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 24 of 25)
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niards, and although Americans were equally called to them by the
laws, they were appointed only in rare instances, and even then,
not without sati?.ting the cupidity of the court by enormous sums


of money; of one hundred and seventy viceroys that have govern-
ed in this country, but four of them have been Americans; and of
six hundred and ten cajjTtains-genera!, and governors, all but four-
teen have been Spaniards. The same took place in every other
post of importance, and even amongst the common clerks of offi-
ces, it was rare to meet with Americans.

Every thing was disposed on the part of Spain, in America, to
effect the degradation of her sons. It did not suit the policy of
Spain that sages should rise up amongst us, fearful lest men of ge-
nius should bethink them of advancing the condition of their coun-
try, and of improving the morals, or the excellent capacities, with
which its sons have been gifted by their Creator. It was her policy
incessantly to diminish, and depress our population, lest, one
day, we should imagine aught against her dominion, guarded by a
force, contemptible for regions so various and vast. Commerce
was exclusively confined to herself, from a mean suspicion, that
opulence would make us proud, and render us capable of aspiring
to free ourselves from so many vexations. The growth of industry
was checked, in order that the means of escaping from our wretch-
edness and poverty, might be denied us ; and we were excluded
from all participation in public employments, in order that the na-
tives of the peninsula might have entire influence over the country,
in order to form the inclinations and h.'ibits necessary for retaining
us in a state of dependance that would neither permit us to think,
nor to act, but in conformity to the modes dictated by the

This system was acted upon with the utmost rigor, by the vice-
roys : each of whom was invested with the authority of a vizier.
Their power was sufficient to annihilate all those who dared to dis-
please them ; however great the vexatious they practised, we had
to bear them with patience, while these were compared by their
satellites and worshippers to the effects of divine wrath. The
complaints which were addressed to the throne, were eilher lost
in the distance of many thousand leagues, over which they had to
pass, or they were smothered in the offices at Madrid, by the pro-
tectors of those who tyrannized over us. Not only was this sys-
tem not softened, l)ut there \^as no hope of its moderaling in the


course of time. We had no voice, direct or indirect, in legislating
for our country : this was done for us in Spain, without conceding
to us the privilege of sending delegates, or coansellors, to be pre-
sent, and to state what would be suitable, or otherwise, as is prac-
ticed by the cities of Spain. Neither did we possess such influx
ence in the government set over ns, as might serve to temper the
severity of its administration. We knew that there was no remedy
for us but to bear with patience; and that for him who could not
resign himself to every abuse, death was considered too light a
punishment: for, in such cases, pcnahies have been invented of
unheard of cruelty, and revolting to every sentiment of humanity.

Less enormous, and less pertinaciously persevered in, were the
outrages which compelled Holland to take up arms, and to free
herself from Spain ; or those which induced Portugal to shake off
the same yoke ; or those which placed the Swiss, under William
Tell, in opposition to the emperor of Germany; or those which
induced the United States of North America to resist the en-
croachments of Great Britain; or those of many other countries,
which, without being separated by nature from their parent states,
have separated themselves, in order to shake off an iron yoke, and
to take into their own hands the care of their own felicity. We,
however, separated by an immense ocean, inhabiting a country
gifted with every variety of climate, possessing distinct wants,
and treated like flocks and herds, have exhibited the singular ex-
ample of patient endurance under such degradations: remaining
obedient, even when the most seducing circumstances presented
themselves for casting off the yoke, and driving the Spanish power
to the other side of the ocean.

We address ourselves to the nations of the world, and to mani-
fest so much effrontery, as to think of deceiving them in matters to
which they have been witnesses, is impossible. America remained
tranquil during the whole war of the succession, and awaited the
termination of the contest between the houses of Austria and
Bourbon, in order to follow the fortwnes of Spain. A favorable
occasion then presented itself to free ourselves from so many vex-
ations ; but we did not seize it ; on the contrary, we exerted our-
selves in her defence, arming in her cause alone, and witk a view


of maintaining our connexion with her. Without having any con-
cern in her differences with European nations, we have embarked
in her wars, we have suffered the devastations, we hare borne with-
out a murmur all the privations to which we were exposed by her
nullity on the ocean, one of which was the interruption of the usual
communication with her.

