Poems by a Slave in the Island of Cuba, Recently
Liberated; Translated from the Spanish, by R. R. Madden, M.D. With the History
of the Early Life of the Negro Poet, Written by Himself; to Which Are Prefixed
Two Pieces Descriptive of Cuban Slavery and the Slave-Traffic, by R. R. M.:
An Electronic Edition
Juan Francisco Manzano
Poems by a Slave in the Island of Cuba, Recently
Liberated; Translated from the Spanish, by R. R. Madden, M.D. With the History
of the Early Life of the Negro Poet, Written by Himself; to Which Are Prefixed
Two Pieces Descriptive of Cuban Slavery and the Slave-Traffic, by R. R.
M. London: THOMAS WARD AND CO., 27, PATERNOSTER ROW; AND MAY BE HAD AT
THE OFFICE OF THE BRITISH AND FOREIGN ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY, 27, NEW BROAD
Copyright 2005. This text is freely available provided the text is
distributed with the header information provided
Full Colophon Information
A Collection of Poems written by a slave recently liberated in the
Island of Cuba, was presented to me in the year 1838, by a gentleman at Havana,
a Creole, highly distinguished, not only in Cuba, but in Spain, for his
literary attainments. Some of these pieces had fortunately found their way to
the Havana, and attracted the attention of the literary people there, while the
poor author was in slavery in the neighbourhood of Matanzas. The gentleman to
whom I have alluded, with the assistance of a few friends, of pursuits similar
to his own--(for literature, even at the Havana, has its humanizing influence,)
redeemed this poor fellow from slavery, and enabled him to publish such of his
Poems, as were of a publishable kind in a country like Cuba, where slavery is
under the especial protection, and knowledge under the ban of the censors of
the press. A few of those pieces which were unpublished or unpublishable in
Cuba, I have endeavoured to put into English verse; and to the best of my
ability, have tried to render, so as to give the sense of the writer (sometimes
purposely obscured in the original) as plainly as the spirit of the latter, and
the circumstances under which these pieces were written, would admit of. I am
sensible I have not done justice to these Poems, but I trust I have done enough
to vindicate in some degree the character of negro intellect, at least the
attempt affords me an opportunity of recording my conviction, that the
blessings of education and good government are only wanting to make the natives
of Africa, intellectually and morally, equal to the people of any nation on the
surface of the globe. To form any just opinion of the merit of these pieces, it
is necessary to consider the circumstances under which they were written, and
how are these circumstances to be estimated by one ignorant of the nature of
Cuban slavery? I had at first thought it would have been necessary to have
prefixed some notice both of the trade in slaves, and the system of slavery in
that island, but I found it impossible in any reasonable limits to effect this
object, and the very abundance of my materials was an obstacle to the
undertaking, or rather induced me to reserve these materials without abridgment
for other purposes of higher interest, more likely to benefit the cause I am
desirous to promote. I determined, therefore, to give a short but faithful
sketch of the Cuban slave-trade merchant and planter in verse, and the
presumption of the attempt is sufficiently obvious to myself to render any
apology available in a literary point of view. As portraits, however rudely
sketched, of the characters I have attempted to describe, the vivid impression
which the originals have made on my mind, were too strong to leave these
pictures without a resemblance, which an abler artist might have better, though
not perhaps more faithfully delineated. Montgomery, and Hanna Moore have given
us the character of the slave-trade captains of former times, and Cowper has
admirably described the general horrors of slavery itself. But though the
brigands of this trade, and the evils of this system in other colonies have
been frequently depicted, I am not aware that the wealthy merchants in such
high repute in the Havana who carry on this trade; and the polished cavaliers,
and hospitable Creoles, who are the planters of this island, have been
pourtrayed except by travellers, who have judged of their humanity by the
courteousness of their manners, and the amenities of slavery, by their
deportment at the social board. The author of the Poems I have attempted to
translate, is now living at the Havana, and gains his livelihood by hiring
himself out as an occasional servant. His name, for obvious reasons, I think it
advisable not to publish, but to leave no doubt of the authenticity of these
Poems, I have deposited the originals in the Spanish language in the hands of
the secretary of the "British and Foreign Anti-slavery Society." He is now in
his forty-second year. He was born in Cuba. His father and mother lived and
died in slavery in Cuba. The former was a "pardo" negro; the latter, the
offspring of an African and a mulatto union. He was about thirty-eight years of
age when he obtained his liberty. The price paid for it was 800 dollars. He
obtained employment as a tailor for some time after he got his freedom,
subsequently, he went out to service--then tried the business of a
house-painter, and was not successful--was advised to set up as a confectioner,
and lost all his money in that line, and eventually, has settled down as a
"chef de cuisine" in occasional service. The gentleman who was mainly
instrumental in obtaining his liberation from slavery, induced him to write his
history. This task he accomplished in a manner alike creditable to his talents
and his integrity. It was written in two parts--the second part fell into the
hands of persons connected with his former master, and I fear it is not likely
to be restored to the person to whom I am indebted for the first portion of
this manuscript. As far, however, as this portion goes, I have no hesitation in
saying, it is the most perfect picture of Cuban slavery that ever has been
given to the world, and so full and faithful in its details, that it is
difficult to imagine, that the portion which has been suppressed, can throw any
greater light on the evils of this system, than the first part has done. I have
given a literal translation of it, and that translation, revised by a Spaniard,
will be found at the end of these poems. To prevent the inconvenience of
frequent references to notes for the meaning of Spanish terms, in common use in
relation to slavery and slave-trade topics, I have given a glossary of such
words as most frequently occur in conversation, or in books on these subjects.
As to the merit of the Poems, the opinion I have expressed is shared by a very
distinguished Spanish scholar, and the author of them was introduced to me by
him in the following terms:--"Mi querido Amigo esta carťa se la entregara a v,
el poeta J. F. M. de quien hable à v, y cuyos versos y exelente ingenio han
llamada la atencion, aun en esta pais de todas las personas despreocupadas y
THE SLAVE-TRADE MERCHANT; A POEM, DESCRIPTIVE OF THE CUBAN
SPECULATORS IN STOLEN MEN.
"Come let us lie in wait for blood, let us lay snares for the
innocent without cause. Let us swallow him up alive like hell, as one that
goeth down to the pit. We shall fill our houses with spoils. Cast in thy lot
with us, and let us all have one purse."--PROV. i. 11-14. BY R. R. MADDEN, M.D.
POEMS. THE SLAVE-TRADE MERCHANT.
Behold, yon placid, plodding, staid old man,
His still and solemn features closely scan!
In his calm look how wisdom's light is shed,
How the grey hairs, become his honoured head!
Mark how the merchants bow, as he goes by, 5.
How men on 'Change, at his approach draw nigh,
"Highly respected," and esteemed; 'tis said,
His fame to Afric's farthest shore is spread!
Behold, his house!--if marble speak elsewhere,
"Sermons in stones" are with a vengeance here, 10.
Whate'er the potent will of wealth can do
Or pride can wish, is offered to your view.
Those gay saloons, this banquet hall's array,
This glaring pile in all its pomp survey,
The grandeur strikes--one must not look for taste-- 15.
What's gorgeous, cannot always be quite chaste.
Behold, his heart! it is not all that's fair
And smooth without, that's staunch and sound elsewhere.
E'en in the calmest breast, the lust of gold
May have its firmest seat and fastest hold,
May fix its fatal canker in the core, 5.
Reach every feeling, taint it more and more;
Nor leave one spot of soundness where it falls,
Nor spark of pity where its lust enthralls.
Behold, his conscience! oh, what deep repose,
It slumbers on in one long deadly doze: 10.
Why do you wonder that it thus does sleep;
That crime should prosper, or that guilt so deep,
So long unfelt should seem unscathed, in fine,
Should know no shame, and fear no law divine.
Is there a curse like that which shrines offence,
Which hardens crime and sears the moral sense,
And leaves the culprit in his guilt unshamed,
And takes him hence unchanged and unreclaimed.
Behold, the peace that's owned by him who feels 5.
He does no wrong, or outrage when he deals
In human flesh; or yet supplies the gold
To stir the strife, whose victims you behold.
The Cuban merchant prosecutes his trade
Without a qualm, or a reproach being made;
Sits at his desk, and with composure sends
A formal order to his Gold-coast friends
For some five hundred "bultos" of effects, 5.
And bids them ship "the goods" as he directs.
That human cargo, to its full amount,
Is duly bought and shipped on his account;
Stowed to the best advantage in the hold,
And limb to limb in chains, as you behold; 10.
On every breast, the well-known brand, J. G.
In letters bold, engraved on flesh you see.
The slaves by times are in their fetters used
To dance and sing, and forcibly amused,
To make the negroes merry when they pine, 15.
Or seem to brood o'er some concealed design.
And when the voyage to its close draws near,
No pains are spared to make the slaves appear
In fit condition for the market stall;
Their limbs are greased, their heads are shaved, and all 20.
These naked wretches, wasted as they are,
And marked with many a recent wound and scar,
Are landed boldly on the coast, and soon
Are penned, like cattle, in the barricone.
Tricked out for sale and huddled in a mass, 25.
Exposed to ev'ry broker who may pass,
Rudely examined, roused with the "courbash ,"
And walked, and run, and startled with the lash,
Or ranged in line are sold by parcel there;
Spectres of men! the pictures of despair. 30.
Their owner comes, "the royal merchant" deigns
To view his chattels, and to count his gains.
To him, what boots it, how these slaves were made,
What wrongs the poor have suffered by his trade.
To him, what boots it, if the sale is good, 5.
How many perished in the fray of blood!
How many peaceful hamlets were attacked,
And poor defenceless villages were sacked!
How many wretched beings in each town
Maimed at the onslaught, or in flight cut down! 10.
How many infants from the breast were torn,
And frenzied mothers dragged away forlorn!
To him, what boots it, how the ship is crammed;
How many hundreds in the hold are jammed!
How small the space! what piteous cries below! 15.
What frightful tumult in that den of woe!
Or how the hatches when the gale comes on,
Are battened down, and ev'ry hope seems gone;
What struggling hands in vain are lifted there, 20.
Or how the lips are parched that move in prayer,
Or mutter imprecations wild and dread,
On all around, the dying and the dead:
What cares the merchant for that crowded hold,
The voyage pays, if half the slaves are sold! 25.
What does it matter to that proud senor,
How many sick have sunk to rise no more;
How many children in the waving throng,
Crushed in the crowd, or trampled by the strong!
What boots it, in that dungeon of despair, 5.
How many beings gasp and pant for air!
How many creatures draw infected breath,
And drag out life, aye, in the midst of death!
Yet to look down, my God, one instant there,
The shrieks and groans of that live mass to hear; 10.
To breathe that horrid atmosphere, and dwell
But for one moment in that human hell!
It matters little, if he sell the sound,
How many sick, that might not sell, were drowned;
How many wretched creatures pined away, 15.
Or wasted bodies made their "plash" per day?
They're only negroes:--true, they count not here,
Perhaps, their cries and groans may count elsewhere,
And one on high may say for these and all,
A price was paid, and it redeemed from thrall.
If the proud "merchants who are princes" here, 5.
Believe his word, or his commandments fear,
How can they dare to advocate this trade,
Or call the sacred scriptures to its aid.
How can they have the boldness to lay claim,
And boast their title to the christian name; 10.
Or yet pretend to walk in reason's light,
And wage eternal war with human right.
The pen does all the business of the sword,
On Congo's shore, the Cuban merchant's word
Serves to send forth a thousand brigands bold, 15.
"To make a prey," and fill another hold;
To ravage distant nations at his ease,
By written order, just as he may please:
"Set snares and traps to catch" his fellow-men,
And "lie in wait" to link their fetters, then, 20.
Send forth his agents to foment the strife
Of hostile tribes--and when their feuds are rife,
To waste a province to provide a prey,
Yet dare to make humanity his plea.
Is there no sacred minister of peace
To raise his voice, and bid these horrors cease?
No holy priest in all this ruthless clime,
To warn these men, or to denounce their crime? 5.
No new Las Casas to be found once more,
To leave his country for this blood-stained shore;
And tell the titled felon of his deeds,
With all the freedom the occasion needs? Alas! no voice is
raised in Cuba--save
To plead for bondage, and revile the slave, 10.
Basely to pander to oppression's aim,
And desecrate religion's sacred name.
Yet in this moral Golgotha , where round
The grave of mercy none but foes are found,
Some lone and weary pilgrim may have come, 15.
And caused a voice to echo from this tomb.
From him, perhaps, the proud oppressors e'en
May hear the crimes, they still would strive to screen,
And find a corner of the veil they cast
O'er Cuban bondage has been raised--at last, 20.
And some, perhaps, at length aroused may think,
With all their gold they stand on ruin's brink,
And learn, at last, to ask of their own breasts,
Why have they used their fellow-men like beasts;
Why should it be that each should thus "depise 25.
His brother" man, and scoff "the stranger's cries?"
"Have they not all one Father who's above?
Hath not one God created them in love?
Are they not all in God's own image made,
Or were the words of life to be Obeyed?" 30.
Or held unworthy of the Lord on high,
"He that shall steal and sell a man shall die?"
Perhaps, fanatics only in their zeal,
May think that others, thus should speak or feel,
And none but zealots dream, that negroes' rights
Were God's own gifts, as well, as those of whites.
Perhaps, the Cuban merchant too, may think 5.
In guilt's great chain, he's but the farthest link.
Forsooth, he sees not all the ills take place,
Nor goes in person to the human chase;
He does not hunt the negro down himself,
Of course, he only furnishes the pelf. 10.
He does not watch the blazing huts beset,
Nor slips the horde at rapine's yell, nor yet
Selects the captives from the wretched band,
Nor spears the aged with his own right hand.
The orphan's cries, the wretched mother's groans, 15.
He does not hear; nor sees the human bones
Strewed o'er the desert bleaching in the sun,
Memorials sad, of former murders done.
He does not brand the captives for the mart,
Nor stow the cargo--'tis the captain's part; 20.
To him the middle passage only seems
A trip of pleasure that with profit teems;
Some sixty deaths or so, on board his ship,
Are bagatelles in such a gainful trip;
Nay, fifty thousand dollars he can boast, 25.
The smallest cargo yields him from the coast.
He need not leave his counting-house, 'tis true,
Nor bid Havana and its joys adieu,
To start the hunt on Afric's burning shore,
And drench its soil with streams of human gore;
He need not part with friends and comrades here 5.
To sever nature's dearest ties elsewhere;
Nor risk the loss of friendship with the host
Of foreign traders, when he sweeps the coast.
But this most grave and "excellent Senor,"
Is cap in hand with the official corps, 10.
Receives the homage due to wealth that's gained,
No matter how, or where it be obtained.
His friends are too indulgent to proclaim
What deeds are coupled with his wide-spread fame.
'Tis true, he merely purchases the prey, 15.
And kills by proxy only in the fray;
His agents simply snare the victims first,
They make the war, and he defrays the cost.
Such is the merchant in his trade of blood;
The Indian savage in his fiercest mood
Is not more cruel, merciless in strife,
Ruthless in war, and reckless of man's life!
To human suffering, sympathy, and shame, 5.
His heart is closed, and wealth is all his aim.
Behold, him now in social circles shine,
Polite and courteous, bland--almost benign,
Calm as the grave, yet affable to all,
His well-taught smile has nothing to appal; 10.
It plays like sunbeams on a marble tomb,
Or coldly glancing o'er the death-like gloom,
Creeps o'er his features, as the crisping air,
On Lake Asphaltes steals, and stagnates there.
Serene as summer how the Euxine looks 15.
Before the gale its slumb'ring rage provokes.
Who would imagine, while the calm is there,
What deadly work its depths might still declare?
Or think, beneath such gently swelling waves 20.
Thousands of human beings find their graves,
But who can ponder here, and reconcile
The scowl of murder, with its merchant's smile!
Behold, his friends! observe the kindred traits,
They must resemble, for one draught pourtrays
The tribe of Cuban traders, linked in crime
Of ev'ry grade in guilt, of every clime. 5.
Stealers of men, and shedders of man's gore;
The more they grasp, the rage for gain the more,
Contagious guilt within their circle reigns,
And all in contact with it shows its stains.
Behold, the land! regard its fertile fields, 10.
Look on the victims of the wealth it yields;
Ask of these creatures how they came to be
Dragged from their homes, and sold in slavery?
And when you hear "the cry" of men "go up."
"Robbed of their hire," and made to drink the cup 15.
Of grief, whose bitter anguish is above
All human woe, the wretched can approve,
Think on their wrongs, and venture to reply,
"Shall not the land yet tremble" for this cry!
God of all light and truth, in mercy cause 20.
The men who rule these lands to fear thy laws.
O'erthrow oppression, stalled in guilty state;
Raise the poor stranger, spoiled and desolate.
Reprove the despot, and redeem the slave;
For help there's none, but thine that here can save. 25.
Thou who can'st "loose the fettered in due time,"
Break down this bondage, yet forgive its crime;
Let truth and justice, fraught with mercy still, Prevail at
last o'er every tyrant's will.
R. R. M.
THE SUGAR ESTATE; A POEM, ILLUSTRATIVE OF LIFE AND DEATH IN
"Happy the bonds that hold you,
Sure they be sweeter far than liberty;
There is no blessedness but in such bondage;
Happy! thrice happy chains! such links are heavenly.
"BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER. BY R. R. MADDEN.
THE SUGAR ESTATE.
No more of rapine and its wasted plains,
Its stolen victims and unhallowed gains,
Its Christian merchants, and the brigands bold
Who wage their wars and do their work for gold.
No more of horrors sick'ning to the heart, 5.
Commercial murders and the crowded mart;
The living cargoes and the constant trace
Of pain and anguish in each shrunken face!
Far from the city and its tainted breath,
Its moral plague and atmosphere of death; 10.
The grave of freedom, honesty, and truth,
The haunt of folly and its shoals for youth.
Its empty churches and its crowded jails,
Its grasping dealers and its human sales,
Its gambling nobles and its spendthrift crowd, 15.
Profuse, rapacious, indolent, and proud.
Far from the shade of its impending fate,
The cry of vengeance or the curse of hate,
From all the futile pleasures of the town,
The proud Havana's infamous renown:
Its fell pursuits, its routes and revels gay, 5.
Its ruthless deeds and never-failing play;
Its walks and gardens, and its "barracones,"
Its Tacon's glories and its "bozals" groans,
Its invoiced negroes and its pleasures' lures,
Its bills of lading and its light amours, 10.
Its daily press, its amatory strains,
Its puling sonnets and its clanking chains.
Far from the deadly influence whose sway
Degrades the tyrant and the victim,--nay,
Curdles the milk of human kindness, e'en 15.
In woman's breast, and crisps the smoothest mien.
Far from those ladies, foreigners, and all
Whose wretched negroes tremble at their call,
Their morning strife, the evening calm of theirs,
Their angry gestures and their gala airs, 20.
Their home-spent passions and their smiling lips,
Their out-door meekness and their in-door whips,
Their tender glances and their love-sick sighs,
Their female scourgings and their household cries.
Far from the foreign merchants who compete
In style and gaudy splendour with the great;
Who feast the ladies of the slave-trade clique,
And give such charming soirées once a week;
Where shares and ventures in the odious trade, 5.
A common subject of discourse is made:
Where dealers talk jocosely of their plans,
And playful fair ones, tap them with their fans.
And say they're naughty when they speak in sport,
Of swearing certain captors out of court, 10.
Or when their mirth is in the highest mood,
They jest of murder, and the joke seems good.
Far from a spot where men of ev'ry clime,
By easy stages led from crime to crime,
Descend at last to guilt's extreme degree,
And steep their hands in that of slavery.
Where men are found to advocate its cause, 5.
And laugh to scorn their country's outraged laws:
Where the unmasked Republican contends
For slave-trade interests and their guilt defends;
Brawls about freedom, grasps its glaive and brand,
And sides with bondage in a foreign land. 10.
Far from the agents who protect this trade,
Who sell their seals and signatures to aid
Their Spanish friends, their slavers to ensure,
Deceive the cruisers and their shares secure.
Far from official dabblers in the mart, 5.
By small degrees grown ossified at heart,
Who chop and change their slave or two at first,
And soon would deal in hundreds if they durst;
And seem to think their pound of flesh is quite
Their own, to keep or sell by legal right. 10.
Far from these planters, strangers, or Creoles,
Friends of the traffic of congenial souls;
Nobles with titles at the market rates,
Brokers in bills and bankrupts with estates;
Settlers from old Virginia and its farms; 15.
Sharpers in exile, safe from law's alarms.
Far from the seat of government where he
Who rules the land, but reigns where none are free;
Goes thro' the solemn mockery of state,
Prohibits crime and gravely tells its fate,
While the offender pays his half doubloon , 5.
For each "bozal," and calls the bribe a boon
For public works, a voluntary gift,
The worthy ruler can't refuse to lift.
Tho' when the guilt is dragged before his eyes,
His injured honour "lifts its head and lies." 10.
Now for the country and the peaceful plains,
Where rural pleasure and contentment reigns,
Those happy plains where man's productive toil
Finds sweet requital in a fertile soil;
Where healthful labour's cheerful aspect glows, 5.
And evening brings to nature sweet repose
Where grateful peasants love their masters kind,
And peace and plenty bless the simple mind.
Oh! thou most lovely of the fair Antilles ,
How oft I've wished, to see thy verdant hills, 10.
Thy beauteous meads, thy woods with fragrance rife,
Teeming at once with loveliness and life,
Thy blooming gardens, those delightful glades,
And far-famed vales, whose verdure never fades,
Thy justly prized San Marco's smiling plain, 15.
And Guines' waving fields of ripening cane.
How oft I've said in weariness of mind,
When shall I leave this heartless town behind?
When shall my trammelled spirit walk abroad,
And range those fields unknown to strife and fraud?
When shall I look on nature's face serene, 5.
And feast my eyes, on one vast view of green.
When shall I roam by Almendares stream ,
Of Cuba's nymphs and Naiades haply dream,
By sweet Cohima's lovely banks, or those
Of Grandé's river, stray at evening's close? 10.
When shall I hear the songs of birds once more,
And hail the time when harvest yields its store?
Behold the country! all my hopes are crowned!
Here peace and joy are surely to be found;
Here nature riots in luxuriance wild, 15.
And smiles on earth, as on her wayward child,
And loves to sport in ev'ry shape that's strange,
And e'en uncouth, and here exults in change.
The giant ceiba rears its bulk on high,
The rustling cocoa here confronts the sky, 20.
The lofty cedar and caoba spread
Their noble branches o'er the torrents bed;
The light bamboo's umbrageous beauty vies
With Valambrossa's shades in Cuban eyes,
Citron and lime, and orange ever near, 25.
Cluster together, interweaving here
Their leaves, and blending their congenial hues
And fragrant odours, fresh with morning dews!
The straggling date, the waving palm behold,
The shady mango and its fruit of gold,
The broad-leafed plantain and the sheltered walk,
The sweet banana and its crowded stalk,
The choice anona and sapota rare, 5.
The gorgeous shaddock and the guava fair.
But high o'er all the brave palmetto reigns,
The royal palm--the pride of Cuban plains,
Its swelling column with Ionian grace
Soaring aloft and tap'ring from its base; 10.
Where is the park, forsooth, can boast of trees
To form a noble avenue like these!
The Theban temple and the solemn line
Of granite sphynxes leading to its shrine,
Like ghosts of former sights and scenes now rise, 15.
And seem as if, to flit before my eyes;
But here the noble avenue doth lead
To no such sacred edifice indeed,
The vista strikes--no sculptured walls surprise--
A planter's house is all that meets one's eyes. 20.
The owner comes, a cavalier 'tis plain,
In mien and manner, grave, austere, and vain;
A youthful noble--proud and passion swayed,
And poor, perhaps--if all he owed was paid:
His slender frame and haggard looks display, 25.
The graven signs of premature decay.
Time, less than pleasure, may, perhaps, have done
The work of havoc which these lines make known,
And left this gay and thoughtless cavalier
A wreck of man, ere age had yet drawn near. 30.
The solemn farce of Spanish etiquette,
In town or country no one must forget;
The Condè comes, he halts at distance due,
Draws himself up and takes his guest in view,
Bow number one--advancing to the door, 5.
Bow number two--as formal as before,
Bow number three--an effort at a smile,
And greeting then in true Castillan style;
"Sir, you are welcome to my house and lands,
Whate'er I own, is quite at your command, 10.
My whole estate at your disposal--lies,"
(And echo dwells upon that word and dies)
"Regard these slaves, I pray, sir, as your own,
No hesitation--compliment, there's none;
I'm highly flattered that you like this hall, 15.
You must accept it, furniture, and all.
You find me here quite in a rustic way--
I love the country--and can truly say
I envy none--my time is wholly spent
In making those poor negroes here, content. 20.
You see them yonder in that field of cane,
They have no cause, believe me, to complain;
They want for nothing, have no wish on earth,
Except for work--of which there's no great dearth,
I only wish the poor, but, fared elsewhere, 25.
One-half so well, as all our slaves do here.
Observe--the field is not so very far--
How full of mirth and glee our negroes are!
How well they look! how pleased to work! you see
What happy creatures even slaves can be! 30.
We spare no pains indeed to make them so,
It is, no doubt, our interest so to do,
Besides, you know, humanity itself
Has claims upon us, quite apart from pelf."
The bell for dinner gave the Condè's tongue
A respite here--but one that was not long;
His house, his style of living, and address
Were all in keeping--showy to excess.
His conversation answered to his board, 5.
Garnish of words and dishes in accord,
Abundant sweetmeats, olios, and ragouts,
Fricandeaus, fritters, harricots, and stews,
Hock, soda-water, claret, and for guests,
Who need instruction, and have grateful breasts, 10.
The standing topic strangers still must hear
At every planter's table, and must bear
With patience too, though one which smells of graves,
The old proverbial happiness of slaves.
'Tis not polite to contradict one's host,
On most occasions, 'tis but labour lost,
At times moreover, men's opinions here
Are fashioned by their entertainer's cheer.
The stomach has its influence we find, 5.
And sometimes its dominion o'er the mind.
And, hence, we trav'lling gentlemen who dine
With Cuban planters, judge them by their wine;
And if they're civil, courteous, and give feasts,
We think their slaves are treated like their guests. 10.
One might have thought so in the present case,
And after dinner, though not after grace--
I failed not duly to assure my host,
It gave me joy to hear a planter boast
Of negroes so contented with their state, 5.
And so resigned to their unhappy fate.
'Tis highly pleasing, Senor Count, I said,
To find that slaves are so well clothed and fed;
So lightly worked--so fond of labour too,
So very grateful, Sir, for all you do, 10.
To make them happy, and improve their lot:
And though, I must acknowledge, I am not
A friend to bondage--here I must confess,
By your account, it does not seem to press.
But still, with great respect, it seems to me, 15.
A man might almost set his negroes free,
Without extreme injustice to the slaves,
Or very serious mischief to the knaves ;
Though here, of course, they must be far too wise
To wish to break so good a master's ties. 20.
No one, perhaps, replied the Count, can more
The sad, but strong necessity deplore,
Of buying men to cultivate our plains,
And holding these, our fellow-men in chains.
The very name of slavery, to me 5.
Is vile and odious to the last degree;
I know it has some evils, few indeed,
But still enough, perhaps for slander's need.
Think not, I pray, I advocate this cause,
Or speak of such a system with applause; 10.
Sir! in the abstract it must be condemned,
It is the practice only I defend;
For "quo ad" morals, nothing can be worse,
But "quo ad" sugar, 'tis the sole resource.
I always thought on principle 'twas wrong
To purchase negroes, when the gang was strong;
And prices are so ruinous of late,
A man who buys must mortgage his estate.
But while I own the system's not the best-- 5.
I feel for Cuba and her sons opprest;
Her vital interests and the vested rights,
In "bozal" negroes,--of the injured whites.
I freely grant that treaties should be kept
In certain cases, some I must except, 10.
Where there's "a sacred privilege" at stake,
Or staple trade,--we cannot well forsake.
But treaties are like protocols at par,
Truces in love, or stratagems in war;
Compacts to drive thro',--in a coach and four, 15.
Suspended state hostilities on shore.
But still, however, freely I object
On such like scores, I mean no disrespect
To your great nation?--nay, you need not smile,
I only think your government is vile,
And all its treaties pre-concerted feats, 5.
To please a set of hypocrites and cheats!
A pack of wretches envious of our gains,
Who make such noise about our whips and chains:
Fools and fanatics! exaltados! knaves!
Rogues who would rob poor planters of their slaves! 10.
Fiends in disguise! philanthropists who'd swear
That black is white, to bring their ends to bear;
Villains who talk of savages possest
Of human rights, by men like me opprest!
Of slaves entitled to redress for wrongs 15.
At hands like mine:--and dare to wag their tongues
Against the sacred privilege and right
Which ev'ry law accords the skin that's white!
Are they not preachers of sedition, nay,
Do they not tamper with our slaves and say, 20.
The blacks should rise and cut their masters' throats?
Would they not put the question to their votes,
In case they spared their owners' lives, how they
Should work the whites, while they reposed all day?
Scoundrels! to think, that men like me were born 25.
To grind the cane , or meant to plant the corn.
Yes, cried the Condè, as he wiped his brow,
I always speak as I have spoken now,
Coolly and calmly on a subject, so
Extremely grave, and so important too. 5.
I'm sure you see the only wish I have,
Is for the real welfare of the slave;
And must perceive the only dread I feel
Is for the negro from fanatic zeal.
You see how happy and content he seems, 10.
His bondage here--a paradise he deems,
Compared with that from which he first was torn,
And doubtless too, in which the wretch was born;
Having no claim to freedom from his birth,
And none of course, in after life on earth, 15.
His rights are vested in his master's hands,
And he devotes them to his fertile lands.
You see his title to a master's care,
To compensation for the wear and tear
Of thews and sinews, while his strength remains 20.
He wants for nothing, and he sings in chains.
Where wants are few,--no wages are required,
Nor is that sort of stimulus desired,
Crack but the whip, it stirs the dullest drones,
It makes them lively and it breaks no bones. 25.
In short, take all things here into account,
You'll find, believe me, sir, no small amount
Of peace, of rural happiness, and bliss,
On all estates administered like this.
There may be some plantations, to be sure,
Where slaves have some slight hardships to endure:
Where masters happen to abuse their power,
Or agents' tempers, are perhaps, too sour, 5.
But this, of course, is very rare, you'll find,
In fact, we're far too lenient and too kind.
The humblest slave's protected by the laws,
A syndick's chosen to defend his cause.
But how the slave's to get from the estate 10.
To seek that syndick, and to pass the gate
From which he knows full well he dare not budge,
However near the house of the said judge.
These, sir, are things the law has left in doubt,
And has not very clearly pointed out; 15.
'Tis quite sufficient that these laws are good,
The framers of them, never understood
The laws were made to be fulfilled, of course,
But only meant to be supposed in force.
Oh, Senor Condè," I exclaimed, "'tis clear
The master's will is law and justice here,
His word is legal evidence, his skin
Presumptive proof of right that's sure to win. 5.
His wealth has all the influence direct
Of truth itself and pleads with full effect.
His code is one that supersedes all laws,
Convicts the royal cedulas of flaws,
And makes the mill-house bench the judgment seat, 10.
Where drivers lay their culprits at his feet.
In all the scene there's nothing to recall
Customs remembered only to appal;
Nought to remind one now of lictor's rods ;
Of captives trembling at their master's nods. 15.
Of savage tortures or of legal crimes;
Of heathen habits or of pagan times.
'Tis sweet to think we live in christian lands
Where slaves are merely held by silken bands:
And none make victims of their prisoners more 20.
For mere amusement, as they did of yore.
We only take their lives, for lucre's sake;
We have no Roman holidays to make;
No circus toils and terrors to abash;
We but enliven labour with the lash. 25.
'Tis good to know your system works so well;
That slaves and planters in such friendship dwell,
That negroes hug their chains devoid of fear,
And owners use their power like angels here.
'Tis well, I say, that things are thus with you, 5.
When all without, looks black and threatening too.
I think, sir, said the Condè, you must be
Wearied with so much riding, and I see
You're not accustomed to these roads of ours;
Our ways, indeed, are not so smooth as yours,
But still they serve for us, we make them do, 5.
We are not fond of anything that's new.
You seem fatigued--you'll find your room prepared,
I quite regret you have so badly fared;
But since I can't prevail on you to stay,
And spend with us another lonely day, 10.
You may depend you shall be called at four,
And find your horses saddled at the door!
Whoever spent a night on an estate
In time of crop, and had endured of late
Fatigue and toil, that amply might dispose
A weary trav'ller to enjoy repose,
And roused at midnight, heard the frightful bell, 5.
The dismal conch's loud blast at change of spell,
The crack of whips, the hurried tramp of men,
The creaking mill, the drivers' threats, and then
The sudden scream, the savage bloodhounds growl,
The shout prolonged, the "stokers" ceaseless howl; 10.
All the dread noise that's requisite to keep
The jaded cattle and the slaves from sleep;
To rouse the weak, to drown the women's cries,
And cause one deaf'ning uproar to uprise.
Whoever found this tumult at its height, 15.
This Cuban Babel's strife at dead of night;
Whoever listened to these horrid sounds,
And might not deem, hell had enlarged her bounds,
Made this plantation part of her domain,
And giv'n its owner, slaves, and lust of gain. 20.
Loathing the couch itself, whereon I lay,
With thankful breast I hailed the break of day,
And breathed more freely when I reached the door;
'Twas joy to feel, I ne'er should enter more.
The waning stars were yet in the grey sky, 5.
The morning dawn just peering forth on high,
Yet all is bustle round the mill-house walls,
The slave still trembles, and the lash still falls.
The drowsy negroes haggard, spent, and worn,
Like drunken men reel past; and night and morn 10.
Brings no repose, but one unbroken chain
Of fruitless toil, of weariness and pain.
The mayoral who oversees the band,
Before me now is standing, whip in hand,
The straw-hat slouching o'er his olive face,
Sturdy in figure, active in his pace;
Nor coat nor waistcoat incommode his breast, 5.
He walks erect, expands his ample chest,
Displays a tawdry brooch of ample size,
Large silver buckles in each brace likewise;
A long strait sword with hilt of plated brass,
And rings and trinkets too like all his class. 10.
What means this sword that dangles at his side?
Those blood-hounds too; what evils can betide?
A man of peace, a simple overseer, A "mayoral," who has no
cause to fear.
All in his mien and manner bears the brand
Of might unquestioned, uncontrolled command. 15.
The bold regard, the fixed and searching glance
Of one who dealt but little in romance.
With all due awe and reverence possest,
This worthy person gravely I addrest,
Named what I wished to see, how far I came,
And all except my unimportant aim.
The man for one who held a despot's sway, 5.
Was frank and almost civil in his way.
Freely complied with every wish exprest,
Unveiled the secrets of this shrine unblest.
And spoke of horrors here, as things well-known,
And deeds, of course, that ev'ry day were done. 10.
Here were two hundred negroes, great and small,
The full-grown gang two hundred strong--they call
The female slaves, of ev'ry age--they own
Are short of fifty, or a fourth alone,
Of these, not one was married by a priest, 15.
Or saw one either Sabbath-day or feast;
No sacred rite, no sacrament was known,
The pagans christened and the burial done,
The law, to its strict letter was obeyed;
The farce was over and the fees were paid. 20.
Here, with two hundred working men, last year,
They boast they made two thousand boxes clear
Of first-class sugar--and the boast is one
That tells a tale of murder largely done.
The deaths they tell you of the slaves, are here 25.
Some ten per cent, and sometimes twelve a year.
A fair consumption too of human life,
Where wholesale slaughter shows no martial strife.
But then, perhaps, the births were in excess;
Alas! the births each year are less and less. 30.
Three in the last twelve months, and two of these
Had died, because the mothers did not please
To rear up slaves; and they preferred to see
Their children dead before their face, e're they
Would give their young "negritos" to the kind 35.
Indulgent masters which they are said to find.
Jamaica bondsmen in "the good old times,"
Of our West Indian cruelties and crimes,
Were pretty hardly worked, both old and young,
Yet here is an amount of labour, wrung 5.
From Cuban slaves, just double that of ours,
And nearly twice the sum of working hours;
For here the grasping master still must have
Just thrice the produce from each working slave.
All to the charge of British planters laid, 10.
Compared with this--is thrown into the shade,
And yields the bad pre-eminence in crime
To Spanish guilt in ev'ry tropic clime.
What does it matter here, how many lives
Are lost in labour, while the planter thrives, 15.
The Bozal market happily is nigh,
And there the planter finds a fresh supply:
'Tis cheaper far to buy new strength, we're told,
Than spare the spent, or husband out the old;
'Tis not a plan by which a planter saves, 20.
To purchase females, or to rear up slaves.
But times there are, when one has listened long
And heard atrocious things, as if no wrong
Was done the ear, or offered to the heart,
That silence seems at last, a felon's part. 25.
Tell me, Senor! I somewhat calmly said,
Where shall I find the aged negro's shed,
And see the poor old slaves of the estate,
The weak, decrepid, worn-out slaves, whose fate
It is, to feel a master's care at length, 5.
For whom they toiled through life, and spent their
How does it happen, none are to be seen
Unfit for labour, who from age, have been
Exempt from toil and hardship, at the close
Of life, and now entitled to repose? 10.
How does it happen, that the stranger sees
No ransomed nursling on the mother's knees,
No pregnant woman, whom the law doth yield
A month's brief rest, and respite from the field,
No tender children, on the Sabbath-day 15.
Trained to be good, poor things, or taught to pray,
No place of refuge for declining age,
In nature's course, to quit this mortal stage?
I'd always thought that "mayorals" were folks
Who never laughed or deigned to deal in jokes,
But this man laughed, as if he'd reason, then Till his
great sides with laughter shook again.
At length, somewhat composed, he coolly said, 5.
Who could have put such nonsense in your head?
Who ever heard of negroes getting old,
Or planters suffering female slaves to fold
Their arms, and sit like Creole ladies still,
Or taking pregnant women from the mill? 10.
You've not been long in Cuba, I suppose,
From what you say of Sabbaths and repose,
And paid not much attention, I opine,
To many matters in the planting line?
You have to learn what slaves are worth the score, 15.
What blacks are for, and whose they are, moreo'er!
We purchase slaves to cultivate our plains,
We don't want saints or scholars to cut canes;
We buy a negro for his flesh and bone,
He must have muscle, brains, he need have none. 20.
But where, you ask me, are the poor old slaves?
Where should they be, of course, but in their graves!
We do not send them there before their time,
But let them die, when they are past their prime.
Men who are worked by night as well as day, 25.
Some how or other, live not to be grey
Sink from exhaustion--sicken--droop and die, And leave the
Count another batch to buy;
There's stock abundant in the slave bazaars,
Thanks to the banner of the stripes and stars!
You cannot think, how soon the want of sleep 30.
Breaks down their strength, 'tis well they are so cheap,
Four hours for rest--in time of crop--for five
Or six long months, and few indeed will thrive.
With twenty hours of unremitting toil,
Twelve in the field, and eight in doors, to boil
Or grind the cane--believe me few grow old,
But life is cheap, and sugar, sir,--is gold. 5.
You think our interest is to use our blacks
As careful owners use their costly hacks;
Our interest is to make the most we can
Of every negro in the shortest span.
As for the women, they embroil estates, 10.
There's never peace with them, within your gates:
They're always shamming, skulking from the field,
And most abusive when their backs are wealed.
Sure to be sick when strangers pass this way,
They take advantage of us every way; 15.
For well they know, the Condè cannot bear
The thoughts of flogging while his friends are here.
As for the talk of marriage, you must jest,
What! marry wretched negroes by a priest!
Why, sir, there's not a priest within some ten 20.
Or twelve good leagues of the estate--and, then,
Were one to come, the Count would have to pay;
I marry all the best and cheapest way.
We have not many marriages, 'tis true,
The men are many and the females few. 25.
We stall our negroes as we pen our sheep,
And hold them fast as good stone walls can keep
A negro gang, and ev'ry night you'll find
The "spell" released, in yonder square confined, 5.
We have, no doubt, our runaways at times,
And flight, you know, we count the worst of crimes.
Slaves who are flogged and worked in chains by day,
Left in the stocks all night--you think would stay
On the estate as soon as they're set free, 10.
And yet the fools again will dare to flee.
We are not always scourging--by the way,
Tuesday in common is our flogging day;
At other times we only use the whip,
To stir the drones and make the young ones skip; 15.
Then as to food, you may be sure we give
Enough, to let the wretched creatures live:
The diet's somewhat slender, there's no doubt,
It would not do, to let them grow too stout;
Nor is it here, nor on estates around, 20.
That fat and saucy negroes may be found.
Nay, said the speaker, in a graver tone,
You seem to hear of things but little known;
Gaze on these wretched negroes as you may,
You've heard but little of their wrongs to-day.
If I must speak still plainer, and must call 5.
Things by their proper names, that must appal:
'Tis not the scourge, or shackle, plague or pest,
That wears the negro out--but want of rest.
Night after night in constant labour past,
Will break down nature, and its strength at last. 10.
Day after day in toil and terror spent,
The slave will sink--and die with our consent;
The four hours' rest another victim gains,
It frees another negro from his chains;
And still we hear from planters o'er and o'er 15.
The solemn lie, that negroes need no more.
You think, no doubt, the mayoral's to blame,
He works the negroes thus, and his the shame;
He plies the whip, and therefore he's the man
That's marked for vengeance, and deserves its ban. 20.
I think I read what passes in your mind,
You deem our tribe the dregs of human kind;
Men who are formed by nature for this post,
To ev'ry feeling of their species lost.
How little know you of the men who fill 5.
This wretched office, and who loathe it still;
Men who have felt oppression's iron hand,
Or want has driven from their native land,
And forced to take this execrable place
To get their bread; in spite of its disgrace. 10.
Think you we have no feelings for these slaves,
And are the willing instruments of knaves,
Who drains the life's blood of the negroes core,
And leaves the guilt and odium at our door?
Think you, for us there's profit in the gain, 15.
Wrung from the mortal agony and pain,
Of sinking strength, of sickness, and despair
We daily witness, and we must not spare?
Think you, for us there's pleasure in the groans
Of mothers, listening to the piteous moans 20.
Of wailing infants, stretched before their eyes,
They dare not leave the hoe, to hush those cries,
Nor ask the driver for a moment's rest,
To sooth the child, that's screaming for the breast?
These sights and scenes become, no doubt, in time, 25.
Familiar to us, and with some the crime
Finds favour even--but not much with me;
I would not care if ev'ry slave was free,
And ev'ry planter too to toil compelled,
We are their dogs, and worse than dogs are held. 30.
Our despot does not live on his estate,
He loves the town, and there he goes the gait
Of other fools, and thinks that all grandees,
Should lead a life of luxury and ease. 5.
He finds Havana stored with ev'ry vice,
Can feed his pampered senses or entice;
There in his squalid splendour he can move,
Exhaust the passions and imagine love;
Plume up his haughty indigence in smiles, 10.
And waste a harvest on a harlot's wiles.
There he can find among his gay compeers,
Gamblers enough and spendthrifts of his years,
To get a "montè" up, at noon or night,
And keep the game forbidden out of sight: 5.
There he can stake a crop upon a card,
God help the negroes, if his luck is hard,
For then the Count we're sure to see next day,
The gambler comes, to find fresh funds for play.
The "mayoral" is summoned to his lord,
The menial comes, uncovered to afford
A strict account of all the sugar made,
That's fit for sale and ready for the trade; 5.
The last year's crop, he's told, will never do,
It must be doubled; or an agent new
Must take his place--and then the debts of old,
The heavy charges on the produce sold,
The merchant's twelve per cent. on each advance 10.
Have swallowed up the funds he got by chance,
Or had received in driblets from the hands
Of knaves, who made their fortunes on his lands; He must
look out, and find a man who'll make
The negroes work and keep the slaves awake;
He'll not be told they can't be worked much more, 15.
They sleep too much, and have no need of four
Or five hours' rest, his neighbours all agree
That slaves in crop can do right well with three.
Sugar he'll have, he cares not how, or by
What cruel means, he gets a new supply; 20.
'Tis idle to remonstrate or resist,
Obey one must, or be at once dismissed.
Think you, indeed, a gamester's heart is made
Of human stuff that's moved by prayers, or swayed
By any earthly influence but one, 25.
The lust of gold, to play for stakes unwon.
The Conde's orders are obeyed, of course,
And these, augmented rigour must enforce:
"Boca abajos," morning, noon, and night,
Unceasing torture, and unsparing might, 30.
Murmurs arise, and driftless schemes are rife,
Of wild revenge, 'mongst men made sick of life.
And when the outburst comes, what signifies
Who is the victim--so a white man dies.
I know full well the perils of my post,
How many lives its odious tasks have cost!
You see this sword, these blood-hounds at my beck,
I count on these, to keep the slaves in check, 5.
These are the dogs we train to hunt the blacks,
To scent their trail and come upon their tracks,
To run them down and chase the "cimarone,"
And mangle those who prowl at night alone.
These are our friends and allies, it is fit 10.
That brutes like these should be so, I admit.
Ah, Senor Mio! briefly I replied,
The words you speak are not to be denied;
You know too well your duties, it appears,
For me to question or dispute your fears, 5.
Too well you know the torments you inflict,
For me to doubt the sufferings you depict.
Too well you've done the biddings of your lord,
To fail to be detested and abhorred; Too much have harassed
and opprest the poor,
For me to think your system can endure. 10.
Your fields are fair and fertile, I allow, But no good man
can say--"God speed the plough."
There's wealth unfailing in your people's toil;
'Twould wrong the poor, to cry--"God bless the soil,"
'Twere asking blood to beg that God would deign 15.
"To give the early and the latter rain,"
One prayer indeed can hardly be supprest,
God help the slave! and pity the opprest.
R. R. M.
LIFE OF THE NEGRO POET, WRITTEN BY HIMSELF. AND TRANSLATED FROM
THE SPANISH BY R. R. M.
LIFE OF THE NEGRO POET.
THE Senora Donna Beatrice , the wife of Don Juan M---- took a
pleasure every time she went to her beautiful estate, the Molino, to make
choice of the finest Creole children about the age of ten or eleven years, and
carry them to town, where she gave them instruction conformable to their new
condition. Her house was always filled with these young slaves instructed in
everything necessary to her service. One of the favourite young slaves was
Maria M--- -, my mother, who was greatly esteemed for her intelligence, and her
occupation was to wait on the Senora Marquesa of J. in her advanced age. This
lady was accustomed when she was pleased with her attendants, to give them
their liberty when they were about to marry, if it were with some mechanic
likewise free; providing them with all things necessary, as if they had been
her own children, without depriving them after their marriage of the favour and
protection of her house, which extended even to their children and husbands; of
which conduct there are many notable examples, amongst those who were not even
born in the house. Various changes, however, taking place in the service, Maria
became the chief waiting-woman of the Marquesa . In this situation she married
Toribio de Castro, and in due time, I was ushered into the world. 3.
My master took a fancy to me, and it is said I was more in his
arms than in those of my mother. She had all the privileges of a slave who had
acted as a dry-nurse, and also partly as a wet-nurse, media criandera;
This term is applied to a negress who at the same time suckles her own infant,
and that of her mistress. and
having married one of the head slaves of the house, and given a little Creole
to her mistress, I was called by this lady, "the child of her old age," I was
brought up by the side of my mistress without separating from her, except at
bed-time, and she never went out withis thout taking me in her volante. With the
difference of hours in respect to some, and days in regard to others, I was the
contemporary of Don Miguel de C ., and also of Don Manuel O'R . now Count of B
.; which two families lived in a splendid house, close to the Machina,
separated only by doors which divided the apartments; for, in fact, it was two
houses made into one. 4.
It would be tedious to detail the particulars of my childhood,
treated by my mistress with greater kindness than I deserved, and whom I was
accustomed to call "my mother." At six years of age, on account, perhaps, of
too much vivacity, more than anything else, I was sent to school to my
godmother every day at noon; and every evening I was brought to the house, that
my mistress might see me, who seldom went out without seeing me, for if she
did, I roared and cried, and so disturbed the house, that sometimes it was
necessary to send for the whip, which nobody dared to lay on me, for not even my parents were authorised to flog me, and I knowing
this, often took advantage of it. On one occasion, being very bold, my father
beat me , but my mistress hearing of it, did not allow him for many days to
come into her presence, until he procured the intercession of her Confessor,
the father Maya , a Franciscan, and then he was forgiven; after the latter had
explained to him that my Senora, as mistress, and my father, as a parent, had
each their respective direction of me . 5.
At ten years of age, I learned by heart some of the longest
sermons of Father Louis, of Grenada, and the visitors who came to the house on
Sundays, used to hear me repeat them when I came from the chapel, where I was
sent with my godmother, to learn how to behave in church; because, although the
service was performed every Sunday in the house, I was not permitted to be
present, on account of the tricks I might have played with the other children.
I also knew my catechism well, and as much of religion as a
woman could teach me. I knew how to sew tolerably, and to place the furniture
in order . On one occasion, I was taken to the Opera, and received some
presents for reciting what I heard, but many more for the sermons, and my
parents got what I received in the drawing-room. 7.
But passing over much of my early history, in which there was
nothing but happiness, I must not omit the circumstances which happened at my
baptism; on that occasion, I was dressed in the same robe in which the Senora
Donna Beatrice was baptized, which was celebrated with great rejoicings, my
father being skilled in music, and playing on the flute and clarionet; and my
mistress desiring to solemnize that day with one of her noble traits of
generosity, in part liberated my parents by "coartacion," giving them the power
at any time of purchasing their liberty at the sum of three hundred dollars
each; what greater happiness could be looked for at her hands. 8.
At the age of ten, I was placed under the care of my godfather;
having learned something of my father's trade, which was that of a tailor,
previously, to being sent to the estate. My mother gave birth to two other
children. One of them, for what reason I know not, was made free--and this one
died. My father lamenting his death, saying, "if things had been otherwise, I
might have been content, my two living children are slaves, and the one that
was free is dead;" whereupon my generous mistress had a document prepared, in
which it was declared that the next child they should have should be free; and
it happened that twins were subsequently born, who are still living, and both
were freed. My parents now were removed to the estate of the Molino, where they
were placed in charge of the house, and about this period the Marquesa died
there. I was sent for in her last illness. I remember little of what happened
on my arrival, except being at the bed-side of my mistress with my mother,
Donna Joaquina, and the priest, and that her hand rested on my shoulder, while
my mother and Donna Joaquina wept a great deal, and spoke about something which
I did not understand, and then that I was taken away. Soon after I went to
play, and the following morning I saw her stretched on a large bed, and cried,
and was carried down stairs where the other servants were mourning for their
mistress; and all night long all the negroes of the estate made great
lamentation, repeated the rosary, and I wept with them. 9.
I was taken to the Havana, to my godfather, with whom I soon
learned my mistress had left me; for some years I saw nothing of my father. My
godfather had taken up his residence in the court-yard of the Count, in the
street Inquisidor, where I was accustomed to go about the house, and to leave
it when I thought proper, without knowing whether I had a master or not. 10.
But one day, being permitted to go to the house of the
Marquesa, to see my old acquaintances there, I know not what passed there, but
when I was about returning to my godfather, and my dear godmother, I was not
allowed to go: here I was clothed in a rich livery, with a great deal of gold
lace, and what with my fine clothes, going to the theatres, to tertulias,
balls, and places of amusement, I soon forgot my old quiet mode of life, and
the kindness even of my godmother herself. After some time I was taken to the
house of Donna Joaquina, who treated me like a white child, saw that I was
properly clothed, and even combed my hair herself; and as in the time of the
Marquesa de J. , she allowed me not to pray with the other negro children at
church--and at mealtime my plate was given to me to eat at the feet of the
Senora Marquesa de P ., and all this time I was far away from my father and
I had already at the age of twelve years composed some verses
in memory, because my godfather did not wish me to learn to write , but I
dictated my verses by stealth to a young mulatto girl, of the name of Serafina,
which verses were of an amatory character. From this age, I passed on without
many changes in my lot to my fourteenth year; but the important part of my
history began when I was about eighteen , when fortune's bitterest enmity was
turned on me, as we shall see hereafter. 12.
For the slightest crime of boyhood, it was the custom to shut
me up in a place for charcoal, for four-and-twenty hours at a time. I was timid
in the extreme, and my prison, which still may be seen, was so obscure, that at
mid-day no object could be distinguished in it without a candle. Here after
being flogged I was placed, with orders to the slaves, under threats of the
greatest punishment, to abstain from giving me a drop of water. What I suffered
from hunger and thirst, tormented with fear, in a place so dismal and distant
from the house, and almost suffocated with the vapours arising from the common
sink, that was close to my dungeon, and constantly terrified by the rats that
passed over me and about me, may be easily imagined. My head was filled with
frightful fancies, with all the monstrous tales I had ever heard of ghosts and
apparitions, and sorcery; and often when a troop of rats would arouse me with
their noise, I would imagine I was surrounded by evil spirits, and I would roar
aloud and pray for mercy; and then I would be taken out and almost flayed
alive, again shut up, and the key taken away, and kept in the room of my
mistress, the Senora herself. On two occasions, the Senor Don Nicholas and his
brother showed me compassion, introducing through an aperture in the door, a
morsel of bread and some water, with the aid of a coffee-pot with a long spout.
This kind of punishment was so frequeut that there was not a week that I did
not suffer it twice or thrice, and in the country on the estate I suffered a
like martyrdom. I attribute the smallness of my stature and the debility of my
constitution to the life of suffering I led, from my thirteenth or fourteenth
year . 13.
My ordinary crimes were--not to hear the first time I was
called; or if at the time of getting a buffet, I uttered a word of complaint;
and I led a life of so much misery, daily receiving blows on the face, that
often made the blood spout from both my nostrils; no sooner would I hear myself
called than I would begin to shiver, so that I could hardly keep on my legs,
but supposing this to be only shamming on my part, frequently would I receive
from a stout negro lashes in abundance. 14.
About the age of fifteen or sixteen, I was taken to Matanzas
once more, and embraced my parents and brothers. 15.
The character, grave, and honourable of my father, and being
always in his sight, caused my time to pass a little lighter than before. I did
not suffer the horrible and continual scourgings, nor the blows of the hand,
that an unfortunate boy is wont to suffer far away from his miserable parents;
notwithstanding, my unfortunate cheeks were slapped often enough. We passed
five years in Matanzas; where my employment was to sweep and clean the house as
well as I could at sunrise, before any one in the house was up; this done I had
to seat myself at the door of my mistress, that she might find me there when
she awoke, then I had to follow her about wherever she went, like an automaton
with my arms crossed. When breakfast, or the other meals were over, I had to
gather up what was left, and having to put my hand to clear away the dishes,
and when they rose from table I had to walk behind them. Then came the hour of
sewing, I had to seat myself in sight of my mistress to sew women's dresses, to
make gowns, shifts, robes, pillow-cases, to mark and to hem fine things in
cambric, and mend all kinds of clothing. 16.
At the hour of drawing, which a master taught , I was also
present, stationed behind a chair, and what I saw done and heard, corrected and
explained, put me in the condition of counting myself as one of the pupils of
the drawing-class. One of the children, I forget which, gave me an old tablet,
and a crayon; and with my face turned to the wall, the next day I sat down in a
corner, and began making mouths, eyes, ears, and going on in this way, I came
to perfect myself, so that I was able to copy a head so faithfully, that having
finished one, my mistress observing me, showed it to the master, who said that
I would turn out a great artist, and that it would be for her one day a great
satisfaction that I should take the portraits of all my masters . 17.
At night I had to go to sleep at twelve or one o'clock, some
ten or twelve squares of buildings distant, where my mother lived (in the negro
barracones.) Being extremely timid, it was a serious matter to me to pass to
this place in the wettest nights. With these troubles, and other treatment
something worse, my character became every day more grave and melancholy, and
my only comfort was to fly to the arms of my mother, for my father was of a
sterner nature. He used to be sleeping when my poor mother and my brother
Florence waited up for me, till the hour of my arrival. 18.
Some attacks of ague, which nearly ended my days, prevented me
from accompanying my mistress to Havana. When I recovered, no one could enjoy
himself in two years as I did in four months; I bathed four times a-day, and
even in the night, I fished, rode on horseback, made excursions into the
mountains, ascended the highest hills, eat all kinds of fruits; in short, I
enjoyed all the innocent pleasures of youth. In this little epoch I grew stout
and lively, but when I returned to my old mode of life, my health broke down
again, and I became as I was before . 19.
When I recovered sufficiently, my first destiny was to be a
page, as well in Havana as in Matanzes; already I was used to sit up from my
earliest years the greatest part of the night, in the city, either at the
theatre, or at parties, or in the house of the Marquis M----H---- and the
Senoras C ., from which we went out at ten o'clock, and after supper play
began, and continued till eleven or twelve; and at Matanzas, on the days
appointed, and sometimes not, when they dined at the house of the Count J ., or
in that of Don Juan M ., and generally to pass the evening in the house of the
Senoras G., in which the most distinguished persons of the town met and played
at trecillo, malilla, or burro. While my lady played, I could not quit the side
of her chair till midnight, when we usually returned to the Molino. If during
the tertullia I fell asleep, or when behind the volante, if the lanthorn went
out by accident, even as soon as we arrived, the mayoral, or administrador was
called up, and I was put for the night in the stocks, and at day-break I was
called to an account, not as a boy; and so much power has sleep over a man,
four or five nights seldom passed that I did not fall into the same faults. My
poor mother and brothers more than twice sat up waiting for me while I was in
confinement, waiting a sorrowful morning. 20.
She, all anxiety when I did not come, used sometimes to leave
her hut, and approaching the door of the infirmary, which was in front of the
place allotted to the men where the stocks were, on the left hand side, at
times would find me there; and would call to me, "Juan," and I sighing, would
answer her, and then she would say outside, "Ah, my child!" and then it was she
would call on her husband in his grave--for at this time my father was dead.
Three times I remember the repetition of this scene, at other
times I used to meet my mother seeking me--once above all, a memorable time to
me--when the event which follows happened:-- 22.
We were returning from the town late one night, when the
volante was going very fast, and I was seated as usual, with one hand holding
the bar, and having the lanthorn in the other, I fell asleep, and it fell out
of my hand; on awaking, I missed the lanthorn, and jumped down to get it, but
such was my terror, I was unable to come up with the volante. I followed, well
knowing what was to come, but when I came close to the house, I was seized by
Don Sylvester, the young mayoral. Leading me to the stocks, we met my mother,
who giving way to the impulses of her heart, came up to complete my
misfortunes. On seeing me, she attempted to inquire what I had done, but the
mayoral ordered her to be silent, and treated her as one raising a disturbance.
Without regard to her entreaties, and being irritated at being called up at
that hour, he raised his hand, and struck my mother with the whip. I felt the
blow in my own heart! To utter a loud cry, and from a downcast boy, with the
timidity of one as meek as a lamb, to become all at once like a raging lion,
was a thing of a moment--with all my strength I fell on him with teeth and
hands, and it may be imagined how many cuffs, kicks, and blows were given in
the struggle that ensued. 23.
My mother and myself were carried off and shut up in the same
place; the two twin children were brought to her, while Florence and Fernando
were left weeping alone in the hut. Scarcely it dawned, when the mayoral, with
two negroes acting under him, took hold of me and my mother, and led us as
victims to the place of sacrifice. I suffered more punishment than was ordered,
in consequence of my attack on the mayoral. But who can describe the powers of
the laws of nature on mothers? the fault of my mother was, that seeing they
were going to kill me, as she thought, she inquired what I had done, and this
was sufficient to receive a blow and to be further chastised. At beholding my
mother in this situation, for the first time in her life, (she being exempted
from work) stripped by the negroes and thrown down to be scourged, over-whelmed
with grief and trembling, I asked them to have pity on her for God's sake; but
at the sound of the first lash, infuriated like a tiger, I flew at the mayoral,
and was near losing my life in his hands; but let us throw a veil over the rest
of this doleful scene. 24.
I said before, that I was like my mistress's lap-dog, since it
was my duty to follow her wherever she went, except to her own private rooms,
for then I remained outside to prevent any body from going in, receiving any
messages, and keeping silence when she was there. One afternoon, I followed her
into the garden, where I was set to gather up flowers and transplant some
little roots, when the gardener was employed in his occupation there. At the
time of leaving the garden, I took unconsciously, a small leaf, one alone of
geranium, thinking only of making verses; I was following, with this little
leaf in my hand, two or three yards behind my mistress, so absent in my mind
that I was squeezing the leaf with my fingers to give it greater fragrancy. At
the entrance of the anti-chamber she turned back, I made room for her, but the
smell attracted her attention; full of anger, on a sudden and in a quick tone
she asked me "What have you got in your hands?" Motionless and trembling, I
dropt the remains of the leaf, and, as if it was a whole plant, for this crime
I was struck on the face, and delivered to the care of the overseer, Don Lucas
Rodriguez. It was about six o'clock in the afternoon, and in the middle of
winter. The volante was ready to go to town, and I was to ride behind; but
alas! I was little aware what was to come in the next hour! Instead of riding
in the volante, I was taken to the stocks, which were in a building, formerly
an infirmary, and now used for a prison, and for depositing the bodies of the
dead till the hour of interment. My feet were put in the stocks, where
shivering with cold, without any covering, they shut me in. What a frightful
night I passed there! My fancy saw the dead rising and walking about the room,
and scrambling up to a window above the river and near a cataract, I listened
to its roar, which seemed to me like the howling of a legion of ghosts.
Scarcely day-light appeared, when I heard the unbolting of the door; a negro
came in followed by the overseer wrapt in his cloak; they took me out and put
me on a board fixed on a kind of fork, where I saw a bundle of rods. The
overseer, from under a handkerchief over his mouth, roared out, "tie him fast;"
when my hands were tied behind like a criminal, and my feet secured in an
aperture of the board. Oh, my God! Let me not speak of this frightful scene!
When I recovered I found myself in the arms of my mother, bathed in tears, and
disconsolate, who, at the request of Don Jaime Florido, left me and retired.
When my mistress rose next morning, her first care was to inquire whether I was
treated as I deserved; and the servant who was waiting on her called me; and
she asked, if I would dare to take any more leaves of her geranium? As I could
not answer, I was near undergoing the same punishment, but thought to say, no.
About eleven o'clock, I became dangerously ill: three days I was in this state.
My mother used to come to see me in the night-time, when she thought my
mistress out. At the sixth day I was out of danger, and could walk about. I met
my mother one day, who said to me, "Juan, I have got the money to purchase your
liberty; as your father is dead, you must act as a father to your brothers;
they shall not chastise you any more." My only answer was a flood of tears; she
went away, and I to my business; but the result of my mother's visit was
disappointment; the money was not paid, and I daily expected the time of my
liberty, but that time was not destined for many a long year to come. 25.
Some time after, it happened that a carrier brought to the
house some chickens, some capons, and a letter, and as I was always on guard
like a sentinel, it was my misfortune to receive them; leaving the fowls
outside, I took in the letter to my mistress, who after reading it, ordered me
to take them to Don Juan Mato their steward, to whom I delivered what I
received. Two weeks after this, I was called to an account for one capon
missing, I said without hesitating, that I received three capons, and two
chickens, which I delivered. Nothing more was said of the matter, but the
following day I saw the mayoral coming along towards the house, who after
talking with my mistress for some time, went away again. I served the
breakfast, and when I was going to take the first morsel, taking advantage of
the moment to eat something, my mistress ordered me to go to the mayoral's
house, and tell him--I do not remember what. With sad forebodings, and an
oppressed heart, being accustomed to deliver myself up on such occasions, away
I went trembling. When I arrived at the door, I saw the mayoral of the Molino,
and the mayoral of the Ingenio, together. I delivered my message to the first,
who said, "Come in man," I obeyed, and was going to repeat it again, when Senor
Dominguez, the mayoral of the Ingenio, took hold of my arm, saying, "it is to
me, to whom you are sent;" took out of his pocket a thin rope, tied my hands
behind me as a criminal, mounted his horse, and commanded me to run quick
before him, to avoid either my mother or my brothers seeing me. Scarcely had I
run a mile before the horse, stumbling at every step, when two dogs that were
following us, fell upon me; one taking hold of the left side of my face pierced
it through; and the other lacerated my left thigh and leg in a shocking manner,
which wounds are open yet, notwithstanding it happened twenty-four years ago.
The mayoral alighted on the moment, and separated me from their grasp, but my
blood flowed profusely, particularly from my leg--he then pulled me by the
rope, making use at the same time, of the most disgusting language; this pull
partly dislocated my right arm, which at times pains me yet. Getting up, I
walked as well as I could, till we arrived at the Ingenio. They put a rope
round my neck, bound up my wounds, and put me in the stocks. At night, all the
people of the estate were assembled together and arranged in a line, I was put
in the middle of them, the mayoral and six negroes surrounded me, and at the
word "upon him," they threw me down; two of them held my hands, two my legs,
and the other sat upon my back. They then asked me about the missing capon, and
I did not know what to say. Twenty-five lashes were laid on me, they then asked
me again to tell the truth. I was perplexed; at last, thinking to escape
further punishment, I said, "I stole it." "What have you done with the money?"
was the next question, and this was another trying point. "I bought a hat."
"Where is it?" "I bought a pair of shoes." "No such thing," and I said so many
things to escape punishment, but all to no purpose. Nine successive nights the
same scene was repeated, and every night I told a thousand lies. After the
whipping, I was sent to look after the cattle and work in the fields. Every
morning my mistress was informed of what I said the previous night. 26.
At the end of ten days, the cause of my punishment being known,
Dionisio Copandonga, who was the carrier who brought the fowls, went to the
mayoral, and said that the missed capon was eaten by the steward Don Manuel
Pipa, and which capon was left behind in a mistake; the cook Simona was
examined and confirmed the account. I do not know whether my mistress was made
acquainted with this transaction; but certain it is, that since that moment, my
punishment ceased, my fetters were taken off, and my work eased, and a coarse
linen dress was put on me. But the same day an accident happened, which
contributed much towards my mistress forgiving me. 27.
After helping to load sugar, I was sent to pile blocks of wood
in one of the buildings, while so employed, all of a sudden the root with a
loud crash gave way, burying under its ruins the negro Andres Criollo; I
escaped unhurt through a back door. The alarm given, all the people came to the
rescue of poor Andres, who with great difficulty and labour was taken from
under the ruins, with his skull broken, and he died in the Molino a few hours
after. Early next morning, as I was piling the refuse of sugar canes, there
arrived the then Master Pancho, and now Don F ., followed by my second brother,
who was in his service, and who intimated to me that his master was coming to
take me back to the house. This was owing to my brother, who hearing of the
accident and my narrow escape, begged earnestly of his young master to
intercede with his mother on my behalf, which he easily obtained. I was
presented to my mistress, who for the first time received me with kindness. But
my heart was so oppressed, that neither her kindness nor eating, nor drinking
could comfort me; I had no comfort except in weeping: my mistress observing it,
and to prevent my crying so much, and the same time being so very drowsy,
ordered me to move about, and clean all the furniture, tables, chairs, drawers,
& c. All my liveliness disappeared, and as my brother was greatly attached
to me, he became melan- choly himself; he tried, however, to cheer me up, but
always finished our conversations in tears: for this reason, also, my mistress
would not let me wait upon her, nor ride in the volante to town; and at last
appointed me to the service of young Master Pancho; they bought me a hat and a
pair of shoes, a new thing for me, and my master allowed me to bathe, to take a
walk in the afternoon, and to go fishing, and hunting with Senor. 28.
Besides the events just related, there happened two other
circumstances resembling each other; one while at Havana, and the other at
Matanzas, and which I think worth relating, before I begin to speak of my
passing to the service of Don Nicolas de C. on my return to Havana. The first
of these events happened when the new coin of our C. M. King Ferdinand the
Seventh , began to circulate. Don Nicolas gave me a peseta of the old coin one
night; next morning there came at the door a beggar, my mistress gave me a
peseta of the new coin for him, which calling my attention, and having the
other in my pocket, one is as much worth as the other, muttered I to myself,
and changing the pesetas, I gave to the beggar the old one; after I went to my
usual place in the antichamber, I sat down in the corner, and taking the new
coin out of my pocket, began like a monkey turning it over and over again, when
escaping through my fingers it fell down on the floor, making a rattling noise;
at its sound my mistress came out of her chamber, made me pick it up; she
looked at it, and her face reddened, she bid me go into her chamber, sit in a
corner, and wait there; of course, my peseta remained in her possession, she
recognised it as the same she gave me for the beggar two minutes before; with
such proofs my fate was decided. My mistress was busy going in and out, till at
last she sat down to write; soon after the carrier of the Ingenio, who happened
to be there at the time with his drove of mules, came into the chamber with a
bundle containing a coarse hemp dress, and while he was unfolding it, he dropt
a new rope, drawing near me at the same time; trembling, and suspecting his
intentions, I sprang up on a sudden, and escaping through another door, ran for
protection to Don Nicolas; in the way, I met the young lady Concha, who kindly
said to me, "go to my papa." The Marquis was always very kind to me, I used to
sleep in his room, and whenever he was afflicted with headache, I gave him warm
water, held his head and attended on him till he recovered. When I arrived at
his room, which was in an instant, and he saw me at his feet, "What have you
done now?" said he; in my confusion I related my case so confusedly, that he
understanding that I stole the peseta, said in an angry tone, "You knave, why
did you steal the peseta?" "No, sir," I replied, "your son Nicolasito gave it
to me." "When?" "Last night," said I: we then went to the Senorito's room, who
looking at the peseta, said that he did not give it to me. In truth, I was so
frightened and confused, that I could not state the particulars sufficiently
clear, on account of the presence of the carrier; and the name of the Ingenio,
with its new mayoral, Don Simon Diaz, so inspired me with horror, that all
conspired to confuse a boy of sixteen years only as I was. The Marquist
interceded for me, and for all that, I was shut up in a dungeon four whole
days, without any food, except what my brother could introduce through a little
opening at the bottom of the door, and that was little. At the fifth day I was
taken out, dressed with a coarse linen dress and tied with a rope. They were
going to send me with the baggage of the family, and the other servants, my
brother among them, to Matanzas: when the hour arrived, and they were leading
me away, I met at the door Donna Beatriz, at present a nun in the Convent of
the Ursulinas who interceded for me, that the rope might be taken off, which
was done; we embarked in a schooner for Matanzas, where we arrived at the end
of two days. 29.
While on board, and before coming on shore, I changed the
coarse dress for the one my brother, unseen, had provided for me; as soon as we
landed, my brother and I instead of going with the rest of the servants to
present ourselves to Don Juan Gomez, who had instructions about us from the
family, but being ignorant of it, and desirous to see our mother, we left the
rest of the servants, and went to the Molino , where after presenting ourselves
to the mayoral, and telling him that the rest of the servants were coming, we
ran at full speed towards my mother's house; but we scarcely arrived and had
time to embrace her, when the Creole, Santiago, greatly agitated and full of
anger, called me out, saying, "come with me," not suspecting the secret
instructions he had, I refused to go with him, and my mother asking me what
have I done, but without giving me time to explain myself, very abruptly took
hold of my arm, tied me with a rope, and led me towards the Ingenio Saint
Miguel, where we arrived about eleven o'clock, fasting all this time. The
mayoral read the letter sent to him from Havana, and then put me in fetters;
twenty-five lashes in the morning and as many more in the evening for the term
of nine days, was the order of the letter. The mayoral questioned me about the
peseta, I told him plainly and truly the fact, and for the first time, this
savage man showed pity; he did not put in execution his orders, but sent me to
work with the rest of the negroes; here I remained two weeks, when my mistress
again sent for me. 30.
The second event happened at Matanzas. My mistress sent me to
get change of a gold doubloon at Don Juan de Torres, when I returned, she told
me to put the change on a card-table, some time after she took it and put it
into her pocket. As it was my business to dust all the furniture every
half-hour, whether it was dusty or not, when I came to this card-table, and put
down one-half of it, down fell a peseta, which it seems got between the joints;
at the sound of it she came from the next room, and asked me about it, I told
her how it came there, she then counted her change, and missed the peseta,
which she took without saying a word the rest of the day; but next day about
ten o'clock, the mayoral of the Ingenio came, who fastened my arms behind me,
and ordered me to go before his horse; telling me, at the same time, that my
mistress suspected that I put the peseta myself between the joints of the table
on purpose to keep it. This mayoral, whose name I do not remember, stopped
before a tavern, dismounted, went in, and ordered breakfast for both; united my
arms, and kindly told me to make myself easy and not be afraid. While I was
eating, he was conversing with a man, and I heard him say, "his father besought
of him to pity me, he had some children of his own." After breakfast he mounted
his horse, and made me ride behind him on the horse. When we arrived at the
Ingenio, he invited me to dine with him, and at night put me under the care of
an old negro woman; I remained in this way nine days, when I was sent for by my
mistress. At the period I speak of my father was then living, and used to
question me about these things, and advising me to tell always the truth, and
to be honest and faithful. As this was the first time that I had been at the
Ingenio, and considering the good treatment I experienced, I think it was owing
to my mistress's secret instructions. 31.
The second time that I was at Matanzas, there never passed a
day without bringing some trouble to me; no, I cannot relate the incredible
hardships of my life, a life full of sorrows! My heart sickened through
sufferings, once after having received many blows on the face, and that
happened almost daily; my mistress said, "I will make an end of you before you
are of age;" these words left such an impression on my mind, that I asked my
mother the meaning of them, who quite astonished, and after making me repeat
them twice over, said, "my son, God is more powerful than the devil." She said
no more about it; but this and some hints I received from the old servants of
the house, began to unfold the true meaning of her expressions. On another
occasion, going to be chastised, for I do not remember what trifle, a
gentleman, always kind to me, interceded for me; but my mistress said to him,
"mind, Senor, this boy will be one day worse than Rousseau and Voltaire,
remember my words ." These strange names, and the way that my mistress
expressed herself made me very anxious to know what sort of bad people they
were; but when I found out, that they were enemies of God, I became more
uneasy, for since my infancy I was taught to love and fear God, and my trust in
him was such, that I employed always part of the night praying God to lighten
my sufferings, and to preserve me from mischief on the following day, and if I
did anything wrong I attributed it to my lukewarmness in prayers, or that I
might have forgotten to pray; and I firmly believe that my prayers were heard,
and to this I attribute the preservation of my life once, on occasion of my
running away from Matanzas to Havana, as I will relate hereafter. 32.
Although oppressed with so many sufferings, sometimes I gave
way to the impulses of my naturally cheerful character. Whenever I went to
Senor Estorino's house, I used to draw decorations on paper, figures on cards
or pasteboard, and scenes from Chinese shades, then making frames of wild
canes, for puppet shows, with a pen-knife, the puppets seemed to dance by
themselves. I painted also portraits of the sons of Don Felix Llano, Don Manuel
and Don Felixe Puebla, Don Francisco Madruga, and many others; to see all this,
there used to come several boys of the town, and on these occasions, I used to
do my best to enliven these entertainments. 33.
Some time after this, we went to Havana, where I was appointed
to the service of young Don Nicolas, who esteemed me not as a slave, but as a
son, notwithstanding his youth. In his company the sadness of my soul began to
disappear, but soon after I contracted a disease in my chest with a spasmodic
cough, of which with the assistance of Doctor Francisco Lubian, and with time
and youth, I was perfectly cured. As I said before, I was now kindly treated,
and never was without money in my pocket. My business was to take care of his
wardrobe, to clean his shoes, and wait upon him: he only forbad me going out by
myself, to go to the kitchen, and to have any intercourse with loose
characters; and as he himself though young, was very circumspect, so he wished
every body about him to be; I never received any reprimand from him, and I
loved him very much. As soon as day dawned, I used to get up, prepare his
table, arm-chair and books, and I adapted myself so well to his customs, and
manners that I began to give myself up to study. From his book of rhetoric I
learnt by heart a lesson every day, which I used to recite like a parrot,
without knowing the meaning; but being tired of it, I determined to do
something more useful, and that was to learn to write: but here was a
difficulty, I did not know how to begin, nor did I know how to mend a pen, and
I would not touch any of my master's; however, I bought ink, pens, and
penknife, and some very fine paper; then taking some of the bits of written
paper thrown away by my master, I put a piece of them between one of my fine
sheets, and traced the characters underneath, in order to accustom my hand to
make letters; with this stratagem, at the end of a month I could write almost
the same hand as my master's. Extremely pleased with myself, I employed the
hours from five to ten every evening, exercising my hand to write, and in
day-time I used to copy the inscriptions at the bottom of pictures hung in the
walls; by these means, I could imitate the best hand-writing. My master was
told how I employed the evenings, and once he surprised me with all my writing
apparatus , but he only advised me to drop that pastime, as not adapted to my
situation in life, and that it would be more useful to me to employ my time in
needle-work, a business that indeed at the same time I did not neglect. In vain
was I forbidden to write, for when everybody went to bed, I used to light a
piece of candle, and then at my leisure I copied the best verses, thinking that
if I could imitate these, I would become a poet. Once, some of my sonnets fell
into one of my friends hands, and Doctor Coronado was the first to foretel,
that I would be a great poet, notwithstanding all opposition; he was told how I
had taught myself to write, and he encouraged me, saying, that many of the
great poets began in the same way. 34.
At this time my master was near contracting an alliance with
Senorita Donna Teresa de H ., and I was the messenger between them, an office
very productive, since I had plenty of money given to me, so much that I did
not know what to do with it; I bought a handsome inkstand, a rule, and a good
provision of pens, ink, and paper; the rest of my money I sent to my mother. We
went to Guanajay on a visit to Count de G ., where my future young mistress
resided. As the first needle-work my mistress made was dress-making, under the
care of Senora Domingo, her dressmaker; I learned to make fine dresses, and I
had the honour to make some dresses for my future mistress, in recompense for
which I experienced all sorts of kindness; and when they were married I was
their page, and as I was so punctual in my attendance on them, I was treated
more kindly from day to day. But this happiness lasted only about three years,
when my former mistress of Matanzas, hearing reports so favourable of me,
resolved to take me into her own service again. At this time I was so punctual
in attending sick people, though only eighteen years old, that whenever there
was a person ill in the family, they asked permission of my mistress to let me
attend upon them. One of them was Don Jose Maria P . who was very ill; I
prepared for him his bath, administered the doctor's prescriptions in due time,
helped him to rise from his bed, watched the whole of the night, with paper and
ink before me, and put down, for the guidance of the doctor, the time that he
slept, whether composedly or not, how many times he awoke, how many he coughed,
if he snored & c.; I was much praised for this by the doctors, Don Andres
Terriltes, Don Nicolas Gutierres, and others. While I was attending this
gentleman, my former mistress arrived, and intimated very kindly to me her
intention to take me back. I listened to her sorrowfully, for my heart became
oppressed at the thoughts of returning to those places so memorable and so sad
to me. I was obliged to follow her to her sister's, the Countess of B . where
she was on a visit for a few days; she forbade me to bid farewell to my young
masters, but I stole away unperceived, and went to take leave of them. Don
Nicolas, who since his childhood was very partial to me, took leave of me
weeping, as also his lady, both loading me with presents; the Senora gave me
some Holland handkerchiefs and two gold doubloons; Don Nicolas all my clothes,
including two new coats, and a gold doubloon besides. I left them so downcast
and with such sad forebodings, that early next morning I ventured to ask paper
and ink, in order to advertise for a new master. This quite astonished my
mistress, and saying that she took me back for my own sake, and that I had
better stop with her till she made some other arrangements, and when she turned
her back I was sorry for having given her this uneasiness. At dinner-time, she
mentioned my boldness to her sister the Countess, and, with an angry tone, said
to me before all the company, "this is the return you intend to make for all
the care I took in your education; did I ever put my hands on you?" I was very
near saying, yes, many a time, but thought better to say, no. She then asked me
if I remembered her mamma? and at my answering, yes; she said, "I occupy her
place, mind that," here the conversation dropt. After prayers in the afternoon,
I was sent for by the Countess and Donna Maria Pizarro, who both tried to
persuade me to desist from my intention. I plainly told them, that I was afraid
of my mistress's fiery temper; this conversation ended by the Countess advising
me to stop with my mistress till she thought proper to give me my liberty. Some
time after this we left for Matanzas, stopping at the Molino. Here they pointed
out to me my new duties, and I acquitted myself so much to their satisfaction,
that in a short time I was the head servant of the house. During all this time,
after superintending the business of the house, and after breakfast, I used to
employ myself at needle-work. At the end of about two weeks after we were in
town, it happened that one morning oversleeping myself, a cock found his way
into my room, which was close to that of my mistress; the cock crew, I do not
know how many times, I only heard him once, I started from my bed, and went
about my business, and were it not for the interference of Don Tomas Gener,
who, at my request, kindly interceded for me, I should not have escaped being
sent to the Molino. 35.
When I was about nineteen years of age, I had some pride in
acquitting myself of my duties, so much to the satisfaction of my mistress, and
never waited to be ordered twice; at this time I could not bear to be scolded
for trifles; but the propensity to humble the self-love of those who are in the
good graces of their masters, is contagious disease in all rich families. Such
was the case with a person, who without any cause or provocation on my part,
began to treat me badly, calling me bad names, all of which I suffered, till he
called my mother out of her name: then I retorted on him a similar expression,
he gave me a blow, which I could not avoid, and I returned it. My mistress was
out, and I was to go after her at the house of the Senora . When we returned,
she was told of what happened; I excused myself, saying, that I could not
suffer my mother to be called so bad a name; "So," said she, "if he repeats it
again, you will not respect my house ?" At the third day we went to breakfast
to the Molino: meanwhile I was uneasy, I had before me all the vicissitudes of
my life, and was apprehensive of what was to come. Soon after our arrival, I
saw the mayoral coming towards the house; I escaped through the garden, and hid
myself: in the afternoon I went to town, to the Count of G ., who gave me
shelter and protection; I was still uneasy, I wept bitterly when I remembered
the kindness I was treated with by the other masters in Havana. Scarcely was I
there five days, when for a trifling fault they sent for a commissary of
police, who secured me with a rope, and took me to the public prison in the
middle of the day; at four o'clock, there came a white man from the country,
who demanded me, and I was delivered to him; he put on me the coarse linen
dress, he tied my arms with a rope, and led me towards the Molino, which I
desired never to see again, after having been so well treated by my former
masters, being now also somewhat elated with the praises bestowed on my
abilities, and a little proud of my acquaintance in the city with persons that
knew how to reward services. At the Molino, Don Saturnino Carrias, the mayoral
at this time, examined me, I told the truth, and he sent me to work atthe
fields without any chastisement or fetters. I was there about nine days, when
my mistress coming to the Molino to breakfast, sent for me, gave me a fine suit
of clothes, and took me to town again in the volante. I was known at this time
under the name of the Chinito , or the little Mulatto of the Marquesa. 36.
About this time I went to the house of the lady of Senor
Apodaca, a grandee of Havana, where they were making some preparations for his
reception. Senor Aparicio, a painter and decorator, was employed in painting
some emblems allusive to a rose, as the name of the lady was Rosa ; I helped
the painter, and he gave me ten dollars for my work, and having by way of
amusement painted some garlands, he saw that I might be useful to him, and
asked my mistress to lend me to him, but she would not consent; at the
conclusion of his work he gave me two dollars more, which money I kept with the
intention to spend it at Havana. My mistress found out that the servants met
together in a barn after midnight, to play at cards till the morning. The first
thing she did on the following morning was to search my pockets, and finding
that I had more money than she gave me, took me for an accomplice in their
game; and notwithstanding my telling her how I came in possession of the money,
she kept it, and sent me to the Molino, where I was received by the mayoral,
and treated kindly, the same as before; at the end of three or four days my
mistress sent for me, and I returned to town. 37.
Some time past on without any novelty, when my mother died
suddenly. I was made acquainted with this accident soon afterwards, when my
mistress gave me three dollars to have prayers said for her. A few days after
she gave me leave to go to the Molino, to see what my mother had left. The
mayoral gave me the key of the house, where I only found a very large old box
empty: as there was a secret in it, which I knew, I pulled the spring, and
found there some trinkets of pure gold, but the most worthy were three ancient
bracelets, near two inches broad and very thick, two strings of beads, one of
gold, the other coral and gold: I found also a bundle of papers, in which were
some accounts of debts due to us, one of 200 and odd dollars, another of 400,
payable by my mistress, and some others for small sums. When I was born, my
grandfather gave me a young mare, of a fine breed: she gave five colts, which
my father purposed should be given to my brothers; after that she gave three
more, making altogether eight colts. I returned to my mistress, and gave an
account of what I found. At the end of five or six days, I asked her if she had
examined the bills; she answered calmly, "not yet;" and I went to inform the
Creole, Rosa Brindiz, who had the care of my sister, Maria del Rosario. Rosa
was continually urging me not to lose any opportunity of asking my mistress
about it, as she wanted my sister's share, to repay herself the expenses of
nursing and keeping her, and as I was the eldest, it was my duty, she said, to
look after the money. Teased by her, I ventured to mention it again to my
mistress; but what was my astonishment, when instead of money, she said, "You
are in a great hurry for your inheritance, do you not know that I am the lawful
heir of my slaves? if you speak to me again about it, I will send you where you
will never see the sun nor the moon again; go and clean the furniture ." The
following day I made Rosa acquainted with this answer, and some days after she
came herself to speak to my mistress, with whom she was a long time; when she
came out I gave her two of the three bracelets, and all the beads. My mistress,
who was always watching me, came near us, and intimated to Rosa, that she
disliked her to have any communication with me, or any of the servants, and
Rosa went away, and never came there any more. 38.
As for me, from the moment that I lost my hopes, I ceased to be
a faithful slave; from an humble, submissive being, I turned the most
discontented of mankind: I wished to have wings to fly from that place, and to
go to Havana; and from that day my only thoughts were in planning how to escape
and run away. Some days after I sold to a silver-smith the other bracelet, and
for which he gave me seven dollars, and some reals; I gave the dollars to a
priest, for prayers to be said for my poor mother. It was not long before my
mistress knew of it, through the priest; she asked me where I had the money
from, I told her; she wanted to know the name of the silver- smith, I said I
did not know; she flew into a passion, "You will know then for what you are
born, you cannot dispose of any thing without my consent." She then sent me to
the Molino for the third time. Don Saturnino, the mayoral, inquired what had I
done, I told him, very peevishly, and weeping, for I did not care for the
consequences at that moment, but he pitied me, untied my arms, and sent me to
his kitchen, with orders not to stir from there. At the end of ten days, he
said to me, "As your mistress is coming tomorrow to breakfast here, to save
appearances, I will put on you the fetters, and send you to work; but if she
inquires whether you have been whipped, you must say, yes." Next morning, about
nine, she sent for me, gave me a new suit of clothes; and when I went to him to
deliver the coarse ones, with an angry tone, he said to me, "Now, mind what you
are about; in less than two months you have been sent to me three times, and I
have treated you kindly, endeavour to do your best not to come here again, if
you do, you shall be treated severely; go to your mistress, go, and beware." I
went to my mistress, and threw myself at her feet, she bade me get up, and
ordered a good breakfast for me; but I could not eat anything, my heart was
uneasy; Havana, with all the happy days I enjoyed there, was continually in my
mind, and my only wish was to go there. My mistress observed with wonder my not
eating breakfast, particularly of some nice stew she ordered for me: the truth
is, that she could not do without me for a length of time, and this was the
reason that my journeys to the Molino never exceeded nine or ten days; and
although she struck me so often, and degraded me, calling me always the worst
of all the Creoles born in the Molino. I was still attached to her, and shall
never forget the care she had taken on my education. 39.
After this she treated me with more kindness; she allowed me to
go [a] fishing, which was my most pleasant amusement. Next morning my mistress
went to the house of the Senora Gomez, where they played at cards, and it was
my duty to stand behind her chair all the time; if she was a winner I carried
home the money bag, and when I delivered it to her she put her hand into it and
gave me some. She was much pleased, when she saw me making myself a pair of
trousers , which I learned myself; for since the idea of freedom took
possession of my mind, I endeavoured to learn every thing useful to me; I
invented many fancy things in my leisure hours, though these were few, I took
sheets of paper, and doubling them in different shapes and forms, I turned them
in various shapes as flowers, pine-apples, shells, fans, epaulettes, and many
more things, for which I was praised by everybody. As my mistress treated me
with a little more kindness, I insensibly began to be more calm, my heart more
composed, and to forget her late harsh behaviour towards me. I began to be as
comfortable as ever; in a word, I thought myself already free, and waited only
to be of age; this hope encouraged me to learn many useful things, so that if I
should not be a slave I should earn a honest livelihood. At this time I wrote a
great many sonnets. Poetry requires an object, but I had none to enflame my
breast, this was the cause of my verses being nothing else than poor
imitations. I was very anxious to read every book or paper that fell in my way,
either at home or in the streets, and if I met with any poetry I learnt it by
heart, in consequence of this, I could recite many things in poetry. Besides,
when my mistress had company at dinner, and that was almost every day, she had
always some poet invited who recited verses and composed sonnets extempore; I
had in a corner of the room some ink in an egg-shell and a pen, and while the
company applauded and filled their glasses with wine away I went to my corner,
and wrote as many verses as I could remember. 40.
Three or four months after this, as my mistress was unwell, she
was advised to go to the bathing town of Madruga to bathe; with her complaint
she turned cross and peevish; she reproached my having disposed of my mother's
trinkets, having five brothers, and that that was a robbery, and that if I was
put in possession of the inheritance, I soon would lose it in gambling, and she
was continually threatening mewith the Molino and with Don Saturnino, whose
last words were imprinted on my heart, and I had no wish to pay him another
visit. With the belief that if I could go to Havana I would have my liberty, I
inquired the distance, and was told twelve leagues, which I could not reach on
foot in one night; I then dropt for the present that idea, waiting for a better
opportunity. It was my custom to clean myself and change twice a week, and one
day before dressing I went to bathe in a bath, thirty yards distant; while in
the bath my mistress called me, in an instant I dressed myself and was before
her, "What were you doing in the bath? Who gave you liberty to go? Why did you
go?" were her angry inquiries, and with her fist she made my nostrils bleed
profusely; all this happened at the street-door, and before all the people, but
what confused me more was, that there lived opposite a young mulatto girl, of
my own age, the first who inspired me with love, a thing I did not feel before;
or rather I loved her as a sister, and our intercourse was kept up by some
little presents from one to another , and I told her that I was free. About ten
o'clock, my mistress ordered my shoes to be taken off and my head shaved, after
which I was commanded to carry water for the use of the house, with a large
barrel upon my head; the brook was distant thirty yards with a declivity
towards it from the side of the house; I went, filled the barrel, and with some
help I put it upon my head, I was returning up the little hill, when my foot
missed, and down I went upon my knee, the barrel falling a little forward came
rolling down, struck against my chest, and down both tumbled in the brook. My
mistress said, "that is a trick of your's to evade work," she threatened me
with the Molino and Don Saturnino, which name had a magic effect on me, and I
began to think seriously about escaping to Havana. The following morning when
all the people were at church, a free servant called me aside, and in a
whisper, said to me, "my friend, if you suffer it is your fault; you are
treated worse than the meanest slave; make your escape, and present yourself
before the Captain-General at Havana, state your ill treatment to him, and he
will do you justice ;" at the same time showing me the road to Havana. 41.
