Imatges de pàgina

sort of inn or halting place, near the summit, is called La Venta de Guayavo.

The first time of my crossing this table-land on my way to the capital of Venezuela, I found a number of travellers, who were resting their mules, assembled round the little inn of Guayavo. They were inhabitants of Caraccas, and were wrangling about the insurrection in favour of independence, which had taken place a little time before. Joseph España had perished on the scaffold; and his wife was groaning in a cloister for giving shelter to her wandering husband, and not denouncing him to the government. I was struck at the irritation of their minds, and with the acrimonious discussion of questions upon which there ought never to be a difference of opinion among men of the same country. Whilst talking of the hatred of the mulattoes to the free negroes and the whites; of the wealth of the monks, and of the difficulty of holding the slaves in subjection, a cold wind, descending from the lofty summit of the Silla of Caraccas, enveloped us with a thick mist, and put an end to the angry dispute. We took shelter in the Venta of Guayavo. Upon entering the house, an old man, who had spoken with more calmness than the others, reminded them how imprudent it was, in these times of secret accusation, both on the mountain and in the city, to enter into political discussions. These words, delivered in a place so dreary, made a deep impression upon my mind during our excursions to the Andes of New Grenada and Peru, impressions of the same kind were frequently renewed. In Europe, where nations decide their quarrels in plains, people climb the mountains to find seclusion and liberty. In the New World, the Cordilleras are inhabited twelve miles up; yet thither men carry with them their civil broils and their low and hateful passions. Gambling-houses are established on the ridge of the Andes, on the spot where the discovery of mines has led to the formation of cities; and in these vast wildernesses, almost above the region of snow, surrounded by objects calculated to elevate the mind, the news of the refusal by the court of a ribband or a title often disturbs the happiness of whole families.'-p. 561.

Caraccas is the capital of a country nearly twice as large as Peru, and little short in extent of New Granada. This country, known by the Spanish government under the name of Capitania general de Caraccas, or the United Provinces of Venezuela, contains nearly a million of inhabitants, of which about 60,000 are negro slaves. It consists of seven provinces, forming three distinct zones, stretching from east to west; that of cultivated land, that of savannas or pasturage, and that of forests; the last of which is penetrable only by means of the rivers which traverse it: and in these three zones M. de Humboldt sees the picture of the three conditions of human society-the life of the wild hunter, in the woods of the Oronoco-the pastoral life in the llanos, or savannas -and the agricultural, in the high valleys, and at the foot of the mountains bordering the sea-coast. The natives of what our author calls the first zone, from their mutual quarrels, and the interference

ference of the monks and the Spanish soldiers, are said to exhibit a melancholy picture of misery and privation; a tame uniformity prevails in the pastoral regions; the agricultural are, of course, the most civilized and the most social.

The native Indians of the Capitania are not numerous; the whites and the mestees therefore have nothing to fear from them, as they do not exceed one-ninth of the whole population, whereas in Mexico they are stated to amount nearly to one-half. Neither are the blacks of Venezuela considerable in number; but they become of importance by their accumulation in one spot: they constitute about the fifteenth-part of the whole population. Cuba, whose extent is eight times less than Venezuela, has about four times more slaves, the number in that island being 212,000. The great basin of the Atlantic, formed by the shores of Venezuela, of New Granada, of Mexico, of the United States, and the Antilles, is called by M. de Humboldt the American Mediterranean; and these he computes to contain about a million and a half of free blacks and slaves; but so unequally distributed, that there are very few in the south, and scarcely any in the west; their great accumulation being on the northern and eastern shores of this basin, or on the sides of it next to Africa. In the Spanish colonies the little commotions which have occasionally manifested themselves among the slaves have speedily been repressed; but the establishment of what is called freedom in St. Domingo has emboldened them to assume a menacing attitude, and created very considerable alarm ;well indeed it may! M. de Humboldt says that the gradual, or immediate abolition of slavery has been proclaimed in the different regions of Spanish America, less from motives of justice and humanity, than for the purposes of obtaining the aid of a race of men, intrepid, habituated to privations, and easily persuaded that the contest is for their own interests.

