(From the Times.)Mr. Lionel Gisborne, who with Sir Charles Fox, and Messrs.Henderson and Brassey projected a scheme for cutting a ShipCanal through the Isthmus of Darien, has published the followingtranslation of a letter received from Baron Von Humboldt on thatimportant subject. We have already directed public attention tothe project of uniting the two great oceans of the Western hemis-phere by means of a canal free from all obstructions; and we feelcertain, that at no distant period the commerce on the Westerncoast of America, and the necessity for a more speedy passage toAustralia, will render such a means of communication imperative.Letter from Baron Alexander von Humboldt to LionelGisborne, Esq., M.A., C.E.(Translated from the French original.)“Sir,—I trust you will excuse the oldest among the travellers, in boththe tropics of America and the steppes of Siberia, for having so longdelayed to thank you for the information I derived from your interestingjournal, &c., on the junction of the Atlantic with the Pacific. Theposition I occupy in this country, and the ardent desire I feel to finish,before my death, some scientific works which I had the imprudence tobegin, considerably interrupt the even course of my correspondence. Itherefore hope that I shall meet, on your part also, with that indulgencewhich your countrymen have shown me during so long a period.“I have not been beyond the Rio Rimo, which lies east of the mouthof the Atrato, since the time when I left the island of Cuba on my wayto Lima by Bogota, Quito, and the river Amazon, for the purpose ofobserving the passage of Mercury through the solar disc. I was thenon friendly terms with a very intelligent merchant, Don Ignacio Iombo,of Cartagena, in America, and I recollect that the Casso (Treasuryconvoy) of Guayaquil was then on its way to Europe, by the road fromCupicà to the Atrato, which was first opened by the Biscayan pilotPoguerache. Knowing, geologically, the interruption of the mountainchains, and the depression of the range in the eastern part of the|95|
Isthmus, my attention has remained fixed during this last half centuryon the Bay of San Miguel and the route from Cupicà to the Rio Napipi.Owing to my friendly relations with General Bolivar, I obtained throughhim the first line of levels across the Isthmus of Panama. Ever sincethe subject has not ceased to occupy my mind, as the various works andmaps which I published since 1810 and my correspondence with variousstatesmen will testify. But all my striving and urging only led to im-perfect trials and projects calculated for a line to the west of the meri-dian of Panama and Portobello, none of which ever gained my confidence.I had, however, the gratification of seeing my views honoured by aneminent member of Her Britannic Majesty’s navy, Captain Fitzroy.(Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, vol. xx., p. 20.)“The increase of human knowledge, and the immense progress ofscience, arts, and industry among the western nations, have givenus powers which only call for application. Everything dependsupon energy and perseverance. I therefore congratulate you, Sir, andyour courageous friend, Dr. Cullen, as well as Sir Charles Fox, Mr.Henderson, and Mr. Brassey, for having given your names to so noblean undertaking. I have always considered, firstly, the opening of anoceanic canal, without locks; and secondly, the cut at Huchuecoca, inthe valley of Mexico (which is on a comparatively smaller scale, as maybe seen by the map and section I published), as two events calculatedhighly to improve the relations between the different families of thehuman species. In fact, such a work as the one you contemplate willbring Eastern Asia nearer to the nations of Europe and America. Itwill render the whole globe more easy to be travelled over—this littleglobe, of which Christopher Columbus, in one of his letters to the Queenof Spain, said, ‘el mundo es poco.’ It will facilitate the diffusion of pro-ductions, especially of precious metals, of which the relative value (1 to15 5-6ths) would change too suddenly without this ‘permeability’ of theworld.“As early as the discovery of the new continent, civilization hadspread, in a direction from north to south, over those portions of Ame-rica which lie opposite to Asia, those on the European side being thenoccupied by barbarous hunting tribes. The finest harbours, the mostprecious products, are likewise found in the West. Even the currentsof the air, by their direction, contribute towards the preponderance ofWest American power over the rich countries of Asia. The increasingimportance of the west coast of America promises to balance, at somefuture time, the surprising progress of the Atlantic States, provided thewestern States keep themselves free from that hideouse disease—slaveryof coloured people.“Indeed, Sir, I feel the most ardent wishes for the happy success ofthis oceanic canal. The attention which the public of the two continentsbestows already upon your undertaking will increase, as soon as you areenabled, assisted by further explorations, and a survey extending overall details, and carried on by a great number of experienced men, topublish, on a large scale, maps and sections of the line fixed uponbetween Puerto Escoces and the Gulf of San Miguel. The changeswhich the success of your undertaking is sure to effect in the inter-national commerce of the world will only disturb such people as in thenarrowness of their views oppose themselves to the natural and Provi-dential course of events, and shed tears over the unfortunate discoveryof America. The Rio Huaxacualco with its portage to the Rio Chimalapa(Tehuantepec), of which I published the first map after the itinerariesdiscovered by me in the archives of the vice-kingdom of Mexico, willalways be of great importance, owing to its position opposite Louisiana,in the Gulf of Mexico which has all the appearance of soon becoming amare clausum,—a lake of the United States. The nature of the soil,however, does not allow great works to be carried out in that locality;besides, you know the difficulties impeding any canalization or rectifica-tion of rivers of great length, and the great variations of the volume ofwater, as in the river San Juan; but a railway would be a great advan-tage to the southern States.“The great interest which every one at the present time takes in thecanalization of the Isthmus recalls a similar fact to my memory, remind-ing me of the sudden interest created by the discovery of guano.“I was the first who brought guano to Europe, of which Klaprothand Vauquelin published an analysis. During 40 years I preached, butalways in vain, the usefuluess of this substance, and in vain did I recom-mend its employment in fertilizing the fields of Europe. But it is only15 or 18 years since it has at last become a great article of commerce.“I beg of you, my dear Sir, to present my kind remembrance to theexcellent and able Mr. Peterman, &c.
“ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT.
“P.S. I am not surprised at the difference between the level youfound at Turbaco and
my own statement. To this, however, I had|Spaltenumbruch| prudently added,
‘doubtful barometrical observation.’ (See my Recueild’Observations Astronomiques et de Mesures
Barométriques. vol. i.p. 299.) The fact that the gas issuing from
the little volcanoes atTurbaco is inflammable in its natural state has
already been communi-cated by Colonel Acosta (Journal, p. 65). It appears that the gaseousfluid which issues
from the ‘salses’ is not the same at all times. I findin my
journal, that in 1801, the flame of any burning substance wassuddenly
extinguished on being thrown into a bottle containing airfrom those little
volcanoes.“Parrot, also, in the mud volcanoes in the island of Taman foundonly azote, although the gas emitted would burn at other times. (Seemy Rélation Historique, vol. xii. chap. 29, p. 367—371.)