At eleven o'clock, I saw Don Saturnino arrive at the house;
from this moment my heart beat violently, my blood was agitated, and I could
not rest, I trembled like a leaf, my only comfort at that moment was the
solitude of my room, there I went; and there I heard the servants talking
together, one was inquiring of the other the reason of the coming of Don
Saturnino. "Why," said the other, "to take away Juan F ." This was more than I
could endure, a general trembling took possession of my limbs, and my head
ached very much. I fancied myself already in the hands of Don Saturnino,
leading me away tied like the greatest criminal--from this moment I determined
on my escape. I left my room with this determination, when I met again the same
servant, who said to me, "Man take out that horse from the stable, and leave
him outside, for fear that when Don Saturnino may want him in the night, you
will make too much noise, and will disturb your mistress--here are the spurs,
take them, and there is the saddle, and so you will know where to find every
thing." And then he gave me such a look as quite convinced me that, he advised
me to take the opportunity, and not lose it. I was hesitating, yet I did not
like to leave behind me my brothers, and then I was afraid to travel a whole
night through roads unknown to me, and alone, and in danger of falling in with
any commissary of police; but what was my surprise, when after supper, as I was
sitting on a bench by myself, meditating about what to do, Don Saturnino came
to me, and asked, "Where do you sleep?" I pointed to him the place and he went
away; this entirely determined me to make my escape--he might have made the
inquiry with a good intention, but I could not consider it but with great
suspicion. I remembered at that moment the fate of one of my uncles, who in a
case like mine, took the same determination of escaping to Havana, to Don
Nicolas, Don Manuel, and the Senor Marques and was brought back again like a
wild beast--but for all that I resolved to venture on my escape, and in case of
detection, to suffer for something. I waited till twelve o'clock. That night
everybody retired early, it being very cold and rainy. I saddled the horse for
the first time in my life, put on the bridle, but with such trembling that I
hardly knew what I was about, after that I knelt down, said a prayer, and
mounted the horse. When I was going away, I heard the sound of a voice saying,
"God bless you, make haste." I thought that nobody saw me, but as I knew
afterwards, I was seen by several of the negroes, but nobody offered any
impediment to my flight . Juan----. 42.
POEMS, WRITTEN IN SLAVERY, BY JUAN---- AND TRANSLATED FROM THE
SPANISH, BY R. R. M.
OH, thou dread scourge and terror of our race,
While thy strong hand bows down the proudest head,
Filling the earth with cries in every place,
And grief and wailing o'er the silent dead.
Hear one poor Christian's humble prayer to thee,
And speak in words that one may hear and live;
I only beg thou wilt not ask of me,
This gift of life, that God was pleased to give,
While passion's spell is on my heart--nor yet
While angry feelings rankle in my breast--
Nor while remembrance ever is beset
With wrongs that men despair to see redressed.
Oh, yet not while I feel this bosom rise,
With tender transports when the partner dear
Of all my cares, with bright and beaming eyes
Smiles in my face--and Eden's joys seem here.
But let it be, when thou dost see me yield,
Give my whole heart and soul to God above.
To him who gave me life, nay more, revealed
The truths of life eternal and of love.
SILENCE, audacious wickedness which aims
At honour's breast, or strikes with driftless breath,
The lightest word that's spoken thus defames,
And where it falls, inflicts a moral death.
If with malign, deliberate intent,
The shaft is sped, the bow that vibrates yet,
One day will hurt the hand by which 'tis bent,
And leave a wound its malice justly met.
For once the winged arrow is sent forth,
Who then may tell where, when, or how 'twill fall?
Or, who may pluck its barb from wounded worth,
And send it back, and swiftly too withal.
RELIGION. AN ODE.
YES, tho' in gloom and sadness I may rise,
One blessed strain can soothe my troubled soul,
No sooner wakened than with streaming eyes,
Upward I look, and there I seek my goal.
Soaring in spirit o'er the things of earth, 5.
The spark imprisoned bursts its bonds of clay;
I feel delight above all human mirth,
And wrapt in love, I live but then to pray;
To thee, dear Father!--mighty and supreme!
Immense! eternal! infinite! and blest!
Oh, how the grandeur of the theme doth seem
T' enlarge my thoughts, and to inflame my breast.
Hail, blessed faith! thou only hope and trust, 5.
Solace most sweet, and stay of hope most sure;
Thou sole support and shield of the opprest,
The weak, the wronged, the wretched, and the poor.
In thee, all trouble is absorbed and lost;
In ev'ry breath of thine there's vital air;
Whose mild and genial influence, the just
Rejoice to find, the wretched e'en may share.
For thee, when darkness brooded o'er the land, 5.
A remnant, faithful to the law they feared,
Still wept and sighed--'till mercy's hour at hand,
The mighty standard of the cross was reared.
Then in the depths of fear, as by a spell,
The voice of hope was heard, the tidings glad,
Of truth eternal, far and wide were spread,
And demons trembled as their idols fell;
But soon the foe of truth and justice came, 5.
Far worse there's none than tyranny can prove,
That fitting agent of a spirit's aim,
Indocile ever to the God of love.
But vain was all that monster's rage renewed,
Thousands of martyrs fell beneath its sway;
Still in that cradle purpled with their blood,
The infant faith waxed stronger every day.
Now the triumphant gospel is our guide, 5.
Our sure conductor to eternal light:
The future vast; the heavenly portals hide
Their joys no longer from our spirit's sight.
'Tis thou, O God, by faith who dost reveal
Mysterious wonders to our senses weak:
When thou dost speak to hearts that deeply feel,
And humbly hear when thou dost deign to speak.
Oh, when the mantle of thy peace descends, 5.
How the soul then exults in her attire!
The garb of grace to ev'ry thought extends,
And wraps reflection in seraphic fire.
In thee, I find all purity and peace,
All truth and goodness, wisdom far above
All worldly wisdom, might beyond increase,
And yet surpassing these, unbounded love.
Oh, that its light were shed on those whose deeds 5.
Belie the doctrines of the church they claim;
Whose impious tongues profane their father's creeds,
And sanction wrong, e'en in religion's name.
Oh, God of mercy, throned in glory high,
O'er earth and all its miseries, look down!
Behold the wretched, hear the captives' cry,
And call thy exiled children round thy throne!
There would I fain in contemplation gaze, 5.
On thy eternal beauty, and would make
Of love one lasting canticle of praise,
And ev'ry theme but that, henceforth forsake.
WHEN I think on the course I have run,
From my childhood itself to this day,
I tremble, and fain would I shun,
The remembrance its terrors array.
I marvel at struggles endured,
With a destiny frightful as mine,
At the strength for such efforts:--assured
Tho' I am, 'tis in vain to repine.
I have known this sad life thirty years,
And to me, thirty years it has been
Of suff'ring, of sorrow and tears,
Ev'ry day of its bondage I've seen.
But 'tis nothing the past--or the pains,
Hitherto I have struggled to bear,
When I think, oh, my God! on the chains,
That I know I'm yet destined to wear. 5.
THE CUCUYA; OR FIRE-FLY.
THE fire-fly is heedlessly wandering about,
Through field and through forest is winging his route,
As free as the butterfly sporting in air,
From flower to flower, it flits here and there:
Now glowing with beautiful phosphoric light, 5.
Then paling its lustre and waning in night:
It bears no effulgence in rivalry near,
But shrouds ev'ry gleam as the dawn doth appear.
It sparkles alone in the soft summer's eve,
Itself, though unseen, by the track it doth leave,
The youth of the village at night-fall pursue
O'er hill and o'er dale, as it comes into view;
Now shining before them, now lost to their eyes, 5.
The sparkle they catch at, just twinkles and dies;
And the mead is one moment all spangled with fire,
And the next, every sparklet is sure to expire.
On the leaf of the orange awhile it disports,
When the blossom is there, to its cup it resorts,
And still the more brightly and dazzling it shines,
It baffles its tiny pursuers' designs.
But see the sweet maiden, the innocent child, 5.
The pride of the village--as fair as the wild
And beautiful flowers she twines in her hair--
How light is her step, and how joyous her air!
And oft as one looks on such brightness and bloom,
On such beauty as her's, one might envy the doom
Of a captive "Cucuya," that's destined like this,
To be touched by her hand, and revived by her kiss;
Imprisoned itself, by a mistress so kind, 5.
It hardly can seem, to be closely confined,
And a prisoner thus tenderly treated in fine,
By a keeper so gentle, might cease to repine.
In the cage which her delicate hands have prepared,
The captive "Cucuya" is shining unscared,
Suspended before her, with others as bright,
In beauty's own bondage revealing their light. 5.
But this amongst all is her favourite one,
And she bears it at dusk to her alcove alone,
'Tis fed by her hand on the cane that's most choice,
And in secret it gleams, at the sound of her voice.
Thus cherished, the honey of Hybla would now
Scarce tempt the "Cucuya" her care to forego;
And daily it seems to grow brighter and gain
Increasing effulgence, forgetting its pain.
Oh! beautiful maiden, may heaven accord, 5.
Thy care of the captive, its fitting reward;
And never may fortune the fetters remove,
Of a heart that is thine in the bondage of love.
THE CLOCK THAT GAINS.
THE Clock's too fast they say;
But what matter, how it gains!
Time will not pass away
Any faster for its pains.
The tiny hands may race
Round the circle, they may range,
The Sun has but one pace,
And his course he cannot change.
The beams that daily shine
On the dial, err not so,
For they're ruled by laws divine,
And they vary not, we know.
But tho' the Clock is fast,
Yet the moments I must say,
More slowly never passed,
Than they seemed to pass to-day.
THE DREAM. ADDRESSED TO MY YOUNGER BROTHER.
THOU knowest, dear Florence, my sufferings of old,
The struggles maintained with oppression for years,
We shared them together, and each was consoled
With the whispers of love that were mingled with tears.
But now, far apart, this sad pleasure is gone,
We mingle our sighs and our sorrows no more;
The course is a new one that each has to run,
And dreary the prospect for either in store.
But in slumber, our spirits, at least, shall commune,
Behold, how they meet in the visions of sleep;
In dreams that recal early days, like the one
In my brother's remembrance, I fondly would keep.
For solitude pining, in anguish of late
The heights of Quintana I sought, for repose,
And there of seclusion enamoured, the weight
Of my cares was forgotten, I felt not my woes.
Exhausted and weary, the spell of the place
Soon weighed down my eyelids, and slumber then stole
So softly o'er nature, it left not a trace
Of trouble or sorrow, o'ercasting my soul. 5.
I seemed to ascend like a bird in the air,
And the pinions that bore me, amazed me the more;
I gazed on the plumage of beauty so rare,
As they waved in the sun, at each effort to soar.
My spirit aspired to a happier sphere,
The buoyancy even of youth was surpassed;
One effort at flight not divested of fear,
And the flutter ensued, was successful at last.
And leaving the earth and its toils, I look down,
Or upwards I glance, and behold with surprise,
The wonders of God, and the firmament strewn
With myriads of brilliants, that spangle the skies.
The ocean of ether around me, each star
Of the zodiac shining, above either pole,
Of the earth as a point in the distance afar,
And one flap of the wing, serves to traverse the whole.
The bounds which confine the wide sea, and the height
Which separates earth from the heavenly spheres;
The moon as a shield I behold in my flight,
And each spot on its surface distinctly appears.
The valley well known of Matanzas is nigh,
And trembling, my brother, I gaze on that place,
Where, cold and forgotten, the ashes now lie
Of the parents we clung to in boyhood's embrace.
How the sight of that place sent the blood to my heart,
I shudder e'en now to recal it, and yet
I'd remind you of wrongs we were wont to impart,
And to weep o'er in secret at night when we met.
I gazed on that spot, where together we played,
Our innocent pastimes came fresh to my mind;
Our mother's caresses, the fondness displayed,
In each word and each look of a parent so kind.
The ridge of that mountain, whose fastnesses wild
The fugitives seek, I beheld, and around
Plantations were scattered of late where they toiled,
And the graves of their comrades are now to be found.
The mill-house was there and its turmoil of old,
But sick of these scenes, for too well they were known;
I looked for the stream, where in childhood I strolled
By its banks when a moment of peace was my own.
But no recollections of pleasure or pain
Could drive the remembrance of thee from my core;
I sought my dear brother, embraced him again,
But found him a slave, as I left him before.
"Oh, Florence," I cried, "let us fly from this place,
The gloom of a dungeon is here to affright!
'Tis dreadful as death or its terrors to face,
And hateful itself as the scaffold to sight.
"Let us fly on the wings of the wind, let us fly,
And for ever abandon so hostile a soil
As this place of our birth, where our doom is to sigh
In hapless despair, and in bondage to toil."
To my bosom I clasped him, and winging once more
My flight in the air, I ascend with my charge,
The sultan I seem of the winds, as I soar,
A monarch whose will, sets the pris'ner at large.
Like Icarus boldly ascending on high,
I laugh at the anger of Minos, and see
A haven of freedom aloft, where I fly,
And the place where the slave from his master is free.
The rapture which Dædalus inly approved
To Athens from Crete, when pursuing his flight,
On impetuous pinions, I felt when I moved
Through an ocean of ether, so boundless and bright.
But the moment I triumphed o'er earth and its fears,
And dreamt of aspiring to heavenly joys:
Of hearing the music divine of the spheres,
And tasting of pleasure that care never cloys.
I saw in an instant, the face of the skies
So bright and serene but a moment before;
Enveloped in gloom, and there seemed to arise
The murmur preceding the tempest's wild roar.
Beneath me, the sea into fury was lashed,
Above me, the thunder rolled loudly, and now
The hurricane round me in turbulence dashed,
And the glare of the lightning e'en flashed on my brow.
The elements all seemed in warfare to be,
And succour or help there was none to be sought;
The fate of poor Icarus seemed now for me,
And my daring attempt its own punishment brought.
'Twas then, oh, my God! that a thunder-clap came,
And the noise of its crash broke the slumbers so light,
That stole o'er my senses and fettered my frame,
And the dream was soon over, of freedom's first flight.
And waking, I saw thee, my brother, once more,
The sky was serene and my terrors were past;
But doubt there was none of the tempests of yore
And the clouds that of old, our young hopes overcast.
A SPECIMEN OF INEDITED CUBAN POEMS, PRESENTED TO DR. MADDEN ON
HIS DEPARTURE FROM CUBA, And translated by him from the Spanish.
CUBA, of what avail that thou art fair!
Pearl of the seas, the pride of the Antilles!
If thy poor sons, have still to see thee share
The pangs of bondage, and its thousand ills;
Of what avail the verdure of thy hills? 5.
The purple bloom the coffee plain displays
Thy canes luxuriant growth; whose culture fills
More graves than famine, or the swords find ways
To glut with victims calmly as it slays.
Of what avail that thy sweet streams abound
With precious ore: if wealth there's none to buy,
Thy children's rights, and not one grain is found
For learning's shrine, or for the altar nigh,
Of poor, forsaken, downcast liberty! 5.
Of what avail the riches of thy port,
Forests of masts, and ships from every sea,
If trade alone is free, and man the sport,
The spoil of trade, bears wrongs of ev'ry sort?
Oh, if the name of Cuban! makes my breast
Thrill with a moment's pride, that soon is o'er,
Or throb with joy to dream that thou art blest!
Thy sons were free--thy soil unstained with gore.
Reproach awakes me, to assail once more, 5.
And taint that name, as if the loathsome pest
That spreads from slavery had seized the core,
Polluting both th' oppressor and the oppressed:-- Yet God be
thanked, it has not reached my breast.
'Tis not alone the wretched negro's fate
That calls for pity, sad as it may be;
There's more to weep for in that hapless state
Of men who proudly boast that they are free,
Whose moral sense is warped to that degree, 5.
That self-debasement seems to them unknown,
And life's sole object, is for means to play,
To roll a carriage, or to seek renown
In all the futile follies of the town.
Cuba! canst thou, my own beloved land,
Counsel thy children to withhold a curse,
And call to mind the deeds of that fell band
Whose boasted conquests, mark one frightful course
Of spoil and plunder, wrung by fraud or force; 5.
Of human carnage in religious gear,
Of peace destroyed--defenceless people worse
Than rudely outraged, nay, reserved to wear
Their lives away in bondage and despair?
To think unmoved of millions of our race,
Swept from thy soil by cruelties prolonged,
Another clime then ravaged to replace
The wretched Indians; Africa then wronged
To fill the void where myriads lately thronged, 5.
And add new guilt to that long list of crimes,
That cries aloud, in accents trumpet-tongued,
And shakes the cloud that gathers o'er these climes,
Portending evil and disastrous times.
Cuba, oh, Cuba, when they call thee fair!
And rich and beautiful, the Queen of isles!
Star of the West, and ocean's gem most rare!
Oh, say to them who mock thee with such wiles
Take of these flowers, and view these lifeless spoils 5.
That wait the worm; behold the hues beneath
The pale cold cheek, and seek for living smiles,
Where beauty lies not in the arms of death,
And bondage taints not with its poisoned breath.
IN RE, SLAVE-TRADE. QUESTIONS ADDRESSED TO SENOR--OF HAVANA,
BY R. R. MADDEN, AND ANSWERS THEREUNTO OF SENOR----.
Q. When was Las Casas's suggestion in favour of the importation
of African slaves, first acted on in Cuba? 43.
A. In 1523-4 three hundred negroes were introduced into Cuba
from Spain; and it is probable, that previously some had been brought in from
Q. From that period, during the first century of slavery here,
how many introduced? 45.
A. From 1523 to 1763 sixty thousand were brought in. 46.
Q. From that period, during the second century of slavery, how
many introduced? 47.
A. From 1764 to 1789, thirty thousand eight hundred and
Q. From that period, during the third century of slavery, how
many introduced? 49.
A. Through the Port of Havana from 1790 to 1821, 240,721; to
which may be added, for smuggled cargoes 60,180, including omissions of entries
and importations in other parts of the island. 50.
Q. How many in all from A. D. 1523 to 1840? 51.
A. Up to the year 1821, there were introduced 391,776, and from
1821 to 1840, calculating the imports, 20,000 negroes per annum, . . . . . .
360,000, [TOTAL] 751,776. 52.
Q. How many now in life, in Cuba, of the whole negro race? 53.
A. By the census of 1827, 393,436, but it may amount to
Q. How many then in slavery have perished in the island of
A. 450,000, because the slaves in existence amount to 370,000,
and taking from this number 80,000 which may be calculated as the number of
Creoles, there remain 290,000, which sum deducted from the total importations
751,776, according to Senor Arrango's authority, the mortality amounts to
460,776 negroes. 56.
Q. How many slaves in Cuba, and by what census determined?
Saco's estimate was made, about four years previously; there
is reason to believe in that period the actual number of slaves in Cuba has
increased to 430,000.--R. R. M.
A. By the census in 1827, 286,942; by the estimate of Saco,
Q. How many free-coloured people in Cuba, by the same census?
A. 106,494, but according to Saco, 140,000. 60.
Q. If the slave-trade were stopped, in how many years would the
slave-population be extinct, provided the system of management remained
A. In twenty years, or thereabouts; but the ordinary mortality
is calculated at 5 per cent., although it is certain that on the sugar
plantations the mortality is much greater; while in the towns, on coffee
properties, and other farms, the deaths are much less.
The mortality is, I think, under-rated that on sugar estates
being about 10 per cent., and on coffee estates 5 per cent.--R. R. M. 62.
Q. In what proportion on sugar estates are males to females?
A. Three to one, that is to say, three men to one female. 64.
Q. Ditto on coffee estates? 65.
A. One and a-half, or three males to two females. 66.
Q. What is the average mortality of slaves on a sugar estate?
A. Eight per cent. 68.
Q. What is the average mortality on a coffee estate? 69.
A. Two per cent. 70.
Q. Do the births exceed the deaths on sugar estates? 71.
A. Oh, no! 72.
Q. Do the births exceed the deaths on coffee estates? 73.
A. On many coffee plantations they do. 74.
Q. What is the current market price of an adult bozal male
A. From 350 to 400 dollars. 76.
Q. What is the current market price of an adult bozal female
A. Rather less, from seventeen doubloons to twenty-one. 78.
Q. What is the current market price of an adult Creole male
A. If he has no trade the same as a bozal, but less if he is a
native of a town, and is destined for field labour; but if he is a Creole
prædial slave, and is destined for agriculture, then he is worth more than a
Q. What is the current market price of an adult Creole female
A. Rather less than that of the male. 84.
Q. What is the current market price of a child of ten years of
A. From 150 to 200 dollars. 86.
Q. What is the current market price of a Creole child before
A. Twenty-five dollars, or fifty dollars eight days after
Q. At what price can the slave-mother purchase the unborn
child's freedom? 89.
A. Twenty-five dollars. 90.
Q. How are negroes paid for in general, in cash or by bills?
A. In both ways; generally by the latter, together with
interest at five per cent. a month. 92.
Q. What is a negro now worth on the Gold Coast? 93.
A. He would cost from 60 to 68 dollars. 94.
Q. How do the slave-factors and captains pay for the negroes?
A. One negro with another, the slaves stand them in from 50 to
60 dollars a head, buying by the lot in Africa, but the price varies according
to the place where they are bought and the state of the market? 96.
Q. What kind of goods are sent from Cuba to Africa in exchange
for negroes? 97.
A. Both goods and money are sent. Doubloons, dollars, aguadente
powder, guns, copper vessels, all classes of cotton goods. 98.
Q. Are these chiefly of British manufacture? 99.
A. Almost all. 100.
Q. How are these British goods called? 101.
A. As specified in answer 27. 102.
Q. Where do the shackles come from, used in this trade? 103.
A. The chains, manacles, and other fetters must be of English
manufacture, of which class all descriptions of iron ware brought here, are
known to be. 104.
Q. To what amount are goods sent from Cuba to Africa in
exchange for slaves a-year? 105.
A. To answer this question it is essential to know the number
of slave-ships, and of that we are ignorant. 106.
Q. To what amount is money sent for the same purpose? 108.
A. See the preceding answer. 109.
Q. What number of ships may be employed in this trade between
Cuba and Africa? 110.
A. We yet are not in possession of sufficient data to answer
this question with respect to the Havana, but as to Matanzas we can declare
with certainty, that from fifteen to twenty ships are annually dispatched for
Africa by various Catalans. 111.
Q. Under what flags do they chiefly sail? 112.
A. Almost all under the Portuguese flag; and those which
proceed from Havana with the Spanish flag or American, change again in the
Portuguese islands of Cape de Verds. 113.
Q. Where are they built? 114.
A. The greater part in the United States, chiefly in Baltimore;
even some are constructed in the Havana; some likewise in Matanzas; we know of
a schooner built in Matanzas, by a company of Catalans, which the curate
baptized, as if its mission was for the redemption of captives, and its people
a band of brothers of the order of mercy. 115.
Q. Where are they insured, what is the insurance now on slave
A. They were insured formerly by the Insurance company of
Havana from 25 to 38 per cent. This company has now ceased to insure vessels
from Africa. Certain individuals here now insure them at prices extremely high.
Q. What number of slaves, one vessel with another, do they
A. The greater part of the vessels sent from here are schooners
and pilot-boats from 70 to 100 tons; these carry from 200 to 400 negroes. Ships
and brigs also are employed in this trade, which go very far to the south; the
first-named ships carrying 800 negroes, and the others 500 and 550. 119.
Q. Do the slaves suffer more or less on the Middle Passage than
A. Perhaps less, but not on account of any decrease in the
trade, but on account of the imperceptible progress of civilization.
I doubt the correctness of this answer.--R. R. M. 121.
Q. Have you heard of any instances of half the cargo perishing
on the voyage? 122.
A. Yes; and even more than half. 123.
Q. What is the average loss on the passage? 124.
A. A loss of one-fifth part of the cargo may be calculated on.
Q. What ought to be the clear gain on a cargo of 500 slaves
landed at Havana? 127.
A. From 120,000 to 130,000 dollars. 128.
Q. If a slave-trade merchant has five vessels in the trade, and
four are captured, if one arrives safe does he lose or gain? 129.
A. He loses the expense of an expedition to the coast amounting
to 40,000 dollars for 500 slaves, these cost 175,000 or 200,000 dollars, and
the gain on one cargo is what we have stated above. 130.
Q. Does the wealth acquired in this trade remain in Cuba, or
benefit the legal trade of the island? 131.
A. Yes; it does. 132.
Q. What punishment is inflicted on those found on board
captured slave ships? 133.
A. The Spanish government reserved to itself the right of
framing a penal law, at the time of concluding the last treaty, to punish
persons employed in the trade in slaves, but it never has been promulgated.
Q. Would the punishment of death for this crime tend to
suppress it? 135.
A. No; the penalty of death inflicted in this case (similia
similibus) would be only one atrocity opposed to another. 136.
Q. Has the government of Cuba instructions to suppress it? 137.
A. Yes; and it would be well if the Captain-general had only
the inclination to suppress it. 138.
Q. Has it the desire to suppress it? 139.
A. None whatever; because the authorities believe that on it
depends the material prosperity of the island, from which the mother-country
draws three or four millions of dollars a-year in contributions. 140.
Q. Have the Spanish governors of Cuba instructions to suppress
A. Yes; they have public instructions, wrung from the
government when the English cabinet is importunate with that of Madrid. 142.
Q. Did the late Governor-general Tacon endeavour to suppress
A. No; it was he who protected it. 144.
Q. Do the Captain-generals receive a sum of ten dollars a-head
for permission to land the slaves? 145.
A. Before Tacon's time, the subordinate authorities received
this money, but it is not known if the Captain-generals were privy to it; but
Tacon organized the plan of this contribution so, that the whole of it went
into his hands, that is to say, eight and a-half dollars, not ten. 146.
Q. What other authorities receive money for the same purpose?
A. In the capital, no others; but in the other chief ports of
the island, all the authorities, especially of the marine, participate in it?
Q. What amount of money did General Tacon receive during the
four years he was in Cuba, in this way? 150.
A. 450,000 dollars, and this fact is known and given from
documents with the precise data on this point. 151.
Q. How was that money applied? 152.
A. It was invested in bills of exchange, on Paris and London.
Q. For what service did the eminent slave-dealer, Joaquin
Gomez, get the title of Excellentissimo? 154.
A. We cannot tell. 155.
Q. Was this Excellentissimo Senor a confidential adviser of
A. We have reason to believe so. 157.
Q. Was this person appointed by Tacon to the office of
protector of the emancipated slaves? 158.
A. We are ignorant who the protector of slaves is, but certain
it is, that he was charged by Tacon with the distribution of the emancipated
negroes, and the realization of the funds which their sale produced. 159.
Q. Was Senor Gomez a fit person for that office? 160.
A. See the former reply. 161.
Q. Has he duly performed the duties of his office? 162.
A. The duties of distributor and disposer of the emancipadoes,
Q. Is there any other person associated with Gomez in the
office of protector of emancipated slaves? 164.
A. For that of protector--No; but for that of distributor and
disposer, there were associated with him, the Most Excellent the Count of the
Reunion, and a member of the Municipal Council, Senor Cabrera. 165.
Q. Has that person been engaged in the slave-trade? 166.
A. Yes; he has been, and is, like the greater part of the
capitalists of the Havana. 167.
Q. What was the price of an emancipated negro, in Tacon's time?
A. From six to nine doubloons each. 169.
Q. What may be the number living of emancipated slaves,
A. We do not know. 171.
Q. Has a single one of these emancipadoes ever acquired his
A. We believe not; but it has been said, that one did get his
liberty lately, through the interference of one of the officers employed in the
Q. Is it likely that the emancipadoes ever will be liberated?
A. Most certainly not, the government refuses to liberate them.
On one occasion, some of these emancipadoes having sought their liberty,
offering for it, the price that any person would have given to retain them in
their service; the government refused, stating that if they did, they might
escape from the island--this was in the time of Tacon. 175.
Q. Was it the custom in Tacon's time to sell them for terms of
seven and ten years? 176.
A. Yes; for seven years. 177.
Q. To what class of persons was it customary to sell them, and
under what names was the price paid? 178.
A. To all who sought for them--whose money was received as a
compensation for the labour of the emancipado, who was already destined to be
employed on the public works, as in the mending of roads, reparation of
bridges, construction of prisons, laying out of gardens. 179.
Q. Have these emancipadoes, to your knowledge, been sold twice
A. Yes. 181.
Q. Are these emancipadoes better or worse off than the slaves?
A. They are in a worse condition. 183.
Q. How may they be worse off? 184.
A. Because even offering the price of their liberty the
government refuses to receive it, they are considered as slaves for life. 185.
Q. Do they receive any moral or religious instruction? 186.
A. No; except the few who find themselves in the hands of some
woman of piety or individual in some obscure station. 187.
Q. Do they receive any wages for themselves? 188.
A. None. 189.
Q. Are the intentions of the British government fulfilled with
respect to them? 190.
A. From what has been said it may be judged. 191.
Q. Is it desirable that the British government should apply for
their removal from slavery here? 192.
A. Yes; and very expedient too. 193.
Q. If the British government offered to remove them free of all
cost to the authorities, would they be given up? 194.
A. We believe they would. 195.
Q. Was it one of the original stipulations that they should not
be removed out of the district of Havana? 196.
A. It was. 197.
Q. Have they been distributed over the island? 198.
A. They have. 199.
Q. Have many of them been sold by Tacon to the Agent of any
British Mining Company at St. Jago de Cuba? 200.
A. We do not know. 201.
Q. Have you heard wherever one of them was on an estate, it was
customary when the death of a slave occurred to represent the death as being
that of an emancipado? 202.
A. We have heard a great many cases of the kind. 203.
Q. And did the emancipadoes thus pass into slavery? 204.
A. They did. 205.
Q. Have you any idea of the number of them that died of the
A. It is difficult to know. 207.
Q. May I ask your opinion of the conduct of General Tacon with
respect to the emancipadoes? 208.
A. With respect to the emancipadoes, his conduct was infamous,
because he reduced them to a state of misery, worse than the condition of the
Q. Are the emancipadoes in reality slaves or freemen? 210.
A. Slaves!!! 211.
Q. Should not General Tacon be impeached in Spain for selling
and re-selling these freemen, under the pretext of his voluntary contributions?
A. General Tacon has not been badly thought of in Spain, and
none of his measures have been disapproved of by the Spanish government. 213.
Q. What agent of General Tacon's received for him the ten
dollars a-head importation fee on the negroes? 214.
A. An adventurer who was his "major domo," Senor Luanco. 215.
Q. Did General Tacon, on his arrival here, make any avowal of
his sentiments with respect to the slave-trade? 216.
A. None. 217.
Q. Within what distance of General Tacon's country-house were
the principal bozal negro barricones situated? 218.
A. About 100 or 150 yards from his gardens, they exist still in
the sight of all the world, the railway passes in front of them. 219.
(Signed) * * * * * 220.
R. R. MADDEN. 221.
Havana, July 1st, 1839. 222.
QUESTIONS RESPECTING THE STATE OF RELIGION IN CUBA, ADDRESSED
TO SENOR * * * OF THE HAVANA, BY R. R. M. AND THE ANSWERS GIVEN TO THEM.
Q. How many bishoprics in the Island of Cuba? 223.
A. Two; one in the Havana, and an archbishopric in St. Jago de
Q. Is that of St. Jago de Cuba superior in rank to that of the
A. It is, being the metropolitan, but its revenue is smaller;
in matters of dispute the appeals are reciprocal from one bishopric to another.
Q. How is that of the Havana administered? 227.
A. By the archbishop of Guatemala residing at the Havana, who
was exiled from the former place by the government; and shortly after his
arrival here, he received from Rome, faculties to administer the affairs of
this diocese as its bishop. 228.
Q. How is that of Cuba administered? 229.
A. Its archbishop being absent, in spiritual matters, it is
governed by a parish priest; in secular matters by a curate, both supposed to
have been appointed by the Spanish government. 230.
Q. With whom does the nomination rest? 231.
A. The Court of Spain have the privilege of nominating bishops,
which nomination is subject to the sanction of the Pope. 232.
