Page images

Art. XXVI.-Message from the President of the United States,

transmitting, in pursuance of a resolution of the House of Representatives of the 30th January last, communications from the Agents of the United States with the Governments south of the United States, which have declared their independence, and the communications from the Agents of such Governments, in the United States, with the Secretary of State, as tend to show the political condition of their Governments, and the state of the war between them and Spain. March 8, 1822. The late recommendation to congress to recognize the independence of those portions of South America, which have thrown off the colonial yoke, and the unanimous report of the committee of foreign relations, in the house of representatives, in favor of such a measure, will furnish the justification of the present article. It is no part of our purpose to discuss the political expediency of the measure; partly as the public mind, we apprehend, is in a good measure made up on the point, and still more as this subject will meet a singular fortune, if it be not discussed, at least to the true extent of its merits, in another quarter. We have too much conscience to add another to the harangues, which will be drawn forth from the public spirited gentlemen, who think it their duty to favor congress with their speculations on all subjects, and at the same length, and who, sometimes with a garrulous familiarity, do not scruple to force on congress the details of their private feelings and personal concerns, as the same may happen to be excited or affected, by public measures. Leaving, therefore, the discussion of the political question to the gentlemen so heartily disposed to engage in it, and granting that this is a subject more worthy of grave and deliberate discussion, than almost any which could come before congress, we shall proceed to lay before our readers a few statistical and economical statements, which may assist them in forming an opinion of its practical importance.

We shall suppose our readers to be acquainted with the general train of events in South America, and the general result of a long series of struggles and revolutions, of which the various details, as they have from time to time appeared in our newspapers, have, singly taken, been too obscure and insignificant to arrest general notice, though the impression left by the whole on the minds of the American public has, we think,

been unfavorable to the discretion with which the revolutionary movements in South Amerca have been conducted. Had the mother countries been in a condition to oppose a prompt and well organized resistance, it is highly probable that the efforts to throw off the colonial yoke would have been wholly ineffectual ; unless we suppose, indeed, what might also have well happened, that a more formidable manifestation of royal authority would have had the effect of producing greater concentration and energy in the republican counsels. Whatever may be thought of this, in the last two or three years great strides have been made toward effective independence. The fine provinces of Venezuela and New-Grenada having separately declared their independence, and pursued with various fortunes the war against the royal armies, are now united into one state, under the name of the Republic of Colombia, with one of the most distinguished of the South American chieftains, Bolivar, at its head. The fundamental act of their constitution adopted at Venezuela, December 17, 1819, is among the documents accompanying the message of the president, alluded to above. The Spanish armies are wholly excluded from the territory of Colombia, with the single exception of the garrisons of Porto Cabello and Panama. The provinces of Buenos Ayres, on whose politics we made some remarks in our number for April last, in connexion with our notice of the history of those provinces by Dean Funes, have had no obstacles in the way of their independence to contend with since 1810, save those, which have grown out of their own factions. They formally declared their independence in 1816; and the view presented in the letters of Mr Forbes to the secretary of state of the condition of this republic, under the judicious ministry of Mr Rivadavia, is more favorable than any thing which has been known of them, since the revolutionary contests began. Chili declared its independence in 1818, and has sustained itself against the feeble attempts of the royal power. The late destruction of the remnants of the royal force at Callao completes the independence of Peru; and the events which have transpired in Mexico, and of which curious details are contained in the documents accompanying the President's Message, seem to establish the independence also of that mighty region.

To assist our readers in pursuing the train of the discussions to which the measure proposed by the president may lead, we

propose to devote a few pages to some notices of the extent and importance of the Spanish possessions in South America; which, though they are to be found abundantly scattered in several works, particularly the invaluable one of Humboldt, and in a more condensed form in the work of Capt. Bonnycastle,* are less familiar perhaps than they ought to be to the American public.

According to the statement of Don Josef de Moraleda, examined in manuscript by M. de Humboldt, in the archives of the viceroy of Lima,t the southernmost point of the Spanish possessions in South America is the fort Maullin, near the small village of Carelmapu, upon the coast of Chili, opposite the northern extremity of the island of Chiloe. This point is in 41° 43' south latitude. The northernmost point of the Spanish possessions is the mission of San Francisco on the coast of New California, seven leagues north-west of Santa Cruz, in the latitude of 37° 48' north. The Spanish dominions, therefore, extended a distance of seventy-nine degrees of Jatitude ; exceeding the dimensions of the British possessions in India, or even of the Russian empire, and giving to the Spanish language a use more extensive, than that which is possessed by any other national tongue. Throughout this whole extent, says Humboldt, under the wise administration of the count Florida Blanca, a regular post was established, for communication from the borders of Paraguay to the northwest coast of North America ; so that a monk at the mission of the Guarani Indians might carry on a correspondence with a missionary of New Mexico, by a rout almost without interruption, through the continental possessions of Spain in America.' We shall better understand this vast extent of territory, by considering that, from the southern point of Florida to the northern boundary of the United States, are but about twentyfive degrees of latitude ; not the third of the extent on the meridian of the Spanish dominions.

