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Colombia.-Geography.-Physical Aspect.-Productions.-Government under Spain.-Religion.-Character of the People.Causes of the Revolution.-Revolutionary Movements.—Miranda.-Events of Bayenne.-Juntas.-Independence.
DURING the last year the repub- equebo, and on the Pacific, from lic of Colombia was dissolved the Gulf of Guayaquil to the into its original elements, subse- Gulf Dulce. It touched Guatemquently to the death of of Bolivar, ala on the isthmus, and was boundunder whose auspices its constit- ed on the south by Peru, the uent provinces had been united Empire of Brazil, and Dutch together, and it is now in the Guiana, occupying twenty degrees course of being reconstructed in of latitude. The space comprea form better calculated to give hended within these limits consatisfaction to the people, and tains 92,000 square leagues, and with Santander for President. We sustained at the beginning of the reserve the history of these events revolution, a population of 2,900, for another time, when having 000, souls. The first fundamenreached their consummation, they tal law of the Republic divided may be presented in a complete the whole territory into three view, occupying the space usually great departments, Quito, Cundevoted to Colombia with an ac- dinamarca, and Venezuela, which, count of the circumstances which proving too extensive for the purled to a separation from Spain. poses of convenient internal administration, were gradually subdivided into twelve departments, denominated, Orinoco, Venezuela, Apure, Zulia, Boyaca, Cundinamarca, Magdalena, Istmo, Cauca, Ecuador, Guayaquil, and Asuays, and these constitute the political divisions of Colombia employed in the present work.
The Republic of Colombia as it recently existed, embraced all that vast region of South America, known in Spanish books as the Terra Firma or Spanish Main, having been composed of the Captain Generalship of Venezuela and the Vice Royalty of New Granada, including Quito, and also the provinces of Panama and Veragua in the isthmus. It extended on the Atlantic from Cape Gracias-a-Dios along the whole north
coast of the Continent of South America to the River Es
The physical aspect of a country resting upon both oceans and covering so great an extent of soil, is of course highly diversified, curious, and interesting. It is partitioned by nature into
two great divisions, totally different from each other in climate, surface, condition, and productions; the easterly half of it being as much distinguished by its immense range of plains, as the other is by its numerous ridges of the loftiest mountains in America. The long chain of the Andes, which beginning at the very extremity of the continent, sweeps along the shores of the Pacific from south to north, through Chili and Peru, enters Colombia at Loja in a single undivided range of elevated summits, and so continues onward for several degrees, sundered only by a very narrow valley, until it reaches Pasto. In this region, between Loja and Pasto are the celebrated peaks of Chimborazo, Cayambar, Capac-Urca, Cotopaxi, and others, some of which are terrific volcanoes, elevated far above the region of eternal snow. In the province of Pasto the chain is broken up into deep vallies, rough precipices, and difficult defiles, which give this province advantages in a defensive war unsurpassed in any part of America; and here at length the Andes are severed into a number of branches, spreading out in fanlike ramifications towards the Atlantic. One branch still pursues the coast of the Pacific, and goes off to the northwest to form the isthmus of Panama, after throwing off a ramification, which embraces the valley of the river Atrato, and reaches the Atlantic near the Gulf of Darien.
A second great branch proceeds northwardly separating the noble streams of the Cauca and the Magdalena. A third branch,
extending to the northwest, containing the rich vallies of Bogota and Sogamoso, the primitive seats of the ancient Indian kingdom of the Mayscas; it severs the waters of the Magdalena from those which flow into the Orinoco, and as it approaches the Atlantic is divided so as to embrace the great lake of Maracaybo between its two ramifications. All that portion of Colombia through which these main branches of the Andes extend, may with the exception of a comparatively small portion of it, he described as full of nountains covered with woods, meadows, and arable land. There is concentrated the great mass of the population, industry, agriculture, and intelligence of the people of Colombia. Its principal cities, such as Caracas, Bogota, Popayan, Quito, Cuenca, are placed high on the Cordilleras, where their inhabitants breathe a pure and vivifying air, which fits them for action whether of body or mind.
Eastward of the region just described, every thing is totally different. Interminable plains, covered half the year with immense herds of neat cattle and horses, and presenting the other half the appearance of an internal ocean; small thickets scattered over wide-spreading savannahs; the mighty Orinoco, with its great branches, the Guaviari, Meta, and Apure, emulating the Mississippi and its tributary streams, and creating an unexampled exuberance of vegetable life.
