Page images

to Sonora. Sent on a commission to California, he profited by the serenity of the sky in that peninsula to make a great number of astronomical observations. He first observed there that in all the maps, for centuries, through an enormous error of longitude, this part of the new continent had always been marked several degrees farther west than it really was. When the Abbe Chappe, more celebrated for his courage and his zeal for the sciences than for the accuracy of his labours, arrived in California, he found the Mexican astronomer already established there. Velasquez had constructed for himself in Mimosa planks an observatory at St. Anne. Having already determined the position of this Indian village, he informed the Abbe Chappe that the moon’s eclipse on the 18th June, 1769, would be visible in California. The French astronomer doubted the truth of this assertion, till the eclipse actually took place. Velasquez by himself made a very good observation of the transit of Venus over the disk of the sun on the 3d June, 1769. He communicated the result, the very morning of the transit, to the Abbe Chappe, and to the Spanish. astronomers Don Vicente Doz, and Don Salvador de Medina. The French traveller was surprised at the harmony between the observation of Velasquez and his own. He was no doubt astonished to meet in California with a Mexican, who, without belonging to any academy, and without having ever left New Spain, was able to observe as well as the academicians. In 1773 Velasquez executed the great geodesical undertaking, of which we have given some of the results in the geographical introduction, and to which we shall again return in speaking of the drain of the lakes of the valley of Mexico. The most essential service which this indefatigable man rendered to his country was the establishment of the Tribunal and the School of Mines, the plans for which he presented to the court. He finished his laborious career on the 6th March, 1786, while first director-general of the Tribunal de Mineria, and enjoying the title of Alcalde del Corte honorario. After mentioning the labours of Alzate and Velasquez, it would be unjust to pass over the name of Gama, the friend and fellow labourer of the latter. Without fortune, and compelled to suppo to a numerous family by a troublesome and almost mechanical labour, unknown and neglected during his life by his fellow citizens”, who loaded him with eulogies after his death, Gama became by his own unassisted efforts an able and well informed astronomer. He published several memoirs on eclipses of the moon, on the satellites of Jupiter, on the almanac and chronology of the ancient Mexicans, and on the climate of New Spain; all of which announce a great precision of ideas and accuracy of observation. If I have allowed myself to enter into these details on the literary merit of three Mexican savans, it is merely for the sake of proving from their example, that the ignorance which European pride has thought proper to attach to the Creoles is neither the effect of the climate nor of a want of moral energy; but that this ignorance, where it is still observable, is solely the effect of the insulation, and the defects in the social instistutions of the colonies. If, in the present state of things, the cast of whites is the only one in which we find almost exclusively any thing like intellectual cultivation, it is also the only one which possesses great wealth. This wealth is unfortunately still more unequally

employed by the court to procure information as to the state

of the colonies. Their journey (visita) has generally no other effect than that of counterbalancing for some time the power of the viceroys and the audiencias, of receiving an infinity of memoirs, petitions, and projects, and of signalizing their stay by the introduction of some new impost. The people expect the arrival of the visitadores with the same impatienee which they afterwards display for their departure.

* The celebrated navigator Alexander Malaspina, during his stay at Mexico, observed along with Gama. He recommended him with much warmth to the court, as is proved by the official letters of Malaspina, preserved in the archives of the viceroy.



distributed in Mexico than in the capitania general of Caraccas, the Havanah, and especially Peru. At Caraccas, the heads of the richest families possess a revenue of 200,000 livres". In the island of Cuba we find revenues of more than 6 or 700,000 francsf. In these two industrious colonies agriculture has founded more considerable fortunes than has been accumulated by the working of the mines in Peru. At Lima an annual revenue of 80,000 francs is very uncommon f. I know in reality of no Peruvian family in the possession of a fixed and sure revenue of 130,000 francs $. But in New Spain there are individuals who possess no mines, whose revenue amounts to a million of francs ||. The family of the Count de la Valenciana, for example, possesses alone, on the ridge of the Cordillera, a property worth more than 25 millions of francs's, without including the mine of Valenciana near Guanaxuato, which, communibus annis, yields a nett revenue of a million and a half of livres **. This family, of which the present head, the young Count de Valenciana, is distinguished for a generous character and a noble desire of instruction, is only divided into three branches; and they possess altogether, even in years when the mine is not very lucrative, more than 2,200,000 francs of revenue”. The Count de Regla, whose youngest son, the Marquis de San Christobal f, distinguished himself at Paris for his physical and physiological knowledge, constructed at the Havanah, at his own expence, in acajou and cedar (cedrella) wood, two vessels of the line of the largest size, which he made a present of to his sovereign. It was the seam of la Biscaina, near Pachuca, which laid the foundation of the fortune of the house of Regla. The family of Fagoaga, well known for its beneficence, intelligence, and zeal for the public good, exhibits the example of the greatest wealth which was ever derived from a mine. A single seam which the family of the Marquis of Fagoaga possesses in the district of Sombrerete left in five or six months, all charges deducted, a nett profit of 20 millions of francsi.

* 83341. sterling. Trans. t 25,002). or 29, 1691, sterling. Trans. + 3333l. sterling. Trans. § 53171, sterling. Trans. || 41,070l. sterling. Trans. T 1,041,750l sterling. Trans. ** 62,595l. sterling. Trans.

From these data one would suppose capitals in the Mexican families infinitely greater than what are really observed. The deceased Count de la

* 91,6741. sterling. Trans.

+ M. Terreros (this is the name by which this modest sawant is known in France) preferred for a long time the instruction which his abode at Paris enabled him to procure, to the great fortune which he could only enjoy living in Mexico.

# 833,400l. sterling. Trans.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »