The weight of skirts and the constraints of corsets are still properly made the theme of indignant declamation. Yet let us be just. It is impossible to make costume the prime culprit, when we recall what robust generations have been reared beneath the same formidable panoply. For instance, it seems as if no woman could habitually walk uninjured with a weight of twelve pounds of skirts suspended at her hips,—Dr. Coale is responsible for the statistics,—and as if salvation must therefore lie in shoulder-straps. Yet the practice cannot be sheer suicide, when the Dutch peasant-girl plods bloomingly through her daily duties beneath a dozen successive involucres of flannel. So in regard to tight lacing, no one can doubt its ill effects, since even a man's loose garments are known to diminish by one-fourth his capacity for respiration. Yet inspect in the shop-windows (where the facts of female costume are obtruded too pertinaciously for the public to remain in ignorance) the light and flexible corsets of these days, and then contemplate at Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth the stout buckram stays that once incased the stouter heart of Alice Bradford. Those, again, were to those of a still earlier epoch as leather to chain-armor. The Countess of Buchan was confined in an iron cage for life for assisting to crown Robert the Bruce, but her only loss by the incarceration was that her iron cage ceased to be portable.
Passing from costume, it must be noticed that there are many physical evils which the American woman shares with the other sex, but which bear with far greater severity on her finer organization. There is improper food, for instance. The fried or salted meat, the heavy bread, the perennial pork, the disastrous mince-pies of our farmers' houses are sometimes pardoned by Nature to the men of the family, in consideration of twelve or more hours of out-door labor. For the more sedentary and delicate daughter there is no such atonement, and she vibrates between dyspepsia and starvation. The only locality in America where I have ever found the farming population living habitually on wholesome diet is the Quaker region in Eastern Pennsylvania, and I have never seen anywhere else such a healthy race of women. Yet here, again, it is not safe to be hasty, or to lay the whole responsibility upon the kitchen, when we recall the astounding diet on which healthy Englishwomen subsisted two centuries ago. Consider, for instance, the housekeeping of the Duke of Northumberland. "My lord and lady have for breakfast, at seven o'clock, a quart of beer, as much wine, two pieces of salt fish, six red herring, four white ones, and a dish of sprats." Digestive resources which could, entertain this bill of fare might safely be trusted to travel in America.
The educational excesses of our schools, also, though shared by both sexes, tell much more formidably upon girls, in proportion as they are keener students, more submissive pupils, and are given to studying their lessons at recess-time, instead of shouting and racing in the open air. They are also easily coerced into devoting Wednesday and Saturday afternoons to the added atrocity of music-lessons, and in general, but for the recent blessed innovation of skating, would undoubtedly submit to having every atom of air and exercise eliminated from their lives. It is rare to find an American mother who habitually ranks physical vigor first, in rearing her daughters, and intellectual culture only second; indeed, they are commonly satisfied with a merely negative condition of health. The girl is considered to be well, if she is not too ill to go to school; and she therefore lives from hand to mouth, as respects her constitution, and lays up nothing for emergencies. From this negative condition proceeds her inability to endure accidents which to an active boy would be trivial. Who ever hears of a boy's incurring a lame knee for a year by slipping on the ice, or spinal disease for a lifetime by a fall from a sled? And if a girl has not enough of surplus vitality to overcome such trifles as these, how is she fitted to meet the coming fatigues of wife and mother?
These are important, if superficial, suggestions; but there are other considerations which go deeper. I take the special provocatives of disease among American women to be in great part social. The one marked step achieved thus far by our civilization appears to be the abolition of the peasant class, among the native-born, and the elevation of the mass of women to the social zone of music-lessons and silk gowns. This implies the disappearance of field-labor for women, and, unfortunately, of that rustic health also which in other countries is a standing exemplar for all classes. Wherever the majority of women work in the fields, the privileged minority are constantly reminded that they also hold their health by the tenure of some substituted activity. With us, all women have been relieved from out-door labor,—and are being sacrificed in the process, until they learn to supply its place. Except the graceful and vanishing pursuit of hop-picking, there is in New England no agricultural labor in which women can be said to be habitually engaged. Most persons never saw an American woman making hay, unless in the highly imaginative cantata of "The Hay-Makers"; and Dolly the Dairy-Maid is becoming to our children as purely ideal a being as Cinderella. We thus lose not only the immediate effect, but the indirect example, of these out-door toils.
This influence of the social transition bears upon all women: there is another which especially touches wives and mothers. In European countries, the aim at anything like gentility implies keeping one or more domestics to perform house-hold labors; but in our Free States every family aims at gentility, while not one in five keeps a domestic. The aim is not a foolish one, though follies may accompany it,—for the average ambition of our people includes a certain amount of refined cultivation;—it is only that the process is exhausting. Every woman must have a best-parlor with hair-cloth furniture and a photograph—book; she must have a piano, or some cheaper substitute; her little girls must have embroidered skirts and much mathematical knowledge; her husband must have two or even three hot meals every day of his life; and yet her house must be in perfect order early in the afternoon, and she prepared to go out and pay calls, with a black silk dress and a card-case. In the evening she will go to a concert or a lecture, and then, at the end of all, she will very possibly sit up after midnight with her sewing-machine, doing extra shop-work to pay for little Ella's music-lessons. All this every "capable" New-England woman will do, or die. She does it, and dies; and then we are astonished that her vital energy gives out sooner than that of an Irishwoman in a shanty, with no ambition on earth but to supply her young Patricks with adequate potatoes.
