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ON SOUTH AMERICAN AFFAIRS,
BY AN AMERICAN,
TO JAMES MONROE, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
“More powerful each, as needful to the rest,
SIR-The discovery of America, the separation of the British colonies, and the present struggle for independence in the colonies of Spain, are three of the inost interesting occurrences of the last thousand years. Columbus, in search of a passage which would change the track of eastern commerce, discovered a new world, possessing greater riches than the east, and capable of sustaining a population nearly equal to all the rest of the globe. Ale though disappointed in one object, he succeeded in opening sources of wealth to Europe, which have changed its condition for the better, in every department of life. The discovery of America enabled Europe to reach a point of improvement, which she could not otherwise have arrived at for centuries, if at all. Those who followed Columbus, with little or no scruple, appropriated to themselves whatever was found in the newly discovered countries, peaceably sometimes, but in most instances, by violence and cruelty. The inhabitants of America, in some districts numerous and far advanced in civilization, were regarded by the Spaniards with little
more respect than the wild beasts of the forest. They were destroyed without pity, their possessions were seized without compunction, and all the principles of humanity and justice, violated without remorse.
The superior skill of the Europeans in the arts, derived from the use of letters, which preserve the discoveries of the ingenious, and enable the human mind to advance towards perfection, necessarily placed the unfortunate Americans in the power of their invaders. The first discovery of America, and the subsequent encroachments, were alike the acts of enterprising individuals, although their respective sovereigns were careful to come in for the lion's share. As to those portions of America where vast regions lay waste, (for the possession as hunting grounds by a few wandering tribes, could scarcely be considered an appropriation of the soil,) the laws of God and nature might justify other members of the human family in taking a sufficient portion of the common inheritance, for their subsistence. This was the case with respect to the country now possessed by us, who, as the first of the colonies in forming an independent government, have become peculiarly entitled to the appellation of AMERICANS. Our conquests were principally over the asperites of the climate and the earth; the axe and the plough were the weapons with which they were effected. If the natives have been sufferers we are not te blame; the hunter cannot subsist by the side of the cultivator; the wild animals, which furnish him subsistence, fy the fixed habitations of man. As in the natural progressive stages of society, so in relative position or vicinity, there must be a separation between these two states of human existence. The hunter and the cultivator could not be neighbors; the hunter, therefore, retired, and our settlements advanced.
In other parts of the continent, the natives were far beyond the hunter state. Although unacquainted with letters, they were not barbarous. They had made no inconsiderable progress in the arts; they had their fixed seats or cities, vying in population with those of Europe or Asia. Their agricultural advancement was that of a civilized people, and they had learned, unfortunately for them, to bestow a factitious value upon those metals, which in the old world, were regarded as the representatives of wealth, and used as the medium of commerce, Such was the situation of Mexico, Peru, and
of Santa Fee de Bogota. These unhappy people were assailed by the Spaniards with a barbarous cupidity. The assailants were a few audacious and lawless persons; but they received the approbation of the sovereign, who came in when all was quieted, for the larger share of the spoil. The sovereign took possession of these countries by RIGHT OF CONQUEST, and even after the enterprising and indus. trious of his own subjects had formed settlements and built cities, the privilege of conquest was never abandoned.
From the discovery until the present day, the sovereigns of Spain and their European subjects, had but one thing in view; to draw the greatest possible advantage from the colonies, without regard to their prosperity. What sums have they not furnished to be spent abroad, or rather squandered in wars and in the extravagance of courtsi Their advancement, farther than this object was answered, was regarded with indifference. Their misery and wretchedness, would have been preferred, if by that means the rapacity of the oppressor would have been more fully gratified They were, in fact, regarded as mere appendages, very useful and convenient, but forming no part of the body politic, and therefore incapable of communicating a single sensation.
The policy pursued by the different European states towards the colonies, received a tinge from their peculiar characters, unavoidably influenced by the peculiar situation and nature of the colony itself, keeping always in view the sole advantage of the European sovereignty, no matter how injurious it might be to the colony. The Spaniards, for instance, found some districts abundant in the precious metals, here every pursuit was discouraged, and even forbidden, not necessarily connected with the working of the mines. Here neither agriculture, manufactures, commerce, nor even considerable population was of much importance; and when they attained a stinted growth, it was in despite of the general policy. The mine districts have been condemned at once to barrenness and poverty, more through the policy of the sovereign than by nature. If permitted to profit by their rational advantages, they would prosper even if the soil should be barren, by exchanging for things more necessary. But regarding solely the Spanish interests, these districts have been closed like caverns where the light of day is not seen.* And to what end is this? These riches must be trans
• It may be a question, what right a nation, who enjoys a free intercourse with all others, has to preclude all others from a free egress into her territories?
ported abroad to gratify the idle debauchery of a court, and reluctantly to benefit the unshackled industry of neighboring nations. This selfishness appeared in every thing; when the colonies could procure what was barely sufficient to exchange for the commodities which the crown permitted to be furnished them, by those of her subjects, or even the subjects of other nations, to whom she sold the privilege; all further advancement was deemed unnecessary and therefore checked, lest they might cease to want those articles, mostly of the first necessity, which the crown was desirous of supplying. Agriculture in some districts was permitted to grow to a certain extent; manufactures were every where forbidden, and in some places only tolerated from necessity; commerce was placed under such restrictions, as to enable it merely to wither. This is the reason why countries which have been settled so many hundred years, are still so thinly inhabited. What would have been the condition of South America at this moment, if her growth had not been checked by bonds and chains Horses, cattle, and sheep, in South America, have increased without number, but with too much truth it might be said,
“Man is the only plant that dwindled there."
Not indeed in his mental faculties, but in numbers; for the aggregate population in Spanish America, has notoriously decreased.
The portions of Spanish America that have been cursed, or blessed, just as one may choose to consider it, with mines, is not such as to circumscribe their pursuits. The inhabitants in general, might gain their living by the cultivation of the soil, and the preparation of articles of commerce. But unhappily, they are cultivators without a market; and have fallen back into the shepherd life, the second stage of civilization. To countries on which nature has showered her choicest gifts, it is not surprising that thousands of European Spaniards should be enticed, and it is natural to suppose, that population without some check would rapidly increase. To hold out encouragement to emigration was necessary; Spain, without fear of crippling her colonies, could impose such burthens as would at the same time, retard their
procure a present supply. These burthens were to be increased with the growth of the colonies. This might be practised with a foresight of the future strength of the colonies, and the fear of their revolt. Most probably it proceeded from her insatiate avarice.
Jealousy, which has generally been regarded as the characteristic of the Spaniard, had some share in imposing the restrictions, and establishing the seclusion from the rest of the world, which has converted the country of the Spanish colonist into a prison, guarded with as much vigilance as the seraglio of an eastern despot. Foreigners have been excluded from intercourse with the colonies, for the same reason that every species of industry and enterprise on their part was forbidden, wherever there was an opportunity on the part of the crown to sell a privilege, or turn pedlar itself, and supply the subject at the most extortionate prices.* We shall be asked of what use would colonies be without these advantages? I ask in turn, what men, possessed of sufficient strength, would submit to be colonists on such terms? It is not surprising that the British colonies, so much later in their establishment, and in a soil and climate so inferior, should have so far outstripped those of Spain.
The British colonies were established under more happy auspices. The spirit of liberty had been fostered by several important occurrences. The human mind had been unchained by the reformation; and the frequent resistance to the exertion of absolute power in the sovereign, had produced such an acknowledg. ment of many of the essential rights of man, in such a permanent form, as to be easily appealed to. Numerous safeguards of liberty had been established. The colonists carried with them the seeds of liberty which they transplanted in a more congenial soil, where they could grow up without being overshadowed by kings and nobles. THE COLONISTS WERE THE FREEST OF THE FREE. The habit of reducing rights to a permanent and tangible record, had given rise to the various charters under which the different colonies were established.t They were permitted to overcome the first difficulties, inseparable from their situation, with little or no assistance; the Indian nations who opposed their settlements, were subdued; the lands were cultivated, and cities began to rise on the shores of the Atlantic. The colonial trade in a short time, gave
The numerous royal monopolies, tobacco, salt, quicksilver, playing cards, &c. are well known.
+ We could not be said to be contending to gain our liberties we were already free. The South Americans in their country, are endeavoring to rise from a state of degradation to one of freedom. VOL. II.