Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

the alguazils, &c. of a Spanish town, yet were these nothing more than the monitors of a school, who, ou certain solemn days, were supplied with laced hats and silken clothes from the common stock, to play for a few hours at being men and Spaniards; and again to put off their finery and go barefooted like the rest of their fellow-pupils. They found the Indian less than a child; a child they made bim, but they prevented his becoming more ; and then pleaded the imbecility of his character in excuse for their own backwardness in not improving him further. Yet were their labours worthy of the warmest praise, not only as originally prompted by the sincerest zeal for God and goodness, but as (by proving how much has been done, even on faulty principles, and with a religion dreadfully erroneous) they give the greatest encouragement to future labourers with the same mechanical helps, but with better lights and a purer creed. Let institutions on the Moravian plan, and for the same objects, but without the Moravian peculiarities of opinion, be encouraged by our English church, and many generations will not pass away before Caffraria and New Holland coutain, each of them, a better Paraguay.

While the Jesuits were thus successfully exerting themselves in behalf of the Indians within the Spanish territory, their labours in Brazil were by no means equally prosperous. The labours of Anchieta and his successors had been completely done away by the Dutch invasion and the wide-spreading misery which followed it; and the loss of Angola, by suspending the supply of negroes, gave a fresh stimulus to the persecution of the wretched Americans, who were bunted down with greater zeal in proportion as they were the only objects accessible to avarice.

It is true that, as both Dutch and Portigueze had made use of the services and alliance of different Indian tribes in their contest, those tribes obtained some important privileges, in proportion to the importance of the aid they were able to supply. But these privileges were by no means enough to compensate for the added ferocity which their manners had acquired, when stimulated by the example and influence of Europeans, or the inevitable depopulațion and misery occasioned by their participation in a tedious and wasteful warfare. In many parts of Brazil, indeed, the mischief was already complete, and the race of Indians almost or altogether estirpated. And even where (as in Maranham) numerous tribes still remained to exercise the humane labours of the missionary, the latter, interposing between them and their oppressors, had a far different and more energetic opposition to contend against than existed in Paraguay. The Spanish colonists were lawless, indeed, and resolutely bent on counteracting efforts which menaced their inhuman commerce with ruin; but they were few in number, weak in resources, unable to purchase an influence at court, and never ventured openly to oppose the positive commands of their sovereign.' The Brazilians were in all these respects of a stamp estremely different. Their provinces abounded in white and Mamaluco inhabitants—wany of them wealthy, most of them accustomed to war and active commerce, and all deeply interested in the continuance of those abominations which the Jesuits laboured to remove. They had, moreover, been so long accustomed to defend themselves, and to rely on their own exertions, that their allegiance to the mother-country sat extremely light on them, and they were disposed to regard no orders of the court of Lisbon, but those which exactly tallied with their own interest and prejudices. The brilliant talents and tiery enthusiasm of Vieyra, though backed by the strong personal influence which he was known to possess with Joam and his successor, were lost on people like these. One pathetic sermon, indeed, which he preached at Maranbam against Indian slavery, produced some temporary effect, and a few vain measures of limitation and alleviation to evils which ought not to have been tolerated in the smallest degree; but in general, if the Jesuits were troublesome, the mob rose to murder, or the local government interfered to confine them; while all the laws which they were able to procure in favour of the savages, inadequate as those laws were, were rendered still more nugatory by the judges who administered them, or by the interested and inhuman jealousy of the other religious orders, who contrived to get themselves associated with the Jesuits in the administration of the Aldeas, or establishment in which the converted savages were to reside.

weak

It is plain, indeed, from many circumstances, that the court of Lisbon was by no means so sure of its colonies as to venture to carry any measure into execution of which those colonies did not approve. In raising the ransom which the Dutch were to receive, as well as a certain proportion of the Infanta's dowry on her marriage with Charles the Second of England, not only the form, but the spirit of a true government was manifested, and the matter was debated by the Good men of the council,' according to law and custom,' in the presence and with the consent of the people.' • This,' as Mr. Southey observes, is curious language in the history of a Portugueze colony;' and when we add to this fact, the repeated appointments of a tribunitial power in the office of • Juiz do Povo,' we may well agree with him that the temper of these countries has been by no means unfavourable to civil freedom, and that Portugal and Brazil, to obtain a full relief from all their political grievances, have only to remove the abuses under the filth and rubbish of which their wise laws and old liberties are smothered. The misfortune is, that to clean and repair a rusty machine is a work, for the most part, far less easy than to destroy it entirely, in the hope, or with the design, of substituting something different in its room. Those who benefit by existing abuses cry out as loudly against their removal, in however cautious a manner it is attempted, as they could do against the utter destruction of the fabric; and a gradual amelioration is equally far from answering the views of the admirers of novelty, or seekers after mischief, who hate all old establishments alike, whether good or evil, or who desire innovation for no other reason than a hope of benefiting themselves in the scramble. It is strange how much it would be in the power of a Portugueze king or minister to effect for the

machine mother

good of his people, and the definition and eventual confirmation of I his own legislative power, by the mere renewal of ancient forms,

