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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ever, the Jesuits might be perfectly sincere ; and we
ought not to say with too much confidence, that they
were wrong. They certainly succeeded in establishing
such a government as was imagined by theorists, but
not supposed capable of being reduced to practice ; they
were actuated by the same views of human nature with
the Moravians, and other societies of that description.
It is admitted on all hands, that a degree of innocence
and relative happiness prevailed among the Jesuits' pro-
selytes, far surpassing that of any other missions ; that
this happiness did not continue, was not the fault of the
Jesuits ; for it only ceased with their expulsion, and
when the Indians became corrupted and rendered miser-
able by intercourse with the Spaniards. When we take
into view the original condition of these very Indians,
their stupidity and their cannibalism, and compare them


to the state to which they were brought by the Jesuits,
we cannot but regard their exertions with the highest
praise. When we compare, also, the condition of those
Indians said to be converted and civilized by the
Spaniards, to those of the Jesuit missions, we have a
more just criterion of their respective merits. Because
the Jesuits have done much, it does not follow that they
are to be condemed for not doing what some one would
imagine they had it in their power to accomplish. As to
their projects of ambition of extending their power over
the continent, this could only be in embryo, as it would
require ages, perhaps centuries, before they could ven-
ture to manifest such designs. At the time of their ex-
pulsion, both the inhabitants of Paraguay and of Brazil,
and perhaps of South America generally, manifested a
deadly hostility towards them ; it might almost mth as
much propriety be said, that the society of the Harmo-
nists, cherish the design of making themselves the sove-
reigns of the United States. The power of the Jesuits
was magnified both by themselves and the Spaniards,
for very opposite, but very obvious reasons. The Je-
suits had made other establishments of a similar nature,
one, especially, in Chiquitos ; but they were separated
by such vast tracks of country as to be incapable of
acting in concert, or affording mutual assistance and'

The hostility to the Jesuits was the real cause of the
violent dissentions which prevailed in Assumption.
The obstinate contest between the bishop Cardenas and
the governor Henostrosa, by which the people were di-
vided into factions and engaged in civil broils, is related
at considerable length by the historians of this country',
and bear a strong resemblance to some of the intestine
feuds of the petty states of Italy. These occurrences
are important to be considered in estimating the charac-


ter of the South Americans ; they exhibit an essential
difference from any of the subordinate governments of
the peninsula. The revolt of Antequera, about the
beginning of the last century, at Assumption, was of a
much more serious and decisive nature than the ambi-
tious designs of the Jesuits, whose enemy he was. It is
not generally known, that revolutionary movements as
early as the year 1717, (precisely similar to those which
have recently taken place,) gave rise to a republican
form of government at Assumption, and with its com-
mune, or junta, and defender; a form of government
varying but little from that which now prevails, main-
tained itself, in defiance, not only of the neighbouring
provinces, but of the king of Spain himself.* In a
bloody battle they defeated the royal forces, dragged the
royal banner in the dust through the streets, and chaunted
te deum for the victory. The incidents and the details
of this revolution, are interesting and curious, and, I
think, fully prove that the South Americans, in their
struggles for independence, are to be considered in a
light entirely different from European Spanish provinces.
Wlien the republic of Assumption was finally put down,
it was thought necessary to make severe examples, and.

* " Miimpo was, or pretended to be, versed in the law, and with
a boldness that raised him to popularity, and an eloquence suited to
the turbulence of the times, he promulgated the levelling doctrines of
the present age, and asserted as a maxim which had never been con-
tradicted, that the authority of the people, or of the commune, as he
expressed himself, was paramount even to that of the king himself.
The sovereignty of the people thus openly preached in the capital of a
colony of one of the most despotic and bigotted courts of Europe,
nearly a century ago, is a phenomena in politics which, it is believed,
has escaped the researches of historians and philosopliers." Wilcocke,
p. 3^5.


in some measure, to subdue the spirit of the country. It
is a remarkable fact, that rev olutions of this nature, re-
cur at distant intervals in the same countries, if they ever
recur at all. The most decided revolutionary spirit is
manifested in those parts of South America which have
heretofore been the most tianquil. That this idea is not
altogether fanciful, I might instance the case of Scot-
land ; which, from being the most restless, has become
the most submissive of the British empire. Revolutions
are like the appearance of comets — they must " pass off
to recruit their fires.*' Hence, perhaps, the barrenness of
incident in the history of Paraguay since that period, and
her timid, seljfish, and narrow minded policy during the
present revolution; while Buenos Ayres, which previ-
ously had boasted of never having disobeyed the royal
orders, and of her title of mmj lealj (very faithful,) con-
fen-ed on her by the royal patent, is now the ])lazing re-
volutionary comet of the south.