M. de Humboldt cautiously abstains from giving any opinion with respect to the probable termination of the present contest of the Spanish colonies with the mother-country; (of which we shall speedily present our readers with an interesting detail;) but he offers some very sensible remarks on this painful subject. He observes, that the desire of uninterrupted tranquillity, the dread of engaging in an enterprize that may miscarry, hinder all those connected with the Spaniards from embracing the cause of independence, or from aspiring to the establishment of a local and representative government, although dependent on the mother-country. One party, dreading all violent measures, flatter themselves that moderate reform might render less oppressive the colonial government; they see in a revolution the loss of their slaves, the spoliation of the clergy, and the introduction of toleration, which they consider as incompatible


with the established worship. Others belong to that small number of families, which, in every community, whether by hereditary opulence, or by their ancient establishment in the colonies, exercise a real municipal aristocracy. They would rather,' says Humboldt, 'be deprived of certain rights than let all participate in them they would prefer even a foreign government to a power exercised by an inferior caste of Americans; they abhor every constitution founded on an equality of rights; above all, they dread the loss of those titles, which have cost them so much trouble to acquire, and which constitute so essential an ingredient in their domestic happiness.' There are yet others, and their numbers are not inconsiderable, who live on their estates, and enjoy that liberty which presents itself even under the most vexatious governments. These would, doubtless, prefer the ancient condition of the colonies, a national government, and full liberty of commerce; but this wish is not sufficiently strong to prevail over the love of repose, and the habits of an indolent life; to urge them, in a word, to long and painful sacrifices.

M. de Humboldt estimated the population of the Caraccas at forty thousand souls, in 1800; this had increased to fifty thousand when the great earthquake of the 26th of March, 1812, took place, and buried nearly twelve thousand of its inhabitants under the ruins of their houses: the political events which succeeded this catastrophe have reduced the population of this ill-fated city to less than twenty thousand. Caraccas contains eight churches, five convents, and a public theatre. The pit, in which the men are separated from the women, is uncovered, so that,' says M. de Humboldt, one may see at the same time the actors and the stars.'

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A national author, Jose de Oviedo y Baños, has compared the site of Caraccas with that of the terrestrial paradise, and found in the Anauco, and the neighbouring torrents, the four rivers which watered the Garden of Eden; and what,' asks M. de Humboldt, 'can be imagined more delicious than a temperature which ranges, in the day-time, from 16° to 20° 8', and, in the night, from 120 8′ to 14° 4 of Reaumur, and which is favourable at once to the growth of the banana, the orange, the coffee, the apple, the apricot, and wheat-corn?' He admits, nevertheless, that the proximity of the lofty mountains of Avila and Silla give to the city a dull and neavy character, especially in the months of November and De


But this prospect, so gloomy, so melancholy---this contrast between the serenity of morning and the cloudiness of evening does not exist in the middle of summer. In June and July the nights are clear and delicious: the atmosphere retains then that unbroken purity and transparency, which are peculiar to the table-mountains and all the up


land vallies in calm weather, so long as the winds mingle no currents of air of a different temperature. It is at this season that one enjoys all the beauty of a landscape which, at the end of January, I never saw perfectly clear, except for a few days. The two round heads of the Silla appear at Caraccas almost under the same angle of elevation as the Pic of Teneriffe in the port of Orotava. The lower half of the mountain is clothed with a smooth turf; next comes the zone of evergreen shrubs, which a rosy light reflects at the flowering-time of the Befaria, the Alpine Rose-bay of equinoxial America. Above this woody zone rise two huge rocky masses in the shape of cupolas. Destitute of vegetation, they increase by their nudity the apparent height of a mountain, which, in the temperate part of Europe, would scarcely be considered in the line of perpetual snow. It is with this imposing aspect of the Silla, and the rugged disposition of the ground to the north of the town, that are agreeably contrasted the cultivated region of the vale, and the smiling plains of Chacao, of Petera, and La Vega.'---581.

