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 22 of 25)
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close her eyes to her true interests, and afford assistance to that
rotten monarchy in the shocking work of putting back the colonies
two centuries, by a system of extermination. .

What would be the advantages to the United States from the
independence of the Spanish colonies 1 I defy any one to point
out a disadvantage. Have we not already found much benefit
since the commencement of our revolution, from the vicinity of
the Spanish provinces, notwithstanding the narrow, jealous, and
restricted intercourse with them 1 And whence has this proceed-
ed 1 From our commerce with them ; from the market we found
there for much of our surplus agricultural produce, and from the
opportunity of taking their produce and selling it to other nations.
Should we not then be gainers by the extension of this market 1
Let it be remembered that in the short period of twenty years, our
population will, in all probability, amount to twenty millions ; that
manufactures will be much increased in the eastern section of the
union ; that our shipping will want employment, and that the in-
crease in the demands of Europe, in all probability, will not keep
pace with the increase in our surplus ; we must look, then, for


some indemnity in the market and trade which will be aflforded by
FREE South Anaerica.

Our country is peculiarly well situated for maritime enterprise ;
our two thousand miles of Atlantic coast, are wonderfully pene -
trated with fine bays and inlets, and traversed by large rivers.
We have already made the most surprising progress in maritime
affairs ; but since the peace in Europe, are not able to enter into
a competition with Europeans in commerce, across the xAtlantic ;
the West Indies and South America, are the proper fields for our
commerce, and the more those fields are enlarged the better will it
be. New Spain, unquestionably the finest part of the New World,
and destined by nature to be the richest pait of America, and even
now containing five millions of souls, is witiiout a single sea port,
and can scarcely ever own a ship; her trade must therefoie be car-
ried on by us, who are her next door neighbours. This alone would
indemnify us for the loss of our carrying trade. Our northern ship
owners are much more nearly interested in their independence
than they may imagine. As respects other parts of South Ame-
rica, we should at least enter into a fair competition with the En-
glisb, and perhaps even possess considerable advantage from our

There is another consideration deserving attention. There
may be in many things, a common American continental interestt
in opposition to an European interest. I am no advocate for tlie
visionary idea of a great American congress on the isthmus, but
there may exist an understanding, upon a variety of subjects of
general concern. The weight and importance of each state, will
be wouderfuly increased by this vicinage of independent states,
even if there should be no alliance. The United States are at pre-
sent, a single isolated power, and the monarchs across the Atlan-
tic, are under no apprehensions that other nations will make a com-
mon cause with us, when our rights are violated. Suppose, for ex-
ample, the existence of several governments on this continent, en-
tirely free from any connexion with Europe and completely be-
yond her control — beyond the vortex of any of her primary inte-
rests — would the British, or any other government, in this case,
have set at naught the rights of neutrals ? No, she would have

T 2


placed too high a value on the good will of America, to have
sported with them so lightly.

It was for this reason that we were pleased with the establish-
ment of an independent American sovereignty in the Brazils.
We entertained hopes that this sovereignty, as American, would
be friendly to us. We had reason to believe from the reception
of our agents, that we should not be disappointed. It is our policy
to be on good terms with that government, and we have assurances
that a disposition prevails to be friendly.* It must now be the
interest of the king of the Brazils to make his country flourish,
and the sooner he gets rid of his European possessions the better.
With respect to the insurrection at Peruambuco, we were led into
an error, by confounding it with the struggle of the patriots, while
their situation and their cause were, in fact, very difliirent ; what-
ever we may think of the /o?'m, the Brazilians had already ob-
tained the great object for which the Americans are contending,
a srovemment within themselves ; the affair of Pernarabuco was the
revolt of an adjoining province.