Now it is useless to attempt to set back the great social flood. The New-England housekeeper will never be killed by idleness, at any rate; and if she is exposed to the opposite danger, we must fit her for it, that is all. There is reason to be hopeful; the human race as a whole is tending upward, even physically, and if we cannot make our girls healthy quite yet, we shall learn to do it by-and-by. Meanwhile we must hold hard to the conviction, that not merely decent health, but even a high physical training, is a thing thoroughly practicable for both sexes. If a young girl can tire out her partner in the dance, if a delicate wife can carry her baby twice as long as her athletic husband, (for certainly there is nothing in the gymnasium more amazing than the mother's left arm,) then it is evident that the female frame contains muscular power, or its equivalent, though it may take music or maternity to bring it out. But other inducements have proved sufficient, and the results do not admit of question. The Oriental bayaderes, for instance, are trained from childhood as gymnasts: they carry heavy jars on their heads, to improve strength, gait, and figure; they fly kites, to acquire "statuesque attitudes and graceful surprises"; they must learn to lay the back of the hand flat against the wrist, to partially bend the arm in both directions at the elbow, and, inclining the whole person backward from the waist, to sweep the floor with the hair. So, among ourselves, the great athletic resources of the female frame are vindicated by every equestrian goddess of the circus, every pet of the ballet. Those airy nymphs have been educated for their vocation by an amount of physical fatigue which their dandy admirers may well prefer to contemplate through the safe remoteness of an opera-glass.
Dr. Gardner, of New York, has lately contributed very important professional observations upon this class of his patients; he describes their physique as infinitely superior to that of ordinary women, wonderfully adapting them not only to the extraordinary, but to the common perils of their sex, "with that happy union of power and pliability most to be desired." "Their occupation demands in its daily study and subsequent practice an amount of long-continued muscular energy of the severest character, little recognized or understood by the community"; and his description of their habitual immunity in the ordeals of womanhood reminds one of the descriptions of savage tribes. But it is really a singular retribution for our prolonged offences against the body, when our saints are thus compelled to take their models from the reputed sinners,—prize-fighters being propounded as missionaries for the men, and opera-dancers for the women.
Are we literally to infer, then, that dancing must be the primary prescription? It would not be a bad one. It was an invaluable hint of Hippocrates, that the second-best remedy is better than the best, if the patient likes it best. Beyond all other merits of the remedy in question is this crowning advantage, that the patient likes it. Has any form of exercise ever yet been invented which a young girl would not leave for dancing?
"Women, it is well known," says Jean Paul, "cannot run, but only dance, and every one could more easily reach a given point by dancing than by walking." It is practised in this country under immense disadvantages: first, because of late hours and heated rooms; and secondly, because some of the current dances seem equally questionable to the mamma and the physiologist. But it is doubtful whether any possible gymnastic arrangement for a high-school would be on the whole so provocative of the wholesome exercise as a special hall for dancing, thoroughly ventilated, and provided with piano and spring-floor. The spontaneous festivals of every recess-time would then rival those German public-rooms, where it is said you may see a whole company waltzing like teetotums, with the windows wide open, at four o'clock in the afternoon.
Skating is dancing in another form; both aim at flying, and skating comes nearest to success. The triumph of this art has been so astonishing, in the universality of its introduction among our girls within the short space of four winters, that it is hardly necessary to speak of it, except to deduce the hope that other out-door enjoyments, equally within the reach of the girls, may be as easily popularized.
For any form of locomotion less winged than skating and dancing the feet of American girls have hitherto seemed somehow unfitted by Nature. There is every abstract reason why they should love walking, on this side of the Atlantic: there is plenty of room for it, the continent is large; the exercise, moreover, brightens the eye and purifies the complexion, —so the physiologists declare: so that an English chemist classifies red cheeks as being merely oxygen in another form, and advises young ladies who wish for a pair to seek them where the roses get them, out-of-doors,—upon which an impertinent damsel writes to ask "Punch" if they might not as well carry the imitation of the roses a little farther, and remain in their beds all the time? But it is a lamentable fact, that walking, for the mere love of it, is a rare habit among our young women, and rarer probably in the country than in the city; it is uncommon to hear of one who walks habitually as much as two miles a day. There are, of course, many exceptional instances: I know maidens who love steep paths and mountain rains, like Wordsworth's Louisa, and I have even heard of eight young ladies who walked from Andover to Boston, twenty-three miles, in six hours, and of two who did forty-five miles in two days. Moreover, with our impulsive temperaments, a special object will always operate as a strong allurement. A confectioner's shop, for instance. A camp somewhere in the suburbs, with dress-parades, and available lieutenants. A new article of dress: a real ermine cape may be counted as good for three miles a day, for the season. A dearest friend within pedestrian distance: so that it would seem well to plant a circle of delightful families just in the outskirts of every town, merely to serve as magnets. Indeed, so desperate has the emergency become, that one might take even ladies' hoops to be a secret device of Nature to secure more exercise for the occupants by compelling them thus to make the circuit of each other, as the two fat noblemen at the French court vindicated themselves from the charge of indolence by declaring that each promenaded twice round his friend every morning.
