Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon, Vol.I/9
180 THE AMAZON.
Entrance into the Amazon — Nauta — Upper and Lower Missions of Mainas — Conversions of the Ucayali — Trade in sarsaparilla — Advantages of trade with this country.
The river upon which we now entered is the main trunk of the Amazon, which carries its Peruvian name of Marañon as far as Tabatinga, at the Brazilian frontier; below which, and as far as the junction of the Rio Negro, it takes the name of Solimoens; and thence to the ocean is called Amazon. It is the same stream throughout, and, to avoid confusion, I shall call it Amazon from this point to the sea.
The march of the great river in its silent grandeur was sublime; but in the untamed might of its turbid waters as they cut away its banks, tore down the gigantic denizens of the forest, and built up islands, it was awful. It rolled through the wilderness with a stately and solemn air. Its waters looked angry, sullen, and relentless; and the whole scene awoke emotions of awe and dread — such as are caused by the funeral solemnities, the minute gun, the howl of the wind, and the angry tossing of the waves, when all hands are called to bury the dead in a troubled sea.
I was reminded of our Mississippi at its topmost flood; the waters are quite as muddy and quite as turbid; but this stream lacked the charm and the fascination which the plantation upon the bank, the city upon the bluff, and the steamboat upon its waters, lend to its fellow of the North; nevertheless, I felt pleased at its sight. I had already travelled seven hundred miles by water, and fancied that this powerful stream would soon carry me to the ocean; but the water-travel was comparatively just begun; many a weary month was to elapse ere I should again look upon the familiar face of the sea; and many a time, when worn and wearied with the canoe life, did I exclaim, “This river seems interminable!”
Its capacities for trade and commerce are inconceivably great. Its industrial future is the most dazzling; and to the touch of steam, settlement, and cultivation, this rolling stream and its magnificent water-shed would start up into a display of industrial results that would indicate the Valley of the Amazon as one of the most enchanting regions on the face of the earth.
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From its mountains you may dig silver, iron, coal, copper, quicksilver, zinc, and tin; from the sands of its tributaries you may wash gold, diamonds, and precious stones; from its forests you may gather drugs of virtues the most rare, spices of aroma the most exquisite, gums and resins of the most varied and useful properties, dyes of hues the most brilliant with cabinet and building-woods of the finest polish and most enduring texture.
Its climate is an everlasting summer, and its harvest perennial.I translate from a book of travels in these countries, by Count Castelnau, (received since my return to the United States,) an account of the capacities of some of the southern portions of this vast water-shed:
“The productions of the country are exceedingly various. The sugar-cane, of which the crop is gathered at the end of eight months from the time of planting, forms the chief source of wealth of the province of Cercado.
“Coffee is cultivated also with success in this province, and in that of Chiquitos yields its fruit two years after having been planted, and requires scarcely any attention. Cocoa, recently introduced into these two provinces, gives its fruit at the end of three or four years at most. The tamarind, which thrives in the same localities, produces its harvest in five years. Cotton gives annual crops; there are two varieties — the one white, the other yellow. Tobacco grows, so to speak, without cultivation in the province of Valle Grande, where it forms the principal article of commerce. Indigo, of which there are three cultivated kinds and one wild, is equally abundant. Maize yields at the end of three months all the year round; it is also cultivated in the province of Cercado. The cassava produces in eight months after planting; there are two kinds of it — one sweet, and the other bitter; the first can replace the potato, and even bread; the second is only good for starch. There is an enormous amount of kinds or varieties of bananas, which produce in the year from seed; they are specially cultivated in the province of Cercado. Two kinds of rice — one white, the other colored — are cultivated in the two provinces of Cercado and Chiquitos. They produce every five or six months; they say it is found wild in the region of Chiquitos.
“The grape, which grows well everywhere, and especially in the province of Cordilleras, where it was cultivated in the Missions up to the time of the Independence, is nevertheless made no article of profit. It will some day, perhaps, form one of the principal sources of wealth of this country. Wheat, barley, and the potato might be cultivated with advantage in the provinces of Chiquitos and Cordilleras; but till now results have been obtained only in that of Valle Grande. The
cultivation of coca has commenced in the province of Cercado, and it is also found in a wild state, as well as the Peruvian bark , on the mountains of Samaripata. As we have already said, fruits abound in this region. They cultivate there principally oranges, lemons, citrons, figs, papaws, pomegranates, melons, watermelons, citirimoyas, (which the Brazilians call fruto de conde,) pine-apples, &c. The last of these fruits grow wild, and in great abundance, in the woods of Chiquitos. We met it, particularly the evening of our arrival, at Santa Ana. Its taste is excellent; but it leaves in the mouth such a burning sensation that I bitterly repented having tasted it. They cultivate in sufficient abundance, in the province, jalap, Peruvian bark, sarsaparilla, vanilla, rocou[annato], copahu, ipecacuanha, cooutchone, copal, &c. Woods for dyeing, cabinet-making, and building, abound; and the people of the country collect carefully a multitude of gums, roots, and barks, to which they attribute medicinal virtues the most varied. In many points in the departments, and especially in the provinces of Valle Grande and Cordilleras, iron is found, and traces of quicksilver. Gold is found in the province of Cercado, near the village of San Xavier. The Jesuits wrought mines of silver in the mountains of Colchis. Don Sebastian Rancas, while governor of Chiquitos, announced to the government that diamonds, of very fine water, had been found in the streams in the environs of Santo Corazon.”
September 4. — The shores of the river are low, but abrupt. The lower strata next to the water’s edge are of sand, hardening into rock from the superincumbent pressure of the soil with its great trees. There were a great many porpoises sporting in the river. At 3 p.m. we passed the narrow arm of the river that runs by Urarinas, a small village situated on the left bank. The channel inside the island seemed nearly dry. Ijurra, however, passed through it in a small canoe, and bought some fowls and a small monkey at the pueblo. The channel of the river runs near the right bank. Population of Urarinas, eighty.
September 5. — The patos reales, a large and beautiful species of duck with which the river abounds, are now breeding. We saw numbers of pairs conducting their broods over the water. Though the young ones could not fly, they could dive so long and fast that we could not catch them. I brought home a pair of these ducks, and find that they answer exactly to the description of the Egyptian goose . They have small horns on their wings. We met canoes of Tarapoto from the Ucayali, with salt fish; also one belonging to Urarinas, returning from carrying sarsaparilla to Nauta.
SAN REGIS 183.
September 6. — Passed the month of the small river Airico on the left. One of our Indians says that the ascent of this river for a week brings the traveller to a lake, and for another week to mountains.’
We have had quite heavy squalls of wind and rain every day since entering the Amazon. The canoes are so low that they cannot ride the waves of mid-river, and are compelled to haul in for the land, and wait for the storm to pass. We saw alligators today, for the first time.
September 7. — Arrived at Parinari. This is an Indian village of three hundred and thirty inhabitants, situated on a hill on the right bank of the river. It is about. Twenty feet above the present level of the river, which rises, in the full to within three feet of the houses. The people live principally by fishing, and gathering sarsaparilla to sell at Nauta. The lieutenant governor gave us some spirits made of plantains. It was vile stuff; very strong; and is said to be unwholesome.
September 8. — Saw Ronsocos; and the Fiscales killed six howling monkeys with their pucunas. Passed the mouth of Tigre Yacu on the left. It is seventy yards broad, and looks deep and free from obstruction. Its waters are much clearer than those of the Amazon. It is navigable for canoes a long way up; and a considerable quantity of sarsaparilla is gathered on its banks, though inhabited by savages, who are said to be warlike and dangerous. We camped at night on an island near the middle of the river. A narrows island lay between us and San Regis, a small pueblo on the left bank, whence we could hear the sound of music and merry-making all night. It has two hundred and ten inhabitants.
The Fiscales cooking their big monkeys over a large fire on the beach, presented a savage and most picturesque night scene. They looked more like devils roasting human beings than like servants of the church.
September 9. — Passed a channel called Pucati, which is a small mouth of the Ucayali. It is now nearly dry. In the rainy season it is passable for canoes; but spreads out so much in its course (forming small lakes) that it leaves few places to kindle a fire on, or sleep; and. is, for this reason, little used. It takes three days to come through it from the Ucayali to the Amazon; and six to traverse it the other way. Soon after leaving this, we passed another small channel, said to communicate with a large lake — a large one probably in the full, when this whole country between the Ucayali, Amazon, and channel of Pucati is nearly overflowed. We arrived at Nauta at noon, having travelled two hundred and ten miles from the moutth of the Huallaga.
We called on the governor general of the Missions of Mainas, Don José Maria Arebalo, who received us with some formality, and gave us lodgings in one of the houses of the village — I suspect, turning out the inhabitants for that purpose. My companion, Ijurra, was not sure of a cordial reception; for, when sub-prefect of the province, he had caused Arebalo to be arrested and carried prisoner from Balza Puerto to Moyobamba. But our friend was much too magnanimous to remember old feuds; and he and Ijurra soon became boon companions.
Nauta is a fishing village of one thousand inhabitants, mostly Indians of the Cocama tribe, which is distinct from that of the Cocamillas of Laguna. It has a few white residents engaged in trading with the Indians for salt fish, wax, and sarsaparilla, which are obtained from the Ucayali. Don Bernardino Cauper, an old Portuguese, does most of the business of the place. He sends parties of Indians to fish or gather sarsaparilla upon the Napo and Ucayali; and he has two or three boats (called in this part of the country garreteas) trading down the river as far as Egas. He supplies all the country above with foreign articles from Brazil, and receives consignments from the upper country, which he sends to Egas.
Don Bernardino lives in a sort of comfort. He has plenty of meat, (calling turtle, salt fish, and fowls meat,) with farinha from below, and beans and onions from his little garden. There is good tobacco from above to smoke, and wholesome, though fiery, Lisbon wine to drink. I have been frequently struck during my journey with the comparative value of things. The richest man of a village of one thousand inhabitants, in the United States, would think Bernardino’s table poorly supplied, and would turn up his nose at a grass hammock slung between two hooks in the shop for a bed-place. Yet these things were regal luxuries to us; and, doubtless, being the best that are to be had, Don Bernardino is perfectly contented, and desires nothing better.
The old gentleman is very pious. The Cura of Pebas was at this time in Nauta, attending to the repairs of the church; and we celebrated a nine-days service (Novena) in honor of our Lady of Mercy, the patroness of the arms of Peru. The expenses of the service (being a fee for the padre and the lighting of the church with wax) were borne by individuals. The padre gave the first day; then Senhor Cauper; then his wife, his wife’s sister, his son, his pretty Brazilian niece, Donna Candida; then came Arebalo; then Ijurra and I; the priest winding up on Sunday. But my old firiend was not contented with this; and when I shoved off on Monday for the Ucayali, I left him engaged in another church service, setting off rockets, and firing, from
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time to time, an old blunderbuss, loaded to the muzzle, in honor of a miracle that had happened in Rimini, in Italy, some year and a half ago, of which we had just received intelligence.
The governor general gave me some statistics, from which it appears that the province of Mainas is divided into the province proper, (of which the capital is Moyabamba,) the upper and lower Missions, and the Conversions of the Ucayali.
The upper Mission has four districts — Balza Puerto, Xeberos, Laguna, and Andoas; containing seventeen villages, and nine thousand nine hundred and eleven inhabitants.
The lower Mission has two districts — Nauta and Loreto, with seventeen villages, and three thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine inhabitants. The Conversions of the Ucayali are confined to the villages of Sarayacu, Tierra Blanca, and Sta. Catalina, and number one thousand three hundred and fifty inhabitants, mostly converts of the Panos tribe. They are governed by priests of the College of Ocopa, who are under the spiritual direction of its guardian; but hold their temporal authority under the prefect of the department. Arebalo estimates the number of whites in the Missions and Conversions — counting men, women, and children — at four hundred and seven.
Both Missions are under the authority of a governor general, who holds his commission from the sub-prefect of the province. Each district has its governor, and each town its lieutenant governor. The other authorities of a town are curacas, captains, lieutenants, adjutants, ensigns, sergeants, alcaldes, and constables. (All these are Indians.) The office of curaca is hereditary. The right of succession is sometimes interfered with by the white governor; but this always gives dissatisfaction, and is occasionally (added to other grievances) the cause of rebellion and riot. The savages treat their curaca with great respect, and submit to corporal punishment at his mandate.
I know of no legal establishment in the Missions; the law proceeding out of the mouths of the governors. Indians are punished by flogging or confinement in the stocks; whites are sometimes imprisoned; but if their offence is of a grave nature, they are sent to be tried and judged by the courts of the capital.
Arebalo estimates the value of the commerce of the Missions with Brazil at twenty thousand dollars annually; and that with the Pacific coast, through Chachapoyas and Truxillo at twenty thousand more. The vegetable productions of the Missions do not equal the value of the imports; but the people get some money from the coast for their manufactures of coarse cotton and straw-hats; and a little gold is occasionally obtained from the sands of the Napo and Pastaza.
The Missions send to Chachapoyas and Truxillo tobacco, salt fish, straw-hats, coarse cotton cloths, wax, incense for the churches, balsam copaiba, and vanilla; and receive, in return, cattle, horses, goods of Europe, and a little money. The Brazilians bring up heavy articles — such as I described as composing the cargo of the traders we met at Laguna; and take back straw-hats, hammocks of the Indians, sarsaparilla, and money. The value of the sarsaparilla of the Missions is estimated at two thousand dollars at the place of production, and six thousand at its place of sale in Brazil; the value of the wax at the same at the place of production; and at four thousand dollars at place of sale. The greatest profit, however, is made on the fish, of which thirty thousand pieces are taken annually in the Ucayali and Amazon. It costs there about three cents the piece; and is worth in Tarapoto, Lamas, and other places of the province, about twelve and a half cents the piece.
Estimate of the expenses and returns of a canoe-load of salt fish from Nauta to Balza Puerto.
DR. A canoe-load of eight hundred pieces may be bought in Nauta for one yard of English cotton cloth (valued at
twenty-five cents) for every eight pieces - - $25 00 Freight, or hire of canoe, for thirty-six days, from Nauta to Balza luerto, at 3 - cents per day - - - 1 12Pay of seven peons, 12 yards of cotton cloth of Tarapoto, valued at 121 cents the yard - - - -1050 Maintenance of the seven men for thirty-six days, at 3’ cents per day 7 56 44 18-L Cn. Eight hundred pieces in Balza Puerto, at 12.- cents - - 100 00 Profit — - - 55 81 - or about one hundred and twenty-six per cent. in thir-ty-six days.
The return-cargo also yields a profit so that my friend, the governor, who by virtue of his office can get as many men to take fish for him as he wants, will probably return to civilized parts in a few years with a snug little sum in his pocket. Old Cauper is rich, and the priest in comfortable circumstances.
Estimate of expenses and returns of an expedition from Nauta to the Ucayali for the collection of sarsaparilla. (The expedition will occupy four months of time.)
DP. Hire of two garrcteasj that will carry seventy-five arrobas each, at 3 - cents per day (four months) - 1 50 Eighteen peons from- Nauta to Saraya, at ten yds of English
cotton cloth each (twenty-five cents) - - 45 00 Support of these peons for twenty days, at 3- cents per meal per day - 11 25 Contract with fifty 3Pitrrs or Conibos Indian (who now tt.1 e the boats and go up the tributaries of the Ucayali) for the delivery by each man of three arrobas of mrsa.apaiilla, at’7 cents the arroba 1 2 50
Hire and support of peons for the return from Sarayacu to Nauta, -being’ one-third of the amount for the trip up- - 18 5 195 00 Ca.
One hundred and fifty arrobas, worth in Nauta two dollars the arroba... - 300 00 Profit in four months 105 00 or about thirteen and a half per cent. per month.
END REPAIR 2
The people engaged in this occupation make, however, more profit, by cheating the Indians in every possible mode. They also own the garreteas; and, by management, support their peons for less than three cents per day.
This is an estimate made up from information given by Arebalo. Hacket makes a much better business of it. He says, “Eighty working hours above Sarayacu, on the Ucayali, is the mouth of the river Aguaytia on the banks of which grows sarsaparilla in sufficient quantity not only to enrich the province of Mainas, but all the department of Amazonas. Its cost is eight varas of tocuyo the hundred pounds, undertaking the work of gathering it with formality — that is to say, employing one hundred persons under the direction of a man of talent, ad paying them a monthly salary of twenty-four varas of tocuyo each; quadruple the price that is generally paid in Mainas.
“It sells in Nauta, Peruate, and Loreto for nine dollars the hundred pounds, gold or silver coin; in Tabatinga, (frontier of Brazil,) for ten dollars and fifty cents; in Pará, for twenty-five dollars; and in Europe for from forty to sixty dollars, in times of greatest abundance.”
Sarsaparilla is a vine of sufficient size to shoot up fifteen or twenty feet from the root without support. It then embraces the surrounding trees, and spreads to a great distance. The main root sends out many tendrils, generally about two lines in diameter, and five feet long. These are gathered and tied up in large bundles of about a Portuguese arroba, or thirty-two pounds of weight. The main root, or madré, should not be disturbed; but the Indians are little careful in this matter, and frequently cut it off, by which much sarsaparilla is destroyed. The digging up of the small roots out of the wet and marshy soil is a laborious and unhealthy occupation.
It is to be found on the banks of almost every tributary of the great streams of the Montaña; but a great many of these are not worked, on account of the savages living on their banks, who frequently attack the parties that come to gather it. On the “Pangoa” are the Campas; on the “Pachitea,” the “Aguaytia,” and the “Pisque,” are the “Cashibos;” and the whole southern border of the Amazon, from the mouth of the Ucayali to that of the Yavari, is inhabited by the “Mayorunas;” all savages, and averse to intercourse with the white man. The same is the case on the “Tigreyacu,” where there is said to be much sarsaparilla. Padre Calvo, the president of the Missions at Sarayacu, told me that, although he has the exclusive right, by order of the prefect, of collecting all the sarsaparilla on the Ucayali and its tributaries, he could not, if I were willing to pay any price, supply me with more than three hundred arrobas per annum, on account of the difficulty of getting laborers who are willing to brave the attacks of the savages.
I have estimated the annual cost of running a small steamer between Loreto, the frontier port of Peru and Chasuta, a distance of eight hundred miles, entirely within the Peruvian territory, at twenty thousand dollars, including the establishment of blacksmiths’ and carpenters’ shops at Nauta for her repairs. According to the estimate of Arebalo, (and I judge that he is very nearly correct,) the value of the imports and exports to and from Brazil is twenty thousand dollars annually. I have no doubt that the appearance of a steamer in these waters would at once double the value; for it would, in the first place, convert the thousand men who are now employed in the fetching and carrying of the articles of trade into producers, and would give a great impulse to trade by facilitating it. A loaded canoe takes eighty days to ascend these eight hundred miles. A steamer will do it in twelve, giving ample time to take in wood, to land and receive cargo at the various villages on the river, and to lay by at night. When the river becomes better known she can run for a large part of the night, and thus shorten her time
nearly one-half. Men shrink at the eighty days in a canoe, when they will jump at the twelve in a steamer.
The steamer will also increase commerce and trade by creating artificial wants; men will travel who did not travel before; articles of luxury — such as Yankee clocks, cheap musical instruments, &c. — will be introduced, and the Indians will work to obtain them; and, in short, when the wonders that the steamboat and railroad have accomplished are taken into consideration, I shall not be thought rash in predicting that in one year from the time of the appearance of the steamer Arebalo’s twenty thousand dollars will be made forty thousand. Thus we shall have twenty thousand dollars’ worth of goods going up from Loreto to Chasuta, paying at least one hundred per cent.; and twenty thousand dollars going down, paying another hundred per cent.; giving to the steamboat company (who would monopolize the trade) forty thousand dollars a year, against twenty thousand dollars of expenses.
There should be no difficulty in getting a supply of fuel. My Peruvian steamer would have to make her way slowly up, for the first time, by collecting and cutting up the abundant drift-wood on the islands; but she could readily contract with the governors of the thirty-six villages between Pará and Chasuta for a regular supply. The Brazilian government has an organized and enlisted corps of laborers, under the orders of the military commandants, and I should suppose would be willing to employ them in furnishing wood, on account of the great advantages to be derived from the increase of trade. The Indians of the Peruvian villages are entirely obedient to their governors; and a sufficient number of them may be always had, at wages of twelve and a half cents per day, with about three cents more for their maintenance. This amount of wages may be reduced one-half by paying them in articles for their consumption, bought at Pará or brought from the United States.
The only difficulty that I have in my calculations is that I know there are not forty thousand dollars in the whole province; its productions must find their way to the Pacific, on the one hand, and to the Atlantic, on the other, before they can be converted into money. My steamer, therefore, to be enabled to buy and sell, must communicate at Loreto with a larger steamer, plying between that place and Barra, at the mouth of the Rio Negro, a distance of eight hundred and forty miles; and this with another still larger, between Barra and Pará, a distance of a thousand miles.
These three steamers (however much I may be out in my calculations
regarding the one confined to Peruvian territory) could not fail to enrich their owners; for they would entirely monopolize the trade of the river, which is fairly measured by the imports and exports of Payra, which amounted in 1851 to two millions of dollars.
These two millions are now brought down to Pará and carried away from Pará, (with the exception of what is consumed in the city,) by clumsy, inefficient river-craft, which would vanish from the main stream at the first triumphant whistle of the engine. These would, however, until the profits justified the putting on of more steamers find ample employment in bringing down and depositing upon the banks of the main stream the productions of the great tributaries.
I can imagine the waking up of the people on the event of the establishment of steamboat navigation on the Amazon. I fancy I can hear the crash of the forest falling to make room for the cultivation of cotton, cocoa rice, and luglar, and the sharp shriek of the saw, cutting into boards the beautiful and valuable woods of the country; that I can see the gatherers of India-rubber and copaiba redoubling their efforts, to be enabled to purchase the new and convenient things that s hall be presented at the doors of their huts in the wilderness; and even the wild Indian finding the way from his pathless forests to the steamboat depot to exchange his collections of vanilla, spices, dyes, drugs, and gums, for the things that would take his fancy — ribbons, beads, bells, mirrors, and gay trinkets.
Brazil and Peru have entered into arrangements and bound themselves by treaty, to appropriate money towards the establishment of steamboat navigation on the Amazon. This is well. It is doing something towards progress; but it is the progress of a denizen of their own forests — the sloth. Were they to follow the example lately set by the republics of the La Plata, and throw open their rivers to the commerce of the world, then the march of improvement would be commensurate with the importance of the act; and these countries would grow in riches and power with the rapidity of the vegetation of their own most fertile lands.
We, more than any other people, are interested in the opening of this navigation. As has been before stated, the trade of this region must pass by our doors, and mingle and exchange with the products of our Mississippi valley. I am permitted to take extracts bearing upon this subject from a letter of an eminent American citizen resident in Lima to the Superintendent of the National Observatory,[] whose papers upon the Amazon, its resources and future importance, have attracted the attention, not only of our own people, but that of those who dwell or
have territorial possessions upon this great water-shed; and to whom belongs the honor of originating the mission upon which I have been engaged.
This gentleman in Lima, whose comprehensive mind and ripe judgment had been attracted to the subject by Maury’s pen, says to the Lieutenant, under date of July, 1852:
“ Since I last wrote to you, I have made the acquaintance of Don--------, a native of Chili, and whom Gibbon saw at Cochabamba, in Bolivia. This is undoubtedly a clever man; but I suspect that he has also come to act as a secret agent of Belzu, the President of Bolivia. However that may be, he pretends that Belzu is favorably disposed towards us, and would grant privileges to a steam navigation company were application made to him in due form. As I know of no other individual in Bolivia with whom I could communicate on the subject of Amazonian navigation, I did not hesitate to make use of him; for, in my opinion, there is no time to be lost if the United States intend to secure the interior trade of South America for its citizens.
“ Don--------, declares that the Mamoré is navigable for steamers from a point near Cochabamba to its confluence with Guaporé or Itenez, and so onward to the junction of the latter with the Beni — forming together the Rio Madeira; that the ‘Cachuelas,’ or falls of the Madeira, are neither impassable nor formidable, and a may be easily ascended by steamers, as there is plenty of water and no rocks. To prove this, he asserts that a Brazilian schooner ascended the Mamoré to Trinidad, and fired a salute at that place, about two years ago. After passing the falls, the river is, of course, navigable to the Amazon. Admitting this statement of Don-------- to be true, (and I am inclined to believe it, as the Brazilians constantly ascend the Itenez to Matto Grosso,) there is open navigation from Pará to within a few leagues of Cochabamba, at least two thousand miles; and this is not so incredible when we consider the length of navigation on the Missouri river. The accessibility of the Bolivian rivers will, however, be ascertained with greater certainty after Gibbon has passed through the Cachuelas of the Madeira, as it is to be hoped that he will sound, and otherwise minutely examine, the different rapids of that river, and correct the errors which Don-------- says are in the chart made by, ---------- a copy of which I sent you by Mr. O’Brian for Herndon.
“ The account Don-------- gives of the products of the country lying on the banks of the Mamoré is very glowing. He says that the richest cocoa and coffee grow almost wild, and that the greatest part of the former is consumed by the monkeys and birds, for the want of means
of transporting it to a market. Sugar-cane of gigantic dimensions found everywhere, with white and yellow cotton of a staple equal to Sea Island. Several kinds of cascarilla grow in abundance, as also sarsaparilla and gums, ornamental and other woods, and honey and wax, in immense quantities. Crossing the Mamoré from Exaltacion to the southwest, you arrive at the river Machuno, which, according to Don--------, is a small ‘Pactolus;’ and he assures me that the whole country between the Mamoré and the Itenez, from latitude 14° to the north, is a gold district as rich as California.
“My opinion decidedly is, that the whole country traversed by the rivers issuing from the slope of the Eastern Cordillera, from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, in Bolivia, to the mouth of the Ucayali, in Peru, is one immense gold and silver region; gold being found in the flats near the rivers, and silver in the mountains. I will venture to predict that the same region contains diamonds and other precious stones, some of which are probably unknown to the lapidary at present. The silver mines of Carabaya were immensely productive when worked by Salcedo -- so much so, that the vice-regal government trumped up an accusation against him, tried him, and ordered his execution to obtain possession of the mines by confiscation. The attempt failed, as the Indians, who were devoted to Salcedo, refused to give any information to the government respecting the mines; and they have remained unworked up to the present time.
“Gold is known to exist in considerable quantities at Carabaya, and in the Pampa del Sacramento. I have seen specimens from the former place; but gold is the least attraction for emigration to Bolivia; the soil and its products are the source from which the wanderers from foreign lands are to find plenty and happiness. The climate is said to be good, and the Indians, except upon the lower part of the Beni, peaceable and well-disposed to the whites. In short, according to Don--------, the east of Bolivia affords the greatest sphere for trade and colonization.
“ For myself, I feel full of this vast subject; for I know that within less than one hundred leagues of me is the margin of those great solitudes: replete with riches, and occupying the wild space where millions of the human race might dwell in plenty and happiness; where nature annually wastes more than would support the population of China in comfort; and where the most luxurious fruits and fairest flowers grow and bloom unknown and unnoticed. When I reflect on this, and on the miles of rivers rolling on in silence and neglect, I feel doubly the want
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of power and money to accomplish their introduction to the civilized world.
“ I think that the energies and influence of all the friends of South American internal navigation and colonization should be directed towards forming a company with a large capital, and to obtain the aid and support of the Congress of the United States. I know how difficult an undertaking it is to wring an appropriation out of our national legislature, for any purpose; but if the subject could be fairly brought before it, and some of the leading senators and representatives could be excited to take a patriotic interest in it, perhaps something might be done.
“ We must, on our side, do all we can, and by dint of perseverance we may succeed at last in accomplishing our object. Should we do so, it will be a proud satisfaction to ourselves; though the public may, and probably will, leave us to exclaim ——
“ I shall continue working on and writing to you whenever I have anything of the least interest to communicate.” The greatest boon in the wide world of commerce is in the free navigation of the Amazon, its confluents and neighboring streams. The back-bone of South America is in sight of the Pacific. The slopes of the continent look east; they are drained into the Atlantic, and their rich productions, in vast variety and profusion, may be emptied into the commercial lap of that ocean by the most majestic of water-courses.
The time will come when the free navigation of the Amazon and other South American rivers will be regarded by the people of this country as second only in importance to the acquisition of Louisiana.
Having traversed that water-shed from its highest ridge to its very caves and gutters, I find my thoughts and reflections overwhelmed with the immensity of this field for enterprise, commercial prosperity, and human happiness. I can bear witness to the truth of the sentiment expressed by my friend, Mr. Maury,[] that the Valley of the Amazon and the Valley of the Mississippi are commercial compliments of each other — one supplying what the other lacks in the great commercial round. They are sisters which should not be separated. Had I the honor to be mustered among the statesmen of my country, I would risk political fame and life in the attempt to have the commerce of this noble river thrown open to the world.