Page images
PDF
EPUB

“ The optic nerve, which gathers on its retinal expansion the images of outward forms, transmits them to the brain. To that cerebral tract to which it goes, the power is given to be affected by luminous agency; it is immaterial whether that agency consists of undulations of an ethereal medium, or spends itself in producing a chemical change of the retina. The portio mollis of the seventh pair, also, exposes itself in the cochlea of the ear, and having the function of audition committed to it, vibrates correspondingly to those oscillatory movements which constitute sound. So, too, with the olfactory nerve, which, pushing its way through the cribiform plate of the ethmoid bone, expands in a million of ramified branches on the Schneiderian membrane, and is ready to be impressed by odors or smells. There is no such thing as a mutual convertibility of the offices of these different machines; no vicarious interchange of action ; each one has its own duty to perform, each has to discharge its proper task, and the construction of each is suitably arranged. In human contrivances, the same necessity of result arises ; the telescope will not answer for a piano, nor a piano for a telescope.”

p. 100.

port,"

Why did not our author add the classical illustration, Ου γαρ σύριγγα κέρκου του χοίρου ποιητέον ? Surely, the doctrine of an ancient savant, one Bottom, 6. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to re

opposed although it has been in these Mesmeric days, - is now incontrovertibly established. Again : “ The nervous and optical mechanism of the eye

is so arrang ed as to have entire charge of the reception of impressions conveyed by the luminiferous ether; the auditory mechanism of the ear is constituted so as to receive undulations of gaseous bodies like atmospheric air ; and, correspondingly, if intelligence has to be communicated to a distance, and received by other minds through the agency of a visual organ, the motor nerves of the hand are put in action, the fingers move, and letters appear upon the paper." - p. 101.

But the number of these letters is sometimes out of all proportion to the amount of intelligence communicated.

ART. VII.-1. Commerce of the Prairies : or the Journal

of a Santa Trader, during eight Expeditions across the great Western Prairies, and a Residence of nearly nine Years in Northern Mexico. Illustrated by Maps and Engravings. By Josiah Gregg. New York :

Henry G. Langley. 1844, 2 vols. 12mo. 2. Narrative of the Texan Santa Expedition ; com

prising a Description of a Tour through Texas, and across the great Southwestern Prairies, the Camanche and Caygua Hunting-grounds ; with an Account of the Sufferings from Want of Food, Losses from hostile Indians, and final Capture of the Texans, and their March, as Prisoners, to the City of Mexico. With Illustrations and a Map. By Geo. WILKINS KENDALL. New York : Harper and Brothers. 1844., 2 vols. 12mo.

York

Frourne

Mr. Gregg's book is obviously not the production of a very practised writer. The interest of his narrative is in some degree impaired by introducing episodes by way of illustration, and by combining details belonging to different years, with the laudable view of giving all his information in the smallest possible compass. There are so few writers who have sufficient heroism to sacrifice any materials they may chance to have on hand, that we cannot find it in our hearts to censure him for this ; and the want of a more lively and continuous narrative is compensated by his obvious desire to give full and just views of the subjects which he treats. He was actively engaged, for many years, in the commerce between the United States and the northern provinces of Mexico.

In the prosecution of this commerce, he has traversed the vast intervening regions, till the incidents of life and travel on the prairies have become familiar to him as his fireside ; perhaps a little more so, as he acknowledges, that it is only in the Far West that he really feels himself at home. His personal adventures, however, were not attended with much peril, and the subject has of late been rendered in some degree familiar by more practised writers. We are much more interested in those portions of the work, in which he gives the results of his observations in New Mexico, and relates the origin and progressof the trade to which we have alluded.

No better illustration could be given of the daring and ever-active enterprise which distinguishes the Americans even more than the race from which they sprang, than is to be found in the history of this over-land commerce with New Mexico. In its conception and general character, it is a revival of the caravan trade of the East. Before it . began, that country had depended for its supplies of all commodities other than its own on the ports of Mexico, with which the communications were slow and far from easy. James Pursley, in 1805, was the first American adventurer who found his way across the wilderness to Santa Fé; and the heart of this trading pilgrim must have been as stout as that ascribed by Horace to the navigator who first launched his bark upon the sea ; for it does not appear that he had any other companions than some Indians, whom he encountered on his way. But the same enterprise had been safely accomplished during the preceding year, by a French Creole, named La Lande, who went as the agent of a merchant of Kaskaskia. Neither of these hardy adventurers appears to have returned to tell the story of his perils. Pursley remained in Santa Fé some years ; his subsequent bistory is not known, though there is no reproach resting on his character. But the Frenchman forgot to render an account to his employer, and became a prosperous gentleman with the aid of the capital so dishonestly obtained. Captain, afterwards General, Pike's account of his well known expedition, which was begun in 1806, gave the first impulse to enterprise in this direction. By pursuing the course which he had pointed out, a party found their way, in 1812, to Santa Fé, supposing that Hidalgo's declaration of independence, two years before, had removed the restrictions imposed by the royal government upon the trade; but before they reached their destination, independence was prostrate, and royalism once more in the ascendant ; their goods were confiscated, and they were imprisoned and detained for a long period as spies. Other attempts were subsequently made, some of which were attended with disaster, and some with tolerable success. It is from the year 1822, that Mr. Gregg is disposed to date the real opening of the trade ; wheeled vehicles, the introduction of which gave it an importance it could never otherwise have had, were first employed in 1824.

