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appeared new to me. I thought it would be convenient, and even necessary, to note my observations and the reflections which they suggested. Distrust, indeed, on the ground of ignorance, checked this idea, and induced the persuasion that my alleged discoveries had been already completely described by the historians, tra. vellers, and naturalists, who had written on America. Besides, I could not dissemble that a man in my insulated situation, overwhelmed with fatigue, busied with geography and other indipensable details, and destitute of assistance and advice, must be altogether incapable of describing objects so mumerous, and so much varied. Yet I resolved to observe every thing which my capacity, leisure, and circumstances would permit; committing all my remarks to writing, and suspending their publication till I should be relieved from the pressure of official business. “After my return to Europe, I deemed it improper to withhold my observations from the learned and curious. They will easily perceive that I possess no knowledge relative to the characteristicks of earths, or stones, vegetables, fishes, insects, or reptiles, and that I have not bestowed on these subjects all the time that I could have wished to have devoted to them: but I have great reliance on their sagacity for supplying my deficiencies in
these respects. My statements of facts,
however, they may rest assured, are wholly unmingled with exaggeration or conjecture; since I assert nothing which I have not seen, and which any individual may not verify by his own observation, or through the medium of the inhabitants of the country. With respect to the inferences which I sometimes deduce from these facts, my readers will assent to such as are properly foundcd, while they are perfectly at liberty to abandon those of an opposite description, and to suggest others more deserving of attention; in which latter case I shall be the first to approve.”
Don Felix informs us, moreover, that he not only directed his attention to the ancient traditions of the country, but perused a large portion of the civil archives of assumption, several of the documents contained in those of Buenos Ayres, Corrientes, Santa Fé, and all the early memoirs relative to the colonies and parishes; by which means he has been enabled to correct the many errours of De
Vaca, Herrera, Schimidels, Centenera, Guzman, Lozano, and Guevera. To his short catalogue raiserné of these writers, the editor has subjoined a few supplementary notices in the margin. The first of the present volumes contains nine chapters, which treat of the climate and winds; the disposition and qualities of the soil; salts, and minerals; the principal rivers and harbours; fishes; wild and
cultivated vegetables; insects, rep
tiles, quadrupeds, and birds. The remarks on climate and winds, which have chiefly a reference to Assumption and Buenos Ayres, are too vague and desultory to afford much satisfaction to the meteorological student. We are presented with no tabular view of the degrees of heat and cold, or the quantity of rain, &c. and even a thermometer appears to have been often wanting. Thunder storms are very frequent, and sometimes attended with destructive consequences. During the author’s residence in Paraguay, many individuals were killed by lightning; and, in a single storm, which occurred on the 21st of January, 1793, the lightning fell thirty-seven times within the town of Buenos Ayres, and killed nineteen persons.
Owing to the general and extensive flatness of these countries, the smaller rivers are arrested and evaporated before they reach the sea; and the lakes, which are very numerous, and occasionally also very extensive, are remarkably shallow. Though that of Xarayes, for example, is presumed to measure 110 leagues in length, and 40 in breadth, it is no where navigable, and is evaporated to complete dryness during the greater part of the year. “Some of the old writers believed that it was the source of the river Paraguay, whereas the fact is precisely the reverse; others, who took a pleasure in forging tales, have asserted that in the centre of this lake existed the empire of the Xarayes, or of el Derado, or of Paytili; and they have embellished this falsehood by other fables, still more unaccountable.” The quantity of soil that is flooded by these vast pieces of water, the in practicability of drainage and irrigation in boundless tracts of dead level, and the sand stone rock, which stretches over all the flats on the east of the Paraguay and Parana, present insuperable obstacles to extensive vegetation and culture. The following particulars it will be proper to mention, as nearly as we can, in the author’s own language.
“On the north of the river Plata, or in the plains of Monte Video and Maldonado, I have observed that the herds search for, and eat with avidity, dried bones; that, in proportion as they advance northward, they eat a species of earth called Barrero, which is a salt clay found in the ditches; and that, when this fails (which happens in the eastern districts of Paraguay and the Missions of Uruguay) cattle of all kinds infallibly perish at the expiration of four months. We can scarcely conceive the eagerness which the herds manifest in seeking for and devouring this salt argillaceous earth. If they discover it after a month’s privation, they are not to be driven from it by blows; and by indulging in it to excess they sometimes die of indigestion. I have been assured that the birds and quadrupeds of this country, which feed on vegetables, manifest the same propensity; and I can, at least, personally vouch for a great quantity of salt in the stomach of the Tapir. From these facts, I
conclude that the pastures of the countries in question are incapable of supporting any species of cattle, without the addition of salt, or salted clay: but that the freshness of the herbage diminishes from une Missions to the river Plata. In Brazil, notwithstanding the luxuriance of the pasture, it is found impossible to rear cattle without salt; and since none is found in the country, and it is all imported from Europe, it forms a very expensive article, being sold on account of government.”