The independence of America from Europe, is the first great
object to be attained. Compared to this, every consideration is of
minor importance. The establishment of governments, founded
on the most free and liberal principles, inasmuch as this must tend
to our own happiness, the happiness of our fellow men, and the
more rapid improvement of America, is certainly the next thing
to be desired. The independence and freedom of this continent,
are two things we should, as far as is practicable, consider as inse-
parable ; yet if any part of South America should adopt forms not
agreeable to our notions, it would be the height of arrogance on
our part to decline their friendship, and ridiculous to make war
upon them on that account. It would be highly offensive and in-
sulting on our part, to dictate to any people the kind of govern-
ment they ought to adopt. True repubhcan liberality forbids it.

• This was certainly the case until the depredations committed on Poi"-
tuguese commerce, by vesseJs notoriously fitted out from the American


I must confess, we are too much in the hdbit of intermeddling with
the interior concerns of other nations. Let us cherish our own
institutions ; but we may do this with less boasting. In case of the
establishment of governments by the patriots on principles some-
what liberal, we need not fear but that both our own enterprising
and intelligent countrymen, and the individual Englishmen, who
visit those countries, will give them useful hints on subjects of
civil policy. They will have to do, principally, with the two na-
tions to whom the true principles of free government are best
known in theory and practice. Tiiere is every reason to believe,
that we shall unite in the most perfect harmony with the subjects
of Great Britain, in effecting this noble work. I am under no ap-
prehensions that my countrymen will be unable to enter into a fair
competition with the English, who will, perhaps, reap the first crop
from the independence of South America, while we shall obtain a
much more solid and permanent footing. In us, the patriots can
more fully and safely confide, as entertaining wishes for their weL
fare very different from those of England ; for, over and above the
selfish motive of deriving advantage from their trade, we shall wish
them prosperity for higher considerations, and which will be
mutual. We shall, moreover, feel a pleasing sympathy, which
others cannot know, from the contemplation of colonies engaged
in a contest similar to the one of which we form our pride and
boast. We wish them success, because they are endeavouring
to free themselves from Europe, because they are Americans, and
because their success and happiness will afford additional security
to our own. We ought not to be jealous of the English because
they assist the patriots ; we shall rejoice at it. The patriots are
sufficiently aware that the English have a boundless ambition, that
they are desirous of having possessions in every part of the globe ;
they know at the same time, that we have no colonies, and never
will have any, that our only ambition is to fill up the territory we
already possess, or which we claim, and to enjoy a fair commerce
with other parts of the world. The charge made against us of en-
tertaing ambitious views similar to those of European nations, is
too ridiculous to deserve a refutation. We have a fixed boundary
given us by the consent of European nations themselves, bevond

T 3


which neither our wishes nor the nature of our government will
permit us to stray. Within that boundary, we are ambitious to
improve the lands which at this time are lying waste, by which the
whole human family will be as much benefited as ourselves. Our
war in Canada, was not a war for the sake of extending our terri-
tory, it was for our own safety, and for the sake of future peace.
It is questionable whether we should accept it now, if offered to
us for nothing. And who is it that thus accuse us of ambitious
designs ? They are foxes and wolves who are preaching. This
will not deceive the patriots in South America. They will con-
fide in us.

The preponderance of the United States in the affairs of Ame-
rica, will be a natural one, and which can give no offence ; it will
arise from being the elder state, from having a more numerous,
a more homogeneous, a more active, and in general, a more en-
lightened population ; froin a greater disinterestedness, regard to
justice, and love of peace. The United States will be the
NATURAL HEAD OF THE New World. Having already a go-
Ternment well consolidated, proved, and settled down, holding a
distinguished rank among nations, advancing with amazing rapi-
dity, they must far outstrip any of the American empires. Mexi-
co, it is true, may one day vie with us in some respects, but being
necessarily a mere inland state, her political weight must always be
less than ours. It will be long before the Brazils, provinces of La
Plata, New Grenada, Chili, and Peru, or other parts of South Ame-
rica, which cannot coalesce, will be able to overtake us. In stretch-
ing the vision into futurity, we look in vain for those causes of war
which continually desolate Europe ; if systems like our own be
established, where peace is the great end of all our wishes, where
the happiness of society alone is consulted, and not the vanity of
privileged families, we may live a thousand years without a quarrel.
If all the nations in the world were governed by the same principles
that we are^ there would be an end to wars.

The ])atriots have at this moment agents near some of the courts
of Europe. We have been told that tiiey have made propositions
incompatible with the very object they are struggling for. We
should be on our guard against their enemies, who will be very busy


in circulating stories to their disadvantage. It is natural that the
patriots should be desirous of conciliating the nations of Europe,
at least prevail on them to remain neutral. I believe they have
little to fear; neither European interest, nor inclination, nor honour,
leads them to take part with Spain, in the hellish work of exter-
mination, carried on by this wretched monarchy. They know well
the disposition of this country ; from us they have nothing to fear ;
it may be doubted how much French influence, or EngUsh influ-
ence, there might have been here, but certainly there never was
much Spanish influence. It is therefore natural, that the patriots
should be chiefly solicitous to render the European nations passive.
I firmly believe that this will be the case; they all sincerely join
with us in wishing the independence of South America ; and what-
ever they might feel themselves bound to do for Spain, in case we
took a part in the contest, they will certainly not be disposed to
undertake the odious task of executioners, without something of
this kind to justify the interference. In my opinion they will not
interfere under any circumstances ; for surely what cannot be the
interests of any one singly, cannot be the interests of all conjointly ;
and it is not their interest to oppose the emancipation of Ame-
rica. But if not disposed to consent that we shall be directly in-
strumental in efifecting its independence, they at least expect of us
to acknowledge the independence of such as have fairly earned it.
It is very evident that we must be, and should be proud
TO BE, the first to acknowledge the independence of South Ame-
ti«a, or any part of it, whenever it may be achieved, now, w
ten years hence. It is probable, that some of the European
powers, having objects to answer, may sport whh the crediility of
Spain — the agents of Spain may whisper that her cause is to be
espoused by the great congress, but these tricks will deceive none
but themselves.

In what condition are the European powers to render her assis-
tance? And if they are the first to do this, shall we be idlkI
We can render more assistance to the patriots, than all Europe can
render to Spain. The fact is, the European states are in no con-
dition to render such assistance. A sort of mysterious phrase has
lately been introduced, for the purpose of alarming our people.

280 APrENDix.

with some indescribable danger — some ** deed without a name." —
It is said, our conduct is ** narrowly watched," that " we are regard-
ed, " with no friendly eye," that Europe is jealous of us." — How
long is it since this language has been got up] But a short time since
we were a " patch-woi k republic," a " heterogeneous jarring mass,''
continually on the point of falling to pieces in consequence of our
political dissentions, weak and despicable as a nation, and there-
fore every where to be insulted with impunity. Now it seems
we are to be narrowly watched, we have become dangerous to
Europe. — Ever running from one extreme into another, it appears
that those who speak of us, are at all times equally removed form
truth, — The former set of opinions respecting us, have all been
found erroneous ; we have shewn the world that we are not a mis-
erable patch work, that we can be united, that our government has
a sufficient energy when circumstances call for it, and that our
political squabbles are proofs of health, and not of disease ; they
now, therefore, call us the Great Republic, and pretend
to think we are becoming dangerous. Yes — and we are dan-
gerous ; but it is to those who make themselves our enemies, and do
us wrong. Lawless and unprincipled individuals will be found
in every nation^ but the true character of the American govern-
ment and people, is a scrupulous regard to the principles of jus-
tiee, and a love of honourable peace. What, for instance, would
have been the conduct of any of the powers of Europe, in our situa-
tion, towards Spain for the last fifteen years ] Would any of them
have patiently borne the aggressions and insults of that monarchy,
when we had the means of redress so completely in our power t
What European government would have forborne to take posses-
sion of the Floridas, and the province of Texas, as we did 1 Had
France or England been in our situation, the territories which we
claim by the right of cession, and to which all but the Spaniards
themselves, now admit that we are entitled, would have been taken
possession of long ago. East Florida would have been seques-
tered on the double ground of the villainous spoliations on our com-
merce, and the conduct of Spain in permitting our enemy to make
war upon us from it. Had we been governed by the ambition of
cither of these nations, we should have sent ten thousand men into