The town of Franklin, on the Missouri, about one hundred and fisty miles above St. Louis, was first selected by the traders as a place of gathering and outfit. Afterwards the village of Independence was preserred, having the recommendation of being a hundred miles higher up the river, and of saving to that extent the expense and labor of landcarriage. The caravans usually took their departure from this place in May. In the early part of the month, adventurers might be seen flocking thither from all quarters, some bent on high schemes of commercial speculation, some in pursuit of health, and some induced only by an instinctive desire to get a little farther west ; but all busy in making preparations for the work before them, and in procuring the stores which would be looked for in vain beyond the borders.

Thence they proceeded in separate detachments one hundred and fifty miles farther on, to Council Grove; where the caravans were organized into something resembling a military array. A captain was first chosen, who had just as much authority as he could extort, or his subordinates might think proper to allow; the caravan was then arranged in several divisions, with a lieutenant over each, to make suitable arrangements for encampment every evening, and for the crossing of the creeks and rivers. The caravan which Mr. Gregg first accompanied, in 1831, consisted of nearly a hundred wagons, besides several smaller vehicles, and two small pieces of artillery mounted upon carriages ; the whole efficient force numbering about two hundred men.

About one half of the wagons were drawn by ox-teams, and the rest by mules. The value of the merchandise thus conveyed and guarded was about two hundred thousand dollars. Notwithstanding the military precautions taken for security, there was nothing soldier-like in the armament or costume of the party ; these were such as the taste or means of each individual might dictate. With so formidable an array, little was to be apprehended from the Indians, who have an ungovernable propensity for stealing, but do not care to indulge it at the risk of life.

We cannot follow Mr. Gregg in his journey, which those who know the usual pace of oxen will not suppose could be a very rapid one, but come with him at once to its termination in the autumn.

The first settlement of consequence which he entered was that of San Miguel, a congregation of hovels, with walls of mud, about fifty miles distant from Santa Fé. Leaving this place, and pursuing his way, he came in sight of extensive corn-fields, with many of what he imagined to be brick-kilns, scattered in every direction. This was the goodly capital of Santa Fé itself; hailed by the traveller, after his long and weary journey, with a degree of joy, for which it was by no means indebted to its architectural beauty. Nor is the arrival of the caravan a matter of trifing interest to the fair of Santa Fé; as may be imagined, when it is remembered, that it is to them what the arrival of the latest Paris fashions is in some other regions. Great is the preparation made by the wagoners to present themselves in the overpowering beauty of their Sunday suits, with clean faces and sonorous whip-lashes, before the bright eyes, which are probably bent with less keen interest on them than on the contents of their packages ; but nothing in the form of mortal beauty has power to withdraw the thoughts of the merchants from the absorbing subject of a safe and early passage through the custom-house. The ordinary rate of duties is enormously high ; twice as great, at least, as the cost of the goods. This is not for the purpose of protection, as it does not appear that the New Mexicans have many manufactories of their own to be protected, — or to carry out any economical theories ; but it is owing to an enlightened desire on the part of the authorities to get as much as they possibly can, without suffering a matter so trifling as the welfare of the people to enter as an element into the calculation. It so happens, however, that the worthies of the custom-house exercise a sort of dispensing power, in the form of "an arrangement,” the terms of which are settled without much difficulty ; in some instances, we are assured by Mr. Gregg, on the authority of rumor, a composition of this kind is effected: the legal duties are divided into three equal parts, of which the officers, by way of compensation for their trouble in the business, keep one ; another goes to the merchants ; and the third is scrupulously reserved for the government. For a few years, Governor Armijo of Santa Fé, the odor of whose name was far from savory to foreigners, imposed a tariff of duties, which was remarkable for its beautiful simplicity ; ordaining that the sum of five hundred dollars should be paid for every wagon-load, whether great or small, or consisting of cheap or costly merchandize.

« PreviousContinue »