Narrative of an Official Visit to Guatemala from Mexico/Historical Sketch
|←Chapter XXXII||Narrative of an Official Visit to Guatemala from Mexico by
Situation and Extent.—Rivers and Lakes.—Ports.—Political Considerations respecting Boundaries.—Boundaries of States.—Population.—Statement of the Births and Deaths in Guatemala, in 1823.—Prices of Provisions in the City of Guatemala.—Relative Population of the Republics.—Number and Wealth of Towns.—Santiago, the Capital.—Finance.—Commerce.—Considerations n the Nature and Value of Goods Imported into Guatemala and the other South American Republics.—Military Resources.—Communication within itself and with the Exterior.
SITUATION AND EXTENT.
The geographical position of Guatemala is highly advantageous. Placed in the middle of the two Americas, between the Colombian and Mexican republics, it is bathed by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and lies in the centre of the vast relations which now exist and may be hereafter opened between the old and new worlds. It is bounded on the west and north by Mexico, on the south-east by the province of Veraguas; on the south and south-west by the Pacific, and on the north by the Atlantic. Its figure is nearly triangular, and contains 16,740 square leagues, covering an area greater than that of either Peru or Chile. Its soil is of extraordinary variety as to quality, altitude, temperature and fruitfulness; and it yields, in consequence, all the productions of the frigid, temperate, and torrid zones.
RIVERS AND LAKES.
From its lofty mountains, which it is well known are a continuation of the grand Cordillera rising at Cape Horn and passing through Mexico into the centre of North America, flow down many rivers which empty themselves, some into the Atlantic and some into the Pacific ocean. Towards the north run the Polochic, the Golfo, the Motagua, the Ulua, the Leon, the Aguan, the Simones, the Platanos, the Pantasina, the Mosquitos, the San Juan, the Camelicon, and the Tinto: towards the south run the Huista, the Tamala, the Aealapa, the Micatoya, the Esclavos, the Paz, the Asonsonate, the Lempa, the Viejo, the Nicaragua and the Nicoya.
By a royal ordinance of 30th March, 1795, the consulate were charged to effect the navigation of the Polochic and Motagua; the former of which empties itself into the Golfo Dulce, and the other into the Atlantic. Much has been said and written concerning the feasibility of those projects, the advantages of which would certainly be very great; but nothing has been yet attempted; and the hope and expectation now are, that some foreign capitalists will fix their attention on so important a subject; consulting thereby their own advantage as well as that of the republic.
The Ulua is said equally to merit the notice of enterprising individuals: this beautiful river is at all times navigable for forty leagues from its mouth to the Barranco Colorado, and, in the rainy seasons, as far as Maniani, which is four leagues from the city of Comaiagua: the Aguan is also navigable to Olanchito.
The executive government being desirous of seeing a steam-navigation adopted in some or all of these rivers, ordered, on the 22d June, 1824, a despatch to be sent to their minister in the United States, authorizing him to receive proposals from the merchants of that country for carrying the same into effect.
There are many large lakes which at once ornament and fertilize this country: the Golfo Dulce of Honduras and the lake of Nicaragua, by which the water-communication between the two seas is in process of being adopted, are most worthy of attention. They are well calculated for the navigation of steam-vessels.
The ports of this republic are, in the north, Izabal, Omoa, Truxillo, San Juan, and Matina; and in the south, Nicoya, Realejo, Conchagua, Acajutla, Libertad, and that of Istapa, or of Independence; the last two being made free ports by decrees of the 6th and 10th of February, 1824. History relates that Alvarado, the Conqueror, constructed vessels at the bar of Istapa, and that this was for a long time the port of Guatemala, being only eighteen leagues distant from the ancient capital.
The port of Culebra, in the state of Nicaragua, is not yet made free, but it has been reconnoitred by two engineers, who thus report of it. "Two hundred ships ride in it with safety; at fifty yards from shore it has from ten to twelve fathoms water with a good sandy bottom; being surrounded by fine woods, with plenty of fresh water, and having close to it farms of neat cattle; it is a league and a half wide at its mouth, and divided into three channels by some islands: the entrances are clear and deep, and its interior is sheltered from all winds."
POLITICAL CONSIDERATIONS RESPECTING BOUNDARIES.
With regard to the boundaries of the territory of Guatemala, there are three questions of political interest, appearing to require some commentary or consideration;—namely, that relating to Mexico respecting Chiapa, that with the Colombian government respecting the south-east coast of Honduras, and that with Great Britain respecting the line of demarcation between the territories of that republic and His Majesty's colony at Belize:—as far as relates to the question of Chiapa, the boundary between the two republics of Mexico and Guatemala cannot, pending the unsettled state of that business, be attempted to be defined. I have mentioned the subject merely to state that the proceedings which have been had between the parties, have been of a friendly nature, and that the greater part of the population of that state are favourable to their union with Guatemala, although the same is now included in the list of the states of Mexico.
The coast from Cape Gracias á Dios towards Chagre was said to have been claimed by Colombia, in consequence of the decree of San Lorenzo, of the 30th of November 1803, which joined it to Granada, and took it from Guatemala. It was pretended that the Colombians forced vessels to land at some port in Colombia before they should touch upon the coast in question: the Guatemalian Minister, Soza, in his Exposé of 1825, observes that this declaration greatly surprised his government; that the territory in question had always belonged to Guatemala; that, in the law decreed by the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia of the 23rd June 1824, upon the division of their country, the Mosquito coast is not comprehended; and that, in the Note of the 29th July, with which the Minister of State accompanied the said decree to the Intendant of the department of Magdalena, it is definitively stated as not belonging to Colombia; and that, farther, the Guatemalian Envoy to Colombia, in his communication of the 28th September, says, with relation to the subject, that he has been assured that the Government of Colombia "had had no other idea than that of preventing the formation of Establishments on the said coast." Nevertheless, the question has not yet been definitively arranged.
