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enough, and amusing in themselves, but are out of place here, and seem introduced to eke out the volumes. The same object seems to have been had in view in the third volume also, and indeed if the work had been comprised in two, instead of three volumes, it would have been more entitled to respect, and better qualified to have asserted its claim to a distinguished place in geographical collections.
In this volume, however, it is but justice to allow that the description of Charleston is written with particular vivacity; and is altogether the best account of this place we remember to have seen. The colour
FROM THE LITERARY PANORAMA.
Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain. By Alexander de Humboldt. With Physical Sections and Maps. Translated from the original French. By John Black. 2 vols. 8vo. pp. 455, 531. Price 17. 188. London. 1811.
SPANISH America is an object which, of late, has come forward rapidly on the horizon of European politicks. Before the voyage of Anson, little known, even geographically, beyond the confines of its parent state, and almost every document relating to it, classed in the archives of old Spain, among the Arcana Imperii, the literary world equally with the political, was obliged to remain satisfied with shreds and patches of information; or with gleanings, obtained by accident or by stealth. Suspicion or conjecture, was the extent to which the boldest speculator ventured; and what were the capabilities of the country, was rather inferred than affirmed, by the best informed student in statisticks.
ed prints, introduced by way of embellishment, are very trifling and unsatisfactory, but the map which is prefixed to the first volume is of neat execution. We are altogether pleased with the performance, and lament the disappointment of the author in a commercial view. His description of the difficulties which he and his relative had to encounter on their arrival at Quebeck; his remarks on the causes which here prevented the successful culture of hemp in Canada, are related with much temper and great good sense, and appear to merit the consideration of government.
who foresaw that the result would be destructive to that politick power; though none, we believe, anticipated the extent to which that destruction has proceeded. M. de Vergennes, who had perfected what the duc de Choiseul begun, was, on his death-bed, fully convinced of the distresses advancing with rapid strides, eventually to overwhelm his country. Neckar, who, equally with De Vergennes, had been deceived in his estimate of British power and spirit, lived to see, what he deemed a triumph, end in despair. When Spain was over-persuaded against her conviction, to become a party to the war in favour of the now United States, all who had obtained that information, limited as it was, which was then extant, inferred that the example of North America would soon be followed in the south; and that Spain might prepare herself to bid an everlasting farewell to her transatlantick possessions. The spi
rit of independence has been active, habitants; and, generally, to whatever more or less openly, in South Ame- interests the geographer, the naturica from that day to this: and the ralist, the philosopher, the moralist, propositions made to British officers or the statesman. from Buenos Ayres and other places, Nothing could be better timed to are so many vouchers for the truth answer the demands of the inquisi. of what we affirm. As the disposition tive, than this publication of the toward independence was fomented baron de Humboldt. Many a long in North America, by French agents year has he travelled in the Spanish under the direction of Choiseul; and colonies; many a hazardous journey so far had they proceeded, that has he taken; many a laborious opeLouis XVI. though anticipating evil ration has he performed. With spefrom the machination, yet could not cimens of his acquisitions, the world stop it; so, it may be, that French has already been favoured in various agents were also employed in en- shapes; and the present work adds lightening the Spanish Americans, to our obligations received from this and that Buonaparte, like Louis, adventurous disciple of science. wishes the progress of these enlight- New Spain is more commonly enings to be stayed. That he really known among us as the government did desire to hold the Spanish colo- of Mexico; because the chief city, nies in dependence on Spain, and to from various causes, has been more render them tributary to France, familiar in our general course of admits of no doubt; that his scheme reading. All the world has heard of has failed, and that they will esta- the conquest of Mexico by Cortez; blish their independence, we consi- and the wealth of the Mexican der as certain; and this new charac. mines has become proverbial. Litter under which they are about to tle care has been taken, generally appear, increases greatly that im- speaking, to distinguish the proportance, which attaches to the vinces in which these mines are siknowledge of their actual