Page images
PDF
EPUB

Madame Merlin. With the same curious infelicity, which attends almost all her arithmetical statements,-after having given, in another part of the work, from official data, a correct estimate of the annual revenue of the island, at rather more than twenty millions dollars,—she states it, in connesion with the passage we have been considering, at ninety millions. This sum, which is given in cyphers, may, perhaps, be charitably received as an error of the press for twenty; and we regret that we are unable to account so easily for the other mistakes, of a similar kind, that occur so frequently in the pages of this elegant but exceedingly inaccurate writer.

No such extent of taxation, as is now enforced in Cuba, was ever known or heard of before in any part of the world ; and no community, relying solely on the products of its own labor, could possibly exist under it. It is only by adding to the results of their own labor those of the labor of another population of equal extent, compensated by a bare subsistence, which, in this luxurious climate, costs almost nothing, that the whites are able to exist, and even to exhibit the appearance of wealth and prosperity. If the immense sums collected by the government were expended upon useful and important objects, some indirect advantage would result from a system, which nothing could justify. Unfortunately, this is so far from being the case, that out of the overflowing and exuberant fullness of the treasury, a comparatively very limited amount is appropriated to improvements of any kind, while most of the objects, that are considered as of paramount importance in every civilized community, are entirely neg. lected. A good deal has been done, from time to time,-as has been already said, --for the material improvement of the capital, -partly under the impulse of the better policy which has occasionally prevailed in the councils of the island, and partly for the immediate accommodation of the authorities themselves. So far as it goes, this is well. It is well that the city should be paved and lighted : it is well that there should be sufficient prisons, market-houses, theatres, public walks and military roads, for the use of the government and people of the Havana : but it is not quite so well, that, with all this enormous wealth, there should not be a good road, and hardly a good school, in the island. Of the immense sums collected from the people, one-half goes to defray the expenses o the military and civil establishments, and the

other is remitted to Spain, where it forms a very important item in the "ways and means" of providing for the annual expenses. One year's income, appropriated to roads and schools, would put a new face upon the island, and give a new character to its inhabitants.

The political relations of Cuba to the mother country, and other powers, -upon which we must add a few words in conclusion, although a part of what we might have said under this head has been necessarily anticipated under the preceding one,--are far from being so agreeable a subject of contemplation, as the climate, soil and vegetable productions. On reviewing the condition of the island before and since the opening of the ports, it would seem as if this, the great event, as we have said, in its recent history, was mainly a fortunate accident, attributable to the personal character and influence of Aranjo. Something, however, must be allowed for the liberal spirit which prevailed at this time in the councils of the mother country and the other great European powers. The overwhelming preponderance of the territorial and military influence of Napoleon, had completely broken down all the existing establishments, and made it necessary for the governments to fall back upon the body of the people, as a sort of reserve. For the purpose of doing this with effect, they professed themselves, and encouraged in others, popular and liberal views on all political subjects. In Spain, particularly, the insurrection against the French was effected in the name of independence, liberty and the rights of nations. The circumstances of the time naturally generated a corresponding sentiment in all who took a part in the public affairs. The tone that prevailed in the Cortes which assembled at Cadiz, and afterwards formed the constitution of 1812, was decidedly democratic. It was about this period that the opening of the ports took place, in the first instance, without any formal authority from the mother country. In the year 1808, when the French had possession of Spain, and all communication with the colonies was, for the time, suspended, Aranjo suggested, at a meeting of the principal merchants of the Havana, held under the authority of the Captain-General, that the ports should be temporarily opened, as they had occasionally been at other times, when the commerce with Spain was interrupted. The proposition was seconded by Don Claudio Martinez de Pinillos, now the Count de Villa-Nueva, then employed in some inferior place

in the finances,-the Count de Montalvo, Don José Valiente, and other persons of consideration, whose opinions had been formed in the school of Aranjo,—and was adopted. When the Cortes were convened at Cadiz, the American provinces were invited to send deputies, and the island of Cuba was represented, as has been said, by the most distinguished among these patriots, who employed their influence with the metropolitan government to procure a confirmation of the liberty of trade. The plan met with opposition from the merchants of Cadiz, Barcelona and the other ports, who had hitherto enjoyed a monopoly of the colonial trade ; but the great advantage resulting from the new state of things to the island, and through it to the monarchy in general, had already become too apparent to permit the restoration of the old system, and the liberty of trade was continued. It required, however, great address, to bring about this result; and the merchants of Cadiz, according to the statement of Count de Villa-Nueva, were so much enraged with Don José Valiente, for the active part which he took in the affair, that they seriously contemplated a resort to assassination. In 1814 the king returned, and a reaction took place in favor of arbitrary principles of government; but such was the influence of the friends of free trade at the Havana, and so clearly had the result demonstrated the correctness of their views, that no attempt was made to re-establish the monopoly. The memorial upon this subject, addressed, at his desire, to the Spanish Minister at the Congress of Vienna, by Don J. P. Valiente, is a very remarkable paper, as well for the sagacity and justice of its views, as for power of style. “We must not close our eyes,” says this eloquent patriot, "upon the changes that are continually taking place around us. Such blindness would only irritate the Americans, and produce results that may easily be foreseen without being here specified. The monopoly is a part of a system which is now superannuated : any attempt to revive it at the expense of the liberty and welfare of the people, will create disgust and end in revolution. It is bad policy to compel men to believe that they are abandoned by their natural protectors, and have nothing to consult but their own immediate interest." The flood of wealth which was already pouring into the colony, and through it into the royal treasury, spoke more loudly even than these, or any other arguments, to the royal ears. The Intendant of the island, Don

Alerzie CS1: I
ticoicz Tri
of pare

...
king's a DT 77
trade ras I-III-

In tbe FUE **** ed their mar 15 m

II 11 had beer :_**** duce these po army proceeS! :: after sigtet to SUMET Of all ite Aries : the liberty o 770. par L:: Tesla which had ps NT: 1 * I *T*** try. Here 5s 20 TIEDUS ment in larors: TTSIV V SS beyond the post IT 8:52 the old mocaminte Soccer STES parts of the pac1zr : same way with te S02E1 mother country reacaioceiiie. representative form of ter 2003 the peninsula, consects Cro: either be represented io te coco Cri 2017 legislative assemblies of the OT I DEN the example of England in its robes with the Spanish idea of the internet and was adopted. The American ca. 2.23 puties to the first Cortes, and on the permite se tion in 1820, the island of Cuba, which bs DT and obtained the title of werer fa:tc., siend TS again represented by some of her noblest a:

as soos In 1823, the constitution was again suppressed by teater intervention of the French government. (pon ite da the king, the royal statute (Estatuto Real which are the Cortes for the purpose of regulating the successo, asknowledged a right of representation in the is.and of Cuba After the revolution of La Granja in 1836, and the re-establishment of the constitution of 1812, the island was again invited to send its deputies to Madrid, and actually elected and commissioned them for this purpose. They had already set forth upon their mission, but had not yet reached the capital, when, on the 16th of January, 1837, the Cortes re

in the finances,—the Count de Montalvo, Don José Valiente, and other persons of consideration, whose opinions had been formed in the school of Aranjo,—and was adopted. When the Cortes were convened at Cadiz, the American provinces were invited to send deputies, and the island of Cuba was represented, as has been said, by the most distinguished among these patriots, who employed their influence with the metropolitan government to procure a confirmation of the liberty of trade. The plan met with opposition from the merchants of Cadiz, Barcelona and the other ports, who had hitherto enjoyed a monopoly of the colonial trade; but the great advantage resulting from the new state of things to the island, and through it to the monarchy in general, had already become too apparent to permit the restoration of the old system, and the liberty of trade was continued. It required, however, great address, to bring about this result; and the merchants of Cadiz, according to the statement of Count de Villa-Nueva, were so much enraged with Don José Valiente, for the active part which he took in the affair, that they seriously contemplated a resort to assassination. In 1814 the king returned, and a reaction took place in favor of arbitrary principles of government; but such was the influence of the friends of free trade at the Havana, and so clearly had the result demonstrated the correctness of their views, that no attempt was made to re-establish the monopoly. The memorial upon this subject, addressed, at his desire, to the Spanish Minister at the Congress of Vienna, by Don J. P. Valiente, is a very remarkable paper, as well for the sagacity and justice of its views, as for power of style. “We must not close our eyes," says this eloquent patriot, "upon the changes that are continually taking place around us. Such blindness would only irritate the Americans, and produce results that may easily be foreseen without being here specified. The monopoly is a part of a system which is now superannuated : any attempt to revive it at the expense of the liberty and welfare of the people, will create disgust and end in revolution. It is bad policy to compel men to believe that they are abandoned by their natural protectors, and have nothing to consult but their own immediate interest." The flood of wealth which was already pouring into the colony, and through it into the royal treasury, spoke more loudly even than these, or any other arguments, to the royal ears. The Intendant of the island, Don

« PreviousContinue »