« ForrigeFortsett »
Colombia : Its present state, in respect of Climate, Soil, Pro
ductions, Population, Government, Commerce, Revenue, Manufactures, Arts, Literature, Manners, Education, and Inducements to Emigration. With Itineraries, partly from Spanish Surveys, partly from Actual Observation. By Colonel Francis Hall, Hydrographer in the service of Colombia. Philadelphia. 1825.
Colonel Hall is, no doubt, already well known to many of our readers, as the author of " Letters from France,” and of "A Tour in British North America and the United States." In the latter work, the author appeared perpetually struggling between his approbation of most of our political and social institutions, and his fears of provoking the resentment of his Majesty's ministers, who, at that time, were not at all desirous that the advantages which belong to a republican form of government should be generally known. Colonel Hall went as far as his conscience would permit; but he could not, in common honesty, descend to so low a key-note of calumniation as his illustrious employers had selected and appointed for the purpose. He was, accordingly, soon made to comprehend, by these haters of successful and prosperous republics, that the English officer who would dare to speak of the United States in any language but that of scorn, disgust and execration, could never hope for distinction or advancement in the armies of a British king. Colonel Hall was thus obliged to throw up his commission, and seek for refuge in the service of a South American republic. The rank which he holds in the Colombian army has enabled him to collect much valuable information on almost every subject interesting to those who think of emigrating to Colombia. The little volume before us cannot, of course, from its brevity, enter into any very extensive details, but has the merit of
eset ing, in a cheap and compact form, a general view of the actual condition and future capabilities of the infant republic.
Colonel Hall has purposely confined himself to the present state of Colombia ; but as we cannot help thinking that a sketch of the history of a country of which so little is ac. curately known, will be generally acceptable to our readers, we shall endeavor to supply this deficiency, by prefacing our remarks on the work before us, with a notice, necessarily brief, of the more remarkable events in the history of Colombia.
This republic is formed, as our readers doubtless know, out of the ci-devant vice-royalty of New-Grenada on the south Vol. II. No. XII.
and west, and the captaincy-general of Caracas on the north and east. The coast of Paria, in the province of New-Andalusia or Cumaná, will ever be remembered as the spot where Columbus first landed on the continent of South America, on the fifth of August, 1498. He was followed by Ojeda, Christoval Guerra, and Pinzon, who soon made known to all Europe the great abundance of gold, pearls, and precious woods which these provinces afforded. Expeditions were accordingly fitted out, and settlements were speedily effected at different points of the Venezuelan coast. In 1528, the sovereignty of the province of Caracas, or at least, of the better part of it, was transferred by Charles the Fifth to the Welsers, a company of very opulent German merchants at Augsburg, in payment of a heavy debt which he had contract. ed. This was held a short time as a fief of Castile, but was soon forfeited for alleged abuses. Juan Perez de Tolosa was appointed captain-general, and Carácas, from that time to the revolution of 1810, was governed by the worst possible species of colonial administration. There is absolutely nothing in this long interval of nearly three hundred years, which is worthy of the attention of the minutest historian. The whole period is filled with little else than the records of arbitrary and preposterous restrictions imposed by the mother country upon her colonies, with the idle expectation of deriving from these measures a very great accession of inflaence and wealth. The administration of the Council of the Indies, with all its magnificent pretensions, was oppressive in the extreme. The Creoles, or natives of the country, were excluded from almost all offices of profit and trust. The utmost ingenuity was exerted to keep down the growth of knowledge, and to limit the means of improvement. The colonial resources were abridged and controlled by a system of oppression which seemed deliberately to aim at the destruction of every source of provincial emolument which could not be exclusively perverted to the interests of Spain. The colonists were forbidden to trade with foreigners under penalty of death. The whole commerce, internal and external, of the provinces, was shackled by an execrable system of licenses, restrictions, monopolies, high duties, double tythes, alcabalas, estancos and custom-house exactions, such as the most bigoted exclusionist of modern days would not dare to recommend. The most absurd and disgusting superstitions were industriously inculcated by the priests, who, in fact, were the meanest of the minions of royalty ; and all studies which tended to strengthen the understanding, were expressly and emphatically forbidden, on the ground that the inhabitants were intended by nature to labor in the mines.*
The history of New-Grenada is a mere repetition of that of Carácas. It was discovered by Columbus during his fourth voyage ; and various ineffectual attempts were soon af. ter made by Spanish adventurers to establish a permanent possession of the province. Finally, however, after about forty years of irregular warfare with the natives, Queseda and Benalcazar succeeded in reducing the whole country, which was thereupon erected into a captaincy-general, subject to the feeble counterbalance of an Audiencia Real. In 1718, New-Grenada, then dependent on Peru, was raised to a vice-royalty, and two royal audiences were subsequently established. If we except the invasion of Carthagena, in 1585, by a few French adventurers, the capture and destruction of the town of that name by Sir Francis Drake, the pillage by the French buccaneers, and the naval demonstrations of Admiral Vernon in 1739, New-Grenada may be said to have remained uninterruptedly in the possession of Spain until the late revolution. During this long period of colonial subjection, this province was compelled to endure the same iniquitous oppressions which we briefly enumerated when-speaking of Caracas, and which, indeed, were meted out with a fearful impartiality to all the Spanish colonies on the continent of South America. • It cannot be supposed that the provincialists could endure, without murmuring, the unparalleled tyranny of the mothercountry. But so great was the influence of the priests, and so confirmed was the weakness of the people, that no at tempt to oppose openly and forcibly the despotism of their trans-atlantic rulers, was ever actually and seriously made, until the year 1781, when the province of Socorro rose in arms against a threatened imposition, or rather extension of the detested Alcabala. The insurrection was, however, very speedily quelled, and the country continued quietly submissive to the metropolitan authority until 1794, when another rebellion broke out, and aroused the greater part of New Grenada. The new doctrine, so difficult for tyrants to acknowledge and for slaves to comprehend, of a people's in
* Not a single printing press was permitted in Now-Grenada or Caracas; and the Holy Inquisition enjoined upon its agents diligent search among the colonists for all books which did not teach the most grovelling submission to the civil and ecclesiastical authorities. If any such were found, the possessors were inflexibly and rigorously punished.
