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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tomed. The present government has even attempted
stronger measures than were resorted to by the viceroys ;
it has attempted a conscription, but without success.
The practice of impressment, resorted to in the Brazils,
as the regular and ordinary mode of raising soldiers,
would not be tolerated. The alcaldes, however, or
village magistrates, are required to arrest all vagabonds
who have no visible means of livelihood, and send them
to the quarters, or barracks, where they are roughly
handled until broken in. Abuses, no doubt, take place,
which tend to foster the antipathy of the peasantry to
the portejios, or inhabitants of the port, though not to
render the cause of independence unpopular : as in our
country, it will be in this class of people, that the cause
will last fall into disrepute. One of the consequences of
this mode of enlistment, is frequent desertions, which
however, arc not punished with death, unless they be ap-


prehended on their way to the enemy ; a circumstance
that scarcely ever occurs. A good eflfect is produced
even by this forced schooling ; the soldier returns a-
mongst his comrades deprived of a portion of his wild

The most eflfectual plan fallen upon by the govern-
ment for recruiting their forces, has been the purchase of
negro slaves, entering them as soldiers, under the con-
dition of giving them their liberty, after two years ser-
vice. About a fourth of the regulars are blacks, have been
thus purchased, and are not inferior to any troops in the
world. This policy has many other excellent effects ;
the smallness of the negro population precludes all idea
of danger to the state from their putting arms in their
hands, and the condition of slavery being so different ia
this countiy from any other part of South America.

The naval force consists of fifteen small vessels, carry-
ing from seven to fourteen gims, with ninety-four ma-
rines, and one hundred and eighty-five seamen. They
are in expectation of considerable additions shortly.
A few days before we left Buenos Ayres, a fine English
armed brig, with a complement of one hmidred and fifty
English sailors, and commanded by a lieutenant in the
English navy, arrived at Buenos Ayres ; and there is
little doubt, belonging to the government of that place,,
at least brought there for sale. The people made many
inquiries of me whether the vessels which they expected
from the United States, would soon amve. A squadron
will be absolutely necessary for their joint operation
against Lima. They have ten or twelve privateers in
commission, which annoy the Spanish commerce so
much, that it has almost disappeared from the ocean.

In their arsenals and manufactory of arms, they have
fourteen thousand stand ; in their difierent parks, they have
an extraordinary quantity of fine caimon and field artillery.


and in their public stores, a great abundance of munitions
of war, of every description. They have the finest brass
cannon I ever saw ; the greater part of which belonged to
the king. Their supplies of this nature are, in fact, more like
those of some old and powerful state, than of one so re-
cently established ; they will not have to expend any
large sums in these things for many years.

The gauchos aroimd Buenos Ayres, might be mis-
taken for regulars on their coming to town, dressed in
the uniform furnished them by the state, generally on
horseback with a long sword by their sides ; they are
fond of appearing thus en militaire. The city ex-
hibits a great portion of soldiery, drums conti-
nually beating, trumpets braying, and troops every
where in motion. There are several extensive bar-
racks distributed through the city, filled chiefly with
black troops. The regulars are but the soldiers of
the republic, and are carefully restrained from insult-
ing the citizens; but these are also soldiers with
arms in their heinds, who would not submit to outrage.
There are no guards patrolling the streets in the day
time, as in the Brazillian cities, and insolently jost-
ling the passengers from the pavements. I saw no-
thing, however, like awing the citizens by military
force, as some have pretended. Where, in fact, the
principal military strength lies in the civicos and mi-
litia, it is not possible that such should be the case.
In no instance has the regular force arrayed itself
against the citizens ; it was attempted by the director
Alvear, but he was almost instantly abandoned. The
idea of Buenos Ayres being a military republic, and
governed by an army of Jannisairies, like Algiers, is
entirely without foundation ; if it be a military re-
public, the power is in the hands of its citizens ; but
such mistakes are easily made by superficial ob-


servers, who are unable to assign things to their proper
causes. It must be recollected, that these people are
at war for their existence, it is therefore not surpris-
ing their towns should exhibit the appearance of mili-
tary camps. The appearance of our cities during the late
war, might have given rise to the same error.