In view of this distaste for pedestrian exercise, it seems strange that the present revival of athletic exercises has not yet reached to horsemanship, the traditional type of all noble training, chevalerie, chivalry. Certainly it is not for the want of horse-flesh, for never perhaps was so much of that costly commodity owned in this community; yet in New England you shall find private individuals who keep a half-dozen horses each, and livery-stables possessing fifty, and never a proper saddle-horse among them. In some countries, riding does half the work of physical training, for both sexes; Sir Walter Scott, when at Abbotsford, never omitted his daily ride, and took his little daughter with him, from the time she could sit on horseback; but what New-England man, in purchasing a steed, selects with a view to a side-saddle? This seems a sad result of the wheel-maker's trade, and one grudges St. Willegis the wheel on his coat-of-arms, if it has thus served to tame down freeborn men and women to the slouching and indolent practice of driving,—a practice in which the human figure appears at such disadvantage, that one can hardly wonder at Horace Walpole's coachman, who had laid up a small fortune by driving the maids-of-honor, and left it all to his son upon condition that he never should take a maid-of-honor for his wife.
An exercise to which girls take almost as naturally as to dancing is that of rowing, an accomplishment thoroughly feminine, learned with great facility, and on the whole safer than most other sports. Yet until within a few years no one thought of it in connection with women, unless with semi-mythical beings, like Ellen Douglas or Grace Darling. Even now it is chiefly a city accomplishment, and you rarely find at rural or sea-side places a village damsel who has ever handled an oar. But once having acquired the art, girls will readily fatigue themselves with its practice, unsolicited, careless of tan and freckles. At Dove Harbor it is far easier at any time to induce the young ladies to row for two hours than to walk in the beautiful wood-paths for fifteen minutes;—the walking tires them. No matter; for a special exercise the rowing is the most valuable of the two, and furnishes just what the dancing-school omits. Unfortunately, the element of water is not quite a universal possession, and no one can train Naiads on dry land.
One of the merits of boating is that it suggests indirectly the attendant accomplishment of swimming, and this is some thing of such priceless importance that no trouble can be too great for its acquisition. Parents are uneasy until their children are vaccinated, and yet leave them to incur a risk as great and almost as easily averted. The barbarian mother, who, lowering her baby into the water by her girdle, teaches it to swim ere it can walk, is before us in this duty. Swimming, moreover, is not one of those arts in which a little learning is a dangerous thing; on the contrary, a little may be as useful in an emergency as a great deal, if it gives those few moments of self-possession amid danger which will commonly keep a person from drowning until assistance comes. Women are naturally as well fitted for swimming as men, since specific buoyancy is here more than a match for strength; but effort is often needed to secure for them those opportunities of instruction and practice which the unrestrained wanderings of boys secure for them so easily. For this purpose, swimming-schools for ladies are now established in many places, at home and abroad; and the newspapers have lately chronicled a swimming-match at a girls' school in Berlin, where thirty-three competitors were entered for the prize,—and another among titled ladies in Paris, where each fashionable swimmer was allowed the use of the left hand only, the right hand sustaining an open parasol. Our own waters have, it may be, exhibited spectacles as graceful, though less known to fame. Never may I forget the bevy of bright maidens who under my pilotage buffeted on many a summer's day the surges of Cape Ann, learning a wholly new delight in trusting the buoyancy of the kind old ocean and the vigor of their own fair arms. Ah, my pupils, some of you have since been a prince's partners in the ball-room; but in those days, among the dancing waves, it was King Neptune who placed on you his crown.
Other out-door habits depend upon the personal tastes of the individual, in certain directions, and are best cultivated by educating these. If a young girl is born and bred with a love of any branch of natural history or of horticulture, happy is she; for the mere unconscious interest of the pursuit is an added lease of life to her. It is the same with all branches of Art whose pursuit leads into the open air. Rosa Bonheur, with her wanderings among mountains and pastures, alternating with the vigorous work of the studio, needed no other appliances for health. The same advantages come to many, in spite of delinquent mothers, in the bracing habits of household labor, at least where mechanical improvements have not rendered it too easy. Improved cooking-stoves and Mrs. Cornelius have made the culinary art such a path of roses that it is hardly now included in early training, but deferred till after matrimony. Yet bread-making in well-ventilated kitchens and sweeping in open-windowed rooms are calisthenics so bracing that one grudges them to the Irish maidens, whose round and comely arms betray so much less need of their tonic influence than the shrunken muscles exhibited so freely by our short-sleeved belles.
Perhaps even well-developed arms are not so essential to female beauty as erectness of figure, a trait on which our low school-desks have made sad havoc. The only sure panacea for round shoulders in boys appears to be the military drill, and Miss Mitford records that in her youth it was the custom in girls' schools to apply the same remedy. Dr. Lewis relies greatly on the carrying of moderate weights upon a padded wooden cap which he has devised for this purpose; and certainly the straightest female figure with which I am acquainted—aged seventy-four—is said to have been formed by the youthful habit of pacing the floor for half an hour dally, with a book upon the head, under rigid maternal discipline. Another traditional method is to insist that the damsel shall sit erect, without leaning against the chair, for a certain number of hours daily; and Sir Walter Scott says that his mother, in her eightieth year, took as much care to avoid giving any support to her back as if she had been still under the stern eye of Mrs. Ogilvie, her early teacher. Such simple methods may not be enough to check diseased curvatures or inequalities when already formed: these are best met by Ling's system of medical gymnastics, or "movement-cure," as applied by Dr. Lewis, Dr. Taylor, and others.
