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by an efficient opposition to the popular cause. rior of Mexico there has not been for the last two years a single armed Spanish soldier; and, if we mistake not, the entire remnant of the armies, which have been sent from Old Spain into that province, now consists of four hundred men shut up in the small garrison of St John d'Ulloa. There are no royalist forces in Colombia, Buenos Ayres, or Chile. In Peru a contest has been kept up, during the last two or three years, between the patriots and a party of nominal royalists; but in reality it has been no other than a civil war, in which each party has been struggling to establish its ascendency on the spot, without reference to the tottering throne of Ferdinand. Individuals are doubtless scattered here and there all over the Spanish provinces, who sigh for the old order of things, because they grieve to be deprived of the legalised monopolies and exactions, by which they have formerly grown rich and powerful. These persons will naturally be arrayed against the people, and be prepared to abet any measures, which shall enable them to sustain for another brief hour their declining fortunes; but the hope of bringing back the provinces to a subjection to the mother country has long ago ceased to be among the dreams even of this class.*
In the future pages of our journal, we hope to exhibit from time to time as full and minute a view of the revolutionary history of South America, as the nature of our work will admit. We have access to materials, which we trust will enable us to do reasonable justice to a subject, which is much less understood in this country than its merits deserve, or than our interests as a nation would seem to require, especially when relations of the most intimate kind are daily gaining strength
*The Marquis of Lansdown, in his speech above referred to, gives a striking illustration of the different degress of prosperity now existing in Old Spain and the South American republics. We have been told,' says he, that the governments of those countries wanted solidity, and that it was impossible to speak rationally of their independence. Let the barometer of public credit decide. That barometer was never yet known to fail on such occasions.' He then compares the values of the Spanish and some of the South American stocks, as they stood at that time in the market. The Colombian stock he said was fluctuating between 67 and 80, while that of the ancient government of Spain was between 18 and 22. This stock, he observed, had not, it was true, received the pledge of the king of Spain without reservation. But he again referred to stock, which carried with it the entire credit of the Spanish government, and this stock he found was only 51 or 52, while that of Chile was as high as 82 in every market of Europe.
between the United States and the new republics at the South. These republics are our neighbors, and the time may come when they will be our rivals. Colombia has already more inhabitants than had the United States at the time our independence was declared ; and Mexico more than twice that number. As far as climate, fertility of soil, and the advantages for a prosperous commerce are concerned, these countries are in many respects before our own. In the character of their population, in moral and physical energy, they are far behind us; but this is a disparity, which has grown more out of casualties than nature, and will every day become less obvious under liberal governments, and a free intercourse with other nations. In these points of view the new republics are already clothed with an importance, which gives them the highest claims on the attention of this country, and renders a knowledge of their condition, progress, and interests, among the most valuable attainments of the political inquirer.
At present we shall confine ourselves to a brief examination of the political and civil condition of the South American colonies, while subject to the power of Old Spain, with the particular purpose of adducing some of the evils under which they labored from the unjust and oppressive policy of the mother country. In these sources will be recognised the seeds of the revolution, and abundant proofs that it was brought to its ultimate crisis by the force of causes, whose operation was not to be resisted. For the sake of method our remarks will be directed successively to the nature of the Spanish colonial government; the state of commerce and trade; exactions and taxes; ecclesiastical establishments; education; and the condition of the Indians.
I. As to the government of the Spanish dominions in South America, it is enough to trace the outlines of its principles, and of the manner in which it was administered, to show that it made no pretence to the character of a just and equitable system, and that it was much better calculated to encourage plunder and crime, than to protect the rights and property of the people. By special grants from the kings of Spain, the first discoverers and conquerors of the immense territories in the New World were invested with an authority nearly absolute. But this authority was so grossly abused by the cruelty of the early settlers towards the Indians, that Charles the Fifth
found it necessary to take away by degrees many of their original privileges. He passed a decree by which South America was annexed to Spain, not in the character of colonies, but as an integral part of the kingdom. The Indians had before been regarded as vassals of the first settlers, but were now declared to be subjects of the king, and to stand in the same relation to him as the Castilians. It was on this ground, that some of the provinces refused to recognise the Juntas, that were instituted on the Peninsula after the abdication of Ferdinand, and affirmed, that, by virtue of the original compact with the king of Spain, they owed allegiance to no other authority than that of the sovereign. This decree of union is recorded in the Laws of the Indies, and contains in itself a pledge on the part of the king, that it should never be changed or annulled by his successors.*
The interpretation alluded to above, which was given to this decree by the colonists, is undoubtedly correct, but notwithstanding this royal decree, so early passed, and so frequently confirmed by the Spanish sovereigns, it is quite certain that no other testimony of its existence was ever felt, except its being recorded in the book of laws. All the Spanish American provinces were in principle and in fact governed as colonies. The system of colonial government began at an early period. The affairs of the Indies very soon rose to an importance, which required particular attention in their management, and in the year 1511 Ferdinand instituted a department for that purpose, which was denominated the Council of the Indies. It hardly went into operation till 1524, when it was confirmed and organised by Charles the Fifth, after the earnest remonstrances of Cordova, Las Casas, and others, against the lawless and tyrannical proceedings of the persons, who, by right of discovery or conquest, had assumed control over different districts. This Council was empowered to pass
* The decree was granted in 1519, and was confirmed at four different times by succeeding sovereigns. After stating the claims of the first settlers by reason of their labors and fidelity, and assigning these as motives for uniting them to the crown, the king closes the decree with the following pledge on his part.-Prometemos, i damos nuestra fee i palabra Real por Nos, i los Reyes nuestros sucessores, de que para siempre jamàs no seràn enagenadas, ni apartadas en todo, ó en parte, ni sus ciudades, ni poblaciones por ninguna causa, ó razon, ó en favor de ninguna persona; i si Nos, ó nuestros sucessores hicieremos alguna donacion, ó enagenacion contra lo susodicho, sea nula, i por tal la declaramos. Recopilacion de Leyes de las Indias. Tit. I. Lib. III. Ley. 1.