When we consider what these brave people have
achieved against the Britisli on two memorable occa-
sions, we may form some idea of what they can dp
now, when so much more enlightened, so much more
accustomed to the use of arms, having an abundance of
good officers, and actuated by an enthusiasm in de-
fence of their sacred cause, not to be surpassed. In an
attempt by Spain upon the liberties of this promis-
ing republic, she would find even women and children
in the ranks, by the side of their friends. Spain can
send no force sufficient to make an impression on them,
even if she were to leave all the other colonies to shift
for themselves.

.^^ The seat of the war Avith Spain is at present in Peru,
at least fifteen hundred miles from Buenos Ay res. For
the last six or eight months, no action of any importance
has taken place ; but there is scarcely a mail from that
quarter, which does not bring an account of a skirmish,
usually an attack upon some foraging party of the
enemy, and the attack being made to advantage, almost
always proves suceessful. I have materials for making
a synopsis of these partisan afiairs, which will show that
in the course of the year, they are equal to several gene-
ral engagements. The Spanish general Soma, at the
head of about six thousand men, holds nothing more
than the ground which his troops actually occupy, and
there is no doubt, that the consequences of a retreat or
of a successful attack by Belgrano, will be the imme-
diate declaration of the people in favour of liberty and


independence ; they have been treated by the Spaniards
with the utmost severity, and are only kept down by the
exercise of the most revolting cruelties. The great pro-
portion of submissive and timid Indians in the popula-
tion of these countries, tends much to favour the Spa-
niards, and gives them advantages over the patriots, who,
through policy, if for no other reason, adopt a different
cause. The Indians are continually impressed into the
Spanish armies, and accustomed, as they have been for
centuries, to the most abject obedience and slavery, they
not only tamely submit to their fate, but even make ex-
cellent soldiers. One might almost be warranted in con-
cluding with some misanthropists, that obedience is
all that is requisite in the materials of armies, an ex-
cellence the greater, the nearer its approach to a ma-
chine. The late glorious battle in Chili, however, has
proved that there is a moral force, before which this
machine must give way, where the chances of the con-
test are at all equal. Without the aid of the WTetched
Indians, the Spaniards would not be able to raise and
maintain an army in upper Peru, for the number of
European soldiers is not more than sufficient to hold
them together, and keep them in subjection. Desertions,
are, notwithstanding, very frequent, and contribute con-
siderably to recruit the army of Belgrano, while, it is
said as a fact, that no inducement can prevail on the pa-
triot prisoners to join the enemy.

Although the Spaniards have obstinately rejected
every offer for the exchange of prisoners, ever since
the commencement of the war, they have been com-
pelled to pursue a different course from that in their
other colonies, where the patriot prisoners are at once
put to death as traitors. The number of prisoners
is very considerable, and although distributed at dis-
tiant points in the territory of the republic, they have



become a source of no small uneasiness. Upwards
of three hundred commisioned officers have been taken
even within the course of the present year, several
of whom were of high rank, and many have been
prisoners for the last five or six years. Repeated
attempts have been made by Buenos Ayres, to ne-
gociate an exchange, but without success. It is not
long since two colonels were enabled to make their
escape, with the aid of the English naval commander
on this station, to the great displeasure of the people.
On their arrival at Rio Janeiro, they published their
statement as to the treatment they alleged to have ex-
perienced ; they have been refuted in the Buenos Ayres
gazettes, it being made satisfactorily to appear, that
they had disgracefully \dolated their parole, and that
the Spanish prisoners were treated with uncommon
lenity, while the patriot officers in a similar situa-
tion, were confined in dungeons and unwholesome
prisons. Nothing can be more preposterous, than such
a complaint on the part of the Spaniards ; on this sub-
ject, the history of our own war will enable us to form
correct notions. '^i '<■

