Letters of a Traveller
William Cullen Bryant

Part 5 out of 6

girls," said one of our party, "think themselves extremely fortunate to be
employed here, and accept work gladly. They come from the most barren
parts of Carolina and Georgia, where their families live wretchedly, often
upon unwholesome food, and as idly as wretchedly, for hitherto there has
been no manual occupation provided for them from which they do not shrink
as disgraceful, on account of its being the occupation of slaves. In these
factories negroes are not employed as operatives, and this gives the
calling of the factory girl a certain dignity. You would be surprised to
see the change which a short time effects in these poor people. They come
barefooted, dirty, and in rags; they are scoured, put into shoes and
stockings, set at work and sent regularly to the Sunday-schools, where
they are taught what none of them have been taught before--to read and
write. In a short time they became expert at their work; they lose their
sullen shyness, and their physiognomy becomes comparatively open and
cheerful. Their families are relieved from the temptations to theft and
other shameful courses which accompany the condition of poverty without

"They have a good deal of the poke-easy manner of the piny woods about
them yet," said one of our party, a Georgian. It was true, I perceived
that they had not yet acquired all that alacrity and quickness in their
work which you see in the work-people of the New England mills. In one of
the upper stories I saw a girl of a clearer complexion than the rest, with
two long curls swinging behind each ear, as she stepped about with the air
of a duchess. "That girl is from the north," said our conductor; "at first
we placed an expert operative from the north in each story of the building
as an instructor and pattern to the rest."

I have since learned that some attempts were made at first to induce the
poor white people to work side by side with the blacks in these mills.
These utterly failed, and the question then became with the proprietors
whether they should employ blacks only or whites only; whether they should
give these poor people an occupation which, while it tended to elevate
their condition, secured a more expert class of work-people than the
negroes could be expected to become, or whether they should rely upon the
less intelligent and more negligent services of slaves. They decided at
length upon banishing the labor of blacks from their mills. At
Graniteville, in South Carolina, about ten miles from the Savannah river,
a neat little manufacturing village has lately been built up, where the
families of the _crackers_, as they are called, reclaimed from their idle
lives in the woods, are settled, and white labor only is employed. The
enterprise is said to be in a most prosperous condition.

Only coarse cloths are made in these mills--strong, thick fabrics,
suitable for negro shirting--and the demand for this kind of goods, I am
told, is greater than the supply. Every yard made in this manufactory at
Augusta, is taken off as soon as it leaves the loom. I fell in with a
northern man in the course of the day, who told me that these mills had
driven the northern manufacturer of coarse cottons out of the southern

"The buildings are erected here more cheaply," he continued, "there is far
less expense in fuel, and the wages of the workpeople are less. At first
the boys and girls of the cracker families were engaged for little more
than their board; their wages are now better, but they are still low. I am
about to go to the north, and I shall do my best to persuade some of my
friends, who have been almost ruined by this southern competition, to come
to Augusta and set up cotton mills."

There is water-power at Augusta sufficient to turn the machinery of many
large establishments. A canal from the Savannah river brings in a large
volume of water, which passes from level to level, and might be made to
turn the spindles and drive the looms of a populous manufacturing town.
Such it will become, if any faith is to be placed in present indications,
and a considerable manufacturing population will be settled at this place,
drawn from the half-wild inhabitants of the most barren parts of the
southern states. I look upon the introduction of manufactures at the south
as an event of the most favorable promise for that part of the country,
since it both condenses a class of population too thinly scattered to have
the benefit of the institutions of civilized life, of education and
religion--and restores one branch of labor, at least, to its proper
dignity, in a region where manual labor has been the badge of servitude
and dependence.

One of the pleasantest spots in the neighborhood of Augusta is Somerville,
a sandy eminence, covered with woods, the shade of which is carefully
cherished, and in the midst of which are numerous cottages and country
seats, closely embowered in trees, with pleasant paths leading to them
from the highway. Here the evenings in summer are not so oppressively hot
as in the town below, and dense as the shade is, the air is dry and
elastic. Hither many families retire during the hot season, and many
reside here the year round. We drove through it as the sun was setting,
and called at the dwellings of several of the hospitable inhabitants. The
next morning the railway train brought us to Barnwell District, in South
Carolina, where I write this.

I intended to send you some notes of the agricultural changes which I
have observed in this part of South Carolina since I was last here, but I
have hardly time to do it. The culture of wheat has been introduced, many
planters now raising enough for their own consumption. The sugar cane is
also planted, and quantities of sugar and molasses are often made
sufficient to supply the plantations on which it is cultivated.
Spinning-wheels and looms have come into use, and a strong and durable
cotton cloth is woven by the negro women for the wear of the slaves. All
this shows a desire to make the most of the recources of the country, and
to protect the planter against the embarrassments which often arise from
the fluctuating prices of the great staple of the south--cotton. But I
have no time to dwell upon this subject. To-morrow I sail for Cuba.

Letter XLV.

The Florida Coast.--Key West.

Havana, _April_ 7, 1849.

It was a most agreeable voyage which I made in the steamer Isabel, to this
port, the wind in our favor the whole distance, fine bright weather, the
temperature passing gradually from what we have it in New York at the end
of May, to what it is in the middle of June. The Isabel is a noble
sea-boat, of great strength, not so well ventilated as the Tennessee, in
which we came to Savannah, with spacious and comfortable cabins, and, I am
sorry to say, rather dirty state-rooms.

We stopped off Savannah near the close of the first day of our voyage, to
leave some of our passengers and take in others; and on the second, which
was also the second of the month, we were running rapidly down the Florida
coast, with the trade-wind fresh on our beam, sweeping before it a long
swell from the east, in which our vessel rocked too much for the stomachs
of most of the passengers. The next day the sea was smoother; we had
changed our direction somewhat and were going before the wind, the Florida
reefs full in sight, with their long streak of white surf, beyond which,
along the line of the shore, lay a belt of water, of bright translucent
green, and in front the waves wore an amethystine tint. We sat the greater
part of the day under an awning. A long line, with a baited hook at the
end, was let down into the water from the stern of our vessel, and after
being dragged there an hour or two, it was seized by a king-fish, which
was immediately hauled on board. It was an elegantly shaped fish, weighing
nearly twenty pounds, with a long head, and scales shining with blue and
purple. It was served up for dinner, and its flavor much commended by the

The waters around us were full of sails, gleaming in the sunshine. "They
belong," said our Charleston pilot, "to the wreckers who live at Key West.
Every morning they come out and cruise among the reefs, to discover if
there are any vessels wrecked or in distress--the night brings them back
to the harbor on their island."

Your readers know, I presume, that at Key West is a town containing nearly
three thousand inhabitants, who subsist solely by the occupation of
relieving vessels in distress navigating this dangerous coast, and
bringing in such as are wrecked. The population, of course, increases with
the commerce of the country, and every vessel that sails from our ports to
the Gulf of Mexico, or comes from the Gulf to the North, every addition to
the intercourse of the Atlantic ports with Mobile, New Orleans, the West
Indies, or Central America, adds to their chances of gain. These people
neither plant nor sow; their isle is a low barren spot, surrounded by a
beach of white sand, formed of disintegrated porous limestone, and a
covering of the same sand, spread thinly over the rock, forms its soil.

"It is a scandal," said the pilot, "that this coast is not better lighted.
A few light-houses would make its navigation much safer, and they would be
built, if Florida had any man in Congress to represent the matter properly
to the government. I have long been familiar with this coast--sixty times,
at least, I have made the voyage from Charleston to Havana, and I am sure
that there is no such dangerous navigation on the coast of the United
States. In going to Havana, or to New Orleans, or to other ports on the
gulf, commanders of vessels try to avoid the current of the gulf-stream
which would carry them to the north, and they, therefore, shave the
Florida coast, and keep near the reefs which you see yonder. They often
strike the reefs inadvertently, or are driven against them by storms. In
returning northward the navigation is safer; we give a good offing to the
reefs and strike out into the gulf-stream, the current of which carries us
in the direction of our voyage."

A little before nine o'clock we had entered the little harbor of Key West,
and were moored in its still waters. It was a bright moonlight evening,
and we rambled two or three hours about the town and the island. The hull
of a dismasted vessel lay close by our landing-place; it had no name on
bow or stern, and had just been found abandoned at sea, and brought in by
the wreckers; its cargo, consisting of logwood, had been taken out and lay
in piles on the wharf. This town has principally grown up since the
Florida war. The habitations have a comfortable appearance; some of them
are quite neat, but the sterility of the place is attested by the want of
gardens. In some of the inclosures before the houses, however, there were
tropical shrubs in flower, and here the cocoanut-tree was growing, and
other trees of the palm kind, which rustled with a sharp dry sound in the
fresh wind from the sea. They were the first palms I had seen growing in
the open air, and they gave a tropical aspect to the place.

We fell in with a man who had lived thirteen years at Key West. He told us
that its three thousand inhabitants had four places of worship--an
Episcopal, a Catholic, a Methodist, and a Baptist church; and the
drinking-houses which we saw open, with such an elaborate display of
bottles and decanters, were not resorted to by the people of the place,
but were the haunt of English and American sailors, whom the disasters, or
the regular voyages of their vessels had brought hither. He gave us an
account of the hurricane of September, 1846, which overflowed and laid
waste the island.

"Here where we stand," said he, "the water was four feet deep at least. I
saved my family in a boat, and carried them to a higher part of the
island. Two houses which I owned were swept away by the flood, and I was
ruined. Most of the houses were unroofed by the wind; every vessel
belonging to the place was lost; dismasted hulks were floating about, and
nobody knew to whom they belonged, and dead bodies of men and women lay
scattered along the beach. It was the worst hurricane ever known at Key
West; before it came, we used to have a hurricane regularly once in two
years, but we have had none since."

A bell was rung about this time, and we asked the reason. "It is to
signify that the negroes must be at their homes," answered the man. We
inquired if there were many blacks in the place. "Till lately," he
replied, "there were about eighty, but since the United States government
has begun to build the fort yonder, their number has increased. Several
broken-down planters, who have no employment for their slaves, have sent
them to Key West to be employed by the government. We do not want them
here, and wish that the government would leave them on the hands of their

On the fourth morning when we went on deck, the coast of Cuba, a ridge of
dim hills, was in sight, and our vessel was rolling in the unsteady waves
of the gulf stream, which here beat against the northern shore of the
island. It was a hot morning, as the mornings in this climate always are
till the periodical breeze springs up, about ten o'clock, and refreshes
all the islands that lie in the embrace of the gulf. In a short time, the
cream-colored walls of the Moro, the strong castle which guards the
entrance to the harbor of Havana, appeared rising from the waters. We
passed close to the cliffs on which it is built, were hailed in English, a
gun was fired, our steamer darted through a narrow entrance into the
harbor, and anchored in the midst of what appeared a still inland lake.

The city of Havana has a cheerful appearance seen from the harbor. Its
massive houses, built for the most part of the porous rock of the island,
are covered with stucco, generally of a white or cream color, but often
stained sky-blue or bright yellow. Above these rise the dark towers and
domes of the churches, apparently built of a more durable material, and
looking more venerable for the gay color of the dwellings amidst which
they stand. The extensive fortifications of Cabanas crown the heights on
that side of the harbor which lies opposite to the town; and south of the
city a green, fertile valley, in which stand scattered palm-trees,
stretches towards the pleasant village of Cerro.

We lay idly in the stream for two hours, till the authorities of the port
could find time to visit us. They arrived at last, and without coming on
board, subjected the captain to a long questioning, and searched the
newspapers he brought for intelligence relating to the health of the port
from which he sailed. At last they gave us leave to land, without
undergoing a quarantine, and withdrew, taking with them our passports. We
went on shore, and after three hours further delay got our baggage through
the custom-house.

Letter XLVI.


Havana, _April_ 10, 1849.

I find that it requires a greater effort of resolution to sit down to the
writing of a long letter in this soft climate, than in the country I have
left. I feel a temptation to sit idly, and let the grateful wind from the
sea, coming in at the broad windows, flow around me, or read, or talk, as
I happen to have a book or a companion. That there is something in a
tropical climate which indisposes one to vigorous exertion I can well
believe, from what I experience in myself, and what I see around me. The
ladies do not seem to take the least exercise, except an occasional drive
on the Paseo, or public park; they never walk out, and when they are
shopping, which is no less the vocation of their sex here than in other
civilized countries, they never descend from their _volantes_, but the
goods are brought out by the obsequious shopkeeper, and the lady makes her
choice and discusses the price as she sits in her carriage.

