Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the manager; and, being thus dressed up according to his dictation, with a view to dazzling and deceiving an audience, composed of men who boast of their civilization, refinement, and knowledge, they are repeating the words set down for them, and performing their parts, either as principals, subordinates, or supernumeraries."

Such is the scene presented by the pencil of the boasted painter of the French school; and however the eye may be pleased or displeased, the understanding of every friend of the human race must be disgusted.

However great the merit of David may be, and he is the founder of the present French school of painting, France must look back to the age of Louis the fourteenth for her greatest painters, and rather study the antique of Poussin, than the theatrical display of David.

No better comment need be given to the work of David, now under our consideration, than the picture by West, which hangs at the other end of the room. His subject is from a play, written by a player; yet we see life, feeling, passion, energy of thought and action-all is real, and speaks to the heart; the subject of David is founded in historical fact-yet all is a theatric display of unreal mockery.

We have heretofore spoken only of the foreground of this picture, and all our praise must be confined to that portion of the composition, for the crowd of figures in the galleries is too wretched to be considered as coming from David's pencil.

Let it not be supposed from what we have said, that we are insensible to the skill, knowledge, and taste of this great painter, as here displayed on a bad subject; we acknowledge in many parts of this picture faultless drawings, delightful colouring, and exquisite taste. But as a composition, it is unskilful and flat-and many parts are insipid, awkward, and of course disagreeable.

When we contrast a scene such as that which forms the subject of this, perhaps, the last great picture of David, or similar scenes which are acted to dazzle and blind the people of Europe-scenes in which religion is made a mockery, and common sense is outraged by the continuance or revival of fooleries, invented by kings and priests, in the times of profoundest ignorance, barbarity, and superstition ; when we contrast such scenes, whether a coronation of a Bonaparte, a George, or a Louis, with the simple, manly ceremony of inaugurating a president of the United States, surely we have reason to be proud of our country, and to glory in those institutions which will perpetuate and disseminate the dominion of reason.

THE

ATHENEUM MAGAZINE.

APRIL, 1826.

OBSERVATIONS ON THE POLITICAL SITUATION OF PERU, BY A

GENTLEMAN OF NEW-YORK, FOR MANY YEARS A RESIDENT IN THAT COUNTRY. (CONCLUDED.)

That interesting section of the country, formerly known by the name of Alto Peru, has been recently erected into an independent republic, and bears the name of Bolivar.

The revolution first broke out in La Paz, a province of this country, in 1809, and its sufferings have probably been greater than those of any other section of Spanish America. It has borne the ravages of almost perpetual war, since the period alluded to, and there is hardly a single square league of its territory, unless it be on the inaccessible summits of the Andes, where the bones of its brave sons are not bleaching. It has recently been the scene of bloody strife between the Spanish generals themselves; Valdes and Olañeta, absurdly fighting for the king and the constitution; but those who fell on either side were the unhappy children of Peru, “who fight for all, but ever fight in vain," and who, upon this occasion, were combatting for their own chains, whatever way the contest should be determined. This domestic feud, however, was a fortunate circumstance, in the end, for the Patriot cause; for it created further dissentions among the Spanish chiefs, which led, in some measure, no doubt, to the victory of Ayacucho. It is well known here, that Canterac and Valdes, the two principal Spanish generals, went into that battle with feelings of the most bitter personal enmity, engendered by this contest with Olañeta.

This country contains, unquestionably, the richest mines of meridional America, and at no very distant period, when that ocean of waters, the Amazon, shall be navigated by steam boats, like our own Mississippi, those fine regions on the eastern slope of the Andes, will become as important to commerce as any other section of the globe. Unfortunately, they have not, at present, any portion of the Pacific, the whole of the adjaVOL. II.

48

cent coast being included in the boundaries of the Republic of Peru.

In addition to the foregoing observation, I will now offer a few remarks upon the foreign commerce of Peru, and particularly as in reference to our own country; the facts which I shall exhibit may be relied upon, and if they excite no interest with yourself, they may with some of your mercantile friends.

The ancient commerce of Spanish America, as is well known, was exclusively confined to Spain, and even still further restricted to certain cities and privileged corporations of that country, and these restrictions were sometimes enforced even by the punishment of death. The average number of ships from foreign ports, that annually arrived in the port of Callao, in former times, was about seven, and their returns principally consisted of the precious metals, generally amounting to three times the invoice of the outward cargo. That this commerce was destructive to the prosperity of the country, or, at any rate, did not promote it, is apparent from the fact, that from 1760 to 1774, for instance, there were coined, in the two mints of Lima and Potosi, 100,667,838 dollars 62 and a half cents; of specie, during the same period, nearly 68 millions were shipped to Europe, and the residue (excepting only 265,000 dollars) was paid away in the different provinces of the country for the purchase of various articles necessary for the consumption of Peru. Of this enormous sum, then, of more than 100 millions, coined in the space of 14 years, only 265,000 dollars remained in Peru at the end of that term. Instead of enriching the country, it passed through it like a sweeping flood. It is an error to suppose that Peru has ever been opulent except in its natural wealth, which is buried in the bowels of the earth. Even in the time of the viceroys a copper currency was issued to supply a circulating medium ; and in Potosi, where some millions were coined annually, there has never been a single individual resident there of any considerable property, although the name of one miner is mentioned, who, during his life time, paid into the royal treasury 18,000,000 dollars in quintos, (king's fifths,) and other public exactions. Still the immense quantities of the precious metals produced from the mines, which these duties indicate, were of little or no permanent advantage to the country, either in promoting its productive industry, or increasing its real wealth. The employment which the working of the mines afforded to the miserable Indians, was forced upon them ; it dragged them from their distant homes, and from their ancient occupations in agriculture and rude manufactures, and wasted their number faster

than the most destructive wars. And with respect to the proprietors, and the principal miners themselves, to no class of Tabourers can the 6 sic vos, non vobis” of the Latin poet, be more appropriately applied. The city of Lima itself was but little benefitted by the ancient commerce of Peru, and nearly the whole of its population formerly subsisted upon government salaries. The policy of Spain seems to have been to endeavour to equalize the wealth, or, rather, the poverty, of her colonies, and if any branch of industry was allowed to one, it was denied to another, and the entire profits of the trade of the whole, was directly conveyed into the hands of foreign monopolists. At a time when one of the streets of Lima was pared with silver, on the entry of one of the viceroys, the treasury of the viceroyalty could not meet the annual expenditure of the government; and, in later times, when pigs of silver were piled up in the mint like cord wood, the same has been the fact. In 1821, the public debt of the vice-royalty was upwards of 16,000,000 dollars, and now, probably, amounts to six millions more. It is principally due to the church, to individuals of the country, and to annuitants, the representatives of some of the wealthiest families of Peru, in former times, who have literally been robbed by the Spanish government, and are now reduced to beggary. From these facts it may be inferred what must be now the general impoverishment of the country.

The change which has already been produced in the com. merce of this country by the revolution, may be appreciated, when it is known, that there are at least sixty American merchant vessels on this coast at the present moment, besides many English, French, &c. The price of every article of consumption is, of course, reduced to a fair standard, and a yard of cloth which formerly cost 20 dollars, may now be purchased in Lima nearly as low as in New York.

Our commerce to this place for the last twelve months, has amounted to about 1,500,000 dollars, and has been principally confined to flour, salted provisions, domestic cottons, liquors, tobacco, naval stores, butter, lard, cheese, &c. and occasionally European and India goods. The whole quantity of flour sold on the coast during the same period, may be estimated at 50,000 bushels ; this is a very fluctuating article, and the price per barrel on board (the buyer paying the duties) has varied from 36 to 4 dollars, during the last three years, and I have known 1000 barrels purchased within the last eight months for ballast for a ship bound to Gibraltar. The duties are at present 7 dollars 50 cents per barrel; an enormous charge upon the principal necessary of life, and a most unequal and iniquitous bur,

[ocr errors]

den upon the poor. In fact, bread is here a luxury, being the dearest article of human subsistence, principally in consequence of this absurd duty. The duties, and other expenses of placing a barrel of flour in Lima, are about 11 dollars, in addition to the original cost.

Our domestic cottons have generally met a pretty ready sale on the coast, and the demand is slowly increasing. They are preferred, being a more substanțial fabric, to those from the English colonies in the East Indies. Samples for imitation have already been sent by the English merchants to England and Calcutta, but we should be able to undersell them, and command the market ; that is, if we could come into it upon equal terms. But at present this is not the fact, as, owing to a high valuation in the custom house, the result of a predominating English influence, which absolutely bestrides the country, our cottons are charged at least forty per cent. in duties more than theirs, although the market price is one fourth less. This evil, which is one of no trifling magnitude, might, no doubt, be corrected by proper remonstrances from our public agents, or, at any rate, in a commercial treaty. A ship from Philadelphia recently sold here 90,000 yards of these cottons at an advantageous price.

Butter and lard have been shipped from our country in large quantities, and during the continuance of the war paid a great profit. These articles have borne equal prices with the same from Ireland and Holland; a proof, I think, of an improvement in our agricultural industry in this respect.

Our domestic spirits, like those from the West Indies, will not sell readily; considerable quantities are made in the country, and although these command higher prices than either French brandies or Holland gin, they are nevertheless preferred by the people here, and the quantity produced is sufficient to meet the demand. The province of Yca, about 100 miles to the south, is almost exclusively devoted to this branch of industry; the liquor has a peculiar flavour, being a single distillation from a peculiar species of grape, and is called Pisco, from the name of the port where it is shipped. The duties on all foreign liquors are 80 per cent. on an arbitrary valuation, not regulated by the invoice, and which would amount to a total prohibition, were it not for the facilities afforded for smuggling.

It was observed by Mr. Clay, in his speech on the “ new tariff,” “ that the demand for flour in this country was temporary, growing out of the existing state of the war." Those of our merchants who may not have believed in the correct

« ZurückWeiter »