By a treaty dated Versailles, the 3rd of September 1786, British settlers were allowed the privilege of cutting mahogany and logwood on that part of the Honduras shore which now constitutes the colony of Belize. In the treaty alluded to, there is no sovereign right made over to his Majesty to that territory, and I have understood that the boundaries between that settlement and the then Spanish Colonies, now constituting the Guatemalian Republic, were never properly defined. It is unnecessary to add, that Guatemala would be naturally desirous of giving every facility towards the final adjustment of such boundaries, especially with a nation whom they so much look up to and respect as they do Great Britain; and that, as far as they are concerned, they would not, of course, think of questioning any sovereign right, which, at any time or under any circumstances, might possibly be claimed by his Britannic Majesty to the territory alluded to, and which is of far greater importance as a depot for the British trade with the American Republics than is generally supposed.
BOUNDARIES OF STATES.
Although the Assembly, by its act of the 1st of July 1823, had declared the independence, the states of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica had not then been represented: their adhesion was, however, subsequently pronounced on the 1st of October 1824, and the 5th of March 1825;— from which time these three states, in conjunction with those of Guatemala and San Salvador, formed the Federal Republic.
A new division of the territories of these states has been made so as to give to each a due portion of sea-coast. The accompanying map which I planned with Don José de Valle, and is now first printed, will best show their respective boundaries.
There is no recent census of the population of Guatemala. The last was taken about twenty-two years ago: it was very inaccurate; but, nevertheless, with reference to it, and other later sources of information, the present population may be fairly stated as follows.
The capital of Guatemala, including the Alcaldias Mayores of Sucatepeque, Sonsonate, Escuintla, Suchitepeque, Chinaltenango, Sololá, Totomicapan and Vera
|In the State of Guatemala||850,000|
|In the State of Honduras||280,000|
|In the State of San Salvador||330,000|
|In the State of Nicaragua||330,000|
|In the State of Costa Rica||180,000|
|In the Ports of Truxillo, Omoa, Golfo, and Garrison of Peten||30,000|
Of this population about 50,000 reside in the capital, and about 140,000 in the four other capitals of the several states of the Federation.
|In San Salvador||39,000|
|Whites and Creoles||One-fifth|
Of Europeans, or perfect whites, there are not more than 5,000, so that they are in the proportion of five souls to 2,000, and this aggregate, with the exception only of the native Indians, may be merged in one general denomination of Mesties, or mixed. There are no slaves; and every individual enjoys equal civil rights.
It is true that the census above referred to, and which was taken in 1803, gives only a population of one million: it is argued that it must have increased since that period at the rate of five per cent., and that therefore it must be doubled, especially as the small-pox has ceased its ravages, and as in other respects, the country has never, during the whole of that period, suffered either from plague or femine. I am inclined to concur with the opinion that the country is populating very fast; for not only in the towns but in the small villages, I could not help being struck with the numbers of young children. The following statement will shew that in the metropolis, the births for one year exceeded the deaths in the ratio of two to one.
STATEMENT OF THE BIRTHS AND DEATHS IN GUATEMALA IN 1823.
This great excess of the births over the deaths may in some measure be explained by the excellence of the food, the benignity of the climate, and perhaps the morality of the people, as compared with the population of most other large capitals. It is well known that there have been three capital cities all built in different places, as each former one was separately destroyed by earthquake.
|Guatemala, now styled Vieja, or Old, contains about||2,000|
|The Antigua, or Ancient, a most beautiful spot, about||18,000|
|The Nueva or New Capital, contains||50,000|
|Sundry Villages within five or six leagues of the Capital, say forty, with a population of 300 souls each||12,000|
|The City of Guatemala, with its vicinities, contains about||82,000|
The annual consumption of beeves in the Nueva, or present capital, is nearly 1000 head; the proportion of swine killed is nearly the same; but scarcely any sheep are slaughtered, and mutton is only used on days of festivity or occasions of compliment; the flocks being valued and preserved chiefly on account of their wool, which is sold at an enormous profit, in the shape of coarse cloaks to the Indians, particularly in Nicaragua and San Salvador, at annual fairs which are held there,—in the latter province at the town of San Miguel, on Ash Wednesday and the 20th of November, and in the former, at the town of Apastepeque on the 15th of September and the 2d and 31st of October.
Nevertheless, the supply of woollen goods on such occasions is not equal to the demand, and the Guatemalian shopkeepers are accustomed every year to take all their stock of similar articles to those marts, although they have thus to encounter the labour and expense of journeys of seventy and 160 leagues.
Provisions, with the exception of that kind eaten by the natives, and which consists of frixoles, or dried beans, maize and plantains, very cheap and almost their only nutriment, are dearer in Guatemala than perhaps most parts of Europe.
In a country so plentiful and so thinly peopled, this fact appears somewhat extraordinary, but perhaps it may be accounted for by the low state of agriculture and the comparative abundance of specie; to which it may be added that few cattle are bred in the neighbourhood of Guatemala, it being pretended that in the dry season there is a deficiency of pasture: they are therefore mostly brought from parts at from thirty to fifty leagues distance.
In Sonsonate and other country places a fine fat ox is bought at from twelve to sixteen dollars, and it is retailed at about half a rial, or three pence, per pound.