The ordinary gymnastic apparatus has also been employed extensively by women, and that very successfully, wherever the exercises have been systematically organized, with agreeable classes and competent teachers. If the gymnasium often fails to interest girls as much as boys, it is probably from deficiency in these respects,—and also because the female pupils, beginning on a lower plane of strength, do not command so great a variety of exercises, and so tire of the affair more readily. But hundreds, if not thousands, of American women have practised in these institutions during the last ten years,—single establishments in large cities having sometimes several hundred pupils,—and many have attained a high degree of skill in climbing, vaulting, swinging, and the like; nor can I find that any undue proportion of accidents has occurred. Wherever Dr. Lewis's methods have been introduced, important advantages have followed. He has invented an astonishing variety of games and well-studied movements,—with the lightest and cheapest apparatus, balls, bags, rings, wands, wooden dumb-bells, small clubs, and other instrumentalities,—which are all gracefully and effectually used by his classes, to the sound of music, and in a way to spare the weakest when lightly administered, or to fatigue the strongest when applied in force. Being adapted for united use by both sexes, they make more thorough appeal to the social element than the ordinary gymnastics; and evening classes, to meet several evenings in a week, have proved exceedingly popular in some of our towns. These exercises do not require fixed apparatus or a special hall. For this and other reasons they are peculiarly adapted for use in schools, and it would be well if they could be regularly taught in our normal institutions. Dr. Lewis himself is now training regular teachers to carry on the same good work, and his movement is undoubtedly the most important single step yet taken for the physical education of American women.
There is withal a variety of agreeable minor exercises, dating back farther than gymnastic professors, which must not be omitted. Archery, still in fashion in England, has never fairly taken root among us, and seems almost hopeless: the clubs formed for its promotion die out almost as speedily as cricket-clubs, and leave no trace behind; though this may not always be. Bowling and billiards are, however, practised by lady amateurs, just so far as they find opportunity, which is not very far; desirable public or private facilities being obtainable by few only, except at the summer watering-places. Battledoor-and-shuttlecock seems likely to come again into favor, and that under eminent auspices: Dr. Windship holding it in high esteem, as occupying the mind while employing every part of the body, harmonizing the muscular system, giving quickness to eye and hand, and improving the balancing power. The English, who systematize all amusements so much more than we, have developed this simple entertainment into several different games, arduous and complicated as their games of ball. The mere multiplication of the missiles also lends an additional stimulus, and the statistics of success in this way appear almost fabulous. A zealous English battledoorean informs me that the highest scores yet recorded in the game are as follows: five thousand strokes for a single shuttlecock, five hundred when employing two, one hundred and fifty with three, and fifty-two when four airy messengers are kept flying simultaneously.
It may seem trivial to urge upon rational beings the use of a shuttlecock as a duty; but this is surely better than that one's health should become a thing as perishable, and fly away as easily. There is no danger that our educational systems will soon grow too careless of intellect and too careful of health. Reforms, whether in physiology or in smaller things, move slowly, when prejudice or habit bars the way. Paris is the head-quarters of medical science; yet in Paris, to this day, the poor babies in the great hospital of La Maternite are so tortured in tight swathings that not a limb can move. Progress is not in proportion to the amount of scientific knowledge on deposit in any country, but to the extent of its diffusion. No nation in the world grapples with its own evils so promptly as ours. It is but a few years since there was a general croaking about the physical deterioration of young men in our cities,—and now already the cities and the colleges are beginning to lead the rural districts in this respect. The guaranty of reform in American female health is to be found in the growing popular conviction that reform is needed. The community is tired of the reproaches of foreigners, and of the more serious evils of homes desolated by disease, and lives turned to tragedies. Morbid anatomy has long enough served as a type of feminine loveliness; our polite society has long enough been a series of soirees of incurables. Health is coming into fashion. A mercantile parent lately told me that already in his town, if a girl could vault a five-barred gate, her prospects for a husband were considered to be improved ten per cent.; and every one knows that there is no metre of public sentiment so infallible as the stock-market. Now that the country is becoming safe, we must again turn our attention to the health of our girls. Unless they are healthy, the country is not safe. No where can their physical condition be so important as in a republic. The utmost attention was paid to the bodily training of Victoria, because she was to be a queen and the mother of kings. By the theory of our government, however imperfectly applied as yet, this is the precise position of every American girl. Voltaire said that the fate of nations had often depended on the gout of a prime-minister; and the fate of our institutions may hang on the precise temperament which our next President shall have inherited from his mother.
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The starry flower, the flower-like stars that fade And brighten with the daylight and the dark, The bluet in the green I faintly mark, And glimmering crags with laurel overlaid, Even to the Lord of light, the Lamp of shade, Shine one to me,—the least still glorious made As crowned moon or heaven's great hierarch. And, so, dim grassy flower and night-lit spark Still move me on and upward for the True; Seeking, through change, growth, death, in new and old, The full in few, the statelier in the less, With patient pain; always remembering this,— His hand, who touched the sod with showers of gold, Stippled Orion on the midnight blue.
THE HORRORS OF SAN DOMINGO.
