« 前へ次へ »
enough, and amusing in themselves, but are out of place here, and seem introduced to eke out the volumes. The same object seems to have been had in view in the third volume also, and indeed if the work had been comprised in two, instead of three volumes, it would have been more entitled to respect, and better qualified to have asserted its claim to a distinguished place in geographical collections.
. In this volume, however, it is but justice to allow that the description of Charleston is written with particular vivacity; and is altogether the best account of this place we remember to have seen. The colour
ed prints, introduced by way of embellishment, are very trifling and unsatisfactory, but the map which is prefixed to the first volume is of neat execution. We are altogether pleased with the performance, and lament the disappointment of the author in a commercial view. His description of the difficulties which he and his relative had to encounter on their arrival at Quebeck; his remarks on the causes which here prevented the successful culture of hemp in Canada, are related with much temper and great good sense, and appear to merit the consideration of government.
- FROM THE LITERARY PANORAMA.
Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain. By Alexander de Humboldt. With Physical Sections and Maps. Translated from the original French. By John Black. 2 vols. 8vo. pp. 455, 531. Price 11, 18s. London. 1811.
SPANISH America is an object which, of late, has come forward rapidly on the lorizon of European politicks. Before the voyage of Anson, little known, even geographically, beyond the confines of its parent state, and almost every document relating to it, classed in the archives of old Spain, among the •Arcana Imperii, the literary world equally with the political, was obliged to remain satisfied with shreds and patches of information; or with gleanings, obtained by accident or by stealth. Suspicion or conjecture, was the extent to which the bCldest speculator ventured; and what were the capabilities of the Country, was rather inferred than affirmed, by the best informed student in statisticks.
When France, in direct opposition to her own interest, interfered to give liberty to North America, thero were some among us (we speak from personal knowledge)
who soresaw that the result would be destructive to that politick power; though none, we believe, anticipated the extent to which that destruction has proceeded. M. de Vergennes, who had perfected what the duc de Choiseul begun, was, on his death-bed, fully convinced of the distresses advancing with rapid strides, eventually to overwhelm his country. Neckar, who, equally with De Vergennes, had been deceived in his estimate of British power and spirit, lived to see, what he deemed a triumph, end in despair. When Spain was over-persuaded against her conviction, to become a party to the war in favour of the now United States, all who had obtained that information, limited as it was, which was then extant, inferred that the example of North America would soon be followed in the south; and that Spain might prepare herself to bid an everlasting farewell to her transatlantick possessions. The spi
toward independence was fomented in North America, by French agents under the direction of Choiseul; and so far had they proceeded, that Louis XVI, though anticipating evil from the machination, yet could not stop it; so, it may be, that French agents were also employed in enlightening the Spanish Americans, and that Buonaparte, like Louis, wishes the progress of these enlightenings to be stayed. That he really did desire to hold the Spanish colonies in dependence on Spain, and to render them tributary to France, admits of no doubt; that his scheme has failed, and that they will establish their independence, we consider as certain; and this new character under which they are about to appear, increases greatly that importance, which attaches to the knowledge of their actual state and condition. In proportion as South America rises in importance, North America declines. It was not for themselves only, that the Americans took off so great a quantity of British goods, as they did some time ago: it was to export them to their southern neighbours of the same continent. During the American embargo, those goods went direct from Britain; and thus Britain obtained an immediate intercourse with her real customers, which she will do well to cultivate, and extend to the utmost of her power. Seeing then, that we are now opening an avowed and authorized commerce with the Spanish Americans, instead of a clandestine and almost furtive traffick, we cannot but desire to obtain all possible intelligence relative to the country; to the bounties of nature distributed therein; to the disposition and character of the in
habitants; and, generally, to whatever interests the geographer, the naturalist, the philosopher, the moralist, or the statesman. Nothing could be better timed to answer the demands of the inquisi- . tive, than this publication of the baron de Humboldt, Many a long year has he travelled in the Spanish colonies; many a hazardous journey has he takcn; many a laborious operation has he performed. With specimens of his acquisitions, the world has already been favoured in various shapes; and the present work adds to our obligations received from this adventurous disciple of science. New Spain is more commonly known among us as the government of Mexico; because the chief city, from various causes, has been more familiar in our general course of reading. All the world has heard of the conquest of Mexico by Cortez; and the wealth of the Mexican mines has become proverbial. Little care has been taken, generally speaking, to distinguish the provinces in which these mines are situated; they have been uniformly attributed to Mexico; and that has been sufficient. It will be our own fault if this, or any other incorrectness, be longer continued among us. M. de Humboldt, gives a particular account of the divisions of this extensive viceroyalty, and takes pains to obtain a precision, which, while it may possibly be superseded by recent events, nevertheless bears testimony to his industry, and researches. The order adopted by the baron, after a geographical introduction, is, that of:-general considerations on the extent and physical aspect of New Spain. On the climate, agriculture, commerce, and military defence of the country. To these, succeed—the population, the distinctions among the inhabitants, their numbers, maladies, languages, &c. The provinces into which New Spain is divided, the state of culti
vation, and of the mines, form the concluding articles. The whole is divided into four books, and these into nine chapters. A small appendix of maps is annexed to this edition; in the original, they are much more dignified and instructive. Those who read for entertainment, will find the baron not uniformly to their taste; he advances too far into detail to please them, and his style is not sufficiently lively to impart delight. He narrates what he saw; and his remarks convey information on a variety of subjects at once new and interesting. Our author enjoyed the invaluable advantage of liberal communication with the best informed officers of New Spain; and by their assistance, he has not only corrected a multiplicity of errours extant in maps, and descriptions, but has introduced to our acquaintance, various cities and towns, some of them containing not less than 70,000 inhabitants, of which we had no previous knowledge. By means also, of his barometrical observations, he has been enabled to convey an idea of the relative heights of different mountains and other elevations; and for the first time, we have it in our power, to form adequate conceptions of the nature and clevation of the table-land of Mexico and its lakes. Not less interesting to the geologist, is the sudden and stupendous descent towards Vera Cruz, which amply explains the obstacles to a postchaise intercourse between the capital and its eastern ports. The road to Acapulco, the principal
western port, is less striking, but
not less practically difficult. The condition of man is the most interesting object in every country; and we confess ourselves gratified by finding that in New Spain the number of slaves [negroes] is comparatively few, and the state of the Indians is less unhappy than we had becn accustomed to suppose. We extract with pleasure a passage,
from which it appears that the mines, though a considerable source of wealth, are not the only, or even the chief wealth of the province of Mexico.
“The Indian cultivator is poor, but he is free. His state is even greatly preferable to that of the peasantry in a great part of the north of Europe. There are neither corvées nor villanage in New Spain; and the number of slaves is next to nothing. Sugar is chiefly the produce of free hands. There the principal objects of agriculture are not the productions to which European luxury has assigned a variable and arbitrary value, but cereal gramina, nutritive roots, and the agave, the vine of the Indians. The appearance of the country proclaims to the traveller, that the soil nourishes him who cultivates it, and that the true prosperity of the Mexican people neither depends on the accidents of foreign commerce, nor on the unruly politicks of Europe.
“Those who only know the interiour of the Spanish colonies, from the vague and uncertain notions hitherto published, will have some difficulty in believing, that the principal sources of the Mexican riches are by no means the mines, but an agriculture which has been gradually ameliorating since the end of the last century. Without reflecting on the immense extent of the country, and especially the great number of provinces which appear totally destitute of precious metals, we generally imagine that all the activity of the Mexican population is directed to the working of mines. Because agriculture has made a very considerable progress in the capitania general of Caraccas, in the kingdom of Guatimala, the island of Cuba, and wherever the mountains are accounted poor in mineral productions, it has been inferred that it is to the working of the mines that we are to attribute the small care bestowed on the cultivation of the soil in other parts of the Spanish colonies. This reasoning is just, when applied to small portions of territory. No doubt, in the provinces of Choco and Antioquia, and the coast of Barbacoas, the inhabitants are fonder of seeking for the gold washed down in the brooks and ravines, than of cultivating a virgin and fertile soil; and in the beginning of the conquest, the Spaniards who abandoned the peninsula or Canary islands, to settle in Péru and Mexico, had no other view but the discovery of the precious metals. ..?uri rabida citis a cultura Hispanos divertit, says a writer of those times, Pedro Martyr,” in his work on the discovery of Yucatan, and the colonization of the Antilles. “In Mexico, the best cultivated fields, those which recall to the mind of the traveller the beautiful plains of France, are those which extend from Salamanca towards Siloe, Guanaxuato, and the Villa de Leon, and which surround the richest mines of the known world. Wherever metallick seams have been discovered in the most uncultivated parts of the Cordilleras, on the insulated and desert tablelands, the working of mines, far from impeding the cultivation of the soil, has been singularly favourable to it. Travelling along the ridge of the Andes, or the mountainous part of Mexico, we every where see the most striking examples of the beneficial influence of the mines on agriculture. Were it not for the establishments formed for the working of the mines, how many places would have remained desert how many districts uncultivated in the four intendancies of Guanaxuato, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and Durango, between the parallels of 21° and 25” where the most considerable metallick wealth of New Spain is to be found If the town is placed on the arid side, or the crest of the Cordilleras, the new colomists can only draw from a distance the means of their subsistence, and the maintenance of the great number of cattle employed in drawing off the water, and raising and amalgamating the mineral produce. Want soon awakens industry. The soil begins to be cultivated in the ravines and declivities of the neighbouring mountains, wherever the rock is covered with earth. Farms are established in the neighbourhood of the mine. The high price of provision, from the competition of the purchasers, indemnifies the cultivator for the privations to which he is exposed, from the hard life of the mountains. Thus, from the hope of gain alone, and the motives of mutual interest, which are the most powerful bonds of society, and without any interference on the part of the government in colonization, a mine, which, at first, appeared insulated in the midst of wild and desert mountains, becomes, in a short time, connected with the lands which have long been under cultivation.”