PRICES OF PROVISIONS IN THE CITY OF GUATEMALA.
|Beef and Pork||2||Rials,||or Sterling 1s per lb.|
|Poultry||from 3d to 6d each.|
|Cheese (very bad)||½||or||3d per lb.|
|White Sugar||1||or||6d per lb.|
|Brown Sugar||½||or||3d do.|
|Milk||6d per quart.|
|Brandy of the country||6d per bottle.|
|Do. Spanish||2s. do.|
|Wine (made from wild, poor grapes of the country)||1s. do.|
It has been above stated that the territorial extent of Guatemala is greater than that of Peru or Chile. Humboldt calculated it in 1809 at 26,152 square leagues, and in a subsequent statement at 16,700 square leagues. Taking it at this lowest calculation, its territory and population with respect to those two republics are as follow:
It is in fact, with respect to territory, the fourth in rank, and with regard to its relative population the most considerable of any of the South American states,—as will appear by the following statement.
RELATIVE POPULATION OF THE NEW REPUBLICS AS REGARDS THE NUMBER OF INHABITANTS TO THE SQUARE LEAGUE.
|Square leagues.||Population.||Inhabitants to the square league.|
NUMBER AND WEALTH OF TOWNS.
The five states, constituting the republic of Guatemala, are divided into forty five partidos, or districts, each having its capital or head settlement. These districts contain, besides the capitals, 253 minor towns and villages. I shall proceed to show the sources of wealth of the chief towns only, as those of the minor settlements may be supposed not to differ materially in their nature from the trade and productions of their respective capitals.
In the state of Guatemala are thirteen districts, the capitals of which, with their respective productions, are as follow:
|Districts.||Towns.||Productions and Manufactures.|
|Sacaltepeque||Guatemala||Cochineal, cotton, ordinary cloths, fruits.|
|Chimaltenango||same name as district.||Wheat, maize.|
|Solola||same name as district||Neat cattle|
|Totonicapan||idem||Goats, wool, clothing of the same, wheat, many ordinary manufactures.|
|Gueguetenango||idem||idem, idem, and lead mines.|
|Suchitepequez||Mazatenango||Cocoa, cotton, cattle, woods.|
|Esçuintla||same name as district||A little indigo, cattle, cotton.|
|Chiquimula||idem||Cattle, horses, mules, indigo, cotton.|
|San Agustin||idem||Idem, with achote, cocoa, wheat.|
In the state of San Salvador are four districts, each bearing the same name as its respective capital.
|Districts and Capitals.||Productions and Manufactures.|
|San Salvador||Indigo, cochineal, cocoa, balsam, saffron, cattle, cotton cloths, embroidered bridles, palm nuts, all kinds of fruit, sugar, tobacco.|
|Sonsonate||Cotton, wheat, cotton cloths, indigo, cattle, hats, mats, sugar, all kinds of fruits and cattle for sale, artificial flowers of shell work, of which latter they export to the value of £10,000 per annum to Peru, Chile, &c.|
|San Miguel||Indigo, cochineal, hides, nets, hammocks, sacking of Mezcal or Maguay, cotton, silver-mines.|
|San Vincete||idem, with gold mines.|
In the state of Honduras are twelve districts, each bearing the same name as its respective capital.
|Districts and Capitals.||Productions and Manufactures.|
|Comaiagua||Gold, silver, copper and iron mines, neat cattle|
|Cantaranas||Gold, silver, copper and iron mines, neat cattle.|
|Gracias||Wheat, sugar, indigo, tobacco, precious stones.|
|Segobia, (the capital of which is also called Somoto.)||Naphtha, cattle, tobacco, silver mines.|
In the state of Nicaragua and districts, each bearing the same name as its respective capital.
|Districts and Capitals.||Productions and Manufactures.|
|Leon||Indigo, woods, cattle.|
|Granada||idem, with cacao.|
|Managua||Indigo, wood, cattle, cacao.|
|Masaya||idem, with manufactories of hats and mats.|
The above notices combined with the statements I shall proceed to offer on the commerce of Guatemala, will it is hoped give not only some idea of the particular sources of wealth, but also of the relative importance of the principal towns of the republic. These towns contain, one with another, from 5000 to 12,000 inhabitants, exclusive of the five capitals of the several states, the population in which, we have seen, is about 190,000. Each of the federative states is engaged in forming its own statistical account; but that of San Salvador alone has been as yet completed.
From the foregoing particulars, it may be deduced that the productions common to the whole territory of Guatemala, and therefore the sources of the present and prospective wealth of its towns, are cochineal, indigo, tobacco, cotton, wheat, maize and other esculent grain and fruits;—that it has some manufactures of an ordinary nature, and that in the sierras, or mountains, are many mineral and precious stones. The whole of the territory being uneven and mountainous, there is scarcely a district, however small, in which the fruits of different climates might not be cultivated with success. In the low and hot tracts, cacao, indigo, and cotton abound; in the high and cold, animals of the lanigerous kind are bred. In Sololá and other parts are manufactures of coarse woollen cloths for the consumption of the natives: finer cloths have been attempted, but, on account of the price or the expense of manufacture, the former only are in general use. Flax and hemp are produced plentifully, but no pains are bestowed on their cultivation, owing to the abundance of cotton, which does not require so much preparation for its manufacture.
SANTIAGO, THE CAPITAL.
Santiago de Guatemala, the capital, stands in the midst of a large handsome plain, surrounded on all sides by sierras of a moderate height, and at the distance of from three to seven leagues. These mountains which give to the whole view the valley of Mexico in miniature, are not so far off but that the eye may discover, through the rectilinear streets, in every direction, the verdure of the trees with which the surrounding heights are clad, and which, with the sloping meadow lands of different hues, affords a refreshing object, forming, as it were, a screen to the little city which lies in the midst, glaring with its white walls and domes and steeples of Yessa-cement in the rays of a tropical sun.