A taste for literature is encouraged at Caraccas, and the inhabitants are particularly fond of music, which is cultivated with success, and which serves, as the cultivation of the fine arts seldom fails to do, to bring together the different classes of society; but the sciences have made little progress. It was only in the convent of St. Francis that our travellers met with a respectable old man, who had distinct notions on the state of modern astronomy; and he calculated almanacs for all the provinces of Venezuela. This great city had no printing press before 1806, when a Frenchman, of the name of Delpeche, introduced one.

In a journey to the summit of the peaked mountain of Silla, we have many curious and striking observations on the rocks, the vege tation, and the state of the atmosphere. Here, as afterwards among the Andes, the travellers sought in vain for a native rose-bush; and M. de Humboldt doubts if this charming plant is to be found in all South America, or even in the whole southern hemisphere. His elucidations on the distribution of plants, and the singular resemblance in the habit and physiognomy of plants under isothermal parallels, in regions the most distant from each other, are ingenious and interesting, but too long for us to give even an abstract of them. He deprecates all hypotheses on this subject, too lightly adopted by some, and declines substituting others, conceiving that the natural historian has performed his part in pointing out the facts and the order in which nature has distributed the vegetable forms. This is as it ought to be; and we heartily congratulate M. de Humboldt on his escape from the trammels of theory, which is at once the pride and the bane of science in the capital of France where he first imbibed it,

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The view from the top of the Silla is thus described.

Having gained the summit, we enjoyed, though but for a few


minutes, the heavens in all their serenity. Our eye stretched over a vast extent of country, plunging at once upon the sea in the north, and upon the fertile valley of Caraccas in the south. The barometer stood at 30 inches 7. 6 lines; the temperature of the atmosphere was 13° 7′. We were at an elevation of thirteen hundred and fifty toises. An expanse of sea, of thirty-six leagues radius, is embraced in one view. Those who are apt to become dizzy on looking down great depths, should remain in the middle of the small flat on the summit of the eastern cupola of the Silla. The mountain is not remarkably high, being nearly eighty toises lower than that of Canigou; but what distinguishes it from all the mountains I have crossed, is its immense precipice on the side of the sea. The shore forms but a narrow edging; and, in looking from the top of the pyramid upon the houses of Caravellada, the wall-sided rocks, by an optical illusion of which I have often spoken, appear almost perpendicular. The true inclination of the slope appeared to me, by an accurate calculation, 53° 28'. The mean inclination of the Pic of Teneriffe is hardly 12° 30'. A precipice of six or seven miles, like that of the Silla of Caraccas, is a phenomenon much rarer than is imagined by those who traverse mountains without measuring their height, bulk, or declivity. Since the revival, in several parts of Europe, of experiments upon the fall of bodies, and upon their deflexion to the south-east, a wall-sided rock, two hundred and fifty toises of perpendicular height, has been sought in vain throughout all the Alps of Swisserland. The slope of Mount Blanc to the Allée Blanche does not make an angle even of 45°, although, in most geological works, Mount Blanc is described as cut straight down on the south.'-p. 608.

It was night when they reached, in their descent, the savanna, which is more than nine hundred toises in height.

'As there is scarcely any twilight between the tropics, perfect day-light is followed by sudden darkness. The moon was in the horizon: her face was covered from time to time by heavy clouds driven by a cold, impetuous wind. The steep declivities, clothed with yellow, withered grass, were at one time wrapt in obscurity, then, suddenly illumined, they looked like precipices which the eye sought to fathom. We proceeded in a long file, endeavouring to assist each other with our bands, to prevent rolling down in case of stumbling. The guides who carried our instruments left us one by one to go and sleep in the mountain. Among those who remained, was a Congo negro, who excited my admiration by the skill with which he carried upon his head a large dipping needle, keeping it always in equilibrium, notwithstanding the great steepness of the rocks. The mist began to clear away from the bottom of the valley. The lights which we saw scattered beneath us produced a double illusion-the steeps seeming still more dangerous than they really were, and, during six hours of continual descent, we constantly fancied ourselves near the farm-houses at the foot of the Silla. We heard, very distinctly, human voices and the shrill tones of guitars. Generally speaking, so strong is the upward propagation of sound, that, in an aërostatic balloon, the barking of dogs may sometimes be heard at the height of three thousand toises.'-p. 616.

This last observation is very just. From the edge of the Table Mountain,

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