« AnteriorContinuar »
HÆMATOXYLUM CAMPECHIANU M.-LOGWOOD TREE.
Class X. DECANDRIA.-Order I. MONOGYNIA.
LOGWOOD, or Hematoxylum campechianum, is a native of the western world, having been first discovered in the bays of Campeachy and Honduras, growing in the greatest luxuriance and abundance.
This tree seldom exceeds twenty or twenty-five feet in height; the trunk and branches are usually extremely crooked, the former does not often measure more than twenty inches in diameter: both trunk and branches are covered with a rough bark of a brownish colour; the smaller branches, which are very numerous, are beset with sharp spines; the leaves are abruptly pinnated, and consist of four or five pair of obcordate, obliquely nerved, sessile leaflets; the flowers are produced in terminal spikes or racemes; the calyx is divided into five oblong, obtuse segments, of a brownish purple colour ; the corolla consists of five obtusely lanceolate, spreading petals, of a deep yellow colour; the stamens are downy, shorter than the petals, and crowned with smaller oval anthers; the style is about the length of the filament; the germen is obovate, and becomes a large double-valved pod, containing four or five kidney-shaped seeds.
It was known as a dye-wood as early as the reign of Elizabeth, but its use was forbidden by an Act of Parliament for “ abolishing certain deceitful stuffs employed in dyeing cloths." The act sets forth “that logwood, or blockwood, of late years brought into this realm, is expressly prohibited to be used by dyers, the colours thereof being false and deceitful to the Queen's subjects at home, and discreditable beyond seas to our merchants and dyers.” The injunction against the use of this valuable dye was rigorously enforced, and all logwood found was seized and condemned to be burnt. The English were probably at that time ignorant of the manner of applying this dye with proper mordants. The prohibition was continued until the year 1661, the words of the act by which it was then repealed stating “ that the ingenious industry of these times hath taught the dyers of England the art of fixing colours made of logwood, so that by experience they are found as lasting and serviceable as the colour made with any other sort of dye-wood.”
Immediately after this repeal logwood became in great request, and adventurous individuals were induced to make exertions to obtain a supply. This tree is one of the productions of the province of Yucatan, where the possessions of the Spaniards for a long time consisted only of the port of San Francisco de Campeachy, and two other inconsiderable towns, Merida and Valladolid. These could boast of but few inhabitants, and the rest of the province was wholly desolate, without any indication of the abode of man. The English, from the north continent of America, in the year 1662, tempted by the desire of pursuing a profitable occupation, ventured to cut down some of the logwood trees, which grew in great abundance on the
soon formed a small colony in a spot remote from any Spanish settlement. They first raised their huts near Cape Catoche, and afterwards at Laguna de Terminos, which was found to be a more eligible situation. A few settlers thus continued to cut logwood unmolested by the Spaniards, but always with the feeling that they were intruders on the soil of other colonists.
After the treaty of Madrid in 1667, which was principally made for adjusting our commerce with Spain in Europe, British subjects were led to imagine that the respective interests of the two countries in the western hemisphere had also been accurately defined by the same treaty, and that the right of the English to cut logwood in those places of the Honduras, uninhabited by the Spaniards, was now clearly established. Many other persons were therefore in consequence induced to become logwood-cutters at Laguna de Terminos, so that in a year or two the number of settlers was greatly increased, and they transported large quantities of wood both to Jamaica and New England. The Spaniards for many years made no expostulations or complaints, and the English logwood-cutters continued to increase and flourish.
At first a sufficiency of wood was found near the coast, but when this after a time became exhausted, the settlers gradually penetrated farther into the country, where they planted Indian provisions and built houses. The jealousy of the Spaniards was at length excited by this growing colony, and suddenly evinced itself very unceremoniously by the seizure of two English ships laden with logwood. The settlers of Laguna immediately made reprisals by taking possession of a Spanish bark. These mutual acts of violence were only the commencement of a series of hostilities, and after suffering much annoyance, the English settlers were, in 1680, forcibly ejected by the Spaniards from the island of Trist and from Laguna de Terminos. This triumph on the part of their adversaries was, however, but transitory, and in two or three months the
the continued opposition of the Spaniards, the indefatigable settlers still contrived to increase their supply of that article, for whose possession they hazarded so much. Independent of the vexatious warfare by which they were constantly harassed, the lives of these poor wood-cutters were marked with hardship and privation; sometimes they worked up to their knees in water, and they were always tormented by the stings of innumerable insects.
We learn from Dampier that the commodities sent from Jamaica to procure a return cargo of logwood from Campeachy, were rum and sugar," and very good commodities," says the sailor, “were these for the logwood-cutters, who were then (1675) about 250 men, most English." * * * “ Neither was it long," he adds, “ before we had these merchants come on board to visit us ; we were but six men and a boy in the ship, and all little enough to entertain them : for besides what rum we sold by the gallon or firkin, we sold it made into punch, wherewith they grew frolicksome. We had none but small arms to fire at their drinking healths, and therefore the noise was not very great at a distance, but on board the vessel we were loud enough till all our liquor was spent. We took no money nor expected any, for logwood was what we came hither for, and we had of that in lieu of our commodities after the rate of five pound per ton, to be paid at the place where they cut it.”
This occasional festivity, a prospect perhaps of making more than by regular labour in the British colonies, and the entire freedom from all restraint, were circumstances likely to recommend the life of a logwood-cutter in spite of its frequent hardships. It had such charms to the adventurous Dampier himself, that he soon returned and settled for ten or twelve months at Campeachy, and left that place with the intention of again returning for a longer stay. He thus quaintly describes the manner in which the logwood men lived.
6 The logwood-cutters inhabit the creeks of the east and west lagunes in small companies, building their huts by the creeks' sides for the benefit of the sea breezes, as near the logwood groves as they can, removing often to be near their business : yet when they are settled in a good open place, they choose rather to go half a mile in their canvas to work than lose this convenience. Though they build their huts but slightly, yet they take care to thatch them very well with palm or palmet leaves, to prevent the rains, which are there very violent, from soaking in.
“For their bedding they raise a barbecue or wooden frame, three foot and a half above ground, on one side of the house, and stick up four stakes at each corner one to fasten their curtains, out of which there is no sleeping for moskitoes. Another frame they raise covered with earth, for a hearth to dress their victuals, and a third to sit at when they eat it. During the wet season, the land where the logwood grows is so overflowed, that they step from their beds into the water, perhaps two foot deep, and continue standing in the wet all day till they go to bed again; but nevertheless account it the best season for doing a good day's labour in."
“Some fell the trees, others saw and cut them into convenient logs, and one chips off the sap, and he is commonly the principal man; and when a tree is so thick that after it is logged it remains still too great a burthen for one man, we blow it up with gunpowder. The logwood-cutters are generally sturdy strong fellows, and will carry burthens of three or four hundred weight; but every man is left to his choice to carry what he pleaseth, and commonly they agree very well about it, for they are contented to labour very hard. * * * In some places, especially in the west creek of west lagune, they go a hunting wild cattle every Saturday, to provide themselves with beef for the week following. * * * When they have killed a beef they cut it into quarters, and taking out the bones, each man makes a hole in the middle of his quarter just big enough for his head to go through, then puts it on like a frock, and trudgeth home; and if he chanceth to tire, he cuts off some of it and throws it away.”
The hides of these wild cattle, and many which they killed merely for their hides, were another valuable article of commerce to these hardy adventurers. Many of these men made considerable sums of money; and Dampier remarks, generally, that those who had the advantage of some education, were careful to improve their time, industrious and frugal; but that those who did not possess this advantage, “would extravagantly squander away their time and money in drinking and making bluster.”
The logwood-tree grows abundantly throughout whole districts in Jamaica. Besides being cultivated as a dye-wood, it is used for other purposes. It is found well adapted for making strong full hedges, and is constantly planted for this purpose, no other fences being seen in many parts of the island. It is excellent for fuel, and, according to Dampier, is advantageously used in hardening or tempering steel. The wood of this tree is very hard and heavy; it is of a deep orange red colour; it yields its colour both to aqueous and spirituous menstruæ, but the latter extracts it the most readily and copiously. A decoction of this wood is of a deep violet or purple colour, which after a time changes to a yellowish tint, and becomes finally black. Like that of Brazil-wood it is made yellow by acids and deepened by alkalis. Although an adjective dye, it can be made very durable by the judicious application of mordants. With alum and tartar it produces a violet dye; with acetate of copper, a fine blue. But its principal use is in dyeing black, to which it gives a superior lustre, and in the production of all the different shades of grey. It contains a large proportion of gallic acid, whence it is that in combination with acetate of iron, the black colour is produced.
Logwood is imported into England in large blocks, at the very small import duty of three shillings per ton; that brought from foreign countries is chargeable with fifty per cent. higher duty. The average annual importation for the last five years has been 14,092 tons. The average price for the best logwood during that time has been £3 10s. per ton.
Several other vegetable substances are capable of producing a violet, purple, or claret colour. They are not used extensively, if at all, in modern manufactures.