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Havana, November 18, 1844. The political changes adopted in Spain in 1812 and 1820 were productive of similar changes in the island; and when in both instances the constitution was proclaimed, the perpetual members of the municipalities were at once deprived of office, and their successors elected by the peo. ple. The provincial assembly was called, and held its sessions. The militia was organized; the press made entirely free, the verdict of jury deciding actions for its abuses; and the same courts were in no in. stance to determine a cause the second time. But if the institution of the Consulado was very beneficent during Ferdinand's absolute sway, the ultra-popular grants of the constitutional system, which could hardly be exercised with quiet in Spain, were ill-adapted to a country more advanced in civilization, and stained with all those vices that are the legitimate curse of a slave country. That system was so democratic, that the king was deprived of all political authority. No intermediate house of nobility or senators tempered the enactments of a single elective assembly. This sudden change from a very absolute government, with its usual concomitant, a corrupt and debased public sentiment, to the full enjoyment of republican privileges, served only to loosen all the ties of decency and decorum throughout the Spanish community. Infi. delity resulted from it; and that veil of respect for the religion of their fathers, which still covered the deformity of such a state of society, was imprudently thrown aside. As the natural consequence of placing the instruments of freedom in the hands of an ignorant multitude, their minds were filled with visions of that chimerical equality which the world is never to realize. The rich found themselves deprived of their accustomed influence, and felt that there was little chance of obtaining justice from the common people, (in no place so formidable as in Cuba, from the heterogeneous nature of the population,) and who were now, in a manner, arrayed against them throughout the land. They, of course, eagerly wished the return of the old system of absolute rule. But VOL. XXV.
I would here remark, and particularly call your attention to the fact, that the proprietors only asked for that liberal and noble policy which they had enjoyed at the hands of the Spanish monarch; not, most surely, that oppressive and nondescript government which, by separating the interest of the country from that of her nearest rulers, and destroying all means of redress or complaint, has thrust the last offspring of Spain into an abyss of bloodshed and ruin.
During the second period of democratic, or what was called constitutional government, which commenced in 1820, the masonic societies came into vogue here as they did in the mother country. They adopted different plausible pretexts, though to speak the truth, they were little more than clubs for amusement and revelry. One of them, called the • Sons of Bolivar,' went so far as to discuss whether, in case of a Columbian invasion, it would be more expedient to avoid a collision in the presence of the slaves, by giving way peaceably before the invading army. Happily for Cuba, and certainly in consequence of the judicious interference of the United States, which foresaw in the preservation of its tranquillity the advantages of a fruitful commerce, the invasion did not take place. And if the island has since had to lament the gradual encroachments of the executive, in all the several branches of its politics and administration, it has also been preserved from the sanguinary results which the premature establishment of ultra free institutions has produced in all the numerous countries which once formed the dominion of Spain in America. They may now be recovering from the anarchical effects of the sudden change ; but that they have experienced a severe scourge, the principal and only fruits of independence to the first generation of its recipients, the people of Cuba are most thoroughly con. vinced. We must, however, consider that the subsequent jealous policy of the Spanish government has been altogether unwarranted.
First, because those discussions of the Sons of Bolivar' were owing to the countenance of the liberal government given to those very societies; a thing entirely uncalled for among a people permitted to meet freely and name a portion of their rulers.
Secondly, because for political ends, no property qualification was required; a provision which, however well adapted to a country like ours, where constitutional rights have been exercised ever since colonial times, could not be safely overlooked in one just emerging from a despotic though beneficent government.
Thirdly, because a respectable portion of the old Spaniards residing here were themselves desirous of upholding the constitutional system in Cuba which they saw tottering in Spain. General Vives, who commanded at that time, regarded the circumstance with anxious solicitude, and very reasonably inferred that, if the constitution of 1812 was sustained in this country after the king's absolute power was acknowledged in Spain, the consequences would be fatal to its dependence, however rational and honest the views of the constitutionalists might be considered. Hence his strenuous efforts in 1824, after the restoration of Fer. dinand, to make the most of the wild and varying schemes which had been proposed in the Soles de Bolivar, under the democratic institutions, and of the relaxation of the reins of government I have described. The
greatly-reduced Spanish military force at that time in the island, and the fact that much of it consisted of regular regiments and native militia, are sufficient proof that to the solid good sense of the inhabitants, rather than any show of force, should be attributed the immediate disappearance of those germs of disquietude. Not even the weakness of General Kindelan could induce the planters to lose sight of their chief interest. Though General Vives subsequently desired to impress the constitutional
party with the idea that they might be carried farther than they meant to go, and with that view took especial care that a well-concerted scheme for throwing off the Spanish yoke should appear to have been devised, it must be acknowledged, that notwithstanding he caused the persecution and imprisonment of many individuals, and occasionally the ruin and misery of their families, he oftentimes also interfered to mitigate the appalling and unavoidable excesses of those menials of government, ever ready in such circumstances to exceed the wishes of the leading statesmen, and to make political difficulties subservient to the vilest purposes. That which should have warned the Spanish ministry of the inexpediency of establishing such inappropriate institutions, brought upon the island all its subsequent misfortunes. I refer to the Royal Order of 1825, which being the existing law of the land, I take the liberty to translate :
"War Department. The King our master, in whose royal mind great confidence has been inspired by your excellency's proved fidelity, indefatigable zeal in his majesty's service, judicious and wellconcerted steps taken since Y. E. had charge of the government, in order to keep in quietude his faithful inhabitants, confine within the proper limits such as would deviate from the path of honor, and punish such as forgetting their duties would dare commit excesses in opposition to our wise laws; well convinced as H. M. feels, that at no time and under no circumstances whatever will the principles of rectitude and love toward H. M. royal person be weakened which now distinguish Y. E.; and being at the same time desirous of preventing the embarrassments which under extraordinary circumstances might arise from a division in the command, and from the complicated authority and powers of the different officers of government, for the important end of maintaining in that island his sovereign authority and the public quiet, it has pleased H. M., in conformity with the advice of his council
of ministers, to authorize your excellency, fully investing you with the whole extent of power which by the royal ordinances is granted to the governors of besieged towns. In consequence thereof H. M. most amply and unrestrictedly authorizes Y. E. not only to remove from that island such persons, holding offices from government or not, whatever their occupation, rank, class, or situation in Jife may be, whose residence there you may believe prejudicial, or whose public or private conduct may appear suspicious to you, employing in their stead faithful servants of H. M., who shall fully deserve your excellency's confidence; but also to suspend the execution of whatever royal orders or general decrees in all the different branches of the administration, or in any part of them, as Y. E. may think conducive to the royal service; it being in any case required that these measures be temporary, and that Y. E. make report of them for his majesty's sovereign approval.
'In granting Y. E. this marked proof of his royal esteem, and of the high trust your proven loyalty deserves, H. M. expects that in due correspondence to the same, Y. E. will use the most wakeful prudence and reserve, joined to an indefatigable activity and unyielding firmness, in the exercise of your excellency's authority, and trusts that as your excellency shall by this very pleasure and graciousness of H. M. be held to a more strict responsibility, Y E. will redouble his vigilance that the laws be observed, that justice be administered, that H. M. faithful vassals be protected and rewarded, and punishment without partiality or indulgence inflicted on those who, forgetful of their duty and their obligations to the best and most benevolent of monarchs, shall oppose those laws, decidedly abetting sinister plots, with infraction of them and disregard of the decrees from them issuing. And I therefore, by royal order, inform Y. E. of the same for Y. E.'s intelligence, satisfaction, and exact observance thereof. God preserve your excellency's life. Madrid, 28 May, 1825.
AIMERICH.' The sad effects of this royal order, which the king only meant to be observed temporarily, and under a strict responsibility, ' le mas estrecta responsibilidad,' were not immediately felt. •Truth and justice compel me to assert,' says one of the most enlightened Cubans, on being rejected from the Cortes, in common with all the deputies from this province, " that notwithstanding the terrible authority conferred on the Captain. General by this royal order, Vives, who then held that office, far from
Letters from Cuba.
putting it in execution during his long government, discovered that its application would be equally disadvantageous to Cuba and Spain. Under a mild and conciliatory policy this island became the refuge of many unhappy proscripts, who were expelled from the peninsular territory by the arm of tyranny.'
