of improvement, which she could not
otherwise have arrived at for centuries, if at all. Those who fol-
lowed Columbus, with little or no scruple, appropriated to them-
selves whatever was found in the newly discovered countries, peace-

R '2


ably sometimes, but in most instances, by violence and cruelty,
Tlie inhabitants of America, in some districts numerous and far ad-
vanced in civilization, were regarded by the Spaniards vi^ith little
more respect than the wild beasts of the forest. They were de-
stroyed without pity, their possessions were seized without com-
punction, and all the principles of humanity and justice violated
without remorse.

The superior skill of the Europeans in the arts, derived from
the use of letters, which preserve the discoveries of the ingenious,
and enable the human mind to advance towards perfection, neces-
sarily placed the unfortunate Americans in the power of their in-
vaders. The first discovery of America, and the subsequent
encroachments, were alike the acts of enterprising individuals,
although their respective sovereigns were careful to come in for
the lion's share. As to those portions of America where vast re-
gions lay waste, (for the possession as hunting grounds by a few
wandering tribes, could scarcely be considered an appropriation of
the soil,) the laws of God and nature might justify other members
of the human family in taking a sufficient portion of the commorj
inheritance, for their subsistence. This was the case with respect
to the country now possessed by us, who, as the first of ihe
colonies in forming an independent government, have become pe-
culiarly entitled to the appellation of Americans. Our con-
quests were principally over the asperities of the climate and the
earth ; the axe and the plough were the weapons with which they
were effected. If the natives have been sufferers we are not to
blame ; the hunter cannot subsist by the side of the cultivator ;
the wild animals, which furnish him subsistence, fly the fixed habi-
tations of man. As in the natural progressive stages of society,
so in relative position or vicinity, there must be a separation be-
tween these two states of human existence. The hunter and the
cultivator could not be neighbours ; the hunter, therefore, retired,
and our settlements advanced.

In other parts of the continent, the natives were far beyond the
hunter state. Although unacquainted with letters, they were not
barbarous. They had made no inconsiderable pi ogress in the arts ;
they had their fixed scats or cities, vicing in population with those


of Europe or Asia. Tlieir agricultural advancement was that of a
civilized people, and they had learned, unfortunately for them, to
bestow a factitious value upon those metals, which in the old world,
were regarded as the representatives of wealth, and used as the me-
dium of commerce. Such was the situation of Mexico, Peru, and
ef Santa Fee de Bogota. These unhappy people were assailed by
the Spaniards with a barbarous cupidity. The assailants were a
few audacious and lawless persons ; but they received the appro-
bation of the sovereign, who came in when all was quieted, for the
hirger share of the spoil. The sovereign took possession of these
countries by right of conquest, and even after the enter-
prising and industrious of his own subjects had formed settlements
and built cities, the privilege of conquest was never renounced.

From the discovery until the present day, the sovereigns of
Spain and their European subjects, had but one thing in view ; to
draw the greatest possible advantage from the colonies, without re-
gard to their prosperity. What sums have they not furnished to
be spent abroad, or rather squandered in wars and in the extrava-
gance of courts? Their advancements, farther than this object
was answered, was regarded with indifference. Their misery and
wretchedness would have been preferred, if by that means the
rapacity of the oppressor would have been more fully gratified.
They were, in fact, regarded as mere appendages, very useful and
convenient, but forming no part of the body politic, and therefore
incapable of communicating a single sensation.

The policy pursued by the different European states towaixls the
colonies, received a tinge from their peculiar characters, unavoid-
ably influenced by the peculiar situation and nature of the colony
itself, keeping always in view the sole advantage of the European
sovereignty, no matter how injurious it might be to the colony.
The Spaniards, for instance, found some districts abundant in the
precious metals, here every pursuit was discouraged, and even for-
bidden, not necessarily connected with the working of the mines.
Here neither agriculture, manufactures, commerce, nor even con-
siderable population was of much importance j and when they at-
tained a stinted growth, it was in despite of the general policy.
The mine districts have been condemned at once to barrenness and



poverty, more tlirough the policy of the sovereign than by nature.
If permitted to profit by their rational advantages, they would
prosper, even if the soil should be barren, by exchanging for things
more necessary. But regarding solely the Spanish interests, these
districts have been closed like caverns where the light of day is
not seen.* And to what end is this 1 These riches must be trans-
ported abroad to gratify the idle debauchery of a court, and re-
luctantly to benefit the unshackled industry of neighbouring na-
tions. This selfishness appeared in every thing ; when the colo-
nies could procure what was barely sufficient to exchange for the
commodities which the crown permitted to be furnished them, by
those of her subjects, or even the subjects of other nations, to
whom she sold the privilege ; all further advancement was deemed
unnecessary and therefore checked, lest they might cease to want
those articles, mostly of the first necessity, which the crown was
desirous of supplying. Agriculture in some districts was permitted
to grow to a certain extent ; manufactures were every where for-
bidden, and in some places only tolerated from necessity; com-
merce was placed under such restrictions, as to enable it merely to
wither. This is the reason why countries which have been
settled so many hundred years, are still so thinly inhabited. What
would have been the condition of South America at this moment,
if her growth had not been checked by bonds and chains ? Horses,
cattle, and sheep, in South America, have increased without
number, but with too much truth it might be said,

" Man is the only plant that dwindled there,"

Not indeed in his mental faculties, but in numbers ; for the aggre-
gate population in Spanish America, has notoriously decreased.

The portions of Spanish America that have been cursed, or
blessed, just as one may choose to consider it, with mines, is not

• It may be a question, what right a nation, which enjoys a free inter-
course with all others, has to preclude all others from a free egress into
her territories ?


such as to circumscribe their pursuits. The iuliabitant.^ in ge-
neral, might gain their living by the cultivation of the soil, and
the preparation of articles of commerce. But unhappily, they
are cultivators without a market ; and have fallen back into the
shepherd life, the second stage of civilization. To countries on
which nature has showered her choicest gifts, it is not surprising
that thousands of European Spaniards should be enticed, and it is
natural to suppose, that population without some check would ra-
pidly increase. To hold out encouragement to emigration was
unnecessary ; Spain, without fear of crippling her colonies, could
impose such burthens as would at the same time, retard their pro-
gress and procure a present supply. These burthens were to be
increased with the growth of the colonies. This might be practised
with a foresight of the future strength of the colonies, and the fear
of their revolt. Most probably it proceeded from her insatiate

Jealousy, which has generally been regarded as the character-
istic of the Spaniard, had some share in imposing the restrictions,
and estabhshing the exclusion from the rest of the world, which has
converted the country of the Spanish colonist into a prison, guarded
with as much vigilance as the seraglio of an eastern despot. Fo-
reigners have been excluded from intercourse with the colonies, for
the same reason that every species of industry and enterprise on
their part was forbidden, wherever there was an opportunity on the
part of the crown to sell a privilege, or turn pedlar itself, and sup-
ply the subject at the most extortionate prices.* We shall be
asked of what use would colonies be without these advantasresi I
ask in turn, what men, possessed of sufficient strength, would sub-
mit to be colonists on such terms ? It is not surprising that the
British colonies, so much later in their establishment, and in a soil
and climate so inferior, should have so far outstripped those of

The British colonies were established under more happy aus-

• The numerous royal monopoUes, tobacco, salt, quicksilver, playiug
cards, «Sfc. are well known.


pices. Tlie spirit of liberty had been fostered by several important
occurrences. The human mind had been unchained by the refor
mation ; and the frequent resistance to the exertion of absolute
power in the sovereign, had produced such an acknowledgment of
many of the essential rights of man, in such a permanent form, as
to be easily appealed to. Numerous safeguards of hberty had
been established. The colonists carried with them the seeds of
liberty which they transplanted in a more congenial soil, where they
could grow up without being overshadowed by kings and nobles.
The colonists were the freest of the free. The
, habit of reducing rights to a permanent and tangible record, had
given rise to the various charters under which the different colonies
were established.* Tiiey were permitted to overcome the first dif-
ficulties, inseparable from their situation, with little or no assis-
tance ; the Indian nations who opposed their settlements, were sub-
dued ; the lands were cultivated, and cities began to rise on the
shores of the Atlantic. The colonial trade, in a short time, gave
employment to thousands of Englishmen, and a valuable market
was soon opened for British manufactures. Here, with little or
no expense to England, a vast treasure of wealth was displayed
to her enterprise and industrv. The colonies increased rapidly in
consequence of their partaking of the freedom which was in some
measure peculiar to Great Britain ; it was not long, however, be-
fore these advantages on the part of Britain were abused ; the co-
lonists were disgusted with the disposition manifested by her, to
consult only her own momentary interests, and they were continu-
ally insulted by the insolence of the court favourites sent over to
enrich themselves at their expense ; and this, in countries where
there was no distinction of ranks in society; where the preten-
sions of birth were but little known ; where there was no gentry
entitled by liereditary right to reverence and worship. We con-
stituted the true elements of republicanism. Fortunately for us.
Great Britain had delayed the exercise of arbitrary power until

• We could not be said to be contending to gain our liberties — we were
already free. The South Americans in their country, are endeavouring
to rise from a state of degradation to one of freedom.


our ancestors had begun to feel their strengtli. Two millions of
freemen, after a long and arduous struggle against one of the most
powerful states of the old world, were at last acknowledged an in-
dependent nation. Our population, our wealth, our strength, have
increased with a rapidity unexampled. We have become ten times
more important even to the nation which endeavoured to chain us
down, in spite of all the arts which her folly has practised to excite
our enmity ; to the whole world we are becoming each day more use-
ful, and even necessary.

