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Alexander von Humboldt: „Humboldt’s History of New Spain“, in: ders., Sämtliche Schriften digital, herausgegeben von Oliver Lubrich und Thomas Nehrlich, Universität Bern 2021. URL: <> [abgerufen am 17.04.2024].

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Titel Humboldt’s History of New Spain
Jahr 1811
Ort Boston, Massachusetts
in: Boston Gazette 42:34 (20. Mai 1811), S. [2 [Fortsetzungshinweis „To be continued“]; 43:34 (23. Mai 1811), S. [1] [Fortsetzungshinweis „To be continued“]; 44:34 (27. Mai 1811), S. [1].
Sprache Englisch
Typografischer Befund Antiqua; Spaltensatz; Auszeichnung: Kursivierung.
Textnummer Druckausgabe: II.76
Dateiname: 1809-Voyage_de_MM-06-neu
Seitenanzahl: 3
Spaltenanzahl: 3
Zeichenanzahl: 12121

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|2| |Spaltenumbruch|

Humboldt’s History of New Spain.

The “Literary Panorama” contains a very ex-cellent review of Humboldt’s political essay on thekingdom of New Spain. We shall present ourreaders with frequent extracts from this valua-ble track of information. At present we haveonly room for the following:— “THE condition of man is the most interest-ing object in every country; and we confessourselves gratified by finding that in New Spainthe number of slaves [negroes] is comparativelyfew, and the state of the Indians is less unhappythan we had been accustomed to suppose. Weextract with pleasure a passage, from which itappears that the mines, though a considerablesource of wealth, are not the only, or even the chief wealth of the province of Mexico. “The Indian cultivator is poor, but he is free.His state is even greatly preferable to that of thepeasantry in a great part of the north of Europe.There are neither corvees nor villanage in NewSpain; and the number of slaves is next to noth-ing. Sugar is chiefly the produce of free hands.There the principal objects of agriculture arenot the productions to which European luxuryhas assigned a variable and arbitrary value, butcereal gramina, nutrive roots, and the agave,the vine of the Indians. The appearance of thecountry proclaims to the traveller, that the soilnourishes him who cultivates it, and that thetrue prosperity of the Mexican people neitherdepends on the accidents of foreign commerce,nor on the unruly politicks of Europe. “Those who only know the interiour of theSpanish colonies, from the vague and uncertainnotions hitherto published, will have some dif-ficulty in believing, that the principal sourcesof the Mexican riches are by no means the mines,but an agriculture which has been gradually a-meliorating since the end of the last century.—Without reflecting on the immense extent of thecountry, and especially the great number of pro-vinces which appear totally destitute of preciousmetals, we generally imagine that all the activi-ty of the Mexican population is directed to theworking of the mines. Because the agriculturehas made a very considerable progress in the capitania general of Caraccas, in the kingdom ofGuatimala, the island of Cuba, and wherever themountains are accounted poor in mineral pro-ductions, it has been inferred that it is to theworking of the mines that we are to attributethe small care bestowed on the cultivation ofthe soil in other parts of the Spanish colonies.This reasoning is just when applied to smallportions of territory. No doubt, in the provin-ces of Chaco and Antioqua, and the coast of Bar-bacoas, the inhabitants are fonder of seeking forgold washed down in the brooks and ravines,than of cultivating a virgin and fertile soil; andin the beginning of the conquest, the Spaniardswho abandoned the peninsula or Canary Islands,to settle in Peru and Mexico, had no other viewbut the discovery of the precious metals. Aurirabida sitis a cultura Hispanos divertit, says awriter of those times, Pedro Martyr, in hiswork on the discovery of Yutacan and the colo-nization of the Antilles. “In Mexico, the best cultivated fields, thosewhich recall to the mind of the traveller thebeautiful plains of France, are those which ex-tend from Salamanca towards Siloe, Guanaxuato,and the Villa de Leon, and which surround therichest mines of the known world. Wherevermetallick seams have been discovered in themost uncultivated parts of the Cordilleras, on theinsulated and desert tablelands, the work-ing of mines, far from impeding the cultivationof the soil, has been singularly favourable to it.Travelling along the ridge of the Andes, or themountainous part of Mexico, we everywhere seethe most striking examples of the beneficial in-fluence of the mines on agriculture. Were itnot for the establishments formed for the work-ing of the mines, how many places would haveremained desert? How many districts unculti-vated in the four intendancies of Guanaxuato,Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and Durango, be-tween the parallels of 21 and 25 where the mostconsiderable metallick wealth of New Spain is tobe found? If the town is placed on the arid side,or the crest of the Cordilleras, the new colonistscan only draw from a distance the means of theirsubsistence, and the maintenance of the greatnumber of cattle employed in drawing off thewater, and raising and amalgamating the mine-ral produce. Want soon awakens industry. Thesoil begins to be cultivated in the ravines anddeclivities of the neighbouring mountains, whereever the rock is covered with earth. Farms areestablished in the neighbourhood of the mine.The high price of provision, from the compe-tition of the purchasers indemnifies the cul-tivator for the privations to which he is expos-ed, from the hard life of the mountains. Thus,from the hope of gain alone, and the motives ofmutual interest, which are the most powerfulbonds of society, and without any interferenceon the part of the government in colonization, amine which, at first, appeared insulated in themidst of wild and desert mountains, becomes, ina short time, connected with the lands whichhave long been under cultivation.” [To be continued.] |1| |Spaltenumbruch|

Humboldt’s History of New Spain.

[Extracts Continued.] “The valley in which the city of Mexico stands,is upwards of 6500 feet above the level of thesea. It is of an oval form, encompassed on allsides by mountains. It contains several lakes.The largest is salt. Formerly it surrounded thecity, which was approached only by causeways,constructed in the water. But, at present, theextent of this lake is diminished, and the city isnow on the land, at some distance from the water’sedge. The circumference of the valley is 67leagues. “Mexico is undoubtedly one of the finest citiesever built by Europeans in either hemisphere.With the exception of Petersburgh, Berlin, Phil-adelphia, and some quarters in Westminster,there does not exist a city of the same extent,which can be compared to the capital of NewSpain, for the uniform level of the ground onwhich it stands, for the regularity and breadthof the streets, and the extent of the public places.The architecture is generally of a very purestyle, and there are even edifices of very beauti-ful structure. The exteriour of the houses is notloaded with ornaments. “The Ballustrades and gates are all of Biscayiron, ornamented with bronze, and the houses,instead of roofs, have terraces like those in Ita-ly, and other southern countries. “Mexico has been very much embellished,since the residence of the abbe Chappe there in1769. The edifice destined to the School ofMines, for which the richest individuals of thecountry furnished a sum of more than three mil-lions of francks, would adorn the principal pla-ces of Paris or London. Two great palaces [ho-tels] were recently constructed by Mexican ar-tists, pupils of the academy of fine arts of thecapital. One of these palaces, in the quarter della Traspana, exhibited in the interiour of acourt a very beautiful oval peristyle of coupledcolumns. The traveller justly admires a vast cir-cumference, paved with porphyry flags, and en-closed with an iron railing, richly ornamentedwith bronze, containing an equestrian statue ofking Charles the fourth, placed on a pedestal ofMexican marble, in the midst of the Plaza Ma-jor of Mexico, opposite the cathedral, and theviceroy’s palace. However, it must be agreed,that notwithstanding the progress of the arts,within these last thirty years, it is much less,from the grandeur and beauty of the monuments,than from the breadth and straitness of thestreets, and much less from its edifices, thanfrom its uniform regularity, its extent and posi-tion, that the capital of New Spain attracts theadmiration of Europeans. “Nothing can present a more rich and variedappearance, than the valley, when, in a fine sum-mer morning, the sky without a cloud, and of thatdeep azure which is peculiar to the dry and rare-fied air of high mountains, we transport our-selves to the top of one of the towers of the cathe-dral of Mexico, or ascend the hill of Chapolte-peck. A beautiful vegetation surrounds this hill.Old cypress trunks, of more than 15 and 16 me-tres in circumference, raise their naked headsabove those of the schinus, which resemble, intheir appearance, the weeping willows of theeast. From the centre of this solitude, the sum-mit of the porphyritical rock of Chapoltpeck,the eye sweeps over a vast plain of carefully cul-tivated fields, which extend to the very feet ofthe colossal mountains covered with perpetualsnow. The city appears as if washed by thewaters of the lake of Tezeuco, whose basin, sur-rounded with villages and hamlets, brings to mindthe most beautiful lakes of the mountains ofSwitzerland. Large avenues of elms and pop-lars lead, in every direction, to the capital; andtwo acqueducts, constructed over arches of verygreat elevation, cross the plain, and exhibit anappearance equally agreeable and interesting.The magnificent convent of Nuestra Sonora deGuadaloupe, appears joined to the mountains ofTepeyacack, among ravines, which shelter a fewdate and young yucca trees. Towards the south,the whole tract between San Angel, Tacabaya,and San Augustin de las Cuevas, appears an im-mense garden of orange, peach, apple, cherry,and other European fruit trees. This beautifulcultivation forms a singular contrast with thewild appearance of the naked mountains whichenclose the valley, among which the famous vol-canos of La Puebla, Popocatepelt, and Iztaccici-chuatl are the most distinguished. The first ofthese forms an enormous cone, of which the cra-ter, continually inflamed, and throwing up smoakand ashes, opens in the midst of eternal snows.” [To be continued.] |1| |Spaltenumbruch|

Humboldt’s History of New Spain.

[Extracts Continued.] “The present population of Mexico is estimatedat 135 to 140,000 individuals. It probably con-sists of
  • 2,500 white Europeans.
  • 65,000 white Creoles.
  • 33,000 Indigenous [copper-coloured.]
  • 26,500 Mestizoes, mixture of whites andIndians.
  • 10,000 Mulattoes.
  • 137,000 inhabitants.
“There are, consequently, in Mexico, 69,500men of colour, and 67,500 whites; but a great num-ber of the Mestizoes are almost as white as theEuropeans and Spanish Creoles! “In the twenty-three male convents which thecapital contains, there are nearly 1200 individuals,of whom 580 are priests and choristers. In thefifteen female convents there are 2100 individuals,of whom nearly 900 are professed religieuses. “Among the colonies subject to the king ofSpain, Mexico occupies, at present, the first rank,both on account of its territorial wealth, and on ac-count of its favourable position for commercewith Europe and Asia. We speak here merelyof the political value of the country, consideringit in its actual state of civilization, which is verysuperiour to that of the other Spanish possessions.Many branches of agriculture have undoubtedlyattained a higher degree of perfection in the prov-ince of Caraccas than in New Spain. The fewermines a colony has, the more the industry of theinhabitants is turned towards the productions of thevegetable kingdom. The fertility of the soil isgreater in the provinces of Cumana, of New Bar-celona, and Venezuela; and it is greater on thebanks of the Lower Orinoco, and in the northernpart of New Granada, than in the kingdom of Mex-ico, of which several regions are barren, destituteof water, and incapable of vegetation. But onconsidering the greatness of the population of Mex-ico, the number of considerable cities in the prox-imity of one another; the enormous value of themetallick produce, and its influence on the com-merce of Europe and Asia; in short, on examin-ing the imperfect state of cultivation observable inthe rest of Spanish America, we are tempted tojustify the preference which the court of Madridhas long manifested for Mexico, above its othercolonies.”