The state of things is quite reversed in the whole of Chaco, or in the region situated to the west of the Paraguay and Parana, and from the Plata southwards; every rivulet, lake, and well, being brackish in summer. Even the rivers partake of this quality when their waters are low.
Don Felix de Azara is very sparing of his notices concerning fossil productions, and communicates no information relative to the stratification of the districts which he traversed. His account of the celebrated mass of native iron, in the plains of Chaco, does not materially differ from that of Don Rubin de Celis, though his mode of explaining the phenomenon may be allowed to be his own: he says, “I am inclined to believe that it is as ancient as the world, and that it proceeded in its present form from the hands of the Creator.”
[To be conti Nued.]
FROM “THE EDINBURGH REVIEW.
The Speeches of the Honourable Thomas Erskine (now Lord Erskine) when at the Bar, on Subjects connected with the Liberty of the Press, and against Constructive
WE regard the publication of this collection as an event of great importance, both in a literary and political view. The orations which have been given to the world in modern times, under the sanction of the person who delivered them, or in such a manner as to secure a tolerable share of correctness, are lamentably
Collected by James Ridgeway. 2 vol. 8vo.
p. 854. London. 1810.
few. Perhaps Mr. Burke’s are the only speeches of note which have been printed in an authentick shape, in an age teeming with orators, and, though prolifick of much bad eloquence, adorned by some of the greatest geniuses that ever practised this divine art. When we consider how great the difference is between ancient and modern eloquence; how much of that which peculiarly marks the latter, was utterly unknown to the ancients; we mean, the extemporaneous reasoning and declamation known by the name of debating; and when we reflect how much more adapted this talent is to the business of real life than the elaborate and ornate compositions of antiquity; we cannot fail to lament, that almost all our great masters of the art have died, without leaving a trace of their genius behind them; and that if unhappily, the free constitution of England were destroyed, the speeches of Mr. Burke alone would leave to posterity any means of conjecturing what powers had been exerted to avert its fate. To those immortal specimens of modern popular eloquence, must now be added the most perfect examples of the eloquence of the bar which are to be found in any age; for the volumes before us both collect and preserve the fugitive publications of Mr. Erskine's speeches formerly in circulation, and add, in a correct and authentick form, several which had been most scantily and inaccurately reported. These volumes, which, we rejoice to learn, will be followed by another, embrace the most celebrated speeches, from the case of captain Baillie, $n 1779, when Mr. Erskine, in the very outset of his brilliant career, astonished the legal world with a display of talents, which was outshone, indeed, but not obscured, by his own riper efforts, down to his celebrated defence of Mr. Perry in 1793, when, having long stood unrivalled among English lawyers for eloquence; for skill and conduct; for knowledge of the constitutional law of the realm; and for dauntless love of liberty, he put forth his matured genius with a power that carried every thing before it, and bore down the utmost efforts of the court against the independence of the British press. The speeches are twelve in number; and they are prefaced
with such explanations of the subjects, extracts from the pleadings, and reports of the speeches of the crown lawyers to whom Mr. Erskine replied, as serve to render the matter of them perfectly intelligible to every reader. Where it is of importance, the address of the judge to the jury is likewise inserted; and many anecdotes which occurred at the trials are added; with the verdict; motions in arrest of judgment, and conversations at delivering the verdict, where any thing of this kind took place. The prefatory statements are very well, and, as far as we happen to know, very faithfully executed. We have understood, that the publick is indebted for them, and indeed for this publication, to a gentleman of the profession. Mr. Erskine himself, we believe, revised many of his speeches at the time of their original publication—at least we have heard so; and, from the character of accuracy which they here bear, we are inclined to believe the report. By rather a singular omission in so careful a compilation, no table of contents is given to these volumes. We shall therefore give a list of the speeches contained in them. The first is that in captain Baillie's case, in the Court of King's Bench. Then follows the speech for Carnan, at the bar of the house of commons, against the monopoly of the two universities in printing almanacks. Next come: the famous speech for Lord George Gordon at the Old Bailey; the speeches for the dean of St. Asaph, at Shrewsbury assizes, at the motion in the King's Bench for a new trial, and afterwards in support of the rule, with a note of his speech in arrest of judgment, in the same noted case. These close the first volume. The second begins with the speech for Paine; after which comes the speech, rather more popular at the time, against the publisher of the Age of Reason —and which finds a place here somewhat strangely, as it was not delivered for years after the period where these volumes end, and should have come into a subsequent part of the publication. The speech in Stockdale’s case follows; and then those for Messrs. Frost and Perry; with which the second volume concludes. In these volumes, we have a complete body of the law of libel, and a most perfect history of its progress, down to the libel bill of Mr. Fox, which owed its origin, indeed, to the doubts and difficulties that arose during the prosecution [is there not an errour in the first syllable?] of the dean of St. Asaph. The argument on the rights of juries, as connected with that case, affords the clearest exposition of the subject, and is, in itself, by far the most learned commentary on the nature of that inestimable mode of trial, which is any where