Слике страница
PDF
ePub

had belonged to the Jesuits of Cordova, were permitted to be set up, for the benefit of the foundling hospital; but very little use was made of it. It is remarkable that the establishment of the press has every where attended the first revolutionary movements in South America. This blessing, so carefully denied the South Americans, appears to be intimately connected with their independence, and at the same time, evinces the enlightened spirit of liberty, by which they are animated. A remarkable instance of this is related by Guerra, in bis history of Mexico; the Mexicans being unable to procure presses and types, taxed their own ingenuity, and although totally unacquainted with the art but from description, made types of wood, and succeeded in printing with a kind of ink made of indigo. The writer before mentioned, states that he had in his possession several of their gazettes, very neatly printed. There is no circumstance which speaks more strongly the love of free and rational institutions, than their eagerness for the establishment of presses. There is an inseparable alliance between liberty and letters, because they give strength to public opinion; and this may be rendered more powerful than armies or kings. The rapid progress of literature in South America, wherever the Spanish power has been cast off, is truly wonderful. The kings of Spain aware of this dangerous thirst for knowledge, in his American subjects, had uf late years, neglected nothing that might tend to check it. There are many in the city of Baltimore, who recollect the circumstance which took place in 1804; a corvette was despatched from Havana, to bring home fifteen or twenty young men, who had been placed by their parents at

[ocr errors]

eve

the catholic seminary, under Mr. Dubourg. Whatever external appearances these young men would afterwards be compelled to put on, can we for a moment doubt, that they must secretly detest a government, which could thus treat them? Or that they would heartily rejoice to behold its sceptre crumbled in the dust? It is a fact but little known, that there were in South America many valuable manuscripts, which were not permitted to be published; the valuable papers of the Mercuria Peruviana are exceptions; but the botanical works of the celebrated Mutis were only in manuscript, until the establishment of the congress of New Grenada, by whom they were di. rected to be published, before its members. fell victims to the bloody executioner Morillo. About the year 1800, the Spanish ministry was siezed with a momentary desire to encourage agriculture in the viceroyalty of La Plata, and as conducive to this end, permitted the establishment of a weekly journal, entitled El Semanario de Agricultura Industria, y Commercio. It was like preaching the blessings of health to the patients of an hospital. The paper appeared on a mean type, and was continued down to the revolution by its editor, Dr. Castelli, a man of letters from Peru. The subjects treated of in this publication, are extremely limited, and with the great body of readers would excite no interest. Its essays are in general tolerably written, and occasionally throw light on the geography of the country, or point out its resources with a timid hand. The pages of the Semanario, were of course purified from political or religious heresies, and no dangerous variety of topics was allowed. When the revolution broke out, the editor became an actor in the scenes that followed, and his journal fell into neglect, or rather gave place to a new paper entitled the Gazette of Buenos Ayres, established by the junta, which instead of essays on the natural advantages of the country, on the different kinds of soils, the proper modes of culture, thorns, and figs on thistles.” In their attainments they have had nothing to stimulate them but the love of literature itself. What may we not expect from them when all the avenues to preferment and distinction shall be laid open-when public opinion shall be purified by reason and sound philosophy-when patriotism shall elevate their national character-when national interest shall call forth native talents from obscurity, or prompt their cultivation—when national celebrity shall become the reward of wisdom and virtue? How different were the circumstances under which the sages and heroes of our revolution were reared! · There were no schools in South America in which to

-quo sidere terram
Vertere, Mæcenas, ulmisque adjungere vitis
Conveniat: que cura boum, que cultus babendo
Sit pecore-

was filled with politics, domestic and foreign news, the manifestoes of the government, and declamations on the liberty of printing, on the abuses of the colonial system, the political regeneration, abstract disquisitions on the value of government and rights of man, together with professions of loyalty to their beloved sovereign Ferdinand.

The progress in literature and science made by the natives of America, in spite of all these disadvantages, ought to give us a high opinion of their natural capacities, and in these the travellers in South America, have no difference of opinion. They all seem to agree, that they are neither deficient in quickness of perception, nor of perseverance in the most abstruse studies. They have certainly exhibited a much bigher literary character, than we had any right to expect from the circumstances under which they were placed, so well calculated to keep them in a state of the most profound ignorance. When left free to pursue their own inclinations, I have no doubt they will produce their full quota of eminent men; to look for this under the Spanish regime, would be to look for "grapes on

VOL. I. ... 7

[ocr errors]

form great men, by giving them a practical knowledge of political life. Our colonial legislatures were schools for statesmen; we had a free press, and we shared besides in the political disputes which agitated Great Britain. Our colonial wars, made known to us our Washington-our colonial affairs, called forth the talents of a Franklin-our bar trained up a number of eloquent men to assert the cause of their country. But the state of things was very different in South America. Before the revolution, the South Americans could not be said to have any voice in public affairs, and no theatre of action was afforded for the exercise or display of talents as in our own country; and even if such characters could be formed, the want of general diffusion of knowledge among the people deprived them of the proper materials to act upon. Those numerous periodical works and light essays, which in our country are scattered every where, and eagerly read, and which operate like refreshing dews, were unknown to them. The only libraries in the country, were to be

[ocr errors]

found in cloisters and colleges, while the number of works of modern date which came by stealth into their bands was small. If the revolution found a number whose attainments were respectable, it is to be attributed to the vigor and elasticity of their minds, which broke through the surrounding gloom. The utter indifference of the people of Caraccas in the year '97, is known to have been the only cause which at that time, frustrated an attempt on the part of some of the most enlightened inhabitants to throw off the Spanish yoke. Their mental faculties had sunk into a state of torpor from the want of those subjects of higher interest, which alone could rouse them to action. There were none of those springs of public feel. ing to be touched, which on ordinary occasions suffice to rouse and animate à people.

Having taken a hasty glance at the geographical features of Spanish America and its population, I shall proceed to speak somewhat more in detail of the principles of the colonial government and policy;conceiving this in some degree necessary, in order to form a just idea of the nature of the contest which now prevails in those unbappy countries. The theory may be seen in the volumes of the Recopilacion de las leyes de Indias; but the practical operation is to be sought elsewhere. The admirable work of Campillo, a Spanish minister, unfolds its evils in a masterly manner, and with a boldness at which I was not a little surprised, considering the slavery of the Spanish press. Depons, in his Caraccas, has given some of its most prominent features; and while he affects to admire them, he acknowledges that they are but a mask concealing the most disgusting deformities. The occasional hints

« ПретходнаНастави »