The houses are all built in quadras or squares of about 120 to 160 feet; and, sometimes, the front of one house occupies a whole quadra; but none of them exceed eighteen or twenty feet in height: of course they are only of one story, a precaution not so much suggested by fear of earthquakes as enjoined by the old Spanish law.
The streets are neatly paved, either with common stones, or more generally with a gray-streaked marble, which makes them very slippery, and riding or driving very dangerous. They slope from each side towards the centre, along which runs almost perpetually a streamlet of clear water, the edges of which being covered with verdure give to the city a picturesque though deserted appearance. In some few of the streets there are trottoirs, particularly in the Plaza, or chief square, where they are covered with a colonnade extending all round the square, excepting on the side occupied by the cathedral: opposite to this is the palace, with the government offices; and, on the two other sides, are retail shops of all descriptions of dry goods; whilst the area is used as a market where the Indians come daily to sell their poultry, fruit, and other provisions. In the centre is a fountain of excellent water, issuing from a crocodile's head of indifferent workmanship.
Many of the churches are large and of fine architecture. They are kept much cleaner and neater than they are at Mexico. A new one called the Pantheon, with spacious vaults for a cemetery under it, is just being completed in an expensive style, and another within fifty yards of it is being constructed for the use of the convent of Augustin nuns. Another large church newly erected at the west end of the city was opened and dedicated to St. Teresa on the 29th of May. The rest of the temples devoted to religion and the nature of their endowments have been abeady mentioned in the personal narrative.
Viewed at a distance, few cities present a more beautiful aspect than this, and, internally, though not strikingly pleasing, there is nothing in it, save a degree of dullness, that can excite absolute dislike. Its height above the level of the sea is about 1800 feet. The variation of temperature between the nights and days, so peculiar to the high table lands, is not found here: the mean heat from the 1st of January to the 1st of July is 75° at night 63° : in the summer months the average may be taken at 10 degrees higher;—a moderate temperature for a city situated as this is in 14° 28' north latitude, and 92° 40' west longitude. The city of which I speak is the third capital which has existed within these last seventy-seven years. The original, which was erected at the declivity of the grand volcano, on the edge of a valley which fronted the Pacific, and contained about 7000 families, was destroyed by an earthquake in the year 1751. Being rebuilt a little further to the northward, in the romantic spot now called the Antigua, the same was destroyed, by a more tremendous convulsion, in 1775: although the greater part of the inhabitants were buried in the ruins, and the city was removed by order of the government to the spot on which it now Stands, which is twenty-five geographical miles to the northward of the Antigua, the latter is still a favourite place of resort: the congress of the state is held in it, and it has seldom a population of less than from 12 to 18,000 inhabitants. The present capital is frequently subjected to the shock of earthquakes, but being so far from the volcano, the inhabitants begin to lose all apprehension concerning them
The policy which Old Spain has adopted towards Guatemala has been accompanied with effects of unintentional kindness in as far as regards the financial relations of their republic. With resources of an almost boundless nature, she has been taught to exist within a scale of very circumscribed economy. Being a captainship, and not a viceroyalty like Mexico, it was still less favoiwed than that country by the parent State, and was never allowed to export more of its native productions than were sufficient to pay for the articles of commerce which the merchants of Cadiz thought necessary for its consumption. The scale of the public expenditure was kept down and limited in deference to that of the higher pretensions of the Mexican and other viceroyalties, and, as its financial wants were few, so the adequate resources were of easy collection and weighed comparatively lightly upon the people: it is also certain that, if the exchequer was not overflowing, it was not embarrassed with any considerable debt.
The political events, however, which immediately preceded the revolution, began to disorganize the tranquil and inert system of the public finance: the revenue began to decline by degrees, and, upon the installation of the national authorities in 1821, the whole system was labouring under a perfect state of paralysis. The tribute paid by the Indians had been suppressed, together with the taxes on cards and ice. In the imperial government which followed, violent hands were laid upon the funds of the mint as well as upon many other resources which the exigencies of that unfortunate period seemed, with some degree of plausibility, to exact. Then, the constituent assembly suppressed the branch of income arising from bulls, that of fifths on gold and silver, that of the moiety of secular revenues, the duty upon passing goods of import and export through the garita, or customs guard-house, and that of two per cent, paid by the growers of tobacco.—The ordinary alcavala, or internal duty, was reduced from six to four per cent, the former rate having been exacted in the time of the Mexican government: national iron was made free of duty, and also, for five years, all kinds of warlike stores either for consumption or trans-shipment.
The abolition of these taxes, which was in pursuance of the decree of the 1st of December 1823, at the same time that it gave a decided impulse to national industry, left the treasury in a most impoverished state. The federative government obtained little pecuniary aid from the several states of which it was composed, and, in fact, what it did receive, was solely from the state of Guatemala itself or from Honduras.The duty of seven per cent, on the clear value of all the ecclesiastical revenues was inconsiderable: those of stamps, post-office, and tobacco were newly organized by specific decrees, and a petition having passed from the government of the 2d of March 1824, for an increase of the duties on importation, the assembly decreed an augmentation of four per cent. To increase the difficulties which still wanted to be reformed, the states separated their revenues from those of the federal fund.
In February 1824, the executive power ordered a commission to be formed to settle and propose the best means for effecting a beneficial change in the state of the revenue, composed of a principal officer in each branch, assisted by one of the individuals of the executive. The result was that, out of all the rents, four items only were destined by the assembly for the general expenses of the republic; namely, those of gunpowder, post-office, tobacco, and maritime alcavala. The first has been put upon a better regulation, so also has the post-office: fresh facilities for the cultivation of tobacco have been decreed by the law of the 21st of December 1824, and the collection of the maritime alcavala has been facilitated by fresh arrangements, including the appointment of several new officers of competent ability and zeal.
