A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 11
by Robert Kerr
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[Footnote 2: These islands of Miranda appear to have been the Marquebes, between the latitudes of 8 deg. 45' and 10 deg. 25' N. and long. 139 deg. W. The Solomon islands, or New Georgia, are between 5 deg. and 10 deg. N. and long. 200 deg. to 205 deg. W. 63-1/2 degrees of longitude farther to the westwards.—E.]


As the riches of Peru consist chiefly in mines of silver, I shall endeavour to give some account of them, from the best information I could procure. There are two sorts of silver-mines, in one of which the silver is found scattered about in small quantities, or detached masses, while, in the other kind of mine, it runs in a vein between two rocks, one of which is excessively hard, and the other much softer. These certainly best deserve the name of silver-mines, and are accordingly so denominated. This precious metal, which in other countries is the standard or measure of riches, is the actual riches of Peru, or its chief natural commodity; as, throughout the whole of that vast country, silver-mines are almost every where to be met with, of more or less value, according as the ore produces more or less silver, or can be wrought at a greater or less expence. Some of these mines are to the north of Lima, but not a great many, but to the south they are very numerous. On the back, or eastern side of the Andes, there is a nation of Indians called Los Platerors, or the Plate, or Silver men, from their possessing vast quantities of silver,[1] but with them the Spaniards have very little communication. The best of the mine countries are to the south of Cusco, from thence to Potosi and the frontiers of Chili, where, for the space of 800 miles, there is a continued succession of mines, some being discovered and others abandoned almost every day.

[Footnote 1: This tribe still holds its place in modern geography, in the vast plain to the E. of the Maranors or Amazons, where there cannot be any silver-mines, at least that they can explore. They are so named because of wearing silver ear-rings, which they must, almost certainly, procure in barter from the tribes in the mountains, far to the west.—E.]

It is common, both here and elsewhere, for people to complain of the times, commending the past, as if there had been infinitely greater quantities of silver dug from the mines formerly than at present. This certainly may be the case with particular mines; but, on the whole, the quantities of silver now annually obtained from the mines in Spanish America, abundantly exceeds what used formerly to be procured. Those mines which are at present [1720] most remarkable in Peru are, Loxa, Camora, Cuenca, Puerto-veio, and St Juan del Oro. Those of Oruro and Titiri are neglected; and those of Porco and Plata are filled up. At Potosi there are a vast number of mines; and those of Tomina, Chocaia, Atacuna, Xuxui, Calchaques, Guasco, Iquique, &c. are all wrought with more or less profit, according to the skill of the proprietors or managers. It is generally believed that the Creoles have a very perfect acquaintance with the minerals, from experience, and with the art of treating them, so as to obtain the largest profit; but, when their utter ignorance in all other arts is considered, their constant going on in the old beaten track, and their enormous waste of quicksilver, one is tempted to believe that our European miners might conduct their works to still greater advantage.

The most perfect silver that is brought from Peru is in the forms called pinnas by the Spaniards, being extremely porous lumps of silver, as they are the remainder of a paste composed of silver dust and mercury, whence the latter being exhaled or evaporated, leaves the silver in a spongy mass, full of holes, and very light. This is the kind of silver which is put into various forms by the merchants, in order to cheat the king of his duty; wherefore all silver in this state, found any where on the road, or on board any ship, is looked upon as contraband, and liable to seizure.

In regard to the art of refining, I propose to shew the progress of the ore, from the mine till it comes to this spongy mass or cake. After breaking the stone or ore taken out of the veins, it is grinded in mills between grindstones, or pounded in the ingenious reales, or royal engines, by means of hammers or beetles, like the mills for Paris plaster. These generally have a wheel of twenty-five or thirty feet diameter, with a long axle or lying shaft, set round with smooth triangular projections, which, as the axle turns, lay hold of the iron hammers, of about two hundred-weight each, lifting them to a certain height, whence they drop down with such violence that they crush and reduce the hardest stones to powder. The pounded ore is afterwards sifted through iron or copper sieves, which allow the finest powder to go through, the coarse being returned to the mill. When the one happens to be mixed with copper or other metals which prevent its reduction to powder, it is roasted or calcined in an oven or reverberatory furnace, and pounded over again.

At the smaller mines, where they only use grindstones, they, for the most part, grind the ore along with water, forming it into a liquid paste, which runs out into receivers. When grinded dry, it has to be afterwards mixed with water, and well moulded up with the feet for a long time. For this purpose, they make a court or floor, on which that mud, or paste of pounded ore and water, is disposed in square parcels of about a foot thick, each parcel containing half a caxon, or chest, which is twenty-five quintals or hundred-weights of ore, and these parcels are called cuerpos, or bodies. On each of these they throw about two hundred-weights of sea-salt, more or less, according to the nature of the ore, which they mould or incorporate with the moistened ore for two or three days. They then add a certain quantity of quicksilver, squeezing it from a skin bag, to make it fall in drops equally on the mass or cuerpo, allowing to each mass ten, fifteen, or twenty pounds of quicksilver, according to the nature or quality of the ore, as the richer it is, it requires the more mercury to draw it to the silver contained in the mass, so that they know the quantity by long experience. An Indian is employed to mould or trample one of these square cuerpos eight times a-day, that the mercury may thoroughly incorporate with the silver. To expedite this incorporation, they often mix lime with the mass, when the ore happens to be what they call greasy, and in this great caution is required, as they say the mass sometimes grows so hot that they neither find mercury nor silver in it, which seems quite incredible. Sometimes also they strew in some lead or tin ore, to facilitate the operation of the mercury, which is slower in very cold weather; wherefore, at Potosi and Lipes, they are often obliged to mould or work up their cuerpos during a month or six weeks; but, in more temperate climates, the amalgama is completed in eight or ten days. To facilitate the action of the mercury, they, in some places, as at Puno and elsewhere, construct their buiterons or floors on arches, under which they keep fires for twenty-four hours, to heat the masses or cuerpos, which are in that case placed as a pavement of bricks.

When it is thought that the mercury has attracted all the silver, the assayer takes a small quantity of ore from each cuerpo, which he washes separately in a small earthen plate or wooden bowl; and, by the colour and appearance of the amalgama found at the bottom, when the earthy matters are washed away, he knows whether the mercury has produced its proper effect. When blackish, the ore is said to have been too much heated, and they add more salt, or some other temper. In this case they say that mercury is dispara, that is, shoots or flees away. If the mercury remains white, they put a drop under the thumb, and pressing it hastily, the silver in the amalgam sticks to the thumb, and the mercury slips away in little drops. When they conceive that all the silver has incorporated with the mercury, the mixed mass, or cuerpo, is carried to a basin or pond, into which a small stream of water is introduced to wash it, much in the same way as I shall afterwards describe the manner in which they wash gold, only that as the silver-ore is reduced to a fine mud without stones, it is stirred by an Indian with his feet, to dissolve it thoroughly, and loosen the silver. From the first basin it falls into a second, and thence into a third, where the stirring and washing is repeated, that any amalgam which has not subsided in the first and second may not escape the third.

The whole being thoroughly washed in these basins, which are lined with leather, till the water runs clear off, the amalgam of mercury and silver is found at the bottom, and is termed la pella. This is put into a woollen bag and hung up, from whence some of the mercury runs out. The bag is then beaten and pressed as much as they can, laying upon it a flat piece of wood loaded with a heavy weight, to get out as much of the mercury as they can. The paste is then put into a mould of wooden planks bound together, generally in the form of an octagon pyramid cut short, its bottoms being a plate of copper, full of small holes, into which the paste is stirred and pressed down, in order to fasten it. When they design to make many pinnas, or spongy lumps of various weights, these are divided from each other by thin beds or layers of earth, which hinder them from uniting. For this purpose, the pella, or mass of amalgam, must be weighed out in separate portions, deducting two-thirds for the contained mercury, by which they know to a small matter the quantity of silver contained in each. They then take off the mould, and place the pella or mass with its copper base on a trivet, or such like instrument, standing over a great earthen vessel full of water, and cover it with an earthen cap, which again is covered by lighted coals. This fire is fed and kept up for some hours, by which the mass of pella below becomes violently heated, the contained mercury being thereby raised into vapour: But, having no means of escape through the cap or cover, it is forced down to the water underneath, where it condenses into quicksilver and sinks to the bottom. By this contrivance, little of the mercury is lost, and the same serves over again. But the quantity must be increased, because it grows weak.[2] At Potosi, as Acosta relates, they formerly consumed six or seven thousand quintals of mercury every year, by which Some idea may be formed of the silver there procured.

[Footnote 2: This is utterly absurd, as the mercury must be the same in quality as before, the quantity only being weakened.]

