Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

of these causes at some length; and his explanation is valuable, because it applies, with more or less exactness, to all the emancipated states of the South. First among them was the impolitic exclusion of the Americans in general, from all the high civil and military employments and ecclesiastical dignities, arising not from any specific law, but from the absurd practice of the cabinet of Madrid. Latterly, even the inferior offices in the treasury and army had become the prey of multitudes of needy adventurers from the Peninsula, whose only object was to extort a sudden fortune from the oppressed country. Another cause was the overbearing and insolent deportment of the European Spaniards towards the Creoles. Still more insupportable, especially in New-Granada and Venezuela, was the tyranny of the Inquisition, whose prisons in the noxious climate of Carthagena were justly the terror of all ranks of men, exposed, although guiltless of crime, yet without remedy, to be buried alive in those frightful dungeons. It was the capricious despotism of the Inquisition which so effectually preverited the diffusion of knowledge among a people whose want of right education has been the source of so many of their misfortunes.

These were grievances, intolerable it is true, but which affected the better classes of the Americans more directly, whose condition in life gave them inducements to look to official stations for occupation and distinction, and who sought for and appreciated the higher branches of knowledge. But what dried up the fountain of public prosperity, and by impoverishing the richest countries on earth, went home to the business and means of subsistence of every inhabitant, from the highest to the lowest, was that monstrous engine of wrong and oppression, the colonial system. The European colonial system is, in all its forms and bearings, the instrument of injustice without measure. Even as it existed in our own country, in a shape comparatively mild, it was more than our peaceful and patient fathers could bear. France or England, moreover, may be pardoned in their enforcement of the system, being rich, powerful, and industrious nations themselves, possessing resources amply sufficient for the supply of their colonies with the manufactures and other productions of Europe. But for Spain, nearly destitute of manufactures, reduced in population, with a marine insufficient for its own protection,- for Spain, in the nineteenth century, to straiten the bonds of commercial monopoly around the vast regions of America, was a species of desperate and short-sighted infatuation, directly injurious to herself, and created a state of violence essentially incapable of long duration. Spanish America was driven, by the blind impolicy of Spain, to obtain the necessary articles of European production through a contraband trade with foreign nations, paying them in the precious metals, at an exorbitant

price, to the entire prostration of her own agriculture and other domestic sources of wealth. It was the pressure of the colonial system and commercial restrictions of the mother country, which most forcibly impelled the inhabitants of Venezuela and NewGranada to independence, and stimulated them to endure the privations of their revolutionary war.

“But nothing,” says Mr. Restrepo, "exercised an influence so powerful to prompt the thinking and well-informed inhabitants of Venezuela and New-Granada to long for independence, as the example of the United States of North America. It was, indeed, a most brilliant and alluring spectacle, that of a new people, who, rending asunder the strong ties that bound them to England, had l'endered themselves independent; who, organized as a great republic, enjoyed the most perfect liberty which man can possess in the social state ; who, under wise and beneficent institutions, bad prospered prodigiously, and augmented in numbers with astonishing rapidity ; who, in fine, were Americans more recently settled on the continent than the natives of Venezuela and New-Granada, who seemed destined to the same high career with their brethren in the north, could they but establish their independence of Spain. It was impossible that these ideas should not spread with celerity among the Granadins, Venezuelans, and other intelligent inhabitants of South America, and that they should not prepare the elements of a wide conflagration. Undoubtedly, the passions of the moment, blinded the counsellors of Charles III. of Spain, when they resolved to assist the North Americans in rendering themselves independent of Great Britain, since they failed to see the pernicious example which they were about to give to their vast colonies on the American continent. After they had admitted, tacitly at least, that colonists might separate from their metropolis, it was evident that those of Spain would not long delay doing so, and then the cabinet of Madrid would have nothing to reply to the arguments advanced by the Spanish colonies, drawn from the conduct of their neighbours and the very operations of their own mother country. These political presentiments have been realized ; but the example of his grandfather, has embarrassed but little the Spanish monarch. Thus I will, and thus I command,' this all powerful reason of kings, has constituted the reply of Ferdinand VII. to the just representations of the South Americans. The cannon, the bayonet, death, and devastation, have every where accompani. ed his cruel agents, desolating those fine regions on which nature had lavished her richest bounties.”-Restrepo, t. I., pp. 116. 118.