Yet the women of Cuba show no tokens of delicate health. Freshness of
color does not belong to a latitude so near the equator, but they have
plump figures, placid, unwrinkled countenances, a well-developed bust,
and eyes, the brilliant languor of which is not the languor of illness.
The girls as well as the young men, have rather narrow shoulders, but as
they advance in life, the chest, in the women particularly, seems to
expand from year to year, till it attains an amplitude by no means common
in our country. I fully believe that this effect, and their general
health, in spite of the inaction in which they pass their lives, is owing
to the free circulation of air through their apartments.

For in Cuba, the women as well as the men may be said to live in the open
air. They know nothing of close rooms, in all the island, and nothing of
foul air, and to this, I have no doubt, quite as much as to the mildness
of the temperature, the friendly effect of its climate upon invalids from
the north is to be ascribed. Their ceilings are extremely lofty, and the
wide windows, extending from the top of the room to the floor and guarded
by long perpendicular bars of iron, are without glass, and when closed are
generally only closed with blinds which, while they break the force of the
wind when it is too strong, do not exclude the air. Since I have been on
the island, I may be said to have breakfasted and dined and supped and
slept in the open air, in an atmosphere which is never in repose except
for a short time in the morning after sunrise. At other times a breeze is
always stirring, in the day-time bringing in the air from the ocean, and
at night drawing it out again to the sea.

In walking through the streets of the towns in Cuba, I have been
entertained by the glimpses I had through the ample windows, of what was
going on in the parlors. Sometimes a curtain hanging before them allowed
me only a sight of the small hands which clasped the bars of the grate,
and the dusky faces and dark eyes peeping into the street and scanning the
passers by. At other times, the whole room was seen, with its furniture,
and its female forms sitting in languid postures, courting the breeze as
it entered from without. In the evening, as I passed along the narrow
sidewalk of the narrow streets, I have been startled at finding myself
almost in the midst of a merry party gathered about the window of a
brilliantly lighted room, and chattering the soft Spanish of the island in
voices that sounded strangely near to me. I have spoken of their languid
postures: they love to recline on sofas; their houses are filled with
rocking-chairs imported from the United States; they are fond of sitting
in chairs tilted against the wall, as we sometimes do at home. Indeed they
go beyond us in this respect; for in Cuba they have invented a kind of
chair which, by lowering the back and raising the knees, places the sitter
precisely in the posture he would take if he sat in a chair leaning
backward against a wall. It is a luxurious attitude, I must own, and I do
not wonder that it is a favorite with lazy people, for it relieves one of
all the trouble of keeping the body upright.

It is the women who form the large majority of the worshipers in the
churches. I landed here in Passion Week, and the next day was Holy
Thursday, when not a vehicle on wheels of any sort is allowed to be seen
in the streets; and the ladies, contrary to their custom during the rest
of the year, are obliged to resort to the churches on foot. Negro servants
of both sexes were seen passing to and fro, carrying mats on which their
mistresses were to kneel in the morning service. All the white female
population, young and old, were dressed in black, with black lace veils.
In the afternoon, three wooden or waxen images of the size of life,
representing Christ in the different stages of his passion, were placed in
the spacious Church of St. Catharine, which was so thronged that I found
it difficult to enter. Near the door was a figure of the Saviour sinking
under the weight of his cross, and the worshipers were kneeling to kiss
his feet. Aged negro men and women, half-naked negro children, ladies
richly attired, little girls in Parisian dresses, with lustrous black eyes
and a profusion of ringlets, cast themselves down before the image, and
pressed their lips to its feet in a passion of devotion. Mothers led up
their little ones, and showed them how to perform this act of adoration. I
saw matrons and young women rise from it with their eyes red with tears.

The next day, which was Good Friday, about twilight, a long procession
came trailing slowly through the streets under my window, bearing an image
of the dead Christ, lying upon a cloth of gold. It was accompanied by a
body of soldiery, holding their muskets reversed, and a band playing
plaintive tunes; the crowd uncovered their heads as it passed. On Saturday
morning, at ten o'clock, the solemnities of holy week were over; the bells
rang a merry peal; hundreds of volantes and drays, which had stood ready
harnessed, rushed into the streets; the city became suddenly noisy with
the rattle of wheels and the tramp of horses; the shops which had been
shut for the last two days, were opened; and the ladies, in white or
light-colored muslins, were proceeding in their volantes to purchase at
the shops their costumes for the Easter festivities.

I passed the evening on the _Plaza de Armas_, a public square in front of
the Governor's house, planted with palms and other trees, paved with broad
flags, and bordered with a row of benches. It was crowded with people in
their best dresses, the ladies mostly in white, and without bonnets, for
the bonnet in this country is only worn while travelling. Chairs had been
placed for them in a double row around the edge of the square, and a row
of volantes surrounded the square, in each of which sat two or more
ladies, the ample folds of their muslin dresses flowing out on each side
over the steps of the carriage. The Governor's band played various airs,
martial and civic, with great beauty of execution. The music continued for
two hours, and the throng, with only occasional intervals of conversation,
seemed to give themselves up wholly to the enjoyment of listening to it.

It was a bright moonlight night, so bright that one might almost see to
read, and the temperature the finest I can conceive, a gentle breeze
rustling among the palms overhead. I was surprised at seeing around me so
many fair brows and snowy necks. It is the moonlight, said I to myself, or
perhaps it is the effect of the white dresses, for the complexions of
these ladies seem to differ several shades from those which I saw
yesterday at the churches. A female acquaintance has since given me
another solution of the matter.

"The reason," she said, "of the difference you perceived is this, that
during the ceremonies of holy week they take off the _cascarilla_ from
their faces, and appear in their natural complexions."

I asked the meaning of the word _cascarilla_, which I did not remember to
have heard before.

"It is the favorite cosmetic of the island, and is made of egg-shells
finely pulverized. They often fairly plaster their faces with it. I have
seen a dark-skinned lady as white almost as marble at a ball. They will
sometimes, at a morning call or an evening party, withdraw to repair the
_cascarilla_ on their faces."

I do not vouch for this tale, but tell it "as it was told to me." Perhaps,
after all, it was the moonlight which had produced this transformation,
though I had noticed something of the same improvement of complexion just
before sunset, on the Paseo Isabel, a public park without the city walls,
planted with rows of trees, where, every afternoon, the gentry of Havana
drive backward and forward in their volantes, with each a glittering
harness, and a liveried negro bestriding, in large jack-boots, the single
horse which draws the vehicle.

I had also the same afternoon visited the receptacle into which the
population of the city are swept when the game of life is played out--the
Campo Santo, as it is called, or public cemetery of Havana. Going out of
the city at the gate nearest the sea, I passed through a street of the
wretchedest houses I had seen; the ocean was roaring at my right on the
coral rocks which form the coast. The dingy habitations were soon left
behind, and I saw the waves, pushed forward by a fresh wind, flinging
their spray almost into the road; I next entered a short avenue of trees,
and in a few minutes the volante stopped at the gate of the cemetery. In a
little inclosure before the entrance, a few starvling flowers of Europe
were cultivated, but the wild plants of the country flourished luxuriantly
on the rich soil within. A thick wall surrounded the cemetery, in which
were rows of openings for coffins, one above the other, where the more
opulent of the dead were entombed. The coffin is thrust in endwise, and
the opening closed with a marble slab bearing an inscription.

Most of these niches were already occupied, but in the earth below, by far
the greater part of those who die at Havana, are buried without a monument
or a grave which they are allowed to hold a longer time than is necessary
for their bodies to be consumed in the quicklime which is thrown upon
them. Every day fresh trenches are dug in which their bodies are thrown,
generally without coffins. Two of these, one near each wall of the
cemetery, were waiting for the funerals. I saw where the spade had divided
the bones of those who were buried there last, and thrown up the broken
fragments, mingled with masses of lime, locks of hair, and bits of
clothing. Without the walls was a receptacle in which the skulls and other
larger bones, dark with the mould of the grave, were heaped.

Two or three persons were walking about the cemetery when we first
entered, but it was now at length the cool of the day, and the funerals
began to arrive. They brought in first a rude black coffin, broadest at
the extremity which contained the head, and placing it at the end of one
of the trenches, hurriedly produced a hammer and nails to fasten the lid
before letting it down, when it was found that the box was too shallow at
the narrower extremity. The lid was removed for a moment and showed the
figure of an old man in a threadbare black coat, white pantaloons, and
boots. The negroes who bore it beat out the bottom with the hammer, so as
to allow the lid to be fastened over the feet. It was then nailed down
firmly with coarse nails, the coffin was swung into the trench, and the
earth shoveled upon it. A middle-aged man, wrho seemed to be some relative
of the dead, led up a little boy close to the grave and watched the
process of filling it. They spoke to each other and smiled, stood till the
pit was filled to the surface, and the bearers had departed, and then
retired in their turn. This was one of the more respectable class of
funerals. Commonly the dead are piled without coffins, one above the
other, in the trenches.

The funerals now multiplied. The corpse of a little child was brought in,
uncoffined; and another, a young man who, I was told, had cut his throat
for love, was borne towards one of the niches in the wall. I heard loud
voices, which seemed to proceed from the eastern side of the cemetery, and
which, I thought at first, might be the recitation of a funeral service;
but no funeral service is said at these graves; and, after a time, I
perceived that they came from the windows of a long building which
overlooked one side of the burial ground. It was a mad-house. The inmates,
exasperated at the spectacle before them, were gesticulating from the
windows--the women screaming and the men shouting, but no attention was
paid to their uproar. A lady, however, a stranger to the island, who
visited the Campo Santo that afternoon, was so affected by the sights and
sounds of the place, that she was borne out weeping and almost in
convulsions. As we left the place, we found a crowd of volantes about the
gate; a pompous bier, with rich black hangings, drew up; a little beyond,
we met one of another kind--a long box, with glass sides and ends, in
which lay the corpse of a woman, dressed in white, with a black veil
thrown over the face.

The next day the festivities, which were to indemnify the people for the
austerities of Lent and of Passion Week, began. The cock-pits were opened
during the day, and masked balls were given in the evening at the
theatres. You know, probably, that cock-fighting is the principal
diversion of the island, having entirely supplanted the national spectacle
of bull-baiting. Cuba, in fact, seemed to me a great poultry-yard. I heard
the crowing of cocks in all quarters, for the game-cock is the noisiest
and most boastful of birds, and is perpetually uttering his notes of
defiance. In the villages I saw the veterans of the pit, a strong-legged
race, with their combs cropped smooth to the head, the feathers plucked
from every part of the body except their wings, and the tail docked like
that of a coach horse, picking up their food in the lanes among the
chickens. One old cripple I remember to have seen in the little town of
Guines, stiff with wounds received in combat, who had probably got a
furlough for life, and who, while limping among his female companions,
maintained a sort of strut in his gait, and now and then stopped to crow
defiance to the world. The peasants breed game-cocks and bring them to
market; amateurs in the town train them for their private amusement.
Dealers in game-cocks are as common as horse-jockies with us, and every
village has its cock-pit.

I went on Monday to the _Valla de Gallos_, situated in that part of Havana
which lies without the walls. Here, in a spacious inclosure, were two
amphitheatres of benches, roofed, but without walls, with a circular area
in the midst. Each was crowded with people, who were looking at a
cock-fight, and half of whom seemed vociferating with all their might. I
mounted one of the outer benches, and saw one of the birds laid dead by
the other in a few minutes. Then was heard the chink of gold and silver
pieces, as the betters stepped into the area and paid their wagers; the
slain bird was carried out and thrown on the ground, and the victor, taken
into the hands of the owner, crowed loudly in celebration of his victory.
Two other birds were brought in, and the cries of those who offered wagers
were heard on all sides. They ceased at last, and the cocks were put down
to begin the combat. They fought warily at first, but at length began to
strike in earnest, the blood flowed, and the bystanders were heard to
vociferate, "_ahi estan pelezando_"[4]--"_mata! mata! mata!_"[5]
gesticulating at the same time with great violence, and new wagers were
laid as the interest of the combat increased. In ten minutes one of the
birds was dispatched, for the combat never ends till one of them has his

In the mean time several other combats had begun in smaller pits, which
lay within the same inclosure, but were not surrounded with circles of
benches. I looked upon the throng engaged in this brutal sport, with eager
gestures and loud cries, and could not help thinking how soon this noisy
crowd would lie in heaps in the pits of the Campo Santo.

