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than two miles from the shelving margin of the Tezcuco Being encireled at no great distance, by a chain of lofty mountains, which at times pour down torrents, the capital was exposed to the ravages of sudden and overwhelming floods. To prevent such inundations, it became necessary to erect dikes and cut drains. The desague real, or conduit of Huehuetoca, a tunnel driven through the mountain Nochistongo, and four miles in length, l l feet wide, and 14 feet high, was formed, in 1608, under the direction of Henry Martens, a Flemish engineer. Fifteen thousand Indians, compelled under the lash of their unfeeling masters, to labour at the work with spades and pickaxes, completed, in the space of one year, a subterranean passage, which conducted the waters of the lake Zumpango and of the river Guantitlan into the Tula, and which, at that period, might well have astonished Europe. In the higher Andes, the only inhabitant of the pools and rivulets, is a small fish, the firennadilla, a new species of the silurus, and which Humboldt, at the suggestion of Lacepede, has denominated flimelodus cyclosum, about four inches long, not unlike the water-newt, and of such a slimy, disgusting appearance, that none but the poorest of the Indians will taste it. The streamlets in which it plays, have a temperature of 50 degrees, and seem to communicate, by crevices through the sides of the volcanick mountains, with collections of water lodged in caverns within the crater. According to the most authentick testimony, the volcanos of Quito, and especially Cotopaxi and Tungaragua, sometimes vomit those fish in prodigious quantities, intermingled with mud. Whole fields have been covered by these eruptions; and the putrid remains have infected the air, and been supposed to breed infectious disease. The rivers and lakes of the low
provinces of Vanzuela and the Ca-.
raccas abound with the gymnotus electricus, or electrick eel, called temblador by the Spanish colonists, and anguille tremblante, by the French settlers of Guyana, which possesses the singular faculty of stunning its prey by an electrick discharge. It is, however, met with, most frequently, in the small, stagnant pools, that are dispersed at intervals, over the immense plains which extend from the Orenocco and Apure. The old road near Uruticu has been actually abandoned, on account of the danger experienced in crossing a ford, where the mules were, from the effect of concealed shocks, often paralyzed and drowned. Even the angler sometimes receives a stroke, conveyed along his wetted rod and fishing line. The electrick eel is of considerable size, being about six feet in length. The structure of its nervous system has been accurately described; but the comparison of its cellular furniture, with the composition of the electrick battery, is entirely fanciful; and seems nowise calculated for assisting us in the explication of the phenomena. The brilliant science of electricity, it must be confessed, is still in its infancy. Philosophers have assumed the existence of an electrick fluid without proof, and talk of the galvanick current as familiarly as if they were describing the operation of a real and tangible substance. Were such expressions merely figurative, and forced upon us by the poverty of language, they would be liable to no material objection. But if they only serve to fill the imagination, and supply the want of solid argument, it is high time to reject them. We may safely affirm, that the supposition of an electrick fluid has not contributed in any degree to explain the appearances. All that we know of electrick agency consists in a system of attractions and repulsions, of which the chief relations have been clearly disclosed. When a substance receives or conveys an electrick shock, all its particles, during a certain minute portion of time, suffer a mutual and violent distension. The degree of effect which is produced must hence depend on the intensity of action combined with its duration. The convulsive agitation excited in the animal frame by an electrick discharge, is caused by the general, though momentary repulsion which it communicates to the train of nerves. The gymnotus electricus appears to have the power of reversing this process. By an effort of volition, perhaps, it can suddenly give its nervous system the internal derangement appropriate to the electrick agency, and thus dart its influence among the bodies in its vicinity. The sensation which the gymnotus occasions, is highly painful, and leaves a numbness in the parts affected. It, indeed, resembles more the effect of a blow on the head, than the shock of a common, electrick discharge. Analogous to the galvanick excitement, it may, however, depend less on the absolute intensity of action, than on the length of its duration. In both cases, the diffuse shock received is more akin to the impression made by the residuum of an immense battery, than to the sharp twitch occasioned by the explosion of a small charged ar.
The Indians entertain such a dread of the gymnotus, and show so much reluctance to approach it when alive and active, that Humboldt found extreme difficulty in procuring a few of those eels to serve as the subjects of his experiments. For this express purpose, he stopt some days on his journey across the Ilanos to the river Apure, at the small town of Calaboza, in the neighbourhood of which he was informed that they are very numerous. But, though his landlord took the utmost pains to gratify his wish, he was, after repeated attempts, constantly trnsuc
cessful. Tired at last of disappointment, he resolved to proceed himself to the principal spot which the gumnoti frequent. He was conducted to the Cagno de Bera, a piece of shallow water, stagnant and muddy, but of the heat of 79 degrees, and surrounded by a rich vegetation of the clusia rosea, the hymenaea courbaril, the great Indian fig trees, and the sensitive plants with odoriferous flowers. Here the travellers soon witnessed a spectacle of the most novel and extraordinary kind. About thirty horses and mules were quickly collected from the adjacent savannahs, where they run half wild, being only valued at seven shillings a head, when their owner happens to be known. These, the Indians hem on all sides, and drive into the marsh; then pressing to the edge of the water, or climbing along the extended branches of the trees, armed with long bamboos or harpoons, they, with loud cries, push the animals forward, and prevent their retreat. The gymnoti, roused from their slumbers by this noise and tumult, mount near the surface, and swimming like so many livid water serpents, briskly pursue the intruders, and gliding under their bellies, discharge through them the most violent and repeated shocks. The horses, convulsed and terrified, their mane erect, and their eye staring with pain and anguish, make unavailing struggles to escape. In less than five minutes, two of them sunk under the water and were drowned. Victory seemed to declare for the electrick eels. But their activity now began to relax. Fatigued by such expense of nervous energy, they shot, their electrick discharges with less frequency and effect. The surviving horses gradually recovered from the shocks, and became more composed and vigorous. In a quarter of an hour, the
gymnoti finally retired from the con
test, and in such a state of languor. and complete exhaustion, that they were easily dragged on shore by help of small harpoons fastened to cords. This very singular plan of obtaining the electrick eel, is, in allusion to the mode of catching fish by means of the infusion of narcotick plants, termed embarbascar con caballos, or floisoning with horses. IV. The observations of Humboldt throw a steady light on the constitution and habits of the native Indians. But this article has already extended to so great a length, that we must restrict ourselves to a few incidental remarks.-The same copper coloured race appears scattered over the greater part of the continent of America. It is not, however, of that unvaried hue which authors have described; nor do the shades of complexion even follow what has been deemed the law of climate. The natives of the temperate tract of New Spain, are in general of a deeper cast than the inhabitants of the hottest parts of South America. This dastardly, inanimate race, and especially the Mexicans, born down by long oppression, seem to be inferiour in all the qualities, whether moral or intellectual, to the Africans themselves. The same apathy of character would appear to extend its influence to the other breeds in those torrid regions, where the wants of man are so few and so easily satisfied. Though caprice may sometimes act, no prospect of gain will for a moment tempt the naked wretch to shake off his habitual sloth. When our travellers visited Havannah in the month of January, they were struck with the beauty of the male flowers that projected, white as snow, from the tops of the royal palm; and being desirous to have an opportunity of inspecting the floration, they offered the negro children, whom they met with in the neighbouring village, two piastres, or near eight shillings, for each bough loaded with blossoms that should be brought down to them; but the listless urchins could not be
prevailed on to stir a foot. Other straggling tribes, of very different character and aspect, are found dispersed through the wide regions of America, living in a state of brutal degradation, or of sullen and ferocious independence. On the banks of the Meta and the Orenocco, dwell the Ottomaques, an ugly race, inclined to corpulency, and having the coarse, broad features of the Tartar. During the greater part of the year, they live on the fish which they kill on the surface of the water with their arrows. But in the rainy season, when the rivers inundate the plains, those disgusting savages feed on a fat, unctuous earth, or a species of pipe-clay tinged with a little oxyd of iron. They collect this clay very carefully, distinguishing it by the taste; they knead it into balls of 4
or 6 inches in diameter, which they
bake slightly before a slow fire. Whole stacks of such provisions are seen piled up in their huts. Those clods are soaked in water when about to be used; and each individual eats nearly a pound of the material every day. The only addition which they occasionally make to this unnatural fare, consists in small fish, lizards, or fern-roots. The quantity of clay the Ottomaques consume, and the greediness with which they devour it, would seem to prove, however incredible this may appear, that it does more then merely distend their hungry stomachs, and that the powers of digestion can, to a certain degree, assimilate the finer portions of it into animal substance. As the summer advances, the low plains on the coast of America become parched with excessive heat. The grass withers to the roots, and the soil turns hard and baked. The cattle, enveloped during the day in clouds of dust, run panting with oppressive thirst. The more sagacious mule, with his hoof cautiously thrusting aside the prickles of the watermelon, sucks a refreshing beverage. But the cries and frightful shrieks of the larger apes, at last announce the approaching rains. Incessant torrents descend. The crocodile and the boa, long concealed in a torpid state under the hardened mud, now, raising their horrid fronts, burst with sudden and tremendous noise, from their tombs. The rivers soon overflow their banks, and sweep the surface with wide inundation. One sheet of water covers the whole delta of the Orenocco. In the midst of this aquatick scene, lives in peace the unconquered nation of the Guaranis, who nestle among the tops of the Mattritius, or fan-leaved palms, in extended hammocks, which they construct with netting made from the fibres of the leaves, and line partly with mud. On such humid and pensile floors, the women light their fires, and cook their vegetable diet. The tree to which each family is attached, furnishes its sole subsistence. The pith of the mauritia, resembling sago, is formed into thin cakes; and its scaly fruits, in the different stages of their progress, afford some variety of wholesome food. Palm wine supplies an agreeable, refreshing drink, and may even procure that state of intoxication, which is the elysium of the savage.
