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Iturbide, as just in itself, as it was propitious to the cause of Mexican independence, has relieved the friends of liberty from the chief grounds of alarm, which they have felt in contemplating the civil and political condition of Mexico. An act of the government itself, also, which was passed on the 28th of June last, recognising the whole amount of debts contracted by all the preceding governments, not omitting that under the Viceroys, exhibits a good indication of growing solidity and strength, at the same time it inspires confidence and respect. In short, from the day that the tyranny of the mock Emperor ceased, there has been an evident and substantial improvement in the political condition and prospects of that country.
The present federal system of government, instituted in imitation of the United States, is an experiment. Its success is quite uncertain, and on the whole it may possibly be considered as rather an unfortunate step at so early a stage. The affairs of Venezuela, before the union, went on but very indifferently under this system. The change is probably too great, from such a despotism as has brooded over the South American colonies for three centuries, to so high a degree of freedom as must necessarily be enjoyed under a system of separate, independent confederacies, bound together only by the loose chain of common interest. The Colombians have thought so, at least, and adopted what they call the central form of government, allowing to its fullest latitude the electoral franchise, but concentrating all the legislative powers of government into the hands of a body composed of national representatives. This scheme was eloquently and strongly recommended by Bolivar, in his celebrated address to the Congress of Venezuela, the principles of which are incorporated into the new constitution, now the basis of the Colombian Republic. He acknowledges the superior excellency of the federal plan, however, when the condition of the people will admit of its being carried fully into effect; and it is one which may at any time be engrafted into the central system of Colombia. In alluding to the former constitution of Venezuela, he considers it a 'miracle that its model in North America has existed with so much prosperity,' a remark, which he would have been less likely to make, had he looked deeply into the history and character of the inhabitants of the United States.
It has been fortunate for Colombia, that her ablest statesmen and firmest patriots have been united in their views of the present form of government. The constitution was adopted with great unanimity, and seems to have been administered with an extraordinary degree of harmony, even in the perilous times of change, and with the burden of a heavy war resting on the nation. Mr Salazar, Minister Plenipotentiary from the Republic of Colombia to the Government of the United States, has expressed himself briefly, but with point and clearness, on this subject, in a letter contained in Mr Rocafuerte's Ensayo Politico, published within the last year in New York. Mr Salazar is decidedly of opinion, that Colombia in its present state is much better suited to the central, than the federative system, yet he hesitates not to say, that the latter as practised in the United States is in itself the best, when the circumstances of the people are such as to allow it to have its free and effectual operation.* But, notwithstanding these views of distinguished Colombians, and the success of their government under its present system, no very sound reason can be urged, why experiments of a better form should not be made at the outset, and thus secure not only the existence of this better form, but also the benefits which may in the mean time be derived from it. A reformation may not be easily brought about hereafter, when it shall be desired, but if the right plan is laid down at first, no reformation will be required: So in regard to the Mexicans, if they can keep clear of civil commotions, and preserve the peace, rights, and property of the people in a tolerable state of security, during the incipi
* Si hubieramos de considerar en si mismo el sistema federativo, i tal como los Estados Unidos lo practican, nuestros votos serían en su favor. Ensayo Polit. p. 175.
Mr Rocafuerte takes the same ground, and says that 'in the present state of the country, of religious intolerance, and general misery, the federal hydra appears to him the most cruel enemy, which could present itself.' He looks ardently to the time, however, when this enemy may become a friend, and be made to work for the prosperity and happiness of the country.
Los legisladores de Cúcuta han sido mui liberales en sus princípios, i por consiguente mui amantes al federalismo, todos lo desean, i todos aspiran al feliz momento de verlo introducido entre nosotros. ¿Que Americano instruido puede existir, que no sea un ardiente defensor de este complemento de perfeccion legislativa? Pero no se llega á la perfeccion de ninguana ciencia ó arte, sin la práctica de sus princípios, que se adquiere con el tiempo i con la experiencia. Ibid. p. 171.
ent movements of their federative machine, the task will every day become less difficult, and the chances will be multiplied of their obtaining by the shortest process a substantially free government. Whether Mexico is in a condition to make this experiment with a just hope of success, time and the energies of the people must decide.
The substance of the present work, as the author gives us to understand, was communicated in letters to a friend at intervals during a rapid journey through the country. It is written in the form of a diary, and thus contains the interest and spirit with which objects are described on the spot, and incidents are narrated as they occur. Mr Poinsett sailed from Charleston on the 28th of August, 1822, in the corvette John Adams, and, after touching for a short time at Puerto Rico, he entered the port of Vera Cruz in Mexico, on the 18th of October following. In this city he was politely and kindly received by the American Vice Consul, accepted an invitation to dine with Santa Ana, a young and brave general, and governor of the place, by whom he was treated in a cordial and hospitable manner. Here he remained three days viewing different parts of the city, and making preparation for his journey into the interior.
Some confusion exists among writers of good authority respecting the origin of the present city of Vera Cruz. It is often represented as having been founded by Cortes, and the first town established by the Spaniards in North America. But this is a mistake. Cortes landed and had a battle with the natives, in what is now called the province of Tobasco, nearly a hundred leagues to the west of the present site of Vera Cruz, and at that place he built a small city named by him Madonna della Victoria, which for many years was the capital of the province. In sailing up the coast from this point, Cortes first disembarked at the mouth of the river Antigua, and here he founded the colony of Vera Cruz, several miles to the westward of the present city, which was not built till nearly a century afterwards.* But whatever may have been
* Clavigero says, that three cities by the name of Vera Cruz were built near the same place on the coast of New Spain. The two first were ancient Vera Cruz and New Vera Cruz, planted on the same sands where Cortes landed. The first was settled by Cortes in 1519, and was called Villarica of Vera Crus, (Villarica della Veracroce.) The next was settled four or five years after, near the site of the other. And the third, or present city of Vera
the location of the city of Vera Cruz, it was, during the three hundred years of colonial servitude, the only port in which goods were allowed to be entered, or from which vessels could sail. The harbor, or rather anchorage of the present city, is exposed and unsafe. Vessels are obliged to put to sea when the north wind blows, or run the hazard of being driven on shore. The strong castle of San Juan de Ulloa stands on an island, overlooking the city, and commanding the entrance of the harbor. This castle was the last retreat of the remains of the royalist forces, which had been sent to quell the revolution in New Spain. Since Vera Cruz has ceased to be the exclusive port of trade, it has declined greatly from its former rank in wealth and business. Alvarado at the south, and Tampico at the north, are now the principal points at which commerce centres.
All things being in readiness our traveller prepared to take up his departure for the interior. On descending into the court yard, he observes, I found an escort of six dragoons well mounted, a bat mule loaded with my baggage, and a carriage not unlike a French cabriolet, drawn by three mules, and conducted by a postillion. This vehicle is called a volante. The chaise is suspended by twisted leather thongs, and has altogether a ruinous, breakdown appearance.' With this equipage he was to be conveyed to Jalapa, a distance of somewhat more than sixty miles. The journey proved by no means a tedious or disagreeable one, if we may judge from the author's good humored manner of relating the few incidents which befel him. The vehicle broke down but once, the mules were not more obstinate, nor the muleteers more quarelsome, than is usual, the people at the inns were sufficiently accommodating, and, as the travellers carried their own beds and provisions, they would have been unreasonable not to be contented with their lodging and fare.
Two days and a half brought them in sight of the towers and turrets of the ancient and beautiful city of Jalapa, once among the most celebrated in the new world. It was now the residence of Eschevarri, captain general of the provinces
Cruz, was built by order the Count of Monterey, Viceroy of Mexico, at the end of the sixteenth, or beginning of the seventeenth century. It received the title of city from Philip III, in the year 1615. Storia Antica del Messico, Läb. VIII. s. 12.
of Puebla, Oaxaca, and Vera Cruz, who received the author courteously, and in whose suite were two Americans, a physician and an engineer. This is the same Eschevarri, who, after the downfall of Iturbide, refused to submit to the government, or obey the orders of the executive of the federal republic. He was seized and taken to Mexico a prisoner, by the patriot general Guerrero. Many things in Jalapa present themselves to gratify an inquisitive traveller. The inhabitants are distinguished for their hospitality to strangers, their lively dispositions, and social habits. The wealthy people of Vera Cruz resort hither in the summer to avoid the heat and diseases incident to the low country at this season. The houses are spacious and many of them handsome, having commonly a large inner court planted with trees and flowers, and containing a fountain. Some of the churches are elegant in their architecture, and splendid in their interior decorations, and the profusion of gold and silver on the altars and walls bears testimony to the former wealth of the place. The aspect of the surrounding country is bold and picturesque; the valleys are clothed with a deep verdure; mountains rise in the distant view, and the lofty summit of Orizaba, ascending to an elevation of seventeen thousand feet above the level of the ocean, is distinctly seen with its snow capped peak situated at a distance of nearly fifty miles to the south
Jalapa was one of the cities visited by Cortes, and he built there the convent of San Francisco, which is still standing in a good state of preservation. From this convent, in addition to the features of natural scenery above described, Humboldt says the ocean may be seen. Jalapa is memorable as the place in which the great fair was held, or where all the goods imported into Vera Cruz, and of course nearly all the foreign articles that circulated in New Spain, were sold at a certain season of the year. Merchandise was packed in suitable parcels at the port, and transported to this city on mules, where it was stored in warehouses till the time of sale. fair was open for six months, and then closed for the same period, during which no sales could be made, as the goods that remained on hand were held in custody by the king's officers, till the periodical return of the fair. Purchasers came from all parts of the interior for several hundred miles