Mexico, and supplied the patriots of that unhappy country with
arms, and thus at once have plucked the brightest gem from the
Spanish crown — we should have completed the revolution in Gre-
nada and Venezuela, and set free Peru and Chili, as well as
La Plata. All this we had in our power to effect, and I ques-
tion much whether twenty years hence, we shall not repent of hav-
ing been too scrupulous, too desirous of maintaining a character
for justice and self-denial, among nations who disregard both. Far
from complaining, Spain ought to be thankful to us.

It seems, however, that Europe is now watching us. What
have we to fear from Europe, or Europe from us, to occasion this
watching? Neither can harbour the folly of an invasion, and in a
maritime war we can do her more harm than she can do us. — Eu-
rope will not take our bread, our cotton, our tobacco ! We in turn
can refuse to take her cloths, silks, and wine ; and who will be the
gainer? It is said, that our republic furnishes a dangerors ex-
ample of successful rebellion, which must be put down. If this indeed
be the case, and Europe is about to send over a fleet of two thou-
sand sail, and three hundred thousand men, to put down America,
let us prepare for this mighty invasion ^ — let us drive out Spain
from the continent, and form a chain of confederacies with the pa-
triots ! Such notions are too visionary to be gravely advanced.
There was a time, when even the sagacious Talleyrand was of
opinion that ani/ kind of war would shake us to pieces, not from
any violence from without, but from explosions amongst ourselves.
That time is gone by. The eyes of the European governments
are opened. They know well that their political institutions are
founded on a state of things very different from what exists in
America ; that the example of America may give rise to gradual
ameliorations, but not to convulsions. They know that they will
find it much more to their advantage to trade with us peaceably,
than to attempt the visionary project of invading us. There will
still, however, in spite of the clearest reasoning, remain some be-
clouded minds, to cherish a morbid and gloomy pleasure, iu con-
templating spectres without shape or form, wrapt up in mists and
fogs. It is in vain to attempt to divest them of these fears, which
prevent them from marching in the path which our interests


point out — must we for ever cower at the name of Europe, as if
she were capable of annihilating us with a breath ? The last
war ought to have taught us to know ourselves a little better.
We are not a petty state on the borders of Europe, but a
MIGHTY EMPIRE, placed at such a distance from other nations,
as to render us even now, the most independent and powerful na-
tion on the globe.

We are not an island capable of being overrun, we inhabit a
vast continent — we are not part froth and part dregSt but ten
millions of the most effective and intelligent people, taken as a
body, in the world ; devotedly fond of our country, and political
institutions ; united and enthusiastic in their support. There is,
moreover, far less diversity in the manners, habits, and language of
our people than is usually supposed abroad ; we meet occa-
sionally individuals of all nations, but there is a wonderful simi-
larity in the natives of this extensive country. In America the
foreigner melts almost immediately into the mass, while the
jealous distinction of other countries keep him distinct. In Eng-
land, or France, one meets a different description of people in
every canton or county, but in travelling over all America we
will find in the general population, little more than inconsider-
able shades of difference, arising from local circumstances. We
are unexhausted in our recourses, while Europe is bending
under the weight of burthens; and the internal situations of
France, England, and Spain are the most deplorable. They
might with some reason fear us, if we were a lawless banditti
like the first Romans ; but happily for the world, we are not,
9nd while our republican institutions remain pure and in-
corrupt, Europe will have nothing to fear from us ; not even
when our population shall amount to fifty millions, as it cer-
tainly will in the natural course of things, in half a century.
We rose from the late war with England, like a giant refreshed ;
our strength has increased at least ten fold. What then have we
to fear when our course is marked out by justice? Let us do
what we believe in conscience to be right, and leave the conse-
sequences to Heaven.