Among the stock fallacies which belong to public writers and thinkers, and which exercise a kind of conventional influence as often as they are paraded, there is none greater than this,—that History always repeats herself, because Human Nature never changes. The Tories of all ages and countries content themselves and alarm their neighbors by an adroit interpolation of this formula in their speech. They create the alarm because they are contented and intend to remain so. Successive audiences yield, as to the circus-jokes of the clown, who hits his traditional laugh in the same place so often that it is a wonder the place is not worn through. But people of a finer wit are not so easily surprised. If they bore a fair numerical proportion to the listeners of doctrinaires and alarmists, the repetition would be eventually resisted, with an indignation equal to the amount of literary and political damage which it had effected.
If people mean, when they say that Human Nature is always the same, that a few primitive impulses appear through the disguise of all ages and races, which can be modified, but never extinguished, which work and are worked upon, are capable of doing good or harm according to circumstances, but are at all events the conditions of life and motion, it is fortunately true. That is to say, it is very fortunate that men and women inhabit the earth. Their great, simple features uplift and keep all landscapes in their places, and prevent life from falling through into the molten and chaotic forces underneath. These rugged water-sheds inclose, configure, temper, fertilize, and also perturb, the great scenes and stretches of history. They hold the moisture, the metal, the gem, the seeds of alternating forests and the patient routine of countless harvests. Superficially it is a great way round from the lichen to the vine, but not so far by way of the centre. The many-colored and astonishing life conceals a few simple motives. Certainly it is a grand and lucky thing that there are so many people grouped along the lines of divine consistency.
Men will not starve, if they can help it, nor thirst, if water can be gathered in the palm or reached by digging. If they succeed in making a cup, they betray a tendency to ornament its rim or stem, or to emboss a story on its side. They are not disposed to become food for animals, or to remain unprotected from the climate. They like to have the opportunity of supplying their own wants and luxuries, and will resist any tyrannical interference with the methods they prefer. They propagate their race, and collect in communities for defence and social advantage. When thus collected, they will learn to talk, to write, to symbolize, to construct something, be it a medicine-lodge or a Parthenon. Their primitive sense of an invisible and spiritual agency assumes the forms of their ignorance and of their disposition: dread and cruelty, awe and size, fancy and proportion, gentleness and simplicity, will be found together in the rites and constructions of religion. They like to make the whole tribe or generation conform; and it is dangerous to oppose this tendency to preserve the shape of society from within and to protect it against assaults from without. These are motives originally independent of circumstances, and which made the first circumstances by coming in contact with the elements of the physical world.
But these circumstances are not always and everywhere as invariable as the primitive wants which first set them in motion. Enlargement of knowledge, of political and human relations, of the tenure of the earth, increases the number and variety of circumstances, and combines them so unexpectedly that it is a science to discover their laws, and the conditions of action and reaction between men and things that happen. We can depend upon Human Nature, but the problem always remains, What shall be expected of Human Nature under this or that modification of its external environment? Great laws from without act as well as great laws from within. If we knew all the laws, we should know what average consequences to expect. But in the mean time we shall commit the error of supposing that History does nothing but repeat itself, fretfully crooning into the "dull ear" of age a twice-told tale, if we do not allow for the modifications amid which the primitive impulses find themselves at work.
And besides, there is a difference in individuals; one set of people alone is too poor to furnish us with an idea of human nature. It is natural for Themistocles, Pausanias, or Benedict Arnold, under suspicion or ill-treatment, to desert to the enemy, and propose crushing his country for a balm to apply to wounded feelings. But General Fremont, in similar circumstances, will derive comfort from his loyal heart, and wait in hopes that at least a musket may be put into his hands with which to trust him against the foe. These are very simple variations; they turn upon the proportion of selfish feeling which the men possess. A self-seeking man will turn villain under the encroachment of other people's egotism. The sight of too many trophies will convert a friend into a covert enemy, who, without being treacherous, will nevertheless betray a great cause by his jealousy of its great supporter. But the latter will not always become a traitor to suit the expectations of an envious friendship. And your own judgment of men and prophecy of events, if based entirely upon selfish calculation, will entirely fail.
Nations differ also, in spite of the similar things that they do in analogous circumstances. Both Rome and England will not have too ambitious neighbors. They hate a preponderating power, and find out some way to get rid of the threat to their national egotism. The Romans exterminate the Veians and Carthaginians; they want no colonizing or commercial rivals. If England rules the sea, and uses its advantage to create markets where it can buy at the cheapest and sell at the dearest rates, we can understand its inexpensive sympathy for the people who can manufacture little and therefore have to import a great deal, who are thus the natural, disinterested lovers of free trade. It is very easy to see why England turns red in the Crimea with the effort to lift up that bag of rags called Turkey, to set it on the overland route to India; one decayed nation makes a very good buffer to break the shock of natural competition in the using up of another. It was the constant policy of Rome to tolerate and patronize the various people in its provinces, to respect, if not to understand, their religions, and to protect them from the peculator. She was not so drunk with dominion as not to see that her own comfort and safety were involved in this bearing to inferior and half-effete races. On the other hand, England, with far stronger motives of interest to imitate that policy, disregarding the prophecies of her best minds, takes no pains to understand, and of course misgoverns and outrages her poor nebulous Bengalese, and forces the opium which they cultivate upon the Chinese whom it demoralizes. Is this difference merely the difference between a pocket in a toga and one in the trousers? But a nerve from the moral sense does, nevertheless, spread into papilloe over the surface of the tighter pocket, not entirely blunted by yellow potations; so that the human as well as financial advantage of Jamaica emancipation is perceived. Should we expect this from the nation which undertook the destruction of the Danish fleet before Copenhagen in 1801, without even the formality of a declaration of war, on the suspicion that the Dane preferred to sympathize with France? What moral clamor could have made the selfish exigency of that act appear more damaging than a coalition of all the fleets of Europe? Yet plantation fanaticism did not prevent the great act from which we augured English hatred of a slaveholders' rebellion. Probably the lining membrane of a pocket may have intermitted accesses of induration: we must consult circumstances, if we would know what to expect. An extraordinary vintage or a great fruit year will follow a long series of scant or average crops; but we can count upon the average.