state and tuated; they have been uniformly condition. In proportion as South attributed to Mexico; and that has America rises in importance, North been sufficient. It will be our own America declines. It was not for fault if this, or any other incorrectthemselves only, that the Americans ness, be longer continued among us. took off so great a quantity of Bri- M. de Humboldt, gives a particular tish goods, as they did some time account of the divisions of this exago: it was to export them to their tensive viceroyalty, and takes pains southern neighbours of the same to obtain a precision, which, while continent. During the American it may possibly be superseded by embargo, those goods went direct recent events, nevertheless bears from Britain; and thus Britain ob- testimony to his industry, and retained an immediate intercourse searches. with her real customers, which she The order adopted by the baron, will do well to cultivate, and extend after a geographical introduction, is, to the utmost of her power. Seeing that of:-general considerations on then, that we are now opening an the extent and physical aspect of avowed and authorized commerce New Spain. On the climate, agriwith the Spanish Americans, instead culture, commerce, and military of a clandestine and almost furtive defence of the country. To these, traffick, we cannot but desire to ob- succeed--the population, the dis
in all possible intelligence relative tinctions among the inhabitants, their to the country; to the bounties of numbers, maladies, languages, &c. nature distributed therein; to the The provinces into which New disposition and character of the in Spain is divided, the state of culti
vation, and of the mines, form the from which it appears that the concluding articles. The whole is mines, though a considerable source divided into four books, and these of wealth, are not the only, or even into nine chapters. A small appen- the chief wealth of the province of dix of maps is annexed to this edi. Mexico. tion; in the original, they are much more dignified and instructive.
“ The Indian cultivator is poor, but he Those who read for entertainment, is free. His state is even greatly preferable
to that of the peasantry in a great part of will find the baron not uniformly to
the north of Europe. There are neither their taste; he advances too far into corvées nor villanage in New Spain; and detail to please them, and his style the number of slaves is next to nothing. is not sufficiently lively to impart Sugar is chiefly the produce of free hands. delight. He narrates what he saw;
There the principal objects of agriculture and his remarks convey information
are not the productions to which Euroon a variety of subjects at once new
pean luxury has assigned a variable and
arbitrary value, but cereal gramina, nutriand interesting. Our author enjoyed tive roots, and the agave, the vine of the the invaluable advantage of liberal Indians. The appearance of the country communication with the best in- proclaims to the traveller, that the soil formed officers of New Spain; and nourishes him who cultivates it, and that by their assistance, he has not only neither depends on the accidents of fo
the true prosperity of the Mexican people corrected a multiplicity of errours extant in maps, and descriptions, ticks of Europe.
reign commerce, nor on the unruly polibut has introduced to our acquaint- “ Those who only know the interiour ance, various cities and towns, some of the Spanish colonies, from the vague of them containing not less than and uncertain notions hitherto published, 70,000 inhabitants, of which we had will have some difficulty in believing, that no previous knowledge. By means
the principal sources of the Mexican
riches are by no means the mines, but an also, of his barometrical observations, agriculture which has been gradually he has been enabled to convey an ameliorating since the end of the last cenidea of the relative heights of differ- tury. Without reflecting on the immense ent mountains and other elevations; extent of the country, and especially the and for the first time, we have it in great number of provinces which appear
totally destitute of precious metals, we our power, to form adequate con
generally imagine that all the activity of ceptions of the nature and elevation the Mexican population is directed to the of the table-land of Mexico and its working of mines. Because agriculture has lakes. Not less interesting to the made a very considerable progress in the geologist, is the sudden and stupen- capitania general of Caraccas, in the kingdous descent towards Vera Cruz, dom of Guatimala, the island of Cuba, and
wherever the mountains are accounted which amply explains the obstacles
poor in mineral productions, it has been to a postchaise intercourse between inferred that it is to the working of the the capital and its eastern ports. mines that we are to attribute the small The road to Acapulco, the principal care bestowed on the cultivation of the western port, is less striking, but soil in other parts of the Spanish colonies. not less practically difficult.
This reasoning is just, when applied to The condition of man is the most
small portions of territory. No doubt, in
the provinces of Choco and Antioquia,' interesting object in every country; and the coast of Barbacoas, the inhabitants and we confess ourselves gratified are fonder of seeking for the gold washed by finding that in New Spain the clown in the brooks and ravines, than of number of slaves (negroes] is como cultivating a virgin and fertile soil; and in paratively few, and the state of the the beginning of the conquest, the SpaIndians is less unhappy than we had
niards who abandoned the peninsula or
Canary islands, to settle in Peru and Mex. been accustomed to suppose. We ico, had no other view but the discovery extract with pleasure a passage, of the precious metals. Auri rabida siti:
a cultura Hispanos divertit, says a writer nues; and much of the population of those times, Pedro Martyr, in his remains to enjoy the advantages it work on the discovery of Yucatan, and the
offers. Our author adds, that, alcolonization of the Antilles.
“ In Mexico, the best cultivated fields, though some of the Mexican famithose which recall to the mind of the tra- lies possess immense wealth, obtainveller the beautiful plains of France, are ed from the mines, yet there are those which extend from Salamanca to.
but few; while a greater number wards Siloe, Guanaxuato, and the Villa de derived from cultivation much supeLeon, and which surround the richest
rioúr revenues. mines of the known world, Wherever me. tallick seams have been discovered in the
The difference of altitude, and most uncultivated parts of the Cordille. consequently of temperature, has ras, on the insulated and desert table- been more destructive to the Inlands, the working of mines, far from im- dians, when obliged to change of peding the cultivation of the soil, has dwelling, than excessive labour in been singularly favourable to it. Travel. ling along the ridge of the Andes, or the
the mines. Indeed the elevation of mountainous part of Mexico, we every
the table-land, and situations among where see the most striking examples of the mountains, generally chosen for the beneficial influence of the mines on residence by the original natives, agriculture. Were it not for the establish- and by the Spaniards, forms a strong ments formed for the working of the
contrast to the suffocating and demines, how many places would have remained desert ? how many districts uncul structive heats of the coast. The diftivated in the four intendancies of Guan. ference of level between Vera Cruz axuato, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and and Mexico, gives occasion to seveDurango, between the parallels of 21° and ral striking particularities. 957 where the most considerable metal. lick wealth of New Spain is to be found ? If the town is placed on the arid side, or
“ In the space of a day, the inhabitants the crest of the Cordilleras, the new colo
descend from the regions of eternal snow,
to the plains in the vicinity of the sea, nists can only draw from a distance the means of their subsistence, and the main
where the most suffocating heat prevails. tenance of the great number of cattle em
The admirable order with which different ployed in drawing off the water, and rais.
tribes of vegetables rise above one anoing and amalgamating the mineral pro
ther, by strata, as it were, is no where duce. Want soon awakens industry. The
more perceptible, than in ascending from soil begins to be cultivated in the ravines
the port of Vera Cruz, to the table land of and declivities of the neighbouring moun.
Perote. We see there the physiognomy of tains, wherever the rock is covered with
the country, the aspect of the sky, the earth. Farms are established in the neigh. form of plants, the figures of animals, the bourhood of the mine. The high price of manners of the inhabitants, and the kind
of cultivation followed by them, assume a provision, from the competition of the purchasers, indemnifies the cultivator for the
different appearance at every step of our privations to which he is exposed, from
progress. the hard life of the mountains. Thus, from
“As we ascend, nature appears gradu. the hope of gain alone, and the motives of ally less animated, the beauty of the vege. mutual interest, which are the most pow.
table forms diminishes, the shoots become erful bonds of society, and without any
less succulent, and the flowers less colourinterference on the part of the govern.
