South America - A Popular History - H. Butterworth

This book begins with an overview of South America under Spanish rule, but focuses mostly on the Wars of Independence from the age of Bolivar to Cuban Independence. The theme of the book is the popular struggle for liberty, so the wars of Liberation are emphasized most prominently, but the early history of Brazil and the South American republics is also given.

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[Cover] from South America by H. Butterworth
Bolivar in Caracas


[Title Page] from South America by H. Butterworth
[Copyright Page] from South America by H. Butterworth


This volume relates the story of liberty and progress in Latin America. It is also an introduction to a study of the Andean republics and those on the Spanish Main.

The struggle for liberty in Cuba but follows the events of the Latin republics of the Andes, and throws a new light on those heroic endeavors.

South America is one of the lands of the future. The immigration to that country is now rivaling that to North America, and to the over-crowded populations of Europe the south temperate zone is the waiting world.

An English poet of prophetic gifts is recorded as saying that in the progressive development of America, South America, or the table-land of the Andes, was not unlikely to become the theater of great achievements, an opinion also shared by the author of Social Evolution. It is objected to this that much of South America is tropical, and that the lands of the Sun are unfavorable to the development of the virtues and arts of peace. But out of nearly such conditions of mingled temperate and tropical climates came the poems of Job and Homer, the arts of Egypt, and the sacred literature whose principles govern the conscience of the world. Sarmiento, the educational President and prophet of Argentina, once said that Buenos Ayres would become the greatest city of the three Americas. This may be too large a vision. But whatever may be the future of South America, her growth is such as to make her recent history a very interesting study to the popular mind.

To write an adequate history of South America and Central America would require a lifelong preparation of study and travel, and more than ordinary ability, insight and vision, to which gifts the present writer can make no claim. He has wished to interest others in the story of liberty in these lands, to picture Bolivar's march to the south and San Martin's to the north, the meeting of these heroes, the central campaign in the Peruvian highlands, and the progress of the new republics after the Congress of Panama. If such be but history in outline and picture, it is a story most pleasing to write, and, we may hope, not uninteresting to read.

In 1895 the writer visited Buenos Ayres, went over the Andes to Valparaiso, and up the west coast to the ports of Tarapaca, to Callao, Lima, and Guayaquil, and afterward to Cartagena and Costa Rica. These excursions led him to spend much time, on his return, in reading works on these countries in the Boston Public Library, which is rich not only in the collections made by Ticknor and Prescott, but in books of travel in South America, and local narratives of South American cities, and in biographies of heroes like Don Ambrosio O'Higgins, Lord Cochrane, General William Miller, and many South American leaders of English descent or of English education. The reading of these books, and that of the travels of Humboldt, has been followed by the reading of the popular works of Sarmiento, Mitre, Pilling, and of local poets, some of whose poems are events in picture. Strongly partisan pamphlets, and books forged out of some special experience, like Larrazabal's vivid Life of Bolivar, of which only the first volume was published, and like James Briggs's Life of Miranda, give episodes in strong colorings, which are interesting to collect and reproduce in an historical order.

In this course of reading, following his excursions, the writer was led to wish to tell the story of South American liberty for popular reading, as an introduction to a study of South American history. He has sought to explain events so clearly to the reader that his narrative may prepare the way for more philosophical studies of a most interesting phase of the recent progress of mankind.

South America, after the manner of the lesser countries Japan and Mexico, seems about to surprise the world by her industrial achievements. The liberators of the vice-royalties and the pioneers of science are the heroes of a great preparation, and in harmony with this spirit of patriotic educational and industrial progress this interpretation is written. As much as South America owes to Bolivar, San Martin, and Sucre, the emancipators, she feels her obligation to men like William Wheelwright of Newburyport, Massachusetts, who made for her shores, ports, lighthouses and harbors, founded the South American Steam Navigation Company, caused the railway across the pampas to be built, created the canal of Ensenada, and planned the railway over the Andes from Buenos Ayres to Santiago de Chili and Valparaiso. This captain of industry has two grand monuments in South America, and a more humble memorial in his native town of Newburyport.

The immigration of the eastern world to South America is becoming so great that already this eastern movement across the placid seas of the equator is laying the foundation of a new Latin race under the peaks of Tupungato, Aconcagua, Illimani and Chimborazo. The "purple empire that England lost," resourceful Argentina, extends her ports and multiplies her cities, in which float the flags of Italy, Germany, England and the East. Buenos Ayres has now a population of nearly seven hundred thousand souls, and may number nearly a million at the close of the century.

