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.
A pleasing land of drowsy-head it was, Of dreams that wave before the half shut eye;
And of gay castles in the clonds that pass, For ever flashing round a summer sky.
Cattle of Indolence.
THE despotism exercised in this island, cannot enter fully into the conception of a free citizen of the United States. The only recompense ever received, has been the title of "ever-faithful," bestowed by the sycophants of royalty. The army of twenty thousand foreign troops quartered here, to prevent insurrection, is an incubus upon the native inhabitants which they feel most sensibly. But in addition to this enormous expense, millions upon millions of revenue are collected and sent to Old Spain, to satisfy the rapacity of queens and courtiers. Every barrel of flour not smuggled pays an entry duty of ten dollars, if it does not come from Spain; the quality of the latter is so inferior as not to be relished by the better classes, while the duty on it also prevents its use among the common people. The favor or the enmity of a Governor-General (who is almost an irresponsible king), makes or ruins the fortunes of families; he may imprison, hang, or expatriate, all whom he says he even suspects. Mr. Ballon, in his interesting History of Cuba (published lately in Boston), says: -
"Cuba is permitted no voice in the Cortes; the press is under the vilest censorship; farmers are compelled to pay ten per cent, on all their harvest except sugar, and on that article two and a half per cent. The island has been under martial law since 1825; over $23,000,000 of taxes are levied upon the inhabitants, to be squandered by Spain. Ice is monopolized by the government; flour is so taxed as to be inadmissible; a Creole must purchase a license before he can invite a few friends to take a cup of tea at his board; there is a stamped paper, made legally necessary for special purposes of contract, costing eight dollars per sheet; no goods, either in or out of doors, can be sold without a license; the natives of the island are excluded entirely from the army, the judiciary, the treasury, and the customs; the military government assumes the charge of the schools; the grazing of cattle is taxed exorbitantly; newspapers from abroad, with few exceptions, are contraband; letters passing through the post are opened, and purged of their contents before delivery; fishing on the coast is forbidden, being a government monopoly; planters are forbidden to send their sons to the United States for educational purposes; the slave-trade is secretly encouraged by government; no person can remove from one house to another without first paying for a government permit; all cattle (the same as goods) that are sold must pay six per cent, of their value to government; in short, every possible subterfuge is resorted to by the government officials to swindle the people,* everything being taxed; and there is no appeal from the decision of the Captain-General!"
He continues further on, thus: -
" If it were possible to contemplate only the beauties that nature has so prodigally lavished on this Eden of the Gulf, shutting out all that man has done and is still doing to mar the blessings of Heaven, then a visit to or residence in Cuba would present a succession of unalloyed pleasures equal to a poet's dream. But it is impossible, even if it would be desirable, to exclude the dark side of the picture. The American traveller, particularly, keenly alive to the social and political aspects of life, appreciates in full force the evils that challenge his observation at every step, and in every view which he may take. If he contrast the natural scenery with the familiar pictures of home, he cannot help also contrasting the political condition of the people with that of his own country. The existence, almost under the shadow of the flag of the freest institutions the earth ever knew, of a government aa purely despotic as that of the autocrat of all the Russias, is a monstrous fact that startles the most indifferent observer. It must be seen to be realised.
To go hence to Cuba, is not merely passing over a few degrees of latitude in a few days' sail 1 It is a step from the nineteenth century back into the dark ages« In the clime of sun and endless summer, we are in the land of starless political darkness. Lying under the lee of a land where every man is a sovereign, is a realm where the lives, liberties, and fortunes of all are held at the tenure of the will of a single individual, and whence not a single murmur of complaint can reach the ear of the nominal ruler more than a thousand leagues away in another hemisphere. In close proximity to a country where the taxes, self-imposed, are so light as to be almost unfelt, is one where each free family pays nearly four hundred dollars per annum for the support of a system of bigoted tyranny, yielding in the aggregate an annual revenue of twenty-five millions of dollars, for which they receive no equivalent - no representation, no utterance, for pen and tongue are alike proscribed - no honor, no office, no emolument; while their industry is crippled, their intercourse with other nations hampered in every way, their bread literally snatched from their lips, the freedom of education denied, and every generous, liberal aspiration of the human soul stifled in its birth.
And this in the nineteenth century, and in North America 1
* "No such extant of taxation as it now enforced in Cuba, was ever known or heard of before in any part of the world; and no community relying solely on the products of its own labor, could possibly exist under it." - Alexander H. Everott.
"Such are the contrasts, broad and striking, and such the reflections forced upon the mind of the citizen of the United States in Cuba. Do they never occur to the minds of the Creoles? We are told that they are willing slaves. Spain tells us so, and she extols to the world, with complacent mendacity, the loyalty of her 'siempre fielissima isla de Cuba.1 But why does she have a soldier under arms for every four white adults? We were about to say, white male citizens, but there are no citizens in Cuba. A proportionate military force in this country, would give us a standing army of more than a million bayonets, with an annual expenditure, reckoning each soldier to cost only two hundred dollars per annum, of more than two hundred millions of dollars. And this is the peace establishment of Spain in Cuba - for England, and France, and the United States, are all her allies, and she has no longer to fear the roving buccaneers of the Gulf who once made her tremble in her island fastness. For whom, then, is this enormous warlike preparation? Certainly for no external enemy - there is none. The question answers itself.