The minister of finance commences his report by candidly affirming that "It is not possible to fix the true value of the revenues on account of the disorders introduced into the administration, and, therefore although they may be taken as approximating to the truth, they must not be accounted as giving a precise statement of the riches of the country." He then proceeds to give some particulars or accounts of the alcavala and of the tobacco, with some notice of the tribute, now abolished, and of the mint, subjoining a list of twenty-six other items of duty with the annual amount receivable from each, and concludes with an abstract statement of the annual expenditure and a short account of the public debt.—To render this account practically available for the elucidation of the present system of the receipt and expenditure of Guatemala, it is necessary to advert to the fact that, for the general expenses of the republic, only four items of duty are available; and these must be separated from the others which are applicable only to the wants of the respective states in which they are collected. Thus the financial system is divided into two heads: there is the general system of the federation, and the individual systems of each respective state. With regard to the latter, it is not possible to deduce any accurate results: each of the five portions of the federation passes its laws for its own internal guidance, raises its own revenues, and regulates its disbursements. The amount of the whole of the duties receivable by the several states, according to the tariff of the minister of finance is 173,564 dollars, six rials, the gunpowder duty and post-office having been deducted. In order to see whether this sum is likely to supply the necessary demands of the several states to which it applies, it is desirable to revert to the value of the duties collected on the same articles, under the Spanish government.
From an historical sketch of the revenue made up to the year 1818, giving an account of the nature, origin, and then-produce of each item, it should appear that the common and particular branches of revenue corresponding with those referred to by the minister of finance, produced on the average of the five years ending 1817 viz.—
If therefore, as it is fair to expect, the country shall begin to feel the benefit of the liberal institutions it has adopted with regard to trade and other objects likely to conduce to its advancement, its revenue must naturally increase, and it may be reasonably presumed that the above sum of 357,745d. 3½r. which was collected by the old régime is not greater than what may be expected to be obtained by the several federal states under their own dispositions of government; and, should it be the case, the same might, perhaps, be fully adequate to the expenses which they may incur in their respective administrations.
The general financial system of the federation is next to be considered; and, although it has been before observed, no direct statement or abstract of this branch has been presented by authority or in any public manner, it would be fortunate for any country if its account could be rendered with equal facility. There is an old national domestic debt, of which an explanation is given by the minister of finance, amounting to 1,825,189 dollars; for the redemption of which, however, there should appear by his statement to be ample funds. There is now a small debt, of course, arising from that portion of the loan which has been realized with the house of Barclay and Co., which was intended to the amount of 7,142,857 dollars; and should any further sums be raised they ought hardly to be calculated by their arithmetical amount, as they would tend to consolidate the new system of a government which has been able to establish and maintain itself almost without any pecuniary assistance whatever: the whole loan which has been received by Guatemala from this country, does not exceed £100,000 sterling.
The expenses of the federal administration for the year 1825, were calculated as follow, viz.—
|Expenses of the ministry of state||54,950|
|Do. of justice and ecclesiastical affairs||17,600|
|Do. of finance||178,208|
|Do. of war and marine||627,828|
|The estimated income was, viz.—||Dollars.|
This excess of expenditure over the receipts, or estimated income, was so inconsiderable as to render it doubtful whether it were wise or expedient for the government to contract any loan at all. As I have just observed, they have, from untoward and unprecedented circumstances which affected the monied interests of Great Britain at the time the loan which they anticipated was about to be realized, learnt to do without one. I am, however, strongly of opinion that they ought to raise a small sum, say about two millions sterling, as soon as circumstances will permit, to retain the consequence and solidity which they have already acquired against the innovations of domestic enemies, who would not probably have ventured to molest them, had they been fortified with the means which they had expected. The small amount which has been already advanced on Barclay's loan has been usefully applied in payment of the army, defence of the ports, and other objects of pressing, national importance. Looking at the financial affairs of the republic in this flattering point of view, we can hardly forbear from drawing a comparison between it and some of the neighbouring republics. The expenditure of Mexico in 1823 was 9,481,782 dollars; that of Guatemala 878,586: supposing then the population of the latter, taking it at the lowest possible calculation, to be 1,600,000 souls, and the population of Mexico to be 6,800,000, it would result that each individual in Mexico would pay eleven rials, and each one in Guatemala four rials for their contributions to their respective governments. The expense of the Colombian government, in 1824, was 12,703,818 dollars, of which eleven-twelfths were for the army and navy: the proportion for the same service in Guatemala was about nine-twelfths of its general expenditure.
The Report furnished by the Government on the state of their trade was, in many respects, more satisfactory as being more clear and specific than some of their other documents. The inquiries of the Commission appointed for this purpose were called to the state of the trade for the five years preceding their independence, to the five years subsequent to that event, and to the probable progress which it might be expected to make for the future. The result of this inquiry has been that, previous to the independence, the trade, owing to the confusion arising from political events, "was very indifferent," that "from the independence to 1825, it may be considered to have increased to double," and they add that "in order to calculate the progress it may make for the future, it is only necessary to raise the veil to the grand picture which presents itself to the world, of a country possessing in its bosom the richest elements of commercial productions, with its own government, with its liberal institutions, and with a general desire of applying itself to those useful labours by which the commerce of nations has always flourished."—They remark that their commerce with Spain consisted almost entirely in their two staple articles of indigo and cochineal: of the former they used to export at one time 8,500 tercios, to the value of upwards of 2,000,000 dollars annually, taking in exchange the goods of the Peninsula;—it being so regulated that the import of goods from Spain should not be allowed to exceed the value of the indigo or other articles exported. In the five years previous to the independence, these exports are said to have been reduced to one half, or were at the rate of 1,000,000 dollars annually. They had already, in 1825, regained the maximum to which they had risen in their most flourishing times, previous to the independence, viz. of 2,000,000 of dollars annually, and reasons were urged for supposing that in the course of a short time the annual export of this article would increase to more than 5,000,000.
