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IMPORTANCE OF SPANISH AMERICA-REMARKS ON THE POPULA•
TION-STATE OF LEARNING AND INFORMATION-SPANISH CO-
No nation was ever possessed of an empire so vast as that of Spain in America. South America alone is probably equal in importance to the rest of the habitable globe. Its geographical surface, is less than that of Africa, but when we consider how trifling a portion of that continent is capable of sustaining · human life, how bad its climate, and how deficient in rivers, the veins and arteries of the earth, it sinks in the scale, far below the new world. Much of Europe is given up to excessive cold; and of Asia, immense portions are barren and uninhabitable. Internal seas, lakes, and marshes, occupy a much greater proportion than in New Spain, or South America. The steppes, or grassy plains of Asia, are of much greater extent than those of the American continent. The plains of New Spain are better supplied with water, and consequently more fertile; the pampas of La Plata, it is true wear a more unpromising appearance; but I am inclined to think, that when they shall be
come better known, they will not be found so bad as they are present supposed to be. They have ad. vantages of climate and soil, which place them far above the immense steppes in the north of Asia. But that part of Soutb America, which by some has been called Amazonia, from the wonderful river by wbich it is watered, with its numerous branches, indicating the fertility of the soil they traverse, has nothing equalling it in any other quarter of the world. The imagination is lost in contemplating the future desti. py of this immense region, still inhabited by bundreds of unknown tribes, and where the labour and enterprize of civilized man, will have full scope for many centuries to come.
The countries watered by the Amazon, the Parana, the great rivers of Brazil, the Rio Negro of Patagonia, and by tbe Orinoko, may be regarded as still in a state of nature. In North America, the interior of Guatimala is yet scarcely known. Honduras, and Yukatan, may be considered as uninhabited forests. The seats of civilization in South America, are but specks on its rast surface; and even these, (with the exception of a few districts,) scarcely contain a bundredth part of the population they are able to support. The whole south American population has been estimated at nineteen millions; it probably does not exceed that of the island of Great Britain; while the mildness of the American climate, and the fertility of its soil, are such, as to enable ten times the number of people to exist, on a given space of the same extent. An estimate of the capacity of South America for the subsistence of population, would be a subject of curious speculation. It would not be bazardous to assert,
that if all the present inhabitants of Europe and Asia could be transported to America, its fruitful bosom could furnish means of subsistence for them all The whole of the Spanish possessions may be said to enjoy a temperate climate; lying between thirty-eight degrees north, and fifty-four degrees south, they never experience extreme cold; and between the tropics, even under the equator, the heats are not greater than in some of the temperate climates of Europe *
The position of South America as relates to the United States, to Europe, Africa, and Asia, hold out the most singular advantages for commerce. When the commerce of the east, comes to receive that direction which seems to be pointed out by nature, through the Carribean sea and the gulf of Mexico, America will then be the acknowledged centre of the earth. There are scarcely any of the vegetable, or animal productions of the other parts of the world, which may not be easily naturalized here, not to speak of a variety found no where else. Of the pre- . cious metals, America may be considered the treasury of all civilized nations;t and, therefore, as possessing the power to regulate their activity and enterprize. In spices, gums, and in articles useful in the materia medica, she equals, if not surpasses, the East Indies.
* The climate of Rio Janeiro has been compared by an English writer to that of Naples. During the time we were in South America, we experienced at no time so great a degree of heat, as that which we felt in the month of July near Norfolk, on our return.
† The quantity of gold and silver annually sent by the new continent into Europe, amounts to more than nine-tenths of the whole mines in the known world." The Spanish colonies for example,
It is probable, the time will come, when the attraction which has so long drawn the nations of Europe to China and Hindostan, will be much diminished. In time, almost every thing that the earth can produce, will be found in America.
All the commercial nations of Europe, have mani. fested at different periods, a desire to obtain a foothold in South America. The attempts of the Dutch to wrest the Brazils from the Portuguese, gave rise to one of the most bloody wars ever known on this side of the Atlantic. The English never lost sight of their covetous designs on the new world. Although in a great measure, masters of its commerce, they were also ambitious of being master of its soil. Scarcely any part of South America, has escaped the daring enterprize of this nation. Their capture of Carthagena, and of Cuba, the possession of which they afterwards resigned, and their subsequent attempts on La Plata, are well known. England in every mode has occasioned the greatest annoyance to Spain of any other nation; she was almost the only one from whom she had any thing to fear; and but for the extraordinary occurrence which converted these natural enemies into allies, there is no telling to what extent England would have taken advantage of the decrepitude of the Spanish monarchy. It is probable, however, that instead of open attempts at conquest, she would have resorted to the arts of seduction to withdraw the
furnish annually three millions and a half marks of silver, (2,370, 046 troy weight,) while in the whole of the European states, including Asiatic Russia, the total annual produce of the mines, scarcely exceeds three hundred thousand marks, (230,130 pounds troy.)
Americans from allegiance to Spain, holding out to them a feigned guardianship and protection.* However this may be, the only possessions of Great Britain at present on the southern continent, are those of Esequibo and Demerara, inconsiderable colonies near the equator, taken from the Dutch. The French and Dutch colonies of Guyana, are comparatively of little importance. South America may therefore be considered as divided between Spain and Portugal; the former including the provinces which have gained, or are struggling for independence.
Spanish America is divided into four viceroyalties; New Spain, New Grenada, Peru, and Rio de la Plata; and into the captain-generalships of Yukatan, Guatemala, Venezuela, Chili and Cuba. The islands belonging to, or claimed by Spain, are Cuba, PortoRico, Margarita, and St. Andrews. In the Pacific, she possesses the Archipelago of Chiloe, and the island of Juan Fernandez, with some others on the coast of Chili. With the exception of Peru, (sometimes called Lima from its capital,) all Spanish America, has been the theatre of revolutionary strug. gle, or is now actually in possession of the patriots. The viceroyalty of Grenada, a territory more extensive than our old thirteen states, was for several years the scene of a bloody contest for independence. The incidents of this contest in the provinces of Carthagena, Santa Martha, Choco, Popayan, and Quito, are fami- .' liar to most readers.t The blaze has subsided, but
* I allude to the proclamation of Picton, and the other plans on foot in 1797.
† See “The outline of the revolution in South America,” a work written with great impartiality and regard to truth.