<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b>Return to the Americas</b> <p> <p> I am glad to hear that you have alterd your intention of visiting South america again at present, we wish & you need not be surprised that we wish, to Reap the benefit which Science must deserve from your Past Labors before you engage in new ones. LETTER FROM SIR JOSEPH BANKS TO BONPLAND, 1810 <p> Desde el viaje qe. hice en la america meridional con humboldt he tomado un afecto todo particular los americanos. [Since the journey I made with Humboldt in South America, I have developed a particular liking for the Americans.] FRAGMENT OF A LETTER BY POLAND ABOUT THE EMANCIPATION OF THE AMERICAS <p> <p> Before he left Europe in 1816, Bonpland worked at what some have called a center of calculation. He had an international scientific reputation. Five years later, he was dragged in irons into Paraguay, an event that removed him indefinitely from contact with the learned world. This chapter surveys the circumstances under which Bonpland left Europe, and his plans for the Americas while based at Buenos Aires. Between arriving at Buenos Aires in early 1817 and the beginning of his long captivity near the end of 1821, a great deal of work was accomplished on multiple fronts. Parts of this work have remained unclear, not least through the loss of materials deposited by Bonpland before 1821 at Buenos Aires and Corrientes. In his painstaking efforts to collect Bonpland's correspondence, Hamy was able to publish only two letters relating to Bonpland's southern South American career before his confinement in Paraguay. This absence of letters reaching Europe serves as a marker that the character of the career was now intensely American as much as European. <p> The evidence survives that along the first decades of the nineteenth century Bonpland held an independent set of scientific connections and a separate judgment from Humboldt. Bonpland felt a strong attachment to the American cause. He was an explicit supporter of Bolvar's project, as Humboldt himself recognized. The decision to leave Europe seems to have been both drawn out and relatively sudden. In other words, Bonpland held to the idea of emigration long before he was prepared to take action. As early as 1810, Sir Joseph Banks, thinking explicitly about the future of the fieldwork accomplished with Humboldt, tried to dissuade Bonpland from his ambition of returning to the Americas. Humboldt's correspondence with Bonpland contains similar intimations. <p> While at Malmaison, Bonpland appeared to have an assured future. His income in this period was considerable and he may have equaled the liquidity of Humboldt, who was bankrupting himself in the massive venture of publishing the results from their American journey. The death of Empress Josphine on 29 May 1814 brought an abrupt change to Bonpland's circumstances. The idea of returning to America was soon a theme that loomed large in his correspondence with his relatives in and around La Rochelle. Bonpland announced to his brother Michel-Simon in July 1814 his wish to go to America in the following spring. He was tracking the political happenings: "I would prefer the Spanish colonies, but at this moment they are in combustion." He was offered the chance to travel to Cayenne in September 1814, but this date was coming too soon to allow him the time to finish work on the volumes of botany for Humboldt and on the description of the rare plants on Josphine's properties. He saw staying in Europe as a sure route to stagnation. Michel-Simon did not want his brother to leave Europe. And if he must, the elder brother wanted his sibling to have some concrete ideas about what he planned to do in the Americas. Aim Bonpland knew that his sister Olive was worried, and he confessed his own fear of crossing water, but he told her the following in June 1815: "Above all, the article on <i>arrivals</i> and <i>departures</i> in English newspapers is an admirable thing to read." In his letters to the La Rochelle region, Bonpland relished the intellectual prospects offered by South America, telling his brother-in-law, the lawyer Gallocheau, "while you will study the antiquities of Saintonge [presumably meaning Roman influence in the Charente], I shall investigate those of the Incas and of the people who live from Chile as far as the Strait of Magellan." By April 1816, Bonpland confessed to his sister that the work of finishing some publications and of settling important business (left unspecified in his letter) meant that he was forced to divide his time between Paris and London. <p> In the years 1814, 1815, and 1816, Bonpland made various trips to London. These had mixed motives. He traveled ostensibly for scientific reasons, making comparative observations in major British herbaria and developing his links with English scientists. However, London was also the center of the Spanish American movements toward independence. Bonpland's motives for visiting London included the aim of making his "relations with Bolvar more frequent and more useful to America." The evidence survives of an impressive broader range of contacts with South American revolutionaries, and Bonpland carried out a broad range of services on their behalf in relation to the movement of books, a printing press, and even weapons. These people kept him informed in considerable detail about the geography of the progress of the revolution in the different parts of South America through their letters, some of which display considerable intimacy. For example, in September 1814, Vicente Pazos relayed the news that revolutionaries had finally taken Montevideo, the key to the Ro de la Plata: "We are all mad with happiness, and I believe you, like every other liberal person, will be too." By 1815, the revolutionaries were competing for Bonpland's services. Francisco Antonio Zea, the vice president of Gran Colombia, wanted Bonpland to come to Bogot to continue the work of the Botanical Expedition headed by Jos Celestino Mutis. Following Mutis's death, a quarrel developed between his nephew, Sinforoso Mutis, and Francisco Jos de Caldas (the Colombian lawyer, naturalist, and geographer who would be executed in 1816). Bonpland was informed that the botanical work was suspended on account of a shortage of specialized talent. The representatives in London from the Ro de la Plata had other plans. Mariano de Sarratea held the plan to bring Bonpland to Buenos Aires, where he would found and direct a botanical garden. Zea carried word of Bonpland's interest in emigration back to northern South America, and Manuel Palacio, the young revolutionary from what is now Venezuela, wrote Bonpland the following: "Since Zea has spoken of your project of passing to America, everybody there is impatiently waiting for you-with your patriotism and your understanding, they think you will bring happiness." <p> It is doubtful whether Bonpland had fixed ideas about which part of Hispanic America would serve best to make his fortune; through the long journey accompanying Humboldt, he had accumulated an impressive knowledge of the geography of the Americas. Although his most developed American connections lay with northern South America, most visibly in his friendship and support of Simn Bolvar, he was ultimately drawn southward toward the Ro de la Plata, where his connection to Bernardino Rivadavia proved especially important. In the period from 1815 to 1819, Rivadavia undertook a broad-ranging diplomatic mission to Europe on behalf of the United Provinces of the Ro de la Plata, a project that was intent on bringing Europe to South America. During his mission, Rivadavia developed very close ties with intellectuals in both Britain and France. <p> Bonpland was one of these. He crossed the English Channel in the company of Rivadavia on 18 November 1815, giving the latter room for expounding on the attractions of life in the Ro de la Plata, although the political reality of those provinces at the time was that they had become "no more than a loose confederation of semi-independent, imperfectly organized, and even semihostile states." On arrival in France, they toured the port of Calais together, and they went on to help each other mutually in various ways at Paris. For Bonpland, the most important thing was that Rivadavia wrote a letter of recommendation on 21 October 1816 to Juan Martn de Pueyrredn, the supreme director of the United Provinces since 3 May. In it, he made reference to Bonpland's reputation for having traveled with Humboldt, to his merit in botany, and to his moral qualities. While Rivadavia wrote a considerable number of recommendations for European intellectuals bound for the Plata, in Bonpland's case he pointed out that the emigrant was a particular friend, somebody worthy of especially close attention. <p> There is no evidence that Bonpland planned to settle permanently in South America when he left Europe in 1816. While he was to arrive at Buenos Aires well prepared, that does not mean he intended to stay in the region for good. More likely he sought to replicate the paths of other Rochellais bourgeois families by making his fortune in agriculture overseas, thus assuring an independence to pursue projects in France that reflected his taste. Some of this comes through in the letter he wrote to Humboldt from Le Havre in November 1816. In his own account for Humboldt, Bonpland said that he went to South America looking to gain his financial independence: "If I do not succeed, I shall stay there buried on some hill or other, or in a beautiful valley." That turned out to be a prophetic forecast. Writing to a French friend in 1850, Bonpland stated that he had not planned to be away from France for more than five years. It is unlikely he was quite as optimistic in the 1810s about the time frame needed to make his fortune. In 1814, he had predicted to his brother that it would take eight to ten years. <p> Before Bonpland could quit Europe for the Americas, there was considerable business to resolve, including the tangled skein of affairs in connection with his wife Adeline. In connection with publications, this related to both Humboldt and to Malmaison. There were also financial issues. A leading theme of the letters Michel-Simon Bonpland wrote to his younger brother in the period 1812 to 1815 is money, relating to the settlement of their parental estate. There are signs of strain in this correspondence, with Michel-Simon working to justify his management of the family financial affairs. In 1815, Aim Bonpland drew almost 8,000 francs from the preliminary settlement. Before Bonpland left France, there was the matter of his account with Malmaison, where he received a third from Josphine's heirs of what he reckoned he was due. He also assumed a large debt at Paris for books destined for what the South American revolutionary Bernardino Rivadavia planned to be Argentina's national library, ultimately a stillborn project. When he quit Europe for South America, Bonpland left ongoing business behind him. Understandably, he left a proxy with legal authority at Paris, just as he would shortly do when absenting himself from Buenos Aires for what was designed to be a reconnaissance of limited duration of the Upper Plata. It is certain that Bonpland's finances were soon in a mess at Buenos Aires. It is usually assumed in the literature that Bonpland always had the benefit in South America of drawing on his annual French state pension, but this was emphatically not always the case. <p> <p> <b><i>Entering the Plata</i></b> <p> Bonpland was an interesting catch for Argentina, and we can easily imagine the initial excitement both he and Buenos Aires society would have shared on his arrival. But what exactly was he going to do in a place where, though full of revolutionary spirit, "economic dislocation and social disintegration proceeded hand in hand"? Incipient initiatives were already taken in this period toward the development of higher education, and here a Paris-educated botanist and medical doctor could play a useful role. For various reasons, this promise was never realized. The general nature of politics was not conducive. Add to this the spice of local jealousies, and the mixture did not take. <p> Work with Humboldt and then for Josphine prepared Bonpland to think on a grand scale. Josphine's properties of Malmaison and Navarre, both of which were developed after 1804, were by 1814 the leading repositories of the cultivation of rare plants in France, work in which Bonpland had been intimately involved. The tendency to think big would never leave him, no matter how tightly external constraints stood in the way. This was surely the chief feature of his arrival at Buenos Aires, a sentiment echoed in the language of the local newspapers. Thus when the <i>Saint-Victor</i> anchored in the less than appealing muddy estuary of the Plata in early 1817, Bonpland did not step ashore alone. He was accompanied by his wife Adeline and her daughter from a previous marriage, Emma, as well as two assistants, Auguste Banville and Gabriel Lechne. He also brought much other living material, notably plants drawn from Paris collections and nursery gardens in and around Le Havre. In making all this happen, the modern reader may gain the impression that the ship had sailed across a sea of red ink. <p> Bonpland's arrival at Buenos Aires was met by high expectations of what he could achieve there. A newspaper report noted in February 1817 that he enriched the country from the time of his first arrival "with a multitude of seeds, and with two thousand living plants." All these were judged valuable "in a country where the vegetable kingdom is in its first infancy," a comment that reads strangely today. It reminds us that the political struggle for independence was perhaps seen as having an ecological counterpart-and that immigrants came in more than human form. There is no doubt that Bonpland was viewed as an especially valuable arrival, belonging to the "class of men" who held themselves apart from political controversies. He would not succeed in doing so for long, however. In a country of immense and fertile lands, here was an individual devoted to adorning nature with even more alluring qualities through the addition of even more plant life. Part of the dividend would come through medicinal plants. Another component of his efforts was agricultural, such that Bonpland was expected to "put into execution a method of practical agriculture, the fruit of all his observations in England, France, and America." In addition, the authorities at Buenos Aires held in mind a plant conservatory, to be based on species introduced by Bonpland, those native to the region, and those that he could acquire through future research. Given the political upheavals that would shortly follow, such idealism makes almost painful reading today. <p> We do not learn of all the plant materials that accompanied Bonpland to the Plata from the contemporary newspaper account. But even a summary description points to a vast labor, which included fruit trees, vegetables, medicinal plants, pasture grasses, 150 species of vines from the Jardin du Luxembourg, and various types of willow useful for making baskets. In addition, the material included the Spanish carob tree (<i>Ceratonia siliqua</i>), commonly known as St. John's Bread, whose fruits were much appreciated for feeding livestock, especially horses, and all the sour-fruit trees of France. The newspaper editors opined, "we hope that our compatriots will know how to make use of this rich acquisition and propagate it in all the provinces." <p> A few days later came a further newspaper summary outlining Bonpland's "eminent" scientific background in Europe, mainly on account of the work he had accomplished in the Americas with Humboldt. Botany was his forte, but the country would have made a "singular acquisition" if Bonpland were to communicate his researches to other sciences, "especially medicine, with which botany has an immediate connection." The sentiment was clear that Buenos Aires had gained the talents of an immigrant of great scientific merit, with concrete achievements in both Europe and the Americas. As a friend of Simn Bolvar, Bonpland was also viewed positively as the first botanist and zoologist to visit Argentina since it declared its independence. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>A Life in Shadow</b> by <b>Stephen Bell</b> Copyright © 2010 by Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.