It is as umch the interest of England to aid the patriots as it ig


ours. We ought not, therefore, to allow narrow jealousies to pre-
vent us from concurring with them in the work of liberation.
Notwithstanding all the intrigues of the English, we shall occupy
the first place in the esteem and confidence of the patriots, and
we ought not to desire more than an equal chance of trading with
them. If the English have rendered them essential service, it is
but just that they should be rewarded ; it surely cannot be the wish
of any generous American, that the English should be excluded.
All that we ought to ask of the patriots is to be placed on an equal
footing. But on this important occasion, I should like to see, for
the honor of my countrymen, something like disinterested gene-
rosity, and not a narrow selfish feeling. There is no doubt but
tliat the patriots are chiefly indebted to the English, for the mean$
with which they have been successful in throwing off the Spanish
yoke. It is indeed paying but a poor compliment to the patriots,
to suppose that they are led by the nose by the English merchants
among them. The jealously with respect to the English in this
country is natural, it can be easily traced. It is in fact mingling
a topic of the politics of the United States, with a question of
infinite importance to the world, that ought to be considered in the
most liberal manner ; before we can properly comprehend with the
eve, a field so vast, we must rise abeve the little mists and fogs
that obscure the objects which lie below. The common-place
topics of newspaper politics should be cast aside.

It is equally wrong in us, to pretend to take sides in the politi-
cal disputes which must occur in La Plata, as well as in other
republics. I should think it a much more unfavorable symptom if
there were no such disputes. We, however, can be no judges ia
the case, who is in the right or who is iij the wrong, from the waut
of opportunity of obtaining a perfect knowledge of the facts. But
I am asked, " Have we not facts that are incapable of explanation,
and which prove the government of La Plata to be a mere military
despotism ? Do we not know of the deportation of the patriots of
Buenos Ayres, and the treatment of Carrera ? Are not these facts
.which no one can defend? Has not the conduct of Puerrydon been
that of a tyrant]" Alas! have we learned nothing from experience,
have we so soon forgotten the nature of the accusation brought


against our own government both at home and abroad ? If Pucrry-
don has been called a tyrant^ Mr. Madison has been called a
Caligula ; if Puerrydon is said to be the tool of the Portuguese,
our republican administrations have been charged with acting in
subserviency to Napoleon. Whence does this proceed but from
ill will, and a partial view of facts? Let us try if we cannot
imagine an explanation of the conduct of the supreme director.
— Suppose a few, warm, zealous, enthusiastic men should sincerely
and honestly believe that the director was about to sell their
country, and listening more to passion than prudence, should form
a plot to depose him by force — that the director informed of this,
instead of bringing them to trial, should think it most advisable in
the present state of things, to have them arrested and sent out of
the country ? Here is nothing improbable. I am far from insi-
nuating that any thing of this kind has happened, I am only arguing
to prove that we do not know what has happened. Without
making any reflections on the unfortunate individuals who have
excited our sympathy in this country, (and with several of whom
I have had the pleasure of an acquaintance, and cheerfully bear
testimony to their truly generous and patriotic sentiments,) it is
possible that these men may have mistaken a desire on the part
of Puerrydon to avoid war with the Portuguese, for a determina-
tion to betray their country. I regret much the injury which the
nascent government of La Plata has sustained in our country, in
consequence of this affair. Yet we have heard of nothing like
insurrections or civil war in La Plata ; on the contrary the last
arrivals bring us accounts of the most admirable demonstrations
of public feeling, in which all seem to unite. The affair even of
Carrera may be explained. This patriot arrived at Buenos Ayres
with the means of organizing a private expedition for the emanci-
pation of his country, at the very moment when the forces of La
Plata were about to accomplish the same object, and when it was
highly necessary that all parties in Chili, should act in concert.
At such a moment, it might have been deemed impolitic to per-

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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 22 of 25)