In the evening was a masked ball in the Tacon Theatre, a spacious
building, one of the largest of its kind in the world. The pit, floored
over, with the whole depth of the stage open to the back wall of the
edifice, furnished a ball-room of immense size. People in grotesque masks,
in hoods or fancy dresses, were mingled with a throng clad in the ordinary
costume, and Spanish dances were performed to the music of a numerous
band. A well-dressed crowd filled the first and second tier of boxes. The
Creole smokes everywhere, and seemed astonished when the soldier who stood
at the door ordered him to throw away his lighted segar before entering.
Once upon the floor, however, he lighted another segar in defiance of the

The Spanish dances, with their graceful movements, resembling the
undulations of the sea in its gentlest moods, are nowhere more gracefully
performed than in Cuba, by the young women born on the island. I could not
help thinking, however, as I looked on that gay crowd, on the quaint
maskers, and the dancers whose flexible limbs seemed swayed to and fro by
the breath of the music, that all this was soon to end at the Campo Santo,
and I asked myself how many of all this crowd would be huddled uncoffined,
when their sports were over, into the foul trenches of the public

Letter XLVII.

Scenery of Cuba.--Coffee Plantations.

Matanzas, _April 16, 1849_.

My expectations of the scenery of the island of Cuba and of the
magnificence of its vegetation, have not been quite fulfilled. This place
is but sixty miles to the east of Havana, but the railway which brings you
hither, takes you over a sweep of a hundred and thirty miles, through one
of the most fertile districts in the interior of the island. I made an
excursion from Havana to San Antonio de los Banos, a pleasant little town
at nine leagues distance, in a southeast direction from the capital, in
what is called the Vuelta Abajo. I have also just returned from a visit to
some fine sugar estates to the southeast of Matanzas, so that I may claim
to have seen something of the face of the country of which I speak.

At this season the hills about Havana, and the pastures everywhere, have
an arid look, a russet hue, like sandy fields with us, when scorched by a
long drought, on like our meadows in winter. This, however, is the dry
season; and when I was told that but two showers of rain have fallen since
October, I could only wonder that so much vegetation was left, and that
the verbenas and other herbage which clothed the ground, should yet
retain, as I perceived they did, when I saw them nearer, an unextinguished
life. I have, therefore, the disadvantage of seeing Cuba not only in the
dry season, but near the close of an uncommonly dry season. Next month the
rainy season commences, when the whole island, I am told, even the
barrenest parts, flushes into a deep verdure, creeping plants climb over
all the rocks and ascend the trees, and the mighty palms put out their new

Shade, however, is the great luxury of a warm climate, and why the people
of Cuba do not surround their habitations in the country, in the villages,
and in the environs of the large towns, with a dense umbrage of trees, I
confess I do not exactly understand. In their rich soil, and in their
perpetually genial climate, trees grow with great rapidity, and they have
many noble ones both for size and foliage. The royal palm, with its tall
straight columnar trunk of a whitish hue, only uplifts a Corinthian
capital of leaves, and casts but a narrow shadow; but it mingles finely
with other trees, and planted in avenues, forms a colonnade nobler than
any of the porticoes to the ancient Egyptian temples. There is no thicker
foliage or fresher green than that of the mango, which daily drops its
abundant fruit for several months in the year, and the mamey and the
sapote, fruit-trees also, are in leaf during the whole of the dry season;
even the Indian fig, which clasps and kills the largest trees of the
forest, and at last takes their place, a stately tree with a stout trunk
of its own, has its unfading leaf of vivid green.

It is impossible to avoid an expression of impatience that these trees
have not been formed into groups, embowering the dwellings, and into
groves, through which the beams of the sun, here so fierce at noonday,
could not reach the ground beneath. There is in fact nothing of ornamental
cultivation in Cuba, except of the most formal kind. Some private gardens
there are, carefully kept, but all of the stiffest pattern; there is
nothing which brings out the larger vegetation of the region in that
grandeur and magnificence which might belong to it. In the Quinta del
Obispo, or Bishop's Garden, which is open to the public, you find shade
which you find nowhere else, but the trees are planted in straight alleys,
and the water-roses, a species of water-lily of immense size, fragrant and
pink-colored, grow in a square tank, fed by a straight canal, with sides
of hewn stone.

Let me say, however, that when I asked for trees, I was referred to the
hurricanes which have recently ravaged the island. One of these swept over
Cuba in 1844, uprooting the palms and the orange groves, and laying
prostrate the avenues of trees on the coffee plantations. The Paseo
Isabel, a public promenade, between the walls of Havana and the streets of
the new town, was formerly over-canopied with lofty and spreading trees,
which this tempest leveled to the ground; it has now been planted with
rows of young trees, which yield a meagre shade. In 1846 came another
hurricane, still more terrific, destroying much of the beauty which the
first had spared.

Of late years, also, such of the orange-trees as were not uprooted, or
have recently been planted, have been attacked by the insect which a few
years since was so destructive to the same tree in Florida. The effect
upon the tree resembles that of a blight, the leaves grow sere, and the
branches die. You may imagine, therefore, that I was somewhat disappointed
not to find the air, as it is at this season in the south of Italy,
fragrant with the odor of orange and lemon blossoms. Oranges are scarce,
and not so fine, at this moment, in Havana and Matanzas, as in the
fruit-shops of New York. I hear, however, that there are portions of the
island which were spared by these hurricanes, and that there are others
where the ravages of the insect in the orange groves have nearly ceased,
as I have been told is also the case in Florida.

I have mentioned my excursion to San Antonio. I went thither by railway,
in a car built at Newark, drawn by an engine made in New York, and worked
by an American engineer. For some distance we passed through fields of the
sweet-potato, which here never requires a second planting, and propagates
itself perpetually in the soil, patches of maize, low groves of bananas
with their dark stems, and of plantains with their green ones, and large
tracts producing the pineapple growing in rows like carrots. Then came
plantations of the sugar-cane, with its sedge-like blades of pale-green,
then extensive tracts of pasturage with scattered shrubs and tall dead
weeds, the growth of the last summer, and a thin herbage bitten close to
the soil. Here and there was an abandoned coffee-plantation, where cattle
were browzing among the half-perished shrubs and broken rows of trees; and
the neglected hedges of the wild pine, _pina raton_, as the Cubans call
it, were interrupted with broad gaps.

Sometimes we passed the cottages of the _monteros_, or peasants, built
often of palm-leaves, the walls formed of the broad sheath of the leaf,
fastened to posts of bamboo, and the roof thatched with the long
plume-like leaf itself. The door was sometimes hung with a kind of curtain
to exclude the sun, which the dusky complexioned women and children put
aside to gaze at us as we passed. These dwellings were often picturesque
in their appearance, with a grove of plantains behind, a thicket of bamboo
by its side, waving its willow-like sprays in the wind; a pair of
mango-trees near, hung with fruit just ripening and reddish blossoms just
opening, and a cocoa-tree or two lifting high above the rest its immense
feathery leaves and its clusters of green nuts.

We now and then met the _monteros_ themselves scudding along on their
little horses, in that pace which we call a rack. Their dress was a Panama
hat, a shirt worn over a pair of pantaloons, a pair of rough cowskin
shoes, one of which was armed with a spur, and a sword lashed to the left
side by a belt of cotton cloth. They are men of manly bearing, of thin
make, but often of a good figure, with well-spread shoulders, which,
however, have a stoop in them, contracted, I suppose, by riding always
with a short stirrup.

Forests, too, we passed. You, doubtless, suppose that a forest in a soil
and climate like this, must be a dense growth of trees with colossal stems
and leafy summits. A forest in Cuba--all that I have seen are such--is a
thicket of shrubs and creeping plants, through which, one would suppose
that even the wild cats of the country would find it impossible to make
their way. Above this impassable jungle rises here and there the palm, or
the gigantic ceyba or cotton-tree, but more often trees of far less
beauty, thinly scattered and with few branches, disposed without symmetry,
and at this season often leafless.

We reached San Antonio at nine o'clock in the morning, and went to the inn
of La Punta, where we breakfasted on rice and fresh eggs, and a dish of
meat so highly flavored with garlic, that it was impossible to distinguish
to what animal it belonged. Adjoining the inn was a cockpit, with cells
for the birds surrounding the inclosure, in which they were crowing
lustily. Two or three persons seemed to have nothing to do but to tend
them; and one, in particular, with a gray beard, a grave aspect, and a
solid gait, went about the work with a deliberation and solemnity which to
me, who had lately seen the hurried burials at the Campo Santo, in Havana,
was highly edifying. A man was training a game-cock in the pit; he was
giving it lessons in the virtue of perseverance. He held another cock
before it, which he was teaching it to pursue, and striking it
occasionally over the head to provoke it, with the wing of the bird in his
hand, he made it run after him about the area for half an hour together.

I had heard much of the beauty of the coffee estates of Cuba, and in the
neighborhood of San Antonio are some which have been reputed very fine
ones. A young man, in a checked blue and white shirt, worn like a frock
over checked pantaloons, with a spur on one heel, offered to procure us a
_volante_, and we engaged him. He brought us one with two horses, a negro
postillion sitting on one, and the shafts of the vehicle borne by the
other. We set off, passing through fields guarded by stiff-leaved hedges
of the ratoon-pine, over ways so bad that if the motion of the volante
were not the easiest in the world, we should have taken an unpleasant
jolting. The lands of Cuba fit for cultivation, are divided into red and
black; we were in the midst of the red lands, consisting of a fine earth
of a deep brick color, resting on a bed of soft, porous, chalky limestone.
In the dry season the surface is easily dispersed into dust, and stains
your clothes of a dull red.

A drive of four miles, through a country full of palm and cocoanut trees,
brought us to the gate of a coffee plantation, which our friend in the
checked shirt, by whom we were accompanied, opened for us. We passed up to
the house through what had been an avenue of palms, but was now two rows
of trees at very unequal distances, with here and there a sickly
orange-tree. On each side grew the coffee shrubs, hung with flowers of
snowy white, but unpruned and full of dry and leafless twigs. In every
direction were ranks of trees, prized for ornament or for their fruit, and
shrubs, among which were magnificent oleanders loaded with flowers,
planted in such a manner as to break the force of the wind, and partially
to shelter the plants from the too fierce rays of the sun. The coffee
estate is, in fact, a kind of forest, with the trees and shrubs arranged
in straight lines. The _mayoral_, or steward of the estate, a handsome
Cuban, with white teeth, a pleasant smile, and a distinct utterance of his
native language, received us with great courtesy, and offered us
_cigarillos_, though he never used tobacco; and spirit of cane, though he
never drank. He wore a sword, and carried a large flexible whip, doubled
for convenience in the hand. He showed us the coffee plants, the broad
platforms with smooth surfaces of cement and raised borders, where the
berries were dried in the sun, and the mills where the negroes were at
work separating the kernel from the pulp in which it is inclosed.

"These coffee estates," said he, "are already ruined, and the planters are
abandoning them as fast as they can; in four years more there will not be
a single coffee plantation on the island. They can not afford to raise
coffee for the price they get in the market."

I inquired the reason. "It is," replied he, "the extreme dryness of the
season when the plant is in flower. If we have rain at this time of the
year, we are sure of a good crop; if it does not rain, the harvest is
small; and the failure of rain is so common a circumstance that we must
leave the cultivation of coffee to the people of St. Domingo and Brazil."

I asked if the plantation could not be converted into a sugar estate.

"Not this," he answered; "it has been cultivated too long. The land was
originally rich, but it is exhausted"--tired out, was the expression he
used--"we may cultivate maize or rice, for the dry culture of rice
succeeds well here, or we may abandon it to grazing. At present we keep a
few negroes here, just to gather the berries which ripen, without taking
any trouble to preserve the plants, or replace those which die."

I could easily believe from what I saw on this estate, that there must be
a great deal of beauty of vegetation in a well-kept coffee plantation, but
the formal pattern in which it is disposed, the straight alleys and rows
of trees, the squares and parallelograms, showed me that there was no
beauty of arrangement. We fell in, before we returned to our inn, with the
proprietor, a delicate-looking person, with thin white hands, who had been
educated at Boston, and spoke English as if he had never lived anywhere
else. His manners, compared with those of his steward, were exceedingly
frosty and forbidding, and when we told him of the civility which had
been shown us, his looks seemed to say he wished it had been otherwise.

Returning to our inn, we dined, and as the sun grew low, we strolled out
to look at the town. It is situated on a clear little stream, over which
several bathing-houses are built, their posts standing in the midst of the
current. Above the town, it flows between rocky banks, bordered with
shrubs, many of them in flower. Below the town, after winding a little
way, it enters a cavern yawning in the limestone rock, immediately over
which a huge ceyba rises, and stretches its leafy arms in mid-heaven. Down
this opening the river throws itself, and is never seen again. This is not
a singular instance in Cuba. The island is full of caverns and openings in
the rocks, and I am told that many of the streams find subterranean
passages to the sea. There is a well at the inn of La Punta, in which a
roaring of water is constantly heard. It is the sound of a subterranean
stream rushing along a passage in the rocks, and the well is an opening
into its roof.

In passing through the town, I was struck with the neat attire of those
who inhabited the humblest dwellings. At the door of one of the cottages,
I saw a group of children, of different ages, all quite pretty, with oval
faces and glittering black eyes, in clean fresh dresses, which, one would
think, could scarcely have been kept a moment without being soiled, in
that dwelling, with its mud floor. The people of Cuba are sparing in their
ablutions; the men do not wash their faces and hands till nearly mid-day,
for fear of spasms; and of the women, I am told that many do not wash at
all, contenting themselves with rubbing their cheeks and necks with a
little aguardiente; but the passion for clean linen, and, among the men,
for clean white pantaloons, is universal. The _montero_ himself, on a
holiday or any public occasion, will sport a shirt of the finest linen,
smoothly ironed, and stiffly starched throughout, from the collar

The next day, at half-past eleven, we left our inn, which was also what we
call in the United States a country store, where the clerks who had just
performed their ablutions and combed their hair, were making segars behind
the counter from the tobacco of the Vuelta Abajo, and returned by the
railway to Havana. We procured travelling licenses at the cost of four
dollars and a half each, for it is the pleasure of the government to levy
this tax on strangers who travel, and early the following morning took the
train for Matanzas.

Letter XLVIII.

Matanzas.--Valley of Yumuri.

Los Guines, _April_ 18, 1849.

In the long circuit of railway which leads from Havana to Matanzas, I saw
nothing remarkably different from what I observed on my excursion to San
Antonio. There was the same smooth country, of great apparent fertility,
sometimes varied with gentle undulations, and sometimes rising, in the
distance, into hills covered with thickets. We swept by dark-green fields
planted with the yuca, an esculent root, of which the cassava bread is
made, pale-green fields of the cane, brown tracts of pasturage, partly
formed of abandoned coffee estates where the palms and scattered
fruit-trees were yet standing, and forests of shrubs and twining plants
growing for the most part among rocks. Some of these rocky tracts have a
peculiar appearance; they consist of rough projections of rock a foot or
two in height, of irregular shape and full of holes; they are called
_diente de perro_, or dog's teeth. Here the trees and creepers find
openings filled with soil, by which they are nourished. We passed two or
three country cemeteries, where that foulest of birds, the turkey-vulture,
was seen sitting on the white stuccoed walls, or hovering on his ragged
wings in circles over them.

In passing over the neighborhood of the town in which I am now writing, I
found myself on the black lands of the island. Here the rich dark earth of
the plain lies on a bed of chalk as white as snow, as was apparent where
the earth had been excavated to a little depth, on each side of the
railway, to form the causey on which it ran. Streams of clear water,
diverted from a river to the left, traversed the plain with a swift
current, almost even with the surface of the soil, which they keep in
perpetual freshness. As we approached Matanzas, we saw more extensive
tracts of cane clothing the broad slopes with their dense blades, as if
the coarse sedge of a river had been transplanted to the uplands.

At length the bay of Matanzas opened before us; a long tract of water
stretching to the northeast, into which several rivers empty themselves.
The town lay at the southwestern extremity, sheltered by hills, where the
San Juan and the Yumuri pour themselves into the brine. It is a small but
prosperous town, with a considerable trade, as was indicated by the
vessels at anchor in the harbor.

As we passed along the harbor I remarked an extensive, healthy-looking
orchard of plantains growing on one of those tracts which they call
_diente de perro_. I could see nothing but the jagged teeth of whitish
rock, and the green swelling stems of the plantain, from ten to fifteen
feet in height, and as large as a man's leg, or larger. The stalks of the
plantain are juicy and herbaceous, and of so yielding a texture, that with
a sickle you might entirely sever the largest of them at a single stroke.
How such a multitude of succulent plants could find nourishment on what
seemed to the eye little else than barren rock, I could not imagine.

The day after arriving at Matanzas we made an excursion on horseback to
the summit of the hill, immediately overlooking the town, called the
Cumbre. Light hardy horses of the country were brought us, with high
pommels to the saddles, which are also raised behind in a manner making it
difficult to throw the rider from his seat. A negro fitted a spur to my
right heel, and mounting by the short stirrups, I crossed the river Yumuri
with my companions, and began to climb the Cumbre. They boast at Matanzas
of the perpetual coolness of temperature enjoyed upon the broad summit of
this hill, where many of the opulent merchants of the town have their
country houses, to which the mosquitoes and the intermittents that infest
the town below, never come, and where, as one of them told me, you may
play at billiards in August without any inconvenient perspiration.

From the Cumbre you behold the entire extent of the harbor; the town lies
below you with its thicket of masts, and its dusty _paseo_, where rows of
the Cuba pine stand rooted in the red soil. On the opposite shore your eye
is attracted to a chasm between high rocks, where the river Canimar comes
forth through banks of romantic beauty--so they are described to me--and
mingles with the sea. But the view to the west was much finer; there lay
the valley of the Yumuri, and a sight of it is worth a voyage to the
island. In regard to this my expectations suffered no disappointment.

Before me lay a deep valley, surrounded on all sides by hills and
mountains, with the little river Yumuri twining at the bottom. Smooth
round hillocks rose from the side next to me, covered with clusters of
palms, and the steeps of the southeastern corner of the valley were
clothed with a wood of intense green, where I could almost see the leaves
glisten in the sunshine. The broad fields below were waving with cane and
maize, and cottages of the _monteros_ were scattered among them, each with
its tuft of bamboos and its little grove of plantains. In some parts the
cliffs almost seemed to impend over the valley; but to the west, in a soft
golden haze, rose summit behind summit, and over them all, loftiest and
most remote, towered the mountain called the _Pan de Matanzas_.

We stopped for a few moments at a country seat on the top of the Cumbre,
where this beautiful view lay ever before the eye. Round it, in a garden,
were cultivated the most showy plants of the tropics, but my attention was
attracted to a little plantation of damask roses blooming profusely. They
were scentless; the climate which supplies the orange blossom with intense
odors exhausts the fragrance of the rose. At nightfall--the night falls
suddenly in this latitude--we were again at our hotel.

We passed our Sunday on a sugar estate at the hospitable mansion of a
planter from the United States about fifteen miles from Matanzas. The
house stands on an eminence, once embowered in trees which the hurricanes
have leveled, overlooking a broad valley, where palms were scattered in
every direction; for the estate had formerly been a coffee plantation. In
the huge buildings containing the machinery and other apparatus for making
sugar, which stood at the foot of the eminence, the power of steam, which
had been toiling all the week, was now at rest. As the hour of sunset
approached, a smoke was seen rising from its chimney, presently pufis of
vapor issued from the engine, its motion began to be heard, and the
negroes, men and women, were summoned to begin the work of the week. Some
feed the fire under the boiler with coal; others were seen rushing to the
mill with their arms full of the stalks of the cane, freshly cut, which
they took from a huge pile near the building; others lighted fires under a
row of huge cauldrons, with the dry stalks of cane from which the juice
had been crushed by the mill. It was a spectacle of activity such as I had
not seen in Cuba.

The sound of the engine was heard all night, for the work of grinding the
cane, once begun, proceeds day and night, with the exception of Sundays
and some other holidays. I was early next morning at the mill. A current
of cane juice was flowing from the mill in a long trunk to a vat in which
it was clarified with lime; it was then made to pass successively from one
seething cauldron to another, as it obtained a thicker consistence by
boiling. The negroes, with huge ladles turning on pivots, swept it from
cauldron to cauldron, and finally passed it into a trunk, which conveyed
it to shallow tanks in another apartment, where it cooled into sugar. From
these another set of workmen scooped it up in moist masses, carried it in
buckets up a low flight of stairs, and poured it into rows of hogsheads
pierced with holes at the bottom. These are placed over a large tank, into
which the moisture dripping from the hogsheads is collected and forms

This is the method of making the sugar called Muscovado. It is drained a
few days, and then the railways take it to Matanzas or to Havana. We
visited afterward a plantation in the neighborhood, in which clayed sugar
is made. Our host furnished us with horses to make the excursion, and we
took a winding road, over hill and valley, by plantations and forests,
till we stopped at the gate of an extensive pasture-ground. An old negro,
whose hut was at hand, opened it for us, and bowed low as we passed. A
ride of half a mile further brought us in sight of the cane-fields of the
plantation called Saratoga, belonging to the house of Drake & Company, of
Havana, and reputed one of the finest of the island. It had a different
aspect from any plantation we had seen. Trees and shrubs there were none,
but the canes, except where they had been newly cropped for the mill,
clothed the slopes and hollows with their light-green blades, like the
herbage of a prairie.

We were kindly received by the administrator of the estate, an intelligent
Biscayan, who showed us the whole process of making clayed sugar. It does
not differ from that of making the Muscovado, so far as concerns the
grinding and boiling. When, however, the sugar is nearly cool, it is
poured into iron vessels of conical shape, with the point downward, at
which is an opening. The top of the sugar is then covered with a sort of
black thick mud, which they call clay, and which is several times renewed
as it becomes dry. The moisture from the clay passes through the sugar,
carrying with it the cruder portions, which form molasses. In a few days
the draining is complete.

We saw the work-people of the Saratoga estate preparing for the market the
sugar thus cleansed, if we may apply the word to such a process. With a
rude iron blade they cleft the large loaf of sugar just taken from the
mould into three parts, called first, second, and third quality, according
to their whiteness. These are dried in the sun on separate platforms of
wood with a raised edge; the women standing and walking over the fragments
with their bare dirty feet, and beating them smaller with wooden mallets
and clubs. The sugar of the first quality is then scraped up and put into
boxes; that of the second and third, being moister, is handled a third
time and carried into the drying-room, where it is exposed to the heat of
a stove, and when sufficiently dry, is boxed up for market like the other.

The sight of these processes was not of a nature to make one think with
much satisfaction of clayed sugar as an ingredient of food, but the
inhabitants of the island are superior to such prejudices, and use it with
as little scruple as they who do not know in what manner it is made.

In the afternoon we returned to the dwelling of our American host, and
taking the train at _Caobas_, or Mahogany Trees--so called from the former
growth of that tree on the spot--we were at Matanzas an hour afterward.
The next morning the train brought us to this little town, situated
half-way between Matanzas and Havana, but a considerable distance to the
south of either.

Letter XLIX.

Negroes in Cuba.--Indian Slaves.

Havana, _April_ 22, 1849.

The other day when we were at Guines, we heard that a negro was to suffer
death early the next morning by the _garrote_, an instrument by which the
neck of the criminal is broken and life extinguished in an instant. I
asked our landlady for what crime the man had been condemned.

"He has killed his master," she replied, "an old man, in his bed."

"Had he received any provocation?"

"Not that I have heard; but another slave is to be put to death by the
_garrote_ in about a fortnight, whose offense had some palliation. His
master was a man of harsh temper, and treated his slaves with extreme
severity; the negro watched his opportunity, and shot him as he sat at

We went to the place of execution a little before eight o'clock, and found
the preparations already made. A platform had been erected, on which stood
a seat for the prisoner, and back of the seat a post was fixed, with a
sort of iron collar for his neck. A screw, with a long transverse handle
on the side of the post opposite to the collar, was so contrived that,
when it was turned, it would push forward an iron bolt against the back of
the neck and crush the spine at once.

Sentinels in uniform were walking to and fro, keeping the spectators at a
distance from the platform. The heat of the sun was intense, for the
sea-breeze had not yet sprung up, but the crowd had begun to assemble. As
near to the platform as they could come, stood a group of young girls, two
of whom were dressed in white and one was pretty, with no other shade for
their dusky faces than their black veils, chatting and laughing and
stealing occasional glances at the new-comers. In another quarter were six
or eight monteros on horseback, in their invariable costume of Panama
hats, shirts and pantaloons, with holsters to their saddles, and most of
them with swords lashed to their sides.

About half-past eight a numerous crowd made its appearance coming from the
town. Among them walked with a firm step, a large black man, dressed in a
long white frock, white pantaloons, and a white cap with a long peak which
fell backward on his shoulders. He was the murderer; his hands were tied
together by the wrists; in one of them he held a crucifix; the rope by
which they were fastened was knotted around his waist, and the end of it
was held by another athletic negro, dressed in blue cotton with white
facings, who walked behind him. On the left of the criminal walked an
officer of justice; on his right an ecclesiastic, slender and stooping,
in a black gown and a black cap, the top of which was formed into a sort
of coronet, exhorting the criminal, in a loud voice and with many
gesticulations, to repent and trust in the mercy of God.

When they reached the platform, the negro was made to place himself on his
knees before it, the priest continuing his exhortations, and now and then
clapping him, in an encouraging manner, on the shoulder. I saw the man
shake his head once or twice, and then kiss the crucifix. In the mean time
a multitude, of all ages and both sexes, took possession of the places
from which the spectacle could be best seen. A stone-fence, such as is
common in our country, formed of loose stones taken from the surface of
the ground, upheld a long row of spectators. A well-dressed couple, a
gentleman in white pantaloons, and a lady elegantly attired, with a black
lace veil and a parasol, bringing their two children and two colored
servants, took their station by my side--the elder child found a place on
the top of the fence, and the younger, about four years of age, was lifted
in the arms of one of the servants, that it might have the full benefit of
the spectacle.

The criminal was then raised from the ground, and going up the platform
took the seat ready for him. The priest here renewed his exhortations,
and, at length, turning to the audience, said, in a loud voice, "I believe
in God Almighty and in Jesus Christ his only Son, and it grieves me to the
heart to have offended them." These words, I suppose, were meant, as the
confession of the criminal, to be repeated after the priest, but I heard
no response from his lips. Again and again the priest repeated them, the
third time with a louder voice than ever; the signal was then given to the
executioner. The iron collar was adjusted to the neck of the victim, and
fastened under the chin. The athletic negro in blue, standing behind the
post, took the handle of the screw and turned it deliberately. After a few
turns, the criminal gave a sudden shrug of the shoulders; another turn of
the screw, and a shudder ran over his whole frame, his eyes rolled wildly,
his hands, still tied with the rope, were convulsively jerked upward, and
then dropped back to their place motionless forever. The priest advanced
and turned the peak of the white cap over the face to hide it from the
sight of the multitude.

I had never seen, and never intended to see an execution, but the
strangeness of this manner of inflicting death, and the desire to witness
the behavior of an assembly of the people of Cuba on such an occasion, had
overcome my previous determination. The horror of the spectacle now caused
me to regret that I made one of a crowd drawn to look at it by an idle

The negro in blue then stepped forward and felt the limbs of the dead man
one by one, to ascertain whether life were wholly extinct, and then
returning to the screw, gave it two or three turns more, as if to make his
work sure. In the mean time my attention was attracted by a sound like
that of a light buffet and a whimpering voice near me. I looked, and two
men were standing by me, with a little white boy at their side, and a
black boy of nearly the same age before them, holding his hat in his hand,
and crying. They were endeavoring to direct his attention to what they
considered the wholesome spectacle before him. "_Mira, mira, no te harda
dano_"[6] said the men, but the boy steadily refused to look in that
direction, though he was evidently terrified by some threat of punishment
and his eyes filled with tears. Finding him obstinate, they desisted from
their purpose, and I was quite edified to see the little fellow continue
to look away from the spectacle which attracted all other eyes but his.
The white boy now came forward, touched the hat of the little black, and
goodnaturedly saying "_pontelo, pontelo_"[7] made him put it on his head.

The crowd now began to disperse, and in twenty minutes the place was
nearly solitary, except the sentinels pacing backward and forward. Two
hours afterward the sentinels were pacing there yet, and the dead man, in
his white dress and iron collar, was still in his seat on the platform.

It is generally the natives of Africa by whom these murders are
committed; the negroes born in the country are of a more yielding temper.
They have better learned the art of avoiding punishment, and submit to it
more patiently when inflicted, having understood from their birth that it
is one of the conditions of their existence. The whip is always in sight.
"Nothing can be done without it," said an Englishman to me, who had lived
eleven years on the island, "you can not make the negroes work by the mild
methods which are used by slaveholders in the United States; the blacks
there are far more intelligent and more easily governed by moral means."
Africans, the living witnesses of the present existence of the
slave-trade, are seen everywhere; at every step you meet blacks whose
cheeks are scarred with parallel slashes, with which they were marked in
the African slave-market, and who can not even speak the mutilated Spanish
current in the mouths of the Cuba negroes.

One day I stood upon the quay at Matanzas and saw the slaves unloading the
large lighters which brought goods from the Spanish ships lying in the
harbor--casks of wine, jars of oil, bags of nuts, barrels of flour. The
men were naked to the hips; their only garment being a pair of trowsers. I
admired their ample chests, their massive shoulders, the full and muscular
proportions of their arms, and the ease with which they shifted the heavy
articles from place to place, or carried them on their heads. "Some of
these are Africans?" I said to a gentleman who resided on the island.
"They are all Africans," he answered, "Africans to a man; the negro born
in Cuba is of a lighter make."

When I was at Guines, I went out to look at a sugar estate in the
neighborhood, where the mill was turned by water, which a long aqueduct,
from one of the streams that traverse the plain, conveyed over arches of
stone so broad and massive that I could not help thinking of the aqueducts
of Rome. A gang of black women were standing in the _secadero_ or
drying-place, among the lumps of clayed sugar, beating them small with
mallets; before them, walked to and fro the major-domo, with a cutlass by
his side and a whip in his hand, I asked him how a planter could increase
his stock of slaves. "There is no difficulty," he replied, "slaves are
still brought to the island from Africa. The other day five hundred were
landed on the sea-shore to the south of this; for you must know, Senor,
that we are but three or four leagues from the coast."

"Was it done openly?" I inquired.

"_Publicamente_, Senor, _publicamente_;[8] they were landed on the sugar
estate of _El Pastor_, and one hundred and seven more died on the passage
from Africa."

"Did the government know of it?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "Of course the government knows it," said he;
"every body else knows it."

The truth is, that the slave-trade is now fully revived; the government
conniving at it, making a profit on the slaves imported from Africa, and
screening from the pursuit of the English the pirates who bring them.
There could scarcely be any arrangement of coast more favorable for
smuggling slaves into a country, than the islands and long peninsulas, and
many channels of the southern shore of Cuba. Here the mangrove thickets,
sending down roots into the brine from their long branches that stretch
over the water, form dense screens on each side of the passages from the
main ocean to the inland, and render it easy for the slaver and his boats
to lurk undiscovered by the English men-of-war.

During the comparative cessation of the slave-trade a few years since, the
negroes, I have been told, were much better treated than before. They rose
in value, and when they died, it was found not easy to supply their
places; they were therefore made much of, and every thing was done which
it was thought would tend to preserve their health, and maintain them in
bodily vigor. If the slave-trade should make them cheap again, their lives
of course will be of less consequence to their owners, and they will be
subject again to be overtasked, as it has been said they were before.
There is certainly great temptation to wear them out in the sugar mills,
which are kept in motion day and night, during half the year, namely,
through the dry season. "If this was not the healthiest employment in the
world," said an overseer to me on one of the sugar estates, "it would
kill us all who are engaged in it, both black and white."

Perhaps you may not know that more than half of the island of Cuba has
never been reduced to tillage. Immense tracts of the rich black or red
mould of the island, accumulated on the coral rock, are yet waiting the
hand of the planter to be converted into profitable sugar estates. There
is a demand, therefore, for laborers on the part of those who wish to
become planters, and this demand is supplied not only from the coast of
Africa, but from the American continent and southwestern Asia.

In one of the afternoons of Holy Week, I saw amid the crowd on the _Plaza
de Armas_, in Havana, several men of low stature, of a deep-olive
complexion, beardless, with high cheek-bones and straight black hair,
dressed in white pantaloons of cotton, and shirts of the same material
worn over them. They were Indians, natives of Yucatan, who had been taken
prisoners of war by the whites of the country and sold to white men in
Cuba, under a pretended contract to serve for a certain number of years. I
afterward learned, that the dealers in this sort of merchandise were also
bringing in the natives of Asia, Chinese they call them here, though I
doubt whether they belong to that nation, and disposing of their services
to the planters. There are six hundred of these people, I have been told,
in this city.

Yesterday appeared in the Havana papers an ordinance concerning the
"Indians and Asiatics imported into the country under a contract to
labor." It directs how much Indian corn, how many plantains, how much
jerked-pork and rice they shall receive daily, and how many lashes the
master may inflict for misbehavior. Twelve stripes with the cowskin he may
administer for the smaller offenses, and twenty-four for transgressions of
more importance; but if any more become necessary, he must apply to a
magistrate for permission to lay them on. Such is the manner in which the
government of Cuba sanctions the barbarity of making slaves of the
freeborn men of Yucatan. The ordinance, however, betrays great concern for
the salvation of the souls of those whom it thus delivers over to the lash
of the slave-driver. It speaks of the Indians from America, as Christians
already, but while it allows the slaves imported from Asia to be flogged,
it directs that they shall be carefully instructed in the doctrines of our
holy religion.

Yet the policy of the government favors emancipation. The laws of Cuba
permit any slave to purchase his freedom on paying a price fixed by three
persons, one appointed by his master and two by a magistrate. He may,
also, if he pleases, compel his master to sell him a certain portion of
his time, which he may employ to earn the means of purchasing his entire

It is owing to this, I suppose, that the number of free blacks is so large
in the island, and it is manifest that if the slave-trade could be
checked, and these laws remain unaltered, the negroes would gradually
emancipate themselves--all at least who would be worth keeping as
servants. The population of Cuba is now about a million and a quarter,
rather more than half of whom are colored persons, and one out of every
four of the colored population is free. The mulattoes emancipate
themselves as a matter of course, and some of them become rich by the
occupations they follow. The prejudice of color is by no means so strong
here as in the United States. Five or six years since the negroes were
shouting and betting in the cockpits with the whites; but since the
mulatto insurrection, as it is called, in 1843, the law forbids their
presence at such amusements. I am told there is little difficulty in
smuggling people of mixed blood, by the help of legal forms, into the
white race, and if they are rich, into good society, provided their hair
is not frizzled.

You hear something said now and then in the United States concerning the
annexation of Cuba to our confederacy; you may be curious, perhaps, to
know what they say of it here. A European who had long resided in the
island, gave me this account:

"The Creoles, no doubt, would be very glad to see Cuba annexed to the
United States, and many of them ardently desire it. It would relieve them
from many great burdens they now bear, open their commerce to the world,
rid them of a tyrannical government, and allow them to manage their own
affairs in their own way. But Spain derives from the possession of Cuba
advantages too great to be relinquished. She extracts from Cuba a revenue
of twelve millions of dollars; her government sends its needy nobility,
and all for whom it would provide, to fill lucrative offices in Cuba--the
priests, the military officers, the civil authorities, every man who fills
a judicial post or holds a clerkship is from old Spain. The Spanish
government dares not give up Cuba if it were inclined.

"Nor will the people of Cuba make any effort to emancipate themselves by
taking up arms. The struggle with the power of Spain would be bloody and
uncertain, even if the white population were united, but the mutual
distrust with which the planters and the peasantry regard each other,
would make the issue of such an enterprise still more doubtful. At present
it would not be safe for a Cuba planter to speak publicly of annexation to
the United States. He would run the risk of being imprisoned or exiled."

Of course, if Cuba were to be annexed to the United States, the slave
trade with Africa would cease to be carried on as now, though its perfect
suppression might be found difficult. Negroes would be imported in large
numbers from the United States, and planters would emigrate with them.
Institutions of education would be introduced, commerce and religion would
both be made free, and the character of the islanders would be elevated by
the responsibilities which a free government would throw upon them. The
planters, however, would doubtless adopt regulations insuring the
perpetuity of slavery; they would unquestionably, as soon as they were
allowed to frame ordinances for the island, take away the facilities which
the present laws give the slave for effecting his own emancipation.