The possession of the Peruvian provinces is of
great moment in many points of view, besides that of
being the frontier of the enemy, who continually threatens
the lower provinces. The population of the pro-
vinces held by the Spaniards, is at least double that of
the remainder, although a great proportion of it is
made up of the civilized Indians. It is in the pro-
vinces of Cochabamba, Potosi, Los Charcas, and La
Paz, that the principal wealth of the republic is to be
found ; their various and valuable mines, the lucrative
trade, which their geographical position must always
ensure to the capital, upon which they depend for a
jsupply of European articles, as well as upon the in-


termediate provinces for many articles of first neces-
sity, render the contest in this quarter, therefore, of
vital importance. Buenos Ayres is the natural outlet of
the productions of these interior provinces, and it is the
most convenient port from which to receive their returns.
Unless the war terminates successfully in this quarter, .
Buenos Ayres, from being a great emporium, must,
dwindle away, until the fertile plains around it shall ac-.
quire population, and industry create new objects of com-
merce ; the efforts made by the republic in the war of Peru,
since 1811, have been worthy of its importance. Many
millions have been expended, and many thousand brave
men have sacrificed their lives in the conflict. The con-
nexion with Chili is also of great moment. Chili has
some of the most valuable mines in South America, but
she has also a sea-coast and ports, which the Peruvian
provinces have not ; she is, therefore, not so much de-
pendent on Buenos Ayres as an emporium; but the
transportation of many commodities across the moun-
tains, is preferable to the delay and risk of a long sea
voyage ; there will, therefore, continue to be carried on
a considerable trade through Mendoza. But in a mi-
litary point of view, Buenos Ayres could never be safe
with a powerful army posted in Chili ; while, besides the
benefits of a considerable inland trade, the having a friend
there, is an incalculable advantage, an advantage which
is reciprocal between these two republics. Fortune and
his good sword, have twice given victory to San Martin ;
the determination manifested by the people of Chili in
the last campaign, leaves but little hope to Spain, from
another invasion, even if she possessed the means of
making it. The next thing will be the efi'ort to expel the
Spaniards from all Peru; and if this should prove success-
ful, the Spanish power in America will be at an end. The
fall of Quito, of Granada, of Caraccas, and finally of
Vol. II. I


Mexico, will follow, as one link succeeds another in the
connected chain of events.

When the peculiar situation of the Spanish colonies is
taken into view, the establishment of a pennanent and
regular system of finance appears to present the ^eatest
difficulties. Many of the principal sources of revenue
resorted to by the old government, would cease, as being
oppressive and unpopular. The Indian tribute was
abolished, monopolies done away, duties on imports and
exports diminished, the alcavala reduced to a simple tax
on retailers, and the mines afforded no regular supply.
The deficiency had to be made up by voluntary donations,
which in the early stages of the revolution, were ex-
tremely liberal, and by confiscations of the property of
the Spanish royalists, who openly espoused the cause of
the king. The great increase in the consumption of Euro-
pean goods, and their fall in value, are circumstances to
be taken into consideration. How far the increase of
consumption makes up for the differences in the former
late of duties and price of merchandise, together with
the interruption in the trade with Peru, or how far
this trade is interrupted, are questions that I shall not
pretend to answer. It is highly probable that some of
the goods introduced into Buenos Ayres, still find their
w«,y to Peru, and some of the specie of those provinces
may be smuggled out. What amoimt was coined by
Buenos Ayres in 1812 and 1814, when in possession of
the mines of Potosi, I am unable to say.

By contrasting the receipts from the different branches
of the revenue under the royal government with the pre-
sent, the reader will be able to form a more precise idea.
They were divided into four branches.


1. The duHes of gold iind silver Coia, which amount-

ed to •. dollars 6^0,000

Ob the coinage, 120,000— Tribute of the Indians,

660,000; making the total amount.-* 1,320,000

2. The second branch consisted of the Alcavala,

(duties on sale of goods) 305,000. Minor
duties or excise, 200,000. Stamp duty, 32,000.
Receipts of the customs, 750,000 1,367.000

