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Configuration of the coast.—Points where the two seas are least distant from one another—General considerations on the possibility of unting 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 Gualaga-Gulf of St. George.
The 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 Ricer of the province of seras (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 Merico an oblique distance of 2° 40′ 19", (or 155885 toises"); from Mexico to Vera Cruz 2° 57' 9" (or 158572 toises;); 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 maps are most faulty. From the observations published by M. de Cassini, in the account of the voyage of Chappe, the distance from Mexico to Vera Cruz appears 5° 10' of longitude, instead of 2° 5'', 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 Depot drawn up in 1, 84, 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 l'era Cruz, 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 Huasactist/co and Chimalapa scems to favour the project of a canal for in erior navigation ; a project with which the Count of Revillagigedo, one of the most zealous vice, oys for the public good, has been for a long time occupied. When we come to speak of the intendancy of Oaxaca, we shall return to this object, so important to all civilized Europe. We must confine ourselves 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 the New Continent, profiting by the misfortunes and perpetual dissentions of Europe, advances rapidly towards civilization; 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 gommerce", 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 them merits the preference. Before this examina. tion, exact materials for which are not yet collected, it would be imprudent to cut canals in the isthmuses of Guasacualco 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 dischárges 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 voyager 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 separates 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 great elevation. To avoid the great win ing of the Colombia, another communication still shorter might be opened from the sources of the Tacousche Tesse to the Salmon river, the mouth of which is to the east of the Princess Royal Islands, in the 52° 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 extremities of the rivers, would get possession of the whole fur trade of North America, from the 48° of latitude to the pole, excepting a part of the coast which has been long in loded in Russian America. Canada, from the multitude and course of its rivers, presents facilities 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 is abundance covered with superb timber It must be allowed, how ever, that notwithstanding the examination by Mr. Broughton, we still know but a very small part of Colombia, wiich, like the Sever, and the Thames, appears of a disproportionate contraction
* 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.
* If it be true that this chain of mountains enters the region of perpetual snow (Mackenzie, vol. III, p. 33.1), their absolute height should be at least from 1900 to 1 100 toises (from 6400 to 70.40 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.