« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
only in the protection of the monks of Saint Francis. Notwithstanding these disturbances, occasioned by the want of subsistence, the Court of Madrid did not think it necessary to increase the military force of New Spain. In those times, when the union was closer between the Mexican and European Spaniards, the suspicions of the Mother Country were solely directed against the Indians and mestizoes. The number of white creoles was so small, that on that very account they were generally induced to make a common cause with the Europeans. To that state of things we are to attribute the tranquillity of the Spanish Colonies, at the period when the possession of Spain was disputed by foreign princes, on the death of Charles the Second. The Mexicans, governed at that period, first by a descendant of Montezuma, and afterwards by an Archbishop of Mechoacan, remained tranquil spectators of the great struggle between the houses of France and Austria; the Colonies patiently followed the fortune of the Mother Country; and the successors of Philip the Fifth only began to dread the spirit of independence, which was manifested in New England in 1643", when a great confederation of free states was formed in North America.
* Robertson, vol. iv. p. 307.
These fears of the Court were still farther increased, when a few years before the peace of Versailles, Gabriel Condorcanqui, the son of the Cacique of Tongasuca, better known under the name of Tupac-Amaru, stirred up the Indians of Peru, to re-establish at Cuzco the antient empire of the Incas. This civil War, during which the Indians committed the most atrocious cruelties, lasted nearly two years; and if the Spaniards had lost the battle in the province of Tinta, the bold undertaking of Tupac-Amaru might have had fatal consequences, not only for the interests of the Mother Country, but perhaps also for the existence of all the whites settled on the table lands of the Cordilleras, and the neighbouring vallies. However extraordinary this event may have been, its causes were in no degree connected with the movements which the progress of civilization, and the desire of a free government, gave rise to in the English Colonies. Cut off from the rest of the world, and carrying on no commerce but with the ports of the Mother Country, Peru and Mexico did not then enter into the ideas which agitated the inhabitants of New England.
Within these twenty years, the Spanish and Portuguese settlements of the New Continent have experienced considerable changes in their moral and political state; and the want of instruction and information has begun to be felt with the increasing population and prosperity. 'The freedom of trade with neutrals, which the Court of Madrid, yielding to imperious circumstances, has from time to time granted to the Island of Cuba, the coast of Caracas, the ports of Vera Cruz and Monte Video, has brought the colonists into contact with the Anglo-Americans, the French, the English, and the Danes; the colonists have formed the most correct ideas respecting the state of Spain, compared with the other powers of Europe; and the American youth, sacrificing part of their national prejudices, have formed a marked predilection for those nations, whose cultivation is farther advanced than that of the European Spaniards. In these circumstances, we are not to be astonished, that the political movements \ which have taken place in Europe since 1789, have excited the liveliest interest among a people who have long been aspiring to rights, the privation of which is both an obstacle to the public prosperity, and a motive of resent\ ment against the Mother Country. This disposition of the minds of men, induced the viceroys and governors in some provinces to have recourse to measures, which, far from quieting the agitation of the Colonists, !combined to increase their discontent. The germ of revolt was believed to be discovered
in every association which had the public illumination for its object. The establishment of presses was prohibited in towns of forty and fifty thousand inhabitants; and peaceful citizens, who in a country retirement read in secret the works of Montesquieu, Robertson, or Rousseau, were considered as possessed of revolutionary ideas. When the war broke out between v France and Spain, unfortunate Frenchmen who had been settled in Mexico | for twenty and thirty years, were dragged to prison. One of them dreading a renewal of the barbarous spectacle of an auto-da-fe, put an end to his life in the prisons of the Inquisition; and his body was burned on the place of the Quemadero. At the same period, the government imagined they had discovered a conspiracy at Santa Fe, the capital of the kingdom of New Grenada; and individuals who had by the way of trade with Saint Domingo procured French journals, were thrown into chains. Young people of 16 years of age were put to the torture, to extort from them secrets of which they had no knowledge. In the midst of these agitations, magistrates of respectability, and it is pleasant to dwell on the circumstance, even Europeans, raised their voices against these acts of injustice and | violence. They represented to the court, that a distrustful policy merely irritated men's minds,
and that it was not by force, and by increasing the number of the troops composed of natives, but by governing with equity, by perfecting the social institutions, by granting the just
demands of the Colonists, that they might long hope to draw the ties closer between the Colonies
and the peninsula of Spain. These salutary advices were not followed; the colonial system of government underwent no reform; and in 1796, in a country where the progress of knowledge was favoured by frequent communications with the United States, and the foreign West India Colonies, a great revolutionary commotion very nearly annihilated, at a single blow, the Spanish domination. Don Josef España, a rich merchant of Caracas, and Don Manuel Wal, an officer of engineers, residing at Guayra, conceived the bold project of establishing the independence of the province of Venezuela, and uniting to it the provinces of New Andalusia, New Barcelona, Maracaybo, Coro, Varinas, and Guayana, under the name of the United States of South America." The consequences of this unsuccessful revolution are described by \ M. Depons, in his travels in Terra Firmat The confederates were arrested before the general insurrection could take place; España
* Las siete provincias unidas de la America meridional. + T. i. p. 228—233.