If our inde})endence was an event of such magnitude, so uni-
versally interesting, what must be that of the whole continent — the
whole of the new world! In us the birth of a nation was hailed,
by the rest of mankind, with joy — we are now about to behold the
birth of empires. Eighteen millions of souls are now struggling
to be free ; forming no compact and continued settlement, but se-
parated into four or five vast compartments, and thinly distributed
over large districts — unable to co-operate in arms from their great
distance from each other, and the intervening desarts and moun-
tains, yet uniting in heart to shake off the European yoke. We
behold the inhabitants of regions, which for centuries have fur-
nished the wealth to stimulate the industry not only of Europe
and America, but even of Asia, about to take their mighty desti-
nies into their own hands ; about to give a full developement to
their resources ; to establish governments, and most probably on
the best and wisest models, to form a chain of confederacies, uni-
ted by a thousand communities, not of family, but of wise and use-
ful intercourse ; in fine, to prepare the way for the most


ON THE EARTH. Mighty must be that revolution which will be
effected by nearly half the habitable world, when suffered with-
out restraint to unfold its resources and augment its population.
Nations do not flourish most in solitary existence and seclusion ;
it is their continued intercourse and commerce with each
other, which civilizes mankind, and lays open the fields of enter-
prise and industry. What nation could be blotted out from the
map without injury to all that would remain ? Its trade gave bread
to thousands, nay, gave life to thousands, who but for this, would


never have existed. How interesting then toal! the world, is the
birth of the American empires, whose commerce will soon add
incalculably to the fund upon which the industry of nations may
draw ! A scene more magnificent never " burst on the eye of phi-
losophy." Can any one for a moment doubt, that under the
government of Spain these events can never take place ? With one
of the finest countries in Europe, if deprived of the colonies, and
compelled merely to use the advantages in her future intercourse
with them, that Great Britain has with the United States, she may yet
be regenerated and become more wealthy and respectable than she
could ever be with all the gold and silver of America, bestowed upon
her idleness and sloth. The discovery of America has already pro-
duced wonderful effects, but when we compare these effects with
the stupendous consequences that must follow its independence,
they seem as nothing. No one can contemplate the future state of
America, without having his mind filled with the most magnificent
ideas, and the most sublime conceptions. The dawn of that glory
which the discovery of America will shed upon the world, is but
just beginning to appear. Hitherto it has been a disco-

The separation of the American colonies, has been regarded by
men of foresight, as an event that in the course of time would hap-
pen, in spite of every precaution to prevent it. There is nothing
more natural than to suppose, that when the vast tracks of country
on this side of the Atlantic, should obtain a population suited to
their extent, this must so far surpass that of the European state,
the latter would become the mere satellite. The colonies could
not be persuaded to remain the subordinate and inferior, when the
old state had fallen into comparative insignificance. Let us sup-
pose all the nations of Europe, removed from Spain three thousand
miles, and held by her in colonial subjection? The very sugges-
tion of the idea exhibits its absurdity. When James I. united the
crown of Scotland to that of England, some expressed an appre-
hension that England would become a province ; the very reverse
of which was the natural consequence. In politics, as in astro-
nomy, it is a law of nature, that the smaller bodies must revolve
around the larger. The moment the colony exceeds the old state


in numbers, and is, at the same time, equal in spirit and intelli-
gence, the latter must necessarily take the place before occupied
by the colony, or a separation ensues.