Our author justly observes upon the difficult situation of a country having colonies which it wishes to preserve: if the mother country adopts a comparatively liberal policy towards its colony, and encourages the development of its physical and moral resources, the latter speedily acquires a capacity for self-government, and animated by the holy flame of freedom, claims and obtains the rank of an independent nation. Such was the case with the citizens of the United States, who, from familiarity with the possession of political rights, escaped the protracted warfare, and many of the subsequent disorders, of which South America has been, or still is the theatre. On the other hand, if the mother country oppresses its colony with prohibitions and monopolies, the colonists are maddened into resistance by the pressure of tyranny, as happened in Venezuela and New-Granada. But when such a people takes up arms, the mass of the inhabitants will be found immersed in ignorance, incapable of appreciating the blessings of liberty, and many of them attached to

royalty, while the leaders themselves will be destitute of experi-. ence and of sound views of government.

Peculiar circumstances operated to retard the progress of the Spanish American colonies towards independence, to lengthen out their struggle with Spain, and to produce opposite parties, divisions in sentiment, chimerical or false principled notions, and even the horrors of civil war, as in Mexico, Colombia, and Peru. The vast countries of Spanish America, were thinly in-. habited, by people scattered over an extensive territory, and divided into separate viceroyalties or capitanias, having little or no mutual communication, or means of concerting combined movements of resistance to Spain. The people themselves, were, as a body, deplorably ignorant, and divided into numerous castes, all opposed to each other in feeling or interest. They had contracted a habit of obeying the Spanish princes; for nowhere had the maxim of passive obedience and the divine right of kings, been so earnestly inculcated by all the power of the priesthood. Second only to the clergy in means of influence, were the European Spaniards, whose power and riches, were, of course, actively engaged in sustaining the authority of Spain ; and by engrossing all the important offices, they deprived the Creoles of any opportunity for obtaining the requisite qualifications for public employments. Finally, Španish America had so long enjoyed a profound peace, that its inhabitants possessed no military habits or knowledge, and were even destitute of arms and munitions of war; all these being in the arsenals of the government, or in the hands of the small body of troops which it maintained in convenient, stations upon the sea-coast. Owing to these unfortunate circumstances in their condition, and that of their respective countries, the patriots of the South, in this respect unlike to ourselves, had the whole structure of independence to begin from its very foundation. And such was the unpreparedness of men and things around them, for the state of revolution which they were forced into by the total disorganization of the royal government, that the high-minded patriots of the new republics deserve applause for the great good which they have accomplished, rather than censure for the existence of evils, which no exertions of theirs could prevent, because they are inevitable consequences of the condition of the countries wherein they have happened.

Those who are familiar with the history of the revolution in Mexico, and in the several governments of South America, will readily call to mind the untoward events produced by the circumstances to which we have adverted, Signal examples of this, occur in the two great questions of fundamental policy, which, from the beginning of the revolution to the present day, have convulsed and agitated the new republics. We allude to the question of the territorial extent of individual states, as exem

plified, for instance, in the claim of the late republic of the Rio de la Plata to jurisdiction over Paraguay, the Banda Oriental, and Upper Peru ; and also to the question between the central and federal parties, the main subject at the present time of the internal differences in almost every one of the great fragments of Spanish America. Illustrations of each occur in the pages of Mr. Restrepo, who makes no attempt to disguise his own sentiments on these delicate points.

