Imágenes de páginas

known to the public as the author of a spirited account of one of the polar expeditions, has recently published the journal of his residence in different parts of Mexico, though like most of his predecessors, in a very meagre and unsatisfactory form. The circumstances attending his visit were of a peculiarly favourable character. They were such as to increase our regret that the result of his inquiries and observations should be go little valuable. In the year 1826, the Real del Monte and Bolaños Mining Companies in London, feeling some anxiety as to their prospects, and, we have reason to believe, distrusting the ability, and, in a degree, the fidelity of their directors in Mexico, thought fit to send to that country commissioners, who, with other ostensible objects, were to examine into the condition of the works and give to their constituents such information as would enable them to estimate the merits of their agents, and rectify any abuses which might exist. In the choice of these commissioners, the greatest circumspection was used, and a successful effort made to select individuals who, by their experience and scientific acquisitions, should do justice to the objects of the mission. Captain Lyon was placed at the head of it; and we are to presume,

from what is known of the ability of that gentleman and his colleagues, that the expectations of their employers were not disappointed. The public, however, who judge by the work he has laid before them, have much less reason to be satisfied. The opportunities and facilities which he enjoyed were so great as not unreasonably to encourage the hope, that much new and valuable information, more particularly connected with mining operations, would have been laid before the world. Such hopes not being gratified, the belief naturally intrudes itself, that Captain Lyon possessed morc materials than he was willing to display, and that he discovered a scene of gross abuse, which it was the interest of the corporations he represented, and by whose directions he was governed, carefully to hide from public view. With the exception of occasional essays in the English Reviews, no attempt has hitherto been made to lay open the various schemes, which, under the name of mining speculations, were put in motion in Great Britain. The complicated machinery is still concealed, which acted 80 powerfully, and produced results so calamitous and disreputable. The mystery which has ever enveloped these peculiar stockjobs, is as dark and impenetrable as ever. We therefore the more regret, when a competent individual either slurs over the business of inquiry, or is compelled to keep silence by circumstances beyond his control. Without apprehending now any danger to our countrymen from the contagion of such operations, we would, as a matter of mere curiosity, desire to know all the incidents to the foreign mining schemes, to see all the active springs, and trace the progress of the distinguishing project of the age, from the period of its birth to the condition of gasping vitality in which it now is; to watch it from the gay era of its creation, from the glittering inducements of the first proposals, with all the array of certificates and the authority of names, to the flat recital of a weekly price current, where in the whole catalogue of mining shares all are quoted at a discount. It is, however, almost too soon to expect such a disclosure. If Captain Lyon has not satisfied our expectation on this score, we must do him the justice to say, he has given an agreeable history of his adventures, while wandering over a most peculiar region, and that his book, with all its defects, is evidently the work of a man of education and a gentleman.

Mr. H. G. Ward, the late British Chargé d'Affaires in New Spain, and who recently returned to England, after paying a short visit to the United States, has, within the last few months, published an elaborate work, under the title of Mexico in 1827. With this publication, as one possessing more than ordinary merit, and as being the only work of authority which has appeared since Humboldt we wish to make our readers acquainted. We scarcely hesitate to say, aware at the time that we may be suspected of a disposition to bestow excessive praise, that from the agreeable manner in which its materials are put together and the attractive form in which it is presented, the tedium of statistical detail being qualified by the interest of personal narrative, in popular estimation, Mexico in 1827 will supersede the Political Essay.

Mr. Ward's opportunities were excellent. He appears too, to have uniformly availed himself of all means of increasing them, and by his inquisitive and active turn of mind, in all instances, in the prosecution of useful inquiry, to have gone far beyond the letter of his instructions. In the year 1823, a commission was despatched by the British government to Mexico, composed of four individuals of whom Mr. Ward was one, corresponding in its objects to the mission sent by Mr. Monroe to Buenos Ayres, in 1818, intended as a measure of precaution and calculated to prevent the ill effects of a premature recogni. tion of independence. In less than two months the business of the commission was so far concluded as to enable Mr. Ward to return to England, which he did in February 1824. On the recognition by Great Britain, Mr. Ward received the appointment of Chargé to Mexico, in which capacity he returned to that country in 1825, a short time subsequent to the arrival of our diplomatic representative, and there remained until the middle of the last year. Two such visits, made under circumstances so peculiar, enabled our author not merely to acquire accurate information, but to institute the most interesting comparisons, and thence to calculate the probable improvement which was to be anticipatYOL. IV.NO. 7.


ed. In the year of his first arrival, the storm of war had not ceased and a heavy swell, the dangerous sequel to the recent political tempest, still agitated the community and prevented the newly formed institutions from settling on secure foundations. The castle at Vera Cruz was held by the Spanish troops, and an active unremitting warfare was maintained with the batteries of the town, which afforded little hope that the strength of the oppressors was exhausted, or that they were so far dispirited as to neglect to seize any opportunity which might occur of restoring their power. The channels of trade were not yet cleared ; intestine commotion not yet composed ; and the secret influence of a party, hostile to the new system, was operating insidiously and actively. The government was administered by a temporary executive, composed of three prominent leaders of the revolutionary armies who delegated the duties to a subordinate commission. A constitution had scarcely been projected, and the aspect of every thing was in all respects decidedly revolutionary. From the period of Mr. Ward's return to Mexico, to his final departure, a different scene was presented. A constitution, formed upon the best model, had been adopted and the machine of government, once set in motion, moved actively and steadily. The work of organization was completed, and the members of the new community, inspirited by the brilliant prospect before them, and with nothing to retard their advance but the influence of ancient habits, and the confusion incident to party conflicts, were earnestly co-operating to elevate their country on the scale of nations. The contrast was highly interesting, and from the conclusions drawn from it, Mr. Ward's book derives its principal value.

