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their attention, funk so much in their estimation, when the mines which had been opened in them were exhausted, that they were deserted by many of the planters, and left to be occupied by more industrious possessors. All crowded to Mexico and Peru, where the vast quantities of gold and silver found among the natives, who searched for them with little industry and less skill, promised an unexhausted ftore, as the recompence of more intelligent and persevering efforts.
Discovery of those of Potosi and Sacotecas.
During several years, the ardour of their researches was kept up by hope ; rather than fuccefs. At length, the rich silver mines of Potofi, in Peru, were accidentally discovered in the year 1545, i) by an Indian, as he was clambering up the mountain, in pursuit, of a Llama which had ftrayed from his flock. Soon after the mines of Sacotecas , in New Spain, little inferior to the other in value, were opened. From that time, fucceffive difcoveries have been made in both colonies, and silver mines are now so numerous that the working of them, and of some few mines of gold in the provinces of Tierra Firmé and the new kingdom of Granada, has become the ca. pital occupation of the Spaniards, and is reduc
:) Fernandez, p. i, lib. xi. C. II.
o, funk fo much in their eftian : mines which had been ox
ite exhausted, that they were des y of the planters, and left to
more industrious poffefors Sexico and Peru , where the gold and filver found among to
searched for them with little s skill, promised an unestad ! recompence of more intelliger g efforts.
a fyftem no less complicated than interesting. To describe the nature of the various ores, the mode of extracting them from the bowels of the earth, and to explain the several processes by which the metals are separated from the substances with which they are mingled, either by the action of fire, or the attractive powers of mercury , is the province of the natural philosopher or chymist, rather than of the hiftorian.
Rlches which they yield.
of chole of Potos and Sacotecas,
veral years, the ardour of the
kept up by hope, rather the ngth, the rich filver mine ! - were accidentally difcored 5, i) by an Indian, as he w e mountain, in parfait, had ftrayed from his fick ines of Sacotecas, in der Fior to the other in valdes in that time, fucceffive oil made in both colonies, as bw so numerous, that the and of some few mines of os of Tierra Firme and the anada, has become the che - Spaniards, and is redios
The exuberant profufion with which the mountains of the New World poured forth their treasures, astonished mankind, accustomed hitherto to receive a penurious, fupply of the precious metals, from the more scanty ftores contained in the mines of the ancient hemifphere. According to principles of computation, which appear to be extremely moderate, the quantity of gold and silver that has been regularly entered in the ports of Spain, is equal in value to four millions sterling annually, reckoning from the year 1492, in which America was discovered, to the present time. This, in two hundred and eighty-three years amounts to eleven hundred and thirty-two millions. Immense as this sum is, the Spanish writers contend, that as much more ought to be added to it, in confideration of the treasure which has been extracted from the mines, without
paying duty to the king. By this account, Spain has drawn from the New World a supply of wealth, amounting at least to two thousand millions of pounds sterling. k) .
Spirit to which this gives rise.
The mines, which have yielded this amazing quantity of treasure, are not worked at the expence of the crown, or of the publick. In order to encourage private adventurers, the person who discovers a new vein, is entitled to the property of it. Upon laying his claim before the governor of the province, a certain extent of land is measured off, and a certain number of Indians allotted him, under the oblia. gation of his opening the mine within a limited time, and of his paying the customary duty to the king, for what it shall produce. Invited by the facility with which such grants are obtained, and encouraged by fome striking examples of success in this line of adventure ; not only the sanguine and the bold, but the thnid and diffident enter upon it with astonishing ardour. With vast objects always in view, fed continually with hope, and expecting every moment that fortune will unveil her secret ftores, and give them up to their wishes, they deem every other occupation infipid and uninteretting. The charms of this pursuit, like
tke k) Uztariz Theor. y Pra&. de Commercia, c. 3. Herrera,
der, 8. lib. xi, C. 15. See NOTE LXI,
=f the province, a certaia
shall produce. Invited
HISTORY OF AMERICA.
king. By this account
, in the New World a fupi ng at least to two thousand erling. k)
bich this gives tile.
ch have yielded this amas fure, are not worked crown, or of the publick private adventurers, the
a new vein, is entitle! - Upon laying his clie
asured off, and a certas ted him, under the obis
the mine within a limited of the customary duty is
the rage for deep play, are so bewitching , and take such full possession of the mind, as even to give a new bent to the natural temper. Under its influence, the cautious become enterprizing, and the covetous profuse. Powerful as this charm naturally is, its force is augmented by the arts of an order of men known in Perų by the cant name of searchers. These are commonly persons of desperate fortunes , who, availing themselves of some skill in miperalogy, accompanied with the insinuating manner, and confident pretensions peculiar to projectors, address the wealthy and the credu. lous. By plausible descriptions of rich veins hitherto unexplored; by producing when requifite, specimens of promising ore; by affirming, with an imposing assurance, that success is certain, and that the expence must be trifling , they seldom fail to persuade. An association is formed; a small sum is advanced by each copartner; the mine is opened; the fearcher is entrusted with the sole direction of every opesation; unforeseen difficulties occur; new.demands of money are made ; but, amidst a succeffion of disappointments and delays, hope is never extinguished, and the ardour of expectaţion hardly abates. For it is observed, that if any person once enter this seducing path, it is almost impossible to return; his ideas alter, hę seems to be pofseffed with another spirit, visions of imaginary wealth are continually be
ROBERTSON Vol. III, X
which such grants 2
aged by some friking
this line of adventure and the bold, but the ? upon it with alfonil) objects always in vier's 2, and expecting every ill unveil her fecret
to their wishes, they ition infipid and unia of this pursuit, like
Commercia, 6, 3. Herterne CUTE 2X1,
fore his eyes, and he thinks, and speaks, and dreams of nothing else, 1)
Fatal effe&s of it.
Such is the fpirit that must be formed, wherever the active exertions of any society are chiefly employed in working mines of gold and filver. No fpirit is more adverse to fuch improvement in agriculture and commerce, as render a nation really opulent. If the system of adminiftration in the Spanish colonies had been founded upon principles of sound policy, the power' and ingenuity of the legislature would have been exerted with as much ardour, in reftraining its subjects from such pernicious. induftry, as is now employed in alluring them towards it. Projects of mining “(says a good judge of the political conduct of nations) „ instead of replacing the capital employed in „ them, together with the ordinary profit of , stocks, commonly abforb both capital andi ,, profit. They are the projects, therefore, to »which, of all others, a prudent lawgiver, »; who desired to increase the capital of his » nation, would least chuse to give any exe
traordinary encouragement, or to turn to„ wards them a greater share of that capital »; than would go to them of its own accord. » Such, in reality, is the absurd confidence es which all men have in their own good fore
1) Ulloa Entreten. p. 223.