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this interesting section of the new world, especially as it is less known than any other large portion of the civilized world. That this vast peninsula should remain so much unknown could never be accounted for, but for the fact of its unfortunate political relations to nations of the most narrow policy in Europe. The courts of Madrid and Lisbon, supposed, to secure the preservation of their transatlantic colonies, it was indispensable to condemn them to a rigorous and perpetual insulation. Not only were mercantile and literary intercourse proscribed, but, to a great extent, even that of friendly relation. Hence, while enterprise and science explored the polar circle, and visited the wintry regions of the opposite hemisphere, while they traversed the very heart of perilous Africa, the apathy and jealousy of Spain conspired to keep a great part of this richest portion of the globe unknown. If her ships, laden with the wealth poured forth by the mines of the new world, could silently traverse the ocean and empty their golden treasure at the foot of the Spanish throne, the suspicious policy of the parent state allowed her to seek no farther. The materials for scientific improvement, which nature had so abundantly treasured up in these Pacific colonies, were never sought to enrich the treasury of literary wealth. Though almost every year, for successive ages, transferred official documents to the court which involved many abstruse and important principles of jurisprudence, the inaccessible archives of the empire were the place of their eternal repose. And, among many other unprinted works of the highest merits that have been doomed to oblivion, were the highly polished materials for an extensive natural history of the new world. These, which belonged to the republic of letters, after having been locked up for a whole century by the bigotry and suspicion of Spain, perished in the flames that consumed the escurial in which they were deposited. Had the southern half of the western hemisphere, like the northern, primarily been at the disposal of a more manly and enlightened policy, it would, at this moment, be more than a century in advance of its present state. The wide fields that it opens to the agriculturist, the botanist, the mineralogist, the zoologist, the jurist, and the statesman, would have awakened the attention, and contributed to the pleasure and profit of the whole enlightened mass of our race. But here, where foreign tyranny has caused literature to be neglected, genius to be cramped, and improvements in their infancy to be crushedwhere it has allowed the press a bare existence, and that only on condition it would merely echo the voice that speaks from the old world; that it would originate nothing, diminish nothing, amplify nothing; that its parrot tongue should give utterance only to what had been distinctly heard from the master's voice-here might be foreseen a mental and moral sleep-sleep almost as the slumbers of non-existence.
Less than thirty years since there was but a single press in the wide range of three thousand miles. The traveller might wander over all the wide plains of the La Plata, and all the mighty mountains of Chili and the Perus, and find but this press alone in the city of Cordovia, in the hands of the Jesuits. The altar of liberty in the United States had burned with a bright, steady, and increasing flame, for almost half a century, before its intense beams could penetrate the impervious gloom of South America; and when it saw, through this medium, the peerless glory of self-government, it had too little moral energy remain
ing to make a revolutionary struggle to grasp the prize, until roused to it by the political earthquakes that shook and crumbled the parent system of government. It was not until Ferdinand was imprisoned, and the brother of Napoleon placed on the throne of Spain-till four distinct authorities all demanded the obedience of the American colonies-that these long oppressed provinces had formed a single purpose to aspire at independence. And, indeed, their incipient movements in the revolution were induced by the strength of their attachment to their merciless oppressor. They even poured in their contributions to the parent state by which she might regain her lost sway in Europe, and by which she did more extensively desolate the colonies and drench the soil with the blood of the contributors. A quarter of a century has elapsed since the independence of the country was obtained. But for the enjoyment of this prize, gained by the most bloody and protracted struggle, these long-enslaved colonies were totally unprepared. Circumstances give a certain cast of character to nations, no less than to families and to individuals. Degraded by three hundred years' slavery, how could a people, by a single stride, ascend to the elevation of self-government? If history furnish any instances of a people bursting at once from the gloom of long-protracted thraldom into the light of wise, free, and permanent institutions, South America cannot be added to the list. In many of its provinces the question of self-government has been put to the test of unsuccessful experiment; revolution has succeeded revolution with a rapidity and fierceness never consistent with national intelligence and virtue,-never consistent with the intrinsic moral powers of self-government.
In furnishing some brief sketches of South America, the only aim will be to make this long-secluded section of the new world better known to the Christian public of the United States. The materials of which these sketches will be composed are derived from three distinct sources: personal observation, made by the writer at some of the most prominent points in South America; intelligent and extensive travellers, with whom he has frequent intercourse; and books, containing the most recent and correct information of the country. Though the plan will be such as to contain some of the prominent outlines of the geography of the country-the number, condition, and character of the aboriginal inhabitants the state of the colonists anterior to the revolution—their condition since that period-and the prospects which the present state of society presents in relation to the missionary enterprise-the present number will be confined exclusively to the first particular.
South America is one half of the new world, which, for so many ages, continued unknown to civilized man. This southern section of the western hemisphere, lying in the form of a peninsula, sweeps over the space of almost five thousand miles, from north to south. Commencing more than seven hundred miles north of the equator, and spreading itself through the torrid and temperate zones, it penetrates the wintry regions of Cape Horn. From its eastern shore, washed by the Atlantic wave, it measures almost three thousand miles toward the west, where it is bathed by the great Pacific. The number of square miles contained in this vast peninsula amounts to almost seven millions. There is not, on the whole globe, so extensive a region having a soil of greater fertility, a climate of more salubrity, or a surface so grand and
VOL. IX.-January, 1838. 8
beautiful in its variety. Though it is without those spacious bays and inland seas that distinguish North America, it is peerless in the value of its productions, the extent of its rivers, and in the grandeur of its mountains. In no quarter of the globe is the mineral kingdom so rich as in South America. Gold, silver, platina, mercury, and diamonds, lie imbedded in exhaustless mines under the rich mountains of the new world.
The Andes, like a mighty wall, stretches across the whole extent of South America, forming an impassable barrier, which nature seems to have erected between the two great oceans to prevent their confluence, This singular range approaches the Pacific within fifty miles at some points, and at others retires from it three times that distance. The varieties of all the climates on the globe may be experienced in passing from some of the deep valleys, at the base of this mountain, to some of its loftiest peaks. Many of these summits are white with snows which the suns of a thousand summers have failed to liquify; which have remained unmelted by all the rains that have descended since the univer. sal deluge. These lift their heads above the fogs and clouds which hover over other created things, and dwell in a pure and rarified at. mosphere of too little density to support the surrounding vapors. Such is the amazing height, that there is too little atmospheric pressure for the support of human life. Those who have dared to ascend too near their snow-capped summits, have been admonished of their fate by the gush of blood from their mouths and noses. From the base of this mountain there flow many rivers, that "roll down their golden sands.' And on this mighty range there are numberless volcanoes, some of which, for centuries, have been in ceaseless action. Cotopaxi, the most distinguished among them, has no parallel on the globe. The tremendous powers at work far beneath the surface send up a vast volume of flame into the heavens, three thousand feet above the burning mouth of the crater, which emits so terrific a sound as to be heard six hundred miles from this burning gulf.
Though more than three centuries have elapsed since Europeans commenced laying the foundation of empire in South America, a great proportion of this extensive country still lies in a state wild as when the savage held over it undisputed dominion. Over thousands of square miles the natives still roam, wild as the game they pursue. But all historical details of the aboriginal tribes, the character of their conquerors, European improvements, the mental and moral state of the present inhabitants, and all kindred matters, may claim our attention in future numbers. In the present number we shall merely glance at some of the more prominent geographical features of the country.
Patagonia, which extends into the frosty regions of the south, forms the utmost limit of the continent in that direction. Though it is a narrow point, bounded by an ocean on each side, and, nearer the equator, might be fanned by the most delightful breezes enjoyed on the globe, in the icy latitudes of Cape Horn it is most distinguished by the rigor of its climate and the sterility of its soil. Such is the ferocity of the tribes thinly scattered over its barren surface, that it has never yet been extensively explored. All, however, that is known of it, indicates that its destiny, for many coming ages, is to remain without art to cultivate it, or civilized man to inhabit it.
North of this bleak and uncultivated region lies the vast plain embraced in the UNITED PROVINCES. This large and most singular section of South America borders at the north on Upper Peru and Brazil, at the west on Chili, at the east on Brazil and the Atlantic Ocean. As it extends from 23° to 45° south latitude, it measures fifteen hundred and twenty-nine miles in that direction. Though, at its southern extremity, it measures not more than three hundred miles from east to west, in its northern limit it is not less than nine hundred miles in the same direction. The vast territory comprised within these boundaries lies almost totally within the valley of the La Plata and its branches. If this singular plain be viewed with respect to its surface, soil, and extent, it will appear to be the most remarkable valley on the globe. While the region watered by the La Plata and its branches ascends to the west till it towers into the loftiest mountains, to the eastward it gradually sinks away into immense levels. The country west and south of the La Plata spreads itself out into a broad and dead level, possessing almost every variety, from the most rich and alluvial soil to the most unproductive regions of naked sand. This immense plain, reaching more than fourteen hundred miles from north to south, and averag. ing five hundred from east to west, is called the pampas. In passing over this plain, a great portion of which lies as it has done since the creation was finished, uncultivated, even untouched, the traveller feels that he is where nations are yet to be. Humboldt computes its area to be two hundred and ten thousand square miles; making this single tract to be four times as large as all France. "No lawn was ever laid down with greater precision by the hand of man than this vast, interminable plain has been by the hand of nature. Not a stone of any size is to be found on all its surface."