The country on the south west of the Paraguay, may
be regarded as a vast wilderness, from the very head of
the river to the vicinity of Sta Fee, three hundred miles
above Buenos Ayres. The country of the Chiquitos,
spreads from the right bank of the Paraguay, which se-
parates it from the Portuguese possessions, towards the
jjrovinces of Upper Peru, and extends down towards the
Pilcomayo, opposite the province of Paraguay. As this
country is included in those of Upper Peru, I shall pass
it by for the present.* The name of Chiquitos was for-
merly given to the country as far south as Mendoza, on

• Some of the earlier adventurers penetrated through Chiquitos to
Peru, but had to encounter great difficulties both from the savages
and the nature of the country. It is owing to this that the Spaniards
have never attempted to penetrate into Paraguay in this direction,
since the conimencwnent of "the revolution.


account of a nation of Indians, whose different tribes
were scattered along this space, as the Guaranys were
on the other side of the river. Below the Chiquitos, on
each side of the Pilcomayo, and opposite Paraguay, is
the Gran Chaco, a Avilderness inhabited only by Indians.
This is supposed to be a fine country, and every way
suited to the establishment of extensive settlements. In
point of extent it may be compared to the states of Ohio,
and Indiana, and equally fertile. The Jesuits attempted
at a very early period to convert the Indians here, but
without success ; the Spanish settlements were also
destroyed, since which the Indians have remained in un-
disturbed possession, and not unfrequently issue from
their forests, to annoy the settlers of the neighbouring
comitries on the west, Terija, Jujuy, Salta, Tucuman,
and even as low down as Cordova and Sta Fee, in con-
sequence of which, a number of small military posts, or
presidios, have to be kept up. The principal rivers are
the Pilcomayo and Vermejo, which rise in the provinces
of Peru. The country through which they flow, is pro-
bably equal in every respect to that on the other side of
the Paraguay. A citizen of Salta named Comejo, about
the year 1790, descended the Vermejo a thousand miles
to its mouth ; he found the navigation good, and the ad-
jacent comitry wooded and fertile. The plains which lie
between this river and Pilcomayo, are called Llanos de
Manso, a person of the name of Manso having perished
here in an attempt to form a settlement. As these rivers
communicate with the richest provinces of Peru, their
navigation must at some future day, become of immense
importance. Previous to the revolution, the produce of
Tucuman had begun to be transported down the

The track of country south of the Vermejo, or as the
river is here called, Rio Grande, is extremely flat, and

Vol. II. C


for the greater part composed of pampas, especially to-
wards the river Dolce. This river, after a course of
seven or eight himdred miles, is lost in a shallow lake,
from the flatness of the comitiy, not having sufficient
descent to enable it to reach the main stream. It rises
in Tucuman, and notwithstanding the circumstance be-
fore stated, and the great defect of all these southern
rivers, in the dimunition of their waters in the dry sea-
sons, I have no doubt considerable use might be made of
it for the transportation of produce.

Between the track of country of which I have just
spoken, and the extensive pampas of Buenos Ayres, is
the chain of settlements from Jujuy to the bay of La
Plata, and which ar". situated on each side of the great
road from the capital to the upper provinces. I must re-
fer the reader to geographical works for a minute de-
scription of these provinces, as it is my wish to avoid,
as much as possible, what is within the reach of most
persons. The first settlements in this quarter, were
made by the conquerors of Peru, about the year 1549.
The place fixed upon in the first instance, was Santiago
del Estero, at present a decayed town ; four other cities
were established in succession, Tucuman, Cordova, Salta,
and Jujuy. The Indians in this quarter, had been held
in partial subjection to the Incas, and were therefore
easily induced to submit. The jurisdiction was after-
wards claimed by the governor of Chili, but in the
year 1561, Tucuman was annexed to the viceroyalty
of Peru, and subjected to the audiencia of Charcas.
Like all new settlements in America, the territory of
Tucuman was, at first, of vast extent ; and, from time to
time, diminished by subdivisions and the erection of new
provinces, as we lay off new states and counties. The
city of Salta, was founded in the year 1582, and made
the capital, of an intendency by royal cedilla, in 1783.