The report then takes a cursory view of the other staple branches of commerce, affixing in some instances the estimated value of the articles exported, and, in others, omitting them altogether.—To supply this deficiency, and in order to arrive at some practical result as to the probable value of their trade, I will here divide the articles above alluded to in the Report under two heads;—viz. those to which a value is affixed by the Commission and those to which no value is affixed, supplying the deficiency in the latter case by other documents and sources of information that have fallen into my way, and more particularly by one which was furnished me by Don Juan Mayorga, the minister at Mexico, purporting to be the value of "articles of barter or consumption of Guatemala." From these data the present state of the value of the trade of Guatemala may be thus represented:—viz.
Value of particular Articles as stated in the Report of the Commission employed by the Guatemalian government.
|Indigo, value of exports in 1824||2,000,000|
|Do. of goods imported in exchange||2,000,000|
|Cochineal, estimated value of export in 1825||2,500,000|
|Do. of goods imported in exchange||2,500,000|
|Balsam, estimated value of export in 1825||195,000|
|Do. of goods imported in exchange||195,000|
|Hides, value of exports, in 1824||30,000|
|Do. of goods imported in exchange||30,000|
|In all, the value of particular articles as stated in the Report of the Commission employed by the Guatemalian government||9,450,000|
|Gold and silver||1,000,000|
|Pitch and tar||5,000|
|Value of exports of above articles||3,535,000|
|Value of goods imported in exchange||3,535,000|
|In all the value of articles stated in the Report of the Commission, but against which no values being affixed, the same are herein assumed from other data||7,070,000|
|Total value of the import and export trade of Guatemala||16,520,000|
equal, at 4s per dollar, to £3,304,000.—According to the report of the government, the value of foreign goods imported is £1,652,000 sterling, and half of this being put down as British produce, would make the value of our exports £826,000: this, however, is far from correct: the value of them is double that amount. In the colony of Belize alone, a settlement which may one day become a most valuable entrepôt for all the more immediate points of the Spanish Main, and including, of course, the rising republic of Guatemala, there is a capital little short of two millions sterling employed at the present day. It is to this colony that the Guatemalian merchants come to make their purchases; and owing to the facilities thus offered by its situation, as well as on account of the duties of introduction being so much lower into that republic than they are at Mexico,—being in the proportion of about sixteen to seventy per cent.—it follows, necessarily, that Guatemala is much better supplied with British goods than is Mexico.
Recapitulation of the Trade of Guatemala.
|Trade from and to Jamaica.|
|Value imported by Guatemalian merchants||350,000|
|Do. smuggled into Omoa and Nicaragua||100,000|
|Profit to Jamaica merchants, ten per cent||45,000|
|Total imported into Guatemala from Jamaica||£495,000|
|Value of returns in indigo and cochineal, for British goods imported by Guatemalian merchants||350,000|
|Do. do. for British goods smuggled||100,000|
|Total exported from Guatemala into Jamaica||450,000|
|Total value of the trade from and to Jamaica||£945,000|
|Trade from and to Belize.|
|Value of dry goods imported by British merchants||1,500,000|
|Profits of British merchants, ten per cent. on do.||150,000|
|Indigo and Cochineal, exported by British merchants, the value in return for dry goods||1,500,000|
|Additional value of Guatemalian produce, over and above the value of dry goods||200,000|
|Value of mahogany||400,000|
|Total value of the trade from and to Belize||£3,750,000|
|So that the value of the trade of Guatemala is|
|With Belize, the entrepôt of Guatemala||3,750,000|
The trade of Belize has increased very much, within these few years, owing to the establishment of commission houses: some of them are in the habit of receiving monies which had been destined for the Havannah and the United States; and this intercourse will be larger as the facilities of exporting Guatemalian produce may increase. The bar at the entrance of the Golfo Dulce is the chief cause why Belize is valuable as an entrepôt. It is by this medium that goods being reshipped, are passed to and from Guatemala in vessels, calculated for the purpose, and which must not draw more than seven or eight feet water.
CONSIDERATIONS ON THE NATURE AND VALUE OF GOODS IMPORTED INTO GUATEMALA AND THE OTHER SOUTH AMERICAN REPUBLICS.
When I left Guatemala at the end of the year 1825, I made out an estimate of the trade which was carried on by the new republics with all parts of the world and the proportion of that trade which was then enjoyed by Great Britain. Subsequent information which I have obtained on these points, has induced me to think that statement as near to the truth as in subjects of so complicated a nature it is reasonable to expect.
It is supposed, and not improperly, that about one half of the merchandize imported into Guatemala is British, and it consists chiefly of broad cloth, all kinds of cotton goods, hard ware and other dry goods. The Spanish as well as the French have the principal trade in silks, glass, and trinkets; also in wines and spirits; but the latter are imported very sparingly, on account of the expense of bringing them up from the coast, which raises the price of them nearly fifty per cent. There are also introduced, by the port of Sonsonate, great quantities of crapes and other China goods, which are, in fact, so common amongst the middle orders as to lose all pretensions to the estimation in which they are held in Europe. British goods are sold, here, very cheap, not, perhaps, all charges included of freight, commission, duties, &c. above thirty per cent, higher than they can be purchased at the respectable retail shops in London. The fall in their prices as compared with those at which they sold before the ports were opened, or when the Spaniards had the monopoly, is excessive: they may, in most cases, be bought for less than one tenth of the former price. This advantage has been taken from the Spanish monopolist and given to the free trader as well as to the people of the country, who consume more European manufactures in one year than they probably did, before the revolution, in a century.
