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THAT part of South America which lies between the mouths of the Orinoco and Cape de la Vela, is little known in Europe, except to the Spaniards. Though the first part of the continent discovered by Columbus; though the spot selected by Las Casas for the trial of his scheme to civilize the Indians; through the region of the once celebrated, but now forgotten, El Dorado; and though a country eminently fruitful, and infinitely more salubrious than any of the neighbouring districts, and recently become the seat of an extensive and increasing commerce, we should search in vain for any adequate history or account of it in our books of geography, or statistics. Destitute of the precious metals, it was abandoned to neglect by the court of Spain, after having been made a theatre of the most horrid and sanguinary devastations by its agents; and, för more than a century and a half, its interior was explored by none but missionaries, and its coasts frequented only by smugglers. Du*Qr.. VI, No. xxxv III:

ring the last century, when it attracted again the attention of the mother country, it seems to have been visited by no Spaniard whose curiosity led him to inquire into its natural resources and productions, and certainly by none who has been permitted to communicate the result of his inquiries to the public. None of the conquests made by the discoverers of the new world was disputed with greater obstinacy than that of Caracas. The Indians who inhabited the country at the arrival of the Spaniards were fierce and Savage, and the cruelties of their invaders drove them to despair. They were not united, as in Mexico and Peru, under a single head, but divided into small tribes, who fought separately for their independence. The nature of their country was favourable for defence, being mountainous and difficult of access, and intersected with innumerable rivers, which, for a great part of the year, overflow their banks. The progress of the invaders was therefore slow, and their steps were marked with l


devastation and blood. But the natives were at length exterminated or reduced to subjection. The prisoners taken in war were hurried to the shore and sold toslave merchants, who hovered over the coast like birds of prey, in expectation of these victims, to replace the sufferers from bigotry and avarice at St. Domingo. In no part of the Spanish settlements have the missionaries contributed so little to the reduction of the country as in Caracas. The captain-generalship of Caracas consists of the provinces of Venezuela, Maracaibo, Varinas, Guiana, Cumana, and the isle of Margarita. It extends along the coast from long, 75° to long. 61° W. from Paris, and from north to south it reaches from lat. 12° N. to the equator. It is bounded by the sea, by Dutch, French, and Portugueze Guiana, and by the viceroyalty of New Granada. It may be necessary to remind our readers, that the Spanish settlements in America are divided into four viceroyalties, Mexico, Peru, Buenos Ayres, and New Granada; and into five captain-generalships, Porto Rico, Cuba, Guatemala, Caracas, and Chili. The captain-gencral is an officer of inferior dignity to the viceroy, but is quite independent of his authority. The temperature of this country is moderated by a chain of mountains which traverses it from west to east, extending from the lake of Maracaibo to the isle of Trinidad. The highest point of this ridge is near the city, of Caracas, having 1278 toises of height; but, in geneval, it is much less elevated. To the south of these mountains there is an extensive plain, extremely hot, watered by the Orinoco and its tributary streams. The mountains of Caracas are covered with wood fit for ship-building and for every other purpose; and they contain some gold mines, though of little value, which were at one time worked, but have been long since abandoned. There is a copper mine in the province of Venezuela, from which a small quantity of excellent copper is an

t nually extracted. It is used by the planters in their sugar-works in preference to iron, on account of its cheapness, being sold at 15 dollars per cwt. A small quantity is also exported at Porto Cabello. The pearl fishery near the isle of Margarita, which first attracted the Spaniards to this coast, has been long since abandoned; and it is said that pearls are no longer to be found there. Bay-saltis gathered in great abundance, and of excellent quality, in many places along the coast of Vefiezuela. Near Araya there is a mine of rock-salt, which might be worked to great advantage, were it not for the royal monopoly, which prevents any one from trading in salt except the king. The seasons are divided into wet and dry in Caracas, as in other tropical countries. The rainy season begins in May, and ends in December. While it lasts, there is rain for three hours a day, at an average, throughout the country. The rain falls in torrents, fills the ravines, and makes the rivers overflow their banks. Earthquakes are much less common in Caracas than in Peru. When there are long intervals between the thunder-storms, it is observed that earthquakes are more frequent. The lake of Maracaibo is 150 feet in circumference, and commucates with the sea. Its water is fresh, but at times brackish. It abounds in fish ; and is navigable for ships of considerable burden. At its north-east corner there is a very copious spring of mineral pitch ; and from this a constant exhalation of inflammable vapours, which are phosphorescent during the night, and serve as a beacon to the Indians and Spaniards who navigate the lake. The place is called, on this account, the Beacon of Maracaibo. The banks of the lake are sterile and unwholesome, so that the Indians prefer living in villages, built on shallows in the midst of the water. When the Spaniards first arrived on this coast,



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the number of these villages was so great, that they gave to the province the name of Venezuela, or Little Venice. Four of them are still preserved, and their inhabitants earn their subsistence by catching fish in the lake, and by hunting for wild ducks, in the manner described by Ulloa. They take care that a number of empty calabashes are continually floating on the lake, that the ducks may be accustomed to them, and without fear at seeing them approach. The hunter then goes into the lake, with a calabash over his head, having holes in it for seeing and breathing. Nothing is seen

above the water except the cala

bash, which appears to be floating on the lake. Thus accoutred, he moves with the greatest stillness towards the ducks, and catching one hy the leg, he pulls it suddenly under the water, before it has time to alarm the rest; and, in this way, he goes on till he has caught as many as he wants. The rivers which take their rise on the north side of the mountains are short and rapid in their course, and run directly into the sea. They might be usefully employed for irrigation ; and they are well adapted for conveying lumber to the coast. Some of them are navigable to a considerable distance from the sea. The rivers which rise on the scuth side of the mountains flow through a flat country, which they inundate in the rainy season, and are at last received into the Orinico. Porto Cabello is the best harbour upon this coast, or in all America. It is large, safe, and commodious ; sheltered from every wind; calm, however much the sea is agitated; deep ; and has good anchoringground. Guayra, the harbour of Caracas, is the most frequented port on this coast, though it is only a miserable roadstead. In the gulf of Paria there is good anchorage, from 8 to 30 fathoms deep; and on the coast of Paria, they are several harbours and roadsteads, by which there is a ready communication with Trinidad. There are many other

{arbour. on the coast of Caracas, but none of any great note. The whole population of Caracas is 728,000 souls, of which 500,000 belong to the provinces of Venezuela and Varinas, 100,000 to Maracaibo, 80,000 to Cumana, 34,000 to Spanish Guiana, and 14,000 to the Isle of Margarita. The whites form one fifth of this population, the slaves three tenths, the free people of colour two fifths, and the Indians one tenth. • . There are few Europeans in Caracas, except those sent out in the service of the state ; including whom, not a hundred Spaniards settle annually in the province. But of those who go to America, very few return to their native country, except the Biscayners and Catalans. The Spaniards are not permitted to visit their American settlements, without a license from the king, which cannot be obtained, unless the object of their journey is known and approved of by the council of the Indies; and the license granted to them is in general limited to two years residence, leave to settle not being obtained without the greatest difficulty. Even the Creoles, who have gone to Spain for their education, cannot return to their native country without a license. So strict was the government formerly on this subject, that a passport to one province did not authorize the bearer of it to go to another. These severe, but ill executed laws, were dictated in part by political fears and jealousies; but their principal source was in that spirit of monastic regulation; in those maxims of religious bigotry and austerity, which have been so long cultivated with such mischievous effects in Spain. Instead of considering its colonies as a place of refuge for the idle, the profiigate, and the disaffected, where they might learn to amend their live and, if possible, forget their errors, the Spanish court has watched over its foreign settlements with the solicitude of a duenna, and regulated their government as if they were to be inhabited by Carthusians. No


Spaniard could get permission to go
to America, without a certificate of
his moral and religious character,
and an attestation that none of his
forefathers, for three generations
back, had suffered in an auto dafe,
or carried the infamous san-benito.
Foreigners of all descriptions were
kept out of these countries with the
greatest care; and if tolerated, by
the connivance of the viceroys, they
were subjected to every inconveni-
ence and oppression. But of late
years, so much have these ancient
maxims of Spanish policy fallen into
disregard, that, by a royal cedula of
1801, foreigners are permitted to
settle in the Spanish colonies, for the
payment of 8200 reals (about 861.
sterling) to the crown ; and, for the
same sum, they may be admitted to
all the privileges of natural born
Spaniards, provided they are of the
catholic persuasion, and not other-
wise disqualified by law.
The Creoles are of quick appre-
hension, and capable of greater ap-
plication to business or study than
their West Indian neighbours; but
their education is miserably conduc-
ted. They are taught, in their infan-
cy, the miracles and legends of their
saints; and made to observe, with
the most scrupulous attention, all
the minute practices and observan-
ces of their religion. They are
then instructed in Latin ; and their
education is supposed to be fin-
ished, when they have acquired a
little scholastic learning, and attend-
ed the lectures of some professor in
theology or law. Their ignorance
of all sorts of useful knowledge is
extreme, and can only be equalled
by their contempt for all useful oc-
cupations. The care and improve-
ment of their estates they esteem
an object beneath their notice, and
hold all professions in disdain, ex-
cept the law, the army, and the
Achurch. Family pride, of the low-
est and most illiberal cast, is one of
their ruling passions; and this has
been fostered by a preposterous re-
gulation, which, till lately, obtained
in all the dominions of Spain, em-
powering children, as soon as they

attained the age of puberty, to com: ... pel their parents to consent to their marriage with whom they pleased, provided it was not with a person of inferior birth. This law was abolished in 1803; and the authority of parents over their children, in the article of marriage, extended to twenty-five years of age for males, and to twenty-three for females; but, while it lasted, the objections to which it gave rise, on the ground of mis-alliance, were a continual source of heart burnings and dissentions in the Spanish colonies. Litigiousness is another fault of the Spanish Creoles. Lawsuits cost in Caracas 1,200,008 dollars annually; and, in Cuba, in 1792, a population of 254,000 souls found employment for 106 advocates, with a proportional number of attornies and notaries, while the French part of St. Domingo, with a population of 660,000 souls, maintained only 36. With these shades in their character, the Creoles of Caracas are mild and humane, moderate in their desires, and cautious, even to timidity, in their conduct, and in the management of their affairs. This turn of mind was strongly exemplified some years ago, in the attempt which was then made to excite them to take up arms against the mother country, and to throw off her yoke. This conspiracy had its origin with three state prisoners, who had been sent from Spain to Caracas on account of their revolutionary delinquencies at home. These persons, who were condemned to perpetual banishment and imprisonment, being treated with great indulgence at Caracas, and permitted to have free intercourse with the natives, formed the project of a conspiracy against the government; but, though they engaged several persons of consequence in their party, such was the coldness and apathy of the Creoles, that, after their first converts, they made no progress in gaining proselytes. After the plot had been kept a profound secret for many months, it was disclosed to the government. Some of the ring

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