3. Bulls of Cruzada, 100,000. Ecclesiastical annats,

30,000. Royal ninths, 72,000 262,00d

4. Profits on mofiopoly of quicksilver, tobacco, and

gunpowder, 350,600. Assiento on negroes,
200,000. Trade ia the herb of Paraguay, 800,000.
Retenues belonging to the suppressed order of

the Jesuits, 400,000 • 1,450,000

■•' .- ^ -'■ •>
Total 4,399,000

The revenues of the state, are at present almost entire-
ly levied in the province of Buenos Ayres, with the ex-
ception of about two hundred thousand dollars collected
from the province of Cuyo, Tucuman, Cordova, and
Salta. The receipts of the customs is the only indirect
tax which falls on the provinces generally, and its pro-
ceeds are faithfully appropriated to the support of th6
common cause. The duties on stamps are still con-
tinued, but do not afford any great amount of revenue.
The tables annexed to the report of Mr. Rodney, ex-
hibit a concise view of the receipts and expenditures, as
well as the outstanding debts of the state. The receipts
Of the customs amounted to one million one himdred
thousand dollars, which may be regarded as about the
average. It is the largest item in the account of their re-
ceipts. In consequence of the high rate of duties which
had been established under the mistaken idea that they
fall entirely upon strangers, a good deal of smuggling was
occasioned. Through the representation of English mer-



chants, and experience of Ihe evil, they have since been
induced to lower them considerably. They ought to be
extremely cautious how they give occasion to a renewal
of the old system of corruption and bribery, which had
fallen into disgrace in the republic, when formerly no-
thing was disreputable but detection.

An important item is composed of loans from native
and foreign merchants, not altogether voluntary ; what
degree of constraint may be used, I know not, nor am
I prepared to say how far a people contending for
their existence would be justifiable in going. A consi-
derable portion of this debt, which does not much exceed
a million, has been extinguished by Pueyrredon, since
he came to the office, by pledging the receipts of the
customs for its payment. A part of this fund is also
set apart for the payment of the pensions granted to
widows and orphans of those who have fallen in the con-
test. No government ever displayed more gratitude to
the defenders of the country in proportion to its means.

There is another irregular mode of raising money,
which falls heavily upon individuals, though intended to
be borne by the community, as there never has yet been
established any system of direct taxation. Perhaps con-
tributions would be more willingly submitted to, from the
idea that they were only called for by the occasion, and
would cease with it, which would not be the case with a
direct tax. Last year, for instance, the sum of seventy-
eight thousand four hundred and eighty-three dollars
was apportioned among the different gremios, or bodies.

On the commercial class . . • . « dollars 32,627

On ship owners •• ••• ....• 1,465

On various classes of people r.... 15,240

On house rents 17,147

Contributions levied in the country • • • • • 4,325

The old Spaniards are occasionally called upon, and


are required to pay liberally. Considerable sunis have
been drawn from the revenues of the monasteries. There
are besides, large sums levied from butchers and bakers,
and considered a species of indirect taxon the people. The
bakers are the millers, and also the dealers in wheat. This
tax was very heavy, but has since been reduced. The con-
tributions of last year to the amount of eight thousand
dollars monthly, fell upon thirty bakers.

The proceeds of the post-office leave a small balance
in favour of the stale, but when the conmiunication with
Peru was uninterrupted, it yielded at least thirty thou-
sand dollars clear of expenses. Since the liberation of
Chili, it has somewhat augmented. The increase in po-
pulation will render this a very lucrative source of re-
venue to the government ; as all the establishments on the
^eat roads belong to the state, which provide the relays
of horses for travellers at the different stages.

The sales of public lands is also an item amounting to
about a thousand dollars annually. It must increase,
and if judiciously managed, it will become of great im-
portance in future, and in the meanwhile, afford a secu-
rity to public credit. They still pursue the Spanish prac-
tice, of making large grants for estancias, or grazing
estates. No system like that of the United States has
been thought of, but their is no doubt that if their govern-
ment once acquires the character of being permanently
established, emigration from Europe to this country will
take place, and the public lands will become of sufficient
value to justify their being laid off in small tracks.