The work is divided into two sections, one containing the valuable information collected by the author on subjects intimately connected with the interests of the republic, and the statistical details which he has prepared. Humboldt's statements are reviewed and examined, and the tables he has given, continued to the present day. The second part consists of a personal narrative of a residence and travels in the country. In the course of the following pages we will endeavour to present to our readers a view of the result of Mr. Ward's experience, with such remarks of our own as may be necessary to illustrate our opinions, when they are at variance from his, and such additional details as an attentive consideration of the subject, and some research, have enabled us to collect.

The revolution in Mexico commenced with the deposition of the viceroy Iturrigaray, in 1809, and ended with the fall of the last Spanish fortress north of the equator, in 1825. During a period of at least twelve years, the most populous provinces of New Spain were the scenes of irregular and generally savage contests. Plunder and extermination went hand in hand with victory ; and at the close of the war, such had been the nature of the contest, that the moral and intellectual character of the people was in no material degree improved. The conflict was one of physical forces merely ; little moral energy had been brought into action ; and while the revolutionary annals are adorned by numerous instances of heroic courage in the field, there is an utter barrenness of that modest, unobtrusive heroism which in other countries, in the cabinet and councils, has inspired deeds of romantic self-denial, and patriotic devotion. During the period of active war, the nation had properly no civil government. The contest was purely military. The few civilians who were distinguished in the insurgent ranks, such as Hidalgo, Morelos, Allende and others, were soon converted, not merely into soldiers, but into cruel, merciless soldiers who seemed disposed to drown the recollection of their ancient pacific profession in the torrents of blood they caused to flow. The influence of the press was unfelt; no facilities existed for the diffusion of information; and if there had at first been found even a small proportion of men of a less warlike character, who, in the intervals of repose which all wars afford, might have served their country by the exercise of civil virtues, such was the nature of the contest, as well as its duration, that the influence of these habits would have been but slightly felt. A war of fifteen years makes every man a soldier. It need not be said that our revolution exhibits a different aspect, and that its annals are as much adorned by the trials and achievements of our civilians, as our warriors. The colonial history of New Spain presents nothing analogous to the provincial assemblies of British America, since the ayuntamientos, to which alone the Creoles were eligible, had cognizance of little else than the municipal regulations of the towns. The occasional councils of the Mexican patriots, deliberating (if the phrase be admissible,) amid the bustle of a camp, agitated by the conflicting opinions and unbridled passions of the different chiefs, and never secure from hostile interruption, can with as little propriety be compared to the Continental Congress. With the exception of the Convention convoked by Rayon, in 1811, there was no power known or felt, and that, as the event proved, was short-lived amid the storm. There was between the different leaders no further concert than the necessity of the moment required and no common feeling but that of hostility to Spain. Each leader chose his district, and within its limits exercised exclusive control. The troops, composed of Indians and of the most degraded of the Creoles, supported themselves by plunder and were careless as to the regularity of their pay, as long as the presence of a powerful and relentless enemy intimidated, or the prospect of rapine inspired them. All the cities were in the possession of the Spanish troops. The surface of the country is so much broken and opposes so many difficulties to regular or easy intercourse, that it was nearly impossible, in time of war, to establish a system of steady and systematic co-operation. There was no common principle of action, no efficient combination of force, and little disposition on the part of the various leaders to yield their accidental territorial authority to any power that might superintend or control them.

Of her military men, Mexico has reason to be proud. Her soldiers were gallant, patriotic, and persevering. No danger appalled them ; no variety of exposure and distress exhausted them. Few nations can boast of more honourable names, as relates to military fame, than those of Morelos, Rayon, Victoria, Bravo, and Guerrero. Their deeds seem to be remembered by their fellow citizens with fervent gratitude, and their memory will be cherished by future ages, when the recollection of the errors of their course shall have failed. Besides these leaders of renown, there were in subordinate stations, many, who, had their lot been differently cast, would have been equally distinguished. On the mass of the native population, the urgent motive to rebellion was not a sense of political injury, but a kind of personal antipathy to the Spanish residents; and so fierce did this antipathy become, that it inspired the most romantic devotion and determined resolution. The civil deprivations, the commercial impediments, the long series of acts of political injustice and colonial oppression, were forgotten by the body of the people, but the personal insults which the Spaniards wantonly inflicted; the haughty insolence of a privileged order, who rejected gentleness and conciliation as the worst policy; who disdained apology for conduct however criminal and oppressive, and whose answer to all complaints, was “eres Criollo y basta," rankled in the bosoms of all, and were the active agents in the promotion of universal revolt. Justice would not have satisfied the Creoles, without revenge ; and a deep and bloody vengeance they were at last enabled to take. Deeds of the most chivalrous heroism are recorded by the historians of the times. The humblest Indian, a being in the hour of tranquillity meek and gentle, but in the moment of excitement fierce and relentless, seemed determined to rival the white in acts of hardihood and deeds of blood. One which we have somewhere seen recorded, we will here mention. For three years the small island of Mescala, situated in the lake of Chapala, was cccupied by a number of the Indians of the country, and defended against a large Spanish force, commanded by General Cruz. Though straitened by famine, and exposed to necessities of every kind, their resolution never flagged, and by their activity and unconquerable energies they not only were enabled to maintain a vigilant defence, but occasionally to attack the Spa

« AnteriorContinuar »