The History of Puerto Rico
R.A. Van Middeldyk

Part 3 out of 5

(urbanos) armed with lances and machetes, 12 gunboats and several
French privateers, the crews of which numbered about 300.

Abercrombie landed on the 18th at Cangrejos (Santurce) with 3,000 men,
and demanded the surrender of the city. Governor Castro, in polite but
energetic language, refused, and hostilities commenced. For the next
thirteen days there were skirmishes and more or less serious
encounters on land and sea. On the morning of the 1st of May the
defenders of the city were preparing a general attack on the English
lines, when, lo! the enemy had reembarked during the night, leaving
behind his spiked guns and a considerable quantity of stores and

[Illustration: Fort San Geronimo, at Santurce, near San Juan.]

The people ascribed this unexpected deliverance from their foes to the
miraculous intervention of the Virgin, but the real reason for the
raising of the siege was the strength of the fortifications. "Whoever
has viewed these fortifications," says Colonel Flinter,[44] "must feel
surprised that the English with a force of less than 5,000 men should
lay siege to the place, a force not sufficient for a single line along
the coast on the opposite side of the bay to prevent provisions from
being sent to the garrison from the surrounding country. Sir Ralph's
object in landing, surely, could only have been to try whether he
could surprise or intimidate the scanty garrison. Had he not
reembarked very soon, he would have had to repent his temerity, for
the shipping could not safely remain at anchor where there was no
harbor and where a dangerous coast threatened destruction. His
communication with the country was cut off by the armed peasantry, who
rose _en masse_, and to the number of not less than 20,000 threw
themselves into the fortress in less than a week after the invasion,
so that the British forces would, most undoubtedly, have been obliged
to surrender at discretion had the commander not effected a timely

The enemy's retreat was celebrated with a solemn Te Deum in the
cathedral, at which the governor, the municipal authorities, and all
the troops assisted. The municipality addressed the king, giving due
credit to the brilliant military qualities displayed during the siege
by the governor and his officers. The governor was promoted to the
rank of field-marshal and the officers correspondingly. To the
municipality the privilege was granted to encircle the city's coat of
arms with the words: "For its constancy, love, and fidelity, this city
is yclept very noble and very loyal."


[Footnote 41: He was decapitated February 9, 1649.]

[Footnote 42: So says Abbad. No mention is made of this episode in
Senor Acosta's notes, nor is the name of Earl Estren to be found among
those of the British commanders of that period.]

[Footnote 43: Manila was taken in October, 1762.]

[Footnote 44: An Account of Puerto Rico. London, 1834,]




The raising of the siege of San Juan by Abercrombie did not raise at
the same time the blockade of the island. Communications with the
metropolis were cut off, and the remittances from Mexico which, under
the appellation of "situados," constituted the only means of carrying
on the Government, were suspended.[45] In San Juan the garrison was
kept on half pay, provisions were scarce, and the influx of immigrants
from la Espanola, where a bloody civil war raged at the time,
increased the consumption and the price. The militia corps was
disbanded to prevent serious injury to the island's agricultural
interests, although English attacks on different points of the coast
continued, and kept the inhabitants in a state of constant fear and

In December, 1797, an English three-decker and a frigate menaced
Aguadilla, but an attempt at landing was repulsed. Another attempt to
land was made at Guayanilla with the same result, and in June, 1801,
Guayanilla was again attacked. This time an English frigate sent
several launches full of men ashore, but they were beaten off by the
people, who, armed only with lances and machetes, pursued them into
the water, "swimming or wading up to their necks," says Mr. Neuman.[46]

From 1801 to 1808 England's navy and English privateers pursued both
French and Spanish ships with dogged pertinacity. In August, 1803,
British privateers boarded and captured a French frigate in the port
of Salinas in this island. Four Spanish homeward-bound frigates fell
into their hands about the same time. Another English frigate captured
a French privateer in what is now the port of Ponce (November 12,
1804) and rescued a British craft which the privateer had captured.
Even the negroes of Haiti armed seven privateers under British
auspices and preyed upon the French and Spanish merchant ships in
these Antilles.

Governor Castro, during the whole of his period of service, had vainly
importuned the home Government for money and arms and ships to defend
this island against the ceaseless attacks of the English. When he
handed over the command to his successor, Field-Marshal Toribio
Montes, in 1804, the treasury was empty. He himself had long ceased to
draw his salary, and the money necessary to attend to the most
pressing needs for the defense was obtained by contributions from the

While the people of Puerto Rico were thus giving proofs of their
loyalty to Spain, and sacrificing their lives and property to preserve
their poverty-stricken island to the Spanish crown, the other
colonies, rich and important, were breaking the bonds that united them
to the mother country.

The example of the English colonies had long since awakened among the
more enlightened class of creoles on the continent a desire for
emancipation, which the events in France on the one hand, and the
ill-advised, often cruel measures adopted by the Spanish authorities
to quench that aspiration, on the other hand, had only served to make
irresistible. But Puerto Rico did not aspire to emancipation. It never
had been a colony, there was no creole class, and the only indigenous
population--the "jibaros," the mixed descendants of Indians, negroes,
and Spaniards--were too poor, too illiterate, too ignorant of
everything concerning the outside world to look with anything but
suspicion upon the invitations of the insurgents of Colombia and
Venezuela to join them or imitate their example. They, nor the great
majority of the masses whom Bolivar, San Martin, Hidalgo, and others
liberated from an oppressive yoke, cared little for the rights of man.
When the Colombian insurgents landed on the coast of Puerto Rico, to
encourage and assist the people to shake off a yoke which did not gall
them, they were looked upon by the natives as freebooters of another
class who came to plunder them.

On the 20th of December, 1819, an insurgent brigantine and a sloop
attempted a landing at Aguadilla. They were beaten back by a Spanish
sergeant at the head of a detachment of twenty men, while a Mr.
Domeneck with his servants attended to the artillery in Fort San
Carlos, constructed during Castro's administration. In February, 1825,
some insurgent ships landed fifty marines at night near Point
Boriquen, where the lighthouse now is. They captured the fort by
surprise and dismounted the guns, but the people of Aguadilla replaced
them on their carriages the next day and offered such energetic
resistance to the landing parties that they had to retreat.

Another landing was effected at Patillas in November, 1829. This port
was opened to commerce by royal decree December 30, 1821. There were
several small trading craft in the port at the time of the attack.
They fell a prey to the invaders; but when they landed they were met
by the armed inhabitants, and after a sharp fight, in which the
Colombians had 8 men killed, they reembarked.

* * * * *

The beginning of the nineteenth century found Spain deprived of all
that beautiful island world which Columbus had laid at the foot of the
throne of Ferdinand and Isabel four centuries ago, of all but a part
of the "Espanola," since called Santo Domingo, and of the two
Antilles. Before the first quarter of the century had passed all the
continental colonies had broken the bonds that united them to the
mother country, and before the twentieth century the last vestiges of
the most extensive and the richest colonial empire ever possessed by
any nation refused further allegiance, as the logical result of four
centuries of political, religious, and financial myopia.


[Footnote 45: They ceased altogether in 1810, as a result of the
revolution in Mexico.]

[Footnote 46: Benefactores and Hombres Illustres de Puerto Rico, p.



1765 TO 1820

After the conquest of Mexico and Peru with their apparently inexhaustible
mineral wealth, Spain attached very little importance to the archipelago
of the Antilles. The largest and finest only of these islands were
selected for colonization, the small and comparatively sterile ones were
neglected, and fell an easy prey to pirates and privateers.

Puerto Rico, notwithstanding its advantages of soil and situation, was
considered for the space of three centuries only as a fit place of
banishment (a _presidio_) for the malefactors of the mother country.
Agriculture did not emerge from primitive simplicity. The inhabitants
led a pastoral life, cultivating food barely sufficient for their
support, because there was no stimulus to exertion. They looked
passively upon the riches centered in their soil, and rocked
themselves to sleep in their hammocks. The commerce carried on
scarcely deserved that name. The few wants of the people were supplied
by a contraband trade with St. Thomas and Santa Cruz. In the island's
finances a system of fraud and peculation prevailed, and the amount of
public revenue was so inadequate to meet the expenses of maintaining
the garrison that the officers' and soldiers' pay was reduced to
one-fourth of its just amount, and they often received only a
miserable ration.

His Excellency Alexander O'Reilly, who came to the Antilles on a
commission from Charles IV, in his report on Puerto Rico (1765) gives
the following description of the condition of the inhabitants at that

" ... To form an idea of how these natives have lived and still live,
it is enough to say that there are only two schools in the whole
island; that outside of the capital and San German few know how to
read; that they count time by changes in the Government, hurricanes,
visits from bishops, arrivals of 'situados,' etc. They do not know
what a league is. Each one reckons distance according to his own speed
in traveling. The principal ones among them, including those of the
capital, when they are in the country go barefooted and barelegged.
The whites show no reluctance at being mixed up with the colored
population. In the towns (the capital included) there are few
permanent inhabitants besides the curate; the others are always in the
country, except Sundays and feast-days, when those living near to
where there is a church come to hear mass. During these feast-days
they occupy houses that look like hen-coops. They consist of a couple
of rooms, most of them without doors or windows, and therefore open
day and night. Their furniture is so scant that they can move in an
instant. The country houses are of the same description. There is
little distinction among the people. The only difference between them
consists in the possession of a little more or less property, and,
perhaps, the rank of a subaltern officer in the militia."

Abbad makes some suggestions for increasing the population. He
proposes the distribution of the unoccupied lands among the
"agregados" or idle "hangers-on" of each family; among the convicts
who have served out their time and can not or will not return to the
Peninsula; among the freed slaves, who have purchased their own
freedom or have been manumitted by their masters; and, finally, among
the great number of individuals who, having deserted from ships or
being left behind, wandered about from place to place or became
contrabandists, pirates, or thieves.

"Their numbers are so small and the soil so fruitful they generally
have an abundance of bananas, maize, beans, and other food. Fish is
abundant, and few are without a cow or two. The only furniture they
have and need is a hammock and a cooking-pot. Plates, spoons, jugs,
and basins they make of the bark of the 'totumo,' a tree which is
found in every forest. A saber or a 'machete,' as they call it, is the
only agricultural implement they use. The construction of their houses
does not occupy them more than a day or two."

The good friar goes on to tell us that, through indolence, they have
not even learned from the Indians how to protect their plantations
from the fierce heat of the sun and avoid consequent failure of crops
in time of drought, by making the plantations in clearings in the
forest, so that the surrounding walls of verdure may give moisture
and shade to the plants. "Nor have they learned to build their bohios
(huts) to windward of swamps or clearings to avoid the fever-laden

* * * * *

The stirring events in Europe that marked the end of the eighteenth
and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries did not find these
conditions much changed, though _some_ advance had been made and was
being made in spite of the prohibitive measures of the Government,
which were well calculated to check all advance. To prevent the spread
of the ideas that had given birth to the French Revolution, absolute
powers were granted to the captains-general, odious restrictions were
placed upon all communication with the interior, sacrifices in men and
money were demanded on the plea of patriotism, and a policy of
suspicion and distrust adopted toward the colonies which in the end
fomented the very political aspirations it was intended to suppress.

From the outbreak of the French Revolution, Spain was entangled in a
maze of political difficulties. The natural sympathy of Charles IV for
the unfortunate King of France well-nigh provoked hostilities between
the two nations from the very beginning. The king gave public
expression to his opinion that to make war on France was as legitimate
as to make war on pirates and bandits; and the Directory, though it
took little notice at the time, remembered it when Godoy, the
favorite, in his endeavors to save the lives of Louis XVI and his
family entered into correspondence with the French emigres. Then war
was declared.

The war was popular. All classes contended to make the greatest
sacrifices to aid the Government. Men and money came in abundantly,
and before long three army corps crossed the Pyrenees into French
territory ... They had to recross the next year, followed by the
victorious soldiers of the Republic, who planted the tricolor on some
of the principal Spanish frontier fortresses. Then the peace of
Basilia was signed, and, as one of the conditions of that peace, Spain
ceded to France the part she still held of Santo Domingo.

From this period Charles, in the terror inspired by the excesses of
the Revolution and the probable fear for his own safety, forgot that
he was a Bourbon and began to seek an alliance with the executioners
of his family. As a result, the treaty of San Ildefonso was signed
(1796). Spain became the enemy of England, and the first effects
thereof which she experienced were the bombardment of Cadiz by an
English fleet, the loss of the island of Trinidad, and the siege of
Puerto Rico by Abercrombie.

Spain also became the willing vassal, rather than the ally, of the
military genius whom the French Revolution had revealed, and obeyed
his mandates without a murmur. In 1803 Napoleon demanded a subsidy of
6,000,000 francs per month as the price of Spain's neutrality, but in
the following year he insisted on the renewal of the alliance against
England (treaty of Paris, 1804). The total destruction of the Spanish
fleet at the battles of Saint Vincent and Trafalgar was the result.

Godoy, who in his ambitious dreams had seen a crown and a throne
somewhere in Portugal to be bestowed on him by the man to whose
triumphal car he had attached his king and his country, began to
suspect Napoleon's intentions.

Seeing the war-clouds gather in the north of Europe, he thought that
the coalition of the powers against the tyrant was the presage of his
downfall, and he now hastened to send an emissary to England.

The war-clouds burst, and from amid the thunder and smoke of battle at
Jena, Eylau, and Friedland, the victor's figure arose more imperious
than ever. All the crowned heads of Europe but one[47] hastened to do
him homage, among them Charles IV of Spain and the Prince of Asturias,
his son.

The next step in the grand drama that was being enacted was the
occupation of Spanish territory by what Bonaparte was pleased to call
an army of observation. This time Godoy's suspicions became confirmed,
and to save the royal family he counsels the king to withdraw to
Andalusia. Ferdinand conspires to dethrone his father, the people
become excited, riots take place, Godoy's residence in Aranguez is
attacked by the mob, and the king abdicates in favor of his son.
Napoleon himself now lands at Bayona. Charles and his son hasten
thither to salute Europe's master, and, after declaring that his
abdication was imposed on him by violence, the king resumes his
crown and humbly lays it at the feet of the arbiter of the fate of
kings, who stoops to pick it up only to offer it to his brother Louis,
who refuses it. Then he places it on the head of his younger brother

Thus fared the crown of Spain, the erstwhile proud mistress of half
the world, and the degenerate successors of Charles V accept an asylum
in France from the hands of a soldier of fortune.

But if their rulers had lost all sense of dignity, all feeling of
national pride, the Spanish nation remained true to itself, and when
the doings at Bayona became known a cry of indignation went up from
the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean. On May 2, 1808, the people of Spain
commenced a six years' struggle full of heroic and terrible episodes.
At the end of that period the necessity of withdrawing the French
troops from Spain to confront the second coalition, and the assistance
of the English under Lord Wellesley cleared the Peninsula of French
soldiers. After the battle of Leipzig (1813) a treaty between
Ferdinand VII and Napoleon was signed in Valencia, and Spain's
independence was recognized and guaranteed by the allies.

* * * * *

From the beginning of the war many officers and privates, residents of
Puerto Rico, enlisted to serve against the French, and large sums of
money, considering the island's poverty, were subscribed among the
inhabitants to aid in the defense of the mother country.

Ferdinand VII reentered Madrid as king on March 24, 1814, accompanied
by a coterie of retrograde, revengeful priests, of whom his
confessor, Victor Saez, was the leader. He made this priest Minister
of State, and soon proved the truth of the saying that the Bourbons
forget nothing, forgive nothing, and learn nothing from experience.

He commenced by ignoring the regency and the Cortes. These had
preserved his kingdom for him while he was an exile. He refused to
recognize the constitution which they had framed, and at once
initiated an epoch of cruel persecution against such as had
distinguished themselves by their talents, love of liberty, and
progressive ideas. The public press was completely silenced, the
Inquisition reestablished, the convents reopened, provincial
deputations and municipalities abolished, distinguished men were
surprised in their beds at night and torn from the arms of their wives
and children, to be conducted by soldiers to the fortress of Ceuta--in
short, the Government was a civil dictatorship occupied in hanging the
most distinguished citizens, while the military authorities busied
themselves in shooting them.

In the colonies the king's lackeys repeated the same outrages. Puerto
Rico suffered like the rest, and many of the best families emigrated
to the neighboring English and French possessions.

The result of the royal turpitude was the revolution headed by Rafael
Diego, seconded by General O'Daly, a Puerto Rican by birth, who had
greatly distinguished himself in the war against the French. Other
generals and their troops followed, and when General Labisbal, sent by
Ferdinand to quell the insurrection, joined his comrades, the
trembling tyrant was only too glad to save his throne by swearing to
maintain the constitution of 1812. O'Daly's share in these events
raised him to the rank of field-marshal, and the people of Puerto Rico
elected him their deputy to Cortes by a large majority (1820).

The first constitutional regime in Puerto Rico was not abolished till
December 3, 1814. For the great majority of the inhabitants of the
island at that time the privileges of citizenship had neither meaning
nor value. They were still too profoundly ignorant, too desperately
poor, to take any interest in what was passing outside of their
island. Cock-fighting and horse-racing occupied most of their time.
Schools had not increased much since O'Reilly reported the existence
of two in 1765. There was an official periodical, the Gazette, in
which the Government offered spelling-books _for sale_ to those who
wished to learn to read.[48]

During the second constitutional period, Puerto Rico was divided by a
resolution in Cortes into 7 judicial districts, and tablets with the
constitutional prescriptions on them were ordered to be placed in the
plazas of the towns in the interior. Public spirit began to awaken,
several patriotic associations were formed, among them those of "the
Lovers of Science," "the Liberals, Lovers of their Country," and
others. But the dawn of progress was eclipsed again toward the end of
1823, when the news of the fall of the second constitutional regime
reached Puerto Rico a few months after the people had elected their
deputies to Cortes.


[Footnote 47: The King of England.]

[Footnote 48: Neuman, p. 354.]



FROM 1815 TO 1833

That Ferdinand should, while engaged in cruel persecution of his best
subjects in the Peninsula, think of dictating liberal laws for this
island is an anomaly which can be explained only by its small
political importance.

In August, 1815, there appeared a decree entitled "Regulations for
promoting the population, commerce, industry, and agriculture of
Puerto Rico." It embraced every object, and provided for all the
various incidents that could instil life and vigor into an infant
colony. It held out the most flattering prospects to industrious and
enterprising foreigners. It conferred the rights and privileges of
Spaniards on them and their children. Lands were granted to them
gratis, and no expenses attended the issue of titles and legal
documents constituting it private property. The quantity of land
allotted was in proportion to the number of slaves introduced by each
new settler. The new colonists were not to be subject to taxes or
export duty on their produce, or import duties on their agricultural
implements. If war should be declared between Spain and their native
country, their persons and properties were to be respected, and if
they wished to leave the island they were permitted to realize on
their property and carry its value along with them, paying 10 per cent
on the surplus of the capital they had brought. They were exempted
from the capitation tax or personal tribute. Each slave was to pay a
tax of one dollar yearly after having been ten years in the island.
During the first five years the colonists had liberty to return to
their former places of residence, and in this case could carry with
them all that they had brought without being obliged to pay export
duty. Those who should die in the island without heirs might leave
their property to their friends and relations in other countries. The
heirs had the privilege of remaining on the same conditions as the
testators, or if they preferred to take away their inheritance they
might do so on paying a duty of 15 per cent.

The colonists were likewise exonerated from the payment of tithes for
fifteen years, and at the end of that period they were to pay only 2
12 per cent. They were equally free, for the same period, from the
payment of alcabala,[49] and at the expiration of the specified term
they were to pay 2 12 per cent, but if they shipped their produce to
Spain, nothing. The introduction of negroes into the island was to be
perpetually free. Direct commerce with Spain and the other Spanish
possessions was to be free for fifteen years, and after that period
Puerto Rico was to be placed on the same footing with the other
Spanish colonies. These concessions and exemptions were contained in
thirty-three articles, and though, at the present day, they may seem
but the abolition of unwarrantable abuses, at the time the concessions
were made they were real and important and produced salutary effects.
They brought foreigners possessing capital and agricultural knowledge
into the country, whose habits of industry and skill in cultivation
soon began to be imitated and acquired by the natives.

