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of the nobility of England. But, in saying this, I proceed upon the hope that a returning sense of justice towards the people, will very soon operate with that nobility; and, my Lord, as you once thought it not beneath you to yield yourself up to the councils of a selfish, cunning, pen. sion-hunting writer, permit me to hope that you will not think it presumption in me to suppose it possible that you may lend an ear to one wlio has shown, through the whole course of his life, that his ruling passion has been a desire to see his country happy and great.
I am, my Lord,
PETITION TO THE PRINCE REGENT..
(Political Register, December, 1817.)
To his Royal Highness the Prince, Regent of the United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Ireland. The Petition of William COBBett, of Botley, in the county of South
ampton, now residing at North Hampstead, in the State of New
York, this 17th day of October, 1817, Most HUMBLY SHOWETH,
That, next after the present situation of England herself, the object the most interesting to every well-informed and patriotic Englishman must, as your petitioner humbly presumes to believe, be the present situation of the Spanish colonies in America, in whose immense and fertile regions there are preparing, and, indeed, there are now in progress, such changes as will, in all human probability, produce a new distribution of wealth and of power amongst the most considerable of the nations of the world ; and, as will, at the very least, materially affect many of those nations, not only in a commercial, but also in a naval and military point of view. Of all those nations no one is, as it appears to your humble petitioner, nearly so deeply interested as England in this grand revolution, which, if your Royal Highness's Councillors be wise,
# This petition to the Prince Regent was written by Mr. Cobbett in consequence of several interviews that he had at his residence on Long Island, with some military men, who came to him for the purpose of obtaining his aid. They were acting as agents for the South American Patriots, in fitting out vessels from the United States to carry on the war in the South ; but, being thwarted by an extraordinary Act of the American Congress, Mr. COBBett wrote the above petition, which being circulated in Ameriea, the Act was amended in the next session. ED.
prompt, and faithful to their king and his people, may greatly tend to restore her to prosperity, may secure to her an undisputed maritime predominance for ages not to be numbered, and may, at the same time, and from the use of the very same means, crown her with the unfading glory of having given freedom to twenty millions of people, who now groan out their lives under the double-thonged scourge of civil and religious tyranny.
Such being the opinion of your petitioner, it is impossible for him to refrain from soliciting most humbly, though most earnestly, the attention of your Royal Highness to this important matter. And, he begs leave here to be permitted to represent to your Royal Highness, that, while taking this step, he forgets not the injuries at this time unjustly inflicted on his fellow.subjects in general, and on himself in particular ; but, that, bearing these in mind, as he trusts he shall, to the last moment of his life, he also bears in mind those sacred obligations of law and of nature, which bind him to the land of his birth, and which bid him upon this occasion, as upon all other occasions, to make every exertion, within the compass of his humble means to promote the welfare and advance the honour of England.
To the mind of your Royal Highness the bare fact of a revolution being in existence and agitating the breasts of the whole of the population of a country, which reaches from the 18th degree of North latitude to the 50th degree of South latitude; a country which thus extends four thousand miles in length, which, in breadth, at some points, extends three thousand miles, and which is unbroken except by the comparatively trifling possessions of the Portuguese and the Dutch ; a country which borders, at one extremity, on the part of the United States, at once the most fertile and the most important as to all probable future military and naval operations; a country, which has numerous ports on the side of the Pacific, as well as on that of the Atlantic, ocean; a country, which, to all the articles of European produce adds many articles that are refused by nature even to the most favoured part of the United States; a country, which, while it is cheered by a continual summer on the surface of the earth, has mines beneath inexhaustible in silver and in gold; a country which abounds in, or is capable of producing, almost all the commodities, greatly useful, as imports, to England, and which, at the same time, offers to England the surest, the most extensive, and the best of all possible markets; a country, which, if independent, nature would forbid to become, in any respect, the rival of England, and which from necessity must seek her friendship, and rely, in a great measure, on her power: to the mind of your Royal Highness the bare fact of a revolution being in actual existence in such a country ; to the mind of every one who feels for the interest and honour of England, this bare fact, as your petitioner humbly presumes to believe, must suggest the strongest desire to know the true state of that revolution, and to see clearly developed the probable consequences of its ultimate success.
Deep is the sorrow of your petitioner when he reflects on bis incapacity to perform this task in manner worthy of the magnitude and importance of the subject; but, urged thereunto by a sense of imperious duty towards your Royal Highness and his country, no conviction, however perfect, of his inability can be sufficient to restrain him from making the attempt.
Minutely to describe the state of the revolution in Spanish America ; to lay before your Royal Highness in detail the number of men in arms
in the several provinces and Vice-royalties; to state the precise situation of the hostile armies and armaments ; to say what are the exact means, which, in the several warlike scenes, the parties possess, or may speedily expect : these would demand a mass of information not only greater than is possessed by your petitioner, but greater than can, at this time, pos. sibly be possessed by any one man. But, the information which your petitioner has acquired, not from mere rumour or from published accounts, but from a personal communication with men of high character, coming directly from the spot, enables him confidently to state to your Royal Highness, that, in the Vice-royalty of Mexico, which is the most northern part of the Spanish dominions on the main, and which borders on the United States, the people are wholly disaffected to the Government ; that they bave a Junta, or Assembly of Representatives, in the province of Valladolid ; that they have leaders of great enterprise and talent, and that arms only are wanted to decide, at once, the struggle in their favour ; that the Vice-Roy, indeed, raises troops, but that even these are disaffected towards him ; that, on the Atlantic side, the only considerable seaport of this vice-royalty, La Vera Cruz, is, as yet, in the hands of the Spanish Government, but that, to drive the present possessors from that port, and to afford every necessary assistance to the oppressed people, one single English frigate, with twenty thousand stand of arms, sent to the Gulf of Mexico, would be sufficient; that this vice-royalty, which proposes to form itself into a distinct independent State, has a population of from seven to eight millions, nearly equalling the population of the United States of America, on which it borders on one side, and with regard to the resources and power of which United States, the establishment of the Independence of Mexico, must, as your petitioner will hereafter humbly endeavour to show, have a most important effect.
That, with regard to the second grand division of these immense regions, which division includes New Granada and Venezuela, and which extends from the isthmus of Darien to the mouth of the Oronoca (along more than seven hundred miles of sea-coast, the most important in every point of view), containing a population of from three to four millions, a declaration of independence, and a new form of government have, long since, been proclaimed ; that a war, extensive and sanguinary, has, for years, been going on ; that the patriots have commanders regularly appointed and commissioned; that they have a representative assembly, officers of State, a national flag, and, in short, that they exercise the powers of sovereignty over a large portion of this extensive, fertile, rich and important territory. Here, as in the case of Mexico, arms only and a trifling maritime force are wanted to put an end to the contest, and, as your petitioner humbly hopes that he shall be able to show, to open to England the fairest prospect of immense advantages.
That, in Peru, which forms the third division, and which is bounded to the north by the last-mentioned territory, to the east by the Portuguese possessions, to the south by the territory of Chili, and to the west by the Pacific Ocean, and which has a population of from two to three millions, the spirit of independence is as active as in the aforementioned territories, and that here also a mere trifle in the way of maritime force and of arms would decide the contest, even, perhaps, without further struggle.
That, in the southern division, including the territories of Buenos Ayres and of Chili, and containing a population of from three to four millions, the contest is nearly at an end. The patriots have established a new
Government, and, with the exception of a trifling portion of territory on the borders of the Pacific Ocean, on which Spain is endeavouring to keep up the struggle, the whole of this division is under the actual control of the patriot Government.
But, though your petitioner places, in relation to the state of the revolution, great reliance on the particular information which he has, from most respectable and authentic sources received, he places much greater reliance upon the natural and inevitable tendency of the existence throughout the afore-mentioned countries, of a general spirit of revol: against oppression and insult exercised by imbecility, and which spirit of revolt, together with which oppression, insult and imbecility are notorious to all the world. The history of nations, as your petitioner humbly ventures to believe, furnishes no instance of the re-subjugation of a people, once in arms for their rights and perfectly enlightened as to the nature of those rights, unless such people were overwhelmed by an irresistible combination of foreign powers; a circumstance that cannot happen to the Spanish independents, unless through the consent, or the connivance, of England, acting, as in such case she must, not only in violation of the dictates of justice and humanity, but, as your petitioner humbly hopes he shall be able to show, in direct opposition to her own most important and most permanent interests.
In order to obtain an insight as to the probable consequences of the ultimate success of the Revolution of Spanish America, especially as those consequences will affect, permanently as well as for the present, the prosperity and power of England, and that he might be able the better to discharge his duty to your Royal Highness and his country, your petitioner has carefully attended to the nature of the products throughout the territories which are the subject of his petition. And, as to this matter, he begs leave humbly to beseech your Royal Highness to bear in mind that Mexico produces all those articles of commerce, which are produced in the United States, such as cotton, tobacco, ship-timber, and many others, and besides these, cochineal, indigo, dye-woods, and mahogany, while it abounds in those mines of silver and of gold, of which the United States have none. The city of Mexico, situated nearly about the centre of this Vice-Royalty, and which city contains a hundred and eighty thousand inhabitants, is blessed with a climate that knows no winter ; a never-fading verdure clothes the fields ; two crops of any kind of European grain are, with facility, made, in the same year, to succeed each other on the same plot of ground, and even two crops of maize, or Indian corn, while one crop of this latter grain is the utmost that can, even with difficulty, be raised in the northern part of the United States. In the Division of New Granada and Venezuela, which approaches more towards the south, all the products of Mexico abound. Here, as to the mines, silver and gold receive the addition of platina metal. Tobacco is here produced long acknowledged to be the finest in the world. The vine and the olive have been forbidden by despotism to produce wine and oil in this their favourite clime, lest these countries should, in this respect, injure Old Spain. At Chili, where the people have been permitted to make wine for their own use only, a proof has been afforded of the eminence to which almost every part of these territories would, if free and independent, speedily arrive, to the great injury, no doubt, of France and Spain and some other of the nations of Europe, but to the incalculable benefit of England. In the Division of Buenos Ayres and Chili; in that
of Peru; in every part of these territories, are produced all that the United States produce, with a small portion of the labour required in the latter. Hides and tallow, from droves roaming at pleasure, unfed and unsheltered, are even now an object of considerable traffic, and, under independent governments, would naturally become such to an immense extent. Lumber and all the articles in wood, together with flour, rice, and all the articles of food, occasionally necessary to England or to her West India Colonies, and which articles are now chiefly supplied by the United States, would, at a much cheaper rate, all be supplied from Mexico and the other countries bordering on the West India Seas, while the resources arising therefrom to these new nations could not possibly, at any period of time, be employed, like the resources of the United States, in the formation of a marine threatening to rival, sooner or later, the navy of England.
But, amongst the articles, in which Mexico, and more especially New Granada and Venezuela would supplant the United States, there is one, which your petitioner humbly presumes to point out as worthy of the particular notice of your Royal Highness. The articles of rice, flour and tobacco are, each of them, of great importance, but that of cotton far surpasses any description within the humble powers of your petitioner to give. The annual amount of this article of raw material, imported into England from the United States, great as that amount is, bears no proportion in point of consequence to the circumstances of its being the material of one of the greatest English manufactures, giving employment to a multitude of hands, causing an immense capital to be productively employed, and the interruption of a sufficient supply of which raw material must, of necessity, be attended with injuries too obvious to be detailed, and too great not to be, if possible, provided against. In the territories which are the subject of this Petition, and especially in those which border on the Gulf of Mexico and on the West India sea, cotton is not only naturally of a quality greatly superior to that of the United States, but it is produced at a small portion of the expense demanded by the cultivation of that of the last-mentioned country. So that, if the territories of Spanish America were freed from the monopoly, the restrictions, and all the selfish and oppressive shackles imposed by Spain ; if industry and enterprise were left to take their natural course, those countries would fur. nish the English manufacturers with the most essential article of rawmaterial at a price greatly reduced, and the close friendship which must necessarily exist between England and those territories, would prevent the supply from being interrupted by any of the clashings of interest or any of the casualties of war.
If your Royal Highness's Ministers, too busily engaged in the promoting of Holy Alliances abroad and in sacrificing the freedom of the people to the interest of an usurping borough faction at home, have overlooked these obvious commercial consequences of the success of the Revolution in Spanish America, and have also overlooked those still more important consequences of a military and naval character, of which your petitioner will by and by beg to be permitted to speak, the rulers of the United States, have, as he will now humbly proceed to show, overlooked ueither the one nor the other, but seem to have had all those consequences clearly in their view, and to have done all that lay in their power to prevent them accordingly.
Your petitioner will not so far presume the existence of perfidy in