Page images

night of the 28th August, and, what is more singular, at an elevation of 1800 metres *. The number of inhabitants carried off by this fatal union of famine and disease throughout the whole surface of the kingdom was estimated at more than 300,000. This number will appear the less astonishing to us when we consider, that even in Europe the population is sometimes diminished by scarcity, more than it is augmented by the excess of births above the deaths for four consecutive years. There perished in Saxony, for example, in 1772, near 66,000 inhabitants, while the CXCCS3 of births above the deaths was not, communibus annis, from 1764 to 1784 more than 17,000 f. The effects of famine are common to almost all the equinoxial regions. In the province of New Andalusia in South America I have seen villages whose inhabitants were forced by famine to disperse themselves from time to time in the deserts to pick up a subsistence from the wild plants. In vain the missionaries employ their authority to prevent this dispersion. In the province de los Pastos, the Indians when the potatoes fail, which are their principal nourishment, repair sometimes to the most elevated ridge of the Cordillera to subsist on the juice of the achupallas, a plant related to the genus pitcarnia. The Otomacks at Uruana, on the banks of the Orinoco, swallow, during several months, potter's earth, to absorb by this load the gastric juice, and to satisfy, in some sort, the hunger which torments them *. In the islands of the South Sea, in a fertile soil, where nature has lavished all her blessings, the inhabitants are frequently driven by famine to devour one another. Under the torrid zone, where a beneficent hand seems every where to have scattered the germ of abundance, man, careless and phlegmatic, experiences periodically a want of nourishment which the industry of more civilized nations banishes from the most sterile regions of the north. The working of the mines has long been regarded as one of the principal causes of the depopulation of America. It will be difficult to call in question, that at the first epoch of the conquest, and even in the seventeenth century, many Indians perished from the excessive labour to which they were compelled in the mines. They perished without posterity, as thousands of African slaves annually perish in the West Indian plantations from fatigue, defective nourishment, and want of sleep. In Peru, at least in the most southern part, the country is depopulated by the mines, because the barbarous law of the mita is yet in existence, which compels the Indians to remove from their homes into distant provinces, where hands are wanted for extracting the subterraneous wealth. But it is not so much the labour as the sudden change of climate, which renders the mita so pernicious to the health of the Indians. This race of men has not the flexibility of organization for which the Europeans are so eminently distinguished. The health of coppercoloured man suffers infinitely when he is transported from a warm to a cold climate, particularly when he is forced to descend from the elevation of the Cordillera into those narrow and humid

* 5004 feet. Trans.

+ The translator is afraid that this number of 66,000 includes the whole deaths of Saxony in 1772, in which case the statement that the diminution of population from the famine exceeded the augmentation from the excess of births for four consecutive years will fall to the ground. Every one knows that it is impossible to state exactly the number of deaths from famine in any country, as literally few or none die of famine, but of diseases occasioned by a defective diet, which can never be separated in any bill of mortality from diseases owing to other causes. The nearest approximation, however, is to be found by deducting the average mortality from the increased mortality in any given year of scarcity. I think it extremely probable that M. de Humboldt has not adopted this method. He elsewhere states that the adjacent country of Prussia had, in 1802, on a population of nine millions, 232,109 deaths. If we take Mr. Pinkerton's estimate of the Saxon population, 2,104,000, say, however, 2,000,000, and assume a mortality for it proportionate to that of Prussia, we shall find the number of deaths 62,869. If, supposing then 66,000 the mortality of 1772, and 62,869 the average mortality, the increase by famine in 1772 would only be 3311. This is a much more likely number than the enormous one given by M. de Humboldt; but the fact can easily be ascertained. Trans. * See my Tableaux de la Nature, t. I. p. 62, 191, and 209.

[ocr errors]

vallies, where all the miasmata of the neighbouring regions appear to be deposited. In the kingdom of New Spain, at least within the last thirty or forty years, the labour of the mines is free; and there remains no trace of the mita, though a justly celebrated author * has advanced the contrary. No where does the lower people enjoy in greater security the fruit of their labours than in the mines of Mexico; no law forces the Indian to choose this species of labour, or to prefer one nine to another; and when he is displeased with the proprietor of the mine, he may offer his services to another master who may pay perhaps more regularly. These unquestionable facts are very little known in Europe. -The number of persons employed in subterraneous operations, who are divided into several classes (Baremadores, Faeneros, Tenałeros, Bareteros), does not exceed in the whole kingdom of New Spain 28 or 30,000. Hence there is not more than or of the whole population immediately employed in the mines. The mortality among the miners of Mexico is not much greater than what is observed among the other classes. We may easily be convinced of this by examining the bills of mortality in the different parishes of Guanaxuato and Zacatecas.

* Robertson, History of America, vol. ii. p. 373,

This is a phenomenon, so much the more remarkable, as the miner in several of these mines is exposed to a temperature 6° above the mean temperatures of Jamaica and Pondicherry”. I found the centigrade thermometer at 34°t at the bottom of the mine of Valenciana (en los planes), a perpendicular depth of 513 metres i, while at the mouth of the pit in the open air, the same thermometer sinks in winter to 4 or 5° S above 0. The Mexican miner is, consequently, exposed to a change of temperature of more than 30° || But this enormous heat of the Valenciana mine is not the effect of a great number of men and lights collected into a small space; it is much more owing to local and geological causes which we shall afterwards examine. It is curious to observe how the Mestizoes and Indians employed in carrying minerals on their back, who go by the name of senałeros, remain contiunally loaded for six hours with a weight of from 225 to 350 pounds, and constantly exposed to a very high temperature, ascending eight or ten times successively, without intermission, stairs of 1800 steps. The appearance of these robust and laborious men would have operated a change in the opinions of the Raynals and Pauws, and a

* Nearly 11° of Fahrenheit. Trans. + 93° of Fahrenheit. Trans. ; 1681 feet. Trans. § 39° or 41° of Fahrenheit. Trans.

| 54° of Fahrenheit. Trans.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »