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CHAPTER II.

Configuration of the coast.-Points where the two seas are least

distant from one another.-General considerations on the pose sibility of uniting the South Sea and Atlantic Ocean.-Rivers of Peace and Tacoutche-Tesse. Sources of the Rio Bravo and Rio Colorado.-Isthmus of Tehuantepec.-Lake of Nicaragua.--Isthmus of Panama.-Bay of Cupica.---Canal of Choco.-Rio Guallaga.--Gulf of St. George.

Tue kingdom of New Spain, the most northern part of all Spanish America, extends from the 16th to the 38th degree of latitude. The length of this vast region in the direction of S.S.E. to N.N. W. is nearly 270 myriametres (or 610 common leagues) ; its greatest breadth is under the parallel of the 30th degree. From the Red River of the province of leras (Rio-Colorado) to the isle of Tiburon, on the coast of the intendancy of Sonora, the breadth from east to west is 160 myriametres (or 364 leagues).

The part of Mexico in which the two oceans, the Atlantic and the South-Sea, approach the nearest to one another, is unfortunately not that part which contains the two ports of Acapulco and Vera Cruz, and the capital of Mexico. There are, according to my astronomical observations, from Acapulco to Mexico an oblique distance of

2° 40' 19", (or 155385 toises*); fiom Vexico to Vera Cruz 2° 57' 9" (or 158572 toisest); and from the port of Acapulco to the port of Vera Cruz, in a direct line, 4° 10'7". It is in these distances that the old map, are most faulty. From the observations published by M. de Cussini, in the account of the voyage of Chappe, the distance from Mexico to Vera Cruz appears 5° 10' of longitude, instead of 2° 57', the real distance between these two great cities. In adopting for Vera Cruz the longitude given by Chappe, and for Acapulco that of the map of the Depót drawn up in 1784, the breadth of the Mexican isthmus betwixt the two ports would be 175 leagues, 75 leagues beyond the truth.

The isthmus of Tehuantepec, to the S. E. of the port of Veru Crus, is the point of New Spain in which the continent is narrowest. From the Atlantic Ocean to the South-Sea the distance is 45 leagues. The approximation of the sources of the rivers Hundsaclialco and Chimalepa scems to favour the project of a cinal for in:erior naviga. tion ; a project with which the Count of Revillagigedo, one of the most zealous viceroys for the public good, has been for a long time occupied. When we come to spe k of the intendancy of Oaxaca, we shall return to this object, so important to all civilized Europe. We must confine our

* 997664 feet. Trans.

+ 1014800 feet. Trans.

selves here to the problem of the communication between the two seas, in all the generality of which it is susceptible. We shall present in one view nine points, several of which are not sufficiently known in Europe, and all offer a greater or less probability either of canals or interior river communications. At a time when ihe New Continent, profiting by the misfortunes and perpetual dissentions of Europe, advances rapidly towards civil. ization; and when the commerce of China, and the north-west coast of America, becomes yearly of greater importance, the subject which we here summarily discuss is of the greatest interest for the balance of commerce*, and the political preponderancy of nations.

These nine points, which at different times have fixed the attention of statesmen and merchants in the colonies, present very different advantages. We shall range them according to their geographical position, beginning with the most northern part of the New Continent, and following the coasts to the south of the island of Chiloe. It can only be after having examined all the projects hitherto formed for the communication of the two seas, that the government can decide which of

* It may be necessary to inform the reader, that he is indebted for this term, at present in some sort of disrepute from the proscription of political economists, however much the idea may

still haunt the wise heads of our commercial men, to the author and not to me. Trans.

then merits the preference. Before this examination, exact materials for which are not yet collected, it would be imprudent to cut canals in the isthmuses of Guusacualco or Panama.

1. Under the 54° 37' of north latitude, in the parallel of Queen Charlotte's Island, the sources of the river of Peace, or Ounigigah, approach to within seven leagues of the sources of the Tacoutche Tesse, supposed the same with the river of Colombia. The first of these rivers discharges itself into the Northern Ocean, after having mingled its waters with those of the Slave Lake, and the river Mackenzie. The second river, Colombia, enters the Pacific Ocean, near Cape Disappointment, to the south of Nootka Sound, according to the celebrated yoyagır Vancouver, under the 46° 19' of latitude. The Cordillera, or chain of the stony mountains, abounding in coal, was found by M. Fiedler to be elevated in some places 3520 English feet", or 550 toises above the neighbouring plains. It se

* If it be true that this chain of mountains enters the region of perpetual snow (Mackenzie, vol. III. p. 331), their absolute height should be at least from 1000 to 1100 toises (from 6490 to 7010 English feet); from whence it would follow, either that the neighbouring plains, on which M. Fiedler was stationed to establish his measurements, are elevated from 450 to 550 toises above the level of the sea, or that the summits, of which this traveller indicates the height, are not the most elevated of the chain crossed by Mackenzie.

parates the sources of the rivers of Peace and Colombia. According to Mackenzie's account, who passed this Cordillera in the month of August, 1793, it is practicable enough for carri ges, and the mountains appear of no very grat elevation. To avoid the great win ing of the Colombia, another communication still shorter might be opened from the sources of the Tacourche Tesse to the Salmon river, the mouth of which is to the east of the Princess Royal Islands, in the 51° 26' of latitude. Mackenzie rightly observes, that the government which should open this communication between the two oceans, by forming regular establishments in the interior of the country, and at the extrem ties of the rivers, would get possession of the whole fur trade of North ,!merica, from the 48° of latitude to tlie pole, excepting a part of the coast which has been long in 1 ded in Russian America Canada, from the multitude and course of its rivers, pre-ents facilitie, for internal commerce similar to those of Oriental Siberia. The mouth of the river Colombia seems to invite Europeans to found a fine colony there ; for its banks afford fertile land i, abundance covered with superb timber It must be allowed, however, that notwithstanding the examination by Mr. Broughton, we still know but a very small part of Colombia, wiich, like the Serern anu the Thames, appears of a disproportionate contraction

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