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from Humboldt, bear the stamp of impartiality without any affectation of approving in theory what is bad in practice. Guerra, a learned Mexican, who published his history of Mexico in London, has treated the subject at large; but has unfortunately manifested so much bitterness and party feeling in his disquisitions, as to diminish the weight to which they would otherwise be entitled. The different manifestoes of independence, deal so much in generals, and are so declamatory, that they furnish very little data for the rational mind.
America, on its discovery and conquest, and grant by the pope, was considered a fief of the crown, independent of the Spanish possessions in Europe. Every thing relating to the Indies, emanated from the king alone, without any participation on the part of the cortes, or of the council Castile, instituted in its place during the reign of Charles V. As the affairs of the Indies grew in importance, its government assumed a higher character. In 1511, the council of the Indies was established by Ferdinand, and perfected by Charles V. in 1524. Every thing relating to the Indies was confided to it, the king being always supposed to be present. All other subdivisions of power in the monarchy, were expressly forbidden to interfere in what related to the Indies; and all orders and decrees to be entitled to any force, had to be signed by the king, and communicated through the council. Besides being thus independent of Spain, each district, viceroyalty, or government, was independent of the other, but united under the king as their common head. Humboldt compares them to a number of separate, although confederated, states; but deprived of important rights in their commercial relation with the old world, and with each other. It is repeatedly asserted, that the Indies are not regarded as colonies, but as an independent, integral member of the empire, equal in dignity and rights to Spain. This is 'fully supported, as well by the laws of the Indies, as by the addition which they give to the king's title. As incorporated feudatories, the Indies are exempt from any conformity to the laws, customs, or usages of Spain, excepting so far as they are expressly introduced.*
The Spanish Americans, as the descendants of the first conquerors and settlers, ground their political rights, on the provisions of the code of the Indies. They contend, that their constitution is of a higher nature than that of Spain; inasmuch, as it rests upon express compact, between the monarch and their ancestors. They say, it was expressly stipulated, that all conquests, and discoveries, were to be made at their own risk and expense; and that they were forbidden in any instance to be made at the expense of the king. In consideration of this, the first conquerors and settlers, were to be the lords of the soil; they were to possess its government, immediately under the king, as their feudal head; while the aborigines were given to them as vassals, on condition of instructing them in the christian religion, and in the arts of civilization. It was in virtue of this compact, that the American junta denied the right of bodies similarly constituted in Spain, to exercise authority over them, as this right alone appertained to the king, in
* The Recopilation, the work of Guerra on New Spain, Blanco, the editor of the Espagnol, are the principal sources whence this sketch of the domestic government is drawn.
his council of the Indies. They objected on the same grounds, to the Spanish cortes which proposed to act in the name of the captive king; and admitting that it was regularly constituted, its authority could not lawfully extend over any other than the European part of the empire. There appears to be nothing clearer than this reasoning. Spain had no right to assume the sovereign's name for any other purpose, than to provide for her own safety, there being no connexion between her and the Indies, but through the sovereign; that connexion ceased the moment the sovereign was in a situation where his acts were null, and the royal authority for a time completely interrupted. The peninsula, as a component part of the empire, was entitled from necessity to establish a cortes, for the purpose of taking care of its own concerns; and each viceroyalty of the Indies, had an equal right to erect its junta for the same purpose. Here is the foundation of the dispute between Spain and the Indies; the conduct of the Spaniards in Europe, as well as those in authority in America, justly created disgust. The Europeans instead of resorting to the cortes in the first instance, successively erected juntas in the provinces, which not only claimed sovereignty over the rest of the peninsula, but likewise over the Indies; while the functionaries in America, more anxious for the preservation of their offices than for any thing else, openly avowed, that America ought to follow the con. dition of Spain, whatever that might be, as in the case of the war of the succession. The Americans who had been roused to the most lively enthusiasm in favor of Ferdinand—who amongst other extraordinary proofs of loyalty, had contributed nineteen millions of dollars, to aid the cause in Spain—who seemed to be animated with the most violent hatred to Napoleon, considered themselves as treated with gross insult by the Spaniards; and their loyalty was thus converted into hatred, first by the menaces of the Europeans, and next, by their resorting to force, and treating them as rebels.
But whatever the constitution of the Indies may be in theory, Spanish America has always been in fact, held as colonies, subject to the will, caprice, and interest of the king of Spain, and his European subjects. They have been viewed only as the means of improving the condition of the metropolis, not as a co-equal independent empire, having a right to equal favor, and advantage. For the benefit of the Europeans, the agriculture and manufactures of America were restricted; in order that those of the peninsula might prosper, commerce was monopolized by the Spaniard, and its offices were bestowed to these aliens, in order that they might be enriched, notwithstanding the tantalizing declaration of the code, that Americans in all cases should be preferred. This boasted compact, therefore, could only tend to irritate and sour the minds of the Americans, while directly in contradiction to this charter, they, the descendants of the first settlers and conquerors, were made bewers of wood, and drawers of water” to the inhabitants of Old Spain. In order to decide upon the justice or in- , justice of this case, it suffices merely to change the relative situation, and to suppose the monopoly of the commerce and government of Spain, granted to the inhabitants of the Indies!
I shall now proceed to give a brief outline of the internal government adopted for these vast regions. T'hey were divided, as has been already stated, into viceroyalties and captain-generalships; these again subdivided into intendancies or provinces, into corregidories, commenderies, and missions. The ecclesiastical divisions will be noticed hereafter. The viceroy is the representative of the king, while his authority lasts, and holds his court with considerable pomp and splendor. He presides over every department, and with the exception of the distant and tardy control of the council of the Indies, and the imperfect check of the audiencies, he may be considered su. preme; uniting in himself all authority, civil and military. In latter times, it is true, various checks have been contrived to render his power less absolute, not through any desire to shield the American from oppression, but through jealous fear that he may conceive the idea of perpetuating bis sway. The courts of the viceroys, especially those of Mexico and Peru, are said to be formed somewhat on the model of that of Madrid. “They have sumptuous establishments, officers of state, numerous guards of horse and foot, and as much display of magnificence and parade, as if they were invested with regal powers. Their salaries, although princely, form the smallest part of their income; the exercise of their unlimited authority, and the disposal of a number of lucrative offices, affords them great opportunities of accumulating riches. Exactions, lucrative concerns in some branches of commerce, monopolies, conniving at frauds practised by merchants, are the means on which they chiefly depend for raising their revenues." These