laws, ordinances, decrees, and such general and particular provisions, as might receive the approbation of the king, and as the exigences of the colonies required. In short, the supreme government of all the Spanish dominions in America centred in this body.* It was composed of a president, who was the king, four secretaries, and twenty two counsellors and the members were commonly chosen from the number of those, who had been viceroys, or held high stations in the provinces. The Council of the Indies appointed all the officers employed in America, in compliance with the nomination of the crown, and to the same body every officer was responsible for his conduct. Laws and decrees required a vote of two thirds in their favor, before they could be submitted for the signature of the king.
The Spaniards have boasted much of the high character and dignity of the Council of the Indies, and in some cases it would be wrong to deny, that their acts were marked with strict justice and independence. But this concession can be taken only in a very limited extent; it is known that they were not always inflexible in resisting the temptation of gold; they were seldom quick to hear, or prompt to redress, injuries; they suffered an aggrieved party to linger out years in fruitless suits and applications, before they would render justice where it was due. The facts, indeed, that the most revolting abuses and acts of wickedness were daily practised in America, under the eye of this Council, and that the members themselves had held the highest posts in that country, and been in their turn primary agents in committing similar abuses; these facts speak in accents too loud of the real character of the body itself. The Council of the Indies had supreme power; it made such laws as suited its purpose, and could enforce them; all the members were personally and practically acquainted with the existing evils; and while they had this power and this knowledge, and yet suffered the evils to
*The grant of power and jurisdiction runs in the following words.-Es nuestra merced i voluntad, que el dicho Consejo tenga la juridicion suprema de todas nuestras Indias Occidentales, discubiertas, i que se descubrieren, i de los negocios, que de elias resultaren i dependieren, i para la buena governacion i administracion de justicia pueda ordenar i hacer con consulta nuestra las leyes, pragmaticas, ordenanzas i provisiones generales i particulares, que por tiempo para el bien de aquellas provincias convinieren. Recopil. de Ley. de las Ind. Lib. II. Tit. II. Ley 2.
remain in their full and appalling force, we see no reason why they should not be considered as abetting them to the utmost extent, and as being responsible in the highest degree.
We have very little respect, therefore, for the boasted dignity of this body, and less faith in the purity of its designs and virtue of its deeds. We believe the censure of the Abbé Millot to be perfectly just. There are abuses,' says he, 'in all the councils of Spain, and in that of the Indies more than any other; instead of punishing malversations, they support the culpable in proportion to the presents received from them.' Depons, who is commonly judicious, had personal reasons, according to his own account, for bestowing homage on the Council of the Indies, and he complains of this censure as too severe. He forgets a remark of his own, made in another place, namely, that it is requisite to be very powerful and very rich to obtain in Spain the punishment of an abuse of power committed in the Spanish Indies.'* Why so much wealth necessary to obtain justice from the persons, whose business it was to render it, or provide for its being rendered, without exorbitant charge, embarrassment, or delay? The answer may be read in the preceding words of Millot.
The laws enacted by this Council, its decisions, judgments, decrees, and grants, multiplied to such a number, that it became necessary, if only for the mere purpose of reference and convenience, to collect them into one work, which was called the Laws of the Indies. In the original it is entitled Recopilacion de Leyes de los Reynos de las Indias, and was first published in four volumes folio in the year 1680, as appears by a royal edict prefixed to the first volume, authorising its publication. An improved edition was printed in 1774, by order of the king, after which time we are not aware, that it underwent any change or revision. This was the code by which the Council at Madrid professed to govern the Indies, and the wisdom of which has been highly extolled by Spanish writers. Let us hear what is said of this code by Mr Mendez in the Biblioteca Americana, where the writer shows, by the able manner in which he discusses this subject, that he has
*Voyage to the Eastern Part of Terra Firma, on the Spanish Main in South America. Vol. II. pp. 15, 54.