The effects of the revolution of 1820 were felt in Puerto Rico as well
as in Spain. The concentration of civil and military power in the
hands of the captains-general ceased, but party spirit began to show
its disturbing influence. The press, hitherto muffled by political and
ecclesiastical censors, often went to the extremes of abuse and
personalities. Mechanics and artisans began to neglect their workshops
to listen to the harangues of politicians on the nature of governments
and laws. Agriculture and commerce diminished. Great but ineffectual
efforts were made to induce the people of Puerto Rico to follow the
example of the colonies on the continent and proclaim their

This state of affairs lasted till 1823, when, through French
intervention, the constitutional Government in Spain was overthrown,
and a second reactionary period set in even worse in its
manifestations of odium to progress and liberty than the one of 1814.
The leading men of the fallen government, to escape death or
imprisonment, emigrated. Among them was O'Daly, who, after living some
time in London, settled in Saint Thomas, where he earned a precarious
living as teacher of languages.[50]

* * * * *

In 1825 the island's governor was Lieutenant-General Miguel de la
Torre, Count de Torrepando, who was invested by the king with
viceregal powers, which he used in the first place to put a stop to
the organized system of defalcation that existed. The proof of the
efficacy of the timely and vigorous proceedings which he employed was
the immediate increase of the public revenue, which from that day
continued rapidly to advance. The troops in garrison and all persons
employed in the public service were regularly paid, nearly half the
arrears of back pay were gradually paid off, confidence was restored,
and "more was accomplished for the island during the last seven years
of Governor La Torre's administration (from 1827 to 1834), and more
money arising from its revenues was expended on works of public
utility, than the total amounts furnished for the same object during
the preceding 300 years." [51]

The era of prosperity which marked the period of Count de Torrepando's
administration, and which at the same time prevailed in Cuba also, was
largely due to the advent in these Antilles of many of the best and
wealthiest citizens of Venezuela, Colombia, and Santo Domingo, who,
driven from their homes by the incessant revolutions, to escape
persecution settled in them, and infused a new and healthier element
in the lower classes of the population.

The condition of Puerto Rican society at this period, though much
improved since 1815, still left much to be desired. The leaders of
society were the Spanish civil and military officers, who, with little
prospect of returning to the Peninsula, married wealthy creole women
and made the island their home. Their descendants form the aristocracy
of today. Next came the merchants and shopkeepers, active and
industrious Catalans, Gallegos, Mallorquins, who seldom married but
returned to the Peninsula as soon as they had made sufficient money.
These and the soldiers of the garrison made a transitory population.
Tradesmen and artisans, as a rule, were creoles. Besides these, the
island swarmed with adventurers of all countries, who came and went as
fortune favored or frowned.

There was another class of "whites" who made up no inconsiderable
portion of the population--namely, the convicts who had served out
their time in the island's fortress. Few of them had any inducements
to return to their native land. They generally succeeded in finding a
refuge with some family of colored people, and it may be supposed that
this ingraftment did not enhance the morality of the class with whom
they mixed. The evil reputation which Puerto Rico had in the French
and English Antilles as being an island where rape, robbery, and
assassination were rife was probably due to this circumstance, and not
altogether undeserved, for we read[52] that in 1827 the municipal
corporation of Aguadilla discussed the convenience of granting or
refusing permission for the celebration of the annual Feast of the
Conception, which had been suspended since 1820 at the request of the
curate, "on account of the gambling, rapes, and robberies that
accompanied it."

Horse-racing and cock-fighting remained the principal amusement of the
populace. Every house and cabin had its game-cock, every village its
licensed cockpit. The houses of all classes were built of wood; the
cabins of the "jibaros" were mere bamboo hovels, where the family,
males and females of all ages, slept huddled together on a platform of
boards. There were no inns in country or town, except one in the
capital. Schools for both sexes were wanting, a few youths were sent
by their parents to be educated in France or Spain or the United
States, and after two or three years returned with a little
superficial knowledge.

About this time the formation of a militia corps of 7,000 men was a
step in the right direction. The people, dispersed over the face of
the country, living in isolated houses, had little incentive to
industry. Their wants were few and easily satisfied, and their time
was spent swinging in a hammock or in their favorite amusements. The
obligation to serve in the militia forced them to abandon their
indolent and unsocial habits and appear in the towns on Sundays for
drill. They were thus compelled to be better dressed, and a salutary
spirit of emulation was produced. This created new wants, which had to
be supplied by increased labor, their manners were softened, and if
their morals did not gain, they were, at least, aroused from the
listless inactivity of an almost savage life to exertion and social

Such were the social conditions of the island when the death of
Ferdinand VII gave rise to an uninterrupted succession of political
upheavals, the baneful effects of which were felt here.


[Footnote 49: Duty on the sale of produce or articles of commerce.]

[Footnote 50: In 1834 the Queen Regent, Maria Christina, gave him
permission to reside in Puerto Rico. Two years later he was reinstated
in favor and was made Military Governor of Cartagena. He died in
Madrid a few years later.]

[Footnote 51: Colonel Flinter. An Account of the Present State of the
Island of Puerto Rico. London, 1834.]

[Footnote 52: Brau, p. 284.]




THE French Revolution of 1830 and the expulsion of Charles X revived
the hopes of the liberal party in Spain, which party the bigoted
absolutism of the king and his minister had vainly endeavored to
exterminate. The liberals saluted that event as a promise that the
nineteenth century should see the realization of their aspirations,
and the exiled members of the party at once came to France to attempt
an invasion of Spain, counting upon the sympathy of the French
Government, which was denied them. The attempt only brought renewed
persecution to the members at home.

Fortunately, the king's failing health and subsequent death
transferred the reins of government to the hands of the queen, who,
less absolutist than her consort, reopened the universities, which had
long been closed, and proclaimed a general amnesty, thus bringing the
expatriated and imprisoned Liberals back to political life.

After the king's death the pretensions of Don Carlos, his brother, lit
the torch of civil war, which blazed fiercely till 1836, when a
revolution changed the Government's policy and the constitution of
1812 was again declared in force. In 1837 the Cortes, though nearly
all the Deputies were Progressists, by a vote of 90 to 60, deprived
Cuba and Puerto Rico of the right of representation.

Another Carlist campaign was initiated in 1838. In 1839 Maria
Christina, having lost her prestige, was obliged to abdicate; then
followed the regency of the Duke de la Victoria Espartero, an
insurrection in Barcelona, the Cortes of 1843, an attack on Madrid,
and the fall of the regency, a period of seven years marked by a
series of military pronunciamentos, the last of which was headed by
General Prim.

Isabel II was now declared of age (1843), and from the date of her
accession two political parties, the Progressists and the Moderates,
under the leadership of Espartero and Narvaez respectively, contended
for control, until, in 1865, the insurrection of Vicalvaro gave the
direction of affairs to O'Donnell, Canovas del Castillo, and others,
who represented the liberal Unionist party. They remained in power
till 1866, when Prim and Gonzales Bravo raised the standard of revolt
once more and Isabel II was dethroned. Then another provisional
government was formed under a triumvirate composed of Generals Prim,
Serrano, and Topete, who represented the Progressist and the
democratic parties (September, 1868). They steered the ship of state
till 1871, and, seeing the rocks of revolution still ahead, offered
the Spanish crown to Amadeo, who, after wearing it scarce two years,
found it too heavy for his brow, and abdicated. He had changed
ministeriums six times in less than two years, and came to the
conclusion that the modern Spaniards were ungovernable.

A republican form of government was now established (February 11,
1873), and it was understood by all parties that it should be a
Federal Republic, in which each of the provinces should enjoy the
largest possible amount of autonomy, subject to the authority of the
central government.

This proved to be the stumbling-block; the deputies could not agree on
the details, passions were aroused, violent discussions took place.
The Carlists, seeing a favorable opportunity, plunged the Basque
provinces, Navarra, Cataluna, lower Aragon, and part of Castilla and
Valencia, into civil war. At the same time, the Radicals promoted what
were called "cantonnal" insurrections in Cartagena, and Spain seemed
on the verge of social chaos and ruin.

A _coup d'etat_ saved the country. General Pavia, the Captain-General
of Madrid, with a body of guards forced an entrance into the halls of
congress and turned the Deputies out (January 3, 1874). A provisional
government was once more constituted with Serrano at the head. His
first act was to dissolve the Cortes.

* * * * *

The events just summarized exercised a baneful influence on the
social, political, and economic conditions of this and of its more
important sister Antilla.

Royalists, Carlists, Liberals, Reformists, Unionists, Moderates, and
men of other political parties disputed over the direction of the
nation's affairs at the point of the sword, and as each party obtained
an ephemeral victory it hastened to send its partizans to govern
these islands. The new governors invariably proceeded at once to undo
what their predecessors had wrought before them.

They succeeded each other at short intervals. From 1837 to 1874
twenty-six captains-general came to Puerto Rico, only six of whom left
any grateful memories behind. The others looked upon the people as
always watching for an opportunity to follow the example of the
continental colonies. They pursued a policy of distrust, suspicion,
and of uncompromising antagonism to the people's most legitimate

The reactionists, in their implacable odium of progress and liberty,
considered every measure calculated to give greater freedom to the
people or raise their moral and intellectual status as a crime against
the mother country; hence the utter absence of the means of education,
and a systematic demoralization of the masses.

Don Angel Acosta[53] mentions the Count de Torrepando as an example of
this. He came from Venezuela to govern this island in 1837, with the
express purpose, he declared, of diverting the attention of the
inhabitants from the revolutionary doings of Bolivar.

Gambling was, and is still, one of the ruling vices of the common
people. He encouraged it, established cockpits in every town and
instituted the carnival games. He also established the feast of San
Juan, which lasted, and still lasts, the whole month of June; and
when some respectable people, Insulars as well as Peninsulars,
protested against this official propaganda of vice and idleness, he
replied: "Let them be--while they dance and gamble they don't
conspire; ... these people must be governed by three B's--Barraja,
Botella, and Berijo." [54] General Pezuela, a man of liberal
disposition and literary attainments,[55] stigmatized the people of
Puerto Rico as a people without faith, without thought, and without
religion, and, though he afterward did something for the intellectual
development of the inhabitants, in the beginning of his administration
(1848-1851) thought it expedient not to discourage cock-fighting, but
regulated it.

In 1865 gambling was public and universal. In the capital there was a
gambling-house in almost every street. One in the upper story of the
house at the corner of San Francisco and Cruz Streets, kept by an
Italian, was crowded day and night. The bank could be distinctly seen
from the Plaza, and the noise, the oaths, the foul language, mixing
with the chink of money distinctly heard. When the governor's
attention (General Felix Messina) was called to the scandalous
exhibition, his answer was: "Let them gamble, ... while they are at it
they will not occupy themselves with politics, and if they get ruined
it is for the benefit of others."

This systematic villification of the people completely neutralized
the effect of the measures adopted from time to time by progressist
governors, such as the Count of Mirasol, Norzagaray, Cotoner, and
Pavia, and not even the revolution of September, 1868, materially
affected the disgraceful condition of affairs in the island. Only
those who paid twenty-five pesos direct contribution had the right of
suffrage. The press remained subject to previous censorship, its
principal function being to swing the incense-burner; the right of
public reunion was unknown, and if known would have been
impracticable; the majority of the respectable citizens lived under
constant apprehension lest they should be secretly accused of
disloyalty and prosecuted. Rumors of conspiracies, filibustering
expeditions, clandestine introductions of arms, and attempts at
insurrection were the order of the day. Every Liberal was sure to be
inscribed on the lists of "suspects," harassed and persecuted.

