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Britain and her North American colonies. Our limits permit us only at this time to add, that those discussions are still in the unsettled state in which we have represented them; that a good deal of irritation has lately been observed between the principal delegate of the executive power and the second branch of the the legislative body of Lower Canada; that the union of the two Canadas is still dreaded by the French inhabitants ; and that probably before long, the British government will come to some decisive measure, either to satisfy or to silence the pretensions of its Canadian population. Meanwhile, the military defence of Lower Canada is incessantly attended to by the governor and the other generals entrusted with the superintendence of the fortifications of Quebec; and Great Britain is furnishing largely the means required to carry them to an extent and to give them a strength, which may in time make of the capital of Lower Canada a rival of the impregnable fortresses of Europe, and thus add a new feature to the military character of the country.
ART. II.–Storia dell'America, in Continuazione del Compen
dio della Storia Universale, del Sig. Conte di Segur. Opera originale Italiana. Milano, presso la Società Tipographica de' Classici Italiani (Fusi, Stella, e Compagni.) Tom. 29, in 18mo. 1820—1823.
These volumes have not, so far as our observation extends, been criticised or even mentioned in any American journal. The work amply deserves, respectful notice at our hands, as well for its general subject matter, being the history of the whole continent of America, as for the merit of its execution. It was undertaken, as it appears, at the suggestion of the intelligent publishers in Milan ; who, at the commencement of the publication, hardly anticipated the value and magnitude of the book, which they were calling into existence. Its design originated in a Compendium of Universal History, commenced by count Segur but not completed, which the publishers of the book before us procured to be translated from the French into Italian, and printed by subscription at Milan. Twenty-seven volumes of the Compendium as composed by Segur, comprising ancient history, so called, with that of Rome and the Empire, preceded the history of America in twentyeight volumes, after which came the history of several nations of modern Europe. All these are professedly translations into Italian from other languages, excepting America, which is an original work written by the cavaliere Giuseppe Compagnoni, and aspires to be something much beyond a common abridgement.
It is, in fact, what no other nation but Italy possesses, a full and methodical account of events in America, from the first discovery of the new world by Columbus down to the present day, omitting only the recent history of the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. With the exception, then, of this portion of the history of America, the work of our author is complete.
And it is a little remarkable, we think, that the classic history of Botta should be so soon followed by the present publication, which although more compendious in its plan, yet covers a much wider field, and is therefore calculated to be more generally interesting to Americans.
The Italian language, the mother tongue of the poetry and fine letters of modern Europe, can thus boast the first finished history of the American Revolution, and the first, also, of the entire New World.
Italy, if she have planted no colonies upon our soil, if none of the new family of nations inhabiting this continent can look back to her as the home of their forefathers, possesses, nevertheless, ample claims on our regard, through the exertions and talents of individual Italians. Whilst other nations, with resources much inferior to those of Italy united, were collecting means to found colonial establishments abroad, the want of union and harmony unnerved her arm and paralyzed her vigor. As a body, therefore, the Italians do not occupy a single page in the history of America, because they have achieved nothing as a body ; but in respect of the fame attached to the names of individuals of that country, Italy need not shrink from comparison with any other people. Her citizens led the early expeditions of every nation, which gained important possessions in the new world. If the example of Columbus were a solitary case of its kind, it might be attributed to chance, and not to the preëminent intellectual character of the men of his nation at that period. But we can be at no loss to understand the true cause, when we consider that Sebastian Cabot, with his brother and father, gave England her title by discovery to territory in America, and was afterwards the first to explore the river La Plata in the service of Spain ; that Vespucci, when employed by the Portuguese, taught them to appreciate the value of Brazil, originally denominated America, in honor of Vespucci himself, before the word was applied to the whole continent ; that Pigafetta was the guide of Magellan ; and that Verazzani conducted the French to the shores of the New World ; all these distinguished navigators being Italians by birth and education. And their countrymen of the present time are not unworthily associating their reputation with the name of America, by historical writings of well earned celebrity, devoted to the western continent.
The work before us, it is to be understood, is of a popular cast, and intended to supply the wants of the public at large, rather than of the profound scholar. No other consideration would justify the absence of citations and of original authorities, a thing so essential to the credit of a digested history, in the view of sound criticism, and only to be dispensed with, as in the present case, where the main object is to communicate information to the general reader in the most compendious and agreeable shape. In obedience to the same rule of composition, Compagnoni has introduced into his book numerous details of remarkable events, and individual traits and incidents, which many writers of deserved eminence have seemed to consider as derogatory to the dignity and stateliness of the historic muse.
Our author adopted this feature of his work, it may be added, in imitation of the Historical Library of Diodo4 rus Siculus, which is distinguished for this peculiarity of plan.
Compagnoni exhibits another peculiarity of plan, the influence of which over the general character of his work is yet more decided. He enters fully into the history of the indigenous nations of America, describing their government and usages with considerable minuteness, and dwelling with evident interest upon events in which they bore a leading part. Most other writers have contented themselves with presenting a very general account of the aborigines and of their various customs. Compagnoni, regarding it as highly useful to unfold the character of the native Americans circumstantially, because affording us the clearest and truest idea of man in his primitive condition, has distinguished the various races with uncommon care, from the rude savages of the Orinoco to the culti
vated people of Peru, discriminating between all the prominent tribes, which lie scattered over the vast extent of the continent. This course is not wholly without objection, because among the little Indian communities, thus raised into notoriety, are some which present few qualities to fix the attention, and the attempt to describe them all particularly, leads inevitably to some faults of confusion and repetition. Our observation, however, does not apply to those aggregations of tribes, in different parts of America, which on all accounts may fairly lay claim to the dignity of nations, possessing stable institutions as curious as they are peculiar. The Indians of Arauco, Peru, Bogotá, the Missions, Guatemala, Tlascala, Mexico, the Natchez, and the Six Nations, for example, better deserve the study of the antiquary and historian, than many a people of Europe and Asia, to whom accident has imparted disproportioned celebrity
But without detaining the reader any longer with general remarks upon our author's book, we shall proceed to make a few extracts in illustration of its style and execution, interspersing such observations of our own as occasion may suggest. The two first volumes are introductory altogether, comprising a physical description of America, a general view of the moral qualities and of the manners and custoins of the Indians, an account of the indigenous animals and other natural productions of the country, and some brief speculations upon the origin of the Americans. Passing over the introduction, we come, in the third volume, to the voyages of Columbus. Respecting this familiar topic we offer but a single remark. Our author yields assent, we perceive, to the old hypothesis of the disingenuous conduct of Americus in giving his name to the continent, in derogation of the just claims of its discov
We accordingly feel justified in the renewed assertion of the facts published in our journal some years ago, tending to vindicate the reputation of the Florentine. It is well known that all writers, contemporary with the discovery of America, distinguished it by the appellation of the New World ; by which name, or that of the Indies, it is called to this day in Spain. All the Portuguese historians of Brazil, and many of the old writers on the subject of that country among other nations, alike concur in stating that Brazil was originally denominated America, in honor of Vespucci. The application of the name to the whole of the New World was a later thing, and VOL. XXVII.-NO. 60.
happened in the following manner. For fifty years after the discovery of this continent, most (we may perhaps very safely say all) of the maps published in Europe treated the New World as if it were a group of islands, few portions of it having been thoroughly explored, and it being some time before the true geography even of those portions was universally understood. Thus Florida, Cuba, Hispaniola, Venezuela, and Brazil, under the name of America, were depicted in the maps as islands. It gradually became known that the land stretched uninterruptedly far south along the region called America, and this supposed island was therefore gradually increased in size on the maps, until, by the time that the actual state of the facts became well established, the island of America had extended itself on either hand so far as to occupy substantially the very space upon the globe, which belongs to the southern continent. Meantime, the tracts of land that were really islands retained their primitive names, while the name of America having spread with the growing expansion of the region to which it was originally affixed, was left in the possession of the new meaning it thus had accidentally acquired. All this happened, not merely without any contrivance on the part of Vespucci, any scheme to injure the reputation or appropriate to himself the fame of Columbus, with whom he remained on terms of the most cordial and confidential intimacy to the day of his death,—but so far was Vespucci from contributing to bring about the result, that no acts of his could possibly have produced the series of mistakes by which it was occasioned. It is due to justice, that all these facts should be borne in mind, whenever the mere good luck of the name of America, should afford argument for questioning the integrity of Vespucci *
The same volume gives an account of the early establishments in Cuba and Hayti, in the course of which our author feelingly contrasts the aniable and pacific disposition of the natives with the savage enormities practised upon them by the Spaniards. One trait deserves to be extracted.
• It was in this island [Hayti] that the Spaniards originally made use of those fierce mastiffs, who cruelly aided them against the Indians, by mangling their naked bodies. And it reflects eternal shame upon these ferocious conquerors, and a shame peculiar to
* See North American Review for April, 1821, vol. xii. p. 336 ; and for April, 1827, vol. xv. p. 284.