On the evaporation of the mercury, nothing remains but a spongy lump of contiguous grains of silver, very light and almost mouldering, called la pinna by the Spaniards. These masses must be carried to the king's receipt or mint, to pay the royal fifth; and are there cast into ingots, on which are stamped the arms of the crown, the place where cast, and their weight and fineness. All these ingots, having paid the fifth, are sure to be without fraud or deceit; but it is not so with the pinnas, as these have often iron, sand, or some other matter contained within them, to increase their weight; Hence, prudence requires that these should be opened, and made red hot in a fire; for, if falsified, the fire will turn them black or yellow, or melt them more easily. This trial by fire is also necessary to extract moisture, which they contract in places where they are purposely laid to render them heavier, as also for separating the mercury with which the bottom of the mass is always more or less impregnated. The weight of these pinnas may be increased nearly a third, by dipping them while red hot into water. It also sometimes happens that the same mass of pinna may be of different fineness in different parts.

The ore, or stones taken from the mines, or the mineray, as it is called in Peru, from which the silver is extracted, is not always of the same nature, consistence, and colour. Some are white and grey, mixed with red or bluish spots, called plata blanca or white silver; of which sort the one in the Lipes mines mostly consists. For the most part, some little grains of silver are to be discerned, and very often small branches are seen, ramifying along the layers of the stone. Some ores are as black as the dross of iron, and in which no silver is to be seen, which is called negrillo or blackish ore. Sometimes the ore is rendered black by admixture of lead, and is called plombo ronco, or coarse lead, in which the silver appears as if scratched by something harsh. This ore is generally the richest in silver, and from it also the silver is got at the smallest charge; as instead of having to be moulded or kneaded with quicksilver, it has only to be melted in furnaces, where the lead evaporates by the force of fire, and the silver remains pure behind. From this sort. of mines, the Indians drew their silver before the coming of the Spaniards, having no knowledge of the use of mercury, and they accordingly only wrought those mines of which the ore would melt; and, having but little wood, they heated their furnaces with ylo, the dung of the Llamas or Peruvian sheep, placing their furnaces on the sides of mountains, that the wind might render their fires fierce.

There is another sort of black ore, in which the silver does not at all appear; and which, when wetted and rubbed against iron, becomes red. This ore is called rosicler, signifying that ruddiness which appears at the dawn of day. This is very rich, and affords the finest silver. Another kind, called zoroche, glitters like talc, and is generally very poor, yielding little silver: Its outer coat is very soft and of a yellowish red, but seldom rich; and the mines of this sort are wrought on account of the easiness of extracting the ore, being very easily dug. Another kind, not much harder than the last, is of a green colour, called cobrissa or copperish, and is very rare. Although the silver usually appears in this kind, and it is almost mouldering, it is the most difficult of all to manage, as it parts very difficultly with the silver. Sometimes, after being stamped or reduced to powder, it has to be burnt in the fire, and several other expedients must be used to separate the silver, doubtless because mixed with copper. There is another very rare sort of ore, which has only been found in the mine of Cotamiso at Potosi, being threads of pure silver entangled, or wound up together, like burnt lace, and so fine that it is called arana, or spider ore, from its resemblance to a cobweb.

The veins of mineray, of whatever sort they may be, are generally richer in the middle than towards the edges; and where two veins happen to cross each other, the place where they meet is always very rich. It is also observed that those which lie north and south are richer than those which lie in any other direction. Those also which are near to places where mills can be erected, and can consequently be more commodiously wrought, are often preferable to others that are richer, but require more expense in working. For this reason, at Lipes and Potosi, a chest of ore must yield ten marks or eighty ounces of silver, to pay the charges of working; while those in the province of Tarama only require five merks or forty ounces to defray the expences. When even very rich, and they happen to sink down so as to be liable to be flooded, the adventurers must have recourse to pumps and machines in order to drain them; or to cocabones or levels dug through the sides of the mountain, which often ruin the owners by the enormous expence they are insensibly drawn into. At some of the mines, where the methods of separation already described fail, they use other means of extracting the silver from the ore, and from other metals which may be combined with it; as by fire, or strong separating waters; and there the silver is cast into a sort of ingots, called bollos. But the most general and useful method is that already described.

It may naturally be supposed that mines, as well as other things, are subject to variation in their productiveness. The mines which, till very lately, yielded most silver, were those of Oroura, a small town about eight leagues from Arica. In the year 1712, one was discovered at Ollachea near Cusco, so rich that it yielded 2500 marks of silver of eight ounces each, or 20,000 ounces, out of each caxon or chest, being almost a fifth part of the ore; but it has since declined much, and is now [1720] only reckoned among the ordinary sort. Those of Lipes have had a similar fate. Those at Potosi now yield but little, and are worked at a very heavy expence, owing to their excessive depth. Although the mines here are far diminished in their productiveness, yet the quantity of ore which has been formerly wrought, and has lain many years on the surface, is now thought capable of yielding a second crop; and when I was at Lima, they were actually turning it up, and milling it over again with great success. This is a proof that these minerals generate in the earth like all other inanimate things;[3] and it likewise appears, from all the accounts of the Spaniards, that gold, silver, and other metals are continually growing and forming in the earth. This opinion is verified by experience in the mountain of Potosi, where several mines had fallen in, burying the workmen and their tools; and these being again opened up after some years, many boxes and pieces of wood were discovered, having veins of silver actually running through them.[4]

[Footnote 3: It is merely a proof that the ore had been formerly very imperfectly managed, and still contained enough of silver to pay for extraction with profit, by more expert methods.—E.]

[Footnote 4: This proves only change of place, by solution, infiltration, and deposition not growth, increase, or new production.—E.]

All these mines become the property of their first discoverer, who immediately presents a petition to the magistrates, desiring to have such a piece of ground for his own. This is accordingly granted, and a spot of ground eighty Spanish yards in length by forty in breadth[5] is measured out and appropriated to the discoverer, who chuses what spot he pleases within these bounds, and does with it as he thinks fit. The exact same quantity is then measured off as belonging to the king, and is sold to the best bidder, there being always many who are willing to purchase, what may turn out an inestimable treasure. After this, if any person may incline to work a part of this mine on his own account, he bargains with the proprietor for a particular vein. All that is dug out by any one is his own, subject however to payment of the royal duties; being one-twentieth part for gold, and a fifth for silver; and some proprietors find a good account in letting out their grounds and mills to others.

[Footnote 5: In Harris this is said to be about 1200 feet in length, and 100 in breadth, which is obviously absurd; as the one measure gives the Spanish yard at 15 English feet, and the latter at 2-1/2 feet. Both measures are probably erroneous; but there are no data for their correction.—E.]

There are gold-mines just beyond the town of Copaipo, and in all the country around, which have attracted many purchasers and workmen to that district, to the great injury and oppression of the Indians; as the Spanish magistrates not only take away their lands for the purposes of mining, but their horses also, which they sell to the new adventurers, under pretence of serving the king and improving the settlements. There is also abundance of magnet and lapiz lazuli, of which the Indians know not the value; and some leagues within the country, there is plenty of salt and salt-petre, which often lies an inch thick on the ground. On the Cordelieras, about an hundred miles to the east, there is a vein of sulphur about two feet wide, so fine and pure that it needs no cleaning. This part of the country is full of all sorts of mines, but so excessively barren, that the inhabitants have to fetch all their subsistence from the country about Coquimbo, over a desert of more than 300 miles extent, in which the earth abounds so much in salt and sulphur that the mules often perish by the way, for want of grass and fresh water. In that long road there is only one river in the course of two hundred miles, which is named Ancalulae or the Hyporite, because it runs only from sun-rise to sun-set. This is occasioned by the great quantities of snow melted on the Cordelieras in the day, which freezes again by the excessive cold of the night. Hence Chili is said to derive its name, as chile signifies cold in the Indian language; and we are told by the Spanish historians, that some of their countrymen and others, who first traded to this country, were frozen to death on their mules; for which reason they now always travel by a lower road, towards the coast.

The mine countries are all so cold and barren, that the inhabitants have to procure most of their provisions from the coast; this is caused by the exhalations of salts and sulphur from the earth, which destroy the growth of all vegetables. These are so stifling to the Spaniards who dwell about the mines, that they are obliged often to drink the mattea, or tea made of the herb camini, to moisten their mouths. The mules also, that trip it nimbly over the mountains, are forced to walk slowly in the country about the mines, and have often to stop to take breath. If these vapours are so strong without and in the open air, what must they be within the bowels of the earth in the mines, into which, if a fresh man go, he is suddenly benumbed with pain. This is the case with many, but seldom lasts above a day, and they are not liable to be affected a second time: Yet vapours often burst forth suddenly, by which the workmen are killed on the spot; and one way or another, great multitudes of Indians die in working the mines. One is apt to wonder that, through all this part of the world, those districts which are most barren and unwholesome are the best inhabited; while other places, that seem to vie with our nations of the terrestrial paradise, in beauty and fertility, are but thinly peopled. Yet, when one considers, that it is the thirst of wealth, not the love of ease, which attracts people thither, the wonder ceases, and we see how much the hope of living rich gets the better even of the hope of living; as if the sole end for which man was created was to acquire wealth, at the expence of health and happiness.

In reference to these deserts, the following observation occurs to my memory, as having happened when we were on the road to Piura. When we lay down to sleep at night, our mules went eagerly in search of a certain root, not unlike a parsnip, but much bigger, which contains a great deal of juice, and, besides serving as food, often answers as a substitute for water in the deserts. When the mules find these, and are unable to rake them out of the ground with their feet, they stand over them and bray with all their might, till the Indians come to their assistance.

It is generally understood that silver is the peculiar wealth of Peru, and the Spaniards usually talk of gold-mines as confined to Chili: Yet there are one or two lavaderas, or washing-places for gold in the south of Peru, near the frontiers of Chili. In 1709, two surprizingly large pepitos, or lumps of virgin gold, were found in one of these places, one of which weighed complete thirty-two pounds, and was purchased by the Conde de Monclod, then viceroy of Peru, and presented by him to the king of Spain. The other, shaped somewhat like an ox's heart, weighed twenty-two pounds and a half; and was purchased by the corregidor of Arica. In searching for these lavadores or washing places, they dig in the corners of some little brook, where they judge, from certain tokens, that the grains of gold are lodged. To assist in carrying away the earth or mud, they let in a stream or current of water into the excavation, and keep stirring up the soil, that the water may carry it away. On reaching the golden sand, they turn the stream another way, and dig out this sand, which is carried on mules to certain ponds or basons, which are joined by small canals. Into these they introduce a smart stream of water, to loosen the earth and carry away the grosser part. The Indians stand in the basons or ponds, stirring up the earth to assist the operation of the water, and throwing out the stones. The gold remains at the bottom, still mixed with a black sand, and is hardly to be seen till farther cleaned and separated, which is easily done. These washing places differ much from each other. In some the grains of gold are as big as small shot; and in one belonging to the priests, near Valparaiso, some are found from the weight of two or three ounces to a pound and a half. This way of getting gold is much better than from the mines, as it does not require expensive digging, neither are mills necessary for grinding the ore, nor quicksilver for extracting the metal; so that both the trouble and expence are much less. The Creoles are by no means so nice in washing their gold as are the people in Europe; but great plenty makes them careless, both in this and other matters.


It is not intended in this place to give a description of the large kingdom of Chili, but only some account of the nature of its trade, and the manner in which that is connected with the general commerce of Peru, by which the wealth of Chili is transmitted to Europe. Chili extends in length about 1200 miles from north to south, but its breadth is uncertain. The air is very temperate and wholesome, unless when rendered otherwise by pestilential exhalations, that are most common after earthquakes, to which this country is peculiarly liable. The winter rains are very heavy, during the months of May, June, July, and August; after which, for eight months together, they have fine weather, generally speaking. The soil, where it admits of cultivation, is prodigiously fertile, and fruit-trees carried thither from Europe come to the greatest perfection, so that fruit is coming forward in its different stages at all times of the year; insomuch that it is common to see apple-trees, in the situation so much admired in orange trees, having blossoms, fruit just set, green fruit, and ripe apples, all on one tree at the same time. The valleys, wherever they have any moisture, wear a perpetual verdure; and the hills are covered with odoriferous herbs, many of which are very useful in medicine. The country also produces trees of all sorts. Thus Chili, independent of its gold-mines, may well be accounted one of the richest and finest countries in the world. For instance, the town of Coquimbo, in lat. 30 deg. S. [30 deg. 20'] a short mile from the sea, in a most delightful place. It is situated on a green rising ground, about ten yards high, formed by nature like a regular terrace, stretching north and south in a direct line of more than half a mile, turning a little at each end to the eastwards; and its principal street forms a delightful walk, having a fine prospect of the country and the bay. All this is placed in an evergreen valley, and watered by a beautiful river, which rises in the mountains, and flows in a winding stream to the sea, through beautiful meadows and fertile vales.

Notwithstanding its many advantages, this vast country is very thinly inhabited; so that through its whole extent there are scarcely five towns deserving that appellation, and only one city, named St Jago. Through all the rest of the country there are only farms, called estancias, which are so remote from each other, that the whole country cannot muster 20,000 whites capable of bearing arms, of which St Jago contains 2000. All the rest of the population consists of mesticoes, mulattoes, and Indians, the number of whom may amount to three times as many.[1] This is exclusive of the friendly Indians to the south of the river Biobio, who are reckoned to amount to 15,000 fighting men, but whose fidelity is not much to be depended upon.

[Footnote 1: Allowing eight persons of all ages and both sexes to one fit to bear arms, this would give to Chili, in 1720, a population of 160,000 whites, and 480,000 of colour, or 640,000 in all.—E.]

The trade of this country is chiefly carried on by sea, and at present, 1720, is rather in a declining situation. The port of Baldivia was formerly very famous, on account of the very rich gold-mines which were wrought in its neighbourhood, which are now in a great measure disused. Hence it is now only kept as a garrison, serving to Peru as the fortresses on the coast of Barbary do to Spain, as a place to which malefactors are sent, to serve against the Indians. The trade of this place consists in sending ten or twelve ships every year to Peru, laden with hides, tanned leather, salt meat, corn, and other provisions, which are to be had here in great plenty.

The port of Conception is more considerable, by reason of its trade with the Indians who are not under subjection to the crown of Spain. These Indians are copper-coloured, having large limbs, broad faces, and coarse lank hair. The nation of the Puelches differs somewhat from the rest, as among them there are some who are tolerably white, and have some little colour in their cheeks; which is supposed to be owing to their having some Europeans blood in their veins, ever since the natives of this country revolted from the Spaniards, and cut off most of their garrisons; on which occasion they preserved the women, and especially the nuns, by whom they had many children; who still retain a sort of affection for the country of their mothers, and, though too proud to submit to the Spaniards, yet are unwilling to hurt them.

These Puelches inhabit the ridge of mountains called La Cordeliera by the Spaniards, and as the manner of trading with them is very singular, it may be proper to give some account of it. When the Spanish pedlar or travelling merchant goes into this country, he goes directly to a cacique or chief, and presents himself before him without speaking a word. The cacique breaks silence first, saying to the merchant, Are you come? To which the merchant answers I am come. What have you brought me? replies the cacique. To which the merchant rejoins, Wine, and such other things as he may have to dispose of, wine being a necessary article. Upon which the cacique never fails to say, You are welcome. The cacique then appoints a lodging for the merchant near his own hut, where his wives and children, bidding him welcome, each demand a present, however small, which he accordingly gives. The cacique then gives notice to his scattered subjects, by means of his horn or trumpet, that a merchant is arrived with whom they may trade. They come accordingly and see the commodities, which are knives, axes, combs, needles, thread, small mirrors, ribbons, and the like. The best of all would be wine, were it not dangerous to supply them with that article; as, when drunk, they are very quarrelsome and apt to kill one another, and it would not then be safe to be among them. When they have agreed on the price, or barter rather, they carry away all the articles without then making payment; so that the merchant delivers all his commodities without knowing to whom, or even seeing any of his debtors. When his business is concluded, and he proposes to go away, the cacique commands payment by again sounding his horn, and then every man honestly brings to the merchant the cattle he owes for the goods received; and, as these consist of mules, goats, oxen, and cows, the cacique commands a sufficient number of men to conduct them to the Spanish frontiers.

The far greater number of bullocks and cows that are slaughtered and consumed every year in Chili, comes from the plains of Paraguay,[2] which are in a manner covered by them. The Puelches bring them through the plain of Tapa-papa, inhabited by the Pteheingues,[3] or unconquered Indians, this being the best pass for crossing the mountains, as being divided into two hills of less difficult access than the others, which are almost impassable for mules. There is another pass, about eighty leagues from Conception, at the volcano of Silla Velluda, which now and then casts out fire, and sometimes with so great a noise as to be heard even at that city. In that way the journey is much shortened, and they can go to Buenos Ayres in six weeks. By these communications they generally bring all the beeves and goats,[4] which are slaughtered in Chili by thousands for their tallow and lard. This last consists of the marrow of the bones, which serves throughout all South America instead of butter and oil, for making sauces. The flesh is either dried in the sun, or by means of smoke, to preserve it for use, instead of salt as used in Europe. These slaughters also afford great quantities of hides, especially goat-skins, which they dress like Morocco leather, by them called cordovanes, and is sent into Peru for making shoes, or other uses.

[Footnote 2: Paraguay is here used in far too extensive a sense, as comprising the whole level country to the east of the Andes: The plains of Cuyo are those alluded to in the text.—E.]

[Footnote 3: The Pehneuches are probably here meant, who dwell on the west side of the Andes, between the latitudes of 33 deg. and 36 deg. S. The Puelches on the same side of the Andes, from 36 deg. to 40 deg..—E.]

[Footnote 4: Perhaps, instead of the goats in the text, vicunnas ought to be understood.—E.]

Besides the trade of hides, tallow, and dried meat, the inhabitants of Conception send every year eight or ten ships of forty or fifty tons to Calao laden with corn; besides supplying meal and biscuit to the French ships, which take in provisions there in order to proceed to Peru, and for their voyage back to France. All this were quite inconsiderable for so fine a country, were it better peopled; since the land is so extraordinarily fertile, were it well cultivated, that they only scratch it for the most part, by means of a plough made of a crooked stick, and drawn by two oxen; and, though the seed be scarcely covered, it produces seldom less than an hundred fold. Neither are they at any more pains in procuring their vines, in order to make good wine. Besides which, as they have not the art to glaze their jars in which the wine is secured, to make them hold in, they are under the necessity of pitching them. And this, together with the goat-skin bags in which it is carried from the estancias, gives it a bitter taste like treacle, and a flavour to which it is hard for strangers to accustom themselves. The grasses also are allowed to grow without any attention or industry being employed in grafting. Apples and pears grow naturally in the woods, and in such abundance as it is hard to comprehend how they could have so multiplied since the conquest, as they affirm there were none in the country before.

The mines of Quilogoya and Quilacura are within four leagues of this port, and afford vast quantities of gold. At the Estancia del Re, or king's farm, which is at no great distance, there is by far the most plentiful lavaders, or washing-place for gold in all Chili, where sometimes they find lumps of pure gold of prodigious size. The mountains of the Cordelieras are reported to contain a continued chain of mines for many hundred miles, which certainly is highly probable, as hardly any of these mountains have hitherto been opened without vast quantities of metal being found in them, especially fine copper, of which all the artillery in the Spanish West Indies is constructed, at least all that are used in the countries on the South Seas.

The most considerable port in Chili is Valparaiso, which is esteemed one of the best harbours on the whole coast of the South Sea. It lies on a river fifteen leagues below St Jago, the capital of Chili.[5] To this port all the riches of the mines on every side are brought, particularly from those of Tiltil, which are immensely rich, and are situated between St Jago and Valparaiso. The gold here is found in a very hard stone, some of which sparkles and betrays the inclosed treasure to the eye; but most of it does not shew the smallest sign of gold, appearing merely a hard harsh stone of various colours, some white, some red, some black. This ore, after being broken in pieces, is grinded or stamped in a mill by the help of water, into a gross powder, with which quicksilver is afterwards mixed. To this mixture a brisk stream of water is let in, which reduces the earthy matters to a kind of mud, which is carried off by the current, the amalgam of gold and quicksilver remaining at the bottom, in consequence of its weight. This amalgam is then put into a linen bag, and pressed very hard, by which the greatest part of the mercury is strained off, and the remainder is evaporated off by the force of fire, leaving the gold in a little wedge or mass, shaped like a pine-apple, whence it is called a pinna. This is afterwards melted and cast in a mould, to know its exact weight, and to ascertain the proportion of silver that is mixed with the gold, no farther process of refining being done here. The weightiness of the gold, and the facility with which it forms an amalgam with the mercury, occasions it easily to part from the dross or earthy matters of the stone or matrix. This is a great advantage to the gold-miners, as they every day know what they get; but the silver-miners often do not know how much they get till two months after, owing to the tediousness of their operation, as formerly described.

[Footnote 5: This is a material error. Valparaiso is on no river, and lies forty English miles north from the river Maypo, on one of the upper branches of which, the Mapocho, St Jago is situated.—E.]

According to the nature of these gold-mines, and the comparative richness of the veins, every caxon, or chest of fifty quintals, yields four, five, or six ounces of gold. When it only yields two ounces, the miner does not cover his charges, which often happens; but he sometimes receives ample amends, when he meets with good veins; and the gold-mines are those which produce metals the most unequally. In following a vein, it frequently widens, then becomes narrower, and then seems to disappear, all within a small space of ground; and this sport of nature makes the miners live in continual hopes of finding what they call a purse, being the expanded end of a vein, which is sometimes so rich as to make a man's fortune at once; yet this same inequality sometimes ruins them, which is the reason that it is more rare to see a gold-miner rich than a silver-miner, or even one in any other metal, although there be less expence in extracting gold from the mineral than any other metal. For this reason also the gold-miners have the particular privilege that they cannot be sued to execution in civil actions. Gold only pays a twentieth part to the king, which duty is called Covo, from the name of a private individual at whose instance the duty was thus reduced, gold having formerly paid a fifth, as silver still does.

On the descent of this mountain of Tiltil, there runs, during the rainy season, a brisk stream of water, which passes through among the gold-ore, and washes away abundance of that rich metal, as it ripens[6] and breaks from its bed. On this account, this stream is accounted one of the richest lavaderos in all Chili for four months of every year; and well it may, as there are sometimes found in it pellets of gold of an ounce weight. At Palma, about four leagues from Valparaiso, there is another rich lavadero; and every where throughout the country, the fall of a brook or rivulet is accompanied by more or less of these golden showers, the richest of which fall into the laps of the jesuits, who farm or purchase abundance of mines and lavaderos, which are wrought for their benefit by their servants. The soil in the neighbourhood of Valparaiso is exceedingly rich and fertile, so that forty ships go from thence yearly to Calao, laden with corn; yet that commodity still remains so cheap at this place, where money is so abundant, that an English bushel of wheat may be bought for less than three shillings. It would be still cheaper, could all the country be cultivated; but as it has constant dry weather for eight months endurance, cultivation is only possible where they have brooks or little rills in the vales coming from the mountains, which can be applied for irrigating or watering the cultivated land.

[Footnote 6: That is, as the matrix or rock in which it is contained, moulders and decays by the influences of the weather and of this stream; for the notion of ores ripening is a mere dream or fancy.—E.]

There is a great trade carried on to all parts of Chili from the Atlantic ocean, by way of Buenos Ayres, whence the Chilese receive some European goods, together with large sums in silver, in return for their commodities. This is perhaps the largest route of Indian commerce in the world, as the road from Buenos Ayres to Potosi is 1500 miles; and though the distance from Valparaiso be not above 160 miles more,[7] yet it is attended with much greater difficulty, as the vast chain of mountains called the Cordelieras of the Andes has to be passed, which can only be done during the three first months of the year, the passes being impracticable at all other times. At that season the merchants come from Mendoza, an inland town about 300 leagues from Buenos Ayres, and travel through the mountains to St Jago. The passage of the mountains usually takes up six or seven days, though only about sixty leagues, and the travellers have not only to carry their own provisions with them, but also the provender of their mules, as the whole of that part of the road is a continued series of rocks and precipices, and all the country round so barren and so exposed to snows in winter, that it is utterly uninhabitable. The remainder of the journey, from St Jago to the mines, and from thence to Valparaiso, is both safe and pleasant; and in this the merchants have nothing to fear, except staying too long, and losing their passage home through the mountains for that season, in which case they would have to remain in Chili at least nine months longer than they intended.

[Footnote 7: In these estimates, Betagh has been very unfortunate, as the direct distance from Buenos Ayres to Potosi does not exceed 1100 miles, and the distance from Valparaiso, also in a straight line, is hardly 800 miles.—E.]

On the whole, though a very great part of the enormous extent of the Spanish dominions in South America be absolutely desert, and the people in some of the inhabited parts do not acquire large fortunes, yet the Spanish settlers in Chili certainly procure immense riches yearly, as the country is but thinly inhabited, and all the gold drawn from the mines and lavadores must be divided among them. It is evident, however, that the greater part of the inhabitants do not abound in wealth. Those among them who deal in cattle, corn, and the other productions of the country, only acquire moderate fortunes; and those who are concerned in the mines are frequently ruined by launching out into unsuccessful speculations, and by expensive living. Those who are easy in their circumstances, and retire to the city of St Jago, Jago, live in such a manner as sufficiently demonstrates the riches of Chili; as all their utensils, even those of the most ordinary sort, are of pure gold, and it is believed that the wealth of that city cannot fall short of twenty millions.[8] Add to this, the gold-mines are continually increasing, and it is only for want of hands that they are not wrought to infinitely more advantage; for those already discovered and now neglected, would be sufficient to employ 40,000 men. It may also be observed, that the frauds practised against the royal revenue are increasing daily, and, as the riches of the Spanish West Indies are measured by the amount of the royal revenue, this must make them appear poorer than they are in reality. We have one instance of this in the mines of Potosi, which are said to produce less silver than they did formerly; yet, on a computation for fifty years, the annual revenue to the king has amounted, on the average, to 220,000 pesos, of thirteen rials and a quarter yearly, which shews that the annual produce of these mines, so far as it has paid the royal duty, amounts nearly to two million pieces of eight, or dollars, and it may be confidently asserted that the royal treasury does not receive above half of what is due: wherefore, from this example, the rest may be judged of.

[Footnote 8: The coin or denomination is not specified: If dollars, at 4s. 6d., this would amount to four millions and a half sterling.—E.]


As the policy of Spain chiefly consists in endeavouring, by all possible means, to prevent the riches of these extensive dominions from passing into other hands, so the knowledge possessed by other nations of the great wealth of these countries, and of the great demand for European manufactures among their inhabitants, has excited almost every nation in Europe to devise every possible contrivance for coming in for a share in these riches, and this with such effect, that it is even questionable whether any considerable portion of the riches of the new world centres among the inhabitants of Old Spain. This may be judged of from the following considerations: Even the trade carried on from Spain to the new world is of much greater importance to foreigners than to the Spaniards themselves. For as Spain has few commodities of its own, and carries on scarcely any manufactures, the Spanish merchants at Cadiz have to make up their cargoes by means of purchases from other countries; or rather the Cadiz merchants are mere factors for the merchants of England, France, and Holland, whose goods they send to America, and pay them by the returns made in the Plate fleets. Spain also is a country very ill provided with some of the necessaries of life, and most of the conveniences; so that prodigious sums of the money brought from America have to be yearly exported for the purchase of these.

Besides such drawbacks as the above, to which the Spaniards willingly submit, there are many others which they are forced to endure: For instance, all the negroes they employ in their plantations, in which every kind of labour is performed by them, are purchased from foreigners, particularly the English and Dutch, at a very large annual expence; and, under pretence of furnishing them with negroes, a clandestine trade is carried on every year, along the whole coasts of their possessions on the Atlantic. In the South Sea, however, they were tolerably free from every thing except the depredations of pirates, till the general war on account of the succession to the crown of Spain, which created a new kind of contraband trade, unknown in former times, of which I now propose to give some account.

The French interlopers carried vast quantities of goods directly from Europe into the South Seas, which till then had hardly ever been attempted by any European nation. This was always viewed with an evil eye by the court of Spain, as repugnant to the interests of Spain, and diametrically opposite to the maxims of her government; but there were many circumstances at that time which rendered this a kind of necessary evil, and obliged therefore the people of Old Spain to submit to it. As for the Creoles, they had European goods and at a cheaper rate, and it did not give them much concern who it was that received their money. The town of St Malo has always been noted for privateers, and greatly annoyed the trade of the English and Dutch during the whole reign of King William, and part of that of Queen Anne; and though some allege that money procured by privateering never prospers, yet I may safely affirm that the people of St Malo are as rich and flourishing as any in all France. Privateering has thriven so well among them, that all their South Sea trade has arisen from thence; and, during the last war, they were so rich and generous, that they made several free gifts to Louis XIV.; and so dexterous were they, that though our Admiralty always kept a stout squadron in the Atlantic, we were never able to capture one of their South-Sea traders. The reason of this was, that they always kept their ships extremely clean, having ports to careen at of which we knew not. In 1709, when I belonged to her majesty's ship the Loo, being one of the convoy that year to Newfoundland, we saw and chased upon that coast a ship of fifty guns, which we soon perceived to be French-built; but she crowded sail and soon left us. She had just careened at Placentia, and we wondered much to find such a ship in that part of the world. We afterwards learnt, from some French prisoners, that she was a French ship bound to St Malo, having two or three millions of dollars on board, and was then so trim that she trusted to her heels, and valued nobody. They went thus far to the north and west on purpose to have the advantage of a westerly wind, which seldom failed of sending them into soundings at one spirt, if not quite home. Since Placentia has been yielded to Great Britain, they now use St Catherine and Islagrande, on the coast of Brasil, and Martinico in the West Indies.

This trade succeeded so well, that all the merchants of St Malo engaged in it, sending every year to the number of twenty sail of ships. In 1721, I saw eleven sail of these together at one time on the coast of Chili, among which were several of fifty guns, and one called the Fleur-de-luce, which could mount seventy, formerly a man-of-war. As this trade was contrary to the Assiento treaty between Great Britain and Spain, memorials were frequently presented against it at Madrid by the court of London; and the king of Spain, willing to fulfil his engagements to the king of England, resolved to destroy this contraband French trade. As there was no other way to accomplish this but by sending a squadron of men-of-war into the South Sea, and as few of the Spaniards were acquainted with the navigation of Cape Horn, or could bear the extreme rigour of the climate, the court of Spain was obliged to use foreigners on this expedition, and the four ships sent oat were both manned and commanded by Frenchmen. The squadron consisted of the Gloucester, of 50 guns, and 400 men, the Ruby, of 50 guns, and 330 men, both of these formerly English ships of war, the Leon Franco, of 60 guns, and 450 men, and a frigate of 40 guns, and 200 men. Monsieur Martinet, a French officer, was commodore of this squadron, and commanded the Pembroke,[1] and Monsieur La Jonquiere the Ruby. The French conducted the navigation round the cape very well, though in the middle of winter; but the last ship of the four, which was manned with Spaniards, could not weather Cape Horn, and was forced back to the Rio Plata, where she was cast away. As the Spaniards have little or no trade into any of the cold climates, and are unused to hard work, it is not to be wondered that they failed on this occasion, especially considering the improper season of the year. The Biscaneers, indeed, are robust enough fellows; and had the Leon Franco been manned with them, she had certainly doubled the cape along with the other three ships; but the Spaniards in general, since acquiring their possessions in America, have become so delicate and indolent, that it would be difficult to find an entire ship's company capable to perform that navigation.

[Footnote 1: No such name occurs, in enumerating the squadron immediately before—E.]

The vast advantage of the trade of Chili by way of Cape Horn, is so obvious, that his catholic majesty is obliged by treaty to shut out all the European nations from it, as well as the English, although his own subjects make nothing of it, as it very rarely happens that a Spanish ship ventures to go round Cape Horn. Owing to this, all European goods sell enormously dear in Chili and Peru; insomuch, that I have been told at Lima, that they are often at 400 per cent. profit, and it may be fairly asserted, that the goods carried from France by Cape Horn are in themselves 50 per cent. better than those sent in the Cadiz flota to Carthagena and Vera Cruz, because the former are delivered in six months, fresh and undamaged, while the latter are generally eighteen months before they reach Chili. In the course of this trade, the French sold their goods, furnished themselves with provisions, and got home again, all within twelve or fourteen months.

When Martinet arrived on the coast of Chili in 1717, furnished with a commission from the king of Spain to take or destroy all the ships of his countrymen found trading in the South Sea, he soon had sufficient employment for his squadron and of fourteen ships belonging to St Malo, then on the coast, only one escaped him, which lay hid in a landlocked creek unseen till he had gone to leeward. Although in this he executed the orders of his catholic majesty, and did a material benefit to the British South Sea company, yet he almost ruined the trading part of the Creole Spaniards, as hindering the circulation of money and spoiling business, so that they could not bear the sight of the French men-of-war, though they liked the French merchant ships very much. On the other hand, imagining that they had done essential service to the Spaniards, the French expected to have received at least civil treatment in return, during their stay in these seas. As soon, however, as Martinet brought his prizes into Calao, and the Frenchmen had received their shares of the prize-money, forgetting the ancient antipathy of the Spaniards for the French, they gave themselves extravagant airs on shore, by dancing and drinking, which still more incensed the creolians against them, who called them cavachos and renegados, for falling foul of their own countrymen. From one thing to another, their mutual quarrels grew so high, that the Frenchmen were obliged to go about Lima and Calao in strong armed parties, the better to avoid outrages and affronts. At last, a young gentleman, who was ensign of the Ruby, and nephew to Captain La Jonquiere, was shot from a window, and the murderer took refuge in the great church of Calao. Martinet and La Jonquiere petitioned the viceroy to have the murderer delivered up to justice: But the viceroy, who was at the same time archbishop, would on no account consent to violate the privileges of the church. On this refusal, they called all their men on board by beat of drum, and laid the broadsides of their three ships to bear on the town of Calao, threatening to demolish the town and fortifications, unless the assassin were delivered up or executed. All this blustering, however, could not prevail upon the viceroy to give them any satisfaction, though they had several other men killed, besides that gentleman.

At length, unwilling to proceed to extremities, and no longer able to endure the place where his nephew had been murdered, La Jonquiere obtained leave of his commodore to make the best of his way home. About this time, many padros and many rich passengers were assembled at Conception in Chili, intending to take their passage to Europe in the French squadron, knowing that all ships bound for Cape Horn must touch at Conception, or some places thereabout, for provisions. La Jonquiere, having thus the start of his commodore, had all the advantage to himself of so many good passengers in his ship; for, as the king of Spain had no officer at Conception to register the money shipped at that place, these passengers and missionaries put astonishing sums of money on board the Ruby. They were thereby spared the trouble of a voyage to Panama or Acapulco, and travelling thence for Portobello or Vera Cruz, where they must have had their coffers visited, to see if the indulto of his majesty were fairly accounted for. They therefore saved every shilling of that indulto, as the Ruby touched first in France, where no cognizance whatever was taken of this affair. They also got clear of the other moiety payable in Spain, as they landed all their money in France.

Besides these rich passengers and their money, the Ruby had also on board a considerable sum arising to his catholic majesty from the confiscation of the thirteen captured interlopers, all of which, as I was informed, amounted to four millions of dollars in that ship. What a fine booty we missed therefore by the obstinacy of Shelvocke! For, when this ship, the Ruby, found us at the island of St Catharine, her company was so sickly that she had not above sixty sound men out of four hundred; so that La Jonquiere was actually afraid of us, and would not send his boat to the watering-place, where we kept guard, and our coopers and sail-makers were at work, till he had first obtained leave of our captain; neither is this strange, for he knew we had a consort, and was in Spain all the time he staid there, lest the Success should have joined us.

After Commodore Martinet had cleared the coast of Chili and Peru of his countrymen, he sent his brother-in-law, Monsieur de Grange, express with the news to Madrid, who went by way of Panama, Portobello, Jamaica, and London. On delivering his message, the king of Spain asked what he could do for him, when he humbly requested his majesty would give him the command of a ship, and send him again round Cape Horn into the South Sea. He accordingly got the Zelerin, of fifty guns. He came first to Calais,[2] where the ship was getting ready, and was surprised to meet with a cold reception from the French merchants and other gentlemen of his acquaintance residing there; for, as there were merchants of various nations interested in the ships taken and confiscated in the South Sea, they universally considered him and all the French in that squadron as false brethren, for serving the crown of Spain to the prejudice of their own countrymen. Thus, while he expected to have had a valuable cargo consigned to his care, no man would ship the value of a dollar with him. Captain Fitzgerald, who was then at Cales, made him a considerable offer for the privilege of going out as his second officer, with liberty to take out what goods he might be able to procure, in his own name. As de Grange was not a little embarrassed, he accepted this offer, and procured a commission for Fitzgerald as second captain. They accordingly manned the Zelerin chiefly with French seamen, and some English, and got very well round Cape Horn. At this time our two privateers, the Success and Speedwell, were known to be in the South Seas, and the Zelerin was one of the ships commissioned by the viceroy of Peru to cruize for us. Fitzgerald sold all his goods to great advantage at Lima, where he continued to reside; while de Grange served as captain under Admiral Don Pedro Miranda, who took Hately and me prisoners.

[Footnote 2: This, certainly, is a mistake for Cadiz, often named Cales by English seamen; and, in fact, only a few lines lower down, the place is actually named Cales.—E.]

Though great sufferers by so many confiscations, the merchants of St Malo were not entirely discouraged; for, in the year 1720, we found the Solomon of St Malo, of 40 guns, and 150 men, at Ylo, on the coast of Chili, with several Spanish barks at her stern. In the course of six weeks, she sold all her cargo, got in a supply of provisions, and left the coast without interruption, as by this time Martinet's squadron had left the coast. Encouraged by the success of the Solomon, the merchants of St Malo fitted out fourteen sail together, all of which arrived in the South Sea in the beginning of the year 1721. Three of the commanders of these ships, being well acquainted with the creolians, quickly sold their cargoes and returned home. About this time, the people of Lima judged that our privateers were gone off the coast, or at least would not commit any more hostilities, because of the truce between the two crowns. Wherefore, the three Spanish men-of-war that had been fitted out to cruize against us, were ordered against these fresh interlopers. I was on board the Flying-fish, an advice-boat that accompanied the men-of-war, when they came up with eleven sail of the St Malo ships, which were then altogether on the coast of Chili, and, instead of firing on them, the Spaniards joined them as friends. At first, expecting to have been attacked, the French ships drew up in a line, as if daring the ships of war. This seemed to me somewhat strange, that three such ships, purposely fitted out for this cruize, should decline doing their duty on their own coasts; for, had they proved too weak, they had ports of their own to retire to, under their lee. But the ships of war contented themselves with watching the motions of the interlopers, keeping them always in sight; and when any of the French ships drew near the shore, the Spaniards always sent a pinnace or long-boat along with her, carrying the Spanish flag, the sight of which effectually deterred the creolians from trading with the French. In this manner they contrived to prevent all these ships from disposing of their goods, except when they were met with at sea by chance, and sold some of their commodities clandestinely. At length, completely tired out by this close superintendence, the French got leave to take in provisions, and went home, at least half of their goods remaining unsold. Notwithstanding these losses and disappointments, and severe edicts issued against this trade in France, the merchants of St Malo still persist to carry it on, though privately, nor is it probable they will ever leave off so lucrative a commerce, unless prevented by the strong arm of power, or supplanted by some other nation.


I now return to my own affairs, and the manner of my return to England from Peru. I have already acknowledged the kind reception I met with from the admiral of the South Seas, Don Pedro Miranda, and the reasons of his treating us so civilly. I think it barely justice to mention the several favours I received, during the eleven months that I continued at Lima, particularly from Don Juan Baptista Palacio, a native of Biscay, a knight of the order of St Jago, who came weekly to the prison while we were there, and distributed money to us all, in proportion to our several ranks. Captain Nicholas Fitzgerald procured my enlargement, by becoming security for me; and he afterwards supplied me with money and necessaries, from that time till my departure; and procured for me and twenty more, a passage to Cadiz, in a Spanish advice-boat called the Flying-fish, of which our surgeon's mate, Mr Pressick, acted as surgeon, receiving wages, as did the rest of our men, being released from prison expressly to assist in navigating that vessel home to Spain. For my own part, being well treated, I did not think proper to eat the bread of idleness, but kept my watches as well as the other officers. And pray, what is the harm of all this? Though Shelvocke had the stupidity to call it treason; it must surely appear a very malicious, as well as an ignorant charge, after a man has been driven among the enemy, to call him a traitor because he has been kindly used, and for accepting his passage back again; and, because I was not murdered in Peru, I ought to be executed at home. This is Shelvocke's great Christian charity and good conscience![1]

[Footnote 1: After all, had the Flying-fish been captured by a British cruizer, Betagh would have run great risk of being found guilty of treason for keeping his watches.—E.]

On my arrival at Cadiz, captain John Evers of the Britannia kindly gave me my passage to London, and entertained me at his own table. On my return to London, and representing the hardships I had undergone, nine honourable persons made me a present of ten guineas each; which afforded me the satisfaction of seeing, that such as were the best judges, had a proper idea of the miseries I had suffered, and approved the manner in which I had behaved, the only consolation I could receive in the circumstances in which I was left by that unfortunate voyage. The fair account I have given of facts, and the detail of my proceedings in the Spanish West Indies, together with the account of what I observed worthy of notice during my stay in these parts, will acquit me, I hope, in the opinion of every candid and impartial person, from the aspersions thrown upon me by Shelvocke, in the account he has published of his voyage.

* * * * *


"Betagh has fully shewn, that the navigation round Cape Horn is no such dangerous or wonderful voyage. If twenty ships from St Malo could perform it in one year, and not a single vessel either shipwrecked or forced to put back, what shall hinder an English ship or an English fleet from doing the same? We see from the foregoing account, with how much ease the French carried on a prodigious trade to the South Seas, at a time when the appearance of an English ship there was esteemed a prodigy. We certainly can send our frigates there, as well as the French can their ships from St Malo; and it might be well worth the while of our merchants to send out ships to the coasts of Chili and Peru, laden with proper goods for that country."—Harris.

In the present day, this trade to the coasts of Chili and Peru has been resumed by the citizens of the United States; but the subjects of Britain are debarred from even attempting to take a share, because within the exclusive limits of the East India Company; although their ships never come nearer to the western coast of America than Canton in China, at the enormous distance of 174 degrees of longitude, and 59 degrees of latitude, counting from Canton in China to Conception in Peru, or upwards of twelve thousand English miles. It is certainly at least extremely desirable, that a trade of such promise should not remain any longer prohibited, merely to satisfy a punctilio, without the most distant shadow of benefit to the India Company, or to the nonentity denominated the South-sea Company.—Ed.




There was, perhaps, no country in the world where commerce was more profitable, or held more honourable, than in Holland, or where more respect and attention was shewn to it by the government. As the republic chiefly subsisted by trade, every thing relating to it was considered as an affair of a public nature, in which the welfare of the state was concerned, and highly deserving therefore of the strictest and readiest attention. The great companies in Holland, as in other countries, were considered as injurious to trade in some lights, yet necessary to its welfare in others. The West India Company of that country, originally erected in 1621, held, by an exclusive charter, the commerce of the coast of Africa, from the tropic of Cancer to the Cape of Good Hope, and that of America, from the southern point of Newfoundland in the N.E. all along the eastern coast to the Straits of Magellan or Le Maire, and thence northwards again along the western coast, to the supposed Straits of Anian, thus including the entire coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The directors of this company consisted of seventy-two persons, divided into five chambers, of whom eighteen were chosen to administer the affairs of the Company, together with a nineteenth person, nominated by the States-General.

[Footnote 1: Harris, I. 256. Callender, III. 644.]

The affairs of this Company were once in so very flourishing a condition, that it was considered as even superior to their East India Company. This prosperity was chiefly owing, to the happy success of their affairs at sea; as their admiral, Peter Haines, in the 1629, captured the Spanish plate fleet, laden with immense riches. They at one time made themselves masters of the greatest part of Brazil; and were so considerable that the great Count Maurice of Nassau did not think it beneath him to accept a commission from this Company as Governor-General of Brazil; which country, however, after it had cost them immense sums to defend, they at length lost. The term of their charter, originally limited to twenty-four years, expired in 1647, and was then renewed for other twenty-five years. During this second period, their affairs became so perplexed, so that the Company was dissolved towards the close of that term, with its own consent.

In 1674, a new company was erected, by letters patent from the States-General, with nearly the same powers and privileges, which has subsisted ever since with great reputation.[2] The capital of this new company consisted of six millions of florins, which are equal to 545,454l. 10s. 10d. 10-11ths sterling. And the limits of their authority are the western coast of Africa and both coasts of America, all the establishments of the Dutch in these countries being under their authority, so that any one who proposes a new scheme of commerce in those parts, must necessarily apply himself to that company. Under these circumstances, a Mr Roggewein, a person of parts and enterprize, formed a project for the discovery of the vast continent and numerous islands, supposed to be in the southern part of the globe, under the name of Terra Australis Incognita, of which the world had hitherto only very imperfect notices from others; which project, with a plan for carrying the discovery into execution, they presented to the Dutch East India Company[3] in 1696, by which it was favourably received, and he was assured of receiving all the assistance and support he could desire or expect, as soon as the affairs of the Company would permit. But the disturbances which soon afterwards followed put a stop to the good intentions of the Company; and Mr Roggewein died before any thing could be done. Mr Roggewein was a gentleman of the province of Zealand, who had addicted himself from his youth to mathematical studies, and we have reason to suppose recommended his projected discovery on his death-bed to his son.

[Footnote 2: This refers to the year 1743, when Harris wrote: It is hardly necessary to say, that Holland and its great commercial companies are now merely matters of history.—E.]

[Footnote 3: From what goes both before and after, this seems a mistake for the West India Company.—E.]

After the death of his father, the younger Roggewein applied to his studies with much vigour, and qualified himself for the office of counsellor in the court of justice at Batavia, where he resided for many years. After his return from Java, where he had acquired a handsome fortune, he resolved upon carrying his father's projected discovery into execution; and, in the year 1721, presented a memorial to the West India Company, narrating the proposal of his father for discovering the southern continent and islands, which they had formerly been pleased to approve of, and which he was now ready to attempt. The Company received this memorial with readiness; and, as its affairs were now in better order, acquainted Mr Roggewein, that it would give immediate orders for equipping such a squadron as might be necessary for carrying his design into effect. The squadron accordingly fitted out on this occasion consisted of three ships: The Eagle of 36 guns and 111 men, commanded by Captain Job Coster, and in which Mr Roggewein embarked as Commodore; the Tienhoven of 28 guns and 100 men, commanded by Captain James Bowman; and the African, a galley armed with 14 guns, and carrying 60 men, commanded by Captain Henry Bosenthal.

It may be proper to acquaint the reader, that the subsequent account of this voyage is derived from an original journal, which never appeared before in our language, for which I was indebted to the gentleman who commanded the land-forces on board the Commodore, and whose name I am not at liberty to mention; neither that of another gentleman who was engaged in the voyage, and from whom I received considerable assistance. The nature of the expedition is sufficient in itself to recommend it to the notice of the curious; and the many remarkable particulars it contains, especially respecting the state of the Dutch Company in the Indies, renders it both a very entertaining and a most instructive performance.

Before proceeding to the narrative of this voyage, I hope to be indulged in making a few remarks, which may contribute both to amusement and information, and may clear up some points that might otherwise appear obscure in the following voyage. It is worth observing, that the Dutch West India Company had been long in a declining condition; which, instead of dispiriting the Directors, engaged them to turn their thoughts to every method that could be devised for recovering their affairs. There is so wide a difference between our English great chartered companies and those [formerly] in Holland, that it may not be amiss to give a concise account of the flourishing state of that Company, as it may shew what great things may be managed by a board of merchants, for such the Directors generally were.

It appears, from the books of the Company, that, in the space of thirteen years, from 1623 to 1636, the Company had fitted out 800 ships, either for war or trade, and that the expence of building, equipping, and seamen's wages had cost forty-five millions of florins, or upwards of four millions sterling: And, in the same space of time, the Company had taken from the enemy 545 vessels, valued at sixty millions of florins, or nearly five and a half millions sterling; besides to the value of thirty millions at the least, or nearly two millions and a quarter sterling, in spoils of various denominations. The greatest of their exploits was the capture of the Spanish flota at the Havannah, by their admiral Peter Heyne; by which they gained seven millions of dollars in money, or L. 2,625,000 sterling; besides ships, brass cannon, and other military stores, to the value of above ten millions.[4] Such were the flourishing times of the Company.

[Footnote 4: Harris does not say whether dollars or florins: If the former, equal to L. 2,250,000 sterling at 4s. 6d. the dollar; if the latter, a little above L. 900,000 sterling at 11 florins to the pound sterling; both of these the old par of exchange.—E.]

The causes of their decay seem to have been principally the following. First, their emulation of the East India Company, which induced them to make the conquest of Brazil from Portugal, the crown of which country had been usurped by their arch enemy the king of Spain. This was achieved at a vast expence, and Count Maurice of Nassau was appointed governor-general, who conducted their affairs with great skill and prudence. Secondly, owing to the desire of the Company to conduct all things, and repining at the expence incurred by that prince in the government of Brazil, was another cause of their misfortunes: For the merchants, who had conducted their affairs with great wisdom and capacity, while they confined themselves to commerce and maritime war, shewed themselves only indifferent statesmen, and soon lost all that Prince Maurice had gained, and loaded the Company with so heavy a debt, as compelled them in the end to consent to its dissolution.

The new West India Company, warned by the example of its predecessors, has kept more within bounds, and has certainly managed its affairs with great prudence and economy. Having formed a project in 1714, for uniting the East and West India Companies into one,[5] and the proposition, being rejected, the directors of the West India Company very wisely turned their thoughts another way; and it is not improbable, that the rejection of their proposal on this occasion may have induced them to give encouragement to the proposition of Roggewein: For, being disappointed in their aim of coming in for a share in the commodities of the East Indies, they were desirous of acquiring the same articles of trade by some other means, expecting to have found these in the continent or islands proposed to be discovered by Roggewein. This also accounts for the extraordinary heat and violence of the Dutch East India Company, against those who were engaged on the present expedition, and is the true secret of the dispute so warmly carried on by the two Companies, and so wisely decided by the States-General. When the Dutch East India Company persecuted and destroyed Le Maire for his voyage of discovery, under pretence of interfering within their exclusive boundaries, the government did not interfere, because at that time the power of the East India Company was of the highest importance to the state: But, as the government of Holland became better established, and especially since a share in the public administration has been acquired by such as are conversant in trade, the concerns of the East India Company have been viewed in a new light. The first who explained this matter clearly was that consummate statesman and true patriot, John de Witte, whose words are most worthy the attention of the reader.

[Footnote 5: A long, indistinct, and uninteresting account of this project is here omitted, which Harris alleges might have transferred the whole commerce of Europe to the Dutch, but for which opinion he advances no substantial reasons, or rather none at all.—E.]

"When the East India Company had attained to a certain extent of power and grandeur, its interests came not only to clash with, but grew absolutely opposite to those of the country. For, whereas the advantage of the nation consists in the increase of manufactures, commerce, and freight of ships; the interests of the Company are to promote the sale of foreign manufactures, and that with the smallest extent of traffic and navigation that can be contrived. Hence, if the East India Company can gain more by importing Japan cloths, India quilts, carpets, and chintzes, than by raw silk; or, if the Company, by creating an artificial scarcity of nutmegs, mace, cloves, cinnamon, and other spices, can raise their price so as to gain as much profit by the sale of 100 tons, as it would otherwise gain by the sale of 1000 tons, we are not to expect that it will import raw silks, or be at the expence of transporting 1000 tons of spice; though the former would assist and encourage our manufactures at home, and the latter would increase our navigation.

This chain of reasoning is so plain, and so evidently agrees with the interests of all nations, as well as with those of Holland, that it is impossible for any unprejudiced person not to discern that all exclusive companies destroy, instead of promoting, the commerce of the countries in which they are established. The same great statesman already quoted observes, "That the more any country extends its foreign conquests, the more of its stock must necessarily be spent, for the preservation and defence of these conquests: And consequently, by how much the greater are its dominions, so much the less is that company able to prosecute the trade, for the promotion of which it was erected."[6]—Harris.

[Footnote 6: The remarks of Harris on this voyage are extended to a far greater length than have been here adopted, and are many of them loose and uninteresting; but some of those here inserted have a strong reference to a most important subject now under consideration of the legislature; and the notices respecting the Dutch West India Companies are curious in themselves, as well as upon a subject very little known in this country.

The subject of this voyage round the world is principally exhausted in the seven first sections; all those subsequent being chiefly a detail of the Indian settlements of the Dutch East India Company, as it was in the year 1722, almost a century ago. These certainly might have been omitted on the present occasion, without injury to the present article, as a circumnavigation: But, as conveying a considerable mass of information, respecting the Dutch possessions in India, now all belonging to Britain, and respecting which hardly any thing has been published in the English language, it has been deemed indispensable to preserve them.—E.]


Narrative of the Voyage from Holland to the Coast of Brazil.[1]

The small squadron of three ships, already enumerated, sailed from Amsterdam on the 16th July, 1721, and arrived at the Texel in thirty-six hours, where they were provided with every thing requisite for so long a voyage. All things being in readiness, they sailed with a fair wind on the 21st August; but, as the wind changed next day, they were three days in beating to windward through the British channel, after which they continued their course to the S.W. for the coast of Barbary, but were opposed by a heavy storm which did them considerable damage. To this a dead calm succeeded, during which the water ran mountains high, owing to agitation they had been thrown into by the storm. By the rolling of the ships during the calm, several injuries were sustained, one of the vessels losing its main-top-mast and mizen-mast; and the main-yard of the Commodore came down with such force as to wound several of the people on deck. After two days the wind freshened again, and they continued their course S.W. towards the Canaries, amusing themselves with observing the manner in which the flying-fish endeavours to escape from its enemies, the albicores and bonitoes. The flying-fish are not larger than a herring, and raise themselves into the air by means of two long fins, one on each side, not much unlike the wings of a bat in strength and texture. They are considered as good eating, and the sailors are always well pleased when they are met with in plenty. The bonito is about two feet long, of a greyish colour, finely streaked from head to tail; but the flesh is hard, dry, and disagreeably tasted. The albicore is generally five or six feet long, and sometimes weighs 150 pounds. They saw likewise several water-fowls, particularly teal, which the seamen account a sign of land being near.

[Footnote 1: In the various steps of this voyage, the merely uninteresting journal or log-book incidents have been materially abbreviated.—E.]

While in lat. 28 deg. N. and soon expecting to see the Canaries, a sail was descried from the mast-head carrying English colours. On drawing near she struck her colours and bore away, but re-appeared in about an hour, having four sail more in her company, sometimes carrying white, sometimes red, and sometimes black colours, which gave reason to suspect that they were pirates. The Commodore immediately made the signal for the line of battle, and all hands went to work in clearing the ship for action, filling grenades, and preparing every thing for the ensuing engagement, in which they fortunately had the advantage of the weather-gage. Observing this, the pirates put themselves into a fighting posture, struck their red flag, and hoisted a black one, on which was a death's head in the centre, surmounted by a powder horn, and two cross bones underneath. They likewise formed the line, and commenced a smart action. The pirates fought very briskly for some time, as believing the Dutch ships to be merchantmen; but after two hours cannonade, perceiving the Commodore preparing to board the vessel to which he was opposed, the pirates spread all their canvass, and crowded away as fast as they could sail. Commodore Roggewein, on seeing them bear away, called out, Let the rascals go: In which he strictly obeyed his instructions; as all the ships belonging to the Dutch East and West India Companies have strict orders to pursue their course, and never to give chase. In this action, four men were killed, and nine wounded in the Commodore, the other two ships having seven slain and twenty-six wounded. The carpenters also had full employment in stopping leaks, and repairing the other damages sustained.

Continuing their voyage, they had sight of Madeira on the 15th November, and in the neighbourhood saw a desert island which is much frequented by the pirates, for wood and water and other refreshments. They afterwards had sight of the Peak of Teneriffe, which is generally esteemed the highest single mountain in the world, on which account the geographers of Holland adopt it as the first meridian in their maps and charts; while the French and English of late incline to fix their first meridians at their respective capitals of Paris and London. These differences are apt to create much confusion in the longitudes of places, when not explained by the writers who use these several modes of reckoning; on which account Lewis XIII. of France, by edict in 1634, endeavoured to obviate this inconvenience, by directing the first meridian to be placed in the island of Ferro, the most westerly of the Canaries.[1] From these islands they directed their course for the islands of Cape Verde, so named from Cabo Verde, or the Green Cape, a point or mountain on the coast of Africa, called Arlinarium by Ptolemy.

[Footnote 1: The Royal Observatory at Greenwich is now the first meridian in British maps and globes, from which St Paul's in London is 0 deg. 5' 37" W. the observatory of Paris 2 deg. 20' E. Teneriffe peak 16 deg. 40' W. and Ferrotown 17 deg. 45' 50" W.]

This cape is bounded by two rivers, the Senegal and Gambia, called by the ancients the Garatius and Stachiris. It has an island to the west, which is frequented by an infinite number of birds, the eggs of which are frequently gathered by mariners going this way. This cape is dangerous to land upon, because of a great many sunken rocks about it. The continent is here inhabited by negroes, who trade with all nations, and speak many languages, especially French and Portuguese. Most of them go naked, except a piece of cloth about their middle, but their princes and great men wear long garments of calico striped with blue, and made like shifts; they hang also little square bags of leather on their arms and legs, but we could not learn of them what these bags contain.[2] They wear necklaces made of sea-horses teeth, alternating with glass beads; and have caps of blue and white striped calico on their heads. They are a prudent and wise people, cultivating their soil, which bears good rice and other articles sufficient for their maintenance; and the richer people keep cattle, which are very dear, as being scarce. They have many good blacksmiths, and iron is much, valued among them, being forged into fish-spears, implements for cultivating the ground, and various weapons, as the heads of arrows, darts, and javelins. Their religion seems to border on Mahometism, as they are all circumcised; but they have little knowledge of the true God, except among a few who converse with Christians. They are very lascivious, and may have as many wives as they please; but the women are seldom contented with one husband, and are passionately fond of strangers. The whole country is under subjection to the governors or head-men of the various towns and villages, who row on board such ships as arrive, making them pay customs. Several Portuguese reside here, who trade freely with all nations, but have no power or authority, except over their own slaves and servants.

[Footnote 2: These are called obi, containing a variety of ridiculous trash, and are held in superstitious esteem as amulets.—E.]

Having the advantage of a strong N.E. wind, they took their departure from Cape de Verde, and continued their course for six weeks, without coming to anchor or handing a sail. In this long passage, they had some days in which the heat was almost insupportable, and the crew began to murmur excessively on account of being at short allowance of water. On this occasion one of the swabbers got into the hold, and, being extremely thirsty, pierced a cask of brandy, of which he pulled, so heartily that he was soon intoxicated to a degree of madness. In this condition he staggered into the cook-room, where he threw down a pan of grease, and being sharply reproved by the cook, drew his knife and rushed upon him. Some of the crew gathered about him and wrenched the knife out of his hand, but not till he had drawn it two or three times across the cook's face. For this they drubbed him soundly, which he resented so deeply that he seized a knife as soon as he got loose, and gave himself several stabs in the belly. The utmost care was taken of his recovery, in order to make him a public example, to prevent such actions in future among the crew; and after his recovery he was punished in the following manner. Being declared infamous at the fore-mast, he was thrice keel-hauled, and had 300 strokes on the buttocks, after which his right hand was fastened to the mast with his own knife. When he had stood some time in this condition, he was put in chains on the fore-castle, being allowed nothing but bread and water for some days; and was continued in irons to be set on shore at the first barren island they came to.

Continuing their voyage till near the line, they were much incommoded by the shifting of the wind; and by scarcity of water, many of the crew falling ill of the scurvy. When it sometimes fell entirely calm, the heat of the sun became more than ordinarily oppressive, owing to which some of the men became quite distracted, others fell into high fevers, and some had fits like the epilepsy. Their water, as it grew low, stunk abominably, and became full of worms. The salt provisions were in a manner quite spoiled, and served only to turn their stomachs and increase their thirst. Hunger is said to be the greatest of torments, but they had reason to consider thirst as the greatest misery incident to human nature. At this time they often observed towards evening that the sea appeared all on fire; and taking up some buckets of water in this condition, they observed that it was full of an infinite number of little globules, of the size, form, and colour of pearls. These retained their lustre for some time when held in the hand, but on pressure seemed nothing more than an earthy fat substance like mud.

They at length crossed the line, with the loss only of one man, who died of a high fever; and on getting into the latitude of 3 deg. S. they fell into the true trade-wind, before which they scudded along at a great rate. In lat. 5 deg. S. they had the sun directly vertical, so that they were some days without any observation. In 6 deg. S. they caught many dorados and dolphins, both, in the opinion of the author of this voyage, being the same fish, of which the dolphin is the male and the dorado the female. Some of these are six feet long, but not of proportional bulk. In the water they appear excessively beautiful, their skins shining as if streaked with burnished gold; but lose their splendid appearance on being taken out of the water. Their flesh is very sweet and well flavoured, so that the seamen always feast when they can procure plenty of this fish. They saw also abundance of sharks, many of which are ten feet long. Their flesh is hard, stringy, and very disagreeably tasted; yet the seamen frequently hang them up in the air for a day or two, and then eat them: Which compliment the surviving sharks never fail to return when a seaman falls in their way, either dead or alive, and seem to attend ships for that purpose.

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