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at the deficiency, although the field, far from being exhausted, each day acquires new interest.
There are some, whose complaints of want of information are much more limited; they mean that there is no satisfactory account of the actual state of the different countries of South America, or of the nature and consequences of the dreadful wars, which, for the last ten years, have crimsoned its soil. Of the justice of this complaint, there can be no doubt. The simple perusal of the small volume entitled, an “Outline of the Revolutions in South America,” will satisfy any one how much curious and interesting information may be given. The reports of the commissioners sent out by the United States, at the same time that they add greatly to what has already been obtained, show how much is yet to be known; and even these, although very generally perused, have been studied by few. Why then it will be asked, do I swell the pile of unappropriated, neglected information, by the addition of two octavo volumes?
It is certainly not with the vain hope, of be. ing able to give a full and satisfactory account of all things worth krowing in relation to one half the habitable world. Who is there that will be found so adventurous, as to attempt the explanation of all things relating to the geogra. phy, soils, sciences, and institutions, of Europe, in the compass of two small volumes? Or what should we think of one who should attempt in the same limits, to give a full and satisfactory account of these states? Such a work, however excellent, would necessarily imply much previ. ous information in the reader, or at least much subsequent study. I hope, therefore, the rea. der will not condemn me for having disappointed him in what he had no right to expect. I do not propose to give an epitome of every thing worthy to be known in the new world; an account of its topography, rivers, provinces, towns, savages, civil and political history, or the various incidents of the present revolution, on twenty different sanguinary theatres of war. I have undertaken to give a narrative of a voy. age of nearly twenty thousand miles, with all that I saw and heard, or could collect from authentic sources, at the places where I touched; I considered it necessary to read much, and with care, in order to direct my attention to proper objects of observation, and to avoid mistaking crudities for new discoveries. Few can tell how many volumes the traveller, who is anxious to discharge his task with fidelity, must pore over, before he can venture to write down a few lines. the subject of South America generally, as one that should create a desire to be informed. I feel but too well my incapacity for the discharge of such a task. I neither possess that grace and fascination of style, which give interest to every subject, nor the literary reputation that can add importance to whatever I may write. My ambition extends no further than to make a fair and honest statement of the facts that have come within my knowledge, together with the inferences I have drawn from them. I affect no humility, for the purpose of disarmirg. criti. cism; I ask neither more nor less than the measure of justice, to which others are entitled. I am aware, however, that I have enemies—few in number, indeed, but malignant—their attempts to injure me, whether open or concealed, I hold in equal contempt. To the American public, to whom I make my report, I address myself with confidence, fully convinced that its sentence will be just, even if against me.
During a residence of four or five years in Louisiana, part of the time as one of the judges of the state, I had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the Spanish character, laws and government. I applied myself a good deal to Spanish literature, having previously acquired a knowledge of the Spanish language as well as of the French; and living on the borders of New Spain, I had an opportunity of forming an
acquaintance with several intelligent natives of that country, who contributed much to remove the prejudices, which, in common with many of my countrymen, I had formed against every thing Spanish, whether European or American. My feelings were thus at an early period enlisted on the cause of South American emancipa. tion; but I felt no other interest than this; I was never either directly or indirectly connected with the fortunes of any of the chieftains, or other persons, actually engaged in the patriot cause. I wished well to those who directed the affairs of the patriots, and judged of them chiefly by their success, for I knew that any other mode, at this distance from the scene of action, could not be much relied on. If, by any fatality, I should have been enlisted in the private views and interests, of any of these chiefs, I would honestly avow myself a partisan, and leave to others to judge, whether my testimony could be impartial. I have uniformly condemned the whole scheme of privateering in the name of the patriot governments, especially of those that have neither ships, seamen, nor even ports, of their own. I consider it as an abominable abuse, calculated to bring the patriot cause into disrepute with good men, tending to demoralize our mariners, and to gratify a thirst for plunder, in many who care for little else. It is not more than a year ago since some of the friends of the
practice, attempted to brazen it out in the public newspapers, but the tide of public reproba. tion was too strong to be stemmed by Franklins,* of this description. They now study, silence and concealment. .
The sphere of my personal observations, I own was extremely limitted; the reader must judge whether my opportunities were neglected. It is not by remaining a few months in a strange city, or running full speed over uninhabited plains, that much profound knowledge is to be obtained; such a traveller can only speak with confidence of the mere surface of things; he can see but little, and must take his accounts from the few whom accident, or their own officiousness, throws in his way. It is true the traveller may interrogate those who are well acquainted with different parts of the country, but he must do this skilfully, and receive with caution every thing he hears. “Do sir, write me down what you have just stated," is the usual request of inexperienced travellers; on their return, should they publish, their works are chiefly made up of these indigested scraps. I carefully sought out persons who had been in different parts of South America, and endeavored to extract from them all the information I could; at the same time I carefully cultivated the acquaintance of
* The name of this venerable sage was made use of to justify the practice the author is not unknown.