Letter L.

English Exhibitions of Works of Art.

London, _July_ 7, 1849.

I have just been to visit a gallery of drawings in water-colors, now open
for exhibition. The English may be almost said to have created this branch
of art. Till within a few years, delineations in water-colors, on drawing
paper, have been so feeble and meagre as to be held in little esteem, but
the English artists have shown that as much, though in a somewhat
different way, may be done on drawing-paper as on canvas; that as high a
degree of expression may be reached, as much strength given to the
coloring, and as much boldness to the lights and shadows. In the
collection of which I speak, are about four hundred drawings not before
exhibited. Those which appeared to me the most remarkable, though not in
the highest department of art, were still-life pieces by Hunt. It seems to
me impossible to carry pictorial illusion to a higher pitch than he has
attained. A sprig of hawthorn flowers, freshly plucked, lies before you,
and you are half-tempted to take it up and inhale its fragrance; those
speckled eggs in the bird's nest, you are sure you might, if you pleased,
take into your hand; that tuft of ivy leaves and buds is so complete an
optical deception, that you can hardly believe that it has not been
attached by some process to the paper on which you see it. A servant girl,
in a calico gown, with a broom, by the same artist, and a young woman
standing at a window, at which the light is streaming in, are as fine in
their way, and as perfect imitations of every-day nature, as you see in
the works of the best Flemish painters.

It is to landscape, however, that the artists in water-colors have
principally devoted their attention. There are several very fine ones in
the collection by Copley Fielding, the foregrounds drawn with much
strength, the distant objects softly blending with the atmosphere as in
nature, and a surprising depth and transparency given to the sky. Alfred
Fripp and George Fripp have also produced some very fine
landscapes--mills, waters in foam or sleeping in pellucid pools, and the
darkness of the tempest in contrast with gleams of sunshine. Oakley has
some spirited groups of gipsies and country people, and there are several
of a similar kind by Taylor, who designs and executes with great force.
One of the earliest of the new school of artists in water-colors is Prout,
whose drawings are principally architectural, and who has shown how
admirably suited this new style of art is to the delineation of the rich
carvings of Gothic churches. Most of the finer pieces, I observed, were
marked 'sold;' they brought prices varying from thirty to fifty guineas.

There is an exhibition now open of the paintings of Etty, who stands high
in the world of art as an historical painter. The "Society of the Arts"--I
believe that is its name--every year gets up an exhibition of the works of
some eminent painter, with the proceeds of which it buys one of his
pictures, and places it in the National Gallery. This is a very effectual
plan of forming in time a various and valuable collection of the works of
British artists.

The greatest work of Etty is the series representing the Death of
Holofernes by the hand of Judith. It consists of three paintings, the
first of which shows Judith in prayer before the execution of her attempt;
in the next, and the finest, she is seen standing by the conch of the
heathen warrior, with the sword raised to heaven, to which she turns her
eyes, as if imploring supernatural assistance; and in the third, she
appears issuing from the tent, bearing the head of the ravager of her
country, which she conceals from the armed attendants who stand on guard
at the entrance, and exhibits to her astonished handmaid, who has been
waiting the result. The subject is an old one, but Etty has treated it in
a new way, and given it a moral interest, which the old painters seem not
to have thought of. In the delineation of the naked human figure, Etty is
allowed to surpass all the English living artists, and his manner of
painting flesh is thought to be next to that of Rubens. His reputation for
these qualities has influenced his choice of subjects in a remarkable
manner. The walls of the exhibition were covered writh Venuses and Eves,
Cupids and Psyches, and nymphs innocent of drapery, reclining on couches,
or admiring their own beauty reflected in clear fountains. I almost
thought myself in the midst of a collection made for the Grand Seignior.

The annual exhibition of the Royal Academy is now open. Its general
character is mediocrity, unrelieved by any works of extraordinary or
striking merit. There are some clever landscapes by the younger Danbys,
and one by the father, which is by no means among his happiest--a dark
picture, which in half a dozen years will be one mass of black paint.
Cooper, almost equal to Paul Potter as a cattle painter, contributes some
good pieces of that kind, and one of them, in which the cattle are from
his pencil, and the landscape from that of Lee, appeared to me the finest
thing in the collection. There is, however, a picture by Leslie, which his
friends insist is the best in the exhibition. It represents the chaplain
of the Duke leaving the table in a rage, after an harangue by Don Quixote
in praise of knight-errantry. The suppressed mirth of the Duke and
Duchess, the sly looks of the servants, the stormy anger of the
ecclesiastic, and the serene gravity of the knight, are well expressed;
but there is a stiffness in some of the figures which makes them look as
if copied from the wooden models in the artist's study, and a raw and
crude appearance in the handling, so that you are reminded of the brush
every time you look at the painting. To do Leslie justice, however, his
paintings ripen wonderfully, and seem to acquire a finish with years.

If one wishes to form an idea of the vast numbers of indifferent paintings
which are annually produced in England, he should visit, as I did, another
exhibition, a large gallery lighted from above, in which each artist, most
of them of the younger or obscurer class, takes a certain number of feet
on the wall and exhibits just what he pleases. Every man is his own
hanging committee, and if his pictures are not placed in the most
advantageous position, it is his own fault. Here acres of canvas are
exhibited, most of which is spoiled of course, though here and there a
good picture is to be seen, and others which give promise of future merit.

Enough of pictures. The principal subject of political discussion since I
have been in England, has been the expediency of allowing Jews to sit in
Parliament. You have seen by what a large majority Baron Rothschild has
been again returned from the city of London, after his resignation, in
spite of the zealous opposition of the conservatives. It is allowed, I
think, on all hands, that the majority of the nation are in favor of
allowing Jews to hold seats in Parliament, but the other side urge the
inconsistency of maintaining a Christian Church as a state institution,
and admitting the enemies of Christianity to a share in its
administration. Public opinion, however, is so strongly against political
disabilities on account of religious faith, that with the aid of the
ministry, it will, no doubt, triumph, and we shall see another class of
adversaries of the Establishment making war upon it in the House of
Commons. Nor will it be at all surprising if, after a little while, we
hear of Jewish barons, earls, and marquises in the House of Peers.
Rothschild himself may become the founder of a noble line, opulent beyond
the proudest of them all.

The protectionist party here are laboring to persuade the people that the
government have committed a great error, in granting such liberal
conditions to the trade of other nations, to the prejudice of British
industry. They do not, however, seem to make much impression on the public
mind. The necessaries of life are obtained at a cheaper rate than
formerly, and that satisfies the people. Peel has been making a speech in
Parliament on the free-trade question, which I often hear referred to as a
very able argument for the free-trade policy. Neither on this question nor
on that of the Jewish disabilities, do the opposition seem to have the
country with them.

Letter LI.

A Visit to the Shetland Isles.

Aberdeen, _July_ 19, 1849.

Two days ago I was in the Orkneys; the day before I was in the Shetland
Isles, the "farthest Thule" of the Romans, where I climbed the Noup of the
Noss, as the famous headland of the island of Noss is called, from which
you look out upon the sea that lies between Shetland and Norway.

From Wick, a considerable fishing town in Caithness, on the northern coast
of Scotland, a steamer, named the Queen, departs once a week, in the
summer months, for Kirkwall, in the Orkneys, and Lerwick, in Shetland. We
went on board of her about ten o'clock on the 14th of July. The herring
fishery had just begun, and the artificial port of Wick, constructed with
massive walls of stone, was crowded with fishing vessels which had
returned that morning from the labors of the night; for in the herring
fishery it is only in the night that the nets are spread and drawn. Many
of the vessels had landed their cargo; in others the fishermen were busily
disengaging the herrings from the black nets and throwing them in heaps;
and now and then a boat later than the rest, was entering from the sea.
The green heights all around the bay were covered with groups of women,
sitting or walking, dressed for the most part in caps and white short
gowns, waiting for the arrival of the boats manned by their husbands and
brothers, or belonging to the families of those who had come to seek
occupation as fishermen. I had seen two or three of the principal streets
of Wick that morning, swarming with strapping fellows, in blue highland
bonnets, with blue jackets and pantaloons, and coarse blue flannel shirts.
A shopkeeper, standing at his door, instructed me who they were.

"They are men of the Celtic race," he said--the term Celtic has grown to
be quite fashionable, I find, when applied to the Highlanders. "They came
from the Hebrides and other parts of western Scotland, to get employment
in the herring fishery. These people have travelled perhaps three hundred
miles, most of them on foot, to be employed six or seven weeks, for which
they will receive about six pounds wages. Those whom you see are not the
best of their class; the more enterprising and industrious have boats of
their own, and carry on the fishery on their own account."

We found the Queen a strong steamboat, with a good cabin and convenient
state-rooms, but dirty, and smelling of fish from stem to stern. It has
seemed to me that the further north I went, the more dirt I found. Our
captain was an old Aberdeen seaman, with a stoop in his shoulders, and
looked as if he was continually watching for land, an occupation for
which the foggy climate of these latitudes gives him full scope. We left
Wick between eleven and twelve o'clock in the forenoon, and glided over a
calm sea, with a cloudless sky above us, and a thin haze on the surface of
the waters. The haze thickened to a fog, which grew more and more dense,
and finally closed overhead. After about three hours sail, the captain
began to grow uneasy, and was seen walking about on the bridge between the
wheel-houses, anxiously peering into the mist, on the look-out for the
coast of the Orkneys. At length he gave up the search, and stopped the
engine. The passengers amused themselves with fishing. Several coal-fish,
a large fish of slender shape, were caught, and one fine cod was hauled up
by a gentleman who united in his person, as he gave me to understand, the
two capacities of portrait-painter and preacher of the gospel, and who
held that the universal church of Christendom had gone sadly astray from
the true primitive doctrine, in regard to the time when the millennium is
to take place.

The fog cleared away in the evening; our steamer was again in motion: we
landed at Kirkwall in the middle of the night, and when I went on deck the
next morning, we were smoothly passing the shores of Fair Isle--high and
steep rocks, impending over the waters with a covering of green turf.
Before they were out of sight we saw the Shetland coast, the dark rock of
Sumburgh Head, and behind it, half shrouded in mist, the promontory of
Fitfiel Head,--Fitful Head, as it is called by Scott, in his novel of the
Pirate. Beyond, to the east, black rocky promontories came in sight, one
after the other, beetling over the sea. At ten o'clock, we were passing
through a channel between the islands leading to Lerwick, the capital of
Shetland, on the principal island bearing the name of Mainland. Fields,
yellow with flowers, among which stood here and there a cottage, sloped
softly down to the water, and beyond them rose the bare declivities and
summits of the hills, dark with heath, with here and there still darker
spots, of an almost inky hue, where peat had been cut for fuel. Not a
tree, not a shrub was to be seen, and the greater part of the soil
appeared never to have been reduced to cultivation.

About one o'clock we cast anchor before Lerwick, a fishing village, built
on the shore of Bressay Sound, which here forms one of the finest harbors
in the world. It has two passages to the sea, so that when the wind blows
a storm on one side of the islands, the Shetlander in his boat passes out
in the other direction, and finds himself in comparatively smooth water.
It was Sunday, and the man who landed us at the quay and took our baggage
to our lodging, said as he left us--

"It's the Sabbath, and I'll no tak' my pay now, but I'll call the morrow.
My name is Jim Sinclair, pilot, and if ye'll be wanting to go anywhere,
I'll be glad to tak' ye in my boat." In a few minutes we were snugly
established at our lodgings. There is no inn throughout all the Shetland
Islands, which contain about thirty thousand inhabitants, but if any of my
friends should have occasion to visit Lerwick, I can cheerfully recommend
to them the comfortable lodging-house of Mrs. Walker, who keeps a little
shop in the principal street, not far from Queen's lane. We made haste to
get ready for church, and sallied out to find the place of worship
frequented by our landlady, which was not a difficult matter.

The little town of Lerwick consists of two-story houses, built mostly of
unhewn stone, rough-cast, with steep roofs and a chimney at each end. They
are arranged along a winding street parallel with the shore, and along
narrow lanes running upward to the top of the hill. The main street is
flagged with smooth stones, like the streets in Venice, for no vehicle
runs on wheels in the Shetland islands. We went up Queen's lane and soon
found the building occupied by the Free Church of Scotland, until a temple
of fairer proportions, on which the masons are now at work, on the top of
the hill, shall be completed for their reception. It was crowded with
attentive worshipers, one of whom obligingly came forward and found a seat
for us. The minister, Mr. Frazer, had begun the evening service, and was
at prayer. When I entered, he was speaking of "our father the devil;" but
the prayer was followed by an earnest, practical discourse, though
somewhat crude in the composition, and reminding me of an expression I
once heard used by a distinguished Scotchman, who complained that the
clergy of his country, in composing their sermons, too often "mak' rough
wark of it."

I looked about among these descendants of the Norwegians, but could not
see any thing singular in their physiognomy; and but for the harsh accent
of the preacher, I might almost have thought myself in the midst of a
country congregation in the United States. They are mostly of a light
complexion, with an appearance of health and strength, though of a sparer
make than the people of the more southern British isles. After the service
was over, we returned to our lodgings, by a way which led to the top of
the hill, and made the circuit of the little town. The paths leading into
the interior of the island, were full of people returning homeward; the
women in their best attire, a few in silks, with wind-tanned faces. We saw
them disappearing, one after another, in the hollows, or over the dark
bare hill-tops. With a population of less than three thousand souls,
Lerwick has four places of worship--a church of the Establishment, a Free
church, a church for the Seceders, and one for the Methodists. The road we
took commanded a fine view of the harbor, surrounded and sheltered by
hills. Within it lay a numerous group of idle fishing-vessels, with one
great steamer in the midst; and more formidable in appearance, a Dutch
man-of-war, sent to protect the Dutch fisheries, with the flag of Holland
flying at the mast-head. Above the town, on tall poles, were floating the
flags of four or five different nations, to mark the habitation of their

On the side opposite to the harbor, lay the small fresh-water lake of
Cleikimin, with the remains of a Pictish castle in the midst; one of those
circular buildings of unhewn, uncemented stone, skillfully laid, forming
apartments and galleries of such small dimensions as to lead Sir Walter
Scott to infer that the Picts were a people of a stature considerably
below the ordinary standard of the human race. A deep Sabbath silence
reigned over the scene, except the sound of the wind, which here never
ceases to blow from one quarter or another, as it swept the herbage and
beat against the stone walls surrounding the fields. The ground under our
feet was thick with daisies and the blossoms of the crow-foot and other
flowers; for in the brief summer of these islands, nature, which has no
groves to embellish, makes amends by pranking the ground, particularly in
the uncultivated parts, with a great profusion and variety of flowers.

The next morning we were rowed, by two of Jim Sinclair's boys, to the
island of Bressay, and one of them acted as our guide to the remarkable
precipice called the Noup of the Noss. We ascended its smooth slopes and
pastures, and passed through one or two hamlets, where we observed the
construction of the dwellings of the Zetland peasantry. They are built of
unhewn stone, with roofs of turf held down by ropes of straw neatly
twisted; the floors are of earth; the cow, pony, and pig live under the
same roof with the family, and the manure pond, a receptacle for refuse
and filth, is close to the door. A little higher up we came upon the
uncultivated grounds, abandoned to heath, and only used to supply fuel by
the cutting of peat. Here and there women were busy piling the square
pieces of peat in stacks, that they might dry in the wind. "We carry home
these pits in a basket on our showlders, when they are dry," said one of
them to me; but those who can afford to keep a pony, make him do this work
for them. In the hollows of this part of the island we saw several
fresh-water ponds, which were enlarged with dykes and made to turn grist
mills. We peeped into one or two of these mills, little stone buildings,
in which we could hardly stand upright, inclosing two small stones turned
by a perpendicular shaft, in which are half a dozen cogs; the paddles are
fixed below, and there struck by the water, turn the upper stone.

A steep descent brought us to the little strait, bordered with rocks,
which divides Brassey from the island called the Noss. A strong south wind
was driving in the billows from the sea with noise and foam, but they were
broken and checked by a bar of rocks in the middle of the strait, and we
crossed to the north of it in smooth water. The ferryman told us that when
the wind was northerly he crossed to the south of the bar. As we climbed
the hill of the Noss the mist began to drift thinly around us from the
sea, and flocks of sea-birds rose screaming from the ground at our
approach. At length we stood upon the brink of a precipice of fearful
height, from which we had a full view of the still higher precipices of
the neighboring summit, A wall of rock was before us six hundred feet in
height, descending almost perpendicularly to the sea, which roared and
foamed at its base among huge masses of rock, and plunged into great
caverns, hollowed out by the beating of the surges for centuries. Midway
on the rock, and above the reach of the spray, were thousands of
sea-birds, sitting in ranks on the numerous shelves, or alighting, or
taking wing, and screaming as they flew. A cloud of them were constantly
in the air in front of the rock and over our heads. Here they make their
nests and rear their young, but not entirely safe from the pursuit of the
Zetlander, who causes himself to be let down by a rope from the summit and
plunders their nests. The face of the rock, above the portion which is the
haunt of the birds, was fairly tapestried with herbage and flowers which
the perpetual moisture of the atmosphere keeps always fresh--daisies
nodding in the wind, and the crimson phlox, seeming to set the cliffs on
flame; yellow buttercups, and a variety of other plants in bloom, of which
I do not know the name.

Magnificent as this spectacle was, we were not satisfied without climbing
to the summit. As we passed upward, we saw where the rabbits had made
their burrows in the elastic peat-like soil close to the very edge of the
precipice. We now found ourselves involved in the cold streams of mist
which the strong sea-wind was drifting over us; they were in fact the
lower skirts of the clouds. At times they would clear away and give us a
prospect of the green island summits around us, with their bold headlands,
the winding straits between, and the black rocks standing out in the sea.
When we arrived at the summit we could hardly stand against the wind, but
it was almost more difficult to muster courage to look down that dizzy
depth over which the Zetlanders suspend themselves with ropes, in quest of
the eggs of the sea-fowl. My friend captured a young gull on the summit of
the Noup. The bird had risen at his approach, and essayed to fly towards
the sea, but the strength of the wind drove him back to the land. He rose
again, but could not sustain a long flight, and coming to the ground
again, was caught, after a spirited chase, amidst a wild clamor of of the
sea-fowl over our heads.

Not far from the Noup is the Holm, or, as it is sometimes called, the
Cradle or Basket, of the Noss. It is a perpendicular mass of rock, two or
three hundred feet high, with a broad flat summit, richly covered with
grass, and is separated from the island by a narrow chasm, through which
the sea flows. Two strong ropes are stretched from the main island to the
top of the Holm, and on these is slung the cradle or basket, a sort of
open box made of deal boards, in which the shepherds pass with their sheep
to the top of the Holm. We found the cradle strongly secured by lock and
key to the stakes on the side of the Noss, in order, no doubt, to prevent
any person from crossing for his own amusement.

As we descended the smooth pastures of the Noss, we fell in with a herd of
ponies, of a size somewhat larger than is common on the islands. I asked
our guide, a lad of fourteen years of age, what was the average price of a
sheltie. His answer deserves to be written in letters of gold--

"It's jist as they're bug an' smal'."

From the ferryman, at the strait below, I got more specific information.
They vary in price from three to ten pounds, but the latter sum is only
paid for the finest of these animals, in the respects of shape and color.
It is not a little remarkable, that the same causes which, in Shetland,
have made the horse the smallest of ponies, have almost equally reduced
the size of the cow. The sheep, also--a pretty creature, I might call
it--from the fine wool of which the Shetland women knot the thin webs
known by the name of Shetland shawls, is much smaller than any breed I
have ever seen. Whether the cause be the perpetual chilliness of the
atmosphere, or the insufficiency of nourishment--for, though the long
Zetland winters are temperate, and snow never lies long on the ground,
there is scarce any growth of herbage in that season--I will not undertake
to say, but the people of the islands ascribe it to the insufficiency of
nourishment. It is, at all events, remarkable, that the traditions of the
country should ascribe to the Picts, the early inhabitants of Shetland,
the same dwarfish stature, and that the numerous remains of their
habitations which still exist, should seem to confirm the tradition. The
race which at present possesses the Shetlands is, however, of what the
French call "an advantageous stature," and well limbed. If it be the want
of a proper and genial warmth, which prevents the due growth of the
domestic animals, it is a want to which the Zetlanders are not subject.
Their hills afford the man apparently inexhaustible supply of peat, which
costs the poorest man nothing but the trouble of cutting it and bringing
it home; and their cottages, I was told, are always well warmed in winter.

In crossing the narrow strait which separates the Noss from Bressay, I
observed on the Bressay side, overlooking the water, a round hillock, of
very regular shape, in which the green turf was intermixed with stones.
"That," said the ferryman, "is what we call a Pictish castle. I mind when
it was opened; it was full of rooms, so that ye could go over every part
of it." I climbed the hillock, and found, by inspecting several openings,
which had been made by the peasantry to take away the stones, that below
the turf it was a regular work of Pictish masonry, but the spiral
galleries, which these openings revealed, had been completely choked up,
in taking away the materials of which they were built. Although plenty of
stone may be found everywhere in the islands, there seems to be a
disposition to plunder these remarkable remains, for the sake of building
cottages, or making those inclosures for their cabbages, which the
islanders call _crubs_. They have been pulling down the Pictish castle, on
the little island in the fresh-water loch called Cleikimin, near Lerwick,
described with such minuteness by Scott in his journal, till very few
traces of its original construction are left. If the inclosing of lands
for pasturage and cultivation proceeds as it has begun, these curious
monuments of a race which has long perished, will disappear.

Now that we were out of hearing of the cries of the sea-birds, we were
regaled with more agreeable sounds. We had set out, as we climbed the
island of Bressay, amid a perfect chorus of larks, answering each other in
the sky, and sometimes, apparently, from the clouds; and now we heard them
again overhead, pouring out their sweet notes so fast and so ceaselessly,
that it seemed as if the little creatures imagined they had more to utter,
than they had time to utter it in. In no part of the British Islands have
I seen the larks so numerous or so merry, as in the Shetlands.

We waited awhile at the wharf by the minister's house in Bressay, for Jim
Sinclair, who at length appeared in his boat to convey us to Lerwick. "He
is a noisy fallow," said our good landlady, and truly we found him voluble
enough, but quite amusing. As he rowed us to town he gave us a sample of
his historical knowledge, talking of Sir Walter Raleigh and the
settlement of North America, and told us that his greatest pleasure was to
read historical books in the long winter nights. His children, he said,
could all read and write. We dined on a leg of Shetland mutton, with a
tart made "of the only fruit of the Island" as a Scotchman called it, the
stalks of the rhubarb plant, and went on board of our steamer about six
o'clock in the afternoon. It was matter of some regret to us that we were
obliged to leave Shetland so soon. Two or three days more might have been
pleasantly passed among its grand precipices, its winding straits, its
remains of a remote and rude antiquity, its little horses, little cows,
and little sheep, its sea-fowl, its larks, its flowers, and its hardy and
active people. There was an amusing novelty also in going to bed, as we
did, by daylight, for at this season of the year, the daylight is never
out of the sky, and the flush of early sunset only passes along the
horizon from the northwest to the northeast, where it brightens into

The Zetlanders, I was told by a Scotch clergyman, who had lived among them
forty years, are naturally shrewd and quick of apprehension; "as to their
morals," he added, "if ye stay among them any time ye'll be able to judge
for yourself." So, on the point of morals, I am in the dark. More
attention, I hear, is paid to the education of their children than
formerly, and all have the opportunity of learning to read and write in
the parochial schools. Their agriculture is still very rude, they are very
unwilling to adopt the instruments of husbandry used in England, but on
the whole they are making some progress. A Shetland gentleman, who, as he
remarked to me, had "had the advantage of seeing some other countries"
besides his own, complained that the peasantry were spending too much of
their earnings for tea, tobacco, and spirits. Last winter a terrible
famine came upon the islands; their fisheries had been unproductive, and
the potato crop had been cut off by the blight. The communication with
Scotland by steamboat had ceased, as it always does in winter, and it was
long before the sufferings of the Shetlanders were known in Great Britain,
but as soon as the intelligence was received, contributions were made and
the poor creatures were relieved.

Their climate, inhospitable as it seems, is healthy, and they live to a
good old age. A native of the island, a baronet, who has a great white
house on a bare field in sight of Lerwick, and was a passenger on board
the steamer in which we made our passage to the island, remarked that if
it was not the healthiest climate in the world, the extremely dirty habits
of the peasantry would engender disease, which, however, was not the case.
"It is, probably, the effect of the saline particles in the air," he
added. His opinion seemed to be that the dirt was salted by the sea-winds,
and preserved from further decomposition. I was somewhat amused, in
hearing him boast of the climate of Shetland in winter. "Have you never
observed" said he, turning to the old Scotch clergyman of whom I have
already spoken, "how much larger the proportion of sunny days is in our
islands than at the south?" "I have never observed it," was the dry answer
of the minister.

The people of Shetland speak a kind of Scottish, but not with the Scottish
accent. Four hundred years ago, when the islands were transferred from
Norway to the British crown, their language was Norse, but that tongue,
although some of its words have been preserved in the present dialect, has
become extinct. "I have heard," said an intelligent Shetlander to me,
"that there are yet, perhaps, half a dozen persons in one of our remotest
neighborhoods, who are able to speak it, but I never met with one who

In returning from Lerwick to the Orkneys, we had a sample of the weather
which is often encountered in these latitudes. The wind blew a gale in the
night, and our steamer was tossed about on the waves like an egg-shell,
much to the discomfort of the passengers. We had on board a cargo of
ponies, the smallest of which were from the Shetlands, some of them not
much larger than sheep, and nearly as shaggy; the others, of larger size,
had been brought from the Faro Isles. In the morning, when the gale had
blown itself to rest, I went on deck and saw one of the Faro Island
ponies, which had given out during the night, stretched dead upon the
deck. I inquired if the body was to be committed to the deep. "It is to be
skinned first," was the answer.

We stopped at Kirkwall in the Orkneys, long enough to allow us to look at
the old cathedral of St. Magnus, built early in the twelfth century--a
venerable pile, in perfect preservation, and the finest specimen of the
architecture once called Saxon, then Norman, and lately Romanesque, that I
have ever seen. The round arch is everywhere used, except in two or three
windows of later addition. The nave is narrow, and the central groined
arches are lofty; so that an idea of vast extent is given, though the
cathedral is small, compared with the great minsters in England. The work
of completing certain parts of the building which were left unfinished, is
now going on at the expense of the government. All the old flooring, and
the pews, which made it a parish church, have been taken away, and the
original proportions and symmetry of the building are seen as they ought
to be. The general effect of the building is wonderfully grand and solemn.

On our return to Scotland, we stopped for a few hours at Wick. It was late
in the afternoon, and the fishermen, in their vessels, were going out of
the harbor to their nightly toil. Vessel after vessel, each manned with
four stout rowers, came out of the port--and after rowing a short
distance, raised their sails and steered for the open sea, till all the
waters, from the land to the horizon, were full of them. I counted them,
hundreds after hundreds, till I grew tired of the task. A sail of ten or
twelve hours brought us to Aberdeen, with its old cathedral, encumbered
by pews and wooden partitions, and its old college, the tower of which is
surmounted by a cluster of flying buttresses, formed into the resemblance
of a crown.

This letter, you perceive, is dated at Aberdeen. It was begun there, but I
have written portions of it at different times since I left that city, and
I beg that you will imagine it to be of the latest date. It is now long
enough, I fear, to tire your readers, and I therefore lay down my pen.

Letter LII.

Europe under the Bayonet.

Paris, _September_ 13, 1849.

Whoever should visit the principal countries of Europe at the present
moment, might take them for conquered provinces, held in subjection by
their victorious masters, at the point of the sword. Such was the aspect
which France presented when I came to Paris a few weeks since. The city
was then in what is called, by a convenient fiction, a state of siege;
soldiers filled the streets, were posted in every public square and at
every corner, were seen marching before the churches, the cornices of
which bore the inscription of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, keeping
their brethren quiet by the bayonet. I have since made a journey to
Bavaria and Switzerland, and on returning I find the siege raised, and
these demonstrations of fraternity less formal, but the show and the
menace of military force are scarcely less apparent. Those who maintain
that France is not fit for liberty, need not afflict themseves with the
idea that there is at present more liberty in France than her people know
how to enjoy.

On my journey, I found the cities along the Rhine crowded with soldiers;
the sound of the drum was heard among the hills covered with vines; women
were trundling loaded wheel-barrows, and carrying panniers like asses, to
earn the taxes which are extorted to support the men who stalk about in
uniform. I entered Heidelberg with anticipations of pleasure; they were
dashed in a moment; the city was in a state of siege, occupied by Prussian
troops which had been sent to take the part of the Grand Duke of Baden
against his people. I could hardly believe that this was the same peaceful
and friendly city which I had known in better times. Every other man in
the streets was a soldier; the beautiful walks about the old castle were
full of soldiers; in the evening they were reeling through the streets.
"This invention," said a German who had been a member of the Diet of the
Confederation lately broken up, "this invention of declaring a city, which
has unconditionally submitted, to be still in a state of siege, is but a
device to practice the most unbounded oppression. Any man who is
suspected, or feared, or disliked, or supposed not to approve of the
proceedings of the victorious party, is arrested and imprisoned at
pleasure. He may be guiltless of any offense which could be made a pretext
for condemning him, but his trial is arbitrarily postponed, and when at
last he is released, he has suffered the penalty of a long confinement,
and is taught how dangerous it is to become obnoxious to the government."

From Heidelberg, thus transformed, I was glad to take my departure as
soon as possible. Our way from that city to Heilbronn, was through a most
charming country along the valley of the Neckar. Here were low hills and
valleys rich with harvests, a road embowered in fruit-trees, the branches
of which were propped with stakes to prevent them from breaking with their
load, and groves lying pleasantly in the morning sunshine, where ravens
were croaking. Birds of worse omen than these were abroad, straggling
groups, and sometimes entire companies of soldiers, on their way from one
part of the duchy to another; while in the fields, women, prematurely old
with labor, were wielding the hoe and the mattock, and the younger and
stronger of their sex were swinging the scythe. In all the villages
through which we passed, in the very smallest, troops were posted, and men
in military uniform were standing at the doors, or looking from the
windows of every inn and beer-house.

At Heilbronn we took the railway for Stuttgart, the capital of Wurtemberg.
There was a considerable proportion of men in military trappings among the
passengers, but at one of the stations they came upon us like a cloud, and
we entered Stuttgart with a little army. That city, too, looked as if in a
state of siege, so numerous were the soldiery, though the vine-covered
hills, among which it is situated, could have given them a better
occupation. The railway, beyond Stuttgart, wound through a deep valley and
ended at Geisslingen, an ancient Swabian town, in a gorge of the
mountains, with tall old houses, not one of which, I might safely affirm,
has been built within the last two hundred years. From this place to Ulm,
on the Danube, the road was fairly lined with soldiers, walking or resting
by the wayside, or closely packed in the peasants' wagons, which they had
hired to carry them short distances. At Ulm we were obliged to content
ourselves with straitened accommodations, the hotels being occupied by the
gentry in epaulettes.

I hoped to see fewer of this class at the capital of Bavaria, but it was
not so; they were everywhere placed in sight as if to keep the people in
awe. "These fellows," said a German to me, "are always too numerous, but
in ordinary times they are kept in the capitals and barracks, and the
nuisance is out of sight. Now, however, the occasion is supposed to make
their presence necessary in the midst of the people, and they swarm
everywhere." Another, it was our host of the Goldener Hirsch, said to my
friend, "I think I shall emigrate to America, I am tired of living under
the bayonet."

I was in Munich when the news arrived of the surrender of the Hungarian
troops under Goergey, and the fall of the Hungarian republic. All along my
journey I had observed tokens of the intense interest which the German
people took in the result of the struggle between Austria and the Magyars,
and of the warmth of their hopes in favor of the latter. The intelligence
was received with the deepest sorrow. "So perishes," said a Bavarian,
"the last hope of European liberty."

Our journey to Switzerland led us through the southern part of Bavaria,
among the old towns which formed a part of ancient Swabia. The country
here, in some respects, resembles New England; here are broad woods, large
orchards of the apple and pear, and scattered farm-houses--of a different
architecture, it is true, from that of the Yankees, and somewhat
resembling, with their far-projecting eaves, those of Switzerland. Yet
there was a further difference--everywhere, men were seen under arms, and
women at the plough.

So weary had I grown of the perpetual sight of the military uniform, that
I longed to escape into Switzerland, where I hoped to see less of it, and
it was with great delight that I found myself at Lindau, a border town of
Bavaria, on the Bodensee, or Lake of Constance, on the shores of which the
boundaries of four sovereignties meet. A steamer took us across the lake,
from a wharf covered with soldiers, to Roorschach, in Switzerland, where
not a soldier was to be seen. Nobody asked for our passports, nobody
required us to submit our baggage to search. I could almost have kneeled
and kissed the shore of the hospitable republic; and really it was
beautiful enough for such a demonstration of affection, for nothing could
be lovelier than the declivities of that shore with its woods and
orchards, and grassy meadows, and green hollows running upward to the
mountain-tops, all fresh with a shower which had just passed and now
glittering in the sunshine, and interspersed with large Swiss houses,
bearing quaintly-carved galleries, and broad overhanging roofs, while to
the east rose the glorious summits of the Alps, mingling with the clouds.

In three or four hours we had climbed up to St. Gall--St. Gallen, the
Germans call it--situated in a high valley, among steep green hills, which
send down spurs of woodland to the meadows below. In walking out to look
at the town, we heard a brisk and continued discharge of musketry, and,
proceeding in the direction of the sound, came to a large field, evidently
set apart as a parade-ground, on which several hundred youths were
practicing the art of war in a sham fight, and keeping up a spirited fire
at each other with blank cartridges. On inquiry, we were told that these
were the boys of the schools of St. Gall, from twelve to sixteen years of
age, with whom military exercises were a part of their education. I was
still, therefore, among soldiers, but of a different class from those of
whom I had seen so much. Here, it was the people who were armed for
self-protection; there, it was a body of mercenaries armed to keep the
people in subjection.

Another day's journey brought us to the picturesque town of Zurich, and
the next morning about four o'clock I was awakened by the roll of drums
under my window. Looking out, I saw a regiment of boys of a tender age, in
a uniform of brown linen, with little light muskets on their shoulders,
and miniature knapsacks on their backs, completely equipped and furnished
for war, led on by their little officers in regular military order,
marching and wheeling to the sound of martial music with all the precision
of veterans. In Switzerland arms are in every man's hands; he is educated
to be a soldier, and taught that the liberties of his country depend on
his skill and valor. The worst effect, perhaps of this military education
is, that the Swiss, when other means of subsistence are not easily found,
become military adventurers and sell their services to the first
purchaser. Meantime, nobody is regarded as properly fitted for his duties
as a member of the state, who is not skilled in the use of arms.
Target-shooting, _Freischiessen_, is the national amusement of
Switzerland, and has been so ever since the days of Tell; occasions of
target-shooting are prescribed and superintended by the public
authorities. They were practicing it at the stately city of Berne when we
visited it; they were practicing it at various other places as we passed.
Every town is provided with a public shooting-ground near its gates.

It was at one of the most remarkable of these towns; it was at Freiburg,
Catholic Freiburg, full of Catholic seminaries and convents, in the
churches of which you may hear the shrill voices of the nuns chanting
matins, themselves unseen; it was at Freiburg, grandly seated on the
craggy banks of her rivers, flowing in deep gulfs, spanned by the loftiest
and longest chain-bridges in the world, that I saw another evidence of
the fact that Switzerland is the only place on the continent where freedom
is understood, or allowed to have an existence. A proclamation of the
authorities of the canton was pasted on the walls and gates, ordaining the
16th of September as a day of religious thanksgiving. After recounting the
motives of gratitude to Providence; after speaking of the abundance of the
harvests, the health enjoyed throughout Switzerland, at the threshold of
which the cholera had a second time been stayed; the subsidence of
political animosities, and the quiet enjoyment of the benefits of the new
constitution upon which the country had entered, the proclamation
mentioned, as a special reason of gratitude to Almighty God, that
Switzerland, in this day of revolutions, had been enabled to offer, among
her mountains, a safe and unmolested asylum to the thousands of fugitives
who had suffered defeat in the battles of freedom.

I could not help contrasting this with the cruel treatment shown by France
to the political refugees from Baden and other parts of Germany. A few
days before, it had been announced that the French government required of
these poor fellows that they should either enlist at once in the regiments
destined for service in Algiers, or immediately leave the
country--offering them the alternative of military slavery, or banishment


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