Alluding to the estimate which I made in 1825, it would appear that the value of goods exported from Great Britain to the new republics might be then taken at about ten millions sterling per annum: The amount at present, in 1829, is about twelve millions.
From official returns, the value of the exports from Great Britain into the new republics, in 1824, was—
|To Spanish America||2,377,110|
|To the West Indies||4,622,804|
|To Foreign West Indies||1,702,198|
|Deduct as proportion not sent to the new republics, say,||2,127,436|
|Total Exports from Great Britain to the new republics in 1824||£10,000,000|
which was the presumed annual consumption in those republics of British and Irish manufacture and of foreign and colonial merchandize.
Estimated value of goods exported from all countries into the South American Republics.—
|The value of the export trade from France to those republics, according to the Exposé of the French minister, of May 1825, was sixteen millions of francs, equal in sterling to||£666,666|
|The value of goods exported from the United States, exclusive of British produce and manufacture shipped from them, say,||3,333,334|
|Exported from Spain, Germany and other parts of the continent of Europe, say,||4,500,000|
|Exported from China and East Indies||1,500,000|
|In all exported from all parts (exclusive of Great Britain) to the new republics of America||£10,000,000|
in the following proportions:
|Great Britain exports to those republics||20–40ths|
|Spain, Germany, and other parts||9–40|
Let us now consider the state of the trade as it exists in the present year, 1829.
Previously to the sailing of the British Commission to Mexico, which was the first that proceeded to those countries, the whole export trade to Mexico, from Great Britain, in 1822, amounted only to £90,692 sterling. In 1825, during the period of the Commission, it reached to £1,409,356. To Colombia, in 1822, the exports were only £27,572, and in 1825 they amounted to £651,103. In Buenos Ayres, in 1822, they were £230,839, and in 1824 they rose to £1,581,774.—Between 1822, the period at which the Missions were first sent out, and 1827, including the year of stagnation of 1825, the total exports of Great Britain to those countries have increased, from £3,990,344 in 1822, to £6,602,163, making a difference, in favour of Great Britain, between our exports in 1822 and 1827, of £2,611,819 sterling. — The aggregate amount of the exports from 1823 to 1827, five years, was £32,875,855, making the annual average of direct exports £6,575,171. Now, the expenses of the Commissions and Consulships for these five years, never exceeded, on the average, £70,000 per annum; they consequently amounted, for that period, to £350,000, leaving a benefit to Great Britain of upwards of £6,000,000 sterling;—whilst the expense has been seven pounds in six hundred,—a little more than one per cent., on the advantages which our country has derived from the employment of the manufacturing interest, which was then anxiously looking out for fresh sources of external trade. I say nothing of the increased exports from those countries, whilst a proper confidence existed between us; but which was unfortunately shaken, by the crisis of 1825;—neither would I add, might it not be unknown to some of my readers, that full half of the trade to the Old Spanish Main is carried on through the West India Islands and Belize: Lord Liverpool knew the fact well, and stated it in his speech, in the House of Lords, on the 5th of February, 1822;—when his lordship also truly remarked that, out of forty-two millions of the British exports, seventeen millions were taken by America. From the above data the export trade to South America, direct and indirect, may at present be estimated at from ten to twelve millions—a sixth part of such exports is taken by Guatemala,—not by the direct trade as entered at the British Custom-house, but through Belize, Jamaica, the Havannah, and even the United States.—It also appears beyond doubt that the direct British trade to South America has already increased nearly two-fold, by means of the new connexions formed with these republics.
A country, which has never been engaged against a foreign enemy in active warfare, cannot be expected to possess a large military force. The army of Guatemala was never, like that of Colombia and others of the new independent states, compelled to take the field, in any considerable manner, against the forces of the
Mother Country: the battles fought for its independence were merely with the neighbouring states; and, previously to its organization as a republic, the horrors of war and bloodshed never visited the tranquil plains of Santiago, excepting in the few skirmishes that took place during the time in which Iturbide attempted to urge his unjust pretensions, and endeavoured to unite the captaincy of Guatemala to the Viceroyalty of Mexico, to constitute his empire. Its military enterprise was then divided into two factions; one in favour of absolute independence, and the other subservient to the views of that would-be despotic chief: the result of that contest has proved creditable to the prowess of those leaders who were animated by the views of liberty, and shows that the troops, who shared their sentiments, were able to compete with numbers larger than their own, and, ultimately, to expel them from the field of action.
The general state of the military defence of Guatemala may be best gathered from the official report of the government.—This report observes that "the north coast is defended by the strong garrisons of Omoa, Truxillo, the Gulf, and San Carlos,—all being perfectly furnished with artillery; and having respectable forts and batteries at all the points of disembarkation. In the south," (it adds,) "there are some points defended; and if they are not so, it is because those of the northern coast have the rather called the attention of the government, as being more open to any premeditated invasion on the part of the Spaniards; but both in one and the other, the means of defence are very considerable." It argues that "the first enemy that the European has to encounter is the climate," and that "if he should, by chance, get possession of the fortresses, and try to push his way into the interior, he would meet with obstacles innumerable; a country mountainous and rugged, facilitating ambuscade, and offering to light troops the ready means of acting with success, agreeably to the nature of their manœuvres, against the advances of a more numerous and respectable force."