These vast dominions, under the Spanish administration, were divided into nine great governments, which might be considered as independent of each other. These governments

* Spanish America, or a descriptive, historical, and geographical account of the dominions of Spain, in the western hemisphere, continental and insular; by R. H. Bonnycastle, captain in the corps of royal engineers. Two vols. 8vo. London, 1918.

+ See note A, at the close of the second volume of the Essai Politique sur le Royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne, constituting the third part of the great work of M. de Humboldt.

were four of them styled vice royalties, and five of them general captaincies (capitanias generales.) The vice royalties were those of Buenos Ayres, Peru, New Grenada, and Mexico, and the captaincies those of Chili, Guatimala, Porto Rico, Caraccas, and Havana. To the latter was attached the region of Florida, before it was ceded to the United States.

Of these several governments, that of Mexico is unquestionably the most important. When we consider, indeed, the wonderful natural features of the whole of Spanish America, the unequalled magnitude of the rivers, and the stupendous heights of the mountains, the variety of climates in this vast range of latitudes, and the richness of the vegetable and mineral kingdoms, we shall perhaps think it but justice to assert the first rank among the countries of the earth for this region. Several circumstances, however, unite to render New Spain the most important of these governments; and it is therefore to this portion of them that the remainder of our remarks will be principally limited, not only on account of its superior importance, but because, from various local causes, this quarter is the least known to the North American public. The superior population, the number of great cities, and their proximity to each other, the vast amount of the precious metals, and their influence on the commerce of the world, together with the favorable position of its ports both for European and Asiatic trade, seem to confer on Mexico or New Spain the right to this preeminence.

The appellation of New Spain, in its full extent, is applied to the region subject to the viceroy of Mexico, and extending from the 38th° of north latitude to the 10th of south. In these limits, it would include the captaincy of Guatimala, which, however, in point of actual administration, is independent of the viceroy of Mexico, and for its fertility and population may be advantageously compared with the most valuable portions of Spanish America. The greatest dimensions of New Spain, exclusive of Guatimala, are in length about 1800 miles, and in breadth about 1100. The isthmus, which unites the two great portions of the American continent, is so extremely narrow, that the project of an artificial junction of the Atlantic and Pacific has often been seriously agitated. It is unfortunate that the narrowest portion of the isthmus is not in that region, which, on account of the ports of Acapulco and Vera Cruz, and the city of Mexico, is of most importance, in a

political and commercial view. In the geograpbical introduction to his work on New Spain, M. de Humboldt has enumerated nine different places where the waters which flow into the Atlantic, might possibly be connected with those which flow into the Pacific. For the northernmost of these, M. de Humboldt goes as far as the Ungijah, or Peace river, in 54° 37' north latitude, and for the southernmost to a supposed communication between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in Patagonia, seven degrees north of the straits of Magellan, which was the object of a Spanish expedition of discovery in 1790. The sixth of these points, viz. the small port and bay Cupica to the south-east of Panama, appears to be the spot most favorable, in the opinion of M. de Humboldt, to the project of a canal from ocean to ocean. From the bay of Cupica there is a passage of only fifteen or eighteen miles over a country quite level and suited to a canal, to the head of navigation of the river Naipi, which flows into the river Atrato, which in its turn empties into the Atlantic. M. de Humboldt gives to Gogueneche, a Biscayan pilot, the credit of having first turned the attention of the Spanish government to this point, which the same intelligent traveller says should be regarded as the Suez of America ;-as being almost the only spot, where the chain of the Andes is completely interrupted, and a canal thus made practicable. When we cast our eyes on the gigantic communication between the Atlantic and the western lakes, so near being opened, by the unaided enterprize of one of our sister states, we may rejoice that this favorable point falls within the territorial limits of the republic of Colombia, which perhaps of all the revolutionary states of Spanish America, is that which has started in the career of independence, with the best auspices. Before passing from the subject of a communication between the oceans, we would observe, as a curious circumstance, that such a communication, to a very limited degree indeed, has already been opened by the art of man. It is the seventh of the points indicated by M. de Humboldt. In the interior of the province of Choco, says he, the little ravine de la Raspadura unites the neighboring sources of the Rio de Noanama, called also Rio San Juan, and of the little river of Quito. This last united to the Rio Andageda and the Rio Zitara forms the Rio d' Atrato, which flows into the Atlantic, while the San Juan descends to the Southern ocean. An enterprising monk, curate of the

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »