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metal Survey the Spanish
opulation, rent of
ART. I. Present State of the Spanish Colonies; including a
particular Report of Ilispaniola, or the Spanish Part of Sunto Domingo; with a general Survey of the Settlements on the South Continent of America, as relates to the History, Trade, Population, Customs, Manners, &c. with a concise Statement of the Seiitiments of the People on their relative Situution to the Mother Country. By William Walton, Jun. Secretary to the Expedition which captured the City of Santo Domingo from the French; and Resident British Agent there. 2 vols. Svo. Lone don, Longman. 1812. A MONG those who have suddenly received the inspiration of
authorship, few were ever placed in a more favourable situation than Mr. Walton when he produced his book on the Spanish colonies. He had lived from his early years in Spain; he knew the language of the country; and was thoroughly conversant with tlie manners of the inhabitants. He had stolen, it appears, many hours from the commercial pursuits in which he was educated, to employ himself in collecting such information about the country as its actual state and the nature of its government would allow. Scarcely had he arrived in England when an insurrection broke out which threatened Spain with the loss of her richest possessions, while she was nobly struggling for freedom against the oppressor of the Continent. The people of Great Britain, who considered the cause of Spain as their own, could not look on with indifference, whilst the Spanish nation was on the eve of forfeiting the hopes of her own liberty by imprudently engaging in a destructive war with her colonies. What were the grounds of so ill-timed a contest, whether it could be avoided, what might be hoped or feared from the character of the contending parties, were questions universally canvassed; and whoever could add to the scanty stock of information which we possessed upon those heads, was sure to be listened to with interest.
But unluckily, Mr. Walton was too ambitious to be useful. Instead of the humble detailer of such facts and observations as the contracted scenes before him readily furnished, he aspired to beVOL. XII. NO, XIV,
come the historian of the New World. He had formed (he says) the design of putting his researches together, at some future period, in a large and general description of the Spanish colonies, and, with that view, collected a variety of materials relating both to the Spanish islands and the shores of the Continent from La Vela to the Oronoko,' (a little way, by-the-bye, towards the immense excursion he meditated, which have been, during the last war, the most accessible to foreigners. Nature, however, conspired with man to frustrate his magnificent designs. Part of his papers were seized by the French at St. Domingo; and' one of those dreadful hurricanes which sometimes sweep the West India seas,' sunk the rest, with his Majesty's ship the Lark. Still, however, the image of the large book was deeply engraven on his fancy; and though now left with little else than the faint traces of memory for his guidance,' he could not forbear writing two octavo volumes, to shew what might have been expected from him, if the enemy and the elements had not so unpitifully destroyed his 'seven years labours.
The introduction to his work is an account of Hispaniola. This takes up the whole of the first volume; the second is devoted to the natural and political history of the New World.--.But it is impossible to convey a correct idea of the loose and desultory manner in which he writes. Some notion of it may, however, be formed from a sketch of one of the most important chapters, if we are to judge from the title, which runs thus.' Indians; their history; one of their idols described; decline and rise of Hispaniola; policy of the French in the West Indies. In the first year (Mr. Walton begins) after the discovery of this island, European settlers Hocked hither from every part of the mother-country, led by the impulse of riches, and baited by the flattering representations of those who returned home with the first samples of gold. Under a sun so benign, and a soil go fertile, establishments rose in every direction, lands were dealt out by grants froin the emperor, the Indians were shared in repartimientos amongst the rich and powerful, and taught to till the earth, or dig from its bowels the means of enriching their masters. Cities, palaces, temples, and towns, to rival many in Europe, soon swelled upon the sighi; and, if we can credit their own historians, in 1504, that is, ten years after the discovery, and during the government of Ovando, there were seventeen tovus founded and peopled, all of which, according to Herrera, had their respective blazons, or coat of arms, of which the details are found in his history, taken from the royal grant, under date of the 6th of December, 1508. But of these, except in the capital, scarcely a trace is now to be met with or recoguized by their present respective inhabitants. • Of short
duration, however, was this blaze of prosperity; the natives'-(it was full time to come to them)—the natives, by whose labour this rapid advance had been made, began to declinemi'We must confess that Mr. Walton's history of the Indians does not begin ab ovo. But, as he had touched on their decline, he would not miss the opportunity of mentioning the famous Las Casas; and after unhesitatingly stating, as a fact, that the worthy Bishop of Chiapa was the first who introduced slaves into Santo Domingo,* and gravely philosophizing on the contradictory conduct of this humane defender of the Indians, he recollects that he had promised to give their history, and we are led to hope that he is going to set about it in earnest. Nothing like it; by History of the Indians' the author means that such history is not to be found in his book. "To enter' (he says)' on the history of the Indian aborigines of Hispañola at the time it was discovered by Columbus, were to wander from the line prescribed; nor can we find any local traces to aid us in substituting fact for conjecture.
To console the reader, however, for his disappointment, Mr. Walton tells him how' he sought, in vain, some remnant of isolated population, under a wish to obtain a comparative knowledge of their language and traditions. This, indeed, was rather gratuitous in Mr. Walton, for it is pretty well known at Santo Domingo, that there are no such remnants of isolated population of aborigines in the island; and he might have spared himself his wandering in search of it, and his readers this negative chapter.
But what does Mr. Walton call the Indian language? We sometimes' (he says, p. 166) 'meet with Spanish authors who boast of
• The extraordinary and disinterested exertions of this excellent man have made him an object of veneration. The fact of his having recommended the importation of negro slaves, to save from destruction the weak race of the Santo Domingo Indians, rests upon the authority of Herrera. But it is absolutely false that he was the first promoter of that horrid trade in the Spanish Colonies. A tax on the importation of slaves into the Spanish Colonies was planned by Cardinal Ximenes as early as 1516. (Herrera, Decad. 2. Lib. 2. c. 8.) Las Casas had limited his efforts to obtain a Regulation for the relief of the Indians, which was granted by Charles V. in 1542. These regulations excited considerable troubles in the colonies, and Las Casas's hopes of their good effect were completely disappointed. He then, according to Herrera, 'seeing that every thing failed him, betook himself to the expedient of recoinmending that licences should be granted to the Spaniards who lived in the colonies for the importation of negroes, in order to relieve the Indians.' (Herrera, Dec. 2. lib. 2. c. 20.) It is to be observed that this historian had before mentioned that such licences had been suspended in order to increase the intended duty on the importation. (Vide Dec. 2. lib. 2. c. 8.) It evidently appears from this that the humane bishop neither promoted nor invented the measure. The importation of negroes was merely suspended upon a barbarous speculation. This suspension would naturally produce a greater demand for Africans, after having occasioved the complete destruction of the Iudian race at Santo Domingo, So that Las Casas's advice only tended to diminish two evils—the immediate destruction of the Indians, and an extensive importation of negroes, neither of which it was in his power to remedy.