In the United States, we are accustomed to revert to the declaration of independence, as the epoch from which the regular commencement of our national being shall be dated. What

preceded that solemn act, constituted the inducements, which persuaded the Congress of 1776, in the name of all the colonies, to proclaim the people of the United States absolved from their allegiance to the King of Great Britain. It was not the premature act of Virginia, of Pennsylvania, of Massachusetts, alone; it was the deliberate, well-considered declaration of the colonies united, speaking one unanimous voice through their representatives in Congress. It was far otherwise in Colombia. Not only did Venezuela proceed in this important matter independently of NewGranada, which, from the careful separation of those governments under the Spanish authority, was reasonably to be expected ; but even the several provinces of New-Granada, each acted upon its individual responsibility, in issuing a declaration of independence. Thus we have the act of independence of the province of Carthagena, a long argumentative instrument, dated November 11th 1811 ; that of Cundinamarca, dated July 16th 1813; and that of Antioquia, dated August 11th 1813.* The natural and necessary consequence of this mistaken conduct was a series of most fatal disputes between these high and mighty sovereignties, leading to repeated acts of civil war; Cundinamarca marching its troops upon Tunja; the United Provinces compelling Cundinamarca to join the confederacy, by sending Bolivar to lay close siege to Bogotá, and reduce the refractory city into the paternal union by force of arms; and Bolivar again as general of the army of New-Granada, investing Carthagena, to punish the provincial government for withholding its quota of munitions of war.

Another fact is curious, in illustration of the contrast between the proceedings of New-Granada and the United States. The several acts of independence above referred to, dwell at some length, as it was necessary and proper they should do, upon the dissolution of the regular government of Spain, occasioned by the intrigues of Napoleon, as the immediate cause of the revolution, alluding only very generally to the settled system of mal-ad

Restrepo, t. ix., pp. 46, 152, 161.

ministration of which the colony so long had been the victim. Our ancestors, on the contrary, placed in the foreground of their solemn appeal to the world the proofs of a design on the part of the mother country to reduce them under an absolute despotism, evinced by a long train of abuses and usurpations, the nature of which they set forth in the simple dignity of men standing upon their unalienable rights and the unchangeable laws of nature. South America availed herself of an auspicious opportunity to throw off the chains which cramped her limbs, and to obtain, by emancipation from colonial servitude, that freedom which belonged to her of right. North America, on the contrary, had always been comparatively free; and entered upon the revolutionary war, estimating it truly as an appeal to arms, to determine whether, by acquiescing in the usurpations of Great Britain,

he would submit to be stripped of the qualified liberty she then possessed, or she would not rather by timely resistance achieve a complete independence.

In further explanation of this fact, we translate part of the Declaration of Independence of Cundinamarca, in order that its resemblance to, and difference from, our own, may be judged by comparison.

“We, the representatives of the people of Cundinamarca, rightfully and legally assembled to treat and resolve concerning their felicity, having taken into consideration the important question, whether the time has yet come for solemnly proclaiming our absolute and entire independence of the crown and government of Spain, by the (state of] emancipation in which we have naturally remained since the events in the Peninsula, and dissolution of the government on which we depend: having held long and mature discussions, wherein the ancient obligations which unite us to the mother country were compared with those newly assumed: the space of three years that we have kept ourselves in a state of expectation and neutrality respecting the incidents in European Spain," &c.

The instrument then proceeds to explain the state of things in the colony, brought on by the abdication of Charles and Ferdinand, and the events that followed; after which it concludes, word for word, in the following manner, which we cannot think is any improvement upon its noble prototype:

“In consequence of all this, and in consideration, finally, of the incontestable and imprescriptible right of all the nations of the earth, to provide for their safety, and to institute such a form of government as they deem most likely to effect their happiness :-We, the representatives of the people of Cundinamarca, using this right, and compelled to hazard this step by the efforts of our impolitic and cruel oppressors, declare and solemnly publish, in the name of the people, in the presence of the Supreme Being, and under the auspices of the immaculate conception of Maria Santisima our patroness, that henceforth Cundina. marca is a free and independent state, which remains separated for ever from the crown and government of Spain, and from all other authority, which does not emanate immediately from the people or their representatives ; that all political union with the metropolis in the nature of dependence is totally dissolved ; and that as a free and independent state, it has full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts which independent states can and may of right do. And full of the firmest reliance on

VOL. V.-NO, 9,

« ElőzőTovább »