Billeder på siden

with intelligence and vigor, and at last, although a captive in a strange land, died a warrior in his paint. In his narrow sphere he displayed many heroic virtues; his life was engaged in a nobler cause than that which incites the actions of many whom the world calls great; and in his last moments he displayed the workings of a lofty spirit, which commands our admiration.

If those who have devastated the earth to gratify their selfish ambi. tion or thirst of conquest, have historians to record their deeds, and poets to sing their praise, let us not withhold a token of applause to one who committed fewer wrongs, and during his life was a brave defender of his country.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

Havana, September 1, 1844. MY DEAR FRIEND: I fear you have nearly given up all hope of hearing from me, notwithstanding my promise to supply you with true and detailed accounts of whatever I met with that could interest the American public. But even now I must perhaps disappoint you. For the present at least I shall avoid as much as possible the subject of the sate colored insurrection, which is the most interesting to you, and of which I suppose you are most anxious to hear. Still, I do not feel inclined to go into a hasty and perhaps erroneous view of the case, although that is considered a slight fault with travellers. Leaving that part of my information for a future opportunity, when I shall be better able to judge of all the facts, you must allow me at present briefly to enumerate what objects have thus far attracted my attention; adding such remarks as the few moments I can command before starting for the estate of Don

will permit. I was presented not long ago at the Tertulia of St. Cecilia, one of the three very respectable Philharmonic Societies, which are the constant resort of the fashionable world of Havana. By means of a small sti. pend the members of these communities are enabled to have concerts and two hours of dancing every week, which in a great measure take the place of the agreeable parties we enjoy so much at home. Of late complete operas have often been performed, altogether by amateurs. The Lucia di Lammermoor, the Pirata, and the Barbier de Seville have repeatedly called forth the applause of crowded audiences. Indeed we must admit that there is throughout this country a very general and delicate taste for music, which is not to be found in our colder region. I do not however consider the higher latitude the sole cause of this difference. Where the genius of man is quelled, crushed, and forced from its natural channel, like the waters of the fountain it will rise to the level of its outlet in another. Take from American society the exciting interests of political ambition; restrain their bold mercantile, manufacturing, and agricultural enterprise by unwise legislation ; shackle and repress their free spirit, and they would instinctively seek other spheres of exertion, and consequently become greater proficients in the fine arts. Give free institutions to Italy, and her dazzling musical superiority would gradually sink to an equality with the rest of the world.

In most countries you would naturally conclude that by taking up a newspaper a correct knowledge of all the interesting events of the day might be obtained: not so here ; and the reason is to be found in the strict censorship exercised over the publication of the most trifling article, the grant depending upon the mere will of the censor. This state of the public press originates a conventional emphatic style of writing, which every body reads without surprise in all the periodicals of the city, and every body translates into the veritable meaning, as a matter of course. To a foreigner, however, unaccustomed to this everlasting hyperbole, extending its poetry and fiction to the most common acts of every-day life, it is difficult to get into the habit of translating. It is withal very important that the newspapers of the United States should be put on their guard; for it often excites a smile with those who are here, to see the apparent or real candor which they exhibit in repeating the fairy dreams of the Cuban press. But we are occasionally amused with the efforts of some able writers, who give interest to the periodicals by an airy, delicate style, which though characterized by great enthusiasm and warmth of feeling, vented in exaggerated expressions, is still pleasing to the reader. The editor of the · Diario de Avisos,' Don RaMON DE Palma, is a remarkable specimen of this kind; a distinguished literary character, and both as a poet and prose writer, excelling in that lively and graceful, I had almost said ethereal manner, for which the French are distinguished. His introductions to the periodical reports of the fashions, of the public amusements, and various little incidents which entertain the fashionable world, affect one almost like the perusal of an oriental tale. Lest you may think me urged by some undue influence of the moment, I make a translation of one of his hasty sketches, for your inspection :

[blocks in formation]






Who can oppose the swelling waves of this ocean we call the world? Who can explain its flows and ebbs, its caprices and changes ? The scenes where the multitude was thronging yesterday; where the melody of music filled the air, and the responsive tread of the dance was graceful and gay ; to-day are dumb and solitary, while the foaming tides pour along in other channels their waves of life, bustle and commotion. Yesterday Guanabacoa, to-day the Cerro, to-morrow Puentes Grandes. The chafing billows of youth, beauty, and hopeful life, roll in succession over every spot, and receive new strength from its impressions, its inspirations and its pleasures. Like flowers, torn from their stems, we are wasted onward in the tumult of its waters: we follow its course, and are tossed about, under an auspicious or ominous star, by those flows and ebbs, those caprices and changes. Votaries of the beau monde, we abandon ourselves to its guidance, and as long as youthful fancy preserves a single feather of its bright plumave, it directs its soaring flight to the regious of pleasure, luxury and taste. Far away from the realities of life, we search for the fiowers of inspiration, to strew them around the altar of Love and Beauty.

'Love and Beauty! behold the great springs which move fancy and feeling; the divinities which govern the world of poetry and taste, to whom fashion consecrates its untiring homage. Each beauty bas a day in which she wears the crown of empire, and may cast her eye over the sphere of her conquests with triumph and intoxicating contemplation of her power. Queeus of beauty, come! the world of taste claims your presence. The streets of the Pareo are solitary, silent are the saloons of the societies. Where then shall we find the youthful Havanese, with the charm of her pale beauties, the voluptuous extacy of her contra-dances ? Life dwells on Sunday at the Avenue del Monte, the bowers of the Cerro, and Las Puentes; and the select world, the youth d'elit, is now and then to be found at the public Tertulias, except on occasion of private soirées, which,


en passant, have been this season un'isually rare. It was last Tuesday that we enjoyed the first

At a house of high rank we met a select and refined assembly, and inhaled with the perfume of beauty, the sweet fragrance of friendship and intimacy. All in that mansion was flowers; the flowers of taste, harmony, elegance and beauty! There did we hear music in the veritable strain of sensibility which belongs to its most touching accents; we experienced the pleasure of the contra-dance with the ruptures flowing from its tropical charms; and there at last did we witness, Oh, ye inquisitive fair! can ye divine whai ?– The Polka!- the renowned Polka – which has brought a universal dancing mania upon the world. Fain would we consecrate, in our chroniclesummary, the first pair who on this occasion were crowned with Terpsichore's wreath ; fain announce to the public a triumph, which fear of offending must make a subject of delicate regard. The Polka, fair amateurs, the Polka combines and concentrates the graces and excellencies of all modes; the rapidity of the waltz, the exercise of the gallop, the grace of the cotillion, and the crowning merit of — novelty! Dance, then, we invite you, the Polka at all the balls. Let it triumph and reign this winter, and waltzes and gallops be forgotten.'

Thus much for Palma's daily romance. In very many of his numbers, however, you will find interesting details of some of the economical subjects and events affecting the prosperity of the country ; wherein by his elaborate skill, exercised in such a manner as not to excite the ever-wakeful suspicion of the officers or dependants of govern. ment, he contrives to impart substantial information. In looking over a number of the Diario de Avisos, for instance, I noticed the subject of the cultivation of tobacco, as compared with that of sugar, where the conclusion is, that the former is decidedly the most advantageous. The sum required to make an estate of twenty-five thousand boxes is supposed to be $163,000, and the annual advance or expenditure $11,700, amounting to $174,700, which he considers the real capital employed, and on which he supposes the profit to be seven per cent. He contends that were this sum used in raising tobacco, which can be done with hired labor, it would yield a profit of sixty and a quarter per cent. Without claiming for the above statement absolute correctness, I believe that the cultivation of the tobacco plant in the districts of the Vuelta de Abajo, where it grows with that peculiar flavor to be met with no where else, is perhaps at this moment, and so long as fiscal exactions do not weigh it down, as they have many other sources of wealth and revenue in this Island, will be, a fruitful employment of capital, unattended by the risks usually accompanying most pursuits here.

An investment in very high repute, at the present time, is that of the Regla Warehouses. They are intended to hold all the sugar now entering the port of Havana, say five hundred thousand boxes, and all the coffee, etc., at so low a rate as to make it an object for all the planters to send their crops to them. The weight of the produce once taken, it is made to serve all purposes of any subsequent sale, at a trifling additional charge of storage, all parties saving thereby the necessary loss, wear, and expense of removal, weighing, etc., the transfer being made perfect by the certificate of the acting director of the Company. The Company offer a much safer dépôt, and consequently, the security of a large quantity of produce, as means of obtaining credit, is necessarily increased. The activity of the market will probably be greater when the expenses of receiving and stor. age are diminished; and purchases may be realized, without the trouble of providing other storage for the article. The company is moreover answerable for any damage incurred while in their buildings. It is supposed also that the Regla Warehouses will become the Planter's VOL. XXIV.


Exchange, where they will meet, ascertain the state of the markets, and make their contracts of purchase and sale, and so forth. It will certainly contribute to lower the cost of produce to the shipper, without depreciating its value in the hands of the planter : even the public or town revenue will be benefitted, since the use of carts in the city will be in a great measure unnecessary. The mud which now finds its way into the bay, from the incessant wear of the pavements, will no longer fill up the docks and channels of the port, the clearing of which, by machinery and boats, as now practised, is a source of constant expenditure. The wharves and streets will require much less repairing, and the city of Havana will become more quiet and comparatively safe to the foot-passenger. From what I have said, you will understand that the capital required to construct the Regla Warehouses is of no trifling amount, and you will of course be surprised to learn that after an insurrection so extended and fearful, there should be money in the country ready for investment in any stock, however profitable. There certainly has been a heavy amount drawn from the Island within the last year ; and the amount of capital which was formerly made productive by advances to the planters, and by other inland business, not now existing, is likewise great. The slave trade is becoming an odious traffic, which of course diminishes the number of slaves imported, since the owners of plantations begin to see in its continuance cause for well-founded and constant anxiety. These concurring circumstances have no small share in creating the facilities which have placed the profitable and comparatively safe fund of the Regla Company at its disposal.

It is to be hoped that the government of Spain will give a more positive and liberal attention to Cuba, and that by abolishing the military system, which is ill adapted, where moral reforms are chiefly wanted, its fertile fields and immense woodlands will once more become the natural resort of foreign capital and emigration, and the late insurrectionary movements soon be forgotten.

In the edicts which have been published in the late papers, by order of the Junta de Fomento, offering cash premiums to such as will comply with certain conditions specified in the system of agriculture and manufactures, and also to such as will import and make landholders of a given number of emigrants, I should be particularly pleased to find the commencement of that more liberal and extended reform to which I have alluded. But should those edicts not have been dictated by the right spirit, and with a wise discernment of the peculiar circumstances and necessities of the country, it appears to me they will do more evil than good, at least as regards the question of substituting free labor, which is asserted by some to be utterly impracticable here. I will just sketch for you the outlines of the programme, add a few remarks, and have done for this time.

1st. A premium of $12,000 is offered to the first owners of Hacien. das* not yet distributed, who shall in the years 1845, 1846 and 1847,

* THE Haciendas is a peculiar term, denoting originally two leagues of ground, measured in a circle from a given centre. In case of conflicting grants, the oldest grant swallows the younger, or as much of it as is necessary; so that by the term one cannot understand any positive quantity of land.

« ForrigeFortsæt »