Category Archives: Spain

Item of the Day: Voyage to South-America (1758)

Full Title: A Voyage to South-America: Describing at Large the Spanish Cities, Towns, Provinces, &c. on the extensive Continent. Interspersed throughout with Reflections on the Genius, Customs, Manners, and Trade of the Inhabitants; Together with the Natural History of the Country. And an Account of their Gold and Silver Mines. Undertaken by Command of his Majesty the King of Spain, by Don George Juan, and Don Antonio De Ulloa, Both Captains of the Spanish Navy, Members of the Royal Societies of London and Berlin, and corresponding Members of the Royal Academy at Paris. Translated from the Original Spanish. Illustrated with Copper Plates. In Two Volumes. Vol. I. London: Printed for L. Davis and C. Reymers, against Gray’s-Inn-Gate, Holborn, MDCCLVIII. [1758]

 

A VOYAGE TO PERU.

BOOK I.

Reasons for this Voyage; Navigation from the Bay of Cadiz to Carthagena in America, and a Description of the Latter.

 

CHAP. I.

Motives of this Voyage to South America, with Remarks on the Navigation between Cadiz and Carthagena.

THE heart of man is naturally inclined to attempt things, the advantages of which appear to increase in proportion to the difficulties which attend them. It spares no pains, it fears no danger in attaining them; and instead of being diverted from its purpose, is animated with fresh vigour by opposition. The glory, inseparable from arduous enterprises, is a powerful incentive, which raises the mind above itself; the hope of advantages determines the will, diminishes dangers, alleviates hardships, and levels obstacles, which otherwise would appear unsurmountable. Desire and resolution are not, however, always sufficient to insure success, and the best concerted measures are not always prosperous. Divine Providence, whose over-ruling and incomprehensible determinations direct the course of human actions, seems to have prescribed certain limits, beyond which all our attempts are vain. The causes his infinite wisdom has thought proper to conceal from us, and the result of such a conduct is rather an object of our reverence than speculation. The knowledge of the bounds of human understanding, a discreet amusement and exercise of our talents for the demonstration of truths which are only to be attained by a continual and extensive study, which rewards the mind with tranquility and pleasure, are advantages worthy of our highest esteem, and objects which cannot be too much recommended. In all times the desire of enlightning [sic] others by some new discovery, has rouzed [sic] the industry of man, and engaged him in laborious researches, and by that means proved the principal source of the improvement of the sciences.

Things which have long baffled sagacity and application, have sometimes been discovered by chance. The firmest resolution has often been discouraged, by the insuperable  precipes, which, in appearance, incircle his investigations. The reason of this is, because the obstacles are painted, by the imagination, in the most lively colours; but the methods of surmounting them escape our attention; till, smoothed by labour and application, a more easy passage is discovered.

Among discoveries mentioned in history, whether owing to accident or reflection, that of the Indies is of the least advantageous. These parts were for many ages unknown to the  Europeans; or, at least, the remembrance of them was buried in oblivion. They were lost through a long succession of time, and disfigured by the confusion and darkness in which they were found immersed. At length the happy aera arrived, when industry blended with resolution, was to remove all the difficulties, exaggerated by ignorance. This is the epocha which distinguished the reign, in many other respects so glorious, of Ferdinand of Arragon, and Isabella of Castile. Reason and experience at once exploded all the ideas of rashness and ridicule which had hitherto prevailed. It seems as if providence permitted the refusal of other nations, to augment the glory of our own; and to reward the zeal of our sovereigns, who countenanced this important enterprize; the prudence of their subjects in the conduct of it, and the religious end proposed by both. I mentioned accident or reflection, being not yet convinced, whether the confidence with which Christopher Columbus maintained, that westward there were lands undiscovered, was the result of his knowledge in cosmography and experience in navigation, or whether it was founded on the information of a pilot, who had actually discovered them, having been driven on the coasts by stress of weather; and who, in return for the kind reception he had met with at Columbus’s house, delivered to him, in his last moments, the papers and charts relating to them.

The prodigious magnitude of this continent; the multitude and extent of its provinces; the variety of its climates, products and curious particulars; and, lastly the distance and difficulty of one part communicating with another, and especially with Europe, have been the cause, that America, though discovered and inhabited in its principal parts by Europeans, is but imperfectly known by them; and at the same time kept them totally ignorant of many things, which would greatly contribute to give a more perfect idea of so considerable a part of our glove. But though investigations of this kind are doubtless worthy the attention of a great prince, and the studies of the most piercing genius among his subjects; yet this was not the principal intention of our voyage. His majesty’s wise resolution of sending us to this continent, was principally owing to a more elevated and important design.

The literary world are no strangers to the celebrated question that has lately produced so many treatises on the  figure and magnitude of the earth; which had hitherto been thought perfectly spherical. The prolixity of later observations had given rise to two opposite opinions among philosophers. Both supposed it to be elliptical, but one affirmed its transverse diameter was that of the poles, and the other, that it was that of the equator. The solution of this problem, in which not only geography and cosmography are interested, but also navigation, astronomy, and other arts and sciences of public utility, was what gave rise to our expedition. Who would have imagined that these countries, lately discovered, would have proved the means of our attaining a perfect knowledge of the old world; and that if the former owed its discovery to the latter, it would make it ample amends by determining its real figure, which had hitherto been unknown or controverted? who, I say, would have suspected that the sciences should in that country meet with treasures, not less valuable than the gold of its mines, which has so greatly enriched other countries! How many difficulties were to be surmounted in the execution! What a series of obstacles were to be overcome in such long operations, flowing from the inclemency of climates; the disadvantageous situation of the places where they were to be made, and in fine, from the very nature of the enterprize! All these circumstances infinitely heighten the glory of the monarch, under whose auspices the enterprise has been so happily accomplished. This discovery was reserved for the present age, and for the two Spanish monarchs, the late Philip V. and Ferdinand VI. The former cause d the enterprise to be carried into execution, the latter honoured it with his countenance, and ordered the narrative of it to be published; no only for the information and instruction of his own subjects, but also for those of other nations, to whom these accounts will prove equally advantageous. And that this narrative may be the more instructive, we shall introduce the particualr circumstances which originally gave occasion to our voyage, and were in a a manner, the basis and rule of the other enterprises, which will be mentioned in the sequel, each in its proper order. . . .

 

 

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Filed under 1750's, Explorations, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, South America, Spain, Travel