"SEÑOR DON JUAN, ESTA ES SU CASA"

Letters on South America

Rafael Capurro (Ed.)

   

  
  
Selection of texts from the letters by John Parish Robertson and William Parish Robertson:
  • Letters on Paraguay, comprising an Account of a Four Years' Residence in that Republic, under the Government of the Dictator Francia, by J.P. and W.P. Robertson. In three volumes, Vol. I 1839, second edition, Vol. II 1838 London: John Murray, Albemarle Street. (Online version)
    • Letter I. General Remarks—Revolt of Spanish America—Colonial Policy of Spain—Accounts from South America—Lord Viscount Beresford—Origin of Enthusiasm about the Country—Reaction.
    • Letter II. Was the Declaration of Independence premature?—Solution of the Query —State of Old Spain — Government of the Colonies — Military Force of Spain in South America
    • Letter IV. Spanish Population of South America—South American Nobility—South American Education —the Clergy —the Lawyers —  the Landed Proprietors of Chile and Peru —Estancias, or Cattle Farms—Estancieros, or Landed Proprietors of Buenos Ayres—Chacareros, Farmers or Yeomen—General Remarks
    • Letter VI.Retrospective Glance—Comparison between North and South America—Plan of the Work—Capture of Buenos Ayres—Anticipated Results—Consequences of the Capture—Embarkation for the River Plate—Arrival there—Bombardment of Montevideo—Capture of the Town—Symptoms of Confidence in the People—Motley Inhabitants—Expectations excited.
    • Letter VIII. News of General Whitelock's Expedition—English Militia—Whitelock's arrival—He sails for Buenos Ayres—Inauspicious March from Ensenada—Panic of the Buenos Ayres Army—Whitelock's Defeat.
    • Letter IX. Causes of the defeat at Buenos Ayres—The Capitulation—General Whitelock's callousness—Departure of the English from the Country—Transition from Land to Sea—Reflections.
    • Letter XL. Dismemberment of the Provinces of Rio de la Plata—General Artigas—Journey to Santa Fé—The Major of Blandengues—Thistles—Journey continued—Arrival at Santa Fé—Artigueños—Smoking—More of Candioti
The selection is done particularly with regard to persons and events in the Rio de la Plata.

See also:

  • Letters on South America, comprising Travels on the Banks of the Paraná and Rio de la Plata by J.P. and W.P. Robertson. In three volumes, Vol. III, London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1843. (Online version) (Vol. I-III here, Vol. I here)

 
 

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Parish_Robertson

John Parish Robertson
(1792–1843)


was a Scottish merchant and author,

Robertson was born at Kelso or Edinburgh. His father, at one time assistant-secretary of the Bank of Scotland, was engaged in business at Glasgow; his mother, Juliet Parish, was the daughter of a Hamburg merchant of Scottish extraction. He was educated at Dalkeith grammar school.

Robertson accompanied his father to South America in 1806. He landed at Montevideo on the day after its occupation by the British forces under Sir Samuel Auchmuty. On the cession of the city to the Banda Oriental, he was sent home by his father, but in 1808 sailed on his own account for Rio de Janeiro, where he was employed as a clerk for three years.

Robertson now tried to open up trade with Paraguay. At the end of 1811 he went as a mercantile agent to Asunción, but in 1815 was compelled by the dictator José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia to leave the country, along with his younger brother, William Parish Robertson, who had joined him. He sailed for Buenos Ayres with goods, but was stopped by an accident at Corrientes, on the banks of the Paraná River. During the next year he and his brother, with Peter Campbell, achieved trading success in hides with Paraguay.

In 1817 Robertson returned to England and established connections with London, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Paisley. Sailing for Buenos Ayres in 1820, he commenced trading with Chile and Peru, and landed at Greenock in 1824 or 1825, with a fortune of £100,000, as the representative of some of the South American republics. Ruined in 1826, he went to South America with the object of recovering part of his fortune, but failing to do so. He returned to England in 1829.

Intending to devote himself to study, Robertson entered Corpus Christi College, Cambridge; but in 1833 he moved to the Isle of Wight for his health. He was in London in 1834 for business reason. He died at Calais on 1 November 1843.

Robertson published:

Solomon Seesaw … with Illustrations by Phiz, 3 vols. London, 1839; 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1839.

With his brother, William Parish Robertson, Letters on Paraguay; comprising an Account of a Four Years' Residence in that Republic, under the Government of the Dictator Francia, 2 vols. London, 1838; Philadelphia, 2 vols. 1838. A sequel Francia's Reign of Terror appeared in one volume, London, 1839; 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1839; 2nd edit. 3 vols. London, 1839.

Letters on South America, comprising Travels on the Banks of the Paraná and Rio de la Plata, 3 vols. London, 1843.

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Lee, Sidney, ed. (1896). "Robertson, John Parish". Dictionary of National Biography. 48. London: Smith, Elder & Co.




   

Juan Parish Robertson
(John Parish Robertson)

fue un comerciante, financista y escritor británico de destacada participación en los sucesos del Río de la Plata en las primeras décadas que siguieron a la Revolución de Mayo de 1810.

Juan Parish Robertson nació en Escocia en el año 1792. Con sólo catorce años de edad intentó viajar al Río de la Plata pero las noticias de las Invasiones inglesas lo impidieron. Arribó finalmente a Buenos Aires en el año 1809 y se dedicó al comercio.

Su compañía fue una de las primeras que extendió sus actividades de manera directa a todo el territorio de las nacientes Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata, vendiendo artículos manufacturados importados y comprando y vendiendo productos locales, especialmente sal, mate y tabaco. A esas actividades agregó con el tiempo sus propias operaciones financieras aprovechando sus contactos con financistas de su patria, con algunos de los principales líderes de la revolución y su parentesco con Woodbine Parish, el primer cónsul británico en las Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata, que ejerció su mandato entre los años 1825 y 1832.

Viajó al Paraguay en 1811 y con la ayuda de su gobierno logró transportar un cargamento de yerba mate por el Río Paraná en buques fluviales españoles hasta Buenos Aires donde obtuvo una pequeña fortuna con su venta. Retenido en Buenos Aires por el bloqueo realista fue testigo de los infructuosos bombardeos de la ciudad. A su regreso a Paraguay en febrero de 1813 se encontró con el coronel José de San Martín (a quien había conocido en Buenos Aires) en vísperas de la Batalla de San Lorenzo, de la que fue testigo por invitación del militar.

A Juan se unió su hermano Guillermo Parish Robertson (William Parish Robertson) y continuaron practicando el comercio en Asunción hasta que el dictador Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia los obligó a retirarse en 1815. Durante los siguientes cinco años, los Robertson acumularon otra fortuna con sus estancias en la Provincia de Corrientes y en el comercio de cueros, trabajando con ellos el irlandés Pedro Campbell.

Siguiendo el éxito de las armas revolucionarias, en 1820 los hermanos extendieron sus operaciones a Chile y Perú. De regreso a Buenos Aires, los Robertson cooperaron con Bernardino Rivadavia en su objetivo de atraer capitales europeos (especialmente británicos) y de diversificar y desarrollar la economía argentina, aumentando las operaciones mineras y estableciendo colonias agrícolas.

El empréstito

La Junta de Representantes de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, bajo el patrocinio de Rivadavia, entonces ministro de Gobierno y Relaciones Exteriores, decretó el 19 de agosto de 1822 una ley que facultaba al gobierno a negociar dentro o fuera del país un empréstito con el objetivo de crear pueblos en la frontera con el indio, fundar un Banco, construir una red de agua y un puerto.

Rivadavia constituyó un consorcio que representara al Gobierno de Buenos Aires para la colocación del empréstito al 70% e incorporó al mismo a Braulio Costa, Félix Castro, Miguel Riglos, Juan Pablo Sáenz Valiente y a los hermanos Parish Robertson.

El 1 de julio de 1824 el consorcio de acuerdo al poder concedido contrató el empréstito con la firma inglesa Baring Brothers por un millón de libras. Los Robertson adelantaron parte del dinero al gobierno y ayudaron a garantizar el préstamo de la Baring Brothers.

Como la colocación en el mercado sería fácil, la Baring propuso al consorcio colocarlos al 85%, pagando 70% a Buenos Aires y repartiéndose el 15% de diferencia con el consorcio por lo que los gestores se llevaron 120.000 libras del monto total del crédito en carácter de comisión.

El consorcio indicó a la Casa Baring que hiciera llegar el dinero a Buenos Aires mediante letras giradas contra casas comerciales de prestigio que dieran garantías en Buenos Aires. Una de esas casas comerciales era la que Robertson tenía en sociedad con Costas, ambos miembros del consorcio. Al final, del millón de libras que totalizaba el mismo, sólo llegaron a Buenos Aires unas 570.000, en su mayoría en letras de cambio y una parte minoritaria en metálico.

El 2 de febrero de 1825 su pariente Woodbine Parish firmó el Tratado de Amistad, Comercio, y Navegación con Argentina, acompañando el reconocimiento oficial de parte de Gran Bretaña de la Independencia Argentina.

La colonia de Monte Grande

En 1825 los hermanos Parish Robertson compraron las estancias de Santa Catalina, Monte Grande (16.000 hectáreas de tierra) y la Laguna. Aprovechando la Ley de Enfiteusis se propusieron fundar una colonia escocesa en Monte Grande para lo que se seleccionaron 220 granjeros y artesanos presbiterianos escoceses oriundos de Edimburgo, pero llegados a Buenos Aires los colonos el gobierno no cumplió la entrega de tierras pactada, por lo que los hermanos Parish Robertson alquilaron a los colonos sus tierras en Monte Grande. Entre ese núcleo de inmigrantes destacaron tres: el médico Guillermo Wilson, el arquitecto Richard Adams (quien construyó las viviendas de la colonia y la famosa "casa blanca" de los hermanos Parish Roberts) y el jardinero Juan Tweedie.

Fueron luego accionistas del Banco de Descuentos y del Banco Nacional. Organizaron también la fracasada Compañía Minera Famatina.

La colonia de Monte Grande progresó durante los primeros tres años de su existencia pero los disturbios de 1829 alcanzaron a la colonia, atacada por vecinos que querían la tierra para el ganado. Sus miembros se dispersaron y la colonia desapareció, lo que generó grandes pérdidas a los hermanos Robertson, sus patrocinadores.

Regreso a Gran Bretaña

Finalmente, ya debilitados por la crisis ocasionada por el bloqueo de la ciudad de Buenos Aires por la escuadra brasilera con motivo de la Guerra del Brasil, los Robertson tuvieron que declararse en bancarrota ante el fracaso de sus emprendimientos mineros y de colonización, y la creciente resistencia de los hacendados criollos cuya influencia política crecía en todo el país (Juan Manuel de Rosas y los caudillos provinciales entre ellos).

En 1830 Juan Parish Robertson regresó a Inglaterra y tras permanecer algunos años en Cambridge se retiró a la Isla de Wight para trabajar con su hermano Guillermo en sus libros sobre el Río de la Plata y otras regiones de Sudamérica, obras que se convirtieron en algunas de las fuentes más valiosas para el estudio de la historia de ese período. Fueron recopiladas en dos grandes obras: las Cartas sobre el Paraguay y las Cartas de Sudamérica.

Juan Parish Robertson falleció en el año 1843.

Notas

El fundador de la Casa Baring fue Sir Francis Baring. Al momento del empréstito conducían la compañia sus hijos Alexander y Francis Tornhill. Alexander sería nombrado ministro de la Moneda por el Primer Ministro Robert Peel y su hermano Francis se convertiría en Lord de la tesorería, ministro de Hacienda de Inglaterra, Director de la Compañía de las Indias Occidentales y Primer Lord del Almirantazgo.

Bibliografía

Robertson, John Parish, Letters on South America, Londres, John Murray-Albemarle Street, 1843.

 


montevideo hispanica

montevideo

Vista de la ciudad y puerto de Montevideo tomada desde el NO, 1826.
Dedicada al Exmo. Sr. Dn. Juan José Durán
Caballero Comendador de la orden de Cristo y Oficial de la Imperial del Cruzero
Brigadier de los Egércitos Nacionales e Imperiales y Gobernador Intendente de la Provincia


   

LETTERS ON PARAGUAY:

comprising an Account of a Four Years' Residence in that Republic, under the Government of the Dictator Francia, by J.P. and W.P. Robertson. In three volumes, London: John Murray, Albemarle Street,  1839 (Vol. I second edition), 1838 (Vol. II).




LETTER I.

To J—— G——, Esq.

General Remarks—Revolt of Spanish America—Colonial Policy
of Spain—Accounts from South America—Lord Viscount
Beresford
—Origin of Enthusiasm about the Country—Reaction.

London, 1838

"The numerous works on South America which, within the last few years, have issued from the press; the various histories, journals, travels, and residencies already before the public, have so attenuated the whole subject, that in writing anything more on it, we are certainly bound to consider whether we can offer anything new, on topics now so familiar to almost every class of readers.
We have endeavoured to consider this point; and when we reflect that the letters which follow, though now edited anew, were substantially written at the periods to which they refer, and from actual observation of the facts which they record; if we can add, that they form only a part of the many documents collected, and of letters written, during a residence of nearly twenty-five years in Buenos Ayres, Paraguay, Chile, and Peru; and if we consider finally, that an intercourse with those countries has been kept up by us since we left them; we think it will not be strange if our communications contain something relative to South America, that has escaped the notice of hurried journalists, casual visitants, and galloping travellers." (1-2)

"From 1809 till 1822-3, South America was open, in most parts, to our commerce; and the information received during that period, being chiefly from mercantile men, many of whom had been successful, was highly coloured. it not only left, but encouraged parties here to generalize this partial success to any extent they pleased. Hence arose an inference of a certain universality of wealth; and a prospect dawned upon the minds of men of an almost unlimited sphere for the commercial enterprise of Great Britain.

But it is to Mr. Canning's foreign policy, as connected directly with Spain and Portugal, and through them with "Spain and the Indies," that the great bewilderment of this country (for it can be called nothing short of that), in regard to South America, is to be attributed.

That  ardent statesman already determined on the vast project of calling (to use his own words in Parliament) "A NEW WORLD INTO EXISTENCE," sent out diplomatic agents to all parts, to report on the general circumstances of that new world.

With the highest deference and respect for those gentlemen, be it yet permitted to state, that tinctured (and how should it have been otherwise?) with Foreign Secretary's enthusiasm on so alluring a subject, they went forth disposed to report favourably. It was required also that they should report quickly. The growing importance of events in the south of Europe demanded this. The result was, that the diplomatists, on arrival at the various parts of South America, naturally threw themselves on the best-informed merchants for information. But, beside that it was the interest of those merchants to magnify the commercial importance of the country, the very fact of Mr. Canning's sending out consuls-general to make treaties of alliance with new Republics, fanned in this country the ardent expectations of men already sufficiently sanguine. The consequence was, that the reports, although more or less tinged with the glow, as well of the great minister who had originated these measures, as of his diplomatic agents, and of the merchants by whose assistance the documents were framed, were extremely well received at home. The full recognition by England of many of the Republics followed; and Mr. Canning, coming down to Parliament, triumphantly met the fears of those who dreaded a continental war, in consequence of the embroiled state of France and Spain, by an eloquent speech, in which, if we recollect well, there as a passage to the effect that it was long since Spain hat ceased to be formidable in herself: that it was Spain with the Indies that had been formidable power; that the Indies were now lost to her; and that, by recognition of Republics which had de facto achieved their independence, we had counteracted all preponderating influence on the part of the absolute governments of Europe—we had "called into existence a new world."

This was in the year 1823-4. The lamentable not to say ruinous results of the confidence thus established, and of the hopes thus excited, are too fresh in the memory of the thousands who have suffered by their connexion with Spanish America. Loans were furnished to every one of the independent governments; millions were shipped to enable them to work in their mines; emigration sent forth her labourers to people the wastes of the new world; manufactures were shipped far beyond the amount required for the consumption of the country; and we were ere long taught, by a sad experience, that the whole fabric of these vast undertakings was reared on a foundation inadequate to support so great a superstructure. In 1825 it began to totter; and in 1826-7 it came down with a crash which laid many prostrate under its ruins, and more of  less injured every individual connected with the country. Nor was this, though the consequence most to be lamented, by any means the only consequence of our overweening confidence in the infant governments.

Nurtured by these very acts into a feeling of importance beyond that to which they were naturally entitled, they have been led too often into a belief that latent views of commercial or more sordid aggrandizement lay hidden under the outward show of a liberal and confiding policy; and they have thus not only held as less sacred than they ought to have done the obligations they have contracted; but they have adopted, in many cases, a narrow and fluctuating course of legislation, too much akin to that of Old Spain. Their injudicious and ill-timed laws have often hampered commerce, and retarded the progress of the public welfare of every section of Spanish America.

Yours, faithfully,

The Authors." (10-14)


LETTER II.

To J—— G——, Esq.

Was the Declaration of Independence premature?—Solution
of the Query —State of Old Spain — Government of the Colonies —
Military Force of Spain in South America

London
, 1838

"It may be asked, and, after what we have said in our last letter, it naturally will be asked, were the declarations of independence, then, made by the late Spanish provinces, premature?
In reply to this question, it may be stated, that if by "premature" be meant premature in respect of their moral and political capacity to govern their vast country on sound principles of political economy, their declarations of independence certainly appear to involve this charge: for it is a matter of notoriety, that they are, after more than twenty-five years of revolution, very little advanced in the science of government, and nearly as far removed now as they ever wer from political stability.
But if by "premature" be meant only premature in respect to their physical capacity to maintain the independence which they at first achieved, then it is certain that their revolution was not premature; for they have preserved free from all external control, the country they wrested from hands of Old Spain, till the latter is now reluctantly forced upon a consideration of the expediency of recognising the independence of her late colonies, and no longer dreams of ever repossessing herself of them.
Can it be alleged that upon the whole, then, they have been losers, rather than gainers by their Revolution? We think quite the reverse. For one ship that entered their deserted ports, under the colonial restrictions, twenty now sail into them from all quarters of the globe. For one newspaper then published, there are now in circulation four or five. Books of every kind are imported. Foreigners freely take up their abode in the country. Better houses, better furniture, are seen everywhere. The natives, guided by the example of foreigners, live not only better than before, but have acquired habits of greatly-increased domestic comfort and convenience. In two or three of the republics, the Protestant religion is tolerated. The undue influence of the priests, if not entirely undermined, is in many places greatly diminished, and in some nearly overthrown. The authority of the pope is not only practically disavowed, but a legate, sent some time ago from Rome to Chile, met with a very cold reception, and with an order for his instantaneous return to that Italy from whence he came. In these, and in many other respects, the Americans have gained by their Revolution. They have gained, too, as a consequence of it, in their trade, and pecuniary transactions with England: for, to say nothing of the large sums received by them in loans, for working of mines, &c., for which little or nothing has been as yet returned; we very much question whether the merchandise sent to South America has, on the whole, produced to the shippers of it from this country, an adequate profit; while it is incontestable that a greatly-increased export trade, at much enhanced prices, has augmented in all parts of Spanish America the capital and means of its inhabitants.
What may, however, be truly said of the South Americans is, that they have not only failed to derive the benefit to have been expected from their Revolution, under rectitude and prudence of conduct, but hat they have obstructed such benefit by protracted civil commotions on the one hand, and by a want of capacity, and sometimes, unfortunately, of integrity, in the public administration of their affairs, on the other.
Hence, a check to the influx of foreign population, and to the increase of their own; hence agriculture has languished, and commerce been shackled by improvident laws; and hence smuggling, that fertile source of evil, while it has worked out all its demoralizing effects, has at the same time greatly diminished the revenue. Hence also education has been neglected, and the vices springing from ignorance left unchecked; hence factions have been multiplied, and Justice herself has not always been able to resist the influence of political excitement, and the temptations to individual venality. Hence, in short, a narrow foreign policy, and an unhappy domestic one, have too much pervaded the different states of the ex-colonial possessions of Spain." (15-18)



LETTER IV.

To J—— G——, Esq.

Spanish Population of South America—South American Nobility
 —South American Education —the Clergy —the Lawyers —
the Landed Proprietors of Chile and Peru —Estancias,
or Cattle Farms—Estancieros, or Landed Proprietors of Buenos
Ayres—Chacareros, Farmers or Yeomen—General Remarks

"In the first place, it is to be observed, that those who emigrated from Old Spain to settle in the colonies, were generally men of neither family, fortune, nor education at home. Storekeepers from Galicia, small merchants and publicans from Cataluña, clerks and attorneys from Biscay, and sailors, drudges, and mechanics from Andalusia, made up the mass of the old Spanish population. It was only the Viceroy, his staff, and more immediate dependents, the members of the audiencia, or judges, the employés of the public offices, and officers of the navy, who hat any pretensions either to gentlemanlike deportment or tolerable education. Liberality of feeling, extension of view, or anything approaching the philosophic and enlightened principle, not having been taught, even to their betters, in their own country, could not be imported by them into the new one they adopted. All the natives of Old Spain were emphatically and indiscriminately denominated by the South Americans, "Godos," or "Goths."
[...]
For the education of the sons of these different classes of inhabitants of the Spanish colonies, there were distributed over the continent several colleges founded by the Jesuits, and universities almost entirely under the direction of the priests. In Cordoba, there was one more celebrated university than the rest,
a sort of South American Salamanca;—in Lima there was another. Cuzco, Chuquisaca, and Santa Fé de Bogotá were seats of learning of almost equal note. To these resorted all the youth from the different and far distant towns and villages of the continent, for such education as the universities afforded; and they returned to the places of their nativity, and to their own families, what they were made by the course of instruction to which in the mean time they had been subjected,
The branches taught were Literae Humaniores,
the theology of the Roman Catholic church,the philosophy of the schools,—logic, upon the strictest models of syllogistic precision, the code of Roman Law, with all the minutiae of Spanish jurisprudence. The universities only professed, in fact, to make theologians and lawyers. The profession of medicine was in the hands of here and there a better sort of quack from Old Spain, who, mounted on his mule, with a peak saddle and silver bridle, looked down with disdain  upon the crowd of mulatto practitioners, who drew teeth, let blood, and dealt in simples. Surgery was almost unknown; and the sciences of chemistry, mathematics, and natural philosophy, as taught in these enlightened days, were altogether proscribed. They were considered not as useless merely, but as dangerous to the state. Not content with having its subjects thus closely pent up within the confines of ignorance and superstition, the court readily concurred with the inquisition in framing progressively enlarged lists, which it was ever issuing, of prohibited books. Locke, Milton, Montesquieu, and all their heretical followers, it is well known, were included in those lists; so that knowledge, even with all the allay of the schools, and all the trash of councils, was literally weighed out to the Americans in grains and scruples.
[...]
The estanciero, or landed and cattle proprietor, feeling his inferiority, and taking his station in society accordingly, had his solace and his recreation in his own solitary avocations, and in the occasional society of those of his own class, with whom he could expatiate upon fat herds of cattle,
fine years for pasture, —horses more fleet than the ostrich or the deer,the dexterity of those who could best, from the saddle, throw their noose, or laso, over the horse of a wild bull,or of him who could make the nicest pair of boots from the skin stripped off the legs of a potro, or wild colt.
A good, substantial, roughly-finished house in town, with very little furniture in it; a large, sleek, fat horse on which to ride;
a poncho or loose amplitude of camlet stuff, with a hole in the centre of it for his head and falling from his shoulders over his body;large silver spurs, and the head-piece of his bridle heavily overlaid with the same metal;a coarse that fastened with black leather thongs under his chin; a tinger-box, steel, and flint, with which to light his cigar; a knife in his girdle, and a swarthy page behind him, with the unroasted ribs of a fat cow, for provision, under his saddle; constituted the most solid comfort, and met the most luxurious aspirations of the estanciero, or Buenos Ayres country gentleman. When, thus equipped and provided, he could take to the plains, and see a large herd of cattle grazing on one place, and in another hear them lowing in the distance; and when he could look round for uninterrupted miles upon rich pastures, all his ownhis joy was full; his ambition satisfied; and he was willing at once to forget, and to forego, the tasteless enjoyments and cumbrous distinctions of artificial society.
Thus lived,—and thus was the country gentleman of the River Plate educated, before the Revolution. He is now greatly improved in manners,—fortune,—and mode of life;—and he is rising gradually, but surely, to that influence to which a greatly increased and increasing value of property naturally leads.
" (41-58)


LETTER VI.

To J—— G——, Esq.

NO LONGER INTRODUCTORY.

Retrospective Glance—Comparison between North and South
America—Plan of the Work—Capure of Buenos Ayres—
Anticipated  Results—Consequences of the Capture—Em-
barkation for the River Plate—Arrival there—Bombardment
of Montevideo—Capture of the Town—Symptoms of Con-
fidence in the People—Motley Inhabitants—Expectations
excited

London, 1838

"In 1805-6, news reached England of the expedition to which we have already referred, under Viscount Beresford, having sailed up the River Plate, and most valiantly attacked and taken the town of Buenos Ayres.
The victory, however surprising in itself, was as nothing, compared with the results anticipated from it by this country. The people were represented as not only satisfied with their conquerors, but as tractable, amiable, lively, and engaging. The River Plate, discharging itself into the sea by a mouth nearly 150 miles wide, and navigable for 2000 miles into the interior of the country, was described as a mighty inlet to the millions of our commerce. Peru and her mines were held forth to us as open through this channel: we were told that the tropical regions of Paraguay were approachable by ships; that thousands upon thousands of cattle were grazing in the verdant plains; and that the price of a bullock was four shillings, while that of a horse was half the sum. The natives, it was said, would give uncounted gold for our manufactures, while their warehouses were as well stocked with produce, as their coffers filled with the precious metals. The women were said to be all beautiful, and the men all handsome, and athletic.

Such was the description received here of the New Arcadia, of which Lord Beresford had achieved the most incredible conquest. British commerce, ever on the wing for foreign lands, soon unfurled the sails of her floating ships for South America. The rich, the poor, the needy, the speculative, and the ambitious, all looked to the making or mending of their fortunes in those favoured regions. Government was busy equipping, for the extension and security of the newly-acquired territory, and for the protection of her subjects and their property, a second expedition, under the command of Sir Samuel Auchmuty.

Like other ardent young men, I became anxious to visit a land described in such glowing colours. I sailed accordingly from Greenock, in December 1806, in a fine ship called the Enterprise, commanded by Captain Graham.

The monotony of a sea-voyage is so well understood, that I shall pass over mine in very few words. We had the usual winter storms in the Channel: the ever-paid  penalty of a tossing in the Bay of Biscay: sultry weather in crossing the line, and great rejoicings when, after three months of pure sea and sky, we got soundings at the mouth of the River Plate. As we gaily sped our course in now inland waters, and hoped next day to take up our domicile in Buenos Ayres, we were hailed by a British ship of war; and alas for the dissipation of the golden dreams which we had been dreaming all the passage out!

Captain Graham, having been ordered on board of the frigate, returned with dismay depicted in his countenance, to tell us that the Spaniards had regained possession of Buenos Ayres, and made the gallant General Beresford and his army prisoners.

Our captain next informed us, that the second expedition, under Sir Samuel Auchmuty, was now investing Montevideo, and that, with the exception of the country immediately around the town, there was no footing for British subjects on the whole continent of Spanish America. We were ordered to proceed to the roadstead of the besieged city, and there to place ourselves under the orders of the English admiral.

Down at one fell swoop tumbled all the castles in the air which had been built to a fantastic height by the large group of passengers on board of the Enterprise. Those who had yesterday shaken hands, in mutual congratulation upon the fortunes they were to make, walked up and down the deck to-day under evident symptoms of dependency and gloom.

We soon took our station off Montevideo among hundreds of ships similarly situated with our own. We were within hearing of the cannons' roar, and within sight of the batteries that were pouring their deadly shot and shell into the houses of the affrighted inhabitants.

Montevideo is a town strongly and regularly fortified. In the harbour, busy boats were to be seen playing from ship to ship; brigs of war were running close under the walls, and bombarding the citadel from the sea; the guns were levelled with deadly aim at the part of the fortification selected for the breach; and the mortar was discharging, in fatal curve, the destructive bomb. Thousands of spectators from the ships were tracing, in breathless anxiety, the impression made by every shell upon the town, and every ball upon the breach. The frequent sorties made by the Spanish troops, gave an animating, but nervous interest to the scene.

One morning, at length, before the dawn of day, that part of the wall, in which was the "imminent deadly breach," was enveloped, as seen from the shipping, in one mighty spread of conflagration. The roaring of cannon was incessant, and the atmosphere was one dense mass of smoke impregnated with the smell of gunpowder. We perceived, by aid of the night-glass, and of the luminous flashes from the guns, that a deadly struggle was going forward on the walls. Anon there was an awful pause, a deep and solemn gloom. The work of carnage was drowing to a close; and presently the dawn of day exhibited to us the British ensign unfurled, and proudly floating upon the battlements. A simultaneous shout of triumph burst from the whole fleet, and thousands who had been yesterday held in suspense between doubt and fear, gave once more unbounded scope to a sanguine anticipation of the happy and prosperous result of their enterprise.

We landed that day, and found our troops in complete possession of the place. What a spectacle of desolation and woe presented itself to our eyes at every step! The carnage had been terrible, in proportion to the bravery displayed by the Spaniards, and to the gallant, irresistible daring by which their masses were overwhelmed, and their guns silenced by the English.
[...]
How all the foreign troops, merchants, and adventurers of every description got accommodation in the town, it is not easy to say. They located themselves in every nook and corner of it; so that it soon had more the appearance of an English colony than of a Spanish settlement. The number of inhabitants, at the time of its capture, was about ten thousands: a mixed breed of natives of Old Spain, of the offspring of these, called creoles, and of a proportionally large mixture of blacks and mulattoes, mostly slaves. To this population there was an accession, on the capture of the town, of about six thousand English subjects, of whom four thousand were military, two thousand merchants, traders, adventurers; and a dubious crew which could scarcely pass muster, even under the latter designation.

Hundreds of British ships were lying in the harbour. Buenos Ayres was still in possession of the Spaniards; but confident hopes were entertained that, when it should be heard at home that Montevideo was taken, a force would be sent out sufficient for the capture of the capital of so magnificent country. You may guess with what anxiety we all looked forward to such a consummation; and with what elated hope we anticipated that the treasures of the towns, and the flocks and herds of the plains, were soon to come into our possession. We expected also that in a few months the countries of Chile, Peru, and Paraguay would be thrown  open to our unbounded commerce.

In my next letter I shall speak more at large of the natives, and especially of a very admirable part of them,—the women. I never saw any females more graceful and pretty than they are. One might apply to almost every one of them the quotation from Milton:

"Grace was in all her steps, heav'n in her eye,
In ev'ry gesture dignity and love"

Yours, &c.

JPR. (93-103)

LETTER VII.

To J—— G——, Esq.

Society of Montevideo—The Rats—The two Spies—Sir Samuel Auchmuty.

London, 1838

I had now, at Montevideo (1807), entered upon the bustle of active life. During our voyage, I made myself pretty well master of the principles of the Spanish language; and my hourly intercourse with the natives of Montevideo, I soon acquired tolerable fluency in speaking it. As this facility increased, I naturally drew off from the society of my own countrymen, that I might commingle more with the Spaniards. though in an enemy's country, and a fortified town,under martial law withal,—hostility of feeling between the natives and the English was so far subsiding, that some of the principal families of the place recommenced their tertulias.

I was invited to many of these evening parties, and found them an entertaining mélange of music, dancing, coffee-drinking, card-playing, laughter, and conversation. While the young parties were waltzing and courting in the middle of the room, the old ones, seated in a row, upon what is called the estrada, were chatting away with all the esprit and vivacity of youth. The estrada is a part of the floor raised at one end of the room, covered with fine straw mats in summer, and with rich and beautiful skins in winter.

The gentlemen were grouped in different parts of the room, some at cards, some talking, others joking with the ladies; while the more youthful part of them were alternately seated by the piano, in admiration of the singer, or tripping it on the fantastic toe with very graceful partners. Every step, and figure, and pirouette, appeared to me charming. Every lady that I saw in Montevideo, waltzed and moved through the intricate, yet elegant mazes of the country dance with grace inimitable, because the result of natural ease and refinement. Then they were so kind in their endeavours to correct the little blunders in Spanish of foreigners, without laughing at them, that they taught by example, at once good feeling, and good manners. There is no ceremony whatever at the tertulia. Having once got an invitation to the house ("Señor Don Juan," for instance, "esta es su casa," "this is your house"), I could visit and leave it at all hours of the day, and  just as it suited myself. At the evening parties which I have described, persons once invited came in with a simple salutation to the lady of the house, and departed in the same way." (104-106)


LETTER VIII.

To J—— G——, Esq.

News of General Whitelock's Expedition—English Militia—Whitelock's arrival—He sails for Buenos Ayres—Inauspicious March from Ensenada—Panic of the Buenos Ayres Army—Whitelock's Defeat.

London, 1838


About the time at which the events recorded in my last letter took place, official accounts were received from England that a formidable expedition was fitting out for the River Plate; that General Whitelock [sic] was to be the commander of it; that its arrival might be looked for in a month; and that it was immediately to proceed up the river, and take possession of Buenos Ayres.

When it became known at Montevideo that most of the regular force of the garrison would be required to co-operate in the intended attack on the capital, the English merchants and subjects of every description were called upon to embody themselves into a corps of militia. In the absence of the greater part of the regular troops, the newly-raised corps was to keep guard and co-operate with the two battalions of the line which were to be left to garrison the place.

It was curious,
quite a sight,to witness the drilling of this awkward squad of militia.
[...]

At length, Whitelock arrived, with a gorgeous suite of aides-de-camp, adjutants, commissaries, and other officers of a military cortège. Sir Samuel Auchmuty was not only superseded in his command, but eclipsed in his establishment by the now absolute General. he brought with him eight thousand men, the flower of transports, protected by noble ships of war. He established a magnificent military court at the government-house, and magniloquently declared that he would instantly proceed against Buenos Ayres, and either take or level it with the ground, within a month from the time of his departure from Montevideo. We all hoped that the capital might be taken, for we could not see what we should gain by its being destroyed.

Whitelock ordered three thousand men of the Montevideo garrison to follow him. Colonel Brown of the 40th regiment was left in command there; and the merchants were told once more that within a month they should be at liberty to proceed to Buenos Ayres. The new General hat the reputation of being a haughty and reserved man; but it was hoped, notwithstanding, that he would prove himself equal to the fulfilment of the hight duties to which he had been appointed by the Duke of York.

Shortly afterwards, General Whitelock sailed with an army of which any commander might well have been proud, and with a fleet in every well provisioned and equipped. To the eight thousand men lately arrived, there were added three thousand of the veteran troops which had taken Montevideo. Sir Samuel Auchmuty, Colonel Pack, General Gower, General Crawford, and many other brave and distinguished officers. were under General Whitelock's command; and as the place had been taken not many months before by General Beresford with fifteen hundred men, there was not a shadow of doubt entertained of its at once surrendering to General Whitelock at the head of eleven thousand.

You may conceive with what exhilarated spirits and elapsed hopes everybody began to pack up for Buenos Ayres. The ships all bent their sails; the merchants all gave up their premises in Montevideo; and this town, like a house when inhabitants are quitting it, had already quite a comfortless and deserted appearance. For myself, however, I scarcely knew whether to rejoice at my intended departure, or bewail it.

I was getting so entirely at home at M. Godefroy's, that I began to fear I might "go farthter and fare worse." I conned over the old and homely proverb, that "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush;"
which the Spaniards render, by-the-by, more poetically than we do, by "Mas vale pajaro en mano, que buytre volando:" "better a little bird in the hand, than a vulture on the wing."

Shortly after the sailing of the expedition, a brig of war arrived from the scene of action, and brought intelligence of a landing having been effected by the British army at Ensenada. This place is distant from Buenos Ayres about thirty-six miles; and from it (Ensenada) the formidable force of General Whitelock immediately began its march. The landing at such a spot struck everybody, acquainted with the local, as rather an inauspicious commencement of operations. Military men said, that in the first place there was no necessity for it; and that a landing might have been effected as well within five miles as fifty of Buenos Ayres, seeing there was no regular force that could have impeded such landing with any hope or chance of success.

In the second place, Ensenada being situated in low, marshy ground, there were interposed between it and Buenos Ayres immense bogs and lakes. Through these the army had inevitably to march in order to reach the capital.

Lastly, no communication could be kept up, on the line of march, between the naval and land forces; so that the army had to encumber itself in addition to its heavy baggage and artillery train, with the immense load of provisions necessary for the subsistence of eleven thousand men during a march of six or eight days.

At length the expected despatches arrived; and I could scarcely credit the account which my eyes saw and ears heard, and that now my pen is constrained to record, of the total defeat of General Whitelock's expedition. Onward it marched from the ill-fated Ensenada. Lakes, marshes, hunger, thirst, weariness, cold and fatigue, while they subjected the gallant army of an infatuated chief to almost every privation which the human frame could endure, opposed no effectual barrier against the order to advance. For hours together were the men up to their middle in water; their provisions were both wet and scanty; their heavy artillery was often swamped in the marshes; the cold was intense; shelter there was none; an ill-arranged commissariat left the men with an insufficient supply of wine and spirits to minister alleviation to their unprecedented fatigue; the horses on the route of march were driven away; the cattle too; not an inhabitant was to be found; and only here and there, at intervals of five to six miles, a wretched hut, abandoned  by its yet more wretched owners, was to be seen. Still the British army, led on and encouraged by officers who might well be classed as the bravest of the brave, hied onward; and in a few days it arrived within four miles of the destined scene of operations.

At this time the regular troops and militia of Buenos Ayres marched out, in the direction of a small river, the Riachuelo, which they crossed at a bridge called the Puente de Baracas, that is, the Bridge of Hide-warehouses.

No sooner, however, did those men see the brigades and columns of the British army, and the train of its artillery moving towards them in dense and unbroken masses, than they scampered off in precipitate flight, not only to the town, but through the town, leaving it for a whole day literally defenceless. Had the English general marched on, he would have taken Buenos Ayres without firing a gun or losing a man. A complete panic seem to have seized the Spanish troops at sight of our red-coats; and all the efforts of their brave commander, the Viceroy Liniers, were ineffectual to regulate their retreat, or, more properly speaking, to stay their flight.

But General Whitelock did not march on: he made an ominous, a most unintelligible, and ruinous halt; and to this halt, not less than to his subsequent mode of attack upon the town, is to be attributed the defeat of his brave army; the loss of nearly three thousand of the most intrepid of his men; the abandonment of Buenos Ayres; the restitution to Spain of Montevideo; and such disgrace to gallant soldiers, as could only have been brought upon them by a general the most inert, self-willed, capricious,—combined, withal, the apparently opposite qualities of rashness and cowardice,—that ever took the field.

When Colonel Brown communicated to the English residents at Montevideo the disastrous results of General Whitelock's short campaign, a tear stood in his manly eye; and when he informed us that the capitulation by which the English army was to be "permitted" to evacuate Buenos Ayres, contained also a clause for the abandonment, within two months, of Montevideo, the soldier could proceed no farther. He quitted, in the greatest agitation, the room in which he had been compelled to announce at once the defeat and humiliation of the brave army of which he was himself one of the brightest ornaments.

In my next letter, you shall have a few of the details by which this unlooked-for catastrophe was brought upon us; sending us all, as a necessary result, to that point which, when our countrymen have once left home, they so generally dislike,
"back again."

                                                                        Yours, &c.

J.P.R." (113-123)



LETTER IX.

To J—— G——, Esq.

Causes of the defeat at Buenos Ayres—The Capitulation—General Whitelock's callousness—Departure of the English from the Country—Transition from Land to Sea—Reflections.

London, 1838


"Buenos Ayres is a very large town, of which the streets intersect each other at right angles, some of them being more than three miles long, in a straight line.

The British general ordered his columns to advance along those streets, to given points of junction and rendezvous, and without firing a shot at the people on the house-tops, or elsewhere. The flints were in some cases taken out of the soldiers' muskets,

You need hardly be told what followed. The brave troops, disciplined to strict obedience marched along those pathways of death, without offering the slightest resistance. The ranks were thinned by the sharpshooters from the azoteas, or house-tops, with such fatal rapidity, that not only were the streets, at every step they took, strewed with slain and wounded, but when they hat in some instances attained, and in others nearly so, their appointed places of rendezvous, they were so reduced, by the incessant firing upon them from the house-tops, as to be obliged to take shelter in the nearest churches or convents. Still, General Whitelock hat a corps of reserve of five thousand men, who hat not yet come into action; and with them he might, even at the eleventh hour, have achieved the work of conquest. But, panic-struck by the death, desolation, and confusion to which his own wretched plan of operation had inevitable led, he lost all self-possession, energy, and courage. He capitulated,—on condition of being allowed to retire with his yet but half-vanquished army; and he agreed not only to abandon all farther attack on Buenos Ayres, but to sail within two months, with his whole force, from the River Plate. "Put in," said Alzaga, the Alcalde de primer voto, or mayor, who was a party to the drawing up of the terms of capitulation, "put in, that he shall also evacuate Montevideo." "Oh," said the viceroy, Liniers, "that is out of question; it would spoil the whole matter." "Let us put it down," replied the resolute and influential citizen; "it can be easily taken out, if objected to." It was put down, and it was not objected to. The bewildered Whitelock conceded all; and in a few days afterwards we beheld to our dismay, in Montevideo, the transports and ships of war, which, one little month before, had conveyed our noble army to anticipated triumph, returning with that army defeated, and its general irretrievable disgraced. The hospitals were once more filled with the sick, wounded, and dying. Three thousand gallant fellows had attested by their death their dauntless courage in the streets of Buenos Ayres; and yet General Whitelockhimself the sole cause of the unpardonable catastrophestrutted on the azotea of the government house, or rode through the streets of Montevideo, the only unconcerned individual, to all appearance, in the midst of the shame and disgrace which he had brought upon the arms of Great Britain.

To have seen him at the moment when the garrison was about to be delivered up to General Elio, you might have supposed him, from his air, a Willington or a Wolfe. It was impossible, from any outward demonstration, to fancy him a man conscious of the appalling and criminal loss of life which his dogged stupidity had brought upon an army which, under better management, might have conquered and kept one-half of the New World. With the outmost unconcern, he saw us quit a soil which, but for his folly and madness, might have been ours for generations yet unborn

What was greatly to be admire, in this terrible reverse, was the unassuming deportment, indeed the increased deference, of the Spaniards towards the English. They never alluded to the subject of Whitelock's defeat; and when they spoke of our departure, it was ever with an expression of regret that they were about to lose many personal friends. Such conduct I could not but think very demonstrative of courtesy and good feeling; magnanimous almost in a people now triumphant over their recent invaders.

In lingered in the town till the last moment, and then, with a heavy heart, bade adieu to M. Godefroy and his family. The parting was more  like that of a son from father and mother, and of a brother from sisters, than of a foreigner and an enemy from people whose acquaintance he had not enjoyed above five months.

I had the mortification, too, to see the Spanish colours flying on the citadel, and at the government house. Elio and his staff had already received the key of that place; the last English stragglers were hurrying to their boats; and in a few days the whole fleet, consisting of two hundred and fifty ships, sailed out of the River Plate.  The disastrous manner in which we were thus driven from the country was, as you may conceive, the more keenly felt that such a result was not only unexpected, but the very reverse of what even the least sanguine calculation had anticipated.
[...]
Yet, in alleviation of these more sombre musing, it was cheering to reflect that whatever may be the causes of quarrel, and whatsoever the ravages of war, between nation and nation, they cannot stop that current of the milk of human kindness which circulates, in greater or less abundance, in the breast of every individual of the family of man. Endued with the same nature, created with the same propensities, influenced by like motives, and animated by like passions, man everywhere recognises man; the general principles of humanity are developed in all the various circumstances in which he is placed; while in all the different climes which he inhabits, under every modification of national character, still a feeling common to humanity prevails.

So to me, a protestant, the right hand of fellowship had been held out by a catholic; one of a nation of invaders, I was individually cherished as a friend by those invaded; far distant from my own family, I was received in Montevideo into the bosom of many families to whom, a few months before, I had been totally unknown; and my youth and inexperience, which, in another country, might have exposed me to worldly artifice and trickery, were there my best passports to pleasing society. They were my chief claim to hospitality and kindness.

I was truly glad when we sailed into Kinsale harbour, after a tedious passage of fourteen weeks, during four of which we had been on short allowance of provisions and water.

That nothing might be wanting to complete the mistakes of the disastrous River Plate expedition, the transports had taken in their water too near the mouth of the river; so that it was brackish and putrid, long before the fleet reached Ireland; and the use of it had caused the death, from dysentery, of many of the troops.

Yours, &c.

J.P.R." (126-133)


LETTER XL.

To J—— G——, Esq.

Dismemberment of the Provinces of Rio de la Plata—General Artigas—Journey to Santa Fé—The Major of Blandengues—Thistles—Journey continued—Arrival at Santa Fé—Artigueños—Smoking—More of Candioti.

London, 1838

"The dismemberment of the provinces of Rio de la Plata as constituted by Old Spain, began with Paraguay. But that territory could at no time be said to have formed a portion of the "United Provinces," as created by the patriots. It never gave in its adhesion to them, but established, on the ruins of the power of Spain, an independent government of its own.

The first great intestine feud was raised by General Artigas, the most extraordinary man, after Francia, that figures in the annals of the republic of River Plate.

Artigas came of a respectable family; but was, in his habits, only a better sort of Gaucho, of the Banda Oriental. He was wholly uneducated, and, if I mistake not, learned only at a late period of his life, to read and write. But he was bold, sagacious, daring, restless, and unprincipled. In all athletic exercises, and in every Gaucho acquirement, he stood unrivalled, and commanded at once the fear and the admiration of the surrounding country population. He acquired an immense influence over the Gauchos; and his turbulent spirit, disdaining the peaceful labours of the field, drew about him a number of the most desperate and resolute of those men, of whom he assumed the lead, and in command of whom he took to the trade of a contrabandista, or smuggler.

He would march with his band by the most rugged roads, and through apparently impenetrable woods, into the adjoining territory of Brazil, and thence bring his contraband goods and stolen herds, to dispose of them in the Banda Oriental. This was under the rule of Old Spain. Every effort of the Governor of Montevideo to ut the bold smuggler and his band down, was not only unavailing, but always ended in the defeat of the forces sent against him. The country even then belonged to Artigas. He would meet, engage, and rout the king's troops; till at length, his very name carried terror with it. But he was strict disciplinarian; respected the property of those who did not interfere with him, and only attacked those who presumed, or dared to throw impediments in the way of his illegal traffic. He was the Robin Hood of South America.

The governor of Montevideo finding Artiga's power constantly on the increase, at length sought his friendship in the king's name. Artigas, tired of his marauding life, listened to the overtures made to him. A treaty was formed; and, as a consequence of it, he rode into Montevideo with the king's commission of Captain of Blandengues, or mounted militia of the country. His band of contrabandistas became his soldiers; and he thenceforward kept the whole country districts of the province in an order and tranquillity which they had seldom before enjoyed.

In this situation did the revolution in Buenos Ayres find Artigas; and in 1811 or 1812, he deserted from the king's service in the Banda Oriental, and joined the patriots. He was considered to be a great accession to the cause; and when Montevideo in 1813 was besieged by Buenos Ayres force, under the command of General Alvear, Artigas served under him with the rank of Colonel.

A new and wider field now opened itself up to the view of this ambitious and unprincipled chief. His haughty and overbearing spirit could no longer brook an inferior command under a Buenos Ayres General, and in the face of his own paysanos, on whom, since the King of Spain's authority was disputed, he began to look as his own legitimate subjects. Besides, the more polished and civilized of the Buenos Ayres chiefs looked down upon him as on a semi-barbarian, and treated him without the respect which he considered due to his rank. So he hated them all. He tampered with the troops under his command. They were all Orientales [Natives of the province of Montevideo, called the Banda Oriental, or East side (of the Plata)], and adhered to him to a man. He laid his plan with his usual sagacity: he silently abandoned the siege during a dark night, with his eight hundred men; and whe it was reported to General Alvear in the morning, Artigas was many leagues off with what he now called "his army." This was at the close of 1813." (179-182)


Last update: September 2, 2017



 

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