A land of wonder awaits these new immigrants. South America embraces an eighth of the globe. The whole area of the United States could find room in the marvelous valley of the Amazon, whose fertile fields would sustain an incalculable population. The Mississippi would be lost in the river that drains the Andes. The glittering domes of the Cordilleras surpass by a mile the highest peaks of the northern part of the hemisphere. Cotopaxi lifts her snowy chimney five times as high as Vesuvius.

The stupendous table-lands where the Incas ruled in their glory, and that begin at silver Potosi, the highest large city on earth, and end at Quito, in the shadow of Chimborazo, have an area of more than four times the State of New York. Lake Titicaca, the supposed crater of a volcano, is twelve thousand feet high. The Bolivian highlands, the region of the alpaca, the vicugna, and of the crags of the condor, are capable of maintaining a population surpassing that of France or Spain. And in these temperate altitudes are to be found all varieties of climates, and the productions of all zones.

Here spread the coast solitudes of Atacama, with its resources of silver, and the white desert of Tarapaca, the natural laboratory of vegetable food, that causes the out-worn gardens of Europe to bloom again.

The early history of these vast regions that await the future is one of moral and spiritual suggestion, of heroism and romance. The period of the Spanish and Italian discoveries has been a tempting theme to the writers on human achievement, and the ideal civilization of the period of the Incas has interested the historian. The Spanish conquerors have been pictured in romance and song, and by the regretful pen of the philosopher. But the story of the heroes of the republics  of South America, though it has found a considerable place in narrative and critical history, has not often been told in popular form. It is the purpose of this volume to tell this story, as the like story of our own land has often been told, for home reading, for the social club, the school-room, and for the pioneer of opportunity.

In regard to the style of the book, the writer has aimed to make vivid and picturesque what seemed to him the heroic and prophetic. His purpose has been to interest the reader in what is most noble and promising, to be true to the spirit of events, and accurate in noting progress from the liberal and optimistic point of view. He has undertaken this introductory work less in the spirit of authorship than in the hope that he who reads this will read more  from the authors cited, and be led to study the more adequate sources of information about a country of heroic achievement and wonderful resources, that promises to take a foremost place in the new history of the New World.


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For the benefit of those who wish to pursue the study of this subject more in detail, I append the following list of books and authors.

  • Agriculture in South America, Almond Barns. Published by the Department of Agriculture, Washington.
  • Andes and Amazon, Orton.
  • South America (illustrated), Macoy.
  • Equatorial Forests, Stuart.
  • Bureau of South American Republics, State Department, Washington.
  • Cuba and Porto Rico, Trumbull.
  • Wanderings in South America, Waterton.
  • Antiquities, Wright.
  • Colonial History of South America, Markham.
  • Life of William Wheelwright, Alberdi.
  • South American Trade, Balcazar.
  • Equatorial America, Ballou.
  • South American Travel, Baxley.
  • A Thousand Miles' Walk, Bishop.
  • Spanish-American Republics, Child.
  • Visit to South America, Clark.
  • Tropical America, Ford.
  • Life and Nature under the Tropics, Myers.
  • Spanish and Portuguese South America during the Colonial Period, Watson.
  • San Martin, Mitre.
  • America Poetica.
  • Mexican and South American Poems.
  • The Neglected Continent, Guiness.
  • Notes of a Naturalist, Ball.
  • Life in the Argentine, Sarmiento. Translated by Mrs. Horace Mann.
  • Bartolome de las Casas.
  • Garcilasso de la Vega.
  • Peru, Markham.
  • L'Empire des Incas, Wiener.
  • Rites and Laws of the Incas, Markham.
  • War between Chili and Peru, Markham.
  • Conquest of Peru, Prescott.
  • Myths of the New World, Brinton.
  • Peruvian Antiquities. Helps.
  • Fables and Rites of the Incas, Molina.
  • Sarmiento.
  • History of America, Robertson.
  • Travels in Peru, Temple.
  • South American Republics, Curtis.
  • Antiquarian Researches in New Granada, Ecuador, Peru and Chili, Bollaert.
  • Ornaments from the Huacas (Tombs), Bryce M. Wright.
  • South America, Humboldt.
  • Basil Hall's Journal.
  • From China to Peru, Howard Vincent.
  • South America, Niles.
  • Between the Amazon and the An. des, Mulhall.
  • From Lima to Peru and down the Amazon, Smith.
  • Up the Amazon, Mathews.
  • The Arbitration of the United States, Professor Moore.