and the rejection of modern, very modern abuses. But that a king or minister of Portugal should either be enabled to see his interests in this their only true light; or, having seen them, to maintain his power a sufficient time to carry his views into effect, is an event rather to be wished for than expected; while, of all the fates which cau threaten Portugal or Brazil, such a revolution as was lately attempted in the northern provinces of this latter country, is that which is most to be deprecated. Among the leaders of that revolution were some nien of exalted minds, and patriotism unsuspected; but it is one of the greatest curses which despotism and superstition entail on those countries where they have long triumplied, that even those great minds, by whom the prevalent abuses are perceived, are not able to separate those abuises from the great principles of order and religion, of which they usurp and degrade the titles. They detest monarchy, because it is only offered to their notice as a devouring plague; they abhor Christianity, because they are acquainted with no other system than that Babel of idolatry and cruelty which has wearied their youth, and kept their riper years in bondage: and it is the natural consequence of an Index Expurgatorius, which alike excludes works of rational science and works of impiety, to raise the latter to the same level with the former, and thus tend, by its unavailing restrictions, to corrupt more deeply the few who seek for knowledge beyond the narrow limits of their own communion. The proceedings of the insurgents in Spanish America have been little qualified to induce us to think them ripe for independence; and in Pernambuco (we speak from accurate information) it was only the interposition of an Englishman resident in the country, which prevented the city, during the short government of the liberals, from rivalling jacobin France in its scenes of extravagance and blood. From such emancipators nothing good ever has proceeded, or ever can proceed; and we fear that the hope of reformation, either in Brazil or its mother-country, can only be safely committed to the slow efficacy of time, and of that increasing intimacy with England, which will inevitably make both nations love and respect each other, and will supply the Portugueze with the best, the safest, and most practical models of improvement and liberty.

The rest of Mr. Southey's volume is occupied with the comparatively obscure and uninteresting, but necessary details of the domestic annals of the several colonies ; the differences which now first arose, and have never terminated, between the Portugueze and Spaniards respecting their boundaries towards the Plata ; and the premature and abortive attempt at rebellion, set on foot by one Beckman, a colonist of Maranham, of foreign extraction, but himself a native of Lisbon, and quelled by the wisdom, courage, and generosity of Gomes Freyre, one of Mr. Southey's principal favourites, and one of the best and greatest men, of one of the best and ablest families, that either Portugal or Europe can boast. It is lamentable to reflect how the name has been tarnished by their descendants ! For the character of Gomes himself the following anecdote speaks more than the most formal eulogium. On the eve of Beckman's execution, after he had 'exerted remarkable talent in subduing, and no less mercy in labouring to preserve his forfeited life, he received a visit from the wife and the two unmarried daughters of the criminal.

• They were in mourning, with their hair loose, and they fell and embraced his knees. When the wife could sufficiently repress her sorrow to speak intelligibly, she said she was not come to entreat for her husband's life, because she knew that if it had been in the governor's power to spare him, he would do it without entreaties; but she came to present two orphans to his compassion, and to beseech that he would send them to Portugal, in the ship which was about to sail, that they might be taken into his house, and wait upon his wife and daughters, and thus preserve their honour: for in Maranham, where wealth was more esteemed than birth or virtue, destitute as they now were, and regarded as the children of one who suffered death upon a gallows would be, their situation would be deplorable indeed! The unhappy girls themselves seconded this wretched petition, praying that he who in his public capacity made them orphans, would, as an individual and a Christian, so far supply the place of their father, as to grant them an asylum in his own family, even as slaves. The situation was singularly tragic, nor would such an appeal have been made to Gomes Freyre if he had been a man of ordinary character. He promised to serve them in the best manner he could, and dismissed them with an assurance which they could not doubt, from the emotion which he discovered. Accordingly, when Beckman's property, being confiscated, was put up to sale, he at his own private expense purchased the whole, and restored it immediately to the daughters, to be divided between them as their dower.'-p. 630.

The

The volume concludes with a review of the progress which had been made in wealth and civilization, by the different Portugueze colonies, down to the year 1685. This account is far more favourable than might have been expected ; 80 favourable, in truth, as to induce a suspicion, that from that time to the present century, Brazil rather retrograded than advanced in real and substantial prosperity. The government, indeed, or rather the want of government, was as calamitous at this time as at any subsequent period; and the natural effects of anarchy prevailed, if we believe Frezier, in all the horrors of assassination and unbridled licentiousness. The negroes smarted beneath the lash, and the Indians pined away under innumerable oppressions, while, in the utter absence of morality, superstition exhibited itself in its wildest and most disgusting forms. But the population was increasing rapidly, and the planters were thriving : strangers from all parts of the world were allowed and encouraged to trade and settle. Though the monks were valued in proportion to the tortures which they inflicted on their own bodies, (of which an almost incredible instance is given, p. 684, in the case of Joam d'Almeida,) they were not allowed to torture Jews and heretics ; and the holy office,' though its introduction was frequently attempted, has never yet planted its bloody standard on the Brazilian soil. Vieyra the Jesuit, who was, in every instance, no less enlightened as a patriot than he was distinguished as an orator, a saint, and a philanthropist, had introduced, in extreme old age, the cultivation of those spices, of which Holland has since preserved the monopoly; and Charles the Second of England boasted that his brother-in-law, the king of Portugal, had the means in his power of ruining the Dutch. But about this time the great gold mines were discovered; the whole industry and attention of both people and government were turned to this dazzling prospect, from the surer gains of commerce and agriculture; strangers were excluded, or admitted with jealousy; and though Brazil has ever maintained a remarkable pre-eminence in prosperity and population over the neighbouring states of Spanish America, it has, certainly, as yet, by no means realized the promise which it held out in the times of Flecknoe and Frezier.

Ou the execution of the present volume, so far as Mr. Southey is himself concerned, very few remarks need be made. On his characteristic style, his numerous merits, and what, in the honest severity of criticism, we must still conceive his defects as an historian, we have already spoken, and the publie are too well acquainted with his works, (though they have hardly, as yet, attained the degree of popularity to which they are entitled,) to ire to be informed by us. His defects are, in some degree, incidental

to

« AnteriorContinua »