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progress in the country. We mean merely to speak of the different kinds of cultivation which an enlightened government might introduce with success; and we shall confine ourselves to. an examination of the indigenous productions, which at this moment furnish objects of exportation, and which form the principal basis of the Mexican agriculture.
Under the tropics, especially in the Westlndies, which have become the centre of the commercial activity of the Europeans, the word agriculture is understood in a very different sense from what it receives in Europe. When we hear at Jamaica or Cuba of the flourishing state of agriculture, this expression does not offer to the imagination the idea of harvests which serve for the nourishment of man, but of ground which produces objects of commercial exchange, and rude materials for manufacturing industry. Moreover, whatever be the riches or fertility of the country, the valley de los Guines, for example, to the south-east of the Havanah, one of the most delicious situations of the new world, we see only plains carefully planted with sugar-cane and coffee; and these plains are watered with the sweat of African slaves! Rural life loses its charms when it is inseparable from the aspect of the sufferings of our species.
But in the interior of Mexico, the word agriculture suggests ideas of a less afflicting nature. The Indian cultivator is poor, but he is free. His state is even greatly preferable to that of the peasantry in a great part of the north of Europe. There are neither corvees nor villanage in New Spain; and the number of slaves is next to nothing. Sugar is chiefly the produce of free hands. There the principal objects of agriculture are not the productions to which European luxury has assigned a variable and arbitrary value, but cereal gramina, nutritive roots, and the agave, the vine of the Indians. The appearance of the country proclaims to the traveller that the soil nourishes him who cultivates it, and that the true prosperity of the Mexican people neither depends on the accidents of foreign commerce, nor on the unruly politics of Europe.
Q80hose who only know the interior of the nish colonies from the vague and uncertain notions hitherto published will have some difficulty in believing that the principal sources of the Mexican riches are by no means the mines, but an agriculture which has been gradually ameliorating since the end of the last century. Without reflecting on the immense extent of the country, and especially the great number of provinces which appear totally destitute of precious metals, we generally imagine that all the activity of the Mexican population is directed to the working of mines. Because agriculture has made a very considerable progress in the capitania general of Caraccas, in the kingdom of Guatimala, the island of Cuba, and wherever the mountains are accounted poor in mineral productions, it has been inferred that it is to the working of the mines that we are to attribute the small care bestowed on the cultivation of the soil in other parts of the Spanish colonies. This reasoning is just when applied to small portions of territory. No doubt, in the provinces of Choco and Antioquia,and the coast of Barbacoas, the inhabitants are fonderof seeking for the goldwashed down in the brooks and ravins than of cultivating a virgin and fertile soil; and in the beginning of the conquest, the Spaniards who abandoned the peninsula or Canary Islands to settle in Peru and Mexico had no other view but the discovery of the precious metals. "Auri rabida sitis a cultura Hispanos divertit," says a writer of those times, Pedro Martyr*, in his work on the discovery of Yucatan and the colonization of the Antilles. But this reasoning cannot now explain why in countries of three or four times the extent of France agriculture is in a state of languor. The same physical and moral causes which fetter the progress of national industry in the Spanish colonies have been inimical to a better cultivation of the soil. It cannot be doubted that under improved social institutions the countries which most abound with mineral productions will be as well if not better cultivated than those in which no such productions are to be found. But the desire natural to man of simplifyingtlie causes of every thing has introduced into works of political economy a species of reasoning which is perpetuated, because it flatters the mental indolence of the multitude. The depopulation of Spanish America, the state of neglect in which the most fertile lands are found, and the want of manufacturing industry, are attributed to the metallic wealth, to the abundance of gold and silver; as, according to the same logic, all the evils of Spain are to be attributed to the discovery of America, or the wandering race of the merinos, or the religious intolerance of the clergy *!
We do not observe that agriculture is more neglected in Peru than in the province of Cum an a or Guayana, in which, however, there are no mines worked.\In Mexico the best cultivated fields, those which recall to the mind of the traveller the beautiful plains of France, are those which expend from Salamanca towards Silao, Guanaxuato, and the Villa de Leon, and which surround the richest mines of the known world. Wherever metallic seams have been discovered in the most uncultivated parts of the Cordilleras, on the insulated and desert table-lands, the working of mines, far from impeding the cultivation of the soil, has been singularly favourable to it. Travel- \ ling along the ridge of the Andes, or the mountainous part of Mexico, we every where see the , most striking examples of the beneficial influence, of the mines on agriculture. Were it not for the establishments formed for the working of the mines, how many places would have remained desert? how many districts uncultivated in the four intendancies of Guanaxuato, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and Durango, between the parallels of 21° and 25p, where the most considerable metallic wealth of New Spain is to be found? If the $own is placed on the arid side or the crest of the Cordilleras, the new colonists can only draw from a distance the means of their subsistence and the maintenance of the great number of cattle employed in drawing off the water, and raising and amalgamating the mineral produce?! Want s.oon awakens industry. The soil begins to be /cultivated in the ravins and declivities of the
* If all the evils of Spain are not to be attributed to the discovery of America, it has been proved by an acute political economist, M. Brougham, that Spain is one of the European nations, the state of which is least adapted for colonization, and in which the national capital and industry could in almost no way be more unprofitably employed. It is no less true that the merinos are a great obstacle to agricultural improvement, and that the intolerance of the clergy can contribute very little to the prosperity of the country. The author does not surely mean to say that they are not among the principal causes of the present state of Spain. That there are other causes in abundance every one at all acquainted with that country will have no difficulty in comprehending. Trans.