Such are the characteristics of the great eastern level of Colombia which extends for a dis
tance of three hundred and eighty leagues from the delta of the Orinoco to the foot of the Andes of Pasto. The inhabitants of the great region of the plains are few in number, particularly towards Guiana, as the last settlements are on the banks of the Meta, and east of the Apure is a population of only 60,000 souls, and a few wandering tribes of aborigines. Beyond this plain on the side of Brazil is a group of mountains covered with unexplored forests, the mysterious Guiana of Raleigh's search, the region of darkness and fable, the untrodden Dorado of Central America.
As the whole of Colombia is situated within the tropics, its climate is varied only according to the elevation of soil above the level of the sea, the plains and low vallies possessing all the heat proper to their latitude, and the heat diminishing as you ascend the mountains. The vegetable productions have reference of course to the same principle. The usual trees and plants of the torrid zone are abundant on the low soils, whether consisting in objects of cultivation, like tobacco, coffee, cotton, sugar, and cocoa, or in the colossal growth and luxuriant verdure of unassisted nature; while the fruits and grains of the temperate zone are equally abundant on the Cordilleras. The orders of Venezuela have always consisted in these productions of the soil and in its herds of cattle and horses. New Granada also possesses great mineral riches, especially in gold, which abounds in various parts of the country, and served at an early period to
allure the Spaniards on to the subjugation of its aboriginal inhabitants.
To describe the conquest and settlement of Venezuela and New Grenada by the Spaniards would be foreign to this undertaking; and we pass it over, although the expedition of Gonzalo Ximenez de Quesada against Bogota is hardly less interesting than that of Cortez in Mexico, or Pizarro in Peru, which in many respects it closely resembles. It is a picture of rapacity, cruelty, and bloodshed, which all the evangelical virtues of his companions, the missionaries, Domingo Las Casas and Pedro Zambusano, are inadequate to redeem from infamy.
When in process of time the conquest and colonization of the country by the Spaniards were accomplished, and its new political organization completely arranged, New Granada, it is true, was governed by a Viceroy, and Venezuela by a Captain General; but in most things each was administered according to one uniform system. The Viceroy of Santa Fe was appointed for five years, and exercised all the powers of government, civil, military, and judicial, inasmuch as, in addition to being political chief, and commander of the troops, he was president of the highest court of justice. The Captain General of Venezuela exercised precisely the same practice, except that he did not superintend royal revenues, which were committed more to an intendant. A carefully organized system of internal responsibility made the governors and commandants of provinces and the
est inducements of interest. And as ecclesiastical tribunals were subject to the control of the audiencias, the people were protected from any abuse of authority on the part of the church, except in the case of the Inquisition. Even this dreaded body had began to yield to the enlightened spirit of the times, and was chiefly felt in the impediments it threw in the way of the acquisition of knowledge.
alcaldes of the towns dependant upon the king's representative in all the affairs of government. For the administration of justice New Granada was divided into two audiencias, or supreme judicial districts, one resorting from Quito and the other from Bogota, while Venezuela constituted a third district centering in Caracas. The audiencias were the high court of appeal in the colonies, whose judgment was final, except in certain cases, where an appeal was allowed to the Council of the Indies at Madrid, a privilege, which the procrastinating system of the Spanish tribunal, the distance of the metropolis, and the expense and other difficulties attending the prosecution of an appeal in Madrid, rendered of small value to the colonist. It is generally admitted, however, that, in all but liberality in gifts and bequests, acquestions of political offence, the audiencias administered justice with rectitude and sufficient moderation of spirit. In addition to the regular tribunals were privileged courts of fiscal, commercial, military, and ecclesiastical jurisdiction.
The authority of the King was nearly as complete and absolute in ecclesiastical, as in civil, affairs. As general patron of the American Church, he nominated all the prelates, who were confirmed by the Pope, as a matter of course; and all the inferior ecclesiastical dignities were in like manner conferred by virtue of his nomination. The effect of all this, was to render the clergy entirely dependent on the King, and of course to retain them in obedience to his powers, by the strong
The Roman Catholic religion prevailed universally and exclusively, save among some tribes of Indians, and possessed a strong hold on the minds of the inhabitants, according to the peculiar mode in which its cultivation was most encouraged by their spiritual teachers. But duties of confession, the external observances and
companied with much superstition, and fanatical misjudgment of other denominations of Christians, seem to have been deemed the prominent and essential traits of religion in these, as in the other Spanish American provinces.One consequence of the tendency given by the clergy of the country to religious impression, was the vast accumulation of riches in the hands of ecclesiastical corporations. More than one fourth part of the real estate of New Granada and Venezuela, was thus holden previous to the revolution.
The great mass of the inhabitants lay buried in the most profound ignorance. Primary schools being extremely rare, and confined to a few popular places, it necessarily happened that the Indians, slaves, cultivators, and arti