But though the members of this aërial republick, living on the spontaneous products of the soil, enjoy undisturbed repose, it is very different with the other native tribes. Actuated by all the vengeful passions, they are constantly prepared for deeds of blood and carnage. The
prowling wretch exults in rapine and insidious murder. When a
weaker tribe fearfully ventures to cross the parched plains, the individuals take the precaution of effacing their footsteps, to prevent being surprised and massacred. Nature seems to have ajded the dark spirit of the savages, by concocting, in those torrid regions, the most envenomed juices. Their poisoned darts and arrows carry inevitable death. But where such weapons are wanting, the genius of evil, fertile in resources, still prevails. The odious Ottomaques are accustomed to dip the nail of their thumb in the curare, a strong poison which is extracted from a species of the fishyllanthus, and the slightest laceration then inflicted by them infallibly proves mortal.
It is thus that the visions of primeval innocence melt away before the touch of inquiry. The true savage is a cold, cruel, sullen, suspicious. and designing animal. Man grows generous exactly in proportion as he becomes civilized. We may lament the selfishness of our nature, which, in artificial Society, engenders corruption, and wields the infernal machinery of war. But the tempest rolls over our heads; the mild virtues flourish in the shade of security; the finer feelings are cherished by the enjoyment of ease and plenty; and whatever contributes to soften or adorn life is called forth into action.
FROM, THE MONTHLY REVIEW.
Histoire du Feld. Maréchal Souvaras, &c.; i. e. A History of the Life of Field Marshal Suwarof, combined with the general History of the Age; and accompanied by Observations on the principal events, political and military, in which Russia has born a part during the 18th century. By L. M. P. de Laverne, formerly an officer of Dragoons. 8vo. pp. 490. Paris. 1809. Price 12s.
AFTER having experienced no small portion of disgust from the catch-penny productions, with which the Parisian booksellers are in the
habit of inundating the publick, we sit down with particular relish to the perusal of a book of real value. This history of Suwarof is the composition of a man who is evidently qualified for the task; acquainted professionally with the art of war; and competent, by the extent of his general knowledge, to apprehend and describe, in its civil as well as military relations, the character of the extraordinary personage whose life he records. In addition also to
his merits as an officer and a scholar,
he possesses a claim to approbation from qualities which are still more rarely found in authors; viz. impartiality in regard to his own country, and exemption from that base spirit of adulation which has become almost universal in France. He relates the sanguinary triumphs of the Russian chief over the French, as freely and explicitly as those which were obtained over the Turks and the Poles; and he writes a military work without paying any compliments to Buonaparte, except towards the close: when, having introduced the names of other celebrated commanders, and expatiated on their merits, it might have seemed invidious to pass without notice the most successful general of the present age. The character of Suwarof has been the subject of much difference of opinion. Some persons have gone so far as to deny him even the merit of military skill, and insist that he should be considered in no other light than as a headstrong champion, whose rule was to accomplish every thing by dint of force and by an indiscriminate profusion of human blood. . Other persons (and these form a very numerous class) while they accede to the justice of his claims to military fame, are disposed to limit their estimate of his knowledge to mere tacticks; and, judging too literally from appearances, imagine that, because he lived barbarously among barbarians, his mind was not less rude and uncultivated than his exteriour manners. The question, how far these accusations are well founded, will be fully solved by an examination of the princi
pal events in the life of this celebrated commander, whose character has long engaged our attention, and has appeared to us to lie much deeper than the world suspected. The review of these events will be best performcd by making a condensed abstract of M. Laverne’s book: but we shall occasionally intersperse this abstract with observations of our own, particularly in regard to the memorable campaign of Italy; reserving to the conclusion our notice of the few points in which we differ from the biographer. Alexander Suwarof was born in Livonia, in 1730, and was the only son of an ancient and noble family. His father had been employed in diplomatick life, a career to which he destined and partly educated his son; but in the course of this education, the ardent temperament of young Suwarof had been inflamed by the exploits of celebrated warriours, and the campaigns of Hannibal and Cesar had impressed an indelible stamp upon his imagination. From that enthusiastick admiration of heroick feats which is natural to youth, he was led to the habit of studying war as a science; a habit which remained with him through life, and ultimately led to a surprising accumulation of intellectual stores. The original direction of his studies, however, to a different profession, and his father's dislike to the army, retarded in the first instance his military promotion. He found it necessary to go through, by actual service, the stations of private and corporal in the guards, which, for youths whose names have been early registered, are in general only nominal duties; and he was not made a subaltern officer till he reached the age of nineteen. Yet the nature of this intermediate service was highly useful, in giving him a practical and familiar acquaintance with the dispositions of the private soldiers. From the guards he passed into a regiment of the line, and was