« ZurückWeiter »
mous missions of the Jesuits, and several other districts. The capital of Ia Plata is Buenos-Ayres, the most considerable sea-port in South America. From this town a great part of the treasure of Chili and Peru is exported to Old Spain. Most of the country is inhabited by native Americans. The Jesuits were indefatigable in their endeavours to convert the Indians to the belief of their religion, and to introduce among them the arts of civilized life; and they met with surprising success. More than 300,000 families were formerly subject to the Jesuits, living in obedience and with an awe bordering on adoration. But in 1767 the Jesuits were sent out of America by royal authority, and their subjects were put upon the same footing with the other inhabitants of the country.
All the other territories of Spain in the New World, the islands excepted, of whose discovery and reduction an account has already been given, are comprehended under two great divisions; the former denominated the kingdom of Terra Firma, the provinces of which stretch along the Atlantic from the eastern frontier of New Spain to the mouth of the Oromoko ; the latter the new kingdom of Granada, situated in the interior country. Terra Firma is divided into twelve large provinces, which contain a vast deal of mountainous country: the valleys are deep and narrow; and being for a great part of the year flooded, the whole district is perhaps the most unhealthy part of the torrid zone. The plains are fertile, and produce great abundance of corn, fruits, and drugs. No place abounds more in rich pasturage, or has a greater stock of black cattle. Its capital city, Panama, is situated upon one of the best harbours of the South Seas. Hither is brought all the treasure which the rich mines of Peru and Chili pay to the king, or produce upon a private account. In the bay is a pearl fishery of great value. The town contains 5000 houses elegantly built of brick and stone, disposed in a semicircular form, and enlivened with the spires and domes of several churches and monasteries. At Carthagena, the second town in Terra Firma, the galleons on their voyage from Spain put in first, and dispose of a considerable part of their cargo. The fleet of galleons consists of about eight men of war, laden with every kind of merchandize, as well as with military stores for Peru. No sooner are these ships arrived in the haven of Carthagena than expresses are immediately dispatched to the adjacent towns, that they may get ready all the treasure which is deposited there to meet the galleons at Porto Bello. Here all persons concerned in the various branches of this extensive traffic assemble, and business of wonderful extent and importance is negociated in a short time. In about a fortnight the fair is over; during which the display of gold and silver and precious stones on the one hand, and of all the curiosities and variety of European fabrics on the other, is astonishing. Heaps of wedges and ingots of the precious metals are rolled about on the wharfs like things of little or no value. At this time an hundred crowns are given for a mean lodging, a thousand for a shop, and provisions of every kind are proportionably dear. The new kingdom of Granada is so far elevated above the level of the sea, that though it approaches almost to the equator, the climate is remarkably temperate. Some districts yield gold with so great profusion, that single labourers have been known to collect in a day what was equal in value to 250l. Its towns are populous and flourishing. Industry is encouraged, and a considerable trade is carried on with Carthagena. Having traced the progress of the Spaniards in their discoveries and conquests, to that period when their authority was established over all the vast regions in the New World still subject to their dominion; it remains only to consider the effect of their settlements upon the countries, which they took possession of as well as upon their own. The first visible consequence of the establishments made by the Spaniards in America, was the diminution of the ancient inhabitants to a degree equally astonishing and deplorable. But notwithstanding the rapid depopulation of America, a very considerable number of the native race still remains both in Mexico and Peru. Their settlements in some places are so populous as to merit the name of cities. In Peru, several districts, particularly in the kingdom of Quito, are occupied almost entirely by Indians ; and in some provinces they are mingled with the Spaniards, and are almost the only persons who practise the mechanic arts, and fill most of the inferior stations in society. In the districts adjacent to Carthagena, to Panama, and Buenos-Ayres, the desolation is more general than even in those parts of Mexico and Peru of which the Spaniards have taken most full possession. When the conquests of the Spaniards in America were completed, their monarchs, in forming the plan of internal policy for their new dominions, divided them into two immense governments; one subject to the viceroy of New Spain, the other to the viceroy of Peru. The jurisdiction of the former extended over all the provinces belonging to Spain in the northern division of the American continent. Under that of the latter was comprehended whatever she possessed in South America. The authority of the viceroy over districts so far removed from his own eye and observation, was unavoidably both feeble and ill-directed. A third viceroyalty has therefore been established at Santa Fé de Bojeta, the capital of the new kingdom of Granada, the jurisdiction of which extends over the whole kingdom of Terra Firma, and the province of Quito. In subjection to the viceroys are other officers of different ranks and degrees. The various duties assigned to each, and the several powers which they exercise, cannot be discussed in this volume. We shall therefore proceed to explain by what means the colonies enrich the mother country. Of all the methods by which riches may be acquired, that of searching for the precious metals is one ofthe most inviting to men unaccustomed to the regular assiduity with which the culture of the earth and the operations of commerce must be carried on, or who are so rapacious as not to be satisfied with the gradual returns of profit which they yield. Accordingly, as soon as the several countries in America were subjected to the dominion of Spain, this was almost the only method of acquiring wealth which occurred to the adventurers by whom they were conquered. All crowded to Mexico and Peru, where the quantities of gold and silver found among the natives promised an unexhausted store. During several years the ardour of their researches was kept up by hope rather than success. At length the rich mines of Potosi, in Peru, were accidentally discovered in the year 1545, by an Indian as he was clambering up the mountain in pursuit of a llama which had strayed from his flock. Soon after the mines of Sacotecas, in New Spain, little inferior to the other in value, were opened. From that time the working of mines has become the capital occupation of the Spaniards, and is reduced into a system no less complicated than interesting. The exuberant profusion with which the mountains of the New World poured forth their treasures astonished mankind, who had been accustomed hitherto to receive a penurious supply of the precious metals from the more scanty stores contained in the mines of the ancient hemisphere. According to principles of computation, which appear to be extremely moderate, the quantity of gold and silver that has been regularly entered in the ports of Spain is equal in value to four millions sterling annually, reckoning from the year 1492, in which America was discovered, to the present time. This in 31 1 years amounts to twelve hundred and forty-four millions. Immense as this sum is, the Spanish writers contend that as much more ought to be added to it, in consideration of treasure which has been extracted from the mines, and imported fraudulently into Spain without paying duty to the king. By this account Spain has drawn from the New World a supply of wealth amounting to nearly two thousand five hundred millions of pounds sterling. Though the mines are the chief object of the Spaniards, yet the fertile countries which they possess in America abound with other commodities of such value or scarcity as to attract a considerable degree of attention. Cochineal is a production almost peculiar to New Spain : the Jesuits bark, the most salutary, simple, perhaps, and of most restorative virtue, that Providence has made