The public property to which the state has become
entitled, as the heir to the kings of Spain, is estimated
at nine millions, consisting of public works and edifices,
forts, church glebes, escheats, &c. The property of the
state, independently of these, consisting of arms, mmii-
tions of war, public vessels, furniture of offices, library,

I 3


good debts, and a variety of smaller items, amounts to
more than eight millions. There is besides a vast deal of
property formerly appertaining to the king, which is not
taken into the account. With very ample means of se-
curing the payment of loans, it is surprising that they
have not been able to establish a credit abroad, espe?-
cially as their domestic debt is so small. It must be at-
tributed in part to the circumstance of the administration
having undergone such frequent changes, and thus giving
a character of insecurity to the engagements of the go-
vernment, which is by no means a necessary consequence ;
for even where the change has been effected in a tumul-
tuous and disorderly manner, this had no effect upon the
previoufe engagements and contracts ; the administration
only was changed, the government itself was not dissolved.
Nothing has so much injured their credit, as the un-
favourable accounts spread abroad of their internal con^
vulsions, and the instability of their government, for
which there has been heretofore, unfortunately, but too
much foundation. They have, however, become fully
aware of its injurious consequences, and for the last three
or four years, nothing of the kind has occurred ; the ad-
ministration has continued regular, and has only been
changed in an orderly and constitutional manner. Per-
haps the circumstances of their not having declared ab-
solute independence until July, 1816, may have prevent-
ed them from obtaining the credit abroad which they
otherwise would, from the uncertainty of their ultimate
intentions, as long as they continued to profess a willing-
ness to return to their allegiance to Ferdinand. Ano-
ther reason may also be suggested by the experience of
our revolutionary war. The important services rendered
by Robert Morris are well known, and cannot be re-
membered with too much gratitude ; we could almost as
iU have spared him in our finance, as our Frai^lin in the


cabinet, or Washington in the field. In South America^
there might possibly be Franklins and Washingtons, but
there could be no Morrisses, for this reason, that they
had no commercial relations with any foreign country :
in fact they had no merchants.* Fortunately, they are
beginning to rise from these difficulties; should their
government continue to be conducted for a few years to
come as it has been for the few last, there is no danger
but that they will be able to borrow more money than
Spain. Money is justly said to be the sinews of war ;
without the assistance of Holland and France, our strug-
gle would have been much more protracted, and if the
tJnited Stated or Great Britain, should think proper to
assist the United Provinces, by simply guaranteeing tlie
payment of a loan, the Spanish power in South America
would breathe its last in the course of eighteen months.

By the treasury account of 1816, the expenditures
fell somewhat short of the amount received, including a
loan of eight hundred thousand dollars. The army ex-
penses amounted to nearly a million ; and the sums of
three hundred and fifty thousand, and four hundred thou-
sand dollars, were transmitted to the United States and
Great Britain in bills of exchange, for the purchase
of military and naval equipments. For several years past,
large sums have been transmitted in the same mamier.

The civil list falls in amount much below what might

* Among tb© pift»» fop r ai s ing HH^neyj tfeat &i a^ lottery was thought
of, but not aidrtpt^d . The Gongress-as recently estabJlsbed a national
bank J but gr6at prejudices exist in the minds of the lolver classes of
the people agajnst pa^er motiey. It wi*f be afmoat impossible to siibf^
stitatey uiKfer a coiwiderable length 64' time, any circulating mediiint
for gold or silver. It is possible, however, that the paper money m^
cifcfriate in lalrge sirms, attd by thisirieatw be of service ; at least there
is vessorl to believe thiat loa»* will be faeilltated by th* bask, which)
is an important coilsMcratioh. t


have been expected ; perhaps, however, this is only the
sum charged on the revenues of the state.* The state-
ment given to Mr. Rodney, contains only the gross
amount, under the different branches of revenue, but in
the yearly accounts published for the information of the
public, (which I procured for several years back) the
items are set forth. Formerly most offices were paid by
established fees instead of salaries, which gave rise to
great abuse. Much has been done towards remedying
this evil, although not entirely accomplished. The re-
ceipts and expenditure for 1817, were as follows :

Receipts from every branch of the revenue, dollars 3,037,187 5|
Expenditures 3,003,224 4^

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 9 of 25)