to be found. Mr. Fox’s bill is merely declaratory of the principles, which were laid down in this argument with unrivalled clearness, and enforced with a power of reasoning which none ever denied to this great advocate, except in the moment when, dazzled by the astonishing powers of his language, they were tempted to fancy, that so rare a union of different qualities was not in nature; and to doubt whether such eloquence and fire, so lively an imagination, and so great warmth of passions, were compatible with the faculties of close reasoning, and nice discrimination. As connected, then, with the history of jury trial; as laying down its principles; as furnishing the groundwork of Mr. Fox’s famous bill; and as having, in point of fact, given occasion to that bill, we view the speeches for dean Shipley, which contain a most complete history of that case, as the most important part of this collection. We need scarcely add, that the trial by jury is here only viewed in its relation to the law of libel; but, to administer this law, is, beyond all comparison, the most imVOL. IV, 2 P
portant office of juries—the one in which the excellence of that institution is most conspicuous and indisputable, and, independent of which, the objections to it would be neither few nor light. Of the speeches now described we purpose to say nothing more at present. They are so well known, and so often referred to, that we need not dwell upon them in this place. In the importance of the occasion, and of its consequences to the liberties of Englishmen, we cannot hesitate in placing the defence of lord George Gordon in the next rank. This great speech, and the acquittal which it secured to the object of it, were the deathblow of the tremendous doctrine of constructive treason. Lord George Gordon's, indeed, may be called the case of constructive treasons; and, after its decision, that engine of oppression lay at rest for a series of years, till the season of alarm, which, with all other monstrous and unutterable things, arose out of the French revolution, seemed to furnish a fit opportunity for reviving the times of legal oppression and injustice, under colour of law. In that inauspicious era, this most perilous doctrine once more found, in the same consummate advocate, an enemy so irresistible, that again it utterly failed, though brought forward with every chance in its favour, from the temper of the times; the power of the crown; the madness of the country; the folly of the mob; and the talents of Mr. Erskine’s political enemies and professional rivals. We shall have an opportunity of contemplating this, the greatest of all his victories, with more advantage, when the speeches in 1794 are added to the collection. At present, our attention is confined to the defence of lord George Gordon. From this we are unable to extract any passages which can give a just notion of its character and high merits; for these consist, not in dazzling sentences, nor in particular bursts of eloquence, but in the close texture of the whole argument, both where Mr. Erskine lays down the principles of treason law, skilfully adapting them to his purpose, by bringing forward such parts chiefly as suit his case, and illustrating them by a reference to circumstances like those he had himself to deal with, and where he more particularly and more directly makes the application of those doctrines to the charges against lord George Gordon. The whole speech must be read, and even carefully studied, before a just sense of the talents displayed in it can be entertained, or a conjecture formed of its great effects upon the audience who heard it, and the tribunal to which it was addressed. We shall here only give a passage from the conclusion, because its diction is peculiarly beautiful and chaste, and the topicks highly persuasive.
Ofe! Is the intellectual seat of justice to be thus impiously shaken? Are your benevolent propensities to be thus disappointed and abused? Do they wish you, while you are listening to the evidence, to connect it with unforeseen consequences, in spite of reason and truth? Is it their object to hang the millstone of prejudice around his innocent neck to sink him? If there be such men, may Heaven forgive them for the attempt, and inspire you with fortitude and wisdom to discharge your duty with calm, steady, and reflecting minds.
“Gentlemen, I have no manner of doubt that you will. I am sure you cannot but see, notwithstanding my great inability, increased by a perturbation of mind (arising, thank God! from no dishonest cause) that there has been not only no evidence on the part of the crown, to fix the guilt of the late commotions upon the prisoner, but that, on the contrary, we have been able to resist the probability— I might almost say the possibility—of the charge, not only by living witnesses, whom we only ceased to call, because the trial would never have ended, but by the evidence of all the blood that has paid the forfeit of that guilt already; an evidence that, I will take upon me to say, is the strongest, and most unanswerable, which the combination of natural events ever brought together since the beginning of the world for the deliverance of the oppressed—since, in the late numerous trials for acts of violence and depredation, though conducted by the ablest servants of the crown, with a laudable eye to the investigation of the subject which now engages us, no one fact appeared which showed any plan, any object, any leader —since, out of forty-four thousand persons who signed the petition of the protestants, not one was to be found among those who were convicted, tried, or even apprehended on suspicion—and since, out of all the felons who were let loose from prisons, and who assisted in the destruction of our property, not a single wretch was to be found, who could even attempt to save his own life by the plausible promise of giving evidence to day. “What can overturn such a proof as this! Surely a good man might, without superstition, believe, that such a union of events was something more than natural, and that the Divine Providence was watchful for the protection of innocence and truth. “I may now, therefore, relieve you from the pain of hearing me any longer, and be myself relieved from speaking on