and some precious stones, particularly emeralds.
But its chief importance is derived from the har-
Lour of Carthagena, the safest and best fortified

in the American dominions of Spain. In
a situation so favourable, commerce foon began
to flourish. As early as the year 1544, it
seems to have been a town of some note. But
when Carthagena was chosen as the port in
which the galeons should first begin to trade
on their arrival from Europe, and to which they
were directed to return, in order to prepare
for their voyage homeward, the commerce of
its inhabitants was fo much favoured by this
arangement, that it soon became one of the
most populous, opulent, and beautiful cities in
America. There is, however, reason to appre-
hend, that it has reached its highest point of
exaltation, and that it will be so far affected
by the change in the Spanish system of trade
with America, which has withdrawn from it
the desirable vifits of the galeons, as to feel at
least a temporary decline. But the wealth now
collected there, muft find or create employment
for itself, and may be turned with advantage
into fome new channel. Its harbour is so safe
and so conveniently situated for receiving com-
modities from Europe, its merchants have been
so long accustomed to convey these into all the
adjacent provinces, that it is probable they will
fill retain this branch of trade, and Carthagena
continue to be a city of great importance.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



· The province contiguous to Santa Martha on the east, was first visited by Alonso de Ojeda, in the year 1499; u) and the Spaniards, on their landing there, having obseryed some huts in an Indian village built upon piles, in order to raise them above the stagnated water which covered the plain, were led to bestow upon it the name of Venezuela , or Little Venice, by their usual propensity to find a resemblance, between what they discovered in America, and the objects which were familiar to them in Europe. They made some attempts to settle there, but with little success. The final reduction of the province was accomplished by means very different from those to which Spain was indebted for its other 'acquisitions in the New World. The ambition of Charles V. often engaged him in operations of such variety and extent, that his revenues were not sufficient to defray the expence of carrying them into execution. Among other expedients for supplying the deficiency of his funds, he had borrowed large fums from the Velfer's of Augsburgh, the most opulent merchants at that time in Europe. By way of retribution for these, or in hopes, perhaps of obtaining a new loan, he bestowed upon them the province of Venezuela, to be held as an

u) Book ii, vol. i.

[ocr errors]


hereditary fief of the crown of Castile, on con-
dition that within a limited time they should
render themselves masters of the country, and
establish a colony there. Under the direction
of such persons, it might have been expected,
that a settlement would have been established
on maxims very different from those of the
Spaniards, and better calculated to encourage
such useful industry, as mercantile proprietors
might have known to be the only certain fource
of prosperity and opulence. But unfortu-
nately they committed the execution of their
plan to some of those soldiers of fortune with
which Germany abounded in the fixteenth cen-
tury. These adventurers, impatient to amass
riches, that they might speedily abandon a fta-
tion which they foon discovered to be very un-

comfortable, instead of planting a colony in or-
der to cultivate and improve the country, wan-
dered from diftrict to district in search of mines,
plundering the natives with unfeeling rapacity,
or oppressing them by the impofition of into-
lerable tasks. In the course of a few years, their
avarice and exactions, in comparison with which
those of the Spaniards were moderate, defolata'
ed the province fo completely, that it could
hardly afford them subsistence, and the Velsers
relinquifhed a property, from which the incon
"«fiderate conduct of their agents left them no
hope of ever deriving any advantage, x) When

%) Civedo y Bagnos Hist, de Venezuela, p, II, &c.


the wretched remainder of the Germans de. serted Venezuela, the Spaniards again took pofsession of it; but, notwithstanding many natu. ral advantages, it is one of their most languishing and unproductive settlements.

Caraccas and Cumana.

The provinces of Caraccas and Cumana are the last of the Spanish territories on this coaft ; but in relating the origin and operations of the mercantile company, in which an exclusive right of trade with them has been vested, I shall hereafter gave occasion to consider their state and productions,

New kingdom of Granada. The New Kingdom of Granada is entirely an inland country of vast extent. This import. ant addition was made to the dominions of Spain about the year 1536, by Sebastian de Benalcazar and Gonzalo Ximenes de Quesada, two of the bravest and most accomplisned officers employed in the conquest of America. The former, who commanded at that time in Quito, attacked it from the fouth; the latter made his invasion from Santa Martha on the north. As the original inhabitants of this region were farther advanced in im. provement, than any people in America but the Mexicans and Peruvians, y) they defended

theme y) Book iv. vol. ii.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

themselves with great resolution and good conduct. The abilities and perseverance of Benalcazar and Quesada furmounted all opposition, though not without encountering many dangers', and reduced the country into the form of a Spa, nish proyince.

The New Kingdom of Granada is fo far elevated above the level of the sea, that though it approaches almost to the equator , the climate is remarkably temperate. The fertility of its yallies is not inferior to that of the richest districts in America, and its higher grounds yield gold and precious ftones of various kinds. It is not by digging into the bowels of the earth that this gold is found; it is mingled with the foil near the surface, and separated from it by repeated washing with water. This operation is carried on wholly by negroe flaves; for though the chill subterranean air has been discovered, by experience, to be so fatal to them, that they cannot be employed in the deep filver mines, they are more capable of performing the other species of labour than Indians. As the natives in the New Kingdom of Granada are exempt from that service which has wasted their race so rapidly in other parts of America, it is remarkably populous, Some distriets yield gold with a profufion no less wonderful than that in the vale of Cineguilla, which I have formerly mentioned, and it is often found in large pepitas, or grains, which manifest the


[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »