Setting the scene and the building of South America -Introduction
Thomas Wheelock arrived in Peru in 1832 with opportunities to be made. Thomas had been hired by the Tayleur House, a merchant and shipping company out of Market Drayton, starting at the bottom of the ladder as a Clerk. Thomas arrives following upheavals in South America which would not be settled until 1850.
To understand the beginning of British influence in South America there needs to be an understanding of the political situation of the entire Latin region. British and European migration to South America was affected by events such as the Napoleonic Invasion of Spain which triggered the Wars of Independence in Latin America and opened new trade markets.
In 1825 Mainland Spanish America split into more than a dozen separate countries, following the administrative divisions of the colonial system. The difficulty for the inhabitants of these countries was not, however, as simple as the demarcation of geographic boundaries. Rather, the recently liberated countries of Latin America faced the much more daunting challenge of defining and consolidating new nations. The inhabitants of each country set out on programs to create a postcolonial political, economic, and social order. The obstacles confronting them were imposing. (1)
This was a land of opportunity due to the collapse of the Spanish Empire and the subsequent wars of Independence creating a political vacuum in the new countries.
To embark on the trip from Europe to South America you needed to have capital or a job secured, the trip took several months. Most Europeans would depart from Liverpool to Tenerife, then 5- 6 months across the Atlantic via Tierra Del Fuego to Valparaiso (Or Callao) – Arica – Quilca. This was no trip for the faint hearted with deaths and seas sickness among common occurrences.
Sometimes a ship on arrival in South America would find their trip diverted to the nearest safe port that was not in battle. An entry from 1824 talks about the Grand Port of Callao and being unable to dock so they were forced to head to Valparaiso:
Samuel Duncan, whom Moens had left in charge of the Lima house when he left about twelve months ago, wrote that business was 50% worse than it then had been. Since February Lima and Callao were again in possession of the Royalists, commanded by Canterrac, to them Callao had been delivered up by mutinous black regiments. Also the Intermedios were occupied by the Spaniards and it was expected that Bolivar would shortly give them battle. The whole coast had been declared under blockade by the Patriots, but this Captain Maling of H.B.M.S. “Cambridge” was only willing to acknowledge as far as regarded Callao, the forces of the Patriots not being sufficient to effect the actual blockade of the other ports. Amongst the English in Valparaiso the embezzlement of about $8000 committed by the Captain’s clerk of H.M.S. “Tartar” gave rise to much talk and conversation. (2)
*(HBMS – Stands for His Britannic Majesty’s Ship)
Depending on social status a European with means and a secured future would meet the likes of Simon Bolivar or the British Consul, European Impressions of Simon Bolivar in 1825 are as follows:
Bolivar was a man of the middle size, and of a spare make. His face of a darkish tinge, His forehead is well shaped and very high. His eyes, the colour of which I could not distinguish are piercing, his nose long and straight, his mouth large; his mustachios thin and long, I thought to become him well; but when he smiled a harsh and deeply marked wrinkle from the nose down to the mouth, became apparent. Amongst his aides-de-camp was an extremely fair youth, with hair which might be called white; he was Belford Hinton Wilson, in later years British Chargé d’Affaires in Perú. (2).
NEXT Article: Thomas’s rise to power and the advent of the Guano empire.
2.- The Diary of Heinrich Witt, Volume 3
4.- Anglo Peruvian Commercial and financial relations. 1825-1865. William M. Matthew PHD. Thesis 1970
3.- Classwell Images