Q. What is the revenue of the archbishop of Cuba? 233.
A. Not known. 234.
Q. What is the revenue of the archbishop of Havana? 235.
A. It formerly amounted to 80,000 dollars, now it amounts to
50,000; the revenues have diminished, with the falling off in the tithes. 236.
Q. When the See of either is vacant, who receives the revenue?
A. The Crown. 238.
Q. What portion of that of Havana does the State receive? 239.
A. The revenues of the bishopric are composed, first, of a part
of the tithes; and, secondly, of the church revenues, furnished by the parish
dues, for births, deaths, marriages, & c.; of which the State takes no
(Note, it is the general opinion, however, that the present
bishop receives only a small portion of the revenues of the See, the State
receiving a considerable portion of them.--R. R. M.) 241.
Q. What is the number of parishes in the Island? 242.
A. In St. Jago de Cuba, 38; in the Havana district, 117. 243.
Q. What is the number of friars or monks in the island? 244.
A. In July, 1837, there were 150 monks (priests), 15 choristers
and 65 lay-brothers. 245.
Q. Does the State give any stipend to the monks and friars?
A. None; they support themselves out of their own means. 247.
Q. Are tithes still a legal impost? 248.
A. They are. 249.
Q. Have they been abolished by the Cortes, and when? 250.
A. Their abolition had been warmly contended for in the Cortes
in 1838; however it has been determined they should be collected the present
Q. Does the abolition extend to this island? 252.
A. We imagine if they were even definitively abolished in
Spain, the abolition would not extend to this island. 253.
Q. What is the gross value of the tithes of Cuba? 254.
A. The tithes of Cuba amount to 416,000 dollars; the ninth part
goes for the support of the public hospitals, to the Royal Treasury (Real
Hacienda), which is also entitled to the tithes of the best property finca) of
the parish, which is called "Casa escusada," the remainder into equal portions;
one goes to the treasury, and the other to the bishop, canons, and parish
Q. Do they extend to all kinds of agricultural products? 256.
A. They do not. 257.
Q. How many cathedrals in the Island? 258.
A. Two; one at St. Jago de Cuba, and another at Havana. 259.
Q. Do the clergy receive dues for christenings, burials, and
A. They do. 261.
Q. What is the amount for a christening? 262.
A. Six reals (de plata) or three-quarters of a dollar. 263.
Q. What is the amount for a burial? 264.
A. Seven dollars and a-half. 265.
Q. What is the amount for a marriage? 266.
A. From five to forty, or fifty dollars, according to the means
of the parties.
This evidently applies to towns. In the country, where the
priest has to come from a distant part of his parish, I have known as much as
six doubloons or 102 dollars, demanded for the marriage ceremony by the
clergyman.--R. R. M. 267.
Q. What portion of these go the Parish priest? 269.
A. The fourth part. 270.
Q. How is the rest disposed of? 271.
A. Divided between the Bishop, the Curate or "Sacristian
Mayor," and a church fund. 272.
Q. Can one priest hold two parishes? 273.
A. Yes, "ad interim." 274.
Q. With whom does the appointment to a parish rest? 275.
A. The bishop--who nominates after the candidate has sustained
a public theological discussion. 276.
Q. How are the religious houses maintained? 277.
A. In the convents all who wish to enter are received, if the
applicants are favourably known:--Bastardy is no hinderance, neither is
obscurity of birth. The nuns require applicants for admission into their
communities--to be persons of good origin--they require "liempieza de sangre."
The stipend of a monk varies from 250 to 600 dollars a year, according to the
revenues of his convent. 278.
Q. What is the average income of a secular priest of Cuba? 279.
A. According to the capital of his "capellania," from the
income of which he is bound to maintain himself; as no priest can be ordained
who does not possess a certain capital, and this is called his "capellania,"
unless he is sent as a curate to some other parish, his stipend then would
average 25 or 30 dollars a month. The parish priest receives from 800 to 1000
dollars a year, the canons 4000 dollars, the inferior prebends 2000, and the
superior prebends 3000 dollars--the dignitaries (los dignidades) 4500, and
deans 6000 dollars. 280.
Q. What sort of influence recommends a priest for a curacy?
A. Their favour or influence with the bishop. 282.
Q. Are the clergy amenable to the common civil tribunals? 283.
A. They are not, they are subject to the ecclesiastical
tribunals during their lives. 284.
Q. Have any recent laws in Spain affected their privileges?
A. In Spain they have been deprived of the privilege of being
elected deputies of the Cortes. 286.
Q. Are any ecclesiastical offences punishable by civil law?
A. Ecclesiastical offences are taken cognizance of by
ecclesiastical courts, but crimes committed by priests, as citizens, are taken
cognizance of by the civil tribunals. 288.
Q. Is it lawful for ecclesiastics to follow the profession of
the law? 289.
A. It is; but they cannot plead in criminal causes in the civil
courts: but they can plead in these causes in the ecclesiastical courts. 290.
Q. To what extent are the monasteries endowed with lands? 291.
A. The territorial property in the towns and in the country of
the convents, of the monks, and of the nunneries, amounts to 3,652,685 dollars
by their own estimate, of the 11th of July, 1837; besides the other property of
the convents which may safely be estimated at 3,500,000 dollars more--in all,
In English money, say £1,430,537 sterling.--R. R. M. 292.
Q. Do they possess much property in slaves? 294.
A. The convent of Bethlehem is the only one which possesses a
considerable number of slaves. The richest order in Cuba is that of Bethlehem.
Q. Are the libraries of the convents valuable? 296.
A. Yes; in books of scholastic theology. 297.
Q. Has any order been received for their suppression? 298.
A. Yes, on their suppression in Spain; but General Tacon
opposed the suppression, considering them to have great influence in the
country, which is false.
If General Tacon opposed their suppression without desiring
or contributing to their reformation, then indeed his view of their influence
was false.--R. R. M.299.
Q. Has it been acted on? 301.
A. The property of the convents has been put up to sale to the
amount of 2,000,000 of dollars to meet the war subsidy for Spain. 302.
(But no sale was effected up to October 1839, R. R. M.) 303.
Q. Has their property been sequestered? 304.
A. All their property has been sequestered by a royal order of
Dec. 2nd, 1836, promulgated in February 1837. 305.
Q. Has the state made any provision for them? 306.
A. Notwithstanding the order, as they yet receive their
revenues, the state has had no necessity of assigning any stipends for them.
Q. Does the Franciscan order hold property in land? 308.
A. It does not. Its means consist of capital invested for its
use, as pious bequests for funeral masses, and the service of religion on
certain festivals, besides they seek eleemosynary assistance all over the
(Note--This order especially at Guanabucoa is deservedly the
most respected of all in the island. R. R. M.) 311.
Q. To what authority or tribunal are the friars amenable? 312.
A. To their respective conventual superiors. 313.
Q. How many nunneries in the island? 314.
A. Four in Havana, and one in Puerto Principe. 315.
Q. What is the number of religious women in them? 316.
A. One hundred and twenty-six nuns professed, and nine novices,
in July 1837. 317.
Q. Are the nuns allowed to leave their convents? 318.
A. Once received they are not allowed to leave their convents.
(Note--Except in cases of extreme illness. R. R. M.) 320.
Q. Is there any fixed sum for entrance into them? 321.
A. The sum of 300 dollars for each, some are admitted gratis.
Q. Are the women who take the veil of the higher classes? 323.
A. Generally they are--but now not so much so, as at former
Q. Are there female schools attached to the nunneries? 325.
A. By the royal orders of 1824 and 1826, schools were directed
to be established, but now these exist only in the Ursuline Convent by its
Q. Is there any convent of the sisters of charity here? 327.
A. No. 328.
Q. Are these convents possessed of much property? 329.
A. Yes; for the dowers received, go on increasing. The convent
of Santa Clara is the richest. 330.
Q. Are they possessed of property in slaves? 331.
A. Some nuns, such as are rich chiefly, hold domestic slaves.
Q. Which of the convents possess most property? 333.
A. Santa Clara. 334.
Q. Have any of the nunneries been suppressed? 335.
A. None. 336.
Q. Is any portion of the tithes applicable to educational
A. Not any. 338.
Q. Have the poor, the sick, and the aged, any claim on them?
A. The revenues of the bishop are supposed to be held in
stewardship for these persons, and according as the ideas of such a
responsibility are, on the part of a prelate, so are his duties well or ill
Q. Are there any poor schools supported by the clergy? 341.
A. Not one. 342.
Q. What is the number of churches in this island? 343.
A. One hundred and seventy-one in all--of which 155 are
parochial, five monasterial, and eleven conventual. 344.
Q. What is the number of priests of all denominations in this
A. Four hundred and twenty-five in all, of which in the diocese
of Havana there are 150 exclusive of parish priests, and in St. Jago de Cuba
50. In that of Havana 117 parish priests, and 38 in that of Cuba; 55 curates in
the former and 15 in Cuba. 346.
Q. What is the total population of Cuba of blacks and whites?
A. Total population of the island, according to the official
statistics of 1830 was 775,195 souls; and now 1839, it may be estimated at one
Q. What is the proportion of the clergy to the population? 349.
A. About one priest for every 2000 souls. 350.
Q. Is it incumbent on country pastors to visit slave
A. They go there only when they are sent for to baptize or to
marry slaves. 352.
(Note--For the latter purpose they are hardly ever sent for to
the estates. R. R. M.) 353.
Q. Are such plantations usually far distant from a church? 354.
A. Yes; there are parishes whose jurisdiction extends as far as
eight leagues. 355.
Q. Is it usual for the slaves to attend divine worship? 356.
A. On the sugar estates it is not, on the coffee estates in a
very few, on the smaller farms which are situated near a church, the slaves are
permitted to go to church on Sundays. 357.
Q. Is there any instruction in the doctrines of christianity on
A. When the time of making sugar is over during crop time, it
is customary to repeat the rosary on the estates, this is the only religious
practice; as to instruction in the morals or in the dogma of religion, the
masters themselves are not conversant with them, "esta es la unica practica
religiosa que tienen, en cuanto a instruction de la moral y de los dogmas--ni
los amos la tienen." 359.
Q. Is free access afforded to the clergy on the estates? 360.
A. The parish priests are privileged to reprove the masters for
neglecting the due instruction of their slaves in the doctrine and precepts of
the church; but none of them avail themselves of their privilege. 361.
Q. Are the country clergy usually slave-holders themselves?
A. Yes; the most of them hold landed property, "fincas
rurales," with the slaves which correspond to their farms, which they treat in
the same way as the other inhabitants of the Island. 363.
Q. Had Las Casas any ecclesiastical sanction for the first
slave importations? 364.
A. For the answer to this question, see the life of Las Casas,
by Quintana, in his 3rd vol. of Espanoles celebres--here you will find that far
from considering he had any sanction of the kind for the error he had fallen
into, he had soon become convinced of it, and heartily repented of it. 365.
Q. Has the slave-trade ever had any sanction from Rome? 366.
A. My opinion is, that no council ever sanctioned the slavery
of the negroes, and most assuredly the Council of Trent does not. On this
point, the opinions of the learned divines in Spain, in the 16th century, may
be collected from the writings of Dom. de Sota, professor of Jurisprudence in
Salamanca, and confessor of Charles the Fifth, who sent him as theologian to
the Council of Trent; he expresses himself thus, in his work de "Justitia et
Jure," printed at Salamanca, 1540.--"If what is told of the Portuguese traders,
be true, that they entrap unfortunate negroes on the coasts, then embark them
as slaves; it is my opinion that neither those who take them--nor those who buy
them--nor those who possess them, can be said to have clear consciences, while
they do not manumit them; when these slaves are not able to redeem themselves."
Q. Are the clergy generally advocates of slavery in Cuba? 368.
A. The clergy here follow blindly the impulse of those moral
causes which warp the public mind, and debase it to the point of defending the
injustice of slavery. 369.
Q. Can the state of religious opinion be much lower, short of
general indifference or disbelief? 370.
A. To me it seems it can not. 371.
Q. Is indifference or unbelief the prevailing evil. 372.
A. Indifference is much more common than incredulity among the
lower orders and the uneducated higher classes, which are the most numerous
here. On the contrary, the lawyers, physicians, official persons, and in fine
the gentry, who have any pretence to intelligence, it is amongst these that
increaulity prevails. 373.
Q. In what class has religion most votaries. 374.
A. Amongst the free negroes and coloured people, and also in
many of the old families in the principal towns, and amongst those in the
suburbs of the Havana. 375.
Q. Does infidelity arise here, from ill-directed studies or
philosophical research? 376.
A. Nothing of the kind; in part it arises from the profoundest
ignorance of everything relative to metaphysics; and in part from the reading
of those books of the infidel French philosophers of the last age. 377.
Q. Does it allow any serious inquiries into the nature of
revealed religion? 378.
A. Much less--here no other inquiries are made, except about
the price of sugar and coffee. 379.
Q. Does it arise from the intolerance here of any other form of
worship than that of the Roman Catholic? 380.
A. Neither is that the case, notwithstanding in these latter
times, there have not been wanting men of intelligence, who seeing the
corruption of the clergy, as they imagined the chief cause of the deplorable
state in which religion is found here, have desired to see tolerated the free
exercise of all forms of christian worship. 381.
Q. Do you consider the abuses of religion arise from the
influence of its connexion with the state 382.
A. The demoralization that prevails here is a complex fact,
whose causes are various--viz., political despotism, domestic slavery, and
Q. What influence has slavery on the religious sentiments of
the people? 384.
A. The influence which it ever has produced in every community
where slavery exists: see the profound treatise on "Legislation," by Mons.
Charles Comte, liv. 5, on the subject of slavery. 385.
Q. Is the laxity of discipline in the church of Cuba so great
as to need reformation, and is that reformation to be expected for the revival
of religion in the land. 386.
A. The church of Spain has produced learned theologians, who
respecting the evangelical doctrines have criticised with sufficient freedom,
the abuses in the discipline of our church, which have frequently destroyed the
spirit of the dogma, and discredited the doctrines of our religion. 387.
Q. How is the laxity of discipline to be remedied? 388.
A. In the state of prostration in which we find the heads of
the church here, I see no other remedy than to preach the faith in the
periodical publications of the day.
This opinion I cannot coincide in--the remedy would never
reach the evil that preys upon the morals of the land.--R. R. M. 389.
Q. By what means are the removal of these evils, and the rescue
of the people from infidelity, to be expected? 391.
A. It is to be observed, our clergy are, generally speaking,
neither enlightened nor moral men, they are devoid of zeal for their holy
mission, and unworthy of it--exceptions there are, but they are very few. 392.
Q. If the clergy do not call for the removal of these scandals,
and the people do not think of the necessity, ought not the literary men of
Cuba to originate the demand for the convocation of a council for this purpose?
A. It is to public opinion, and not to our rulers or
authorities, we must look for these reforms. 394.
Q. Is it not incumbent on the intelligence of your community,
on your men of letters, to come forward and help to remove these evils? 395.
A. In this community, there are not above three or four men of
letters, by profession, and of this number, one or two who are believers in
Q. Is the gospel at present preached in the churches--or
practised in the cloisters? 397.
A. No; it is neither preached in the churches--nor read nor
meditated on in families, which are denominated christian. In the pulpit, they
preach panegyrics, in the houses they repeat devotional words, but they do not
pray, they mechanically move their lips--and this is all their homage to the
Almighty, while in the cloisters, which already begin to be deserts, the
precepts of the gospel have been brought into contempt.
From this censure, I grieve to say but too well founded,
there are two convents that are entirely exempt, one of Franciscans at
Guanabucoa, and another of the order of St. Philip of Neri at Havana; and from
my own knowledge of both, I can say with truth, that the service of the church,
and the rites of religion, are most piously performed and observed, and the
minsters of both establishments are most highly respected by those who attend
their churches.--R. R. M. Signed,---- R. R. M. Havana, Sept., 1839. 398.
NECESSITY OF SEPARATING THE IRISH IN AMERICA FROM THE SIN OF
THERE is one subject which peculiarly demands the attention of
the people and clergy of Ireland. The evils connected with it, no effort of the
government can reach, but the subject is one, to which attention may be
directed with great advantage. I allude to the use that is made in America of
the extraordinary political influence of the poor people of Ireland who
emigrate to that country, and to the efforts that ought to be made to give them
right and wholesome feelings on the subject of slavery, and a just
understanding of the value of those efforts that are made to right the wronged;
although the persons that are injured, and whose rights are outraged, are men
of a different complexion to their own. It is impossible for any one who has
not visited America, to conceive what an extraordinary influence on the
government of that country the votes of the Irish people have, or how little
beneficial use they make of the power they possess and exercise at the hustings
with such extraordinary effect. 400.
With regard to the opinions of the Irish settlers in America on
the question of slavery, I speak from my own experience of this matter; and, I
may truly add, I speak of it with regret, and have witnessed it with feelings
of surprise and sorrow. Surely they have been "as strangers" themselves in
their own land, "and should know the hearts of strangers." The truth ought to
be known, and the evil that exists of the ignorance of our countrymen
abroad--of the national rights of men of all classes, creeds, and colours,
should be remedied by all speedy and seasonable means. They should not be left
to depart from our own shores, ignorant that there does not exist in nature, in
religion, or in civil polity, a reason for robbing any man of his liberty, be
he black or white--that there is neither truth, justice, nor humanity in the
declarations they hear, that slavery is consonant to the condition of negro
men, has a sanction in nature, or is sanctified by the permission of any
christian church. The fact must be forced on their attention--that slavery has
no sanction from their church--that to devote one-fourth part of the habitable
globe to perpetual bloodshed and warfare--to give up the vast continent of
Africa to the ravages of the man-robbers who deal in flesh and blood--the
marauders who sack the towns and villages--the merchant-murderers who ply the
odious trade, who separate the child from the mother, the husband from the
wife, father from the son, is a monstrous system of cruelty that, in any of its
forms, is intolerable and unjust. The state of things of which I speak I have
myself seen; and the experience I have alluded to, is the result of what I have
observed on three occasions that I have visited the United States during the
last six years. Of the necessity that exists for diffusing sounder opinions on
the subject of slavery, I am sure I need bring forward no other argument than
this--that if the political influence of the Irish settlers and emigrants of
America were exerted in favour of the cause of the abolition of slavery in the
United States, that system could not possibly endure! That the Irish in America
exert an extraordinary political influence--that they have it in their power to
decide the great political interests of the republic, and to give the
preponderance to the party which actually returns the President of the United
States, cannot be denied by any one conversant with the political struggles of
America; and with regard to the great question of slavery, I grieve to be
obliged to state that they are not only apathetic and indifferent on the
subject of the emancipation of the slaves, but that they are even strenuously
opposed to the efforts of those who labour in behalf of this cause of justice
and humanity in the United States. They have mistaken views of the men who are
interested in it, and of the object, for which their exertions are made. But
from my own knowledge of such men as Garrison, Tappan, Birney, Levitt, Jay, and
Smyth, I am so fully convinced of their singleness of purpose, genuine
philanthropy, and the heroic fortitude and truly Christian forbearance of those
men, I can safely state, that never were the efforts of good men more
needlessly suspected or more entirely misunderstood.401.
I therefore consider it of the utmost moment that the persons
interested in this cause in Ireland, and the clergy of the Roman Catholic
church especially, should labour to inculcate sounder opinions on the subject
of slavery amongst the lower classes of our countrymen; and particularly that
their opinions in reprobation of this accursed system of slavery should be made
known as extensively as possible, through the Catholic priesthood in America,
to the Irish emigrants in that country. There can be no doubt on the mind of
any person who has recently visited America that great ignorance prevails on
this subject; and that the grossest prejudices are entertained against the
slaves by our countrymen; and in fact, that they look upon all those who differ
from them in complexion as inferior to them in every moral attribute. It is a
melancholy fact that, such is the evil influence of slavery in every country
where it exists, that the notions of the best men become perverted, and that
men are let down by such easy stages from crime to crime, that even the
ministers of the gospel, of all persuasions, fall insensibly from the
contemplation and intoleration of slavery into the practice of it. When I have
argued with gentlemen of this class, holding slave property in Cuba, against
the system, as incompatible with that of christianity, I have been told that
slavery was not only compatible with it, but had the positive sanction of the
church for its support. I was not satisfied that such was the fact, and on
anxiously inquiring, myself, into the truth of those statements, no doubt
whatever was left on my mind that the religion they professed had been
maligned. The result of these inquiries I now lay before you, and the
authorities adduced will enable you to judge, whether religion is responsible
for the atrocities which are committed in Cuba and elsewhere, and even
tolerated by some otherwise good men, who, not knowing the tenets of their
religion, and being left in ignorance of its express ordinances and
obligations, believe that slavery and the slave-trade are actually sanctioned
by their creed, and not opposed to it either in letter or in spirit:--
AUTHORITIES FROM THE FATHERS, THE DOCTRINES OF THE CHURCH, AND THE DECREES OF
THE POPES, AGAINST SLAVERY, AND HISTORICAL, ECCLESIASTICAL REFERENCES TO THE
CONDUCT OF THE CLERGY.402.
"St. Anselm, in 1102, held a national council in St. Peter's
church at Westminster, in which, among other things, it was forbid to sell men
like cattle, which had till then been practised in England."--Butler's
"In the great provincial council of all the bishops subject to
the see of Canterbury, presided over by Archbishop Walfred, in presence of
Kenulf, King of Mercia, it was enacted, on the death of a bishop, that, three
slaves should be set at liberty, and three shillings be given to cash."--Life
of St. Willibrord.404.
"The great synod of Armagh, at a period of general
consternation declared 'that the public calamities were to be held as an
infliction of divine justice on account of the sins of the Irish people, and
more especially because that in former times they used to make bond-slaves of
the English, whom they had purchased as well from merchants as from robers and
pirates--a crime for which God now took vengeance upon them by delivering them
into like bondage themselves. For the English people,' it was added, 'while yet
their kingdom was in a state of security, were accustomed, through a common
vice of the nation, to expose their children for sale. And,' adds the
historian, 'acting upon the spirit of these humane and Christian views, the
synod unanimously decreed and ordered' that all the English throughout the
island who were in a state of slavery should be restored to their former
freedom."--Moore's History of Ireland, vol. ii. p. 232.405.
(This general act of emancipation of slaves, it is worthy of
notice, is the first on record in any European country.)406.
The Northumbrians, according to Malmesbury, sold their own
children for slaves, and the pious author of the life of St. Augustine, the
apostle of England, reprobating slavery, says these slave-traders of
Northumbria "surpassed in barbarism and ferocity the negroes of this day." Life
of St. Augustine.407.
"St. Raymond, of Pennafort, concerted with St. Peter Nolasco
the foundation of the order of mercy, for the redemption of captives.--Life of
St. Raymond of Pennafort.408.
"St. John the Almoner (Patriarch) sent two bishops and an abbot
to ransom captives."--St. John's Life.409.
"St. Sulpicius Severus set at liberty several of his slaves,
and admitted them and some of his old stewards to familiar intercourse and
conversation."--St. Sepulcius Severus.410.
"St. Elegius, Bishop of Noyan, was particularly zealous to
ransom captives. When a slave was to be sold in any neighbouring place he
hastened thither, and sometimes ransomed fifty or a hundred at a time,
especially Saxons, who were sold in great numbers."--Life of St. Elegius.411.
"St. Francis Xavier walked through the streets of Goa with a
bell in his hand, summoning all masters, for the love of God, to send their
children and slaves to catechism; and such was the effect of his preaching,
restitution was made of unjust gains, slaves who had been unjustly acquired
were set at liberty."--Life of St. Francis Xavier.412.
"St. Bathildes, Queen of France, forbade christians to be made
slaves, gave great numbers their liberty, and declared all capable of property.
The Franks still retained slaves, with this condition, attached to certain
manors or farms, and bound to certain particular kinds of servitude. The kings
of the second race often set great numbers free, and were imitated by other
lords. Queen Blanche and St. Lewis contributed more than any others to ease the
condition of the vassals; and Lewis Huttin abolished slavery in France,
declaring all men free who live in that kingdom, according to the spirit of
christianity, which teaches us to treat all men as our brethren."--Butler's
"In 1610, the pious Father Claver was sent to preach the faith
to the infidels at Carthage and the neighbouring country in Africa. At the
first sight of the poor negro slaves he was moved with the strongest sentiments
of compassion, tenderness, and zeal, which never forsook him, and it was his
constant study to afford them all the temporal comfort in his power. The title
in which he gloried was that of the slave of slaves."--Hist. de Eccles. de
"St. Gregory the Great (Pope) happened one day to be walking
through the market, and here taking notice that certain youths of fine features
and complexions were exposed for sale, he inquired what countrymen they were?
and was answered they came from Britain."--Life of St. Gregory. To this
circumstance is due the mission of St. Augustine to England.415.
St. Euphrasia on renouncing the world, writes to her
friends:--"For the sake of my parents be pleased to distribute their estates
among the poor, the orphans, and the church. Set all my slaves at liberty, and
discharge my vassals and servants, giving them whatever is their due."--Life of
"Genseric, the Arian king of the Vandals, plundered Rome and
brought innumerable captives from Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica, into
Africa, whom the Moors and Vandals shared among them on the shore, separating,
without any regard or compassion, weeping wives from their husbands, and
children from their parents; St. Deogratias sold everything, even the gold and
silver vessels of the church to redeem as many as possible; he provided
lodgings and beds, and furnished them with all succours, and though in a
decripit old age, visited them that were sick every day and often in the
night."--Life of St. Deogratias.417.
"After the departure of the Vandals with their captives and an
immense booty, St. Leo sent zealous Catholic priests and alms for the relief of
the captives in Africa."--Life of St. Leo the Great (Pope.)418.
"St. Thomas of Jesus, a most holy man, in 1532, caused the
money that was sent him for his own use by his sister, the Countess of Linares,
and by kings Henry and Philip II., to be employed in ransoming slaves, and
chose to stay, though no longer a prisoner, at the Sagena, or prison, where
were detained above two thousand christian slaves, of different nations, whom
he never ceased to comfort and assist with heavenly exhortations, and the
functions of his sacred ministry."--Life of St. Augustin.419.
"St. Augustin sometimes melted down part of the sacred vessles
to redeem captives, in which he was authorized by the example of St. Ambrose.
He reproved one Romulus for the oppression of his poor vassals."--Ibid.420.
"St. Raymond Nonatus took the new Order of Mercy for redemption
of captives. In the discharge of his office of ransomer, he purchased at
Algiers the liberty of a great number of slaves. When all his means were laid
out in that charitable way, he voluntarily gave himself up as a ransom for the
hostage of certain others whose situation was hardest, and whose faith seemed
exposed to imminent danger. It was a saying of his, 'that a man is more
precious than the whole world.' St. Raymond was loaded with chains and iron
bolts, and cast into a dungeon where he lay full eight months, till his ransom
was brought by some religious men of his order."--Butler's Lives.421.
As to the character of slavery in every age, and the similarity
of the outrages inflicted, whether on christians or pagans, we have but to read
the brief account of its horrors, given in the history of the martyrdom of St.
Nemsianus and others:--422.
"When the President of Numidia proceeded, with renewed
severity, against the christians, tortured many, and afterwards put several to
barbarous deaths, and sent others to work in the mines or quarries, whilst
others continued their lingering martyrdom in hunger, nakedness, and filth,
exhausted with hard labour, and tormented with daily stripes and perpetual
reproaches and insults--in the words of Nemsianus, 'though they had manacled
their feet with fetters, marked their bodies with infamy, they could not reach
their souls.'"--St. Nemsianus.423.
"A number of christians being taken into captivity, of both
sexes, eight bishops wrote to St. Cyprian, imploring his assistance for the
redemption of the prisoners. St. Cyprian shed many tears upon reading these
letters, and at his recommendation the clergy and people of Carthage raised a
sum amounting to one hundred thousand sestertii--that is about seven hundred
and eighty-one pounds, English--for the redemption of the slaves."--St.
In 506, St. Remigius wrote to Clovis,--"Let the gate of your
palace be open to all, that every one may have recourse to you for justice.
Employ your great revenues in redeeming slaves."425.
"Clovis sent a circular letter to all the bishops in his
dominions, in which he allowed them to give liberty to any of the captives he
had taken, but desired them to make use of that privilege in favour of persons
of whom they had some knowledge."--St. Remigius.426.
"St. Hilary, to redeem captives, caused the church plate to be
sold, not excepting the sacred vessels, making use of paters and chalices of
glass in the celebration of the divine mysteries."--Butler's Lives.427.
"In the reign of Pope Pius V., fifteen thousand slaves that
were found chained on board the galleys of the Turkish fleet were set at
liberty."--St. Pius V. (Pope.)428.
"St. John de Prado being sent by the authority of the
Congregation de Propaganda Fide, to preach the faith in the kingdom of Fez and
Morocco, he discharged himself with so great zeal, that the Mahomedans cast him
into a dungeon, loaded with chains."--Ibid.429.
"St. Margaret devoted her extensive alms to restore to foreign
nations, especially the English, their captives, and was solicitous to ransom
those especially, who fell into the hands of harsh masters."--Ibid.430.
"St. Vincent, of Paul, when taken prisoner by the Mahomedans,
with some others, states that they gave to every slave a pair of loose
trowsers, a linen jerkin, and a bonnet. In this garb they were led five or six
times through the city of Tunis to be shown, after which they were brought back
to their vessel, where the merchants came to see them, as men do at the sale of
a horse or an ox. They examined who could eat well, felt their sides, looked at
their teeth to see who were likely for very long life, they probed their
wounds, and made them walk and run in all paces, lift up burdens and wrestle,
to judge of their strength."--Life of St. Vincent of Paul.431.
St. Vincent, like St. Patrick, was a runaway slave. The fact of
their flight is a sufficient condemnation of slavery.432.
"The French and Burgundians laid siege to Arles in 508, and a
great number of captives were brought into the city. St. Cesarius furnished
them with clothes and victuals, and employed in relieving them the whole
treasury of the church. He stripped the pillars and rails of the silver with
which they were adorned, and melted down, and gave away the very censers,
chalices, and paters, saying, 'Our Lord celebrated his last supper in mean
earthen dishes, not in plate, and we need not scruple to part with his vessels
to ransom those whom He has redeemed with His life. I would fain know if those
who censure what we do, would not be glad to be ransomed themselves in like
manner, were the same misfortune to befal them.'"--Life of St. Cesarius.433.
Lactantius says, "that the redeeming of captives enters not
less into the obligations of justice and tender charity, which I rank even
above the gifts of munificence. The exercise of the latter requires riches, it
does not always pretend to the pure sentiment of justice. It is only the just,
properly so called, who make it a duty to feed the poor, to redeem
"Beneficence is exercised towards a relation, towards a friend;
is there so much merit in that? It is only acquitting a rigorous debt imposed
by nature, by decorum, by interest in one's reputation, and fear of blame; but
to be generous to a stranger, to an unknown one, that is true merit, because
humanity alone has been the mover of it; but to deliver captives, to assist the
widow and the orphan, to succour the sick, to bury the dead to whom their
family have not been able to render that office, it is not only following a
natural sentiment--it is obeying the law of God--it is offering one's-self as a
victim to the Lord, and preparing for one's-self a magnificent
reward."--Lactantius Divine Institutions, p.587, & c.435.
"Give for the redeeming of captives this gold that you destine
for the buying of animals."--Ibid. p. 587, & c.436.
"You expect from your slave that he be devoted to you, man of a
day! Is this slave less a man than you? He came into the world on the same
conditions, your equal by his birth, by his death, provided with the same
organs, endowed as well as you with a reasoning soul, called to the same hopes,
subject to the same laws, as well for the present life as for the time to come;
you oblige him to obey you and to be subject to you, and if he happen to forget
for one moment the right you have to command him, if he neglects to execute
your orders with a rigorous precision--misfortune to him! Imperious master,
unpitiable executor of the rights of your domination, you spare neither blows,
nor whips, nor privations; you chastise him by the punishment of hunger and
thirst, you strip him, often you load him with chains and shut him up in a
dungeon. Miserable man! While you know so well how to maintain your quality of
master over a man, you are not willing to recognise the Master and Lord of all
men!"--St. Cyprian. Treatise against Demetrius.437.
"Justice teaches men to know God and to love men, to love and
support one another, being all equally the children of God."--Lactantius on
"Both religion and humanity make it a duty for us to work for
the deliverance of the captive. They are sanctuaries of Jesus Christ, who have
fallen into the hands of the infidel. It is Jesus Christ himself whom we ought
to consider in our captive brothers; it is him whom we should deliver from
captivity--him who has delivered us from death. We must redeem with a little
money him, who has redeemed us with all his blood. Can we, no matter how little
humanity we possess, believe that these captives are strangers to any one of
us, who altogether form but one family?"--St. Cyprian to the Bishops of
"Of evils similar to slavery Tertullian says--One cannot argue
from scripture that it condemns such practices, but will it be argued from its
silence that it does not condemn them?'--Tertull. Lib. Cor., p. 121.440.
St. Ambrose orders that, for the redeeming of captives, the
priests sell if necessary, even the sacred vases. "The God who had not a piece
of gold to give to his apostles, when he sent them to preach the gospel, had
not more to give to his churches when he founded them. The church has gold, not
to keep it, but to distribute it to the indigent in their necessities. To what
good is it to keep that of which we do not make use? Do we not know of all the
gold and silver, that the Assyrians found in the Temple of Jerusalem? Is it not
better for the priest to make sure of the riches of the sanctuary, by placing
them in the hands of the poor, than to expose them to become the prey of our
insolent enemy? The Lord will say to us, 'Why, under your eye, do the poor die
with hunger? With the gold that you have, you could give alms. Why are so many
unfortunate beings subject to slavery, even to death, for want of being
redeemed with gold? Men are better worth preserving than metals. What have you
to reply? 'Must we deprive the temple of its ornaments?' But the Lord will
reply, 'It is not necessary that the sacred things be clothed in gold.'"--St.
Ambrose. Treatise de Officiis, p. 103.441.
As to the express doctrines of the Catholic church on the
subject of slavery, I find them laid down in terms that cannot be misunderstood
in "The Catechism of the Council of Trent," written under the direction, and
with the sanction, of Pope Pius V., under the head, "Seventh Commandment," it
is laid down:--442.
The unjust possession and use of what belongs to another are
expressed by different names. To take anything from a private individual is
called theft; from the public, peculation; to enslave and appropriate the
freeman or servant of another, is called 'man-stealing.'--Catechism of the
Council of Trent. Ed. Ang., p. 47.443.
And then at p. 420, the doctrine is further explained--"That
those who pay not the labourer his hire are guilty of rapine, and are exhorted
to repentance." In the words of Scripture: "Behold the hire of the labourers
who have reaped down your fields, which by fraud has been kept back by you,
crieth aloud, and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of
In Bancroft's recent History of the United States, a work
written in no very favourable spirit to the Roman Catholic religion, the writer
acknowledges that "the slave-trade between Africa and America was never
sanctioned by the See of Rome; the spirit of the Roman church was against
"The Cardinal Ximenes, the gifted coadjutor of Ferdinand and
Isabella, the stern grand inquisitor, the austere but ambitious Franciscan, saw
in advance the danger which it required centuries to reveal, and refused to
sanction the introduction of negroes into Hispaniola, believing that the
favourable climate would increase their numbers, and infallibly lead them to
revolt."--Bancroft, vol. i.446.
With respect to the part which the benevolent Las Casas had in
the introduction of negroes into the West Indies and America, Bancroft states,
(what is, indeed, to be collected from the best of the old Spanish historians),
that "it was not Las Casas who first suggested the plan of transporting African
slaves to Hisbaniola."--Bancroft, vol. i. p. 169.447.
But what Bancroft did not know, and what the earlier historians
have not noticed, has been brought to light by the researches of the recent
historians of the apostle of the Indians. In the last document existing in the
handwriting of Las Casas, Quintana informs us that Las Casas expresses himself
in the most contrite terms for having been instrumental to the introduction of
African negroes, with a view of preventing the utter extinction of the Indian
race; because in Las Casas' own words, "la misma razon es de ellos que de los
Indios." The one had the same privileges and rights as the other; and,
therefore, "he repented, judging himself (in his own words) guilty by
inadvertence, and trusting that this plea would hold him excused before the
Divine Judge of all." And well may his historian say, "Esta confession de su
error, tan severa como candoroso, debe desarmar el rigor de la philosophia, y
absolverte adelante de la posteridad." PAPAL SANCTION WITHHELD FROM SLAVERY IN
Pope Leo the Tenth declared that "not the Christian religion
only but nature herself, cries out against the state of slavery."--Vide
Bancroft's History of the United States, vol. i. p. 172.449.
Pope Paul the Third, in two separate briefs, imprecated a curse
on the Europeans who should enslave Indians or any other class of men. 1537.
(See the brief in Remusal, Hist. de Chiappa, book 3, chap. 16.)450.
Pope Urban the Eighth issued another bull, still more expressly
condemnatory of the slave-trade, east or west, dated 1639, and addressed to the
Apostolic Chamber in Portugal.451.
Pope Benedict the Fourteenth confirmed these decrees by a new
bull, addressed to the government authorities of the Brazils, in 1741.452.
Pope Zachary, on certain Venetian merchants having bought at
Rome many slaves, to sell to the Moors in Africa, promptly forbade such an
iniquitous traffic, and paying the merchants their price, gave these slaves
their liberty.--Vide Butler's Life of Zachary.453.
Pope Pius the Second, even earlier, in 1402, when Portuguese
dominion was extended into Guinea, wrote letters to the Portuguese bishop
proceeding thither, gravely animadverting on those Christians who carried away
people into slavery.454.
Pius the Seventh, moved by the same spirit, concerted with the
European government the means of suppressing this odious trade.455.
And finally, I refer to the recent bull of Gregory the
Sixteenth for the abolition of slavery and the negro slave-trade--a document
which must be considered calculated to effect much good in Cuba and other slave
countries; and also to a memorial addressed to the Roman Catholic prelates on
the subject of the communication of this express denunciation of the traffic in
slaves, and the holding of those in bondage wrongfully and illegally enslaved.
The following is a
copy of the memorial addressed to the
Catholic Archbishops and Bishops in Ireland, in Synod assembled: My Lords,--The
subject on which I presume to address your lordships, is one of great interest
to religion and to humanity; and the expression of your lordships' opinion on
it of vast importance at the present juncture. The advantage can hardly be
overrated of giving the effect of a general publicity to the late rescript of
his holiness the Pope for the suppression of the odious traffic in human
beings, and the unhallowed system of slavery that has grown out of it.456.
I humbly trust, that your lordships will consider less the
insignificance of the person who addresses you, than the great necessity of
adopting the course he has ventured to suggest. In the opinion of some of the
best and ablest supporters of this cause, your lordships' publication and
interpretation of this rescript, would be most eminently serviceable to the
interests of humanity, which its object is to promote and to protect. The
necessity of taking some step for the purpose of making our countrymen in
America acquainted with the obligation which this bull so forcibly points out,
is universally felt by the advocates of this cause.458.
My Lords, in venturing to lay before your lordships a document
containing a report of an address lately delivered in this city, on this
subject, and making use of arguments founded on the opinions of its divines,
and the decrees of its councils--the apparent presumption of one like me
referring to such authorities, I trust, will be overlooked, and the object I
had in view alone considered, that of taking away a plea, or a pretence, for
the continuance of an evil that only wants the more recent condemnation of our
ecclesiastical authorities for its universal reprobation. And thus a scandal to
our people, and a pretext for censure, would be removed. In those distant lands
to which I have referred, my official station affords me the means of knowing
the ignorance that remains to be dispelled, and the calumnies to be refuted on
this subject, as connected with the sanction which slavery has the audacity to
derive from religion.459.
My Lords, it may seem an astounding paradox, that the very
poverty of our country should raise up a power in a foreign land, potent enough
to influence any question of political moment that arises in it, and to turn
the scale, whatever way its feelings tend. Such is the political influence of
the Irish emigrants settled in America, and such over them is the authority of
the prelates of their native land, that were your lordships' public response to
the recent decree of his Holiness communicated generally to our countrymen, the
knowledge of its existence would probably not only be due to that publication,
but, I might add, the question even of its very authenticity would be
determined by your lordships' publication of it. 460.
My Lords, deeply interested in a subject which I am practically
acquainted with, in a Catholic country, where slavery unfortunately exists, in
all the magnitude of its frightful evils, I address myself to your lordships
under a less painful sense, if it be possible, of the terrible outrages offered
to humanity by the trade in stolen men, and the system that grows out of it,
the injustice of which transcends all the other oppressions that are done under
the sun, than I feel for the desecration of our religion and the scandals to it
which slavery and its demoralising effects are the fruitful source of, in those
Spanish colonies, where that religion is in name the religion of the land, and
where this contaminating influence is extended even over sacred things, and
comes within the precincts of sacred places.461.
My Lords, even in those countries it is in the power of your
lordships' opinion on this subject of slavery, to deal a heavy blow and great
discouragement to it by the bare expression of your lordships' concurrence with
the englightened views that are taken of slavery in all its cruel forms, in the
I therefore, most humbly and respectfully beg to direct your
lordships' attention to the advantages that would arise from giving publicity
to the recent rescript condemnatory of the crime of slavery.463.
I have the honour to be, my Lords, with the most profound
respect, your lordships' most obedient humble servant,464.
R. R. MADDEN. 465.
ON THE THIRD OF DECEMBER, 1839, BULL OF POPE GREGORY I. FOR
THE ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE-TRADE, THE NINTH YEAR OF THE PONTIFICATE.
Placed as we are on the supreme seat of the apostles, and
acting, though by no merits of our own, as the vicegerent of Jesus Christ, the
Son of God, who, through his great mercy condescended to make himself man and
to die for the redemption of the world, we regard as a duty devolving on our
pastoral functions that we endeavour to turn aside our faithful flocks entirely
from the inhuman traffic in negroes, or any other human beings whatsoever.
Beyond a doubt, when the light of the Gospel first began to diffuse itself,
those unhappy persons who were plunged into the severest condition of slavery,
in consequence of the numerous wars at that time, found their condition
alleviated among the christians. For the apostles, inspired by the Divine
Spirit, taught even their slaves to obey their carnal masters as Christ, and to
do the will of God heartily. They also taught their masters that they should
act well to their slaves, and do unto them what was just and equitable, and to
abstain from threats, knowing that the God, both of them and of their slaves,
dwells in heaven, and that with Him there is no acceptance of persons. But
while a sincere and universal spirit of charity is especially enjoined by the
law of the Gospel, and our Lord himself said that he would consider any act of
benevolence and mercy done to the least or poorest, or denied, as done or
denied to himself, it readily followed, that the christians not only considered
their slaves, especially such as were christians, in the light of brothers, but
were even very prone to endow with liberty such as deserved it. Indeed
Gregorius Nissenas informs us, that such liberation of slaves was customary on
the occasion of the paschal solemnities. Nor were there christians wanting who,
stirred up by a more burning zeal, subjected themselves to slavery to redeem
others, many of whom, that apostolic personage, our predecessor, Clement I.,
testifies that he knew. Hence, in progress of time, as the clouds of heathen
superstition became gradually dispersed, circumstances reached that point that
during several centuries there were no slaves allowed amongst the great
majority of the christian nations; but with grief we are compelled to add, that
there afterwards arose, even among the faithful, a race of men who, basely
blinded by the appetite and desire of sordid lucre, did not hesitate to reduce
in remote regions of the earth, Indian negroes, and other wretched beings, to
the misery of slavery; or finding the trade established and augmented, to
assist the shameful crime of the others. Nor did many of the most glorious of
the Roman Pontiffs omit severely to reprove their conduct as injurious to their
soul's health, and disgraceful to the christian name. Among these may be
especially quoted the bull of Paul III., which bears the date of the 29th of
May, 1537, addressed to the cardinal archbishop of Toledo; and another, still
more comprehensive, by Urban VIII., dated the 22nd of April, 1639, to the
Collector Jurium of the Apostolic Chamber in Portugal, most severely
castigating by name those who presumed to subject either East or West Indians
to slavery. Pope Benedict XIV. subsequently confirmed these decrees of those
distinguished Pontiffs by a new bull, addressed to the heads of the governing
authorities of Brazil, and other regions, on the 17th of December, 1741. Even
before another predecessor of ours, more ancient than these, Pius II., in whose
age the dominion of Portugal was extended to Guinea, wrote on the 7th of
October, 1642, to the Portuguese bishop who was about to repair thither, a
letter, in which he not only gives to that high functionary, powers to exercise
with greater success his sacred ministry in those parts, but gravely
animadverted on the same occasion upon those christians who carried away youths
into slavery. And in our own time, Pius VII., moved by the same spirit of
religion and charity as those who had gone before him, seduously interposed his
good offices with the men in power, that the trade in blacks should at length
be put an end to entirely amongst the christians. These injunctions, and these
good offices of our predecessors, served not a little, with the help of God,
towards protecting the Indians, and the other aforesaid races, both from the
cruelty of their invaders, and from the cupidity of the christian merchants;
not to such an extent, however, that the Holy See can have to rejoice at their
flocks having totally abandoned such practices, since on the contrary, the
trade in blacks, though diminished to some extent, is still carried on by many
christians; wherefore, we, desiring to avert this disgrace from the whole
confines of christianity, having summoned several of our reverend brothers,
their eminences the cardinals, to our counsel, and, having maturely deliberated
on the whole matter, pursuing the footsteps of our predecessors, admonish by
our apostolical authority, and urgently invoke, in the name of God, all
christians, of whatever condition, that none henceforth dare to subject to
slavery, unjustly persecute, or despoil of their goods, Indian negroes or other
classes of men, or be accessories to others, or furnish their aid or assistance
in so doing; and on no account henceforth to exercise that inhuman traffic by
which negroes are reduced to slavery, as if they were not men, but automata or
chattels, and are sold in defiance of all the laws of justice and humanity, and
devoted to severe and intolerable labours. We further reprobate by our
apostolical authority, all the above described offences as utterly unworthy of
the christian name; and by the same authority we rigidly prohibit and interdict
all and every individual, whether ecclesiastical or laical, from presuming to
defend that commerce in negro slaves under any pretence or borrowed colour, or
to teach or publish in any manner, publicly or privately, things contrary to
the admonitions which we have given in those letters.466.
And finally, that this our bull may be rendered more apparent
to all, and that no person may allege any ignorance thereof, we decree and
order that it shall be published according to custom, and copies thereof be
properly affixed to the gates of St. Peter, and of the apostolic chancel, every
and in like manner to the General Court on Mount Pitatonio, and in the field of
the Campus Floræ, and also through the city, by one of our heralds, according
to aforesaid custom.467.
Given at Rome, at the palace of Santa Maria Major, under the
seal of the fishermen, (sub annulo piscatoris) on the 3rd day of December,
1839, and in the ninth year of our pontificate. (Counter-signed by) CARDINAL A.
BARTHOLOMEW LAS CASAS.469.
SEVERAL documents of the time of the "Conquestadors" recently
brought to light by the researches of the excellent historian of Las Casas,
Quintano, present the character and proceedings of that benevolent man, in
their true colours, and without concealing his errors, do ample justice to his
noble virtues. He was born in the year 1474. Having accompanied his father to
Cuba, and joined Narvaes in his exploring expedition in 1514, he remained at a
place where it was determined to found the city, now called Trinidad; and on
the customary distribution of the Indians and the lands "Repartimientos de los
Indios y las tierras," Las Casas was rewarded with a large allotment, both of
slaves and land in this neighbourhood, and he commenced life thus as a planter
and slave-master, in company with a good man, of the name of Pedro de Renteria,
who, subsequently, from conscientious motives, abandoned his slave property.
Las Casas in his own history says, he prosecuted his new pursuit with extreme
energy, (for he could enter into no pursuit without energy) and it must be
inferred that his slaves were severely worked "both in the mines and in the
fields," for he says himself, he was perfectly unconscious of any criminality
in holding these unfortunate people in slavery, in his own words, "en aquella
materia tan ciego estaba por aquel tiempo el buen Padre como los seculares
todos que tenia por hijos."470.
But at the feast of Pentecost, having to preach at Baracoa, and
referring to the Scriptures for a text, he happened to read the 34th chapter of
Ecclesiasticus, and on coming to the words, "The most High approveth not the
gifts of the wicked, neither hath he respect to the oblations of the unjust,
nor will he be pacified by the multiplicity of their sacrifices." "He that
offereth sacrifice of the goods of the poor is as one that sacrificeth the son
in the presence of his father." "The bread of the needy is the life of the
poor, he that defraudeth them thereof is a man of blood." "He that sheddeth
blood, and he that defraudeth the labourer of his hire are brothers."471.
An immediate reformation was effected in his sentiments, he
determined from that moment to abandon his pursuits, to renounce his share of
the "Repartimientos," and to dedicate his life to the advocacy of the rights of
the poor and oppressed. From this time, he inveighed against the slavery of the
Indians from the pulpit; but the Spaniards heard him as they would now hear a
man who would dare to preach against the evils of negro slavery. In the words
of Las Casas, to say, that they could not hold the Indians in servitude, was
the same as to say, that they could not make use of the beasts of the field.
"El decir que no podian tenir los Indios en su servicio, era la misma que decir
que los bestios del campo no podian servirse."472.
The word "Encomiendas" given to the Repartimientos, originated
in a slight variation of the form used by Columbus, made by Ovando, which ran
thus. To you, so and so, so many Indians are allotted in such a district, to be
instructed in our holy religion. "A vos Fulano se os encomiendan tantos Indios
en tal cacique, y ensenales las cosas de nuestra Sante Fé Catolica." The
abominable pretext of making the Indians slaves in order that they might be
instructed in the faith, "que pudiesen ser doctrinada in la fé," from the
beginning of the conquest to the period of the extermination of the whole race
was never forgotten; and now for negro slavery the same impious and
hypocritical apology continues to scandalise christianity in this Spanish
In 1517, Las Casas, having visited San Domingo returned to
Spain, and was ordered by the King to send in a memorial of the remedy he
proposed for the disorders in the West Indies, and for the protection of the
Indians. The memorial was sent in, and a minute of it is still extant; amongst
the various remedies he proposed was one which he had before less distinctly
intimated, "to send to the West India islands labourers from Spain, and also to
accord the privilege for the inhabitants of the West Indies, to carry away
negroes, ("la libre saca de negros,") and to bring them to the islands to be
employed on the sugar estates, and in the mines, ("que llevados alla se
empleason en los ingenios del azucar y en el laboreo de las minas,") vide
Quintanas Vidas Espanoles celebres, 3 tome, page 304, and the reason given for
their importation is, that the labour was insupportable to the weak Indians. It
is in vain to deny that Las Casas committed this most lamentable error, as many
have asserted, and amongst others, the Abbé Gregoire, Quintana has produced the
original documents in which this suggestion is made by Las Casas. But they who
claim Las Casas for an advocate of the slave-trade, are little aware that he
himself heartily repenting of his proposal, condemns it in his own history,
lib. iii, chap. 101, and in his own words, "Because they (the negroes) had the
same rights as the Indians"--"porque la misma razon es de ellos que de los
The government immediately put the proposal in execution. The
privilege of stealing away the negroes from Africa, for the short-sighted
benevolent project of alleviating the hardships of the Indians in Cuba and San
Domingo, was sold to a courtier, the Baron de Bressa. This worthy Baron sold it
to the Geneose, and eventually it proved abortive, so that Las Casas was
obliged to go through the provinces of Spain, soliciting the labouring people
to accompany him to the colonies, and after collecting a vast number, and
obtaining the sanction of the court, and making a great outlay for the voyage,
the people abandoned him, and returned to their homes. It seemed as if thus by
not prospering his undertaking in either instance, it was designed to show that
God had a controversy with him. When the episcopal dignity was conferred on
him, on reaching his see, the first use he made of his pastoral power was to
deny the sacraments to all those who held slaves and refused to give them up,
and those who bought and sold them, "y que se compran y venden publicamente en
At Gracias adios, on his way from Guatemala, the corporation
received him in their assembly with the most outrageous injuries; the
president, Maldonato, reviled him in the grossest terms, calling him the most
opprobrious names, "Bellaco, mal hombre, mal fraile, mal obispo," to all which
the venerable prelate, with his hand extended on his breast, his head bowed
down, replied with humility, "I merit truly all that you say of me," yo lo
merezco muy bien todo eso que U. S. dice Senor Licenciado Alonso Maldonado;
while the other magistrates cried out, "Echad de ahi à ese loco," "Away with
this madman from this place." On reaching Chiapa, however, in the midst of his
enemies, at his entrance into the city when the streets were filled with people
who had been lately clamorous for his destruction, the majesty of virtue and
religion regained their empire, and as he passed on, the cry was general, "this
is the holy prelate, the venerable protector and the father of the Indians;"
"este es el Santo obispo, el venerable protector y padre de los Indios!" But in
Spain, his character and principles were attacked with the greatest rancour,
Dr. Juan Gines de Sepulveda, a great theologian, a distinguished historian, and
chaplain of Charles V., took up the advocacy of slavery and the slave-trade in
opposition to Las Casas, in a work called Democritus the Second, he propounded
the monstrous doctrine, that the Indians, and all barbarous people like them,
were naturally slaves, and might lawfully be held in slavery, that it was
lawful to make war on savages and to reduce them into servitude;--"que se
subjugan a aquellos que por su suerte y condicion necessariamente han, de
obdecer a otros no tenia nada de injusta, (y por consequencia)----que siendo
las Indios naturalemente siervos, barbaros, incultos e inhumanas de se negaban
solea suceden, a obdecer a atros hombres mas perfectas era justo sujetarlas por
la fuerza y por la guerra a la manera que la Materia se sujeta a la forma, el
cuerpo al alma, el apetito a la razon, lo peor a lo mejor."476.
This work, which is still held in the highest estimation by
Spanish slave-traders and slave-holders, was most ably and warmly refuted by
Las Casas. At his departure from the West Indies the sinfulness of slavery was
boldly denounced from the pulpit, by the father Montesino, a Dominican; but
this good man was driven from the island, and had to plead his cause before the
Emperor for preaching against the slavery of the Indians.477.
There are inconstestible proofs given in Quintana, vol. iii. p.
467, that the introduction and commerce of negroes in America existed
previously to the suggestions and recommendations made by Las Casas to the
Spanish government. Besides Herrera's authority on this point, there are
several others, and especially the in-edited papers called "Extractos de Munos
en la collection de Senor Iguina." By them we learn that a caravel was sent to
Ovanda, by the government, with various classes of merchandise, stores, and
seventeen negro slaves, "esclavos negros por sacar cobre de las minas y de este
metal en la Espanola," long before Las Casas' recommendation.478.
In 1510, Diego de Nicuesa, in his ship Trinidad, by order and
on account of the government, carried to San Domingo, thirty-six negro
1513. The treasury began to issue licenses for the slave-trade
at two ducats each.480.
1514. Certain Portuguese were captured off San Domingo, and
deprived of their bozal negroes. They memorialised their government complaining
of this outrage, and ended by saying, that they had been deprived of "ciertos
negros que llenaban hurlados de la costa de Guinea."481.
As to the Abbé Gregoire's denial of Herrera's statement of Las
Casas' proposal for Negro slavery, the documents brought to light by Quintana,
leave no doubt whatever on the subject. Las Casas himself, in various of his
works refers to it, and in his memorial in 1516, presented to Cardinal
Cisneros, he suggests, que cada communidad mantenga algunos negros, "that every
district should maintain a certain number of negroes." Vide Extractos de Munos.
Previous to this memorial, when the government ordered him to propose some
remedies for the state of things in "Tierra firma," he presented a memorial,
and the third remedy proposed in it was, "que llevan francamente los negros y
las negras." Idem. In his contract with Government for his Cumana expedition,
where he stipulates for the privilege, for himself and his companions, of three
negro slaves each, half the number males, half females. Even ten years after
this period, in 1531, he maintained the same opinion and acted on it; and in
the representation which he made to the council of the Indies, bearing date
20th January, 1531. He says: "The remedy for the christians is certainly this,
that your Majesty should be pleased to grant to each of the Islands 500 or 600
negroes, to be placed in the hands of fit persons for distribution among the
planters, who now have only Indians." El remedio de los christianos es este muy
cierto, que S. M. tenga por bien aprestar a cada una de estas Islas 500 ó 600
negros, a los que pareciere que el presente bastaren para que se distribuyen
por Ios vecinos que hoy no tienen otra cosa sino Indios." And in the same
document he complains of the grandees throwing difficulties in the way of the
Negro slave-traders, "no conceden libremente a todos cuantos quieran traer las
licencias de los negros, lo cual yo pedire alcance de S. M."--Collection del
But fortunately this good man at length discovered the signal
error he had fallen into, and his consciousness of this error, and his
repentance are fully detailed in his general history of the Indies. Wherein
speaking of himself and his former opinion, he condemns the error he had fallen
into, and thus speaks of it:--483.
"And because certain Spaniards of this island, (San Domingo,)
said to the priest Las Casas, after their manner of viewing things, that the
Dominican friars refused absolving those who held Indians, if they did not
relinquish them, and therefore if a license was obtained from the king, if they
might not carry hither from Spain a dozen of negro slaves, who would assist the
Indians. The priest according with this proposition, stated in his memorials,
that it would be an act of grace to the Spaniards in these islands, to permit
them to bring from Spain a dozen of negro slaves, more or less. This advice
that license should be granted to bring negro slaves into these lands, the
priest Las Casas first gave, not considering the injustice with which the
Portuguese had taken and made them slaves." Speaking of the representations
made to him by the Spaniards of San Domingo, he says, "they informed the priest
Las Casas--suiting their statements to their views, that the clergy refused
them the sacraments if they would not abandon their Indians, therefore they
sought a license from the king to introduce about a dozen more or less of negro
slaves, to enable them to relax the severity of the labour of the Indians. And
the priest Las Casas consenting to this proposal in his memorials, asked this
favour for these Spaniards, to bring from Spain the dozen or so of negroes, to
relieve the Indians." Este aviso de que se diese licencia para traer esclavos
negros en estas tierras dio primero el clerigo Casas no advirtiendo la
injusticia con que los Portugueses, los toman y haren esclavos. Las Casas
evidently speaks here of the first recommendation for the introduction of
negroes into which he had been entrapped.484.
In the latest production from the pen of Las Casas, he
confesses the grievous fault he had fallen into, and begs for the forgiveness
of God in the most contrite terms, for the misfortunes he had brought on the
poor people of Africa, by the inadvertence of his counsel, "and this
confession," says his historian, "of his error, so full of candour and
contrition--should disarm the rigour of philosophy, and hold his benevolent
disposition absolved before posterity."485.
Let him, whose philanthropy is without fault, and whose nature
is superior to error, cast the first stone at the memory of the venerable Las
EVILS OF THE CUBAN SLAVE-TRADE.487.
I AM well persuaded that, difficult as it may be to exaggerate
the evils of slavery, it is possible to damage the best cause by a foolish
effort to promote its interest at the expense of truth. And surely, a cause
like this whose efforts are directed to the removal of ills, terrible beyond
all other evils, that involves the question of life and death--that treats, not
of the doom of one man, or ten thousand, but of the destiny of the whole people
of a quarter of the globe--whose business is with the wrongs and sufferings of
stolen men, and whose denunciations are for the atrocious deeds of christian
brokers in the trade of blood, who roll in riches and move in the goodly
circles of Cuban society--surely it requires no exaggeration of the evils of
Cuban slavery. They are great, indeed, beyond the power of imagination to
picture to itself. All that I have ever seen of slavery--and I have seen some
of its horrors in various countries--in Africa itself, in Asia likewise, and in
America, even in as bad a form as in either of these regions--all that Clarkson
ever penned of the magnitude of its evils, when this trade was at its height,
or that Sturge or Scoble recently witnessed of its mitigated atrocities, in the
transition from slavery to freedom, in the British colonies--and mitigated as
they were, God knows they were bad enough to be witnessed even by those already
acquainted with all the evils of this system, but still worse to be seen by
persons whose eyes were not accustomed to the practical horrors of slavery; yet
all that these gentlemen witnessed or described in our colonies, or that I have
myself seen there of cruelties inflicted or endured, falls infinitely short of
the terrible evils of the slave-trade, that is now carried on in Cuba.488.
It is little to say, that 25,000 human beings are annually
carried into Cuban slavery; that at the expiration of thirty years from the
date of the abolition of the slave-trade on the part of Great Britain, the
odious traffic continues in full force; that no small amount of foreign capital
is invested in this trade; that British subjects, now that slavery is put down
in our colonies, are embarking their means with impunity in slave properties in
Cuba, are buying their slaves of necessity in the slave market, for there is no
natural increase of the slave population of Cuba, but a terrible decrease by
deaths; which, at the ordinary mortality on the sugar plantations, would sweep
away the race in slavery, in ten years, and, according to Humboldt's
calculation, in much less, for he states this mortality to vary from ten to
eighteen per cent. per annum.489.
It is little to say that the mortality on the middle passage
from Africa to Cuba is very great, that it averages at the very lowest
computation, twenty-five per cent.: that I have known a single slaver to lose
one hundred out of three hundred, nay, two hundred and fifty, out of seven
hundred; that between the wars that are made to spoil a village and steal its
people, the slaughter in the strife, the spearing of the old and infirm, the
mortality of the slave coffle on the frightful journey to the coast, often a
distance of thirty days from the interior, through a wilderness, where the
land-marks are the heaps of human bones bleaching in the sun, the remains of
the victims of former slave-trading adventures, the resting place of former
coffles, the final place here of rest indeed for thousands upon thousands of
human beings, who sank under fatigue, and whom God mercifully saved from the
slow death of Spanish slavery; the further mortality on board the slaver from
the sweeping pestilence of small-pox and dysentery, from the baneful effects of
the contaminated atmosphere of a crowded slave-ship. From all the sufferings,
terrible beyond any idea I ever formed of misery, till I saw that human hell, a
slave-ship, crammed with chained men, cramped, crowded together, worn with
suffering--spectres of men, breathing an atmosphere that came steaming up from
the hot hold, with such horrible effluvia, that to me, somewhat acquainted as a
medical man with the effects of the contaminated air of crowded places in gaols
and hospitals, in countries too where the pestilence that walks by noon day,
lives, moves, and probably has its being--it seemed to me astonishing that life
could be maintained in so foul an atmosphere, or under so frightful an amount
of pain and suffering as I had witnessed in those slave-ships that had fallen
under my observation. The further mortality from the loss of the mutilated
negroes on board the slavers, when from ophthalmia they become blind, or from
scrofulous ulcers they become so mained in their members as to be unfit for
sale, at the sale marts of Cuba; and to save the provisions, these worthless
and exhausted slaves are slipped over the side; the further mortality from the
waste of life after the landing of the slaves during the first six months of
acclimitation, as it is called, consequent upon the hardships they have
endured--when all these sources of misery are traced and the several amounts of
mortality summed up, it will be found that for every stolen man, carried away
from Africa, and who is alive in Cuban slavery at the end of six months, two
human beings must have necessarily perished.490.
It is nothing to say this traffic is nefarious and appalling:
why even the miscreants in Cuba, who are steeped to the very lips in
slave-trade interests, foreigners and Spaniards, admit that the traffic is
wholly unjustifiable--they condemn it freely, but they pray you to acquit their
honour because the interests of the country require it to be carried on, and
they have a very favourable opinion of the profitableness of it. It is useless
even, perhaps, to enter into general details of the sufferings of these victims
of the fell spirit of avarice that reigns in Cuba; you hear occasionally,
perhaps, of 400 or 500 naked savages having been captured in a small
slave-schooner; that every man, woman and child on board the captured vessel
was brought into port, bare and naked; that the men were chained, and the
children were sickly and exhausted, that the women were haggard, emaciated,
miserably attenuated creatures. The mind either recoils from the painful
impression of so much misery or the picture is one of such general suffering,
that no adequate idea of the particular wrongs of the wretched negroes is
conveyed to the mind. The portraiture of a battle affects us less than that of
a single captive such as Sterne depicted; we see "the iron entering into his
soul," and, yet we know we are but gazing on an imaginary sufferer.491.
Let me present to the imagination a real captive--one that has
recently fallen under my own observation, and, I may add, under my own
charge--one into whose soul the iron of affliction had verily and indeed
entered--a single sufferer, a negress, taken out of a captured slaver, a wan,
emaciated, listless, silent woman, a sullen savage, in the phraseology of Cuba,
in cases of anguish and despair--a person who neither spoke nor moved from the
place where she sat rocking her naked body to and fro all day long. There was a
calm settled look of deep, unspeakable wretchedness in her regard, which made
me dissatisfied with the explanation I received of the strangeness of her
conduct, that she was a sulky negress, and showed no thankfulness for anything
that was done for her, like the other women. The others were dressed in the new
apparel which had been just given them, enjoying the good fare now provided for
them, and celebrating with songs and dances the happy change in their lot. I
thought she must have great reason for such dejection; the poor thing left the
food untouched that was brought to her at each meal; her new clothing lay
folded up beside her; when she was asked through the interpreter to tell what
ailed her, she gave no reply; day after day she was questioned, and deep sighs
were the only answers that could be got from her.492.
Negroes are said by planters to be insensible to kindness;
they, no doubt, have so many benefits to be grateful for, that any
thanklessness, on their parts, is too glaring a defect to pass unnoticed. The
kindness that was shown to this poor creature was apparently thrown away, but
apparently only, for by little and little it subdued the sternness of her
grief; and what grief could surpass her affliction--for her's was that of a
mother robbed of her infant child? One day I stooped down to speak to her, and
endeavoured to ascertain the cause of her trouble, while I was offering her
some beads, such as I had given to some of her companions, she burst out
crying. It seemed at last as if she had found ease, in giving vent to one loud
outbreak of sobs and sighs. She wept bitterly, put her hands to her breast,
then stretched out her arms, started up on her feet, and, looking wildly over
the side of the vessel, cried out for her child--and over and over again she
repeated the words--in fact this was her cry the live-long day. Ask her what
you would, "the cry of the heart," continually was--"for her child." It was
long before this tempest of sorrow was assuaged sufficiently to obtain from her
any collected account of the loss of her infant. It appeared that when the
slaver was chased by our cruiser, fifty of the negroes were thrown overboard
(twenty-four of whom were picked up by the cruiser's boats,) with the view of
detaining the latter vessel, and of thus eluding the pursuit; and this part of
the story was confirmed by the account of the humane and resolute captor
himself, by the account given to me by Captain Hollond, of the whole affair,
off the Isle of Pines. And during this commotion on board the slaver, and the
mortal terror at seeing their comrades flung overboard, this unfortunate woman
lost her infant, but how, or at what period it was taken from her, she could
not tell. No creature could seem more sensible of the sympathy that was felt
for her than this poor woman. But how often have I been told these people are
savages--they have no natural affections--the separation of families is nothing
to them--the sundering of the ties that bind mothers to children, and children
to parents, is nothing to negroes? They do admit that even the she bear will
pine after her lost cubs; but the grief of a negro mother for her child is only
a gust of passion that proceeds, not from any emotions of the heart, but from
the violence of the irascible temper of negro women. Oh! how often have I heard
this language, and how often have I known these sentiments adopted by men--aye,
even by ministers of religion, who tell you, in Cuba, as well as in America,
they see no hardships in slavery--that the slaves are kindly treated, are well
fed, and decently clad, and have nothing to complain of! What do these
gentlemen know of slavery? They eat and drink, no doubt, in the houses of the
opulent planters in the towns, and they reason on the strength of the goodness
of their entertainments, that the slaves of their hosts are treated like their
If I ask one of those reverend gentlemen at Havana or
Charleston, how are the poor slaves treated in those places--They see nothing
in the houses they visit to shock humanity. There is no scourging of men or
women inflicted in their presence--the child is not torn from the mother's
breast in the presence of the reverend gentlemen--they hear no howlings of
grief or pain in these well-regulated families. No doubt of it; these planters
of the towns whom they visit are men of honour and respectability, and
therefore it follows, that "they are all honorable men;" all the tribe are
necessarily humane, and every master is, by parity of reasoning, a kind owner,
a merciful proprietor, and a considerate employer. I am sick of this language.
I have heard it from intelligent, nay, even from "religious" men, and sometimes
confounded, sometimes grieved, sometimes angered at such folly, falsehood I
must not call it, I have asked these gentlemen, how often had they judged of
the condition of the negroes, not in the houses, but on the sugar properties?
Had they seen these properties in the absence of their friends, the
planters?--Did they know how many hours the slaves worked?--How great is the
mortality on their estates?--What is the proportion of the sexes? What modes of
punishment are in use?--but I have never received any satisfactory reply, and
generally speaking, these are matters of which our tourists are left in total
CONDITION OF SLAVES IN CUBA.
IF it be true that negro slaves have always been treated with
peculiar mildness in the Spanish colonies, it follows, that the slaves of the
island of Cuba, for example, are a contented race, that they are not
over-worked, nor underfed, nor ill-clad; that the sexes are equalized, that the
mortality is small, and the increase by births considerable; that the amount of
produce obtained by the labour of a given number of slaves is less than it has
been in former years in the British colonies--that there is a considerable
number of aged slaves on the estates--that the pregnant women are allowed
exemption from hard field-labour in the last six or eight weeks of their
pregnancy--that the females are not usually flogged--that the children are
instructed in the elements of the christian faith--that the negroes on the
estates are married by the ministers of religion--that they are suffered to
attend a place of worship on the Sabbath-day--that it is not lawful to hunt
them down by dogs when they are fugitives from the estates--that when they are
scourged to death or killed by violence, the white man, who is their murderer,
may be brought to justice, and punished with the utmost rigour of the law--but
not one of these measures of justice, or means of protection for the prædial
slaves are known to exist in Cuba--not a single one of these I have pointed out
is to be looked for, to the law, and yet the law allows these things, and
solemnly condemns every withdrawal of them. But the law was never framed with
any reasonable prospect of being enforced, it never has been enforced, and,
what is more, it never can be enforced against the planters, who are the
transgressors of it, because in fact, these are the men who are entrusted with
the execution of it. In the towns and cities, the case, is indeed, different
with the domestic slaves; but what a small portion do these form of the number
of slaves in Cuba! These domestic slaves, especially those of the opulent
proprietors, comparing their condition with that of the prædial slaves, may be
said to be fortunately circumstanced. They have the power, in the large towns
and cities, of availing themselves of the privileges the law accords them. If
they have a harsh owner, they may demand permission to seek another master, and
it is compulsory on that master to sell them, either for the sum he paid for
them, or at such a rate as the Sindico, or the special protector of the slaves,
and the judges may determine, in consideration of any reasonable increase in
their value, or in consequence of their having been taught a trade or calling.
But how is the prædial slave to avail himself of these legal privileges? The
officers of justice in the country-towns are usually slave-holders themselves;
the estate may be ten, nay, twenty miles distant from a town; the Sindicos, the
Alcaldis, the Capitanos de partidos, all are planters. The idea of a prædial
slave going to the mayoral or overseer, and telling him he wants a "paper,"--a
permission for two or three days to seek another master, (buscar amo) would be
laughed at in Cuba; the unfortunate negro who would make so daring an attempt
to obtain his rights, would, in all probability, be flogged on the spot; he
dare not leave the estate to seek the Sindico in any adjoining town; and, no
matter what injustice may be done him, were he to pass his master's gate, he
would be subjected to punishment, "bocco abajo," without appeal as a fugitive,
and if he still presumed to talk of the law, and to insist on being taken
before a magistrate to claim the privileges which that law gave him, he would
then be treated with a degree of rigour beyond the law, as an insolent and
rebellious slave. But granting that he succeeded in getting to the Sindico, the
Alcaldi, or the Capitano de partidos, what chance of justice has an unfortunate
slave in Cuba against the powerful influence of a rich, and perhaps a titled,
owner? The planter is the friend of the authorities of his district, they dare
not disoblige him, and if they dared, they are at last to be gained over by a
bride, or got rid of, by a remonstrance to the governor, and a suitable present
to the assessor of the governor, who is one of the great law-officers of the
crown. How in the name of common sense is the law to be looked to, in a Spanish
colony for the mitigation of the evils of slavery, or the protection of the
slave? The excellence of the Spanish civil law is admitted by every one, yet
the iniquity of Spanish tribunals, the corruption of Spanish judges, and the
incomparable villany of Spanish lawyers, is proverbial in all the colonies of
Spain. Justice is bought and sold in Cuba with as scandalous publicity as the
bozal slaves are bought and sold in the barracones. Is there a man in Cuba who
had suffered wrong in property or in person who would be mad enough to go for
redress into a court of law, and expect to obtain it by trusting solely to the
merits of his case? How then are we to expect from any code, for the regulation
of negro slavery, justice for the slave who has not the means to buy the judge?
How are we to expect to restrain the cruelty, or to control the cupidity of
men, who have the means to bribe the bench of every tribunal in the land, to
make "impegnos," as these solicitations are called, with the sons, and
servants, the cousins, and the familiars of the judges in their cause? Is it
then to cedulas and laws, to parchment justice, or to statute book benevolence,
we are to look for that peculiar character of mildness, which we are told, is
the characteristic of slavery in Spanish colonies? Surely what we know of
slavery in every country where it has existed, should be sufficient to satisfy
every enlightened person, that bondage is an evil that cannot be mitigated by
any partial measures of reform, so as essentially to serve the slave, to
improve the system, to humanise the master, and thus to benefit society at
large. But in Cuba it is not that I have heard or read of the atrocities of
Spanish slavery, but I saw them with my own eyes. I lived for a whole year at
the Havana, before I could so far disembarrass myself of the merchantplanter
influence of that place (that deadening influence of slavery which steals so
imperceptibly over the feelings of strangers in the West Indies), as to form an
opinion for myself, and to trust to my own senses alone for a knowledge of the
condition of the prædial slaves. It was only when I visited estates, not as a
guest of the proprietors, seeing through the eyes of my hospitable hosts,
thinking as they thought, and believing as they saw fit to administer to my
credulity, the customary after-dinner dose of the felicity of slaves--it was
only when I went alone, and unknown and unexpected, on their estates, that the
terrible atrocities of Spanish slavery became known to me. I have already said,
and I repeat the words, so terrible were these atrocities, so murderous the
system of slavery, so transcendent the evils I witnessed, over all I had ever
heard or seen of the rigour of slavery elsewhere, that at first I could hardly
believe the evidence of my senses. Nay, I have known men of great intelligence,
whom I myself accompanied over estates in various parts of the country; and
here in Cuba, so terrible were the admissions made by the mayorals or overseers
on the estates we visited, that they could not believe they heard correctly the
accounts that were given to us, even by the managers themselves, of the
frightful rigour of the treatment they described. Till we made partially known
at the Havana the evils that had come to our knowledge, on the sugar estates
especially, there were persons who had resided there for years, who said they
were utterly ignorant of these evils, but, who having read certain laws for the
protection of slaves, and seen certain cedulas for the nominal mitigation of
the cruelties of slavery, had actually imagined that the laws were enforced,
and the negroes happy and humanely treated. With respect to my own experience,
it is not by particular instances of cruelty or oppression the fact is to be
established that slavery in Cuba is more destructive to human life, more
pernicious to society, degrading to the slave, and debasing to the master, more
fatal to health and happiness, than in any other slave-holding country on the
face of the habitable globe. Instances of cruelty enough no doubt have come to
my knowledge, of the murder of negroes, perpetrated with impunity, of men
literally scourged to death, of women torn from their children, and separated
for ever from them; of estates where an aged negro is not to be seen--where the
females do not form a third part of the slave population, nay, of estates where
there is not a single female; of labour in the time of crop on the sugar
properties being twenty consecutive hours, frequently, for upwards of six
months in the year, seldom or never under five, and of the general impression
prevailing on this subject, and generally acted on by the proprietors, that
four hours sleep is sufficient for a slave. These cases, were I to describe
without a shade of colouring to heighten the effect of the naked outline of so
frightful a detail, I am persuaded it would seem marvellous that such things
could take place in a christian land--could occur in the present age--could be
done by men who move in society, who are tolerated in it, and bear the name and
wear the garb of gentlemen. There is an argument stated and restated hundreds
of times in answer to the ordinary charges of ill-treatment brought against
slave-owners, namely, that it is the interest of a man to give good treatment
to the beast and "pari passu," to the slave he keeps for use, or sale, or hire.
No doubt it is his duty, but is it his interest, according to his ideas, to do
this! Is it the supposed interest of the owners of our miserable hacks to treat
the animals thus which they let on hire, or use daily, or rather, can you
persuade these people it is their interest to do this? Unquestionably you
cannot. They act on the principle that a quick return of the money outlaid on
horse-flesh, no matter how great the wear and tear of the animal, that is
worked or hired, is better than moderate work with small gain, and a longer use
of the means from which that return is derived. These persons deny it is their
interest to spare their horses, and admit it is their interest to get the
greatest possible quantity of work in the shortest space of time, from their
hacks, and when they are worked off their legs to purchase new ones. In fact,
it is on this very principle the fast mail coaches are horsed and run. But I
have heard it said, however they may work them, it surely is their interest to
feed them well. To this I answer, the universal feeling of the tribe is this,
their true interest is to keep them cheaply. True it is, if they gave them
treble the quantity of good hard provender, they would last much longer; but
you cannot persuade these men you understand their interests better than they
do, you may indeed easily persuade the owner of a stud of race-horses of the
soundness of your opinion, but the high-blood racers that belong in England to
gentlemen on the turf, in proportion to the hacks and stage-horses, are about
in the same ratio, as the slaves in Cuba, belonging to intelligent,
considerate, humane proprietors, are to the wretched negroes in the hands of
unreflecting, grasping owners.495.
The murder of a slave by a white man, in no case whatever, is
punished with death. During my residence in Cuba, some of the most atrocious
murders that I ever heard of, came to my own immediate knowledge, the murders
of slaves by their masters or mayorals, and not in any one instance was the
murderer punished, except by imprisonment or the payment of the costs of suit.
During General Tacon's administration of the government in the latter part of
the year 1837, in the village of Guanabacoa, a league from the Havana, where I
was then residing, the murder of a slave was perpetrated by his master, a well
known lawyer of the Havana. The name of the murderer is well known, and he
moves without reproach in the goodly circles of genteel society at Havana, in
that society where the capitalist who has acquired his riches in the abominable
slave-trade, by the especial favour of his sovereign, bears the title of
"Excellentissimo," where the prosperous dealer in human flesh now retired from
the trade, is a noble of the land, where the foreign merchant who still pursues
the profitable traffic on the coast is the boon companion of the commercial
magistrates of the place, and where the agents of foreign governments
themselves are hailed as the private protectors and avowed well-wishers of the
interests of the trade. The murdered slave of the Cuban lawyer was suspected of
stealing some plated ornaments belonging to the harness of his master; the man
denied the charge; the customary process in such matters to extort a confession
from a suspected slave was had recourse to. He was put down and flogged in the
presence of his master. The flogging it appeared by the sworn testimony of the
witnesses who were present, given before the commandant of Guanabacoa, a
colonel in the army, a gentleman of the highest character, commenced at three
o'clock, it ceased at six, the man having literally died under the lash; a
little time before the man expired, he had strength enough left to cry out, he
would confess if they flogged him no more. The master immediately sent for the
commissary of police to receive his confession; this officer came, and stooping
down to speak to the man, he found him motionless; he said the man had fainted.
The brutal master kicked the lifeless body, saying, "the dog was in no faint,
he was shamming." The commissary stooped down again, examined the body, and
replied "the man is dead." The master hereupon called in two physicians of
Guanabacoa, and rightly counting on the sympathies of his professional
attendants, he obtained a certificate, solemnly, declaring that the negro had
laboured under hernia, and had died of that disease. In the meantime, the
atrocity had reached the ears of the Captain-General Tacon, the Alcaldis of
Guanabacoa were ordered to inquire into the matter; they did so, and the result
of the inquiry was, of course, the exculpation of the murderer. General Tacon,
dissatisfied with the decision, immediately ordered the military officer
commanding at Guanabacoa to proceed to a strict investigation, de novo, without
reference to the decision of the civil authorities, and this gentleman, with
whom I was well acquainted, proceeded with all the energy and integrity
belonging to him, to the inquiry. The result of this inquiry was an able
report, wherein the commandant declared that the testimony adduced, plainly
proved that the negro had died under the lash in presence of his master, in
consequence of the severity of the punishment he received during three hours. I
have entered at large into this case, because I speak from actual knowledge of
the judicial proceedings, and on the authority of the judge in the cause. Now
what was the result in this case, why, in due time, the Captain-general
communicated to the commandant the law opinion of the assessor or legal adviser
of his administration, to the effect that the report was evidently erroneous;
inasmuch as the commandant had examined negro witnesses in the investigation,
when their masters were not present, which was illegal, and consequently all
the proceedings were vitiated. In plain English, the murderer was acquitted,
and the upright officer who declared him guilty was rebuked, nay, more, he was
ultimately removed from his post at Guanabacoa. The folly of talking about
illegality in the proceedings is evident, when it is considered that the
setting aside the civil authorities, and putting the cause in the hands of the
military tribunal was a course obviously illegal, but rendered necessary in the
mind of the governor by the base corruption of the civil tribunal, and the
iniquity of its decision. On inquiry into the amount of money paid by the
murderer in the way of bribes to obtain the decision in his favour, and the
costs of suit, I found that the expenses amounted to 4000 dollars.496.
The next case I have to direct attention to, has been given to
the world in the recent admirable work of Mr. Turnbull on Cuba, a work which it
required more honesty, closer observation, and a higher spirit of humanity to
produce, than any work on the West Indies that has been given to the public. I
happened to be with Mr. Turnbull, on the journey of which he speaks in
reference to this case, when a person who accompanied us on our return from a
sugar estate in the vicinity of Guines, informed us that the estate in question
was the terror of all the negroes in the vicinity. Of this fact, what we had
ourselves witnessed of the management of the property, and what we had heard
from the mayoral himself, left but little cause to doubt, but it was not
without surprise we learnt that this very overseer, who was still left in
charge of the estate, had recently been brought before the authorities of
Guines on the charge of flogging one of the slaves of the estate to death, and
that the result of this investigation, was similar to that of the case at
Guanabacoa; the body of the murdered slave was examined by medical men, and the
usual certificate was given in all due form, satisfactorily accounting for the
death of the negro, and in the eye of the law of Cuba, the slave that was
murdered by a white man and expired under the lash of legitimate authority,
died a natural death. The wretch who committed this act left the court, of
course, without a blemish on his character, and the employer of this man, who
had taken him back into his service, to the terror of every negro on his
estate, this respectable planter was living at ease, fifty miles from the scene
where the blood of his murdered negro was shed with impunity, enjoying the
pleasures of the Havana, and perhaps, by the urbanity of his manners, and the
hospitality of his house, and the indulgent treatment of his domestic slaves,
convincing the passing tourist, who was fortunate enough to be his guest, of
"the peculiar mildness of slavery in the Spanish colonies."497.
The next case of negro murder committed by a mayoral, of which
I have to speak, came to my knowledge in the autumn of 1839. I was travelling
in the vicinity of Matanzas, accompanied by a gentleman who resided in that
district. I was informed by my companion that he had just received very
unpleasant intelligence of an acquaintance of his, a mayoral of an estate on
the Pan of Matanzas, who had unfortunately flogged a worthless negro, and the
worthless negro had unfortunately died, and the soldiers had just been sent
down to arrest the mayoral, and they did not find him. The misfortune of the
mayoral touched me indeed less than the murder of the slave; but if my
sympathies had been ever so strongly directed to the inconvenience the mayoral
had been put to, by his flight, I might have been comforted by the assurance
that he had only to keep out of the way for some time, and the thing would pass
over; or, if he were taken, at the worst, he had only to suffer in purse, and
perhaps in person, by imprisonment for some time, if he was a poor and
friendless mayoral. This was only another vacancy in the negro gang to be
filled up by the purchase of a new bozal--another life taken away under the
lash to be added to the list of Cuban crimes--another item in the long account
that slavery has to settle with a just God.498.
The last case of murder perpetrated on a slave by a white
person, to which I will refer, took place at the Havana in the year 1839. This
crime was committed by an American woman on a poor negro girl, under such
horrible circumstances of cold-blooded cruelty, that I doubt if there is any
parallel to be found to it in the records of crime in Cuba. The girl that was
murdered belonged to a Spaniard of the Havana, who was the paramour of the
American. This woman was possessed of property to a considerable amount. She
had been long resident in Havana, and was somewhat remarkable for her personal
attractions. Her friend, the Spaniard, had sent to her house one of his slaves
to assist her, and this girl became the victim of her jealousy, it is
supposed--for no other adequate reason, has been assigned for the cruelties
practised on her. The cries of the unfortunate girl had been heard in the
adjoining houses: at length the usual screams were heard no longer, but night
after night the sounds of continued moaning were noticed by the neighbours, and
at length they gave information of the matter to the police. The commissary of
police proceeded to the house of the American woman. On searching the outhouses
in the yard, in one of these offices, converted into a dungeon, they found a
dying negro girl, chained by the middle to the wall, in a state that shocked
the senses of all who were present, so loathsome a sight, so pitiful an object,
the persons who discovered this unfortunate girl never beheld. On releasing her
from this dreadful dungeon, where she had been, she could not tell how long, it
was found that the chain round her body had eaten into the flesh, and the
ulcers in it, were in a state of gangrene. She was taken to the hospital, and
she died there in two or three days' time.499.
The monster who committed this murder, when I left the Havana,
in October last year, was alive and well; in prison, indeed, but in one of the
halls of distinction, (salas de distinction,) where the prisoner who has money,
no matter what his crime, may always obtain superior accommodation. She was
visited there by persons of my acquaintance. She did not admit, that she had
committed any crime, and she had no fear for the result of the process that was
going on, except on the score of its expense. She looked on her imprisonment as
a conspiracy only of the Spanish lawyers to get money from her, because they
knew she was rich; and in this she probably was not much mistaken. The teniente
Gobernador, one of the principal officers of state, was in the habit of
visiting her in prison, and encouraging her with the assurance that her suit
would speedily be terminated, and that she had nothing worse than banishment to
fear. A lawyer of the name of Garcia had defended her some short time before
her committal on the present charge, in another case of cruelty practised by
her on a slave, and he publicly boasted that if she had come forward in the
present case, with a sufficient sum, he would have brought her through her
present difficulty, without any more inconvenience than in the former instance.
Such is the administration of justice in the island of Cuba, and the execution
of those laws which are thought, so mild in their character, and benevolent in
their principles, that the slave who lives under them, is protected from
injustice, and in consequence of their excellence, that the slaves in Spanish
colonies are comparatively happy. It was said by the late Mr. Canning, that all
laws for the partial amelioration of the condition of slaves, were necessarily
defective, because such laws had no executive principle, inasmuch as the
persons who were expected to carry them into operation, were interested in
defeating them. My experience entirely bears out the assertion of Mr. Canning;
and both, I am sorry to say, are at variance with the common opinion
entertained even by well-informed persons in this country, on the subject of
Spanish slavery. 500.
R. R. M.501.
LAWS FOR THE PROTECTION OF SLAVES IN CUBA.
In the report presented by Mons. A. de Tocqueville to the
Chamber of Deputies on the 23rd of July, 1839, in the name of the commission
charged with the examination of the proposition, relative to the slaves of the
French colonies, I find very important errors, on the subject of the laws for
the protection of negroes held in bondage in the Spanish colonies. At p. 17 of
the published report, I find it stated, that "it is of public notoriety in the
New World, that slavery has always had with the Spaniards a peculiar character
of mildness; one can convince himself of this in reading over the ordinances
made by the kings of Spain, at an epoch when, amongst the other nations of
Europe, the laws for the government of slaves were so strongly tinctured with
barbarity. The Spaniards who showed themselves so cruel towards the Indians,
have always ruled their slaves with a singular humanity. In their colonies, the
distinction between blacks and whites was less than in all the others, and the
authority of the owner resembled more that of a father of a family, than of a
master. The slave, better treated in these colonies, sighed less after liberty,
which ought to be preceded by arduous exertion; hence the legislator accorded
him a right, which he very seldom wished to avail himself of." Now in the above
statement, there are six distinct propositions, and five of them are entirely
erroneous; namely these:--1st. That negro slavery has always had in the Spanish
dominions "a peculiar character of mildness." 2nd. That any sufficient proof of
such a character could be fairly drawn, from the ordinances of the kings of
Spain for the government of their distinct colonies. 3rd. That the Spaniards
who had been such cruel masters to the Indians, had always "treated their
slaves with singular humanity." 4th. That the authority of the master resembles
that of a father of a family. 5th. That in consequence of good and humane
treatment, the slaves seldom desired to avail themselves of the privilege of
claiming their freedom by purchase; and the only statement that is really
correct in the whole passage, is contained in these words; "In these colonies
the distinction between blacks and whites was less than in all the
others,"--presuming the meaning of the observation to be, that among the
Spaniards, the prejudice against the stolen people of Africa, on account of
their complexion, is less than amongst the colonists of other European States.
Such unquestionably is the fact, and there is too much Moorish blood in the
veins of the descendants of the old "Conquestadors," for the feeling to be
otherwise. Tolerably well acquainted with some of the British West India
islands, with one of them, both previously and subsequently to the act of
emancipation, and having seen something of slavery in many eastern countries, I
brought perhaps some little knowledge of the condition of men held in slavery
to the subject, which has been the object of anxious inquiry with me, during a
residence of upwards of three years in a Spanish colony, where slavery
flourishes, and where upwards of four hundred thousand human beings, exist in
that condition. Perhaps this extensive acquaintance with slavery in various
countries during the last ten years, may have qualified me to form some opinion
of the relative evils or advantages of slavery in a Spanish colony.502.
The first proposition--"That slavery has always had with the
Spaniards a peculiar character of mildness," is one that I have seen stated in
books so often, and heard laid down so frequently by merchants who have resided
in Cuba--by naval officers who have visited the shores and harbours of that
island; and by transient visitors who have made tours of pleasure, or winter
journeys, in pursuit of health, from one large town on the coast to another;
and seen the interior economy of one or two estates of opulent proprietors,
what in our colonies would be called "crack plantations," that I really feel
astonished at the amount of error that prevails on this subject--error so
great, and held by men entitled to credit, that I have sometimes felt
absolutely doubtful of the evidence of my own senses, and when the irresistible
conviction of the excessive rigour of slavery in Cuba has been forced on my
mind, and when I have dwelt on the appalling scenes I have witnessed, it often
seemed hopeless to me, and even imprudent for me, to attempt to disabuse the
public mind, and to set my experience against the opinions of many people,
whose sentiments on any other subject I considered entitled to respect. But on
a question of such vast importance and where erroneous sentiments are
calculated to do so much injury to the objects of the solicitude of
anti-slavery exertion, it would be an act of cowardice to suppress the truth,
or at least one's strong persuasion of it, in deference to error, however
generally diffused or honestly adhered to, it may be. These erroneous
conclusions, that Spanish slavery is of a peculiarly mild character, are
arrived at by four ways of viewing this question; they may be briefly stated as
follows:--1st. It is concluded, that because the laws for the government of
slaves in the Spanish colonies are mild, that these laws are executed, and the
slaves are happy. 2nd. It is considered by some who visit the large sea-port
towns, that the condition of the prædial slaves is similar to that of the
domestic servants, and that because the latter are lazy, well-fed, and decently
clad, and lightly worked negroes, the poor field slaves are likewise idle and
indulged, kindly treated and contented slaves. 3rd. The condition of the slaves
is judged of, by men who have no immediate interest in slavery, but who have
long resided in slave-countries, or been in places where opportunities of
visiting these colonies, have made them acquainted with the proprietors of
estates, and in course of time, familiar with their views, then favourable to
their interests, and at length accustomed to the evils of slavery, and
insensible to the sufferings of its victims. 4th. The treatment of slaves in
general, in Cuba and elsewhere is inquired into, by transient visitors and
tourists at the tables of the planters, over the wine of the slave-holders--and
where truth is drowned in hospitality, and the legitimate inquisitiveness of a
stranger's curiosity is merged in a courteous acquiescence in the sentiments,
or at least the statements of a liberal entertainer, and a gentlemanlike host.
Now, of these different ways of coming towards conclusions, it is evident that
it is to the first the signal error of this Report is to be attributed. In
fact, it is admitted that the opinion of the mildness of Spanish slavery is
derived from the royal ordinances and laws made for the regulation of it.503.
I freely grant that the spirit of these laws and ordinances is
humane, but the great question is, are such laws compatible with the interests
of the slave-owners? Are they put in execution? Negro slavery, as it ever has
existed in the West India colonies, has been a condition in which the
profitableness to the master of unpaid labour, for the time being, has always
rendered the happiness of the labourer, a question of comparative unimportance.
What, one might call humanity to the negro, there is not a proprietor in Cuba
who would not deem injustice to the planter. You cannot legislate partially,
humanely, and yet efficiently, for any slave colony in a prosperous
condition--you may pass measures of general effect for the total abolition of
slavery, but you can carry none into execution for effectually modifying its
nature, and leaving unpaid labour to be wrung out of its victims, while a show
is made of surrounding its compulsion, with humane arrangements, duly detailed
in royal cedulas, and set forth in legal books with all the solemn mockery of
Spanish law. This report states as a curious anomaly in the history of Spanish
slaves, that while the Indians were treated by the Spaniards with such terrible
cruelty, the negroes, on the contrary, have always been treated with peculiar
mildness. I need hardly observe, that while the poor Indians were writhing
under the lash of the most unmitigated cruelty the world up to that period ever
saw; while the Spanish colonies were extreminating the whole race of their
victims, by the astounding rigour of their slavery; the kings of Spain were
dictating benevolent cedulas, and humane ordinances for the treatment of the
unfortunate slaves; while the council of the Indies was continually framing
laws for the better regulation of the repartimientos, or distributions of the
natives; while the heads of the Spanish church, the mitred politicians of the
day; half statesmen, half churchmen--were constantly sending out missions and
commissions to co-operate with the illustrious apostle of the Indies, the
protector of the slaves--in fact, while all the machinery of the government
that was four thousand miles off, was brought to bear on this question of the
amelioration of slavery in the Spanish colonies, yet the Indians perished in
the mines, they died under the lash, sunk under famine in caves, or sought in
voluntary death, a final refuge from Spanish cruelty. Yes, the whole race
perished, while the kings of Spain and its ministers were framing laws,
impracticable, because they were partial, measures of relief for the
preservation of their Indian subjects. The same terrible system of cruelty is
going on this day in the Spanish colonies--the same terrible evils are silently
in operation. Change the term Indians for negroes, the word mines for
plantations, and in every other respect the same bloody tragedy is acting over
again--the same frightful work of extermination, the same cruel mockery of
staying the evil by laws without enforcement, cedulas, without a hope being
entertained of their being carried into effect, is now practising in Cuba, and
the awful waste of human life, that in the time of the Indians was, for a
limited period made up by the ravages of the man-robbers on the coasts of the
New World, has for three centuries been filled up in Cuba alone, by an annual
importation that has now reached to the amount of twenty-five thousand stolen
men from the shores of Africa. To understand thoroughly the subject of the laws
in the Spanish colonies for the protection of slaves, it is necessary to refer
to a work not easily to be met with, being only to be found in the hands of the
Syndics, which is entitled, "Espocion sobre el origen, utilidad prerogativas,
derechos y deberes de los sindicos, procuradores generales de los pueblas por
D. Jose Serapio Majorrietta, abogada de la real audiencia." This book, it is to
be noted, is printed at Puerto Principe, in Cuba, by royal authority, by
command and at the expense of the real Audiencia, the highest law tribunal in
the island; and it is the legal guide of the Syndics, or protectors of slaves,
in the administration of justice between master and slave over the whole
island, and by which they are bound to act. The work begins by stating that the
Supreme Court, in the year 1766 created the office of Syndic; every town was
placed under the legal protection of one of these officers; its rights were to
be defended by them; and, in the words of the cedulas, "When there was any
grave or important matter, it should be treated by them, joining themselves
with some of the neighbours (juntandose con los vecinos) for the consideration
of it. Now here is a most important regulation for the due administration of
justice; in fact one giving to the accused the advantages, to a certain extent,
of a jury. And now let us see how the law authorities of Cuba, as represented
in this work, interpret these words. The treatise in question says--"These
words are not to be understood in their literal sense; this method is contrary
to the nature of our government, and for this reason, so responsible is the
post of a Syndic, that he is appointed, not by an open meeting (cabildo
abierto) of the corporation, (aguntamiento) but by the votes of the judicial
body, or the regidores. Their duties in the rural districts are to watch over
the order and maintenance of the public markets, the prevention of monopolies
in corn, meat, & c., inspecting the accounts of overseers, agents, &
c., protecting the interests of proprietors of estates before the tribunals of
the district, by all the legal privileges accorded them, even to the point of
demanding the suspension of the royal laws or ordinances in which they may hurt
or harm some private person (hasta el punto de poder pedir la suspencion, de
las cedulas y reales rescriptos, en qui se donan a algun particular.). Behold
the value of all the royal laws for the protection of slaves. The Syndic, their
protector, is likewise the legal defender of his master; and the suspension of
every law that is distasteful to the latter, it is in the power of this officer
to demand of the higher tribunals of the law. In fact, the whole secret of the
conduct of the Cuban government, with respect to the fulfilment of the treaties
with England for the suppression of the slave-trade, and the laws which enforce
them, is here let out, and the shameful duplicity of the government of Spain,
with respect to these royal orders, is disclosed, for at page 10 of the
treatise in question, the opinion of the legal authorities of the island, is
laid down as to the proper mode of interpretation, of the royal cedulas, when
these are opposed to Creole interests, or supposed to be so, in these
words--"It has been laid down by his Majesty, that his sovereign will is, with
respect to these laws, that they be obeyed and not fulfilled;" and reference is
made to lib. 16, Nov. Recap. (que se tienne manifestado que su soberano
voluntad es, que se obedezcan y no se cumplan.) This seems to me to be the very
acme, indeed, of public immorality; and there is no reason to doubt, the
duplicity of the conduct here ascribed to the framer of these laws, and the
weakness of his sovereign will, and that these things are done for the purposes
of delusion, to throw dust in the eyes of foreign powers, by the enactment of
laws which are to be received and not executed. Now with respect to the
jurisdiction of the Syndics in the case of slaves, and the mode of interpreting
the law for their defence, this treatise lays down very minute rules, and
points out a course of proceeding which is universally acted on in Cuba, for it
is to be remembered this treatise is published with the express sanction and
approbation of the judges of the highest tribunal of the land, of the Real
Audiencia. "It is to be observed," says the author, "either the rights which
slaves complain of being infringed, are violated by their masters or a third
"In the last case, their complaint is to be preferred by their
masters--by the general rules of right, which subjects them entirely to those
who exercise dominion over them; but if the slaves attempt to complain
(intentan presentarse) against their masters, then comes the authority of the
Syndics, because by no other mode, can there be made a true decision, there
being no legitimate litigation of parties, which consists in this, that the
plaintiff and the criminal should be different persons. But supposing this
distinction to be made in such a case (as perhaps some one might say it ought
to be), it appears the slave ought to have the right of naming an attorney or
agent (personero), and the law, that so much protects the natural defence of
the slave, should leave in his power the exercise of this precious right. But
how many inconveniences would not this measure cause? In the first place,
slaves have no proper person (los esclavos no tienen persona), they have no
representation in society, they are considered as things subject to the
dominion of man, and ill could such beings name agents or attorneys, who cannot
appear in their own character in our courts. And yet, if abating the rigour of
fixed principles, we chose to leave to slaves, the free election of which we
treat--how many and how expensive would be the causes which would inundate our
tribunals--and what would be the insubordination alone of this class of
domestics, when unfortunately interested men are not wanted to derive the
advantage of lucre from such miserable discord. The Syndics, however, as chosen
by the corporation, should be adorned with all the fine qualities we have
already stated, and in the degree that they may undertake to protect the rights
of these unfortunates, they will take care to beware of encouraging unjust
complaints, by maintaining the slaves under due submission and respect, which
system is certainly the most happy that can be adopted to conciliate the
private interests of the slaves with those of the owners of them."505.
Now the next interpretation of the royal law, or cedula of
1789, which at p. 3, ordains the regulation of the daily labour of slaves "so
that it should begin and conclude from sunrise till sunset," and moreover
should leave them two hours of the intermediate time for their own use and
benefit, is given in these terms--terms, indeed, most worthy of profound
attention:--"But this is not observed, and neither the magistrates regulate the
time of labour, nor do the slaves cease to serve their masters at all hours of
the day;" (Esto no se observa y ni las justitias, regolan el tiempo de labor ni
los esclavos dejan de servir a sus duenos en todas las horas del dia.) Well may
the expounder of the sentiments of the Royal Tribunal of the Audiencia of Cuba
say, the laws are not observed, "the slaves cease not at all hours of the day
to work for their masters." But this second Daniel, this Cuban commentator on
Spanish law, rigidly, indeed, as he sticks to the sense of the colonial judges,
tells but half the truth, when he says, that "the slaves cease not to work for
their masters at all hours of the day;" he should have said on the sugar
estates during the time of the crop, for upwards of six months in the year, at
all hours of the night, with the exception of four for sleep. It did not suit
the purpose of the Royal Audiencia to startle the ears or astonish the weak
minds of the people in the towns with the frightful announcement of the
appalling fact that the wretched negroes, in spite of the express terms of the
royal law for the regulation of slave labour, were worked to death on these
estates for twenty continuous hours, twelve in the field and eight in the
boiling-house or at the mill, and that even on the coffee estates, where the
necessity for hard labour is so much less, that at certain times of the year,
it is a common practice during the bright moonlight nights to work the slaves
at field-work, for four or five hours by the "Clara de la luna," as it is
called. But what are the sentiments of the Royal Audiencia on the subject of
that great privilege on paper, conferred by the laws on the slave, in the power
nominally given him of purchasing his freedom, or portions of it, by the
payment at once, or at different periods, of the price his master paid for him.
It is to be observed that the payment of a part of this sum to the master,
gives the negro the legal right of having that sum deducted from his price,
whenever he happens to be sold, and entitles him, as it is most erroneously but
generally believed, to an immediate reduction of labour, in proportion to the
The paying a sum of money to a master on the part of slaves
towards the purchase of his liberty renders the payer what is called
"coartado," the meaning of which is, in part manumitted. The word is derived
from coartar, to cut or separate, and not from quarter, to divide into four
parts, as is commonly supposed. "Some Syndics," says the law treatise in
question, "have attempted to alleviate slavery, so as to pretend to concede a
half of their time to slaves who are bound in service to their masters" (when
they have paid half of their value to their owners); "but this opinion is not
in conformity with the law, and the Syndics should respect the rights of the
proprietary power without allowing themselves to be led astray by a notion of
equity badly understood. The coartacion (or part payment made to a master by a
slave towards the attainment of freedom) was not established to reduce slavery
into halves, but only to prevent any alteration in the price to the slaves. A
slave who, being worth 500 dollars, gives to his master 400 by way of
coartacion, remains as subject to servitude as any slave who is so entirely.
The master cannot be deprived of the proper rights of his authority, and the
slave is under the obligation of devoting all his service to him; for such
reasons the Syndics ought to avoid the wish to establish such demands." Then
comes the interpretation of the law in Cuba as laid down in this treatise on
that most important privilege of all to the negroes in Spanish colonies, the
power nominally given by the law to the slave who is ill-treated or
discontented with good cause with his master, to seek another owner on payment
of the price at which he might be valued by the judicial authorities.507.
Now hear the mouth-piece of the Real Audiencia of Cuba on this
subject. "The question may also be asked if slaves (coartados) have the right
to go out of the power of their masters whenever they desire, and the answer is
not difficult, if we consider that the slaves (enteros) entirely so are obliged
to allege some great reason to compel their masters to sell them. And what
difference can there be between one and the other, when we see that the yoke of
slavery on all is the same? If the slaves (coartados) do not enjoy the rights
of freemen, on what principle can they claim the right of changing masters at
their pleasure? Is it for some light correction? This is not sufficient to
enable them to use this privilege. And then, could the masters exercise their
authority with the due severity which is necessary? By no means, and hence we
have seen that the Real Audiencia has always repelled similar demands in all
the suits that have been promoted on this point and brought for their superior
decision. But some persons desire, notwithstanding, founding their opinion on
the Royal Cedula of the 8th April, 1779, that slaves (coartados) should be left
in possession of the privilege in question. In answer to this, let us refer to
the terms of the cedula. We declare, it says, that the masters of slaves (not
coartados) have the liberty to sell them for whatsoever price they agree on
with the buyers, according to their actual worth, that when masters for just
reasons are obliged by the judicial authority to sell their slaves (those so
entirely) it shall be for the price at which they shall be valued by those
authorities; but if the buyer wishes to take the slave without valuation,
agreeing thereon with the master, they can arrange between them the price, and
the authorities have no power to prevent it, although the master is compelled
to sell, except that in order to diminish the amount of the alcabala duty (or
tax on the sale of property) some collusion between the parties be suspected;
further, that for slaves who are 'coartado,' or have paid that portionremai
ning of it, the same obligation is binding on the buyer; that in all cases the
seller shall pay the alcabala tax according to the price paid; further, that if
the slave 'coartado' by bad conduct gives a reasonable motive for selling him,
however slight his crime, the addition to the price be made of the alcabala tax
on his sale; and finally, that no slaves of any kind, entire or coartados, who
redeem themselves by their lawful earnings, ought to pay this tax. The masters
shall be obliged, conformable to the custom, to give them their liberty the
moment they bring the due price for it."508.
Now to any ordinary capacity, the plain meaning of the terms of
this beneficent law of 1778, is that slaves have the power of demanding to be
sold to another master, if another master can be procured to pay the price
fixed on by the judges to the actual owner. In fact, the slave by this means
puts himself in the position of a coartado, one who has the right to demand his
freedom whenever a price has been agreed on, or fixed by judicial valuation;
and having procured a person to advance the money, he is content to have his
liberty sold again in consideration of the change of masters. But mark the
chicanery by which every practical utility of this benevolent law is frittered
away by the interpretation of the judicial authorities of Cuba. The slave who
would change owners is first called on to produce a reasonable cause for his
application. He alleges severe punishment or harsh treatment, who is to decide
whether the slave has been maltreated or not. The Syndic. Who is the Syndic? A
planter himself. And who is the master? The neighbour of the Syndic. But what
says the Real Audiencia exposition of the law for the regulation of the
practice of these Syndics? Why, that the due severity of the discipline of the
proprietory power towards the slaves is not a sufficient cause for a slave's
application to be sold, and that the only sufficient causes are insufficient
nourishment, scarcity of clothing, and dearth of instruction in the christian
religion. Now what does the last obligation on the planters amount to in
Cuba?--to the christening of the slave, and to the burial of him, with the
ordinary rights of the church. This is the whole amount in Cuba of religious
assistance, save and except the teaching of the newly-imported pagans to
repeat, like parrots on certain feasts, the Lord's Prayer, the confiteor, and
the decades of the rosary; but as for having the slightest conception of the
meaning of the words they repeat by rote, it would be a folly to expect it, for
they are never instructed in religion by priest or layman, except on the estate
of (a rare phenomenon in Cuba) a pious planter, a scrupulous master, and a
christian man. As to the complaint of insufficiency of food, the Syndic of
course acts on the general opinion, that it is the interest of an owner to feed
his slaves well, and to clothe them also for the sake of the preservation of
their health and strength.509.
And now for their moral condition and the administration of the
laws affecting it, on the high authority of the work published with the
sanction and at the expense of the Real Audiencia of Cuba. "As amongst the
Romans (says the author) there could be no marriage solemnized except among
citizens, the union of the slaves was accomplished by concubinage, and the
children followed the condition of the mother; our district law has adopted the
same system (nuestra ley de partida ha adoptado la misma disposicion), and when
recently coartacion was established, the question was discussed if the infant
of a slave coartado should enjoy the same privileges as the mother, but the
doubt has ceased since the publication of the Royal Cedula of the 10th
February, 1789, in which we find the point in question definitely settled."
There can be no doubt of the express meaning of the Royal law on this subject
being what it is described, and there is unfortunately no doubt that the slaves
of Cuba have none of the rights of citizens, that they are not suffered to
marry, and that a general system of concubinage is that which the christian law
of the Partida sanctions in Cuba, and to which it condemns nearly half a
million of human beings. Here I take leave of the Cuban exposition of the
Spanish laws for the amelioration of slavery. No one can dispute the authority
of the treatise I have referred to, for the express sanction of the Real
Audiencia is prefixed to it. It was with no little difficulty I procured a copy
of that work, for I have already stated it is not allowed to fall into the
hands of strangers. Such is the specious benevolence of the Spanish laws, that
have never been carried into execution, and are incapable of enforcement in any
country where slavery exists, and where the interests arising from it are
prosperous and powerful. 510.
R. R. M.511.
EMANCIPATION OF SLAVES IN CUBA.
In the year 1824, Mr. Secretary Canning addressed a despatch to
the Chief Commissioner at the Havana, desiring to be furnished with information
on the subject of the manumission of slaves in the Spanish colonies, and
enclosing a memorandum which had been presented to our government at that
period, when the question of gradual emancipation in our colonies was
attracting attention. The document enclosed is to the following effect:--"That
slaves, (namely those in the Spanish colonies), are generally appraised at four
hundred dollars; that a slave paying down the fourth part of his value, or one
hundred dollars, immediately acquires a right to be coartado--that is, that he
can work out, paying his master three reals de vellon or bits a-day, until he
can make a further deposit; or, if the master requires his service, he can
oblige the man to work for him, paying the slave one real; thus a deposit of
two hundred dollars gives the slave a right to two reals daily; of three
hundred, three reals, and thus till the completion of the payment of the whole
sum in which he had been appraised. A dollar is worth eight reals or
bits."--(Vide Slave-trade Reports, 1824-25, Class A., page 63.) In the first
place, the common error with respect to the meaning of the term of coartacion,
which I have already referred to, is pointed out in the reference, made to the
question of paying down one-fourth part of the value of the slave. The next
error is in the statement that a slave coartado has the right to work out or to
leave his master's service, paying him wages in a certain proportion to the sum
still due for his liberty, the law treatise I have so largely quoted explicitly
denying that the slave has any such right against the consent of his master.
The Chief Commissioner replied to Mr. Canning's inquiry, October 9th, 1824,
stating that he had consulted the most able lawyers and government authorities
on the subject of manumission, and encloses a memorandum--a most valuable
paper--though by no means to be considered as practically applicable to the
attainable privileges of prædial slaves, and that distinction is not
sufficiently drawn in the document, but only slightly alluded to at the end of
The commissioner, informs Mr. Canning that he has been wrongly
informed that slaves are valued at any fixed price for "coartacion;" that he
has known one sell for 1000 dollars, but that the tribunals discountenance
excessive valuation; that the average valuation of full grown negroes on
estates is 500 dollars; that house-slaves are valued at six, and mechanics at
still higher prices; that the statement is incorrect in asserting, "if the
master require the service of his coartado slave, he can oblige the man to
work, paying the slave a certain sum," the fact being, that in all cases the
master is entitled to the service of his slave, whether coartado or not,
without any remuneration whatever. That the wages of a common field labourer is
about four reals a day, (there being eight reals "de plata," and twenty reals
"de vellon" to the dollar, the writer of the memorandum previously referred to
having confounded these) and, moreover, that the negro is fed and clothed, and
that as mechanics earn from a dollar-and-a-quarter to three dollars a-day,
consequently, a coartado slave, who works out is able to pay his master the
daily quota proportioned to his price, and to lay by something towards the
further attainment of his liberty. That the regulations for ameliorating the
condition of slaves are founded principally on custom which has acquired the
force of law, many of which are confirmed by royal decrees. That when a slave
applies to purchase his liberty, the master is not allowed to fix an arbitrary
price, but if he and the slave cannot agree upon it, two appraisers are named,
one by the master and another by the Syndic on the part of the slave, and if
they differ the judge names an umpire, and in these cases the slave is exempt
from the payment of the Alcabala duty, which is six per cent. on the sale of
slaves sold in venta real or by public auction. That a master will be compelled
to sell a slave if a purchaser is found to engage to emancipate the slave at
the end of any reasonable time. That ill usage justifies an application for
change of masters. That a slave once emancipated cannot again be reduced to
slavery. That the master having once given an "escritura de coartacion," binds
himself never to demand more than a stipulated sum, though less than the actual
value, and has no relation to the actual price originally paid for him. That
the coartado slave, when his master allows him to work out on hire, is only
bound to pay his master one real a day for every hundred dollars in which he is
coartado (thus if his appraised price was four hundred dollars, and he had paid
one hundred towards his liberty, he would only have to pay three reals a day to
his master). That a pregnant negress may emancipate her child even when in the
womb at the fixed price of twenty-five dollars, and from the time of its birth,
till it be baptized for fifty dollars. That the system respecting the
manumission of slaves, although in the country parts where there are few
magistrates, there may be, and undoubtedly there are, many abuses, yet in the
Havana, and other large towns, and in other populous districts, it is
I have already stated how far these nominal advantages are
admitted by the expounders of the law, and shown that the system of
manumission, and the regulations in force for ameliorating the condition of the
slave in the Spanish colonies, honourable as these are to the apparent
intentions of the Spanish government, are of little real benefit to the prædial
slaves, that is, to the great body of the slave population in these colonies.
There are exceptions, there are instances where slavery has not rendered
masters heedless of all laws human and divine, even where their pecuniary
interests are concerned. But these are few on the estates. There are instances
where the owners and persons of high rank, and wealth, and standing in
society--noblemen like the Count Fernandina, and a few others of his order,
where the rights and privileges of the slaves are in some degree respected.
These men, however, live not on their properties, and it is only to their
occasional visits the slaves on their properties have to look for justice. It
is, as I have said before, in the large towns alone, and for the non-prædial
slaves, that the privileges in question can be said to be available, and where
manumission can be hoped for, the means acquired of obtaining it, and the
opportunity given of applying for it, and for the redress of any wrong suffered
by a slave. 514.
R. R. M.515.
GLOSSARY OF CREOLE TERMS IN COMMON USE IN CUBA, AND OF THOSE
RELATIVE TO SLAVERY AND THE TRADE IN SLAVES.
AGIACO-- A mess corresponding to the pepper-pot of Jamaica.
It is composed of pork, sliced plantains, calabash, seasoned with red pepper
and lemon-juice, in common use at planters' and overseers' tables.
AGUACERO-- The small fire-fly, smaller and less brilliant
than the Cucuyo or common fire-fly.
AGUARDIENTE-- The spirits distilled from the sugar-cane.
ALMA EN BOCA Y HUESOS EN COSTAL-- Term of the limited
warrantly, given with newly imported negroes. It signifies that the vendor will
not answer for blemishes or diseases that may appear after the sale.
ARRENQUIN-- In a team of oxen, the first or favourite leader.
AVENTADOR-- A kind of winnowing machine for cleaning coffee.
AY-- A common ballad, each line of which begins with this
word, and is sung, or rather roared out, by the "monteros," or country people
on their journeys, and at their labours in the field. The dance to this tune is
called the "Zapateo."
ADMINISTRADOR-- Attorney on an estate.
ALAMBIQUE-- The still-house on a sugar estate.
AURA TENOSA-- Equivalent to the John Crows of Jamaica. 10.
BANCA FALLUSTA-- A common gambling game.
BARRACON--A species of barracks where the newly imported
slaves are kept till they are sold. The yard surrounded with sheds or huts on
estates in which the slaves are shut up every night, are called barracones.
BEMBO-- A negro with thick heavy lips.
BIBI-- Negroes of the Carabali race.
BOBA-- A game of cards. 15.
BOCOY-- A puncheon, when used for Molasses contains 110
gallons, when used for sugar from 50 to 54 arrobas, the arroba is about
twenty-five pounds weight.
BOLAS-- A game played by the negroes with small round stones.
BOLANCHERA-- A dance in a circle, performed by men and women
in alternate rounds.
BOMBA-- The ladle used in the boiling houses. A term also for
the toasts or "brindas," at convivial parties.
BOZAL-- The African negro recently brought from his country
into Cuba or Porto Rico and newly stolen, and recently sold or exposed for sale
BRICAMOS-- African negroes from a district of that name.
BRICHE-- Negroes from the Carabali country.
BROCHA-- A game of chance.
BUTACA-- A large lounging elbow-chair.
CABILDO-- The re-unions of Bozal negroes on festival days, in
common use at the Havana, in which dancing, singing, and playing on rude
instruments (ataboles) great clamour and confusion are the chief amusements.
Each nation has its own Cabildo, and these orgies are called Cabildo Arara,
Cabildo Congo, & c. & c. 25.
CACHAZA-- The scum of the boiled cane juice, or guarasso, of
which all cattle are fond, and it is said to fatten them.
CAFETAL-- Coffee estate.
CASA DE CALDERAS-- Boiling house.
COGOLLOS, (de la cana,)-- Cane tops.
CASA DE PURGA-- Curing house. 30.
CONTRA-MAYORAL-- Driver who superintends, whip in hand, the
field labour of the slaves.
CUADRILLA-- That part of the negro gang that is worked by
spells, and relieved at stated times.
CAPITAN DE PAPELLAS-- Generally the mates of American
vessels, with ship's papersfraudulently obtained at the American consulate's,
to enable the Spanish and Portuguese slaves to pass for American vessels.
CAPITAN DE PARTIDO-- A district magistrate.
CARABOLI-- Negroes from that part of Africa; they are
accounted wild and rebellious; their front teeth are generally sharpened to a
CONUCO-- The negro grounds or garden.
CEIBA-- The giant cotton tree.
CIMARRON-- A runaway negro in the country, in
contra-distinction to HUIDO the runaway slaves in towns.
COARTADO-- A slave the price of whose freedom is fixed,
either in consideration of past service, or on account of his having paid a sum
of money to his master towards the purchase of his freedom, and which sum is
deducted from the price fixed on his manumission whenever he is sold, or buys
CUCUYO-- The fire-fly, or Elater Noctilucus, the fields of
Cuba are peopled with these flying insects. In the darkest room it is possible
to read by holding one of these insects along the line; there are two lights in
the head and one in the belly. In the spring, the fields at night are
illuminated with them; children delight to chase them, and the Creole girls
adorn their hair with them, or keep them in cages and feed them on cane and
CONGO-- African slaves from the country of this name, the
most esteemed in Cuba for their fidelity and vigour.
CORRAL-- An estate which consists of a league of land in
circuit, used for the breeding of cattle.
CRIOLLO-- All persons, whether white or black, born in the
island, are called Creoles.
CUADRO DE CAFE-- A piece of land, the fourth of a
"caballeria" in extent, and generally with 10,000 coffee plants on it, are thus
CUERO-- The whip used by the overseer on estates to flog the
slaves, the handle short, of hard word, the lash generally of a single thong,
made of cow hide, the toughest that can be obtained, from a yard and a-half to
two yards long; the knots on it are humorously called "Pajeulos." Da Cuero
signifies to flog. Tocar el cuero, to crack the whip to call the slaves to
work, or to their meals. 45.
CUNA-- An assemblage of people of colour for diversion.
CHARANGO-- A game of chance in use in the country among the
CHATA-- Negroes with very flat noses.
CHINO or CHINA-- The child of a mulatto and negro.
CHUCHO-- The common house-whip, which every lady has at hand,
for household use. It resembles our riding whip, the thong is made of twisted
leather, and is generally painted green or red. 50.
ENVASE or CAJA-- The box in which the sugar is exported. It
contains from 15 to 20 arrobas of sugar, or from 375 to 500 lbs. weight.
ESTANCIA-- A small farm where fruit trees, vegetables, grain,
& c. are cultivated.
FAENA-- Extra hours of labour on feast days, on sugar
estates, & c.
FUETE-- A whip of any kind.
FUFU-- A dish composed of plantains, yams, or calabash,
beaten into a mass. 55.
FINCA-- A country place, a house with lands.
GENTE DE COLOR-- Negroes, mulattoes, & c.
GUARDO RAYA-- The walks in coffee grounds between the plots
called in Jamaica intervals.
GUARAPPO-- The juice of the cane extracted by the compression
of the rollers of the mill.
HACENDADO-- A country gentleman. 60.
HATO-- Breeding farm consisting of two leagues of land in
INFIERNO-- A game at cards.
INGENIO-- Sugar estate.
LADINO-- In contra-distinction to Bozal, a negro born in
Africa, but acclimated in Cuba, able to speak in Spanish, and supposed to be
introduced before the slave-trade was prohibited.
LOANGO-- A negro of the Congo country. 65.
LUCUMI-- A negro of the Lucumese country.
MACUA-- A negro of the country of this nation.
MACHETO-- A sword which the country people and overseers on
MAESTRO ASSUCAR-- A white man on the sugar estate, who
superintends the making of sugar.
MANDINGO-- A negro from the country of this name, the most
civilised of the African nations. 70.
MAREMBA-- A musical instrument of the Bozals.
MAYORAL-- The overseer of an estate. All the mayorals of Cuba
are natives of Spain.
MAJOR DOMO-- The book and account keeper on an estate.
MINA-- A negro from the country of this name.
MONTE-- A game of chance in general use amongst the gentry,
and is forbidden by the laws. The word Monte also signifies the country
generally, and Montero a countryman or small farmer. 75.
NEGRERO-- A slave ship.
NINO or NINA-- The way of addressing young masters or
mistresses on the part of slaves, and free coloured people.
PALENQUE-- A place of resort in the woods and mountains for
the fugitive slaves.
PANCHO-- The pet name of children called Francisco.
PICA PLEITOS-- Pettyfogging attorneys, who foment law-suits.
PARDO, or PARDA-- Mulatto man or woman, the term Moreno is
more complimentary to them.
POTRERO-- A farm laid out in pasturage, and for the breeding
QUITRIN-- A two-wheeled carriage in common use, differing
from the volante, the head being made of flexible leather, which may be lowered
at pleasure, while the top of the volante is immoveable.
ROMPER MOLIENDA-- To commence grinding sugar-cane.
SAFRA-- Crop time, from the cutting of the cane to the
packing of the sugar. On coffee estates, the crop time is called cosecha. 85.
SAMBOMBIA-- A negro drink, made of treacle and water.
SITIO-- A farm being part of a hato or corral, having a house
and offices for stalling cattle. A hato consists of several sitios. A sitio de
labor is the same as estancia.
TERTULLIA-- An evening party.
TACHO-- Tache, or boiler.
TRECILLO-- A fashionable game at cards. 90.
TANGO-- A festive re-union of Bozal negroes.
TASAGO-- Coarse dried beef, brought from Tampico, of a very
offensive smell; it is given to the slaves on estates in small quantities, and
with yams and plantains, constitutes their diet.
TRAPICHE-- The mill that grinds the cane.
VOLANTE-- The chaise in common use in Cuba. An equipage in
the keeping of which, the luxuriousness of the owner's taste in the large towns
is chiefly shown.
ZAPATER-- See Ay, a vulgar dance. 95.
ZUMZUM-- The humming bird. The smallest and most beautiful of
the feathered tribe. It cannot live except in liberty. If caught and put into a
cage, it droops and dies in two or three days.
Johnston & Barrett, Printers, 13, Mark Lane, London.516.