The population of this town and immediate vicirity, is
estimated at twenty thousand souls, and of the piovince,
about sixty thousand. It was formerly the capital of
the intendency ; of which, the present Tucuman was a
subordinate distiict. Since the revolution, these two
are distinct members of the confederacy. The popula-
tion of both cities, is highly spoken of by Helnis ; and
during the present revolution, they have shewn great de-
f otion to the cause. The principal source of wealth of
Salta, is its fine pastures ; where the mules from the pro-
vinces of Cordova and Tucuman, are suffered to repose
during the winter, previously to their being driven to
Peru. The agriculture, at present, but little exceeds its
own consumption ; but, there is no doubt, must increase
very much, as soon as the navigation of the rivers shall
be properly opened. The embarrassments in the trade
with Peru, have, of course, had a very injurious effect
upon the four cities whose chief wealth consisted in the
transit trade from Buenos Ayres ; but this loss would be
greatly counterbalanced by the necessary consequence of
independence. These countries have the same products
as the province of Paraguay, and possess a climate more
agreeable and mild. Both the neighbourhood of Salta
and Jujuy, are said to possess valuable mines, which are


The next city on the road to Buenos Ayres, is Tucu-
man; of whose foundation I have already spoken. It is
described by Helms, to be "a pleasant little town, sur-
rounded by groves of citron, orange, fig, and pomegra-
nate trees, situated on a branch of the river Dolce." The
population of the town and protdnce, is estimated at
Sixty thousand souls, and the inhabitants have shewn
the same attachment to the cause of independence with
those of Salta. The extent of the agricultural, or settled
population, is circumscribed in the same manner as in

C 2


the provinces of which I have spoken. There are also
grazing farms like those of Buenos Ayres, but of much
smaller dimensions ; and the gauchos are far from being
so savage and unsocial, arising from the circumstance
of the population being much less scattered. I was
sheviTi a very good map of Tucuman, by a member of
the congress; and what I was most struck with, was the
number of small villages into which the inhabitants were
distribated. Tucuman is well supplied with wood, and
one of its principal branches of industry, is the trans-
portation of merchandise by waggons as far as Salta.
It has some manufacture of leather, which is carried to
Buenos Ayres ; but rather of an inferior quality.

St. Jago del Estero, situated on the river Dolce, con-
tains, at present, about two thousand inhabitants, chiefly
of the mixed race ; who have the character of indolence
and laziness. The country in the neighborhood, is co-
vered with thick woods, and is supposed to be some-
what unhealthy ; the produce is the same as that of Salta
and Tucuman, but the principal cause of its decay, is
the removal of the seat of government to the latter, and
the change in the channel of inland carrying trade.
Since the revolution, it has been erected into an inde-
pendent province ; but disturbances have several times
broken out, which required to be repressed by force.
Towards the mountains of Rioja, there are extensive
plains, too deficient in water, however, to be well suited
to pasturage. Cotton, indigo, cochineal, sugar, wheat,
rice, and barley, will be among the articles of future ex-

