This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
On the first information received in this country that (holies were imported into Cuba under an apprenticeship contract, a very erroneous impression was created here respecting their treatment A few of the first cargoes, it was true, suffered from ill-usage; the planters did not understand the character of the new people they had obtained, and they treated them harshly. The Chinaman parts with life, nnder such circumstances, with a nonchalance unknown to the African, and considers that he is doing his master a great injury if he destroys himself while in his employ; a number who were treated to the lash thus perished, and an impression got footing in this country that is not warranted by subsequent experience. It is ascertained that, though the contract they make in China, to be returned, free of cost, at the expiration of their servitude of eight years, is binding on the shipper, remarkably few instances have occurred of their making this demand. They find profitable employment immediately on the conclusion of the contract, and are altogether in a better condition than at home, as respects food and competence.
Most of them can read and write, and have a trade, such as shoemaking, black and tinsmiths, conserve-makers, Ac.; some are at once employed in these arte; others go to the sugar depots; a large number hire themselves as domestic servants, and we saw many in positions of trust on the railroads, Ac. They are much esteemed in private families, make capital waiters, and are trusted where the negro shows little or no capacity for head-work.
The contract in tie Chinese port is to land them in Cuba, and place them in service for eight years, with the privilege of a return passage, for which bond is given to the authorities. In addition to maintenance, sick ot well, the employer pays them four dollars a month till their term is over, at which time they readily obtain from fifteen to seventeen dollars; and soon begin to accumulate an independence. The price obtained bythe importer, at first, was three hundred dollars for each well-conditioned man, but this sum has advanced from thirty to fifty per cent., leaving a large profit to the merchant; so that greater numbers are arriving and expected. They bring no women with them; it was thought, however, their accumulations of money would be used to send for their wives and families. In Havana, a few persons purchase the time of the newly imported men, and hire them out in families at a profit. We found, at various tables, the Chinaman behind our chair very attentive, cleanly, and polite.
In our hotel, a young fellow some time in Cuba, was the best waiter on hand; he attached himself to one of the party, and seemed quite willing to accompany him to Philadelphia, but his last question decided him not to come: "Was there any Chinese for him to associate with?" The " None" was the discouragement.
You see " John" all over Havana, and we were told he was in the thick of the gambling at the bull-fights and cock-pits. What effect is to be produced by this influx of a new race, would puzzle that wiseacre, the political economist, who can best predict the result after it is known; he was greatly at fault as to the rate of interest money would command when gold was so plentiful as to be turned up by every industrious spade, and he must wait a while to solve this new Chinese problem.
This mode of importing Chinamen differs very little from the one long employed in this country with what we called "Redemptioners" from Germany in years gone by, when ship loads were regularly sold, and a black man in our employ bought a white wife from the captain of a ship in the Delaware; but it differs in the character of the race. The "Redemptioner" soon amalgamated with the people, and his descendants have become good citizens. The Chinese will not do this; they will most probably retain their characteristics in every country where they penetrate, and form a distinct class. They are wanted among us for house-servants; and the probability is, they will not be long in coming.
One morning, in perambnlating the streets of Havana, we saw a part of a cargo of Chinamen walking in the rear of a Spaniard, who was mounted on horseback, with a whip and a sword. Their time had been purchased, and they were on the way to a plantation, to complete their term of service. A healthier or merrier set of men it would be difficult to remember; they were very thinly clad, without shoes or stockings, some wearing the queer native conical hat of China, and others bare-headed. Each one carried a strip of Canton matting, about six feet long and two wide, which was their only requirement for a bed 1 Very few had any other baggage, though a dozen or so possessed a few clothes tied up in a strip of muslin as large as a small handkerchief! We followed them to the steamboat that was to convey them across the bay. At the landing there was a short detention, waiting for the boat, and onr Americans, seeing their jolly faces expand with a laugh, commenced a dumb conversation with their fingers, to which the Chinese replied most merrily, neither party of course understanding that more was meant than a recognition.
Arrived on the sugar estates, the policy of the employer has taught him the necessity of kindness, and the most considerate give them a good long rest before setting them to work. As we said before, the problem has yet to be solved as to the policy of this great introduction of Asiatics, but their present condition will be better understood among us from the facts above stated.
They are now so numerous in Havana, as to create no remark. The gang above . described, excited little or no attention as they quietly walked through the streets - not half so much, in fact, as an elderly Virginia gentleman, who made his appearance, daily, in the full dress of the times of Thomas Jefferson: shortish, narrow blue-coat and metal buttons, outside boots, and a Cuba hat 1 He was the observed of all observers, the Havanese not knowing from what country he could have emanated.