The systematic organization of the army is not yet completed. Its numerical strength in 1825 was stated as follows:—
|Permanent troops as decreed by the legislature||1,800||men|
|Regular militia, including artillery, infantry, and cavalry||10,750|
Some corps of the regular militia are usually stationed in the vicinities of the coast, and could place themselves in a few hours in the maritime forts: I saw several of these troops in the various parts of the country through which I travelled: they appeared to be light active men, and well suited to endure the privations which they would necessarily have to experience in guerilla-warfare; the only mode in which, I should presume, they could be expected to encounter any regular invading army. They are usually dressed in white or coloured cotton or nankeen jackets and trowsers, with broad-brimmed hats made of straw or other light material: their arms and other equipments are very indifferent: their muskets are of various calibres, and many of them are almost unserviceable: of course, their whole appearance is very far from soldier-like.
The cavalry horses are small but very active and hardy and well adapted to the country: they are never curried or cleaned, and scarcely ever shod. The body of civic or local militia purports to include every male citizen from the age of eighteen to forty-five years: as the population is estimated at two millions, the number of individuals liable to serve in that militia should amount, on an average, to about 250,000: the fact, however, is that, according to the latest returns made up previously to my leaving the country, the actual number enlisted did not exceed 10,000 men. This civic or local militia is raised and equipped by the several states, and its disposition is under the control of their respective governments. The number of regular troops voted by the legislature may appear to be very small, but it has proved itself sufficient for the purpose of supporting the privileges and authority of the government throughout the internal disturbances with which the republic has been recently assailed.
When the supreme executive power was established, the army consisted of only two veteran companies of artillery, each of 120 men: the infantry was reduced to a fixed battalion of five corps, comprehending, in all, 565 men. There were also the fixed or permanent garrisons in Omoa, Truxillo, San Carlos, and Peten, amounting, together, to as many more. Thus the veteran force, on the declaration of the independence, amounted to about 1,400 men; small, indeed, for supporting the sovereign rights of a nation; but the supreme government had a powerful succour in its militia, which was composed of three companies of artillery, six battalions of infantry and thirty light infantry companies, which made, altogether, a force of about 10,000 men.
The fixed battalion was disbanded by a decree of the constitutional assembly, in consequence of a sedition which took place on the 15th of September 1823; and the artillery company, then in the city, were also disembodied, for having joined in that disturbance. On the 17th of December of the same year, the assembly passed a decree for augmenting the national army with 1800 men: though aware of the necessity of raising this force without delay, they considered that it would be imprudent to do so without being possessed of the pecuniary means of maintaining it; and if, on the one hand, they felt how much the cause of independence might suffer from the want of a disposable military force, they were, on the other, alive to the dangers to be apprehended from such a body, in case the necessary supplies should not be provided for its support. Nevertheless, early in the following year, 1824, the executive ordered a light battalion to be organized with the title of "Defenders of the Independence."
There are few officers who can lay claim to military prowess, for they have had little opportunity of evincing it, excepting, however, Colonel Arze, a relation of the president. Colonel Arzu, chief of the mathematical college, and above all the president himself.
The rate of military pay is low with regard to the prices of provisions and necessaries of life. There are two national powder-mills; one at the Antigua, and the other on the banks of the river Vacas: in the former alone is manufactured all the powder requisite for the service of the state.
The flag of the national ports and vessels consists of three horizontal stripes; the bottom and top blue, and the centre white; in the latter of which is the shield of the arms of the republic; composed of an equilateral triangle, and, at the base, a cordillera of five volcanoes, placed upon a territory bounded by two seas, the upper part being encircled by a rainbow, having in its centre the cap of liberty, from which rays of light are emanating: around the triangle is written in gold letters "Estados Federados de Centro-America." The banners and standards of the permanent militia are similar to the above: the stripes are horizontal: in the centre one is placed the shield; in the upper one the words "God, Union, and Liberty", and in the inferior one the class and number of each corps.
Guatemala has no naval force; a moderate one for the protection of its coasts against pirates and smugglers would be desirable, and should they raise a small loan they would, no doubt, apply a portion of it to this object.
COMMUNICATION WITHIN ITSELF AND WITH THE EXTERIOR.
The exterior communications of the republic are chiefly carried on, in the Atlantic, by the port of Izabal in the Golfo Dulce, and the ports of Omoa and Truxillo, and, in the South Sea, by the ports of Iztapa, Acajutla, and Realejo.
The following are the distances to and from the more particular points of the republic.
|From Santiago, the capital of Guatemala,|
Although the means of correspondence existing between one place and another may be sufficient for carrying on the general routine of national or individual concerns, still there are many difficulties to be overcome before the roads can be made properly serviceable for an extensive domestic or foreign trade.
The bounty of nature and the indolence arising from the apathy in which the people have been purposely kept by the old government, have induced them to put up with many privations, which, by a little reasonable exertion, they might avoid.
Maize which is sold in Quesaltenango, a province of Guatemala, for from four to six rials a bushel, once happened to cost in San Salvador from sixteen to twenty-four dollars;—a profit of 3100 per cent. was not thought a sufficient inducement to carry this commodity a hundred leagues.
This fact may appear to be at variance with one which I have elsewhere stated relative to the conveyance of goods thrice a year, by native merchants, from the capital to fairs held at even a greater distance than that just alluded to;—but, if the difficulty of conveying merchandize be so appalling, the fact of that domestic intercourse explains a question of some political interest;—it proves the avidity with which the middle and lower classes indulge themselves in those European articles of comfort, which, since the abolition of the high duties that had hitherto prevailed, it has fallen within the compass of their ability to purchase.
- See Appendix.
- It is curious to observe how this sum, furnished from particulars by merchants at Belize, agrees with that stated in the Report of the Guatemalian Commission, page 486.
- See Appendix.
- "The greater part of the increase in our commerce and manufactures, during the last year, was to be placed to the account of North and South America, chiefly the latter."—Speech of the Marquess of Lansdowne, 5th February, 1822.