Слике страница
PDF
ePub

try was in their hands, as they carried on its trade and commerce. From the narrow and restricted manner in which all commercial business was transacted, more perhaps, than from any contemptuous ideas of commerce in general, the American Spaniards were unwilling to engage in this pursuit. It has been said, that this arose from a ridiculous pride; but we have seen this contradicted by the fact, that as soon as commerce came to be carried on more liberally, many creoles of the first respectability, sent their sons to England and the United States in order to learn its principles. It was the policy of the Spanish government, to distribute in the different governments of America, a class of people distinct in feelings, interest and character from the native inhabitants, and besides attached to old Spain. Yet even the European Spaniard could not emigrate to America without a special license; and no foreigner could obtain this permission without paying a very considerable sum, besides being of the catholic faith; the latter, an indispensible requisite. The greater part of these, although licensed to stay only two years, contrive to remain in the country much longer without becoming settled or marrying, having in view the quitting it, as soon as their fortunes should be made. The proportion therefore, finally settled in the country, and identified in its interests by intermarriage, was by no means great. Spain had thus nearly three hundred thousand men* distributed throughout her possessions in America, devoted to her cause, having experience, activity and intelligence, and possessing the reins of power. Great

* This is the number estimated by Humboldt.

[ocr errors]

cans.

Britain had no auxiliary like this to support her, in ber conflict with the United States; on the contrary, she found the same class of people her active foes. It is highly probable, the struggle of the United States would have worn a very different character, if Great Britain had had forty or fifty thousand individuals, devoted to her interests in the different parts of our country, and holding all public employments as well as possessing its active capital.

To the circumstance of the existence of so many in- . dividuals of the description before mentioned, distributed through the different cities of South America, and especially in the vicinity of the mines, is to be ascribed much of the difficulties of the Spanish Ameri

To the same cause may be attributed the depravity of morals, with which the creoles have been accused, but which I have no doubt has been much exaggerated.

With respect to the state of learning and the general diffusion of information, considering how important this is to countries contending for independence, and how necessary in order to form a correct idea of their present prospects and future hopes, it will be neces. sary to be somewhat more minute. Literature and the arts have been seldom known to flourish under colonial governments, especially when far removed from their metropolis. They are intimately connected with national independence. In addition to this, there existed in Spanish America, many circumstances peculiarly unfavorable. There was little or no object for any one to devote himself to letters, for they led neither to distinction nor wealth. Besides, it was far from the policy of Spain to encourage learning in her colonies, which would only tend to increase the difficulty of governing them, and render the colonists more dissatisfied with their lot. It is certainly true, that as long as they continued in the colonial state, learning would be but of little service to them. When the city of Marida petitioned for leave to establish a university, in the reign of Charles IV. it received for reply, that the king did not think proper that information should become general in America. “It did not suit the policy of Spain,” says the Buenos Ayrean manifesto of independence, “that sages should rise up among us, fearful that men of genius might think of advancing the condition of their country, and of improving the morals and excellent capacities of their countrymen." On a similar occasion the Cabildo of Buenos Ayres, having petitioned for leave to establish a mathematical school, was told that learning did not become colonies. The Spanish government seemed to be aware that no sensible, well-informed man, conld contemplate her colonial system without indignationa system, which seemed to be at war with the improvement and prosperity of the most fertile, and extensive regions in the world. Some ministers did not hesitate to declare, that reading and writing was as much as the Americans ought to be permitted to learn. Guerra enumerates a variety of instances where permission was sought in vain, to establish schools for the purpose of more liberal instruction. That it should be necessary at all, to sue for permission of this nature, is a sufficient proof of the infernal policy pursued by Spain, in order to preserve her sway by darkening the human mind. In Santa Fee, chymistry was not permitted to be taught; for what reason it The pol.

is extremely difficult to comprehend, unless it be the jealously of French literature, which had become very much in request towards the close of the last century, throughout all Spanish America. ished and immaculate Godoy, thought it wise to issue a decree forbidding the study of the law of nature and nations; (derechos de gente) a prohibition, which may perhaps be attributed to ignorance of the meaning of the terms. Something of this excessive caution, is doubtless to be ascribed to apprehensions of that flood of light poured upon the world by the American revolution; for it is since that period especially, that Spain bas manifested such a disposition to tyranvize over the human mind in America.

No part of the vast sums drawn from the Indies were appropriated to the diffusion of general information. The institutions fostered by the government had nothing in view but some special objects. It was found that American curates, lawyers and physicians were necessary; colleges must therefore be established to enable these to make their preparatory studies; there was no disposition to encourage the Americans to visit Spain, and it was not safe to allow them to go abroad. It is not to be expected that the young Americans who had no intention of dedicating themselves to any of these professions, could undertake the arduous and painful task of mastering studies, that they could apply to no other practical use. T'he university of Mexico was fostered by the Spanish government, principally on account of its school of mineralogy; all the exact sciences were cultivated here, on tbe same principles as in Europe; vext to that of Mexico, the university of Lima had the most extensive privileges of any in South America, and cultivated with some success the more elegant and refined branches of literature. These two universities influence the taste throughout all Spanish America, and without much dissimilarity of climate or population they produce very opposite effects. It is observed by Guerra, that his countrymen, the Mexicans, are remarkable for close reasoning in their compositions, and destitution of ornament in their style; while the South Americans, are as remarkable for their rhetorical and declamatory writings, which are at the same time full of fire. We have seen this exemplified in the manifesto of the Mexican congress, when contrasted with the declaration of independence of Buenos Ayres. Other universities, or colleges, with very inferior privileges were at subséquent periods established at Santa Fee de Bogota, at Quito, Cusco, Chuquisaca, Cordova, Paraguay, and other parts of South America. 'To the efforts of the Jesuits in the propagation of the lights of science, the South Americans can never be too thankful. The well known devotedness to learning of this extraordinary society, was highly beneficial to those countries; there is scarcely an university or college, to which these enlightened men have not been benefactors. All writers on South America bear testimony to the truth of this remark; the seeds of learning planted by them remained in the soil after their expulsion, and to them the credit is in a great measure due for the stock of information in America. Whatever may have been the necessity or wisdom of suppressing their order in Europe, too much praise cannot be given to their conduct in America. They were the explorers of the trackless wilderness, the harbingers of peace and civi

[blocks in formation]
« ПретходнаНастави »