Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

regarded all their countrymen as sunk below the rest of their species—that we were entirely unacquainted even with their geography, and that many of us treat their cause with a contemptuous indifference. I blush for the vanity and selfishness of my country, men, who are unwilling to allow the common attributes of humanity to these generous men, who have offered their lives and fortunes to purchase freedom for their beloved native soil.

Happily for my fellow men, all the efforts of despots will not suffice to arrest the progress of the human mind in America. Spain has adopted a system calculated to retard the general prosperity of her colonies; she has gratified her cupidity by the most reproachful exactions, yet the vast extent of the new world, and the facility of obtaining subsistence, rendered it impossible to exercise tyranny of a mere personal nature to any great degree. The American has always been a freeman, in spite of tyrannical measures, which only tended to retard the aggregate prosperity; the individual was free, from the very nature of the country which he occupied. Let us not imitate the egotism of the British, who assert that they are the only people in the universe who can enjoy a rational and manly freedom. Let us believe that freedom may be enjoyed in more than one form : Switzerland was free; the Italian republics were free; Holland was free, though each in a different form. Southern America, too, will be free, and there is reason to believe, will be as free as we are. There is ample reason why we should be cautious in pronouncing hastily on the character of our brethren of the South. Has humanity no claim upon us? Is it more than fair, to allow the patriots at least an opportunity of proving whether they are, or are not, worthy of the glorious privilege. of independence? What injury to the world can result from the experiment ? Surely no state in which they can be placed, can be worse for the interests of mankind, for the cause of human nature, than a return to the withering grasp of Spain, resolved as she is, rather than not rule, to rule over ruined cities and deserted plains.

The character of Old Spain itself, although at present sunk so low, I have already said, was formerly of a very opposite kind. We are wrong in supposing that Spaniards are insensible to the charms of liberty, or that they are ignorant of the principles of free government. The Spanish history is full of the noblest traits of patriotism, from the time of Viriato down to that of Palafox. There are at the same time, proofs of the resolution of the people, in opposing the despotic and tyrannical measures of princes. The conduct of the Cortes, and the provincial Juntas, prove that they are not incapable of governing themselves in the most popular forms. The defence of the country, in times of the greatest difficulty, was conducted by these assemblies in the most spirited man

ner, while the legitimale sovereign, instead of meditating, like English Alfred, the means of regaining liis kingdom, was busied in the occupation of a woman - a nun-in embroidering petticoats! Liberty is not even yet extinct among the people of Spain. The constitution, or form of government, adopted by them, contained all the finest features of those of England and the United States, while the colonies at the same monient, breathed sentiments still more free. The friends of humanity entertained hopes that Spain, under a limited monarchy, would assume her former station in Europe ; but these hopes have been disappointed by the treacherous ingratitude and bigotry of the miserable creature who now usurps

the throne-a throne which he had before renounced, and which was restored to him by his subjects, on conditions that he has basely violated.

The Juntas and Cabildos have always existed in the Spanish monarchy; they are popular assemblies which place no inconsiderable share of the government in the hands of the subject, and like the trial by jury in England, have accustomed the people to feel themselves something more than ciphers in the state. From the necessity of the thing, these popular assemblies or councils, were more in use in the colonies than in old Spain, which circumstance, taken in conjunction with the greater degree of personal freedom and independence in the colonies, on account of the remoteness of the settlements, must have rendered the people of a very different cast from the slaves of an absolute despotism. It is not so difficult a thing to be free as some would lead us to believe ; it is the natural condition of man-he is for ever struggling to return to the state for which he is destined by nature.—On the other hand, slavery is a forced and artificial condition, which can only be maintained by binding the mind and body with vile chains.' What is there in nature to prevent the patriots, after freeing themselves of the foreign despotism put over them, from establishing, in time, mild and wholesome governments ? They cannot want for information with respect to the true principles of such government; they live in an age sufficiently enlightened on this subject; there is to be found both precept and example ; they will have nothing more to do than to choose such as suit them. Their intercourse with the English and with ourselves, cannot fail to aid them in forming correct opinions on political matters. They may, like us, adopt the free principles of the English government, without the scaffolding which hides and deforms the building; they will not be likely to establish a monarchy from the want of genuine royal blood; for their best families, as with us, can trace their ancestry but little beyond the universal deluge.

It is not always safe to reason from what has been, to what will be. If some parts of the old world have failed in the establishment of free government, this may arise from a thousand causes which cannot operate in the new world ; and here, moreover, there may be a thousand causes favorable to free government, which are no where else to be found. A sapient English writer asserted that we could establish no permanent government, because we had no lords or royal family, that we must therefore fall into a state of anarchy; for without government, said he, man can no more live than a fish without water to swim in. “ Admitting it as fact,” replied our venerable Franklin, « that we shall not be able to establish governments of any kind, the consequence does not follow in America, whatever it might in England : the Indians have no government, in the proper sense of the word; many of our remote settlements are without government, excepting such as the majority submits to, by a tacit consent; the colonists, in general, as respects their internal concerns, live under governments that have not the weight of a feather compared to those of Europe.' In fact, it is a matter of astonishment to Europeans, on their arrival; in this country, to find it entirely destitute of government; for that which they can neither see nor feel, they presume not to exist; and yet I would ask, do they not find themselves equally secure ? This state of things arises from circumstances peculiar to the colonies of America, and common to them all-circumstances which have operated much more powerfully than our own great wisdom, or the magic of the principles first derived from Britain and purified in America.

There are facts which speak loudly in favor of the intentions of the South Americans. In all the colonies in which the standard of independence has been raised, a formal appeal has been made to the civilised world, setting forth the causes by which they were actuated. These public declarations are couched in terms similar to our own act of the same kind, and evidently dictated by the same spirit. Their proclamations, their political writings, are such as we might safely own in this country. These cannot have failed to have reached the minds of the young and ardent; and those who are growing up, will cherish them through life. I have been told by a gentleman who has frequently questioned the boys of the most common class, “what are you?"_" a patriot"_" why are you a patriot?'- because I will defend my country against invaders ; because I do not like that my country should be governed by strangers, and because I wish to be free.” The establishment of newspapers has invariably followed the expulsion of the Spanish authorities; the enlightened and liberal political dissertations with which these papers are filled, furnish sufficient refutation to the slanders of their enemies. Correct notions on political subjects, are, it is true, confined to a smaller number than they were amongst us at the com

mencement of our political struggle ; but the desire to free themselves from foreign power, has conipletely taken possession of the great mass of the people. Our constitutions are translated and distributed everywhere, as well as our best revolutionary writings. Two young lawyers were expressly employed for this purpose by the government of Venezuela, and sent to Philadelphia, where they executed many translations. It would certainly be very strange, if, in this long protracted struggle, a struggle calculated to rouse all the dormant fạculties and energies of man, no advancement should have been made in political knowledge. I will mention another fact, which furnishes additional presumption in favor of the patriots, and which at the same time cannot but be grateful to every American bosom-it is the spontaneous affection and esteem, uniformly, and on all occasions, manifested towards the citizens and government of these states. The Americans are hailed as brothers; they are admired, they are received with unbounded confidence; the success and prosperity of the United States is their continued theme ; and it is the topic which keeps alive their resolution in their most gloomy and trying moments. How easy would it be to secure, for ever, the friendship of people so disposed! How much is in our power, in shaping the character of nations destined to act so important a part in the affairs of the world! Any considerable changes for the better, in the government of Europe, is, for the present, hopeless, and cannot be effected but by slow degrees ; moreover, it is not wise policy in us to concern ourselves about them; but it will be inexcusable in us to remain indifferent as to the nature of the government of our American neighbors. The value of a house depends not a little upon the neighborhood in which it stands ; our situation may be better or worse, from the character of those who adjoin us—surrounded, fortunately for us, we cannot be. The patriots are well aware, that the individual Americans entertain the most ardent wishes for their success, but they complain that our government is cold towards them, as if ashamed to own them; they are unable to assign the reason why, in a republic, the government should be indifferent, and the people animated by the most anxious interest.

In contrasting the efforts of these people to throw off the Spanish yoke, with our own efforts, and with those of other nations, we shall find that on this score there will be no reason to despise them. How long, for instance, did Spain struggle to free herself from the Moors? How long did the Swiss contend, in their almost inaccessible mountains, before they could earn the glorious privilege of having a government of their own ? Holland contended forty years against Spain, through a thousand vicissitudes of fortune ; to conciliate the different courts of Europe, she repeatedly offered to receive a king from any of them, but none was weak enough to believe that she was serious. There are many things in the history of our struggle, of which we have not much reason to be proud. We had many difficulties to encounter amongst ourselves; out of a population of two millions and a half, it was with the greatest difficulty we could raise inconsiderable armies, while their supplies were always deficient. A contest which, if we had united, if the vigorous had fought, if the rich had furnished means, if all had persevered with constancy and firmness to act their parts, would soon have terminated, was protracted for seven years, and with the aid of a powerful nation. We ought to make some allow, ance for the South Americans. The incidents of our revolutionary war did not authorise us to speak with contempt of the efforts of a people who labor under a thousand disadvantages, which did not necessarily belong to our situation. The contest in South America has already lasted seven years, with a variety of success ; but its general progress has been retarded in the same manner as ours, by the prospect of reconciliation. Before the formation of the constitution, by which the colonies were placed on an equal footing with Spain, the patriots were everywhere successful ; by this they were lulled into dangerous security, until they found, that instead of a ratification of this instrument, which had been the means of restoring Ferdinand to his throne, this ungrateful monarch suddenly threw all his disposable troops into different portions of the continent, and directed all his efforts to reduce them to absolute subjection. He pursued a system of cruelty and extermination unparalleled in the history of the world; the monsters who perpetrated these atrocities will be held up in the darkest page of the bloody and monkish reign of Ferdinand. It is not surprising that the patriots should have experienced reverses; it is not surprising that, in the midst of these scenes of horrid carnage, they should not have had time to establish everywhere well ordered governments. But we find that they are again regaining the ascendency, even where the Spaniards appeared at first to carry every thing before them. Notwithstanding the fabrications of the enemies of the patriots, stubborn facts prove to us, that they are in the full tide of success. In the vast provinces of Granada, Venezuela, and Guiana, the royalists have little more than a slight foothold on the coast and in the cities, while all the interior acknowledges no subjection, but is continually sending out parties of armed men, which, like our militia, cannot be long retained in a body, or may not be efficient in fronting a regular disciplined force, yet must ultimately destroy the enemy in detail. The contest in this secţion of South America can scarcely be doubtful; a country more extensive than the old thirteen states, inhabited by two millions of

« AnteriorContinuar »