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for the crews of fishing vessels to form connections with the inhabitants, for the sale of English goods, and to take in ladings of copper, Peruvian sheep, quinquina, sugar, and cocoa. This contraband trade, is carried on between persons who do not speak the same language, frequently by signs, and with a fidelity very uncommon among the most polished people of Europe.
It would he superfluous to enumerate the advantages the inhabitants of the Spanish colonies would possess over the English and the people of the United States, if they were to enter upon the cachalot fishery. From Guayaquil and Panama the parallels where this fish abounds, is not more than a voyage of ten or twelve days. The navigation from San Blas to the Marias islands, is hardly 36 hours. The Spanish Mexicans employed in this fishery would have a shorter passage by 4000 leagues than the Anglo-Americans; they could be supplied with provisions at a cheaper rate; and they would every where find ports where they would be received as friends, and supplied with fresh provisions. It is true the spermaceti is not yet in great request on the continent of of Spanish America. The clergy persist in confounding adipocire with tallow, and the American bishops have declared that the ta
pers which burn , on the altars, can only be made of bee-wax. At Lima, however, they have. begun to deceive the vigilance of the bishops, by mixing a little spermaceti with the wax. The merchants purchasing English prizes, had it in great quantities, and the adipocire employed in church festivals, is become a new branch of very lucrative commerce..
It is not the want of hands which prevents the inhabitants of Mexico from apply. ing to the cachalot fishery. Two hundred men are sufficient to man ten fishing ves- · sels, and to procure annually, more than a thousand tons of spermaceti; and this substance might in time, become as important an article of exportation, as the cocoa of Guayaquil, and the copper of Coquimbo. In the present state of the Spanish colonies, the sloth of the inhabitants is inimical to the execution of similar projects; and it would be impossible to procure sai. lors willing to embr&ce so rude a business and so miserable a life, as that of a cachalot fisher. How could they be found in a country, where aècording to the ideas of the common people, all that is necessary to happiness, is bananas, salted flesh, a hammock, and a guitar? The hope of gain is too weak a stimulus, under a zone, where
beneficent nature provides to man a thousand means of procuring an easy and peaceful existence without quitting his country, and without struggling with the monsters of the ocean.
For a long time, the Spanish government has looked with an evil eye on the cachalot fishery, which draws the English and Anglo Americans* to the coast of Peru and Mexico. Before the establishment of that fishery, the inhabitants of the western coast of America, had never seen any other flag in those seas, than the Spanish. Political reasons might have engaged the mother country to spare nothing for the encouragement of the national fisheries, not so much perhaps with a view of a direct profit, as for the sake of excluding strangers, and preventing their connections with the natives. The privileges which they granted to a company residing in Europe, and which has merely existed by name, could not give the first impulse to the Mexicans and Peruvians.
* According to official information, which I owe to M. Gallatin, Treasurer to the United States, there were in the South Sea, in 1800, 1801, and 1802, from 18 to 20 whalers (from 2800 to 3200 tons) of the United States. A third of these vessels are fitted out annually from the port of Nantucket. In 1805, the importation of spermaceti into that port, amounted to 1146 barrels.
The fishing vessels ought to be fitted out in America itself, at Guayaquil, Panama, or San Blas. There is constantly on that coast a certain number of English sailors, who have abandoned the fishing vessels, either through discontent or for the purpose of pushing their fortunes in the Spanish colonies. The first expedition might be made by mixing those sailors, who have had long experience in the cachalot fishery, with the zambos of America, who are not afraid of singly attacking a crocodile.
We have thus examined in this chapter the true national wealth of Mexico; for the produce of the earth is in fact the sole basis of permanent opulence. It is consolatory to see that the labour of man for half a century, has been more directed towards this fertile and inexhaustible source, than towards the working of mines, of which the wealth has not so direct an influence on the public prosperity, and merely changes the nominal value of the annual produce of the earth. The territorial impost levied by the clergy, under the name of tenth, or tithe, measures the quantity of that produce, and indicates with precision, the progress of agricultural industry, if we compare the periods, in the intervals of
which the price of commodities has undergone no sensible variation. The following is a view of the value of these tithes*. Taking for example two series of years, from 1771 to 1780 and from 1780 to 1789.
The result of this view is, that the tithes of New Spain, have amounted in these six dioceses,
* I have extracted this view from a manuscript memoir of M. Maniao, drawn up from official papers, and bearing the title of Estado de la Renta de Real Hacienda de Nueva España, en un año commun del quinquenio de 1784 hasta 1789. The numbers in this view differ a little from those published by M. Pinkerton (vol. iii. p. 234) from the work of Estalla, which I have never yet been able to procure.
+ £2,880,441 sterling. Trans. I £4,015,219 sterling. Trans.