The last of these provinces, is Cordova. The town of
Cordova is of some importance : it was founded in 1573;
the population amounts to about six thousand, and that
of the province to seventy-five thousand. Its territory
4:onsists more of open plains than the provinces just


mentioned ; the climate is extremely pleasant, and the
soil produces cotton, corn, and a great variety of fruits ;
it has extensive pastures, and raises a great number of
mules for the purpose of supplying Peru. The number
of cattle and sheep raised in this province, exceeds that
of any I have named; the inhabitants are generally
more industrious than is usual in these countries ; they
manufacture very considerable quantities of coarse
cotton and woollen cloths ; with which they supply the
upper provinces of Peru. Although situated inland, its
produce might be transported to market by means of the
river Tercero, which is navigable with very little inter-
ruption. By means of this river, the rich productions
of Cordova might be brought to Buenos Ayres, while, at
present, they perish for want of a market, as it costs
almost as much to transport them to Santa Fee by land,
as they could be sold for. There is perhaps no country
in the world whose natural advantages have been so
much neglected as this ; if the same policy and spirit
had prevailed here, as in the United States, these
countries. Fettled for so many hundred years, would
have been known by their products, in all the different
markets of Europe. There are said to be some valuable
copper-mines, but they have never yet been worked to any
great extent. The seminaries of learning, which have long
been established in Cordova, have given a more literary
cast to the character of the inhabitants. Nearly all those
who have embraced the learned professions, received
the rudiments of their education at this place; hence,
it has shed a friendly influence over the other provinces.
The population is more submissive, and less enthusiastic
in the cause than in the provinces before mentioned, but
at the same time, more industrious and peaceable. Some
disturbances have taken place in the city of Cordova,
occasioned by persons of desperate fortimes and charac-


ter, although not of a serious nature, and not extensively
participated in by the people. The probability is, that
the number of those who take part in the subordinate
movements of the revolution, is small. It is supposed
there is a party here, friendly to the people of Santa
Fee, but composed of the kind of people I have de-

Each of these provinces is of course subdivided into
subordinate districts, and in some instances, as in that
of Catamarca, in the province of Salta, of considerable
importance. The comiection between Jujuy, Salta,
Tucuman, St. Jago del Estero, and Cordova, is very in-
timate ; they are, in fact, the links which form the chain
of intercourse between Buenos Ayres and Upper Peru.
Their population is less than that of Delaware, Maryland,
and New Jersey, during our revolutionary war.* They
have heretofore furnished the chief supply of live stock,
cattle, mules, and horses, to the mine countries, which,
together with the carrying trade, enabled them to acquire
considerable wealth ; but the principal fortunes are said
to have been much diminished in the course of the re-
volution. The old Spaniards in Tucuman and Cordova,
who declined joining the cause, w^ere compelled to pay
liberally for their neutrality ; the monasteries were also
heavily taxed, as the monks w^re in general Europeans.
In case of the establishment of their independence, they
will turn their attention towards the Indian nations on
the east, and become masters of the Gran Chaco, where
they will find room enough to form provinces, equal to
several of our largest states.

The track of country along the eastern base of the

• In the third volume of the Semannrio, there is a series of well
written essays, on the geography and resources of these provinces.
Tht?y would be worth translating for some of our litcrarj journals.


Andes, from Mendoza to the province of Atacama, is^
a valley formed by a range of mountains, beginning near
the Punta de San Luis, and ruiming nearly parallel to
the Cordillera, at the distance of two hundred miles, and
about eight hundred in length. It joins the Andes in lati-
tude twenty-one degrees south. This immense valley is
nearly flat, and, excepting near the base of the moun-
tains, resembles the pampas. There are several consi-
derable lakes in this valley, the largest of which, is that
of Guanacache, in the neighbourhood of Mendoza.* It
is separated from Chili, on one side by the Andes, and
from Cordova and Tucuman on the t)ther, by the rginge
of mountains before mentioned. The distance of these
provinces from market, will always be a great drawback,
on their advancement in population. The country im-
mediately at the base of the Cordillera, is said in gene-
ral, to bear some resemblance to Chili, though inferior
in point of climate. It was only added to the viceroy-
alty about the same time with the upper provinces of
Peru. Mendoza, the capital of Cuyo, is said to be a
considerable town, and surrounded by a well cultivated
country. It has extensive meadows, watered by nume-
rous artificial canals, like those of Chili. The giapes
of this province are exceedingly fine ; the raisins
brought from Mendoza, are equal to any imported into
the United States from Europe. Their principal export
are wine and brandy, and the most lucrative employment
is the carrying trade from Buenos Ayres to Chili. Goods
are brought to Mendoza in carts, or waggons, and then
transported across the mountains on mules. The popu-
lation of Cuyo amounts to seventy-five thousand, and