He who traverses this mighty pampas with the utmost speed, feels that he never advances, so perfectly unvaried is the entire scene. Such is the effect of this unbroken monotony on the imagination, that he fancies the plain to be a sort of infinite space, and interminable ages needful to pass through it. On the route from Buenos Ayres to Potosi, with the single exception of Cordovia, there is not a mountain or hill for a thousand miles. Over this bleak, unsheltered level, the keen winds called pamparos sweep, without a hill or tree, or any other obstacle, to impede their rapid course. So gentle are the undulations, as to be perceptible only by a wide survey. The mind is here oppressed by a sensation resembling that which is felt in the midst of a broad and unruffled ocean, where the wearied eye is met by nothing but the canopy of heaven and the surface of the deep. Here, all that is seen is the unvarying plain beneath, and the heaven, rarely ever painted by clouds, above. Near the La Plata and other considerable streams are found some wandering shrubs, and occasionally are seen waving some stately trees; but over all other parts of the pampas nothing like a tree appears, with the single exception of the perennial poke, which, though it grows to a considerable size, and is clothed with unfading verdure, is a mere pulpy substance, unfit alike for fuel and any other purpose to which timber is applied. Though several branches of the La Plata are large and rapid streams, most of the smaller ones merely creep through the pampas, resembling crooked ditches of stagnant water rather than living streams that perpetually flow. Their edges are skirted by neither
a tree nor shrub, to mark the courses along which they creep. Over almost the whole pampas is spread the green carpet of perpetual verdure; and while the tall grass waves over this interminable plain, large portions of it are seen covered with thistles from two to ten feet in height, spread out in beautiful bloom farther than the strongest sight can reach. Under these, the numberless herds that rove over the plain seek shelter from the intense beams of a tropical sun.
Travellers in Russia, who speak of the dead levels, the unbroken plains, the cheerless solitudes, and the uninhabited wastes through which they have passed in that wintry empire, have, in all this, found nothing to compare to the deep, wide, and fearful solitude of this mighty plain. Though not a grove is found on this surface for hundreds of miles, the soil is not incapable of producing trees when planted. The peach, olive, and fir trees all flourish here when properly cultivated; and though this plain is peculiarly exposed to severe droughts, when these do not occur it is capable of producing wheat, barley, and corn, in the richest abundance; and of some of the finest vegetables not less than three crops are frequently produced in a season. Pasturage, however, is the principal purpose to which the occupied part of this singular plain is devoted. The numberless herds of cattle and sheep, the droves of horses and mules, together with the deer, ostriches, and wild dogs which feed on these rich pastures, may be seen by thousands at a single view. Besides the hundreds of thousands of cattle that have been annually slaughtered for market and for hides, and the numberless herds that have been swept away by the fury of successive revolutions, there are supposed still to exist twelve hundred thousand on the plain, all of which originated in seven, brought two centuries since from Spain; and so immense is the number of horses, that they are estimated at three millions, that constantly live on this ever-verdant surface. These animals are not common property, as travellers and historians have represented. They do not belong to any who choose to appropriate them. Though this may have been the case a century ago, now each has the mark of its owner; and this is registered in the public offices with all the formality with which we record our land instruments.
The great plain north-west is more elevated, of a lighter sandy soil, and, excepting on the water-courses, perfectly void of timber. The copious supply of water, furnished by numerous rivers, gives it an important advantage over the lower pampas, at which we have so hastily glanced. Though this higher plain has not a strength of soil equal to the other, many of its districts produce the finest grains; and, on others, an incredible number of sheep, horses, and mules are supported. The régions east of the La Plata present a most delightfully undulating surface, irrigated by brisk streams and pure and ever-living springs. Excepting some of the lower districts near the La Plata, this enchanting country, unlike the naked plains we have considered, is generally clothed with stately forests, that beautifully wave over its rolling surface. Its prolific power is exhaustless. It is abundantly productive of all that rich variety of fruit found in both the temperate and tropical climates.
In passing from Buenos Ayres to Potosi, the traveller finds, in the province of Cordovia, a striking contrast in the scenery to that he had