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the present state of our knowledge, it seems doubtful whether light or heat, or substance of any kind, could be sustained in a state so very much attenuated as it must necessarily be at such a height.
'Those natural philosophers who have of late instituted such elaborate investigations into the nature of falling stars and their parallaxes, consider them as meteors belonging to the extreme limits of our atmosphere; as placed between the region of the aurora borealis and that of the lightest clouds. Some have been seen not higher than fourteen thousand toises, about four leagues; the most elevated appear not to exceed thirty. They are frequently more than a hundred feet in diameter; and such is their rapidity, that they traverse a space of two leagues in a few seconds. Some have been measured which had a direction almost perpendicular, or which formed an angle of fifty degrees with the vertical line. This very remarkable circumstance led to the conclusion, that falling stars are not aerolites, which, after floating a long while in space, like the heavenly bodies, take fire upon accidentally entering our atmosphere, and fall to the earth.'*— p. 524.
From Cumana our travellers set out on a coasting voyage to the port of La Guayra. They descended rapidly the little river of Manzanares, the sinuosities of which are marked by cocoa-trees, as the windings of a river in our climate are by poplars and willows; the thorny bushes which by day presented only leaves covered with dust, glittered during the night with a thousand luminous and sparkling points. The number of phosphorescent insects (M. de Humboldt says) are greatly augmented in the hurricane months; when it is delightful to observe the effect of these moving and deepred fires, which, reflected by the pellucid water, confound their figures with those of the starry vault of heaven. The following observations are very characteristic of our author's manner.
'We left the shores of Cumana as if we had been old inhabitants. It was the first spot we had touched under a zone, on which my thoughts had been fixed from my earliest youth. Nature, under the climate of the Indies, gives birth to an impression so deep and powerful that, after a few months' stay, we seem to have lived there a long succession of years. In Europe, the inhabitant of the North, and of plains, experiences a similar sensation, when quitting, even after a transient visit, the shpres of the gulf of Naples, the delightful country between Tivoli and the lake of Nemi, or the wild and awful scenery of the Upper Alps and the Pyrenees. Yet throughout the temperate zone, there is but little contrast in the vegetable world. The pines and oaks which top the mountains of Sweden have a certain family likeness to those which flourish under the genial climes of Greece and Italy. Between the tropics, on the contrary, in the lower regions of the two Indias, the whole face of nature is new and wonderful. In the plains, or in the gloom of the
* ' M. Chladui, who at first considered falling stars as aerolites, lias since abandoned this notion.' . ....'.
i.: K 4 forests,
forests, the remembrance of Europe is almost effaced ; for it is by vegetation that the character of scenery is determined; it is this which acts upon the imagination by its mass, by the contrast of its forms, and by the splendour of its colours. Our new impressions, in proportion to their strength and freshness, destroy those we have hitherto received. Their force gives them the semblance of age. I appeal to those who, more sensible to the beauties of nature than to the charms of social life, have spent much time in the torrid zone. With what fond remembrance do they cherish for the remainder of their days the spot where they first planted their foot! A vague desire of seeing it again lingers in their thoughts to the most advanced period of life. Even now, Cumana and its dusty soil are oftener present to my imagination than all the wonders of the Cordilleras. Under the soft sky of the south, the earth, even where nearly destitute of vegetation, derives beauty from the light and enchanting hues of the atmosphere. The sun does not merely illumine every object, it colours, it throws around it an ethereal vapour which, without affecting the transparency of the air, renders the tints more harmonious, tempers the power of the light, and sheds throughout nature that calm which is reflected on our souls. To explain this vivid impression excited by the scenery of the two Indias, and this too upon coasts but thinly wooded, it may be sufficient to recall to mind, that the beauty of the sky from Naples to the equator augments almost as much as from Provence to the south of Italy.'—p. 531.
La Guayra, which is rather a roadsted than a harbour, is compared with Santa Cruz in Teneriffe; the houses of the city are backed by a wall of steep rocks, between which and the sea the level ground is not more than a hundred and forty toises in width: this space is occupied by two parallel streets, containing a population of about eight thousand inhabitants. The place has something of a lonely and melancholy appearance; bearing more affinity to that of a rocky island, destitute of soil and vegetation, than to a continent covered with vast forests. From a suite of experiments with the thermometer, it appeared that the climate of La Guayra is one of the highest temperatures on the globe: but it was not considered to be remarkably unhealthy; and that dreadful scourge, the yellow fever, had not been known there above two years before M. de Humboldt's visit; that is, immediately after opening the port to foreigners in 1797. The North Americans, labouring under typhus, were received into Spanish hospitals, and it was soon spread abroad that they had imported the contagious disease; while the North Americans declared, in their turn, that their people had brought it from La Guayra. Be this as it may, neither country has been free from it since the period in question, and perhaps both of them may with propriety refer its origin to the coast of Africa.
The road leading from La Guayra to the Caraccas is said to resemble those of Saint Gothard, and the Great St. Bernard; the culminating point of the mountain is named Las Vueltas; and a
sort of inn or halting place, near the summit, is called La Venta de Gnayavo.
'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 Espana 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. 56l.
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 roost 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 slated 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 pommotions 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 avid 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 M.de 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.'
A national author, Jose de Oviedoy Banos, 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 12° 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 December. > •'
'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 theup
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