The very judicious administration of the Count Villaneuva, as In. tendant, which had undoubtedly an influence materially advantageous to the country, was likewise calculated to make every one forget the depressed political condition to which the new law had reduced the inhabitants of Cuba. Under its fearful and comprehensive provisos, since become the scourge of the land, public bodies were respected. Some of them constantly consulted together on grave subjects, such as the rural and domestic police for the management of slaves, the imposition of taxes and judiciary reform, and enjoyed the privilege of printing their reports, without applying for the consent of the executive officers; and the press was moreover very far from being restricted as it now is.
As a proof that the political servitude created by the royal order of 1825 was not intended to be permanent, I make an extract from an article on the dangers of the slave-trade, published in a periodical of Havana, in 1832, under the despotic government of Ferdinand, and seventeen years after issuing the royal order above referred to. Immediately following a very precise detail of facts, of the numbers of imported slaves, and of the relative position of the races, we read:
*Thus far we have only considered the power which has its origin in the numbers of the colored population that surrounds us. What a picture we might draw, if we were to portray this immense body acting under the influence of political and moral causes, and presenting a spectacle unknown in history! We surely sball not do it. But we should be guilty of moral treason to our country, if we were to forget the efforts now making to effect a change in the condition of the African race. Philanthropic laws, enacted by some of the European nations, associations of distinguished Englishmen, periodicals solely devoted to this subject, eloquent parliamentary debates whose echoes are constantly repeated on this side the Atlantic, bold exhortations from the pulpits of religious sects, political principles which with lightning rapidity are spreading in both hemispheres, and very recent commotions in several parts of the West Indies, every thing is calculated to awaken us from our profound slumber and remind us that we must save our country. And should this our beloved mother ask us what measures we have adopted to extricate her from her danger, what would those who boast themselves her dutiful sons, answer? The horrid traffic in human blood is carried on in defiance of the laws, and men who assume the name of patriots, being no other than parricides, cover the land with shackled victims. And as if this were not sufficiently fearful, with criminal apathy, Africans freed and brought to this country by English policy, are permitted to reside in our midst. How different the conduct of our neighbors the Americans! Notwithstanding the rapid increase of their country; notwithstanding the white has constantly been four-fifths more numerous than the colored population, and have ten and a half millions to offset two millions; notwithstanding the importation of the latter is prohibited from one end of the republic to the other, and European immigration immense; notwithstanding the countries lying upon their boundaries have no slaves to inspire dread, they organize associations, raise funds, purchase lands in Africa, establish colonies, favor the emigration of the colored population to them, increasing their exertions as the exigency may require, not faltering in their course, and leaving no expedient untried which shall prove them friends of humanity and their country. Not satisfied with these general measures, some States have adopted very thorough and efficient measures. In December, 1831, Louisiana passed a law prohibiting importation of slaves even from other States of the Union.
*Behold the movement of a great people, who would secure their safety! Behold the model you should imitate! But we are told your efforts are vain. You cannot justly reproacb us. Our plantations need hands, and if we cannot obtain negroes, what shall we do? We are far from wishing to offend a class equally deserving respect and esteem, including many we are happy to call friends. We are habitually indulgent, and in no instance more so than in that before us. The notions and examples to which they have been accustomed justify in a great measure the part they act, and an immediate benefit and remote danger authorize in others a course of conduct which we wish may never be generally and permanently adopted. We would not rudely censure the motives of the planters. Our mission requires us only to remark, that it is necessary to adopt some other plan, since the change in politics is inconsistent with and hostile to the much longer continuance of the illicit traffic in slaves. We all know that England has, both with selfish and humane motives, made and is still making great efforts against it by means of treaties. She is no longer the only power thus engaged, since France is also taking her share in the enterprise. The United States will soon appear in che field to vindicate down-trodden humanity. They will adopt strong measures, and perseveringly
pursue the pirate negro-dealer. Will he then escape the vigilance of enemies so active and powerful? And even should some be able to do so, how enormously expensive must their piracy be! It is demonstrable that the number of imported negroes being then small, and their introduction subject to uncommon risks, their cost would be so enhanced as to destroy the motive for preferring slave labor. A proper regard to our true interests will lead us to consider henceforth other means of supplying our wants, since our present mode will ultimately paralyze our resources and be attended with baneful consequences. The equal distribution of the two sexes in the country, and an improved treatment of them, would alone be sufficient, not merely to prevent a diminution of their number, but greatly to increase it. But the existing disproportion of the sexes forbids our indulging in so pleasing a hope. We shall however do inuch to effect our purposes by discontinuing certain practises, and adopting a system more consonant to the good principles that should be our guide.
Would it not be advisable to try some experiments that we may be able to compare the results of cultivating cane by slaves, with such other method as we may find it expedient to adopt ?'
*If the planters could realize the importance of these propositions to their welfare, we should see them striving to promote the introduction of white and the exclusion of colored hands. By forming associations, raising funds, and in various ways exerting themselves vigorously in a cause so eminently patriotic, they would at once overcome the obstacles to the introduction of white foreigners, and induce their immigration by the guarantees of good laws and the assured tranquillity of the country.
•We may be told that these are imaginary plans, and never to be realized. We answer that they are essays, not difficult vor expensive, if undertaken, as we suggest, by a whole community. If we are not dis posed to make the voluntary trial now, the day is at hand when we shall be obliged to attempt them, or abandon the cultivation of sugar. The prudent mariner on a boisterous ocean prepares betimes for the tempest, and defies it. He who recklessly abandons himself to the fury of the elements is likely to perish in the rage of the storm.
How imprudent,' some may exclaim how imprudent,' to propose a subject which should be forever buried in Jasting oblivion!' Behold the general accusation raised against him who dare boldly avow new opinions respecting these matters. Unfortunately there is among us an opinion which insists that silence' is the true policy. All feel the evils which surround us, are acquainted with the dangers, and wish to avoid them. Let a remedy be suggested and a thousand confused voices be simultaneously raised; and a significant and imploring ‘Hush!'-hush!' is heard on every side. Such infatuation resembles his who conceals the disease which is hurrying him to speedy death, rather than hear its unpleasant history and mode of cure, from his only hope, the physician's saving science. Which betrays censurable apathy, he who obstivately rushes headlong to the brink of a nighty precipice, or he who gives him the timely warning to beware? Who would thus save a whole community perhaps from frightful destruction? If we knew most positively that the disease were beyond all hopes of cure, the knowledge of the fact would not stay the march of death, while it might serve but as a terrifying annunciation of his approach. If however, the sick man is endowed with a strong constitution, that with timely prescription, promises a probable return of health, it would be unpardonable to act the part of a passive spectator. We heed not what the selfish say, that the self-admiring wise censure, or the parricidal accuse us. Reflections of a higher nature guide us, and in the spirit of our responsible calling as a public writer, we will never cease to cry aloud, 'Let us save our country — let us save our country!'
To those who even now assert that the present military and personal government is advantageous to those who dislike and fear novelties, to those who contend that it is the same system the island enjoyed under Ferdinand, we say: Dare publish now at your peril the above document, or any thing discreditable, or disparaging to the slave-dealers. That I may not lose sight of the order of events, I remind you that immediately after the overthrow of the constitution, and precisely at the time the persecution for revolutionary opinions commenced under the order of 1825, the country was in its most flourishing and healthy period. The fruits of the several acts for promoting the country's wel. fare and the development of its resources, which owed their origin to corporations, when they had vitality in them, were gathered then. Moreover the judicious and liberal policy above described was continued by the present Intendant, who could then act with great independence. As chief of the financial department, the Count de Villanueva regulated the mode of keeping accounts, corrected abuses and introduced greater simplicity in the collection of taxes, and established several facilities beneficial to the merchants. By means of his great influence at Madrid, he was ena. bled to supersede the Captain-General in the Presidency of the Consulado, and directing the labors of that body, he made them subserve the deve. lopment and improvement of the country. Availing himself of the general wealth, and of the increasing agriculture of the island, he daringly