There is another reason for this tendency to separation. The
colony and the ancient state, must in time become distinct nations ;
the diversity of habits and occupations, arising from the climate
and the nature of the countries which they occupy, and consider-
able changes in the language and manners of both, would soon
produce essential distinctions. Added to these, the offensive ar-
rogance of the European, who fancies himself a superior being,
as coming immediately from the original and purer fountain of
the race, regarding with contempt the degenerate natives ; who,
in turn, naturally feel indignation at the self-sufficient insolence
and arrogance of the stranger. Of this, we had no little expe-
perience in our own country. Before the revolutionary war, every
Englishman thought himself entitled to allegiance from every Ame-
rican, and the natural deviation from English manners, was con-
sidered a proof of degeneracy. This very readily accounts for
much of that unfriendly feeling, which has prevailed between this
country and England, and which to superficial observers, appear-
ed unnatural. If the mere circumstance of living in a distant
country, and adopting different habits, will in a few years bring
about so great a difference, how much greater must it be where
there is an actual difference of race 1 In the United States we have
numbers from all the various nations of Europe ; in South Ame-
rica it is true, the colonists were more generally from the colo-
nizing state, but the difference was more than made up by the num-
bers of the civilized Indians, who still formed a great proportion
of the population ; and these in time became intermixed with the
European Spaniards, and their descendants, thus forming a dis-
tinct })eople. The natives of the country could without difliculty
intermingle, and have common feeling with these their country-
men ; while the Europeans, who could not form any great pro-
portion of tlie whole, would be looked upon as strangers, as
foreigners, at least, until they had been long settled in the colony,
had families, and became identified or amalgamated. The more
the colony increased in numbers, and tlie longer it continued a


colony, the farther would it be removed in point of feeling, from
the ancient state ; the weaker, therefore, the ties to that state,
and the greater the difficulty of retaining it in subjection. When
the habit, the charm, or magic, of dependence was once broken,
the ancient state would be regarded in the same light as any other
foreign power, and its attempts to bring back the colonies to sub-
jection, considered in the same light, as the invasion of any other
enemy. Hence it is, that the nations of North and South Ame-
rica, have become patriots, defenders of their native soil; while
Spain is acting the part of an invader, and amuses herself wilh the
belief, that she is endeavouring to quell the insurrection of a neigh-
bouring province, in which there still remains the latent feelings of
affections, like those of a disobedient child towards its parent.
Spain is not engaged in reducing the revolt of Arragon or Cata-
lonia, but she is carrying on a war against a distant nation, or
nations, with the greatest possible disadvantage. Nothing can ex-
ceed the folly of such an attempt. For even if she should be suc-
cessful for the present, can she produce a change in their minds 1
She might as well think of making war on the elements. The


It is very evident, that the Spanish colonies had long ago be-
come a different people from the European Spaniards, and as the
natural consequence, mutual dislikes and jealousies would be che-
rished. They must have long since felt that they were a people
held in subjection. They could naturally ask, '* How long does
Spain mean to consider us as appendages to her monarchy, as
slaves fastened to the wheels of her chariot, to swell her vanity
and pomp? Are we to be colonies for ever? Must we renounce
all hope, that we may lay claim to some of the honours of our be-
loved native soil ? That we may be permitted to improve and or-
nament the birth-place of our ancestors, our own homes, the only
country which possesses our affections, the abode of our friends
and relations? Are we to be restricted in all our enterprises, by
strangers, who come to us as it were from another planet, who
have no ties amongst us, and are indifferent to the prosperity and
improvement of our country ? Shall we tamely submit to these
task-masters, who will not permit us to use our own, and who


carry away the fruits of our industry, we know not whither V The
only answer that could be made by the oppressor, would be short
and simple — ** I have the power." This is denied. The madness,
the pride, the obstinacy of Spain are not yet satisfied, but the world
is satisfied, that a people who can defend themselves for ten years,
will be able to defend themselves for ever.

The policy of Spain necessarily tended to create and to per-
petuate this deep-rooted enmity. Its government would soon be
considered as an odious usurpation. The most pleasing subject
of the thoughts and conversation of the colonists, would be their
liberation from this political bondage. They would look to the
day, which would bring about this much desired event, with some-
thing like religious devotion. There is nothing more natural than
the prevalence of such wishes. Even in extensive monarchies,
which have the advantage of contiguity, or which have but slight
separations, there is a constant tendency to fall by their own
weight. In Cicero's orations against Verres, we have a fine picture
of the thousand iliipositions to which the remote provinces must
necessarily be subject; what endless vexations are occasioned by
the almost irresponsible viceroys, governors, and sub-agents, sent
to govern, or rather to rob and plunder ! Nothing can remedy
the want of a centre of power, an original fountain of authority
of their own. A country thus separated, without a government
of its own, is a world without a sun. The distance from the
metropolis renders it impossible to have feelings in common with
it, or but few. No empire, therefore, of extensive territory, and
particularly when separated by oceans, can be of long duration,
unless divided into separate states, each possessing its own centre
of power, to which the sympathy, passions, and interests of the
people are attracted.

Besides, being thus separated from the metropolis, rendering it

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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 19 of 25)