To this may be added, that when the seam of metal is exhausted, the fertility created on the spot, conti
nues; and much of the population
remains to enjoy the advantages it
offers. Our author adds, that, although some of the Mexican families possess immense wealth, obtained from the mines, yet there are but few; while a greater number derived from cultivation much superiour revenues. The difference of altitude, and consequently of temperature, has been more destructive to the Indians, when obliged to change of dwelling, than excessive labour in the mines. Indeed the elevation of the table-land, and situations among the mountains, generally chosen for residence by the original natives, and by the Spaniards, forms a strong contrast to the suffocating and destructive heats of the coast. The difference of level between Vera Cruz and Mexico, gives occasion to several striking particularities.
“In the space of a day, the inhabitants descend from the regions of eternal snow, to the plains in the vicinity of the sea, where the most suffocating heat prevails. The admirable order with which different tribes of vegetables rise above one another, by strata, as it were, is no where more perceptible, than in ascending from the port of Vera Cruz, to the table land of Perote. We see there the physiognomy of the country, the aspect of the sky, the form of plants, the figures of animals, the manners of the inhabitants, and the kind of cultivation followed by them, assume a different appearance at every step of our progress. -
“As we ascend, nature appears gradually less animated, the beauty of the vegetable forms diminishes, the shoots become less succulent, and the flowers less coloured. The aspect of the Mexican oak quiets the alarms of travellers newly landed at Vera Cruz. Its presence demonstrates to laim that he has left behind him the zone, so justly dreaded by the people of the north, under which the yellow fever exercises its ravages in New Spain. This inferiour limit of oaks warns the colonist who inhabits the central table-land, how far he may descend towards the coast, without dread of the mortal disease of the
vomito. Forests of liquid ambar, near Zalapa, announce, by the freshness of their verdure, that this is the elevation at which the clouds, suspended over the ocean, come in contact with the basaltick summits of the Cordillera. A little higher, near la Banderilla, the nutritive fruit of the banana tree comes no longer to maturity. In this foggy and cold region, therefore, want spurs on the Indian to labour, and excites his industry. At the height of San Miguel, pines begin to mingle with the oaks, which are found by the traveller as high as the elevated plains of Perote, where he beholds the delightful aspect of fields sown with wheat. Eight hundred metres higher, the coldness of the climate will no longer admit of the vegetation of oaks; and pines alone there cover the rocks, whose summits enter the zone of eternal snow. Thus, in a few hours, the naturalist, in this miraculous country, ascends the whole scale of vegetation, from the heliconia and the banana plant, whose glossy leaves swell out into extraordinary dimensions, to the stunted parenchyma of the resinous trees '''
While the coast, exposed to the violent effect of the solar heat, was, as it continues to be, the seat of disease, we cannot wonder that the higher regions were preferred as abodes by the old population of Mexico, and by their successours. Whatever this situation may want of luxuries, is compensated by security. The Spanish conquerors, as they ascended to the table-land, found the villages more numerous, closer together, better peopled, their inhabitants more polished, the fields divided into smaller portions; with other signs of superiour industry. The valley in which the city of Mexico stands, is upwards of 6500 feet above the level of the sea. It is of an oval form, encompassed on all sides by mountains. It contains several lakes. The largest is salt. For
merly it surrounded the city, which was approached only by causeways, constructed in the water. But, at present, the extent of this lake is diminished, and the city is now on the land, at some distance from the water's edge. The circumference of the valley is 67 leagues.
“Mexico is undoubtedly one of the finest cities ever built by Furopeans in either hemisphere. With the exception of Petersburgh, Berlin, Philadelphia, and some quarters of Westminster, there does not exist a city of the same extent, which can be compared to the capital of New Spain, for the uniform level of the ground on which it stands, for the regularity and breadth of the streets, and the extent of the publick places. The architecture is generally of a very pure style, and there are even edifices of very beautiful structure. The exteriour of the houses is not loaded with ornaments.
“The balustrades and gates are all of Biscay iron, ornamented with bronze, and the houses, instead of roofs, have terraces like those in Italy, and other southern countries.
“Mexico has been very much embellished, since the residence of the abbé Chappe there in 1769. The edifice destined to the School of Mines, for which the richest individuals of the country furnished a sum of more than three millions of francs,” would adorn the principal places of Paris or London. Two great palaces [hotels] were recently constructed by Mexican artists, pupils of the academy of fine arts of the capital. One of these palaces, in the quarter della Traspana, exhibited in the interiour of a court a very beautiful, oval peristyle of coupled columns. The traveller justly admires a vast circumference, paved with porphyry flags, and enclosed with an iron railing, richly ornamented with bronze, containing an equestrian statuef of king Charles the fourth, placed on a pedestal of Mexican marble, in the midst of the Plaza Major of Mexico, opposite the cathedral, and the viceroy’s palace. However, it must be
# This colossal statue was executed at the expense of the marquis de Branciforte, formerly viceroy of Mexico, brother in law of the prince of peace. It weighs 450 quintals, and was modelled, founded, and placed by the same artist, M. Tolsa, whose name deserves a distinguished place in the history of Spanish sculpture. The merits of this mail of genius can only be appreciated by those who know the difficulties with which the exceution of these great works of art, are attended even in civilized Europe.