alienable right of self-government, had gradually found its way to the understandings of the South Americans. The same Book, which had already so materially contributed to the cause of freedom in North America, was destined to subserve as bigh and holy a purpose among men yet unacquainted with the language of liberty. In spite of the vigilance of the minions of the Inquisition, the Rights of Man was published and secretly distributed at Bogotá ; and it was not until the glorious doctrines of democracy had been widely disseminated, that the vengeance of the sovereign reached the heads of the abettors of these damnable heresies, for as such they were denounced by the pious arch-bishop of Santa Fé. This insurrection, from its limited extent, shared the fate of the former one, and no revolutionary movement, if we except the feeble efforts of Miranda in 1806, occurred until 1808, wben French agents arrived with the news of the imprisonment of Charles, and demanded from New-Grenada and Carácas the oath of allegiance to the Emperor Napoleon. This afforded to the friends of independence an admirable opportunity for the accomplishment of their designs; and under the very plausible pretext of opposing the pretensions of France, and defending the authority of Ferdinand, measures were secretly adopted in the provinces of Quito, Santa Fé and Venezuela to secure the absolute independence of NewGrenada and Caracas. The plan of the insurgents was partially accomplished, when the re-establishment of the peace of Europe enabled Spain to direct her undivided strength against the movement of the embryo republic, and a lingering respect for the authority of Ferdinand, enforced by the superstitious terrors which the earthquake at Caracas had excited, enabled Monteverde to reduce Venezuela to her original allegiance.
If this general had exercised that forbearance which policy as well as humanity required, it is probable that the name of Bolívar would never have been known as the Liberator of Colombia. He was at this time enjoying, under the protection of the English at Curaçao, the peaceable possession of his wealth ; but exasperated at the cruelty of Monteverde and his ruffian adherents, Antoñanza and Zoasola, he sat out, at the head of fifty followers, for Carthagena, and after a considerable accession of numbers, defeated Monteverde, and entered Valentia in triumph. Bolívar was afterwards compelled to retreat before Boves, and took refuge in Tunja. His subsequent operations were in a measure frustrated by the opposition of the federalists, who resisted by force of arms the establishment of the central form of government ; and the arrival of Morillo from Spain was followed by the fall of Carthagena and the recovery of New-Grenada. Morillo knew as little as Monteverde what use to make of victory, and after irritating his defeated enemies by unheard-of severities, he made an indiscreet descent upon the Isle of Marguerita, where his army was cut to pieces, and he himself forced to retreat in disgrace to Caracas. The reinforcement of three thousand Spanish troops under the command of Canterac, who arrived about this time from Spain, enabled Morillo and Barreira, ano. ther of the Spanish generals, to make head for a short time against Bolívar; but in 1819 a decisive victory at Boyacá put the Liberator in secure possession of Bogotá. Morillo returned to Spain,* and Latorre who succeeded him, being defeated by Bolívar at Carabobo,t was compelled to take refuge in Puerto Cabello.
The Spanish authority being thus utterly broken down throughout New Grenada and Caracas, a congress was assembled at the city of Rosario de Cúcuta on the 19th of July, 1821, which decreed and ratified the fundamental law of the union of the two provinces, under the name of the Republic of Colombia, and the constitution was proclaimed on the 30th of the following month. Shortly after this Cumaná surren
* As a reward for his services, this wretch was created, by his royal master, Couot of Carthagena and Marquis de la Puerta. The following anecdote of this double traitor, (for his conduct during the late Spanish revolution proved him such) is supported by unquestionable testimony. During the campaigns in Caracas, a boy appeared in the tent of Morillo, drowned in tears. The chief desired to be informed for what purpose he was there. The child replied that he had come to beg the life of his father, then a prisoner in Morillo's camp. “What can you do to save your father?" asked the general. “I can do but little," said the boy, “but what I can shall be done.” Morillo seized the little fellow's ear: is Would you suffer your ear to be taken off to obtain your father's liberty ?” “I certainly would," was the answer A soldier was accordingly ordered to cut off the ear by one stroke of the knife. The boy wept, but did not resist. “Would you lose the other ear for the same thing ?" was the next question. “I have suffered much, but I can still suffer," replied the boy. The other ear was taken off piecemeal. “And now,” said Morillo, “depart! the father of such a son is dangerous to Spain; he must die!" The father was then executed in the presence of the son.
t In this engagement General Paez particularly distinguished himself, and was appointed by Bolivar, general-in-chief of the army at the very scene of the action. Vide the official account of the victory of Carabobo, lated Valentia, June 25th, 1821.
| This fundamental law is grounded on a similar one decreed on the 17th of December, 1819, at Angostura, which first declared the union of Venczuela and New-Grenada, ander the “glorious title" of the Republic of