Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

enabled it to open a trade with America, by a course of navigation the longest from land to land on our globe. In the infancy of this trade, it was carried on with Callao on the coast of Peru, but afterwards it was removed to Acapulco on the coast of New Spain. After various arrangements it has been brought into a regular form. One or two ships depart annually from Acapulco, which are permitted to carry out silver to the amount of more than one hundred thousand pounds sterling; in return for which, they bring back spices, drugs, china, and japan wares; callicoes, chintz, muslins, silks, and every precious article with which the East can supply the rest of the world. For some time the merchants of Peru were permitted to participate in this traffic, but now it is confined solely to New Spain. In consequence of this indulgence, the inhabitants of that country enjoy advantages unknown to the other Spanish colonies. The manufactures of the East are not only more suited to a warm climate, and are more showy than those of Europe, but can be sold at a lower price; while, at the same time, the profits upon them are so considerable as to enrich all those who are employed either in bringing them from Manilla, or vending them in New Spain. As the interest both of the buyer and seller concurs in favouring this branch of commerce, it has continued in spite of regulations, concerted with the most anxious jealousy, to circumscribe it. Under cover of what the laws permit to be imported, great quantities of India goods are poured into the markets of New Spain; and when the European ships arrive at Vera Cruz, they frequently find the wants of the peoVol. XXIV. S

ple supplied by cheaper and more acceptable commodities. Notwithstanding these frauds, the Spanish mohatchs receive a very considerable revenue from the American dominions. This arises from taxes of various kinds, which may be divided into, i. What is paid to the sovereign as lord of the New World: to this class belong the duty on the produce of the mines, and the tribute exacted from the Indians: the former is termed by the Spaniards the right of signory, the latter is the duty of vassalage. 2. Into the numerous duties on commerce, which accompany and oppress it in every step:. and, 3. What accrues to the king as head of the church. In consequence of this, he receives the spiritual revenues levied by the apostolic chamber in Europe, and is entitled likewise to the profit arising from the sale of the bull of Cruzado. This bull, which is published every two years, contains an absolution from past offences, and a permission to eat several kinds of prohibited food during Lent. Every person in the Spanish colonies of European, Creolian, or mixed race, purchases a bull which is deemed essential to his salvation, at the rate set upon it by government. It is not easy to get at the amount of those various funds; but it is probable that the net public revenue raised in America does not exceed a million and a half sterling per annum. Spain and Portugal are, however, the only European powers who derive a direct revenue from their colonies. All the advantage that accrues to other nations from their American dominions arises from the exclusive enjoyment of their trade. But if the revenue which Spain draws from

America be great, the expense of administration in her colonies bears full proportion to it. The salaries allotted to every person in public office are very high. The viceroys maintain all the state and dignity of royalty. Their courts display such pomp as hardly retains the appearance of a delegated authority. All this expense is defrayed by the crown. The salaries constitute but a small part of the revenue enjoyed by the viceroys. From the single article of presents made to him on the anniversary of his name-day, a viceroy has been known to receive fifteen thousand pounds sterling. According to a Spanish proverb, the legal revenues of a viceroy are known : his real profits depend upon his opportunities and conscience. Hence their commission is granted only for a very short term of years; which renders them often more rapacious, in order quickly to repair a shat, tered fortune, or to create a new one. But even in situations so trying to human frailty, there are instances of virtue that remain unseduced. In the year 1772, the marquis de Croiz finished the term of his viceroyalty in New Spain with unsuspected integrity; and, instead of bringing home exorbitant wealth, returned with the admiration and applause of a grateful people, whom his government had rendered happy.

CHAP. VII.

History of the Portuguese Settlements in Mmerica. Discovery of Brazil. Extent of the Portuguese Empire. Conquest of Portugal. Brazil taken by the Dutch. Recovered. Extent of Brazil. How divided and governed. Inhabitants. Trade. .Amazonia. River Amazon. Peofile. French Settlement of Cayenne. Dutch Settlements at Guiana. Chief Towns. Climate. Inhabitants. Productions.

HE discovery of America by Columbus was, as we have seen, owing originally to just reasoning on the figure of the earth, though the particular land that he discovered was far from that which he sought. Here was evidently a mixture of wise design and fortunate accident; but the Portuguese discovery of Brazil may be regarded as merely accidental. For, sailing with a considerable armament to India, by the way of the Cape of Good Hope, but standing out to sea to avoid the calms upon the coast of Africa, the Portuguese fleet fell in with the continent of South America. Upon their return they made so favourable a report of the land which they had discovered, that the court resolved to send a colony thither. This was at first opposed by the Spaniards, who considered the country as within their dominions. Matters were, however, at length accommodated by a treaty, in which it was agreed that the Portuguese should possess all that tract of land that lies between the River of Amazons and that of La Plata.

[ocr errors]

When their right was thus confirmed, the Portuguese pursued the settlement 5:3. with such vigour, that in a little time more than two thousand miles of sea-coast was colonized; which was infinitely to the benefit of the mother country. Their settlements on the coast of Africa forwarded this establishment, by the number of negroes which they afforded them for their works. Hence the introduction of negroes into this part of America, and the foundation of a traffic, disgraceful to all concerned in it.

In the very meridian of their prosperity, when the Portuguese were in possession of so extensive an empire, and so flourishing a trade in Africa, in Arabia, in India, in the Asiatic isles, and in the most valuable part of America, they were crushed by one of those incidents which decides the fates of kingdoms. Don Sebastian, one of their greatest princes, in an expedition he had undertaken against the Moors, was slain; by which accident the Portuguese lost their liberty, and were absorbed into the Spanish dominions.

Soon after this misfortune, the same yoke that galled the Portuguese grew so intolerable to the inhabitants of the Netherlands, that they threw it off with great fury and indignation. Not satisfied with erecting themselves into an independent state, they fell upon the possessions of the Portuguese; took almost all their fortresses in the EastIndies; and then turned their arms upon Brazil, which was unprotected by Europe, and betrayed by the cowardice of the governor of their principal city. They would have over-run the whole, had not the archbishop Don Michael de Texeira believed, that in such an emergency the danger of his country superseded the

A. D. 1580.

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »