Obrázky stránek

sans, that is, three fourths of the population, were wholly unable to read. The children of the better class of proprietors, merchants, and public functionaries, received some little education; but, take them as a body, they only learnt the elementary branches of reading, writing, and accounts. Only the smaller number aspired to a better education as preparatory to entering the clerical or legal profession. In the colleges of Santa Fe, Quito, or Caracas, the system of instruction was elaborately arranged with a view to shut out all the light of modern philosophy, even physical science being regarded with a jealous eye, lést the acquisition of knowledge should slacken the submissiveness of the colonies to the mother country. It was only in the retirement of private life, that they, among the inhabitants, who aspired to the acquisition of general information, could read the books and cultivate the sciences of modern Europe, And if they sought to gain political knowledge, it was done with infinite risk and labor. Meanwhile the Inquisition exerted all its powers to prevent the introduction into the country of all books capable of enlightening the minds of the people, and to detect and punish the possessors of any prohibited works. It is to the anxious suppression of all intelligence among the people, so far as the government were able to accomplish it, we are to ascribe many of those vicissitudes and public misfortunes, which mark the progress of the revolution in Colombia,

Little progress had been made

in any of the useful arts of life, except agriculture. Indeed, it was only on the coast of Venezuela, that the facility of obtaining a market had led to any considerable development of agricultural industry. The cultivation of cocoa, coffee, indigo, and sugar, was then extensively pursued, and constituted the great source of wealth. But in the interior, agriculture continued in a very imperfect state; and manufacture was almost everywhere confined to the coarser fabrics. The condition of the country in respect of roads, opposed a serious obstacle to the exercise of industry, by the interchange of commodities; land transportation being altogether carried on by means of horses or mules, and carriages of any kind being almost unknown. Some portion of the country, apparently afforded great facilities for communication by water on the large rivers of the interior; but it was only by means of large boats, in the manner formerly practised on the Ohio and Mississippi before the use of steamboats; and of course it very inadequately answered the purposes of extensive commerce.

In New Granada, and a large part of Venezuela, where the manners of the people were simple, and the means of subsistence abundant, crimes were comparatively rare, far more so than among the inhabitants of the seacoast, who, in Spanish America, as well as in Spain, communicate no just idea of the general character of the people. The greatest laxity of manners was to be found among the mariners of the

coast, and the boatmen of the rivers, and among some of the Llaneros, or inhabitants of the plains of the Orinoco and Apure. This general view of the state of the country and of the people, cannot be more appropriately concluded than in the very words, wherein Restrepo so well characterises the different classes of inhabitants. 'The civilized Indian,' he says, 'was abject, profoundly ignorant and dull, and the slave of the curates and local magistrates, who appropriated to themselves the fruits of his toil. The African slave was treated far better than in other countries, but here also partook of the ignorance and vices inherent in servitude. The free mulatto was endued with vivacity, penetration, boldness, and aptitude for the arts and sciences, as for any other pursuit. The inhabitants of the plains in the eastern parts of New Grenada and Venezuela, composed of mixed races of every shade, were marked by peculiar traits. Accustomed from early infancy to combat the tiger and ferocious bulls, living in saddle and mounting the wildest horses without apprehension, and lance in hand, the llanero of course learnt to fear nothing, and his favorite occupation was to pasture and manage the immense herds of their native Savannahs, crossing the vast rivers regardless of the caiman, and resting one hand on the shoulder of the horses which swam by his side. These circumstances rendered the llaneros peculiarly fit for war; and in that of the revolution they realised the anticipations which travellers had formed of them, continually per

forming prodigies of valor, and deciding with the lance alone, some of the most brilliant actions of the revolution. The castes of Indians, negroes, and mulattoes, were opposed to the white creoles, who, together with the European Spaniards, the white natives of Granada and Venezuela, were commonly of a character circumspect in the cold, and lively and animated in the warm climates ;-of a happy disposition for the arts and sciences, and but little inclined to labor-the sad and necessary consequence of the abasement and servitude they had suffered for three hundred years. Ignorant themselves, from the mode in which they were brought up, they still respected the enlightened, and longed to escape from their own ignorance, and fanatical by education and habit, rather than tendency of mind,they liberalised their opinions so soon as opportunities for acquiring knowledge occurred.'

It will be instructive to condense from the same author, a view of the causes which it produced, as well of those which delayed and protracted the war of independence in Colombia. What in the greatest degree served to exasperate the minds of the South Americans, was their total exclusion from employments, civil, military, or ecclesiastical. The high posts in church and state, the offices of viceroy, captain general, judge (oidor), governor, intendant, bishop, and archbishop, were filled with Europeans. Rarely was an American honored with any employment, except in subordinate stations in the treasury,

army, or church. It is easy to conceive how much discontent this peculiarity in the Spanish policy must have created in the colonies, among men who saw every office of honor and profit in the hands of fortune-hunting foreigners, to their own exclusion and the impoverishment of their country.

This cause of uneasiness was greatly aggravated by the haughtiness and superciliousness of the Spanish functionaries. Infatuated with extravagant notions of their own superiority, each one of the Spanish officers acted the petty despot, disgusting the Americans with contemptuous disregard of the feelings and pretensions of everything American. The native inhabitant of the country was outraged by seeing all the distinctions of life arrogated and engrossed by men, his inferiors in birth and qualification, all the power and emolument of high office theirs, and even a large proportion of the advantageous matrimonial connexions grasped by the same rapacious class, whose only claim to preference consisted in their being aliens to the soil and interests of America.

The better informed and purely disinterested inhabitants of South America were incensed by the obstacles, which they encountered, in their attempt to acquire and disseminate knowledge. No man could purchase books without exposing himself to the domiciliary visits of the Inquisition, and to being denounced and proceeded against before that odious tribunal. The purest and best members of the community were most exposed to be buried alive in the prisons

of the Holy Office, in the noxious climate of Carthagena. They saw the universities of their country condemned to teach the obsolete and absurd philosophy of the schools, as if to cheat their sons with the name of education, and perpetuate the empire of ignorance, barbarism, and superstition. Thus it was that the most patriotic and high-minded Americans were taught to anticipate with calmness all the bloodshed and suffering of a revolution, as the sole means of rescuing their posterity from that state of desperate intellectual abasement, which the Spanish Government had come to think essential to the maintenance of its power in America.

The operation of the colonial system was another grievance, universally felt by all classes and conditions; that tyrannical abuse of power, which arose out of the principle of considering the colonies as existing for no other object, but that of enriching the industry of the metropolis. In pursuance of this policy, it was that the South Americans were forbidden to work their own iron ore, lest they should injure the miners of Biscay; to cultivate the grape or the olive, so as to compete with the cultivators of Andalusia or Catalonia; or to establish manufactures, which might affect the silk weavers of Seville or Granada. In accordance with the same system, Spain endeavored to secure to herself a commercial monopoly of importation and exportation throughout all her vast possessions in America; and it was this feature of her policy, which, tyrannical at any and every

period, had in later times proved quired a glorious independence; absolutely insupportable. Rich, who having organized a great powerful, and productive nations, Republic, enjoyed the most perlike France and England, might fect liberty of which man is capaplausibly undertake to hold in ble under any form of governtheir own hands the entire com- ment; who were fast augmenting merce of their colonies in Ameri- their wealth and population under ca. But for Spain to attempt this the auspices of wise and benefiin the nineteenth century, when cent laws; and who, although she had not manufactures for the younger colonies than New Grasupply of her colonies, her popu- nada and Venezuela, seemed to lation to consume their products, have set the latter an example of nor marine to transport either, the blessings they would enjoy by was madness in itself, and pro- becoming independent of Spain. duced a forced condition of things At the same time, it is to be incapable of lasting continuance, considered that the inhabitants of even in time of peace. And at South America were very imperevery conflict of the great powers fectly prepared, or rather in the in Europe, Spain was absolutely mass altogether unprepared, for driven from the ocean, and was the acquisition and enjoyment of wholly incapable of transacting independence. A very small part the commerce of America. Thus of the population had a clear idea it was that Spanish America ac- of what independence or liberty quired the habit of supplying her- meant; and only the select few self with necessaries by contra- rightly appreciated the nature of band trade, paying the cost in the benefits implied in the fact of precious metals, while the pro- separation from the mother counductions of her soil perished for try. But many other causes conwant of a market, and every arti-spired to put off the revolution, cle of foreign manufacture was and protract the struggle when it obtained only at the most exhor- had commenced. Among these bitant price. And this cause of causes were the extreme sparsediscontent was the most active ness of the population in each of and efficacious of all, because it the great provinces; their dispercame home to the business and sion over so vast a territory, in bosoms of every man alike, wheth- separate governments, possessed er rich or poor, while the other of no point of union or principle considerations acted rather upon of combination; the ignorance of the upper classes. the mass of the native inhabitants, opposed to each other from diversity of color, and without wisdom to counteract so powerful a source of discord; the habit of obedience, contracted by education, and sedulously fostered by the clergy; the power, influence, and watchfulness of the numerous Eu

Finally, among intelligent men, nothing had more influence in bringing on a revolution than the example of the United States. They were allured and enchanted by the spectacle of a new people, who, breaking the bonds that united them to England, had ac

ropean Spaniards, who exclusive- colonies may be traced up to the motives which induced, in either of them, to the emigration of


ly occupied the vantage ground of society, and employed their advantages in repressing intelli- Europeans to the New World. gence and the spirit of liberty; The love of liberty, civil and rethe peaceful habits of the people, ligious, a desire to escape from arising from the long tranquillity oppressive laws at home, an unthey had enjoyed under the au- conquerable aversion to spiritual thority of the King of Spain, and and political tyranny, and a dispotheir studied exclusion from all sition to incur all the privations means of acquiring military taste and dangers of exile, in order to or knowledge. And all these enjoy the privilege of worshipping considerations being combined, God according to the dictates of could not fail to have the great- conscience, these were the great est efficacy in securing and pro- inducements which peopled the longing the power of the metropo- North American colonies, and lis in the midst of its very weak- more especially New England, the cradle of our independence. No such principle actuated the Spaniards in their acquisition of possessions in America. Their objects were exclusively of a gainful character, except in so far as anxiety to extend the Christian religion, was mingled with more interested feelings. No high enthusiasm of liberty, no overpowering attachment to theoretical opinions on the subject of government, entered into the motives of the Spanish colonists. On the contrary, loyalty in politics, and conformity in religion, were as decidedly characteristic of them, as republicanism and nonconformity were of the first settlers in the United States. Hence whilst in North America every great province possessed its legislative body, each of them a great school of freedom, and while their history is the history of a people gradually marching on towards independence,-in South America, on the contrary, after the brilliant and turbulent epoch of the conquest was past, each of the

The attentive reader will remark how opposite was the state of things, indicated by these facts, to the condition of the English colonies in North America, and will readily understand why the circumstances of the two revolutions, that of South and of North America, have differed so essentially. All the pertinacious decisions of the inhabitants, all the fluctuations in policy, all the endless charges among the revolutionary chiefs and rulers, in Colombia, have arisen out of the causes which we have briefly indicated. In the United States, on the contrary, at the opening of the revolution, our population was homogeneous, enlightened, accustomed to the duties of self government, inured to war, and blessed with facilities for union and organization, which preserved us from the horrors of anarchy and civil war, which have desolated independent Spanish America. Indeed, the difference in the fortunes of the British and Spanish

« PředchozíPokračovat »