After such statements we are safe in affirming that the basin of the Amazon has none of the burning heats of countries like Asia and Africa, which are crossed by the same parallels.
The vast plain which serves for its valley is accessible over its whole extent to the generous breezes which come from off the Atlantic.
And the provinces to which the river has given its name have acknowledged right to call themselves the healthiest of a country which is one of the finest on the earth.
And how can we say that the hydrographical system of the Amazon is not known?
In the sixteenth century Orellana, the lieutenant of one of the brothers Pizarro, descended the Rio Negro, arrived on the main river in 1540, ventured without a guide across the unknown district, and, after eighteen months of a navigation of which is record is most marvelous, reached the mouth.
In 1636 and 1637 the Portuguese Pedro Texeira ascended the Amazon to Napo, with a fleet of forty-seven pirogues.
In 1743 La Condamine, after having measured an arc of the meridian at the equator, left his companions Bouguer and Godin des Odonais, embarked on the Chinchipe, descended it to its junction with the Marañon, reached the mouth at Napo on the 31st of July, just in time to observe an emersion of the first satellite of Jupiter--which allowed this Humboldt of the eighteenth century" to accurately determine the latitude and longitude of the spot--visited the villages on both banks, and on the 6th of September arrived in front of the fort of Para. This immense journey had important results--not only was the course of the Amazon made out in scientific fashion, but it seemed almost certain that it communicated with the Orinoco.
Fifty-five years later Humboldt and Bonpland completed the valuable work of La Condamine, and drew up the map of the Manañon as far as Napo.
Since this period the Amazon itself and all its principal tributaries have been frequently visited.
In 1827 Lister-Maw, in 1834 and 1835 Smyth, in 1844 the French lieutenant in command of the "Boulonnaise," the Brazilian Valdez in 1840, the French "Paul Marcoy" from 1848 to 1860, the whimsical painter Biard in 1859, Professor Agassiz in 1865 and 1866, in 1967 the Brazilian engineer Franz Keller-Linzenger, and lastly, in 1879 Doctor Crevaux, have explored the course of the river, ascended many of its tributaries, and ascertained the navigability of its principal affluents.
But what has won the greatest honor for the Brazilian government is that on the 31st of July, 1857, after numerous frontier disputes between France and Brazil, about the Guiana boundary, the course of the Amazon was declared to be free and open to all flags; and, to make practice harmonize with theory, Brazil entered into negotiations with the neighboring powers for the exploration of every river-road in the basin of the Amazon.
To-day lines of well-found steamboats, which correspond direct with Liverpool, are plying on the river from its mouth up to Manaos; others ascend to Iquitos; others by way of the Tapajoz, the Madeira, the Rio Negro, or the Purus, make their way into the center of Peru and Bolivia.
One can easily imagine the progress which commerce will one day make in this immense and wealthy area, which is without a rival in the world.
But to this medal of the future there is a reverse. No progress can be accomplished without detriment to the indigenous races.
In face, on the Upper Amazon many Indian tribes have already disappeared, among others the Curicicurus and the Sorimaos. On the Putumayo, if a few Yuris are still met with, the Yahuas have abandoned the district to take refuge among some of the distant tributaries, and the Maoos have quitted its banks to wander in their diminished numbers among the forests of Japura.
The Tunantins is almost depopulated, and there are only a few families of wandering Indians at the mouth of the Jurua. The Teffé is almost deserted, and near the sources of the Japur there remained but the fragments of the great nation of the Umaüa.