In the year 1806, our country was invaded: an English expe-
dition surprised and captured Buenos Ayres the capital, through the
imbecility of the viceroy, who, though without European troops,
had numerous resources fully adequate, of which he knew not how
to take advantage. We prayed assistance from the court to ena-
ble us to defend ourselves against a new expedition which threat-
ened us, and the consolation we received was a royal mandate to
defend ourselves as we could. The following year the eastern
shore (Banda Oriental) was occupied by a new aiid more formi-
able expedition : the town of Monte Video was besieged, and
taken by assault : here the British troops were augmented, and a
powerful force prepared to make another attack on the capital,
and in fact the attack was made a few months afterwards j happily
the valour of our citizens triumphed over the enemy in the assault,
compelling him, after a brilliant victory, to evacuate Monte Video,
and the whole of the eastern shore.

A more favorable opportunity of rendering ourselves indepen-
dent could not have been desired than that which now presented
itself, if the spirit of rebellion or perfidy had been capable of mov-
ing us, or if we had been susceptible of those principles of anar-
chy and sedition imputed to us. At that time we had abundant
cause for doing what we have since done. It was by no means
our duty to be indifferent to the state of oppression under which we
bad so long groaned. If at any time victory authorizes the con-
queror to be the arbiter of his own destinies, we might justly then
have fixed ours ; we were with arms in our hands, triumphant, and
there was not a single Spanish regiment to oppose us; and if neither
victory nor force can give right, ours was still greater, no longer to
tolerate the domination of Spain. We had nothing to apprehend
from the forces of the peninsula ; its ports were blockaded, and the
seas commanded by the fleets of Britain. Notwithstanding the


favorable conjuncture Ihus presented to us by fortune, we choose
to preserve our connexion with Spain, hoping by this distinguished
proof of loyalty, to effect a change in the system of the court, and
render it sensible of its true interest.

But we flattered ourselves with vain hopes. Spain did not
regard this conduct as an evidence of the generosity of our dis-
positions, but as a bare act of duty. America still continaed
to be ruled with the same tyranny, and our sacrifices, though
most heroic, had no other effect, than to add a few more
pages to the history of that oppression under which we had so
long groaned.

Such was the situation in which we were found by the revolu-
tion of Spain. We, who were habituated to yield a blind obe-
dience to all her mandates, readily acknowledged Ferdinand the
7th of Bourbon, although raised to the throne by a tumult at Aran-
juez, which deposed his father. We saw him soon after pass over
into France ; we saw him there detained with his parents, and bro-
thers, and deprived of tlie crown which he had just usurped. We
saw, that Spain, every where occupied by French troops, was
shaken to her centre, and that in her civil convulsions, the most
xJistinguished individuals, who governed with wisdom in the pro-
vinces, or served with honour in her armies, fell victims to the in-
sensate fury of rivals. That in the midst of these vibrations, go-
vernments rose up in each of those provinces, styling themselves
supreme, and claiming sovereign authority over America. A junta
of this kind, formed at Seville, had the presumption to be the first
to demand our obedience, and we were obHged by our viceroys to
recognize and yield its submission. In less than two months,
another, entitled the supreme junta of Gallicia, pretended to the
same right, and sent us a viceroy, with the indecent menace, that
thirty thousand men should also be sent if necessary. The junia
central next erected itself : we immediately obeyed it, without
having had the slightest share in its formation, zealously and
efficaciously complying with all its decrees. We sent succours of
money, voluntary donations, and supplies of every kind, to prove
that our fidelity would stand any trial to which it could be sub-


We had been tempted by the agents of king Joseph Bonaparte,
and great promises were held out to us of bettering our condition,
should we unite ourselves with his interests. We knew that the
Spaniards of greatest note had already declared for him ; that the
nation was without armies, and without the vigorous direction re-
quisite in moments of so much difficulty. We were informed that
the troops of Rio de la Plata, who were prisoners at London, af-
ter the lirst expedition of the English, had been conducted to
Cadiz, and there treated with the greatest inhumanity, and that ia
want of every thing they had been sent off to fight against the
French. Yet our situation continued unchanged until the An-
dalusias having been occupied by the French, and the junta
central was dispersed.

Under these circumstances, there was published a paper, with-
out date, and signed only by the archbishop of Laodicea, who had
been president of the extinguished junta central. By this paper
a regency was ordered to be formed, and three persons, as those
who should compose it, were designated. An occurrence so un-
expected, could not but cause us to hesitate and ponder over it se-
riously. Our situation became alarming, and we had reason to be
apprehensive of being involved in the misfortunes of the capital.
We reflected upon its uncertain and vibrating state ; more espe-
cially as the French had already presented themselves before the
gates of Cadiz and the island of Leon, we distrusted the new
regents, who were unknown to us ; the most distinguished Spa-
niards having passed over to the French, the junta central dis-
solved, its members denounced as traitors in the public papers. We
saw the inefficacy of the decree published by the archbishop of
Laodicea, and the iusufficiency of his powers for the establishment
of a regency ; we knew not but that the French had taken posses-
sion of Cadiz, and completed the conquest of Spain in the inter-
val which must elapse before these papers could come to our hands ;
and we doubted whether a government, formed out of the fragments
of the junta central, would not soon meet with the same fate. Con-
sidering the perils which surrounded us, we resolved to take upon
ourselves the care of our own safety, until we should obtain better
information of the true condition of Spain, and whether her govern-


ment had acquired stability. Instead of discovering this stability,
we soon learned the fall of the regency, and saw it succeeded by
continual changes of government, in moments the most arduous
and critical.

In the meanwhile we formed our junta, in imitation of those of
Spain. It was purely provisional, and in the name of our captive
king. The viceroy Don Baltazar Hidalgo Cisneros, despatched
circulars to ihe provincial governors, in order to light up the flames
of civil war, and arm provinces against provinces.

The Rio de la Plata was immediately blockaded by a squadron :
the governor of Cordova immediately set about raising an army;
the governor of Potosi and the president of Charcas, marched with
another to the confines of Salta, and the president of Cusco present-
ing himself with a third army on the margin of the Desaguadero,
entered into an armistice of forty days, and before its terra had
elapsed, recommenced hostilities, attacked our troops, and a bloody
battle ensued, in which we lost fifteen hundred men. Memory is
horror-struck in recalling the abominable cruelties then perpetrated
by Goyeneche in Cochabamba. Would to God ! it were possible
to forget this ungrateful American, who, on the day of his en-
trance into the city, ordered the respectable governor-intendant,
Antesana, to be shot ; and observing with complacency, from the
balcony of his house, this iniquitous assassination, ferociously cried
out to his troops not to shoot the victim in the head, as it was wanted
to be stuck upon a pike ; and when it was severed from the body,
the headless trunk was dragged through the streets, while at
the same time the brutal soldiers were barbarously permitted to
dispose at pleasure of the lives and property of the inhabitants
during many successive days.

Posterity will be shocked by the ferocity manifested towards us
by men, who ought to have been interested in the preservation of
the Americans ; and they will regard with astonishment the mad-
ness of attempting to punish as a crime an act marked with the
indelible seal of fidelity and love. The name of Ferdinand of
Bourbon preceded all the acts of the government, and beaded its
public documents. The Spanish flag waved on our vessels, and
served to animate our soldiers. The provinces seeing themselves