A seditious movement among the garrison on the 7th of June, 1867, gave
Governor Marchessi a pretext for banishing about a dozen of the
leading inhabitants of the capital, an arbitrary proceeding which was
afterward disapproved by the Government in Madrid.

Such a situation naturally affected the economic conditions of the
island. Confidence there was none. Credit was refused. Capital
emigrated with its possessors. Commerce and agriculture languished.
Misery spread over the land. The treasury was empty, for no
contributions could be collected from an impoverished population, and
the island's future was compromised by loans at usurious rates.

The dethronement of Isabel II, and the revolution of September, 1868,
brought a change for the better. The injustice done to the Antilles by
the Cortes of 1873 was repaired, and the island was again called upon
to elect representatives. The first meetings with that object were
held in February, 1869.

The ideas and tendencies of the Liberal and Conservative parties among
the native Puerto Ricans were now beginning to be defined. Each party
had its organ in the press[56] and advocated its principles; the
authorities stood aloof; the elections came off in an orderly manner
(May, 1869); the Conservatives carried the first and third districts,
the Liberals the second.

It may be said that the political education of the Puerto Ricans
commenced with the royal decree of 1865, which authorized the minister
of ultramarine affairs, Canovas del Castillo, to draw up a report from
the information to be furnished by special commissioners to be elected
in Puerto Rico and Cuba, which information was to serve as a basis for
the enactment of special laws for the government of each island. This
gave the commissioners an opportunity to discuss their views on
insular government with the leading public men of Spain, and they
profited by these discussions till 1867, when they returned.

The question of the abolition of slavery had not been brought to a
decision. The insular deputies were almost equally divided in their
opinions for and against, but the revolutionary committee in its
manifesto declared that from September 19, 1868, all children born of
a slave mother should be free.

In Puerto Rico this measure remained without effect owing to the
arbitrary and reactionist character of the governor who was appointed
to succeed Don Julian Pavia, during whose just and prudent
administration the so-called Insurrection of Lares happened. It was
originally planned by an ex-commissioner to Cortes, Don Ruiz Belviz,
and his friend Betances, who had incurred the resentment of Governor
Marchessi, and who were banished in consequence. They obtained the
remission of their sentences in Madrid. Betances returned to Santo
Domingo and Belviz started on a tour through Spanish-American
republics to solicit assistance in his secessionist plan; but he died
in Valparaiso, and Betances was left to carry it out alone.

September 20, 1868, two or three hundred individuals of all classes
and colors, many of them negro slaves brought along by their masters
under promise of liberation, met at the coffee plantation of a Mr.
Bruckman, an American, who provided them with knives and machetes, of
which he had a large stock in readiness. Thus armed they proceeded to
the plantation of a Mr. Rosas, who saluted them as "the army of
liberators," and announced himself as their general-in-chief, in token
whereof he was dressed in the uniform of an American fireman, with a
tri-colored scarf across his breast, a flaming sash around his waist,
with sword, revolver, and cavalry boots. During the day detachments
of men from different parts of the district joined the party and
brought the numbers to from eight to ten hundred. The commissariat,
not yet being organized, the general-in-chief generously provided an
abundant meal for his men, which, washed down with copious drafts of
rum, put them in excellent condition to undertake the march on Lares
that same evening.

At midnight the peaceful inhabitants of that small town, which lies
nestled among precipitous mountains in the interior, were startled
from their sleep by loud yells and cries of "Long live Puerto Rico
independent! Down with Spain! Death to the Spaniards!" The alcalde and
his secretary, who came out in the street to see what the noise was
about, were made prisoners and placed in the stocks, where they were
soon joined by a number of Spaniards who lived in the town.

The contents of two or three wine and provision shops (pulperias) that
were plundered kept the "enthusiasm" alive.

The next day the Republic of Boriquen was proclaimed. To give
solemnity to the occasion, the curate was forced to hold a
thanksgiving service and sing a Te Deum, after which the Provisional
Government was installed. Francisco Ramirez, a small landholder, was
the president. The justice of the peace was made secretary of
government, his clerk became secretary of finance, another clerk was
made secretary of justice, and the lessee of a cockpit secretary of
state. The "alcaldia" was the executive's palace, and the queen's
portrait, which hung in the room, was replaced by a white flag with
the inscription: "Long live free Puerto Rico! Liberty or Death! 1868."

The declaration of independence came next. All Spaniards were ordered
to leave the island with their families within three days, failing
which they would be considered as citizens of the new-born republic
and obliged to take arms in its defense; in case of refusal they would
be treated as traitors.

The next important step was to form a plan of campaign. It was agreed
to divide "the army" in two columns and march them the following day
on the towns of Pepino and Camuy; but when morning came it appeared
that the night air had cooled the enthusiasm of more than half the
number of "liberators," and that, considering discretion the better
part of valor, they had returned to their homes.

However, there were about three hundred men left, and with these the
"commander-in-chief" marched upon Pepino. When the inhabitants became
aware of the approach of their liberators they ran to shut themselves
up in their houses. The column made a short halt at a "pulperia" in
the outskirts of the town, to take some "refreshment," and then boldly
penetrated to the plaza, where it was met by sixteen loyal militiamen.
A number of shots were exchanged. One "libertador" was killed and two
or three wounded, when suddenly some one cried: "The soldiers are
coming!" This was the signal for a general _sauve qui peut_, and soon
Commander Rojas with a few of his "officers" were left alone. It is
said that he tried to rally his panic-stricken warriors, but they
would not listen to him. Then he returned to his plantation a sadder,
but, presumably, a wiser man.[57]

As soon as the news of the disturbance reached San Juan, the Governor
sent Lieutenant-Colonel Gamar in pursuit of the rebels, with orders to
investigate the details of the movement and make a list of names of
all those implicated. Rosas and all his followers were taken prisoners
without resistance. Bruckman and a Venezuelan resisted and were shot

Here was an opportunity for the reactionists to visit on the heads of
all the members of the reform party the offense of a few misguided
jibaros, and they tried hard to persuade the governor to adopt severe
measures against their enemies; but General Pavia was a just and a
prudent man, and he placed the rebels at the disposition of the civil
court. They were imprisoned in Lares, Arecibo, and Aguadilla, and,
while awaiting their trial, an epidemic, brought on by the unsanitary
conditions of the prisons in which they were packed, speedily carried
off seventy-nine of them.

Of the rest seven were condemned to death, but the governor pardoned
five. The remaining two were pardoned by his successor.

So ended the insurrection of Lares. During the trial of the rebels,
the same members of the reform party who had been banished by
Governor Marchessi, Don Julian Blanco, Don Jose Julian Acosta, Don
Pedro Goico, Don Rufino Goenaga, and Don Calixto Romero, were
denounced as the leaders of the Separatist movement. They were
imprisoned, but were soon after found to have been falsely accused and

[Illustration: Only remaining gate of the city wall, San Juan.]

Until the arrival of General Don Gabriel Baldrich as governor (May,
1870), Puerto Rico benefited little by the revolution of September,
1868. The insurrection in Cuba, which coincided with the movement in
Lares, made Sanz, the successor of Pavia, a man of arbitrary character
and reactionary principles, adopt a policy more suspicious and
intransigent than ever (from 1869 to 1870), but Governor Baldrich was
a staunch Liberal, and the Separatist phantom which had haunted
his predecessor had no terrors for him. From the day of his arrival,
the dense atmosphere of obstruction, distrust, and jealousy in which
the island was suffocating cleared. The rumors of conspiracies ceased,
political opinions were respected, the Liberals could publicly express
their desire for reform without being subjected to insult and
persecution. The gag was removed from the mouth of the press and each
party had its proper organ. The municipal elections came off
peaceably, and the Provincial Deputation, composed entirely of Liberal
reformists, was inaugurated April 1, 1871.

General Baldrich was terribly harassed by the intransigents here and
in the Peninsula. He was accused of being an enemy of Spain and of
protecting the Separatists. Meetings were held denouncing his
administration, menaces of expulsion were uttered, and he was insulted
even in his own palace. Violent opposition to his reform measures were
carried to such an extent that he was at last obliged to declare the
capital in a state of siege (July 26, 1871).

On September 27th of the same year he left Puerto Rico disgusted, much
to the regret of the enlightened part of the population, which had,
for the first time, enjoyed for a short period the benefits of
political freedom. As a proof of the disposition of the majority of
the people they had elected eighteen Liberal reformists as Deputies to
Cortes out of the nineteen that corresponded to the island.

Baldrich's successor was General Ramon Gomez Pulido, nicknamed "coco
seco" (dried coconut) on account of his shriveled appearance. Although
appointed by a Radical Ministry, he inaugurated a reactionary policy.
He ordered new elections to be held at once, and soon filled the
prisons of the island with Liberal reformists. He was followed by
General Don Simon de la Torre (1872). His reform measures met with
still fiercer opposition than that which General Baldrich encountered.
He also was forced to declare the state of siege in the capital and
landed the marines of a Spanish war-ship that happened to be in the
port. He posted them in the Morro and San Cristobal forts, with the
guns pointed on the city, threatening to bombard it if the
"inconditionals" who had tried to suborn the garrison carried their
intention of promoting an insurrection into effect. He removed the
chief of the staff from his post and sent him to Spain, relieved the
colonel of the Puerto Rican battalion and the two colonels in
Mayaguez and Ponce from their respective commands, and maintained
order with a strong hand till he was recalled by the Government in
Madrid through the machinations of his opponents.

During the interval between the departure of General Baldrich and the
arrival in April, 1873, of Lieutenant-General Primo de Rivero, there
happened what was called "the insurrection of Camuy," in which three
men were killed, two wounded, and sixteen taken prisoners, which
turned out to have been an unwarrantable aggression on the part of the
reactionists, falsely reported as an attempt at insurrection.

General Primo de Rivero brought with him the proclamation of the
abolition of slavery and Article I of the Constitution of 1869,
whereby the inhabitants of the island were recognized as Spaniards.

Great popular rejoicings followed these proclamations. In San Juan
processions paraded the streets amid "vivas" to Spain, to the
Republic, and to Liberty. In Ponce the people and the soldiers
fraternized, and the long-cherished aspirations of the inhabitants
seemed to be realized at last.