But unless circumstances are constant, it matters little how constant tempers and tendencies may be; and the expectations which we found upon the general action of avarice, credulity, bigotry, self-seeking, or any of the debased forms of legitimate human impulses, will often be disappointed by results. Prepare the favorite climate, moisture, exposure of a foreign plant, imitate its latitude and air and soil: it will not necessarily grow at all, or, growing, it will only surprise you by some alteration of its native features. Results are better chemists than we, and their delicate root-fibres test the ground more accurately; we shall find them languishing for some favorite elements, or colored and persuaded by novel ones. History must remember the constants of Man and of Nature, but be always expecting their variables, lest her prophetic gift fall into ill-repute.
Thus, give unlimited power to the Catholic, and he cannot anywhere set up his old-fashioned absolutism, unless you can manage at the same time to furnish him with Roman and Spanish people, and the fifteenth century. Yet we, too, have trembled at the imaginary horrors of Popery. All the power you can thrust and pile upon the Catholic in America will become an instrument to further the country's tendency towards light, as it drags the human impulses away from the despotic past. All the Jesuits, and prize bulls by every steamer, relays of papal agents, and Corpus-Christi processions in the streets of Boston, will hardly lift the shoulders of the great protesting country, as it turns to stare from its tilling, steaming, pioneering, emancipating task.
It is not difficult to see why the revolts of peasants in the Middle Ages were marked by horrible excesses,—why diplomatic Catholicism prepared a St. Bartholomew's Eve for Paris,—why Dutch and Scotch Protestants defaced and trampled under foot ecclesiastical Art,—why German princes proclaimed a crusade against budding Protestantism and Pan-slavism under Ziska and Procopius in Bohemia,—why the fagots were fired at Constance, Prague, and Smithfield, and Pequod wigwams in New England. All dreadful scenes, by simply taking place, show that they have reason for it. But will they take place again? A Black Douglas did undoubtedly live, and he was the nursery-threat for fractious Scotch children during several generations; the Douglas never caught one of them, but the threat did. So we are plied with stock-phrases, such as "the Reign of Terror" and "the Horrors of San Domingo," and History is abjectly conjured not to repeat herself, as she certainly will do, if she goes on in the old way. Of course she will. But does she propose to furnish a fac-simile of any critical epoch which haunts the imaginations of mankind? That depends upon circumstances. The same barrel will play a fresh tune by a hair's-breadth shifting of a spring. Two epochs may seem to be exactly alike, and the men who only remember may seek to terrify the men who hope by exposing the resemblance. But unless they can show that all the circumstances are identical, they have no right to infect the morning with their twilight fears. History insensibly modifies her plan to secure the maximum of progress with the minimum of catastrophes, and she repels the flippant insinuation that her children win all their fresh advantages at the expense of the old crimes.
The story of Hayti is worth telling, apart from its bearing upon questions connected with the emancipation of slaves. It is a striking record of the degradation of fine races and the elevation of inferior ones, and shows with what ease Nature can transfer her good points from her gifted children and unexpectedly endow with them her neglected ones,—thus affording us a hint of something that is more permanent and irreversible than ethnological distinctions, by repeating within our own time her humane way with her old barbarians whose hair was long. From them sprang the races which never could have dominated by cunning and force alone, and which have to lay down their dominion when they have exhausted everything but force and cunning. It is a story of the desolation in which the avarice and wrath of man must always travel: colonial prosperity was nothing but a howling war-path blazed directly across stately and beautiful human nature. It shows the blood which the fine hands of luxury never could wash off; the terrible secret at last betrayed itself. In telling this story, the horrors of San Domingo are accounted for, and whatever was exceptional in the circumstances is at the same time marked, to prevent them from being applied without discrimination to the present condition of America. But the story must be told from the beginning, for its own sake; otherwise it will be a bad story, without a moral. If the main features of it are carefully preserved, it will make its own application.
That, however, is fatal to any attempt to infect minds with the Haytian bug-bear, now that political discussion threatens to ravage the country which our arms are saving. It has been used before, when it was necessary to save the Union and to render anti-slavery sentiment odious. The weak and designing, and all who wait for the war to achieve a constitutional recurrence of our national malady, will use it again to defeat the great act of justice and the people's great necessity.
Slavery is a continual conspiracy. Its life depends upon intrigue, aggression, adroit combinations with other forms of human selfishness. The people at the North who at this moment hate to hear the word Emancipation mentioned, and who insist that the war shall merely restore things to their original position, are the people who always hated the phrase "Anti-Slavery," who will be ready to form a fresh coalition with Slavery for the sake of recovering or creating political advantages, and whom the South will know how to use again, by reviving ancient prejudices, and making its very wounds a cause for sympathy. Slavery will be the nucleus of political combinations so long as it can preserve its constitutional and commercial advantages,—while it can sell its cotton and recover its fugitives. Is the precious blood already spilled in this war to become, as it congeals, nothing but cement to fugitive-slave bills, and the basis of three-fifths, and the internal slave-trade? For this we spend three millions a day, and lives whose value cannot be expressed in dollars,—for this anguish will sit for years at thousands of desolate hearths, and be the only legacy of fatherless children. For what glory will they inherit whose fathers fell to save still a chance or two for Slavery? It is for this we are willing to incur the moral and financial hazards of a great struggle,—to furnish an Anti-Republican party of reconstructionists with a bridge for Slavery to reach a Northern platform, to frown at us again from the chair of State. The Federal picket who perchance fell last night upon some obscure outpost of our great line of Freedom has gone up to Heaven protesting against such cruel expectations, wherever they exist; and they exist wherever apathy exists, and old hatred lingers, and wherever minds are cowed and demoralized by the difficulties of this question. In his body is a bullet run by Slavery, and sent by its unerring purpose; his comrades will raise over him a little hillock upon which Slavery will creep to look out for future chances,—ruthlessly scanning the political horizon from the graves of our unnamed heroes. This, and eight dollars a month, will his wife inherit; and if she ever sees his grave, she will see a redoubt which the breast of her husband raises for some future defence of Slavery. The People, who are waging this war, and who are actually getting at the foe through the bristling ranks of politicians and contractors, must have such a moral opinion upon this question as to defeat these dreadful possibilities. Let us be patient, because we see some difficulties; but let us give up the war itself sooner than our resolution, that, either by this war, or after it, Slavery shall be stripped of its insignia, and turned out to cold and irretrievable disgrace, weaponless, fangless, and with no object in the world worthy of its cunning. We can be patient, but we must also be instant and unanimous in insisting that the whole of Slavery shall pay the whole of Freedom's bill. Then the dear names whose sound summons imperatively our tears shall be proudly handed in by us to History, as we bid her go with us from grave to grave to see how the faith of a people watched them against the great American Body Snatcher, and kept them inviolate to be her memorials. We feel our hearts reinforced by the precious blood which trickled from Ball's Bluff into the Potomac, and was carried thence into the great sea of our conscience, tumultuous with pride, anger, and resolve. The drops feed the country's future, wherever they are caught first by our free convictions ere they sink into the beloved soil. Let us be instant, be incisive with our resolution, that peace may not be the mother of another war, and our own victory rout ourselves.
Blow, North-wind, blow! Keep that bearded field of bayonets levelled southward! Rustle, robes of Liberty, who art walking terribly over the land, with sombre countenance, and garments rolled in blood! See, she advances with one hand armed with Justice, while the other points to that exquisite symmetry half revealed, as if beckoning thitherward her children back again to the pure founts of life! "Be not afraid," she cries, "of the noise of my garments and their blood-stains; for this is the blood of a new covenant of Freedom, shed to redeem and perpetuate a chosen land."
THE PLACE—THE CLIMATE—NATIVES—SETTLERS.
This old haunted house of Hayti had many occupants, who left as heirlooms generation upon generation of hateful memories. Their dreams, their deeds, their terrific tempers, lurked for the newcomers, and harried them forth or made them kin. It is a cumulative story of dire and fateful proceedings, like the story of the family of Pelops. It must be told with deliberation. So the place, the climate, the aborigines, the early atrocities, the importation of new races and characteristics, command consideration as inevitable elements of the narrative.
This spot of the New World was the first to ache beneath the white man's greedy and superstitious tread. A tenacious Gothic race, after its long blockade by Moors in the northern mountains of the Iberian Peninsula, had lately succeeded in recovering the last stronghold of Arab power and learning. Fresh from the atrocities of that contest, its natural bigotry deepened by its own struggle for national existence, sombre, fanatical, cruel, and avaricious, but enterprising and indomitable, it is wafted across the ocean by Columbus, to expend its propensities unchecked against a weaker and less characteristic barbarism. What might be expected, when a few noble men succeed in transporting the worst features of their own country, in such numbers of intractable people, the raking of seaports, with little on board in the way of religion, save the traditions of the Church and the materials for exhibiting the drama of the Mass! This is the contingent which civilization detaches for the settlement of another world. It effaces a smiling barbarism by a saturnine and gloomy one, as when a great forest slides from some height over a wild gay meadow. These capable, cruel men went sailing among the Bahamas, soothed by the novelty and delight of finding land, and tried to behave at first as men do among artless children who measure every thing by their own scantiness; for they compelled themselves to be very mild and condescending, till, after various mischances and rebuffs by sea and land, the temper breaks forth in rage at disappointments, and Hayti is the first place which is blasted by that frightful Spanish scowl. The change was as sudden as that from calm weather to one of her tempests. The whole subsequent history seems as if it were the revenge of Columbus's own imagination, when the sober truth was discovered instead of Cipango and the King of India. Thus was the New World unsettled, and the horrors of San Domingo committed to the soil.
