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organ and harp and piano, violin and flute, cymbal and psaltery- yet in that time we have not produced a musician nor a celebrated performer. We may go further and say, we have never educated one who understood the principles of music as a science, or the fundamental doctrines upon which all musical composition must be founded. Every thing has partaken of the superficial nature of our schemes of education-every thing for ease or momentary effect. It is time that the day of reformation should approach.
Art. V.-Letters written in the Interior of Cuba, between the
Mountains of Arcana, to the East, and of Cusco, to the West, in the months of February, March, April and May, 1828. By the late Rev. ABIEL ABBOT, D. D. Pastor of the First Church in Beverly, in Massachusetts. Boston. Bowles & Dearborn. 1829.
This little work, as its title indicates, was written during a residence of nearly four months in the Island of Cuba. Baron Humboldt's account of this island, we believe, has not been translated into English. Huber, who has likewise described this portion of the West Indies, is a loose, if not a superficial and careless writer. It is, therefore, with pleasure that we direct the attention of our readers to an authority like Dr. Abbot’s, upon which, as we have every reason to believe, they may place implicit reliance. The author enjoyed opportunities and facilities for acquiring information, with which even the most fortunate tourists are rarely favoured. At the same time that his “Letters" embrace a range of objects, of all others, perhaps, best fitted to gratify the awakened public curiosity in regard to this interesting and magnificent island. They do not present us with any profound speculations about its political condition as it is, or as it promises to become. To such subjects he has scarcely alluded at all—but he compensates for the omission, by a very lively and discriminating account of whatever concerns the religion, manners, customs, economy and productions of the country. The graphic minuteness and vivacity of his descriptions, strike us not only as a great beauty,
but as furnishing internal evidence of their fidelity and accuracy. No reader can fail to be charmed with them. We felt ourselves unconsciously carried along by the narrative, and seemed to share with the author, by a sort of ideal presence, in all the interests and pleasures of his tour.
As the principal purpose of the few remarks which we have to make upon this volume, is to call the public attention to an American work of real merit, we shall proceed, without further preface, to make some extracts from it.
"Carolina in its general appearance is lifeless and dull, compared with almost any spot, since the plantations commenced. You often see a beautiful wbite stone wall, and sometimes faced, inclosing the plantation from the highway; sometimes a picket fence, withed to a single slab, by a cord cut from the forest, as big as your finger, and drawn as neatly as a cord of hemp; sometimes a living hedge of stakes driven like our willows in a wet place; sometimes a beautiful lime hedge is the fence, and rarely the awkward zigzag Virginia fence, as it is called in the United States, employed as a lively figure to indicate the course of one who sees double. The road is often adorned by a row of those charming and invaluable trees, the palm. These grow to a great height, with a trunk as smooth and polished as if it came from the turner's lathe, from the root to the top, where a few feet of the stem are of a rich, green colour, surmounted by a tuft of leaves, which remind
of the plumes adorning the bonnet of a knight of high degree. These often sine the broad avenue which leads from the highway to the planter's mansion. They take infinitely more pains to adorn these avenues, than in South-Carolina, a few at Goose-Creek excepted. I observed one avenue of lofty bamboos, thickly set, in such a manner as to form a beautiful Gothic arch. For beauty nothing could exceed it, except the live oak."
Dr. Abbot resided for a short time in Charleston, and in the country on John's Island, and on the banks of Cooper river. In the course of his remarks on Cuba, he has frequent occasion to compare objects there with others of a similar character in South-Carolina. The sublime scenery of our mountainous region he never saw; hence he is to be understoood as referring in the paragraph just quoted, exclusively to the low country. Strangers to the latter should likewise understand, that during nearly half the year, the planters are debarred from a personal inspection of their plantations, by reason of the fatal effects of its malaria. This circumstance has prevented them from bestowing that attention on the ornamental improvements of their country seats, to which a constant residence is indispensable. The avenues of live-oak alluded to, were planted at a period when strangers resided safely in the low country, during what are now called the “ sickly months.” This insalubrity and its
effects, have caused the decay, and not in a few instances, the total destruction of some of the most costly edifices in the state, which were, perhaps, equal to any in Cuba. There are few objects of more melancholy contemplation than the country seats upon the banks of the two rivers, which form the peninsula of Charleston. They tell us of inportant changes, both in the moral and physical condition of the state. The single fact that a proprietor of one of the most splendid of them, did not
visit the city until he was a well-grown boy, and that he could ✓ not now venture to pass a single night there without the most
imminent risk of life speaks volumes. But if it is painful to compare the country in this vicinity, with what it once was, what Carolinian can bear even to imagine the difference between its present condition, and that to which it would certainly have attained under a more auspicious climate?
The comparison of slave labour as it is performed in Cuba and in Carolina, results in favour of our method of tasking. Dr. Abbot does not think the assertion extravagant, when he assures us that the Cuba negroes perform one-third more work than is required of ours. The Cuba planters exact the whole time of their slaves from day-break until dark, (except parts of Saturday and Sunday) and frequently compel them to renew their labours by the light of the moon or stars. On the Spanish sugar estates, during the grinding season, they have but two watches in the twenty-four hours, a severity of exaction, which we hope will never be introduced into the management of American plantations. These matches of life against time are attended on some plantations with the annual loss of from 10 to 15 per cent. of the labourers! This is not less impolitic than barbarous, since the increase in the number of the slaves under gentler treatment, would probably be more than an equivalent to the superabundance of the crop produced by such unmitigated and unfeeling discipline.
This course of management, no doubt, has its origin in the facility with which slaves could be obtained from Africa. We are told that on some of the estates, none but males are purchased or employed, as they are better capable than females of sustaining the effects of extraordinary physical exertion. Since the abolition of the slave trade by law, the difficulty of obtaining an adequate supply of them being greatly increased, the planters are now pursuing such a policy
as will increase the number of their Creoles. Notwithstanding the penalties of the law, however, the slave trade is still prosecuted to a certain extent, by a class of men, desperate enough to hazard the consequences of detection. The vessels commonly used for the
purpose, are the small, sharp schooners of the Baltimore model, remarkable for fast sailing. The fact is well known, that under pretence of pursuing the gold and ivory trade, they enter our ports ostensibly in distress, but in reality to obtain such supplies as may be had at a cheaper rate in the United States than in Cuba.
Dr. Abbot tells us that the Cuba negroes “are not generally so stout and muscular as those in South-Carolina,” while at the same time, he informs us that their food is more varied, and perhaps, upon the whole, better. This would seem to countenance the opinion, that the difference is altogether owing to a difference in the manner of treatment. It cannot fairly be attributed to climate, since the interior of Cuba is remarkable for its salubrity, while the low country of South-Carolina, where the great mass of our black population resides, is precisely the reverse. It has been urged, that the latter, being nearly assimilated, in point of climate, to the negro regions of Africa, is the best possible locality for maintaining the health of negroes. But we oppose to this the evidence of our upper country, where the negroes are remarkable for vigorous frames.
Cock-fighting and bull-baiting are the all-engrossing popular amusements of this island as of other parts of the Spanish dominions. The pitch of extravagance to which this passion is carried, is almost incredible. Scarcely a town but has its commodious edifice appropriated to this barbarous pastime. No spectator but is absorbed in the interest of the scene. The planter and his slave-the halt, the dumb and the lame-even the governor himself-all mix equally together in the grotesque assemblage that forms the ring of the cock-pit. The government, Dr. Abbot believes, interests itself in the practice, so far as to appoint the judge of the pit. We offer no apology for extracting the following very striking picture of one of these
It exhibits the author's graphic powers in a happy light:
“ After leaving the stable, we saw, a few rods further on the street, a volante, orange boys, men and boys and bustle, as if some extraordinary business was in hand. It was the hour of cock-fighting, and there was the pit or theatre. As this is a scandalous trait in the Spanish character, and observable in every town and village, and seems the passion of this people, it was proposed we should look in. In every point of view but one, I could detest the thought of leaving a footprint on such ground; but as a Christian philosopher, studying mankind, in the Spanish species, and this barbarous diversion reflects a baleful light on the subject, I consented. It is a round building sixty feet diameter, well covered, with circular seats and boxes rising from the area one above another,
and, though not on the Sabbath, the day when it is most frequented, the theatre was well filled. Twice as many persons, I think there were, as I had seen in the church when it was fullest. Elevated in a dignified pew or gallery, railed in by itself, and projecting a little toward the area, to give the most perfect view of the combat, sat the Judge. This important officer of justice is regularly appointed by the Governor, or Alcaldi, or otherwise, and from his decision there is no appeal. The venerable judge was far advanced in years, to hold so important an office; from his white locks, and wrinkled countenance, and bending frame, I should think him seventy-ten years older than Chancellor Kent, when he retired from the bench; but to do his honor justice, he did not, like Philip of Macedon, nor like some of his brethren on republican benches, sleep while the cause was trying. However, there was an omission of one thing; he took no notes. Yet I acknowledge he followed the cause through all its windings, and ups and downs, and not an argument on either side was disregarded ; nor was there, so long as I observed him, for I did not see the cause through, the least sign of favour or partiality in his countenance, nor the slightest relaxation of his gravity.
“Io glancing an eye round, I should think there were present a dozen or twenty cocks. Tamer birds I never saw. They needed no confinement, but lay reclining on the hand of an owner or servant, and now and then crowing from that perch. The shears or tweezers had cleared away all needless excrescences—the comb, if they had one, the feathers about the neck and some about the tail, and the parts had been, probably for months, 'so rubbed and chafed with arguadente, a species of spirit
, that they were of blood colour. A pair was soon produced, one of them by a planter of two thousand boxes of sugar per annum; and I saw the doubloons, (ounces, they call them) chinking in their hands. The pit was cleared. Two men approached each other with the cocks, and one bird was permitted to peck the other, to provoke bim to combat, and then, the provocation being returned with spirit, they were thrown down to deadly con.bat. We soon left the ground, but before we went, both were covered with blood, and much spevt, and one of them pierced in the breast, probably with a mortal wound by his adversary's dirk. I understand they were separated for a few moments, to intiame their wounds with alcohol, and to give them spirit internally, when the combat would be renewed to death or victory. We had no desire to see the end of the fray, and returned home with a thousand melancholy reflections.
“ It is to me, matter of astonishment, that a check is not given to this barbarous diversion and open gambling by the government of a Christian country. But it is, in fact, encouraged by it. I will inquire, so as to be certain that I am not misinformed, but I believe the government regulates the sport, and appoints the judge of the pit; yes, the pit, rightly pamed, and a little emblem of the bottomless. And I frankly acknowledge, if this gambling sport is tolerated, and the most selfish and savage passions are allowed to be roused, some presiding influence of government may be necessary, at times, to prevent deadly strife among the gamblers as well as the cocks. You would suppose that sport and