* Tlielake ofTiticaca is situated very niucli in the same manner
l)etweeii the Andes and a chain of raountuins in Upper Peru.


bears a high character for industry and sobriety ; none
has been more uniformly devoted to the patriot cause.
There are said to be several valuable mines in this
country, but not extensively vrorked. Four hundred
miles to the north, is the town and province of Rioja,
formerly under the government of Tucuman, at present
one of the provinces represented in the congress, as well
as Cuyo, San Luis and San Juan.*

There are various passages across the Andes, all ex-
tremely difficult except one to the south, into the pro-
vince of Valdivia. This passage has been disused for
many years, on account of the hostility of the Indians,
but under a vigorous government, it would not be difficult
to re-establish it-t There is another pass several hundred
miles to the south of Mendoza, in the nation of the
Puelches, and leads across into a populous country at
los Angeles on the head of the Biobio, and which commu-
nicates directly with Talcaguano, the best port of Chili.
The passage across to Valdivia is still better ; it is said
that it can be effected by carts, but tlie distance to the
south is too great, and the Indian nations who reside
along the Cordillera, as has been stated, are said to be

In giving this hasty sketch of the countries on both
sides of the Paraguay river, of the connecting provinces
between Buenos Ayres and Upper Peru, and of the pro-
vince of Cuyo, along the base of the Andes, now divided

• On what principle tlie new provinces were established I am not
able to say, unless it be on account of their having a cabildos.

t The different passes across the Cordillera, from lat. 27, S. lo
40, that is, from Copiapo to Valdivia, arc first that ofCopiapo to
Riojo, of Coquirabo, Corobarbala, Aconcagua, Dehesa de Santiago,
Maipo, Cunico, Boquclas dc Mauie; Anluco, 'N illarica, &.c.


into several provinces under the new government, I have
purposely avoided a variety of particulars to be found in
geographical works. With respect to the boundaries, I
have been silent, because in truth, they never had
any even under the royal government, as it sufficed
in most instances to name the capital or chief town,
to know its dependencies, and when they were often
separated by desarts of hundreds of miles-* Some
inconvenience was no doubi experienced, notwithstand-
ing, from the want of fixed boundaries, and one of the
subjects specified for the deliberations of the congress
of Tucuman, was the establishment of limits between
the different provinces ; a work of too great magnitude
to be executed except in time of peace. It might per-
haps have been worth the trouble, to make some estimate
of the proportion in which the dift'erent provinces have
suffered, as well as Buenos Ayres, in the hope of better-
ing their situation. If the great source of wealth of that

• The folly of apiusing one's self with drawing fanciful lines across
the map, and counting the square acres of each province, may be
seen by the following^ extract. " Our territory is almost unknown, we
have done little more than opened three roads or communications,
and a few minor ramifications of them; the first are those of Para-
guay, Chili, and Lima, through Peru, the others are Cataniarca,
Sta Cruz, Moxos, and others of less importance. Of what exists
on the other side of those, we possess but very imperfect accounts.
This ig-norance is the cause of the slow progress of population,
and the languor of rural establishments, and of the inactivity of com-
merce. We are even ignorant of the limits of the viceroyalty ; those
of the provinces are in the like condition ; jurisdictions are often con-
founded J as long as we are ignorant of these particulars, we must
imavoidably err in our calculations and conjectures." — Semanario,
1 vol. p. 111. Tlie descriptions of Azara, written long before these
Tolumes, are certainly too general. I am satisfied that this vast coun-
try is yet very imperfectly knoNvn.


city, has been nearly closed by the state of the upper
provinces of Peru, those also possessing the inland car-
rying trade have suffered as the necessary consequence ;
and in addition, the trade in stock to Peru has been
temporarily diminished. The revolution has brought
some advantages in the increased price of articles of
produce, of the remotest districts, which before were
worth little or nothing ; while European merchandise
has fallen every where. The province of Buenos
Ayi'es] has probably suffered least, from it favourable
situation, its vicinity to a market ; but the city, as a

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 2 of 25)