reduced to a kind of orphanage by the dispersion of the national
government, by the want of another of a legitimate character, and
capable of commanding respect, and by the conquest of nearly the
whole of the mother-country, had raised up for themselves an
Argus to watch for their safety, and to preserve them entire, so that
they might be restored to the captive king, in case he should re-
gain his liberty. This measure was sanctioned by the example of
Spain herself, and produced by her declaration, that America was
an integral part of the monarchy, possessing equal rights, and
which had already been practiced in Monte Video, at the instance
of the Spaniards themselves. We offered to continue our pecu-
niary aids for the prosecution of the war, and a thousand times de-
clared the uprightness and sincerity of our intentions. Great
Britain, to which Spain was then so much indebted, interposed
her mediation and good offices, to prevent our being treated in a
manner so harsh and severe. But the Spaniards were fixed in
their sanguinary caprice, rejected the mediation, and despatched
rigorous orders to all their generals to prosecute the castigation of
the Americans with redoubled activity ; scaffolds were every where
erected, and ingenuity was taxed for inventions to frighten and

From thenceforward, no pains were spared and no means left
untried, to divide and engage us in mutual extermination. They
have spread abroad the most atrocious calumnies against us, attri-
buting to us the intention of renouncing our holy religion, and of
encouraging an unbounded licentiousness of manners. They
have made a religious war against us, contriving by a thousand
ways to disturb and alarm the conscience ; causing the Spanish
bishops to publish ecclesiastical censures and excommunications,
and to sow, through the means of some ignorant confessors, fana-
tical doctrines even in the penitential tribunal. By means of those
religious discords, families have been divided against themselves ;
they have occasioned dissentions between father and sob ; they
have broken asunder the endearing ties which united husband and
wife ; they have sown rancour and hatred between the most affec-
tionate brothers ; they have, in fine, endeavoured to poison all
the harmony of society.


They have adopted the dreadful system of putting men to death
indiscriminately, for no other purpose than to diminish our num-
bers ; and ou entering our towns have been known to put to death
even the unfortunate market-people, driving them into the public
square in groups, and shooting them down with cold-blooded,
wanton cruelty. The cities of Chuquisaca and Cochabamba
have more than once been the theatres of this shocking bar-

They have compelled our soldiers, taken prisoners, to serve
against their wills in the ranks of their armies, carrying the officers
in irons to distant outposts, where it was impossible for them
to preserve health for a single year, while others have been starved
to death in dungeons, and many have been forced to labour on the
public works. They have wantonly shot the bearers of flags of
truce, and have committed the utmost horrors upon chiefs after
their surrender, and other principal personages, notwithstanding
the humanity that had been shown by us to those prisoners who
fell into our hands ; in proof of this assertion we need only men-
tion the deputy Matos of Potosi, captain-general Pumacagua,
general Angulo, and his brother, the commandant Munecas, and
other partizan chiefs, shot in cold blood, many days after having
surrendered as prisoners.

In the district of Valle Grande they indulged themselves in the
brutal sport of cutting off the ears of the natives, and then trans-
mitting a pannier full of them to head-quarters ; they afterwards
destroyed the town by fire ; burnt about forty populous villages of
Peru, and took a hellish pleasure in shutting up the inhabitants in
their houses before setting them on fire, in order that their unhappy
victims might be burnt alive.

They have not only shown themselves cruel and implacable, in
murdering our countrymen, but they have thrown aside all regard
to decency and morality, causing old men of the religious profes-
sion to be beaten in the public places ; and even women, made
fast to a cannon, but first stripped naked, and their bodies ex-
posed to shame.

They have established an inquisitorial system for all these
punishments: they have dragged out peaceful inhabitants from


their houses, and transported them across the ocean to be tried for
pretended offences, and have executed without trial a multitude
of citizens.

They have chased our vessels, sacked our coasts, murdered de-
fenceless inhabitants, without sparing clergymen and those in ex-
treme old age ; by the order of General Pezuela, they burnt the
town of Puno, and meeting with no others, they put to the sword
old men, women, and children. They have excited atrocious con-
spiracies among the Spaniards residing in the midst of us, impos-
ing upon us the painful necessity of condemning to capital
punishment the heads of numerous families.

