Narrative of an Official Visit to Guatemala from Mexico/Introductory Observations


Another Journal on South America, and that, too, at a moment when the very mention of those countries is apt to excite emotions of distrust, seems to make necessary some apology for its appearance. An ancient sage observed, that no one should write a history without prefacing it with an account of himself: the general indifference which at present prevails on the subject on which I am about to treat, and the moderate claims which I enjoy to the attention of the public, must excuse me for venturing to say something respecting the humble pretensions which the following pages may have to their notice.

It may not be unknown to some of my readers that I translated Alçedo's dictionary of America and the West Indies; that my work was published in 1814, in five volumes quarto, and that it embraced, in addition to the translation, all the authentic information then extant, or which, through the most respectable patronage, could be obtained up to that period: I may be permitted to add, that I went out as Secretary to His Britannic Majesty's Mexican Commission, of which Mr. Lionel Hervey was chief, in 1823; and had the advantage of witnessing and being confidentially acquainted with the difficult and delicate circumstances in which the Commission was occasionally involved; and which the nice tact and energetic decision of its chief so mainly contributed to counteract or turn in favour not only of that republic, but of the country for whose interests he was the more immediately concerned. I had also the satisfaction of being there under Mr. Morier, when that gentleman, of whose talent in diplomacy it would be as unbecoming in me as it would be useless to speak, compiled and wrote his report on the state of Mexico,—an undertaking, for which, I may be allowed to say, by the condescending urbanity of his disposition, and the unlimited respect which was consequently entertained for him by all parties, he was enabled to collect from every quarter the most authentic materials; and that I was, finally, with the Commission until the despatch of the Treaty which he and Mr. Ward, as Plenipotentiaries of His Britannic Majesty, had been directed to negotiate. In referring, as I do with humble though sincere satisfaction, to these points, I trust I shall not wound the delicacy of the feelings of the parties to whom I allude: the mention of them will, I hope not, as regards myself, be thought irrelevant to the public. They will, perhaps, in consequence, excuse me for offering the following pages to their perusal.

Having been ordered to leave Mexico, after the signing of the Treaty, for the purpose of proceeding to Guatemala, to report difficulty in asserting, much original, and I trust useful, information. Of all the Colonies of Old Spain, no one, I repeat, is so little known as that of Central America. Placed in the isthmus which divides the two continents, its situation is most favourable to commerce. It was formerly a captain-generalship, not subject to, as it has been erroneously believed, but always independent of the Viceroyalty of Mexico; and, having established its independence as a free state, which has been acknowledged by that Republic, it has hitherto maintained its integrity out of its own resources—the capital amount of the pecuniary assistance which it has derived from foreign countries not being more than one year's income of the Government.

The Map which faces the Title-page is intended to exhibit the Five States of the Federation, with their respective Districts, conformably to the recent divisions established by the Congress.