But they were soon to be undeceived. The Republican authorities in the
metropolis sent Sanz, the reactionist, as governor for the second
time. His first act was to suspend the individual guarantees granted
by the Constitution, then he abolished the Provincial Deputation,
dissolved the municipalities in which the Liberal reformists had a
majority, and a new period of persecution set in, in which teachers,
clergymen, lawyers, and judges--in short, all who were distinguished
by superior education and their liberal ideas--were punished for the
crime of having striven with deed or tongue or pen for the progress
and welfare of the land of their birth.


[Footnote 53: Estudio Historico. San Juan, 1899.]

[Footnote 54: Cards, rum, and women.]

[Footnote 55: He had been President of the Royal Academy.]

[Footnote 56: El Porvenir, for the Liberals, the Boletin Mercantil,
for the Conservatives.]

[Footnote 57: Extracts from the History of the Insurrection of Lares,
by Jose Perez Moris.]




The Spanish Republic was but short lived. From the day of its
proclamation (February 11, 1873) to the landing in Barcelona of
Alphonso XII in the early days of 1876 its history is the record of an
uninterrupted series of popular tumults.

The political restlessness in the Peninsula, accentuating as it did
the party antagonisms in Cuba and Puerto Rico, led the governors, most
of whom were chosen for their adherence to conservative principles, to
endeavor, but in vain, to stem the tide of revolutionary and
Separatist ideas with more and more drastic measures of repression.

This persistence of the colonial authorities in the maintenance of an
obsolete system of administration, in the face of a universal
recognition of the principles of liberty and self-government, added to
the immediate effect on the economic and social conditions in this
island of the abolition of slavery, for which it was unprepared,[58]
brought it once more to the brink of ruin.

From 1873 to 1880 the resources of the island grew gradually less,
the country's capital was being consumed without profit, credit became
depressed, the best business forecasts turned out illusive, the most
intelligent industrial efforts remained sterile. The sun of prosperity
which rose over the island in 1815 set again in gloom during this
period of seven years.

The causes were clear to every unbiased mind and must have been so
even to the prejudiced officials of the Government. They consisted in
the anomalous restrictions on the coasting trade, the unjustifiable
difference in the duties on Spanish and island produce, the high duty
on flour from the United States, the export duties, the extravagant
expenditure in the administration, irritating monopolies, and
countless abuses, vexatious formalities, and ruinous exactions.

Mr. James McCormick, an intelligent Scotchman, for many years a
resident of the island, who, in 1880, was commissioned by the
Provincial Deputation to draw up a report on the causes of the
agricultural depression in this island and its removal by the
introduction of the system of central sugar factories, describes the
situation as follows:

" ... The truth is, that the country is in a pitiable condition.
Throughout its extent it resents the many drains upon its vitality.
Its strength is wasted, and the activities that utilized its favorable
natural conditions are paralyzed. The damages sustained have been
enormous and it is scarcely possible to appraise them at their true
value. With the produce of the soil diminished and the sale thereof at
losing prices the value of real estate throughout the island has
decreased in alarming proportions. Everybody's resources have been
wasted and spent uselessly, and many landholders, wealthy but
yesterday, have been ruined if not reduced to misery. The leading
merchants and proprietors, men who were identified with the progress
of the country and had vast resources at their command, after a long
and tenacious struggle have succumbed at last under the accumulation
of misfortunes banded against them."

Such was the situation in 1880.

To relieve the financial distress of the country a series of
ordinances were enacted[59] which culminated in the reform laws of
March 15, 1895, and if royal decrees had had power to cure the
incurable or remove the causes that for four centuries had undermined
the foundations of Spain's colonial empire, they might, possibly, have
sustained the crumbling edifice for some time longer.

But they came too late. The Antilles were slipping from Spain's grasp;
nor could Weyler's inhuman proceedings in Cuba nor the tardy
concession of a pseudo-autonomy to Puerto Rico arrest the movement.

The laws of March 15, 1895, for the administrative reorganization of
Cuba and Puerto Rico, the basis of which was approved by a unanimous
vote of the leaders of the Peninsula and Antillean parties in Cortes,
remained without application in Cuba because of the insurrection, and
in Puerto Rico because of the influence upon the inhabitants of this
island of the events in the neighboring island.

After the death of Maceo and of Marti, the two most influential
leaders of the revolution, and the terrible measures for suppressing
the revolt adopted by Weyler, the Spanish Colonial Minister, Don Tomas
Castellano y Villaroya, addressed the Queen Regent December 31, 1896.
He declared his belief in the proximate pacification of Cuba, and
said: That the moment had arrived for the Government to show to the
world (_vide licet_ United States) its firm resolution to comply with
the spontaneous promises made by the nation by introducing and
amplifying in Puerto Rico the reforms in civil government and
administration which had been voted by Cortes.

He further stated that the inconditional party in Puerto Rico, guided
by the patriotism which distinguished it, showed its complete
conformity with the reforms proposed by the Government, and that the
"autonomist" party, which, in the beginning, looked upon the proposed
reforms with indifference, had also accepted and declared its
conformity with them.

Therefore, the minister continued: "It would not be just in the
Government to indefinitely postpone the application in Puerto Rico of
a law which awakens so many hopes of a better future."

The minister assures the Queen Regent that the proposed laws respond
to an ample spirit of decentralization, and expresses confidence that,
as soon as possible, her Majesty will introduce in Cuba also, not
only the reforms intended by the law of March 15th, but will extend to
Puerto Rico the promised measures to provide the Antilles _with an
exclusively local administration and economic personnel_. "The reform
laws," the minister adds, "will be the foundation of the new regimen,
but an additional decree, to be laid before the Cortes, will amplify
them in such a way that a truly autonomous administration will be
established in our Antilles." Then follow the proposed laws, which are
to apply, explain, and complement in Puerto Rico, the reform laws of
March 15th--namely, the Provincial law, the Municipal law, and the
Electoral law.

The Peninsular electoral law of June, 1890, was adapted to Cuba and
Puerto Rico at the suggestion of Sagasta, who, in the exposition to
the Queen Regent, which accompanied the project of autonomy, stated:
That the inhabitants of the Antilles frequently complained of, and
lamented the irritating inequalities which alone were enough to
obstruct or entirely prevent the exercise of constitutional
privileges, and he concludes with these remarkable words: " ... So
that, if by arbitrary dispositions without appeal, by penalties
imposed by proclamations of the governors-general, or by simply
ignoring the laws of procedure, the citizen may be restrained,
harassed, deported even to distant territories, it is impossible for
him to exercise the right of free speech, free thought, or free
writing, or the freedom of instruction, or religious tolerance, nor
can he practise the right of union and association." These words
constitute a synopsis of the causes that made the Spanish
Government's tardy attempts at reform in the administration of its
ultramarine possessions illusive; that mocked the people's legitimate
aspirations, destroyed their confidence in the promises of the home
Government, and made the people of Puerto Rico look upon the American
soldiers, when they landed, not as men in search of conquest and
spoliation, but as the representatives of a nation enjoying a full
measure of the liberties and privileges, for a moderate share of which
they had vainly petitioned the mother country through long years of
unquestioning loyalty.

The royal decree conceding autonomy to Puerto Rico was signed on
November 25, 1897. On April 21, 1898, Governor-General Manuel Macias,
suspended the constitutional guarantees and declared the island in
state of war. A few months later Puerto Rico, recognized too late as
ripe for self-government by the mother country, became a part of the
territory of the United States.


[Footnote 58: The slaveholders were paid in Government bonds
(schedules), redeemable in ten years. They lost their labor supply,
and had neither capital nor other means to replace it. Their ruin
became inevitable. An English or German syndicate bought up the bonds
at 15 per cent.]

[Footnote 59: See Part II, chapter on Finances.]





The island of Puerto Rico, situated in the Atlantic Ocean, is
about 1,420 miles from New York, 1,000 miles from Havana, 1,050 miles
from Key West, 1,200 miles from Panama, 3,450 miles from Land's End in
England, and 3,180 from the port of Cadiz. It is about 104 miles in
length from east to west, by 34 miles in average breadth, and has an
area of 2,970 square miles. It lies eastward of the other greater
Antilles, Cuba, Haiti, and Jamaica, and although inferior even to the
last of these islands in population and extent, it yields to none of
them in fertility.

By its geographical position Puerto Rico is peculiarly adapted to
become the center of an extensive commerce. It lies to the windward of
Cuba, Santo Domingo, and Jamaica, and of the Gulf of Mexico and Bay of
Honduras. It is contiguous to all the English and French Windward
Islands, only a few hours distant from the former Danish islands Saint
Thomas, Saint John, and Santa Cruz, and a few days' sail from the
coast of Venezuela.

Puerto Rico is the fourth in size of the greater Antilles. Its first
appearance to the eye of the stranger is striking and picturesque.
Nature here offers herself to his contemplation clothed in the
splendid vesture of tropical vegetation. The chain of mountains which
intersects the island from east to west seems at first sight to form
two distinct chains parallel to each other, but closer observation
makes it evident that they are in reality corresponding parts of the
same chain, with upland valleys and tablelands in the center, which
again rise gradually and incorporate themselves with the higher
ridges. The height of these mountains is lofty, if compared with those
of the other Antilles. The loftiest part is that of Luguillo, or
Loquillo, at the northeast extremity of the island, which measures
1,334 Castilian yards, and the highest point, denominated El Yunque,
can be seen at the distance of 68 miles at sea. The summit of this
ridge is almost always enveloped in mist, and when its sides are
overhung by white fleecy clouds it is the certain precursor of the
heavy showers which fertilize the northern coast. The soil in the
center of the mountains is excellent, and the mountains themselves are
susceptible of cultivation to their summits. Several towns and
villages are situated among these mountains, where the inhabitants
enjoy the coolness of a European spring and a pure and salubrious
atmosphere. The town of Albonito, built on a table-land about eight
leagues from Ponce, on the southern coast, enjoys a delightful

To the north and south of this interior ridge of mountains, stretching
along the seacoasts, are the fertile valleys which produce the chief
wealth of the island. From the principal chain smaller ridges run
north and south, forming between them innumerable valleys, fertilized
by limpid streams which, descending from the mountains, empty
themselves into the sea on either coast. In these valleys the majestic
beauty of the palm-trees, the pleasant alternation of hill and dale,
the lively verdure of the hills, compared with the deeper tints of the
forest, the orange trees, especially when covered with their golden
fruit, the rivers winding through the dales, the luxuriant fields of
sugar-cane, corn, and rice, with here and there a house peeping
through a grove of plantains, and cattle grazing in the green pasture,
form altogether a landscape of rural beauty scarcely to be surpassed
in any country in the world.

The valleys of the north and east coasts are richest in cattle and
most picturesque. The pasturage there is always verdant and luxuriant,
while those of the south coast, richer in sugar, are often parched by
excessive drought, which, however, does not affect their fertility,
for water is found near the surface. This same alternation of rain and
drought on the north and south coasts is generally observed in all the
West India islands.

Few islands of the extent of Puerto Rico are watered by so many
streams. Seventeen rivers, taking their rise in the mountains, cross
the valleys of the north coast and fall into the sea. Some of these
are navigable for two or three leagues from their mouths for small
craft. Those of Manati, Loisa, Trabajo, and Arecibo are very deep and
broad, and it is difficult to imagine how such large bodies of water
can be collected in so short a course. Owing to the heavy surf which
continually breaks on the north coast, these rivers have bars across
their embouchures which do not allow large vessels to enter. The
rivers of Bayamon and Rio Piedras flow into the harbor of the capital,
and are also navigable for boats. At Arecibo, at high water, small
brigs may enter with perfect safety, notwithstanding the bar. The
south, west, and east coasts are also well supplied with water.

From the Cabeza de San Juan, which is the northeast extremity of the
island, to Cape Mala Pascua, which lies to the southeast, nine rivers
fall into the sea. From Cape Mala Pascua to Point Aguila, which forms
the southwest angle of the island, sixteen rivers discharge their
waters on the south coast.

On the west coast, three rivers, five rivulets, and several
fresh-water lakes communicate with the sea. The rivers of the north
coast are well stocked with edible fish.

The roads formed in Puerto Rico during the Spanish administration are
constructed on a substantial plan, the center being filled with gravel
and stones well cemented. Each town made and repaired the roads of its
respective district. Many excellent and solid bridges, with stone
abutments, existed at the time of the transfer of the island to the
American nation.

The whole line of coast of this island is indented with harbors, bays,
and creeks where ships of heavy draft may come to anchor. On the north
coast, during the months of November, December, and January, when the
wind blows sometimes with violence from the east and northeast, the
anchorage is dangerous in all the bays and harbors of that coast,
except in the port of San Juan.

On the western coast the spacious bay of Aguadilla is formed by Cape
Borrigua and Cape San Francisco. When the southeast winds prevail it
is _not_ a safe anchorage for ships.

Mayaguez is also an open roadstead on the west coast formed by two
projecting capes. It has good anchorage for vessels of large size and
is well sheltered from the north winds.

The south coast also abounds in bays and harbors, but those which
deserve particular attention are the ports of Guanica and Hobos, or
Jovos, near Guayama. In Guanica vessels drawing 21 feet of water may
enter with perfect safety and anchor close to the shore. Hobos or
Jovos is a haven of considerable importance; sailing vessels of the
largest class may anchor and ride in safety; it has 4 fathoms of water
in the shallowest part of the entrance, but it is difficult to enter
from June to November as the sea breaks with violence at the entrance
on account of the southerly winds which prevail at this season.

All the large islands in the tropics enjoy approximately the same
climate. The heat, the rains, the seasons, are, with trifling
variations, the same in all, but the number of mountains and running
streams, the absence of stagnant waters and general cultivation of the
land in Puerto Rico do, probably, powerfully contribute to purify the
atmosphere and render it more salubrious to Europeans than it
otherwise would be. In the mountains one enjoys the coolness of
spring, but the valleys, were it not for the daily breeze which blows
from the northeast and east, would be almost uninhabitable for white
men during part of the year. The climate of the north and south coasts
of this island, though under the same tropical influence, is
nevertheless essentially different. On the north coast it sometimes
rains almost the whole year, while on the south coast sometimes no
rain falls for twelve or fourteen months. On the whole, Puerto Rico is
one of the healthiest islands in the West Indies, nor is it infested
to the same extent as other islands by poisonous snakes and other
noxious reptiles. The laborer may sleep in peace and security in the
midst of the forest, by the side of the river, or in the meadow with
his cattle with no other fear than that of an occasional centipede or
guabua (large hairy spider).

Unlike most tropical islands there are no indigenous quadrupeds and
scarcely any of the feathered tribe in the forests. On the rivers
there are a few water-fowl and in the forests the green parrot. There
are neither monkeys nor rabbits, but rats and mongooses infest the
country and sometimes commit dreadful ravages in the sugar-cane. Ants
of different species also abound.



The origin of the primitive inhabitants of the West Indian Archipelago
has been the subject of much learned controversy, ending, like all
such discussions, in different theories and more or less verisimilar

It appears that at the time of the discovery these islands were
inhabited by three races of different origin. One of these races
occupied the Bahamas. Columbus describes them as simple, generous,
peaceful creatures, whose only weapon was a pointed stick or cane.
They were of a light copper color, well-proportioned but slender,
rather good-looking, with aquiline noses, salient cheek-bones,
medium-sized mouths, long coarse hair. They had, perhaps, formerly
occupied the eastern part of the archipelago, whence they had
gradually disappeared, driven or exterminated by the Caribs, Caribos,
or Guaribos, a savage, warlike, and cruel race, which had invaded the
West Indies from the continent by way of the Orinoco, along the
tributaries of which river tribes of the same race are still to be
found. The larger Antilles, Cuba, Santo Domingo, and Puerto Rico, were
occupied by a race which probably originated from some part of the
southern division of the northern continent. The chroniclers mention
the Guaycures and others as their possible ancestors, and Stahl traces
their origin to a mixture of the Phoenicians with the aborigines of
remote antiquity.

The information which we possess with regard to the habits and customs
of the inhabitants of Boriquen at the time of discovery is too scanty
and too unreliable to permit us to form more than a speculative
opinion of the degree of culture attained by them.

Friar Abbad, in the fourth chapter of his history, gives us a
description of the character and customs of the people of Boriquen
taken wholly from the works of Oviedo, Herrera, Robertson, Raynal, and

Like most of the aboriginal inhabitants of America, the natives of
Boriquen were copper-colored, but somewhat darker than the inhabitants
of the neighboring islands. They were shorter of stature than the
Spaniards, but corpulent and well-proportioned, with flat noses, wide
nostrils, dull eyes, bad teeth, narrow foreheads, the skull
artificially flattened before and behind so as to give it a conical
shape, with long, black, coarse hair, beardless and hairless on the
rest of the body. Says Oviedo: " ... Their heads were not like other
people's, their skulls were so hard and thick that the Christians by
fighting with them have learned not to strike them on the head because
the swords break."

Their whole appearance betrayed a lazy, indolent habit, and they
showed extreme aversion to labor or fatigue of any kind. They put
forth no exertion save what was necessary to obtain food, and only
rose from their "hamacas" or "jamacas," or shook off their habitual
indolence to play a game of ball (batey) or attend the dances
(areytos) which were accompanied by rude music and the chanting of
whatever happened to occupy their minds at the time.

Notwithstanding their indolence and the unsubstantial nature of their
food, they were comparatively strong and robust, as they proved in
many a personal tussle with the Spaniards.

Clothing was almost unknown. Only the women of mature age used an
apron of varying length, the rest, without distinction of age or sex,
were naked. They took great pains in painting their bodies with all
sorts of grotesque figures, the earthy coloring matter being laid on
by means of oily or resinous substances extracted from plants or

These coats of paint, when fresh, served as holiday attire, and
protected them from the bites of mosquitoes and other insects. The
dandies among them added to this airy apparel a few bright feathers in
their hair, a shell or two in their ears and nostrils. And the
caciques wore a disk of gold (guarim) the size of a large medal round
their necks to denote their rank.

The huts were built square or oblong, raised somewhat above the
ground, with only one opening for entrance and exit, cane being the
principal building material. The chief piece of furniture was the
"hamaca," made with creepers or strips of bark of the "emajagua" tree.
The "totumo" or "jigueera" furnished them with their domestic
utensils, as it furnishes the "jibaro" of to-day with his cups and
jugs and basins. Their mode of making fire was the universal one
practised by savages. Their arms were the usual macana and bow and
arrows, but they did not poison the arrows as did the Caribs. The
largest of their canoes, or "piraguas," could contain from 40 to 50
men, and served for purposes of war, but the majority of their canoes
were of small size used in navigating the coast and rivers.

There being no mammals in the island, they knew not the use of flesh
for food, but they had abundance of fish, and they ate besides
whatever creeping or crawling thing they happened to find. These with
the yucca from which they made their casabe or bread, maize, yams, and
other edible roots, constituted their food supply.

There were in Boriquen, as there are among all primitive races,
certain individuals, the embryos of future church functionaries, who
were medicine-man, priest, prophet, and general director of the moral
and intellectual affairs of the benighted masses, but that is all we
know of them.[60]


[Footnote 60: For further information on this subject, see Estudios
Ethnologicos sobre los indios Boriquenos, by A. Stahl, 1888. Revista
Puertoriquena, Ano II, tomo II.]



"There is in this island a class of inhabitants, not the least
numerous by any means, who dwell in swamps and marshes, live on
vegetables, and drink muddy water." So wrote Dr. Richard Rey[61] a
couple of decades ago, and, although, under the changed political and
social conditions, these people, as a class, will soon disappear, they
are quite numerous still, and being the product of the peculiar social
and political conditions of a past era deserve to be known.

To this considerable part of the population of Puerto Rico the name of
"jibaros" is applied; they are the descendants of the settlers who in
the early days of the colonization of the island spread through the
interior, and with the assistance of an Indian or negro slave or two
cleared and cultivated a piece of land in some isolated locality,
where they continued to live from day to day without troubling
themselves about the future or about what passed in the rest of the

The modern jibaro builds his "bohio," or hut, in any place without
regard to hygienic conditions, and in its construction follows the
same plan and uses the same materials employed in their day by the
aboriginal inhabitants. This "bohio" is square or oblong in form,
raised on posts two or three feet from the ground, and the materials
are cane, the trunks of the coco-palm, entire or cut into boards, and
the bark of another species of palm, the "yaguas," which serves for
roofing and walls. The interior of these huts is sometimes divided by
a partition of reeds into two apartments, in one of which the family
sit by day. The other is the sleeping room, where the father, mother,
and children, male and female, of all ages, sleep, promiscuously
huddled together on a platform of boards or bar bacao.

The majority of the jibaros are whites. Mestizoes, mulattos, and
negroes are numerous also. But we are here concerned with the jibaro
of European descent only, whose redemption from a degraded condition
of existence it is to the country's interest should be specially
attended to.

Mr. Francisco del Valle Atiles, one of Puerto Rico's distinguished
literary men, has left us a circumstantial description of the
character and conditions of these rustics.[62] He divides them into
three groups: those living in the neighborhood of the large sugar and
coffee estates, who earn their living working as peons; the second
group comprises the small proprietors who cultivate their own patch of
land, and the third, the comparatively well-to-do individuals or
small proprietors who usually prefer to live as far as possible from
the centers of population.

The jibaro, as a rule, is well formed, slender, of a delicate
constitution, slow in his movements, taciturn, and of a sickly aspect.
Occasionally, in the mountainous districts, one meets a man of
advanced age still strong and robust doing daily work and mounting on
horseback without effort. Such a one will generally be found to be of
pure Spanish descent, and to have a numerous family of healthy,
good-looking children, but the appearance of the average jibaro is as
described. He looks sickly and anemic in consequence of the
insufficient quantity and innutritious quality of the food on which he
subsists and the unhealthy conditions of his surroundings. Rice,
plantains, sweet potatoes, maize, yams, beans, and salted fish
constitute his diet year in year out, and although there are Indian
races who could thrive perhaps on such frugal fare, the effect of such
a _regime_ on individuals of the white race is loss of muscular energy
and a consequent craving for stimulants.

His clothing, too, is scanty. He wears no shoes, and when drenched
with rain or perspiration he will probably let his garments dry on his
body. For the empty feeling in his stomach, the damp and the cold to
which he is thus daily exposed, his antidotes are tobacco and rum, the
first he chews and smokes. In the use of the second he seldom goes to
the extent of intoxication.

Under these conditions, and considering his absolute ignorance and
consequent neglect of the laws of hygiene, it is but natural that the
Puerto Rican peasant should be subject to the ravages of paludal
fever, one of the most dangerous of the endemic diseases of the

Friar Abbad observes: " ... No cure has yet been discovered (1781) for
the intermittent fevers which are often from four to six years in
duration. Those who happen to get rid of them recover very slowly;
many remain weak and attenuated; the want of nutritious food and the
climate conduce to one disease or another, so that those who escape
the fever generally die of dropsy."

However, the at first sight apathetic and weak jibaro, when roused to
exertion or when stimulated by personal interest or passion, can
display remarkable powers of endurance. Notwithstanding his reputation
of being lazy, he will work ten or eleven hours a day if fairly
remunerated. Under the Spanish _regime_, when he was forced to present
himself on the plantations to work for a few cents from sunrise to
sundown, he was slow; or if he was of the small proprietor class, he
had to pay an enormous municipal tax on his scanty produce, so that it
is very likely that he may often have preferred swinging in his
hammock to laboring in the fields for the benefit of the municipal

Mr. Atiles refers to the premature awakening among the rustic
population of this island of the procreative instincts, and the
consequent increase in their numbers notwithstanding the high rate of
mortality. The fecundity of the women is notable; from six to ten
children in a family seems to be the normal number.

[Illustration: A tienda, or small shop.]

Intellectually the jibaro is as poor as he is physically. His
illiteracy is complete; his speech is notoriously incorrect; his
songs, if not of a silly, meaningless character, are often obscene;
sometimes they betray the existence of a poetic sentiment. These songs
are usually accompanied by the music of a stringed instrument of the
guitar kind made by the musician himself, to which is added the
"gueiro," a kind of ribbed gourd which is scraped with a small stick to
the measure of the tune, and produces a noise very trying to the
nerves of a person not accustomed to it.

In religion the jibaro professes Catholicism with a large admixture of
fetichism. His moral sense is blunt in many respects.

Colonel Flinter[63] gives the following description of the jibaros of
his day, which also applies to them to-day:

"They are very civil in their manners, but, though they seem all
simplicity and humility, they are so acute in their dealings that they
are sure to deceive a person who is not very guarded. Although they
would scorn to commit a robbery, yet they think it only fair to
deceive or overreach in a bargain. Like the peasantry of Ireland, they
are proverbial for their hospitality, and, like them, they are ever
ready to fight on the slightest provocation. They swing themselves to
and fro in their hammocks all day long, smoking their cigars or
scraping a guitar. The plantain grove which surrounds their houses,
and the coffee tree which grows almost without cultivation, afford
them a frugal subsistence. If with these they have a cow and a horse,
they consider themselves rich and happy. Happy indeed they are; they
feel neither the pangs nor remorse which follow the steps of
disappointed ambition nor the daily wants experienced by the poor
inhabitants of northern regions."

This entirely materialistic conception of happiness which, it is
certain, the Puerto Rican peasant still entertains, is now giving way
slowly but surely before the new influences that are being brought to
bear on himself and on his surroundings. The touch of education is
dispelling the darkness of ignorance that enveloped the rural
districts of this island until lately; industrial activity is placing
the means of greater comfort within the reach of every one who cares
to work for them; the observance of the laws of health is beginning to
be enforced, even in the bohio, and with them will come a greater
morality. In a word, in ten years the Puerto Rican jibaro will have
disappeared, and in his place there will be an industrious,
well-behaved, and no longer illiterate class of field laborers, with a
nobler conception of happiness than that to which they have aspired
for many generations.


[Footnote 61: Estudio sobre el paludismo en Puerto Rico.]

[Footnote 62: El campesino Puertoriqueno, sus condiciones, etc.
Revista Puertoriquena, vols. ii, iii, 1887, 1888.]

[Footnote 63: An Account of the Present State of the Island of Puerto
Rico. London, 1834.]



During the initial period of conquest and colonization, no Spanish
females came to this or any other of the conquered territories.
Soldiers, mariners, monks, and adventurers brought no families with
them; so that by the side of the aboriginals and the Spaniards "pur
sang" there sprang up an indigenous population of mestizos.

The result of the union of two physically, ethically, and
intellectually widely differing races is _not_ the transmission to the
progeny of any or all of the superior qualities of the progenitor, but
rather his own moral degradation. The mestizos of Spanish America, the
Eurasians of the East Indies, the mulattoes of Africa are moral, as
well as physical hybrids in whose character, as a rule, the worst
qualities of the two races from which they spring predominate. It is
only in subsequent generations, after oft-repeated crossings and
recrossings, that atavism takes place, or that the fusion of the two
races is finally consummated through the preponderance of the
physiological attributes of the ancestor of superior race.

The early introduction of negro slaves, almost exclusively males, the
affinity between them and the Indians, the state of common servitude
and close, daily contact produced another race. By the side of the
mestizo there grew up the zambo. Later, when negro women were brought
from Santo Domingo or other islands, the mulatto was added.

Considering the class to which the majority of the first Spanish
settlers in this island belonged, the social status resulting from
these additions to their number could be but little superior to that
of the aboriginals themselves.

The necessity of raising that status by the introduction of white
married couples was manifest to the king's officers in the island, who
asked the Government in 1534 to send them 50 such couples. It was not
done. Fifty bachelors came instead, whose arrival lowered the moral
standard still further.

It was late in the island's history before the influx of respectable
foreigners and their families began to diffuse a higher ethical tone
among the creoles of the better class. Unfortunately, the daily
contact of the lower and middle classes with the soldiers of the
garrison did not tend to improve their character and manners, and the
effects of this contact are clearly traceable to-day in the manners
and language of the common people.

From the crossings in the first degree of the Indian, negro, and white
races, and their subsequent recrossings, there arose in course of time
a mixed race of so many gradations of color that it became difficult
in many instances to tell from the outward appearance of an individual
to what original stock he belonged; and, it being the established
rule in all Spanish colonies to grant no civil or military employment
above a certain grade to any but Peninsulars or their descendants of
pure blood, it became necessary to demand from every candidate
documentary evidence that he had no Indian or negro blood in his
veins. This was called presenting an "expediente de sangre," and the
practise remained in force till the year 1870, when Marshal Serrano
abolished it.

Whether it be due to atavism, or whether, as is more likely, the
Indians did not really become extinct till much later than the period
at which it is generally supposed their final fusion into the two
exotic races took place,[64] it is certain that Indian characteristics,
physical and ethical, still largely prevail among the rural population
of Puerto Rico, as observed by Schoelzer and other ethnologists.

The evolution of a new type of life is now in course of process. In
the meantime, we have Mr. Salvador Brau's authority[65] for stating
the general character of the present generation of Puerto Ricans to be
made up of the distinctive qualities of the three races from which
they are descended, to wit: indolence, taciturnity, sobriety,
disinterestedness, hospitality, inherited from their Indian ancestors;
physical endurance, sensuality, and fatalism from their negro
progenitors; and love of display, love of country, independence,
devotion, perseverance, and chivalry from their Spanish sires.

A somewhat sarcastic reference to the characteristics due to the
Spanish blood in them was made in 1644 by Bishop Damian de Haro in a
letter to a friend, wherein, speaking of his diocesans, he says that
they are of very chivalric extraction, for, "he who is not descended
from the House of Austria is related to the Dauphin of France or to
Charlemagne." He draws an amusing picture of the inhabitants of the
capital, saying that at the time there were about 200 males and 4,000
women "between black and mulatto." He complains that there are no
grapes in the country; that the melons are red, and that the butcher
retails turtle meat instead of beef or pork; yet, says he, "my table
is a bishop's table for all that."

To a lady in Santo Domingo he sent the following sonnet:

This is a small island, lady,
With neither money nor provisions;
The blacks go naked as they do yonder,
And there 're more people in the Seville prison.
The Castilian coats of arms
Are conspicuous by their absence,
But there are plenty cavaliers
Who deal in hides and ginger,
There's water in the tanks, when 't rains,
A cathedral, but no priests,
Handsome women, but not elegant,
Greed and envy are indigenous.
Plenty of heat and palm-tree shade,
And best of all a refreshing breeze.

Of the moral defects of the people it would be invidious to speak.
The lower classes are not remarkable for their respect for the
property of others. On the subject of morality among the rural
population we may cite Count de Caspe, the governor's report to the
king: " ... Destitute as they are of religious instruction and moral
restraint, their unions are without the sanction of religious or civil
law, and last just as long as their sensual appetites last; it may
therefore be truly said, that in the rural districts of Puerto Rico
the family, morally constituted, does not exist."

Colonel Flinter's account of the people and social conditions of
Puerto Rico in 1834 is a rather flattering one, though he acknowledges
that the island had a bad reputation on account of the lawless
character of the lower class of inhabitants.

All this has greatly changed for the better, but much remains to be
done in the way of moral improvement.


[Footnote 64: Abbad points out that in 1710-'20 there were still two
Indian settlements in the neighborhood of Anasco and San German.]

[Footnote 65: Puerto Rico y su historia, p. 369.]



From the early days of the conquest the black race appeared side by
side with the white race. Both supplanted the native race, and both
have marched parallel ever since, sometimes separately, sometimes
mixing their blood.

The introduction of African negroes into Puerto Rico made the
institution of slavery permanent. It is true that King Ferdinand
ordered the reduction to slavery of all rebellious Indians in 1511,
but he revoked the order the next year. The negro was and remained a
slave. For centuries he had been looked upon as a special creation for
the purpose of servitude, and the Spaniards were accustomed to see him
daily offered for sale in the markets of Andalusia.

Notwithstanding the practical reduction to slavery of the Indians of
la Espanola by Columbus, under the title of "repartimientos," negro
slaves were introduced into that island as early as 1502, when a
certain Juan Sanchez and Alfonso Bravo received royal permission to
carry five caravels of slaves to the newly discovered island. Ovando,
who was governor at the time, protested strongly on the ground that
the negroes escaped to the forests and mountains, where they joined
the rebellious or fugitive Indians and made their subjugation much
more difficult. The same thing happened later in San Juan.

In this island special permission was necessary to introduce negroes.
Sedeno and the smelter of ores, Giron, who came here in 1510, made
oath that the two slaves each brought with them were for their
personal service only. In 1513 their general introduction was
authorized by royal schedule on payment of two ducats per head.

Cardinal Cisneros prohibited the export of negro slaves from Spain in
1516; but the efforts of Father Las Casas to alleviate the lot of the
Indians by the introduction of what he believed, with the rest of his
contemporaries, to be providentially ordained slaves, obtained from
Charles II a concession in favor of Garrebod, the king's high steward,
to ship 4,000 negroes to la Espanola, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica
(1517). Garrebod sold the concession to some merchants of Genoa.

With the same view of saving the Indians, the Jerome fathers, who
governed the Antilles in 1518, requested the emperor's permission to
fit out slave-ships themselves and send them to the coast of Africa
for negroes. It appears that this permission was not granted; but in
1528 another concession to introduce 4,000 negroes into the Antilles
was given to some Germans, who, however, did not comply with the terms
of the contract.

Negroes were scarce and dear in San Juan at this period, which caused
the authorities to petition the emperor for permission to each settler
to bring two slaves free of duty, and, this being granted, it gave
rise to abuse, as the city officers in their address of thanks to the
empress, stated at the same time that many took advantage of the
privilege to transfer or sell their permit in Seville without coming
to the island. Then it was enacted that slaves should be introduced
only by authorized traffickers, who soon raised the price to 60 or 70
Castilian dollars per head. The crown officers in the island
protested, and asked that every settler might be permitted to bring 10
or 12 negroes, paying the duty of 2 ducats per head, which had been
imposed by King Ferdinand in 1513. A new deposit of gold had been
discovered about this time (1533), and the hope that others might be
found now induced the colonists to buy the negroes from the authorized
traders on credit at very high prices, to be paid with the gold which
the slaves should be made instrumental in discovering. But the
longed-for metal did not appear. The purchasers could not pay. Many
had their property embargoed and sold, and were ruined. Some were
imprisoned, others escaped to the mountains or left the island.

From 1536 to 1553 the authorities kept asking for negroes; sometimes
offering to pay duty, at others soliciting their free introduction;
now complaining that the colonists escaped _with their slaves_ to
Mexico and Peru, then lamenting that the German merchants, who had the
monopoly of the traffic, took them to all the other Antilles, but
would bring none to this island. However, 1,500 African slaves entered
here at different times during those seventeen years, without
reckoning the large numbers that were introduced as contraband.

Philip II tried to reduce the exorbitant prices exacted by the German
monopolists of the West Indian slave-trade, but, finding that his
efforts to do so diminished the importation, he revoked his

A Genoese banking-house, having made him large advances to help equip
the great Armada for the invasion of England, obtained the next
monopoly (1580).

During the course of the seventeenth century the privilege of
introducing African slaves into the Antilles was sold successively to
Genoese, Portuguese, Holland, French, and Spanish companies. The
traffic was an exceedingly profitable one, not so much on account of
the high prices obtained for the negroes as on account of the
contraband trade in all kinds of merchandise that accompanied it. From
1613 to 1621 during the government of Felipe de Beaumont, 11
ship-loads of slaves entered San Juan harbor.

During the eighteenth century the traffic expanded still more. To
induce England to abandon the cause of the House of Austria, for which
that nation was fighting, Philip V offered it the exclusive privilege
of introducing 140,000 negro slaves into the Spanish-American colonies
within a period of thirty years; the monopolists to pay 33-13 silver
crowns for each negro introduced, to the Spanish Government.[66]

War interrupted this contract several times, and long before the
termination of the thirty years the English ceased to import slaves.

Several contracts for the importation of slaves into the Antilles were
made from 1760 to the end of the century. First a contract was made
with Miguel Uriarte to take 15,000 slaves to different parts of
Spanish America. In 1765 the king sanctioned the introduction by the
Caracas company of 2,000 slaves to replace the Indians in Caracas and
Maraeaibo, who had died of smallpox. All duties on the introduction of
negroes into Santo Domingo, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Margarita, and Trinidad
were commuted in the same year for a moderate capitation tax, and the
Spanish firm of Aguirre, Aristegui & Co. was authorized to provide the
Antilles with negroes, on condition of reducing the price 10 pesos per
head, besides the amount of abolished duty.

This firm abused the privileges granted, and the inhabitants of all
the colonies, excepting Peru, Chile, and the Argentina, were allowed
to provide themselves, as best they could, with slaves from the French
colonies while the war lasted (1780).

Four years later, January 16, 1784, a certain Lenormand, of Xantes,
received the king's permission to take a ship-load of African slaves
to Puerto Rico on condition of paying 6 per cent of the product to the

In this same year the barbarous custom of branding the slaves was

The abominable traffic was declared entirely free in Santo Domingo,
Cuba, and Puerto Rico by royal decree, February 28, 1789. Foreign
ships were placed under certain restrictions, but a bounty of 4 pesos
per head was paid for negroes brought in Spanish bottoms, to meet
which a per capita tax of 2 pesos per head on domestic slaves was

By this time the famous debates in the British Parliament and other
signs of the times announced the dawn of freedom for the oppressed
African race. Wilberforce, Clarkson, and Buxton, the English
abolitionists, continued their denunciations of the demoralizing
institution. Their effects were crowned with success in 1833. The
traffic was abolished, and ten years later Great Britain emancipated
more than twelve million slaves in her East and West Indian
possessions, paying the masters over one hundred millions of dollars
as indemnity.

Spain agreed in 1817 to abolish the slave-trade in her dominions by
May 30,1820. By Articles 3 and 4 of the convention, England offered to
pay to Spain $20,000,000 as complete compensation to his Catholic
Majesty's subjects who were engaged in the traffic.

The Spanish Government illegally employed this money to purchase from
Russia a fleet of five ships of the line and eight frigates.

The slaves in Puerto Rico were not emancipated until March 22, 1873,
when 31,000 were manumitted in one day, at a cost to the Government of
200 pesos each, plus the interest on the bonds that were issued.

The nature of the relations between the master and the slave in Puerto
Rico probably did not differ much from that which existed between them
in the other Spanish colonies. But these relations began to assume an
aspect of distrust and severity on the one hand and sullen resentment
on the other when the war of extermination between whites and blacks
in Santo Domingo and the establishment of a negro republic in Haiti
made it possible for the flame of negro insurrection to be wafted
across the narrow space of water that separates the two islands.

There was sufficient ground for such apprehension. The free colored
population in Puerto Rico at that time (1830-'34) numbered 127,287,
the slaves 34,240, as against 162,311 whites, among whom many were of
mixed blood.[67] Prim, the governor-general, to suppress every attempt
at insurrection, issued the proclamation, of which the following is a

"I, John Prim, Count of Ecus, etc., etc., etc.

"Whereas, The critical circumstances of the times and the afflictive
condition of the countries in the neighborhood of this island, some of
which are torn by civil war, and others engaged in a war of
extermination between the white and black races; it is incumbent on me
to dictate efficacious measures to prevent the spread of these
calamities to our pacific soil.... I have decreed as follows:

"ARTICLE 1. All offenses committed by individuals of African race,
whether free or slaves, shall be judged by court-martial.

"ART. 2. Any individual of African race, whether free or slave, who
shall offer armed resistance to a white, shall be shot, if a slave,
and have his right hand cut off by the public executioner, if a free
man. Should he be wounded he shall be shot.

"ART. 3. If any individual of African race, whether slave or free,
shall insult, menace, or maltreat, in any way, a white person, he will
be condemned to five years of penal servitude, if a slave, and
according to the circumstances of the case, if free.

"ART. 4. The owners of slaves are hereby authorized to correct and
chastise them for slight misdemeanors, without any civil or military
functionary having the right to interfere.

"ART. 5. If any slave shall rebel against his master, the latter is
authorized to kill him on the spot.

"ART. 6 orders the military commanders of the 8 departments of the
island to decide all cases of offenses committed by colored people
within twenty-four hours of their denunciation."

This Draconic decree is signed, Puerto Rico, May 31, 1843.


[Footnote 66: Treaty of Madrid, March 16, 1713, ratified by the treaty
of Utrecht. There were two kinds of silver crowns, one of 8 pesetas,
the other of 10, worth respectively 4 and 5 English shillings.]

[Footnote 67: Flinter, p. 211.]



ALL statements of definite numbers with respect to the aboriginal
population of this island are essentially fabulous. Columbus touched
at only one port on the western shore. He remained there but a few
days and did not come in contact with the inhabitants. Ponce and his
men conquered but a part of the island, and had no time to study the
question of population, even if they had had the inclination to do so.
They did not count the enemy in time of war, and only interested
themselves in the number of prisoners which to them constituted the
spoils of conquest. Any calculation regarding the numbers that
remained at large, based on the number of Indians distributed, can not
be correct.

The same may be said of the computations of the population of the
island made by Abbad, O'Reilly, and others at a time when there was
not a correct statistical survey existing in the most civilized
countries of Europe. None of these computations exceed the limits of
mere conjecture.

With regard to the attempts to explain the causes of the decay and
ultimate disappearance of the aboriginal race, this subject also
appears to be involved in considerable doubt and obscurity,
notwithstanding the positive statements of native writers regarding
it. It has been impossible to ascertain in what degree they became
amalgamated by intermarriage with the conquerors; yet, that it has
been to a much larger degree than generally supposed, is proved by the
fact that many of the inhabitants, classed as white, have, both in


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