They have compelled our brothers and sons to take up arras
against us, and forming armies by the impressment of the natives
of Peru, have compelled them under the command of Spanish offi-
cers to fight against our troops. They have excited domestic in-
surrections, corrupting with money, and every species of seduc-
tion, the pacific inhabitants of the country, in order to involve
us in a frightful anarchy, and to enable them to attack us weakened
and divided. They have displayed a new invention of horror, in
poisoning fountains and food, when beaten in La Paz by General
Pinelo ; and the mildness with which they were treated, when com-
pelled to surrender at discretion, was rewarded by the barbarous
act of blowing up the barracks, which had been previously mined
for the purpose.

They have had the baseness to attempt to tamper with our go-
vernors and generals ; and abusing the sacred privilege of flags of
truce, they have repeatedly written letters inciting to treason.
They have declared that the laws of war, recognized by civilized
nations, ought not to be observed towards us, and with contemptu-
ous indifference, replied to General Belgrano, that treaties could
not be entered into, or kept, with insurgents.

Such had been the conduct of Spaniards towards us when Fer-
dinand of Bourbon was restored to the thone. We then believed
that the termination of our troubles had at last arrived ; it seemed
to us that the king, who had been formed in adversity, would not
be indifferent to the miseries of his people ; we therefore dispatch-
ed a deputy to him, to make known our situation. We could not


doubt but that he wouUl give us a reception worthy a benign
prince, and that he would feel an interest in our supplications, as
well from gratitude as from that beneficence, which the Spanish
courtiers bad praised to the skies. But a new, and before unknown
ingratitude was reserved to be experienced by the countries of
America, surpassing all example that the history of the worst of
tyrants can present.

Scarcely had he returned to Madrid, when he without cere-
mony at once declared us insurgents. He disdained to listen to
our complaints, or hearken to our supplications, tendering a par-
don as the only favour he could offer. He confirmed in authority
the viceroys, governors, and generals, who had perpetrated the
bloody deeds before detailed. He declared as a crime of state,
the having pretended to form a constitution for ourselves, that
we might be placed beyond the reach of the capricious, arbitrary,
and tyrannic power, to which we had been subjected for three
centuries ; a measure which could displease none but a prince,
who is inimical to justice and beneficence, and consequently un-
worthy of ruling.

With the aid of his ministers, he at once set to work in col-
lecting forces for the purpose of being sent against us. He caused
numerous armies to be transported to this country, in order to
complete the devastation, conflagrations, and robberies, so well
begun. He availed himself of the moment when complimented by
the principal European powers on his return from France, to
engage them to deny us every succour, and to look on with in-
difference, while he was gratifying the cruelty of his nature in
destroying us.

He has established a peculiar regulation for the treatment of
American privateers, barbarously ordering their crews to be
lianged ; he has forbidden the observance towards us of the
Spanish naval ordinance, established in conformity with the law¬ї
of nations, and he has denied every thing to us which we invaria-
bly allow to his subjects captured by our cruisers. He sent his
generals with decrees of pardon which they caused to be published,
with uo view but to deceive the simple and ignorant, in order to
facilitate their entrance into cities and towns; but giving at the

Vol. II. X


game time private instructions, authorizing and comraandiug
them, after having thus obtained possession, to hang, burn,
sack, confiscate, assassinate, and to inflict every possible sufter-
ing, on such as had availed themselves of such suppositious par-
dons. It is in the name of Ferdinand of Bourbon, that the heads
of captured patriots have been stuck up on the highways ; that a
distinguished partizan leader has been actually impaled ; and that
the monster Centano, after having murdered colonel Gamargo in
the same manner cut off his head, and sent it as a present to Ge-
neral Pesuela, informing him that it was a miracle of the Virgin
del Carmen.

It has been by a torrent of evils and bitter afflictions, such as
tliese, that we have been compelled to take the only course that
remained to us. We reflected deeply on our situation, and future
fate, and turning our eyes to every quarter, we were unable to see
any thing but the three elements, of which it must necessarily be
composed, opprobrium, ruin, and abject submission. What could
America expect from a king, actuated at the very moment of seat-
ing himself on the throne by sentiments so inhuman] Of a king,
who, previous to commencing his devastations, hastened to prevent
the interposition of any other prince to restrain the eftects of his

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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 24 of 25)