Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

use and importance, that it would produce many advantages in peace, and in war would make us masters of the South Sea.

Scarcely any degree of judgment is sufficient to restrain the imagination from magnifying that on which it is long detained. The relator of Annan's voyage had heated his mind with its various events, had partaken the hope with which it was begun, and the vexation suffered by its various miscarriages, and then thought nothing could be of greater benefit to the nation than that which might promote the success of such another enterprise. Had the heroes of that history even performed and attained all that when they first spread their sails they ventured to hope, the consequence would yet have produced very little hurt to the Spaniards, and very little benefit to the English. They would have taken a few towns; Anson and his companions would have shared the plunder or the ransom; and the Spaniards, finding their southern territories accessible, would for the future have guarded them better. That such a settlement may be of use in war, no man that considers its situation will deny. But war is not the whole business of life; it happens but seldom, and every man, either good or wise, wishes that its frequency were still less. That conduct which betrays designs of future hostility, if it does not excite violence, will always generate malignity; it must forever exclude confidence and friendship, and continue a cold and sluggish rivalry, by a sly reciprocation of indirect injuries, without the bravery of war, or the security of peace.

The advantage of such a settlement in time of peace is, I think, not easily to be proved. For what use can it have but of a station for contraband traders, a nursery .of fraud, and a receptacle of theft? Nariorotig/i, about a century ago, was of opinion, that no advantage could be obtained in voyages to the Soush Sea, except by such an armament as, with a sailor's morality, might trade by force. It is well known that the prohibitions of foreign commerce are, in these countries, to the last degree rigorous, and that no man not authorized by the king of Spain can trade there but by force or stealth. Whatever profit is obtained must be gained by the violence of rapine, or dexterity of fraud. Government will not perhaps soon arrive at such purity and excellence, but that some connivance at least will be indulged to the triumphant robber and successful cheat. He that brings wealth home is seldom interrogated by what means it was obtained. This, however, is one of those modes of corruption with which mankind ought always to struggle, and which they may in time hope to overcome. There is reason to expect, that as the world is more enlightened, policy and morality will at last be reconciled, and that nations will learn not to do what they would not suffer. But the silent toleration of suspected guilt is a degree of depravity far below that which openly incites and manifestly protects it. To pardon a pirate may be injurious to mankind; but how much greater is the crime of opening a port in which all pirates shall be safe? The contraband trader is not more worthy of .protections: if with Narborough he trades by force, he is a pirate; if he trades secretly, he is only a thief. Those who honestly refuse his traffic he hates as obstructors of his profit; and those with whom he deals he cheats, because he knows that they dare not complain. He lives with a heart full of that malignity which fear of detection always generates in those who are to defend unjust acquisitions against lawful .a\tthority; and when he comes home with riches thus acquired, he brings a mind hardened in evil, too proud for reproof, and too stupid for reflection; he offends the high by his insolence, and corrupts the low by his example. Whether these truths were forgotten or despised, or whether some better purpose was then in agitation, the representation made in Anson's voyage had such effect upon the statesmen of that time, that (in 1748) some sloops were fitted out for the fuller knowledge of Peflys's and Falkland's Islands, and for further discoveries in the South Sea. This expedition, though perhaps designed to'be secret, was not long concealed from Wall, the Spanish ambassador, who so vehemently opposed it, and so strongly maintained the right of the Spaniards to the exclusive dominion of the South Sea, that the English ministry relinquished part of their original design, and declared that the examination of those two islands was the utmost that their orders should comprise. This concession was sufficiently liberal or sufficiently submissive; yet the Spanish court was neither gratified by our kindness, nor softened by our humility. Sir Benjamin Keene, who then resided at Madrid, was interrogated by Carvajal concerning the visit intended to Pepys's and Falkland's Islands in terms of great jealousy and discontent; and the intended expedition was represented, if not as a direct violation of the late peace, yet as an act inconsistent with amicable intentions, and contrary to the professions of mutual kindness which then passed between Spain and England. Keene was directed to protest that nothing more than mere discovery was intended, and that no settlement was to be established. The Spaniard readily replied, that if this was a voyage of wanton curiosity, it might be gratified with less trouble, for he was willing to communicate whatever was known; that to go so far only to come back, was no reasonable act; and it would be a slender sacrifice to peace and friendship to omit a voyage in which nothing was to be gained: that if we left the places as we found them, the voyage was useless; and if we took possession, it was a hostile armament, nor could we expect that the Spaniards would suppose us to visit the southern parts of America only from curiosity, after the scheme proposed by the author of Anson's voyage. When once we had disowned all purpose of settling, it is apparent that we could not defend the propriety of our expedition by arguments equivalent to Carvajal's objections. The ministry therefore dismissed the whole design, but no declaration was required by which our right to pursue it hereafter might be annulled. From this time Falkland's Island was forgotten or neglected, till the conduct of naval affairs was intrusted to the Earl of Egmont, a man whose mind was vigorous and ardent, whose knowledge was extensive, and whose designs were magnificent; but who had somewhat vitiated his judgment by too much indulgence of romantic projects and airy speculations. Lord Egmont's eagerness after something new determined him to make inquiry after Falkland's Island, and he sent out Captain Byron, who in the beginning of the year 1765, took, he says, a formal possession in the name of his Britannic majesty.

The possession of this place is, according to Mr. Byron's representation, no despicable acquisition. He conceived the island to be six or seven hundred miles round, and represented it as a region naked indeed of wood, but which, if that defect were supplied, would have all that nature, almost all that luxury could want. The harbour he found capacious and secure, and therefore thought it worthy of the name of Egmont. Of water there was no want, and the ground, he described as having all the excellencies of soil, and as covered with antiscorbutic herbs, the restoratives of the sailor. Provision was easily to be had, for they killed almost every day an hundred geese to each ship, by pelting therewith stones. Not content with physic and with food, he searched yet deeper for the value of the new dominion. He dug in quest of ore, found iron in abundance, and did not despair of nobler metals. A country thus fertile and delightful, fortunately found where none would have expected it, about the fiftieth degree of southern latitude, could not without great supineness be neglected. Early in the next year (January 8, 1766) captain Macbride arrived at Port Egmont, where he erected a small blockhouse, and stationed a garrison. His description was less flattering. He found, what he calls, a mass of islands arid broken lands, of which the soil was nothing but a bog, with no better prospect than that of barren mountains, beaten by storms almost perpetual. Yet this, says he, is summer, and if the winds of winter hold their natural proportion, those who lie but two cables' length from the shore, mlist pass weeks without any communication with it. The plenty which regaled Mr. Byron, and which might have supported not only armies but armies of Patagons, was no longer to be found. The geese were too wise to stay when men violated their haunts, and Mr. Macbride's crew could only now and then kill a goose when the weather would permit. All the quadrupeds which he met there were foxes, supposed by him to have been brought upon the ice; but of useless animals, such as sea-lions and penguins, which he calls vermin, the number was incredible. He allows, how

« AnteriorContinuar »