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height of twenty-five feet. The torrent was shaded with beautiful heliconias, plumerias, cupeys, browneas, and the ficus gigantea. · The brownea, which the inhabitants call rosa del monte, or palo de cruz, bears four or five hundred purple flowers together in one thyrsus ; each flower has invariably eleven stamina; and this majestic plant, the trunk of which reaches the height of fifty or sixty feet, is becoming rare because its wood yields a highly valued charcoal. The soil of this delightful spot is said to be covered with pine-apples, hemimeris, polygala, melastomas, clethras, aralias, and a great variety of the finest plants. · At the foot of the mountains was situated in a basin the small village of San Pedro, where on one spot were cultivated the coffee shrub, plantains, and potatoes. We may here remark that Messrs. Humboldt and Bonpland took great pains in every part of their travels to discover the potatoe (solanum tuberosum) in its native state; but they searched in vain the Antilles, Terra firma, the elevated plain of Mexico, and the more elevated regions of Peru : and it is but the other day that the native dwelling of this most useful root was discovered by Ruiz and Domberg in the vallies of Lima and Peru, in the immediate neighbourhood of Chili, near the sea-coast of the Pacific, and not more than fourteen leagues from Lima. The correctness therefore of the vulgar notion that Sir Walter Raleigh was the first to introduce the potatoe into Ireland from Guiana may be called in question ; it being more probable that this root was originally carried from Linia to Cadiz, and from thence found its way into Ireland, between which and that port a considerable commerce was carried on.
Leaving the mountains, our travellers entered upon a highly cultivated country, covered with hamlets and villages, several of which in Europe would be called towns. In the valley or plain of the Rio Tuy in a line of twelve leagues, they passed La Victoria, San Matheo, Turmero, and Maracay, containing together about 30,000 inhabitants. The Tuy winds among grounds covered with plantains, the hura crepitans, erythrina corallodendron, and fig-trees with nymphea leaves; the bed of the river is formed of quartz pebbles, and the water is always cool, and as clear as crystal. M. de Humboldt bears testimony to the humane treatment which the Negroes experience here, as in most of the Spanish colonies. They have each a small spot of ground to cultivate; they have Saturdays and Sundays to themselves; they all keep poultry, and many of them a pig. In the Spanish colonies too the laws, the institutions, and the manners are more favourable to the liberty of the blacks, than in any other European settlements.
The valley of the Tuy has its “gold mine' like every other
part of America inhabited by whites. Grains of this metal are said in fact to have been picked up in the ravine of the Oro.
An overseer, or major domo, of a neighbouring plantation, had followed these indications; and after his death, a waistcoat with gold buttons being found among his clothes, this gold, according to the logic of these people, could only have proceeded from a vein, which the falling-in of the earth had rendered invisible. In vain I objected, that I could not, by the mere view of the soil, without digging a large trench in the direction of the vein, well judge of the existence of the mine; I was compelled to yield to the desire of my hosts. For twenty years past the major-dorno's waistcoat had been the subject of conversation in the country. Gold extracted from the bosom of the earth is far more alluring in the eyes of the vulgar, than that which is the produce of agricultural industry, favoured by the fertility of the soil, and the mildness of the climate.'-p. 87.
This supposed gold mine was situated in a deep ravine, named Quebrada Seca; and to this the travellers proceeded : all traces of it, however, were obliterated, the falling down of the earth having changed the surface of the ground. Great trees were growing where the gold-washers had worked twenty years before. The vegetation was every where of a magnificent description. Ligneous excrescences in the form of ridges or ribs, augmented in an extraordinary manver the thickness of the trunk of the American fig-trees. I found some of them,' says our author, twenty-two feet and a half in diameter near the roots !' The natural roots winding at the surface of the ground, when cut with a hatchet at the distance of several feet from the trunk throw out a milky juice, which, when deprived of the vital influence of the organs of the tree, is soon altered and coagulated.
• What a wonderful combination of cells and vessels exists in these vegetable masses, in these gigantic trees of the torrid zone, which, without interruption, perhaps during a thousand years, prepare nutricious foods, raise them to the height of one hundred and eighty feet, convey them down again to the ground, and conceal beneath a rough and hard bark, under the inanimate layers of ligneous matter, all the movements of organized life!
We left (says M. de Humboldt) the plantation of Manterolo on the 11th February; the road followed the smiling banks of the Tuy; the morning was cool and humid, and the air seemed embalmed by the delicious odour of the puncratium undulatum, and other large liliaceous plants. At a farın belonging to the family of Monteras, "a negress more than a hundred years old was seated before a small hut constructed with earth and reeds. She seemed still to enjoy very good health– I hold her to the sun,' (la tengo al sol,) said her grandson, the heat keeps her alive.' Blacks well
seasoned to the climate, and Indians, are known to attain a happy old age in the torrid zone. I have mentioned elsewhere,' says our author, “ the history of a native of Peru, who died at the age of 143 years, after having been 90 years married.'
The city, or town, or village of Vittoria, situate as it were in the bottom of a desiccated lake, contains 7,000 inhabitants, many fine edifices, a church decorated with Doric columns, and all the resources of commercial industry. The environs presented to the travellers a remarkable aspect, with regard to agriculture. On the surface little less than three hundred toises above the level of the ocean, they beheld fields of corn mingled with plantations of sugar-canes, coffee, and plantains. La Vittoria and the neighbouring village of San Matheo yield an annual produce of four thousand quintals of wheat. It is sown in the month of December, and the harvest is reaped on the seventieth or seventy-fifth day. An acre (14 English) generally yields from three thousand to three thousand two hundred pounds of wheat; and “consequently,' says M. de Humboldt, the average produce is here, as at Buenos Ayres, three or four times as much as that of northern countries.' We know not in what 'northern countries' it would repay the husbandman's labour and expense to reap so scanty a crop, as from ten to twelve bushels an acre, but we are quite sure it would not answer to an English farmer. We suspect the Baron is not much of an agriculturist, and we are inclined to doubt the accuracy of the statement, that beyond the latitude of 45°, the produce of wheat is no where so considerable as on the northern coasts of Africa and the table-lands of New Grenada, Peru, and Mexico.' If it be meant by merely turning over the soil to throw in the seed, without any preparatory tilth or manure, then indeed the fact may be as he states it, as the augmentation of heat may to a certain degree stand in lieu of tillage.
From St. Matheo to Turmero, a distance of four leagues, the road leads through plantations of sugar, indigo, cotton, and coffee. The regularity of all the villages indicated their origin to monks and missions—streets straight and parallel, crossing each other at right angles, and the church in the great square, situate in the centre. Indians are here mixed with the whites. Those of Turmero are described as of small stature, but less squat than the Chaymas, and with more vivacity and intelligence in their eyes : active and laborious during the short intervals in which they can be prevailed on to work, they spend in one week the earnings of two months in strong liquors, at the small inns which every where abound.
Our travellers remained some time at Cura on the borders of the lake of Valentia or Tacarigua, agreeably surprized not only at the
progress of agriculture, but at the obvious increase of a free and laborious population, accustomed to toil, and too needy to rely on the assistance of slaves. The great landholders had at length discovered their advantage in letting out small separate farms to the poor families, who applied themselves chiefly to the cultivation of cotton. "I love,' says M. de Humboldt, to dwell on these details of colonial industry, because they prove to the inhabitants of Europe, what to the enlightened inhabitants of the colonies has long ceased to be doubtful, that the continent of Spanish America can produce cotton, as well as sugar and indigo, by free hands, and that the unhappy slaves are capable of becoming peasants, farmers, and landholders.
We pass over the picturesque beauties of the lake of Valentia, with its numerous rocky islets, and its cultivated shores, together with the question of the diminution of its waters, which is discussed at great length; and which seems to us fully accounted for by the destruction of forests, the clearing of plains, the evaporation of the soil, and the dryness of the atmosphere. On one of the fifteen islands which embellish the lake, our travellers learnt the following anecdote. : "Burro, the largest of these islands, is two miles in length; and even inhabited by some families of Mestizoes, who rear goats. These simple men seldom visit the shore of Mocundo. To them the lake appears of immense extent; they have plantains, cassava, milk, and a little fish. A hut constructed of reeds; hammocks woven with the cotton, which the neighbouring fields produce; a large stone, on which the fire is made, the ligneous fruit of the tytuma, in which they draw water, constitute their domestic establishment. The old Mestizo, who offered us some of the milk of his goats, had a beautiful daughter. We learned from our guide, that solitude had rendered him as mistrustful, as he might perhaps have been made by the society of men. The day before our arrival, some sportsmen had visited the island. They were surprized by the night ; and preferred sleeping in the open air to returning to Mocundo. This news spread alarm throughout the island. The father obliged the young girl to climb up a very lofty zamang or acacia, which grows in the plain, at some distance from the hut; while he stretched himself at the foot of the tree, and did not permit his daughter to descend, till the sportsmen had departed. Travellers have not always found this timorous watchfulness, this great austerity of manners, among the inhabitants of islands.'—p. 159.
From Moçundo our travellers continued their journey by Los Guayos to the city of Nueva Valencia which, occupying a very extensive space, contains only six or seven thousand souls. Many of the white inhabitants however forsake their houses, and live in little plantations of indigo and cotton, where they can venture to work with their own hands, which it seeins would be a dis
grace grace to them in the town. Here the termites or white ants are so abundant, that their excavations are said to resemble subterraneous canals, which filling with water in the time of the rains, become very dangerous to the buildings of the town.
Valencia calls to the recollection of our author the crimes and adventures of Lopez de Aguirre, which form one of the most dramatic episodes in the history of the conquest. On entering this city, he proclaimed the independence of the country, and the deposition of Philip II. In his celebrated letter to this sovereign, of which M. de Humboldt has given several extracts, he paints with frightful truth the manners of the soldiery of the fifteenth century in this unfortunate country.
The tyrant (Aguirre is still thus denominated by the vulgar) boasts alternately of his crimes and his piety; he gives advice to the king on the government of the colonies, and the system of missions. Surrounded by savage Indians, navigating on a great sea of fresh water, as he calls the river of Amazons, he is alarmed at the heresies of Martin Luther, and the increasing influence of schismatics in Europe. Lopez de Aguirre was killed at Barquesimeto, after having been abandoned by his own men. At the moment when he fell, he plunged a dagger into the bosom of his only daughter, " that she might not have to blush before the Spaniards at the name of the daughter of a traitor.” The soul of the tyrant (such is the belief of the natives) wanders in the savannahs, like a flame that flies the approach of men.'
Our travellers visited Porto Cabello on the sea coast, and stopping, on their return to Valencia, at the farm of Burbula, were gratified with a new object of the vegetable world, interesting to the philosopher and lover of natural history; it was the palo de vaca or cow-tree, yielding, from incisions made in its trunk, a vegetable milk of a nutricious quality, used plentifully by the negroes. This juicy matter is described as glutinous, tolerably thick, destitute of all acrimony, and of an agreeable and balmy smell. M. de Humboldt says that they drank considerable quantities of it in the evening before they went to bed, and very early in the morning, without feeling the least injurious effect; the viscosity alone rendering it a little disagreeable. The tree, it seems, has not been described or classed by botanists, but it is supposed to belong to the sapota family, of which the butter-tree of Mungo Park is another member. It is represented as a beautiful tree, rising like the broad-leaved star-apple (chrysophylum cainito.) The milk exposed to the air produces a coagulum, which the people call cheese. The following reflections are in the best manner of M. de Humboldt.
• Amid the great number of curious phenomena, which have presented themselves to me in the course of my travels, I confess there are few that have so powerfully affected my imagination as the aspect of