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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 23.07.2024].

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Titel Humboldt’s History of New Spain
Jahr 1811
Ort Providence, Rhode Island
in: The Rhode-Island American, and General Advertiser 3:63 (24. Mai 1811), S. [1]; 3:65 (31. Mai 1811), S. [1].
Sprache Englisch
Typografischer Befund Antiqua; Spaltensatz; Auszeichnung: Kursivierung; Schmuck: Kapitälchen.
Textnummer Druckausgabe: II.76
Dateiname: 1809-Voyage_de_MM-07-neu
Seitenanzahl: 2
Spaltenanzahl: 4
Zeichenanzahl: 9886

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|1| |Spaltenumbruch|

Humboldt’s History of New Spain.

The “Literary Panorama” contains a very excellent review of Humboldt’s PoliticalEssay on the Kingdom of New Spain. We shall present our readers with fre-quent extracts from this valuable trackof information. At present we have onlyroom for the following: Bos. Gaz. The condition of man is the most in-teresting object in every country; and weconfess ourselves gratified by finding thatin New Spain the number of slaves [ne-groes] is comparatively few, and the stateof the Indians is less unhappy than we hadbeen accustomed to suppose. We extractwith pleasure a passage from which it ap-pears that the mines, though a considera-ble source of wealth, are not the only, oreven the chief wealth of the province ofMexico. “The Indian cultivator is poor, but heis free. His state is even greatly prefera-ble to that of the peasantry in a greaterpart of the north of Europe. There areneither corvees nor villanage in New Spain;and the number of slaves is next to nothing.Sugar is chiefly the produce of free hands.There the principal objects of agricultureare not the productions to which Europeanluxury has assigned a variable and arbi-trary value, but cereal gramina, nutriveroots, and the agave, the vine of the In-dians. The appearance of the countryproclaims to the traveller, that the soilnourishes him who cultivates it, and thatthe true prosperity of the Mexican peopleneither depends on the accidents of foreigncommerce, nor on the unruly politicks ofEurope. “Those who only know the interiour ofthe Spanish colonies from the vague anduncertain notions hitherto published, willhave some difficulty in believing that theprincipal sources of the Mexican richesare by no means the mines; but an agri-culture which has been gradually ameli-orating since the end of the last century.Without reflecting on the immense extentof the country, and especially the greatnumber of provinces which appear totallydestitute of precious metals, we generallyimagine that all the activity of the Mexi-can population is directed to the workingof the mines. Because the agriculture hasmade a very considerable progress in the capitania general of Caraccas, in the king-dom of Guatimala, the island of Cuba,and wherever the mountains are accountedpoor in mineral productions, it has beeninferred that it is to the working of themines that we are to attribute the smallcare bestowed on the cultivation of thesoil in other parts of the Spanish colonies.This reasoning is just when applied tosmall portions of territory. No doubt, inthe provinces of Chaco and Antioqua, andthe coast of Barbacoas, the inhabitants arefonder of seeking for gold washed down inthe brooks and ravines, than of cultivatinga virgin and fertile soil; and in the begin-ning of the conquest, the Spaniards who |Spaltenumbruch|abandoned the peninsula or Canary islands,to settle in Peru and Mexico, had no otherview but the discovery of the preciousmetals. Auri rabida sitis a cultura His-panos divertit, says a writer of thosetimes, Pedro Martyr, in his work on thediscovery of Yutacan and the colonizationof the Antilles. “In Mexico, the best cultivated fields,those which recall to the mind of the tra-veller the beautiful plains of France, arethose which extend from Salamanca to-wards Siloe, Guanaxuato, and the Villa deLeon, and, which surround the richestmines of the known world. Wherevermetallick seams have been discovered inthe most uncultivated parts of the Cordil-leras, on the insulated and desert table-lands, the working of mines, far from im-peding the cultivation of the soil, has beensingularly favourable to it. Travellingalong the ridge of the Andes, or the moun-tainous part of Mexico, we every wheresee the most striking examples of the ben-eficial influence of the mines on agricul-ture. Were it not for the establishmentsformed for the working of the mines, howmany places would have remained desert?How many districts uncultivated in the fourintendancies of Guanaxuato, Zacatecas,San Luis Potosi, and Durango, between theparallels of 21 and 25 where the most con-siderable metallick wealth of New Spain isto be found? If the town is placed on thearid side, or the crest of the Cordilleras,the new colonists can only draw from a dis-tance the means of their subsistence, andthe maintenance of the great number ofcattle employed in drawing off the water,and raising and amalgamating the mineralproduce. Want soon awakens industry.—The soil begins to be cultivated in the ra-vines and declivities of the neighbouringmountains, wherever the rock is coveredwith earth. Farms are established in theneighbourhood of the mine. The highprice of provision, from the competition ofthe purchasers indemnifies the cultivatorfor the privations to which he is exposed,from the hard life of the mountains. Thus,from the hope of gain alone, and the mo-tives of mutual interest, which are themost powerful bonds of society, and with-out any interference on the part of the gov-ernment in colonization, a mine which, atfirst, appeared insulated in the midst ofwild and desert mountains, becomes, in ashort time, connected with the lands whichhave long been under cultivation.” |1| |Spaltenumbruch|

Humboldt’s History of New Spain.

[Extracts continued.] The valley in which the city of Mex-ico stands, is upwards of 6500 feet abovethe level of the sea. It is of an oval form,encompassed on all sides by mountains. Itcontains several lakes. The largest issalt. Formerly it surrounded the city,which was approached only by causeways,constructed in the water. But, at present,the extent of this lake is diminished, andthe city is now on the land, at some dis-tance from the water’s edge. The cir-cumference of the valley is 67 leagues. “Mexico is undoubtedly one of the finestcities ever built by Europeans in eitherhemisphere. With the exception of Pe-tersburgh, Berlin, Philadelphia, and somequarters in Westminster, there does notexist a city of the same extent, which canbe compared to the capital of New Spain,for the uniform level of the ground onwhich it stands, for the regularity andbreadth of the streets, and the extent ofthe publick places. The architecture isgenerally of a very pure style, and thereare even edifices of very beautiful struc-ture. The exteriour of the houses is notloaded with ornaments. “The Ballustrades and gates are all ofBiscay iron, ornamented with bronze, andthe houses, instead of roofs, have terraceslike those in Italy, and other southerncountries. “Mexico has been very much embellish-ed since the residence of the Abbe Chappe there, in 1769. The edifice destined to theSchool of Mines, for which the richest in-habitants of the country furnished a sumof more than three millions of francks,would adorn the principal places of Parisor London. Two great palaces (hotels)were recently constructed by Mexican ar-tists, pupils of the academy of fine arts ofthe capital. One of these palaces, in thequarter della Traspana, exhibited in theinteriour of a court a very beautiful ovalperistyle of coupled columns. The tra-veller justly admires a vast circumference,paved with porphyry flags, and enclosedwith an iron railing, richly ornamentedwith bronze, containing an equestrian sta-tue of King Charles the fourth, placed ona pedestal of Mexican marble, in the midstof the Plaza Major of Mexico, oppositethe cathedral, and the Viceroy’s palace.However, it must be agreed, that notwith-standing the progress of the arts, withinthese last thirty years, it is much less,from the grandeur and beauty of the monu-ments, than from the breadth and straight-ness of the streets, and much less from itsedifices, than from its uniform regularity,its extent and position, that the capital ofNew Spain attracts the admiration of Eu-ropeans. “Nothing can present a more rich andvaried appearance, than the valley, when,in a fine summer morning, the sky withouta cloud, and of that deep azure which ispeculiar to the dry and rarefied air of highmountains, we transport ourselves to thetop of one of the towers of the cathedral ofMexico, or ascend the hill of Chapoltepeck. |Spaltenumbruch|A beautiful vegetation surrounds this hill.Old cypress trunks, of more than 15 and16 metres in circumference, raise theirnaked heads above those of the schinus,which resemble, in their appearance, theweeping willows of the east. From thecentre of this solitude, the summit of theporphyritical rock of Chapoltepeck, theeye sweeps over a vast plain of carefullycultivated fields, which extend to the veryfeet of the colossal mountains covered withperpetual snow. The city appears as ifwashed by the waters of the lake of Tezeu-co, whose basin, surrounded with villagesand hamlets, brings to mind the most beau-tiful lakes of the mountains of Switzerland.Large avenues of elms and poplars lead inevery direction to the capital; and twoacqueducts, constructed over arches ofvery great elevation, cross the plain, andexhibit an appearance equally agreeableand interesting. The magnificent conventof Nuestra Sonora de Guadaloupe, appearsjoined to the mountains of Tepeyacack,among ravines, which shelter a few dateand young yucca trees. Towards thesouth, the whole tract between San Angle,Tacabaya, and San Augustin de las Cuevasappears an immense garden of orange,peach, apple, cherry, and other Europeanfruit trees. This beautiful cultivationforms a singular contrast with the wild ap-pearance of the naked mountains whichenclose the valley, among which the fa-mous volcanos of La Puebla, Popocatepelt,and Iztaccicolchuatl are the most distin-guished. The first of these forms an enor-mous cone, of which the crater, continual-ly inflamed, and throwing up smoak andashes, opens in the midst of eternal snows.”