ed. The aspect of the Mexican oak quiets ment in colonization, a mine, which, at
the alarms of travellers newly landed at first, appeared insulated in the midst of
Vera Cruz. Its presence demonstrates to wild and desert mountains, becomes, in
him that he has left behind him the zone, a short time, connected with the lands
so justly dreaded by the people of the which have long been under cultivation.” north, under which the yellow fever exer
cises its ravages in New Spain. This infe
riour limit of oaks warns the colonist who To this may be added, that when
inhabits the central table-land, how far the seam of metal is exhausted, the
He may descend towards the coast, withfertility created on the spot, conti- out dread of the mortal disease of the
* De insulis nuper reportis et de moribus incolarum carum, Grynai Novus Orbis, 1555, p. 511.
vomito. Forests of liquid ambar, near Zalapa, announce, by the freshness of their verdure, that this is the elevation at which the clouds, suspended over the ocean, come in contact with the basaltick sum
mits of the Cordillera. A little higher, near la Banderilla, the nutritive fruit of the banana tree comes no longer to maturity. In this foggy and cold region, therefore, want spurs on the Indian to labour, and excites his industry. At the height of San Miguel, pines begin to mingle with the oaks, which are found by the traveller
as high as the elevated plains of Perote, where he beholds the delightful aspect of fields sown with wheat. Eight hundred metres higher, the coldness of the climate will no longer admit of the vegetation of oaks; and pines alone there cover the rocks, whose summits enter the zone of eternal snow. Thus, in a few hours, the naturalist, in this miraculous country, ascends the whole scale of vegetation, from the heliconia and the banana plant, whose glossy leaves swell out into extraordinary dimensions, to the stunted parenchyma of the resinous trees!"
While the coast, exposed to the violent effect of the solar heat, was, as it continues to be, the seat of disease, we cannot wonder that the higher regions were preferred as abodes by the old population of Mexico, and by their successours. Whatever this situation may want of luxuries, is compensated by security. The Spanish conquerors, as they ascended to the table-land, found the villages more numerous, closer together, better peopled, their inhabitants more polished, the fields divided into smaller portions; with other signs of superiour industry. The valley in which the city of Mexico stands, is upwards of 6500 feet above the level of the sea. It is of an oval form, encompassed on all sides by mountains. It contains several lakes. The largest is salt. For
merly it surrounded the city, which was approached only by causeways, constructed in the water. But, at present, the extent of this lake is diminished, and the city is now on the land, at some distance from the water's edge. The circumference of the valley is 67 leagues.
finest cities ever built by Europeans in "Mexico is undoubtedly one of the Petersburgh, Berlin, Philadelphia, and either hemisphere. With the exception of some quarters of Westminster, there does not exist a city of the same extent, which can be compared to the capital of New Spain, for the uniform level of the ground on which it stands, for the regularity and breadth of the streets, and the extent of the publick places. The architecture is generally of a very pure style, and there are even edifices of very beautiful structure. The exteriour of the
houses is not loaded with ornaments.
"The balustrades and gates are all of Biscay iron, ornamented with bronze, and like those in Italy, and other southern the houses, instead of roofs, have terraces
"Mexico has been very much embellished, since the residence of the abbé Chappe there in 1769. The edifice destined to the School of Mines, for which the richest individuals of the country furnished a sum of more than three millions of francs,* would adorn the principal places of Paris or London. Two great palaces [hotels] were recently constructed by Mexican artists, pupils of the academy of fine arts of the capital. One of these palaces, in the quarter della Traspana, exhibited in the interiour of a court a very beautiful, oval peristyle of coupled columns. The traveller justly admires a vast circumference, paved with porphyry flags, and enclosed with an iron railing, richly ornamented with bronze, containing an equestrian statuet of king Charles the marble, in the midst of the Plaza Major fourth, placed on a pedestal of Mexican of Mexico, opposite the cathedral, and the viceroy's palace. However, it must be
* 124,8007. sterling.
This colossal statue was executed at the expense of the marquis de Branciforte, formerly viceroy of Mexico, brother in law of the prince of peace. It weighs 450 quintals, and was modelled, founded, and placed by the same artist, M. Tolsa, whose name deserves a distinguished place in the history of Spanish sculpture. The merits of this man of genius can only be appreciated by those who know the difficulties with which the execution of these great works of art, are attended even in civilized Europe.