Nearly the whole of Hayti lies between the eighteenth and twentieth degrees of latitude, and the sixty-ninth, and seventy-fifth of longitude. Its greatest length is three hundred and forty miles, its greatest breadth, one hundred and thirty-two. It has a surface of somewhat more than twenty-seven thousand square miles, or about eighteen million square acres. The greater part of this is mountain-land. There are three extensive plains,—La Vega in the east, Santiago in the north, and Les Plaines in the southeast. These are distinct from the Savannas.[A] The island is about the size of the State of Maine. Its shape is peculiar, as it widens gradually from its southeastern end to nearly the centre of its greatest length, whence the southern coast trends rapidly to the north and west and stretches into a peninsula, like a long mandible, corresponding to which on the northern coast is another half as long, like a broken one, and between these lies a great bay with the uncultivated island of Gonaive. The eastern part of the island has also the small peninsula of Saniana, lying along the bay of that name. The surface is covered by mountains which appear at first to be tossed together wildly, without system or mutual relation, but they can be described, upon closer inspection, as four ranges, with a general parallelism, extending nearly east and west, but broken in the centre by the Cibao ridge, which radiates in every direction from two or three peaks, the highest in the island. Their height is reputed to be nine thousand feet, but they have not yet been accurately measured. The mountains of La Hotte, which form the long southern tongue of land, rise to the height of seven thousand feet. They are all of calcareous formation, and abound in the caverns which are found in limestone regions. Some of these have their openings on the coast, and are supposed to extend very far inland; they receive the tide, and reject it with a bellowing noise, as the pent air struggles with it under their arched roofs. These were called by the Spaniards baxos roncadores, droning or snoring basses. The French had a name, le gouffre, the gulf, to describe these noises; but they also applied it to the subterranean rumbling, accompanied with explosions and violent vibrations of the ground, which is caused by the heavy rains soaking through the porous stone, after the dry season has heated the whole surface of the island. The steaming water makes the earth groan and shake as it forces its way through the crevices, feeling for an outlet, or thrown back upon its own increasing current. These mysterious noises filled with awe the native priests who managed the superstition of the island before the Spaniards introduced another kind: no doubt they served for omens, to incite or to deter, voices of Chthonian deities, which needed interpreting in the interest of some great cacique who would not budge upon his business without the sanction of religion. Many a buccaneer, in after-times, who quailed before no mortal thunders made by French or Spanish navies, was soundly frightened by the gigantic snoring beneath his feet into reviewing his career, and calculating the thickness of the crust between himself and his impatient retribution.
[Footnote A: Savanna was a Haytian word spelt and pronounced by Spaniards. It is a plain of grass, affording pasturage in the rainy season; but a few shrubs also grow upon it. Pampas are vast plains without vegetation except during three months of the rainy season, when they yield fine grass. The word is Peruvian; was originally applied to the plains at the mouth of the La Plata. But the plains of Guiana and tropical America, which the Spaniards called Llanos, are also pampas. The Hungarian pasture-lands, called Puszta, are savannas. A Steppe is properly a vast extent of country, slightly rolling, without woods, but not without large plants and herbs. In Russia there are sometimes thickets eight or ten feet high. The salt deserts in Russia are not called steppes, but Solniye. Pampas and deserts are found alternating with steppes. A Desert may have a sparing vegetation, and so differ from pampas: if it has any plants, they are scrubby and fibrous, with few leaves, and of a grayish color, and so it differs from steppes and savannas. But there are rocky and gravelly, sandy and salt deserts: gravelly, for instance, in Asia Minor, principally in the district known to the ancients as the [Greek: katakekaumegae]. A Heath is a level covered with the plants to which that name has been applied. Finally, a Prairie differs from a savanna only in being under a zone where the seasons are not marked as wet and dry, but where the herbage corresponds to a variable moisture.]
The words crete, pic, and montagne are sometimes applied to the peaks and ridges of the island, but the word morne, which is a Creole corruption of montagne, is in common use to designate all the elevated land, the extended ridges which serve as water-sheds for the torrents of the rainy season, as well as the isolated hillocks, clothed in wood, which look like huge hay-cocks,—those, for instance, which rise in the rear of Cap Haytien. The aspect of the higher hills in the interior might mislead an etymologist to derive the word morne from the French adjective which means gloomy, they are so marked by the ravages of the hurricane and earthquake, so ploughed up into decrepit features by the rains, the pitiless vertical heat, the fires, and the landslides. The soft rock cannot preserve its outlines beneath all these influences; its thin covering of soil is carried off to make the river-silt, and then it crumbles away beneath the weather. Great ruts are scored through the forests where the rock has let whole acres of trees and rubbish slip; they sometimes cover the negro-cabins and the coffee-walks below. These mountains are capricious and disordered masses of grayish stone; there are no sustained lines which sweep upward from the green plantations and cut sharply across the sky, no unchangeable walls of cool shadow, no delicate curves, as in other hills, where the symmetry itself seems to protect the material from the wear and tear of the atmosphere. The mornes are decaying hills; they look as if they emerged first from the ocean and were the oldest parts of the earth, not merely weather-beaten, but profligately used up with a too tropical career, which deprives their age of all grandeur: they bewilder and depress.
There are delightful valleys below these sullen hills. In the dry season their torrents are stony bridle-paths, with only two or three inches of water, along which the traveller can pass from the flourishing plantations, where all the forms of a torrid vegetation are displayed, into this upper region of decay. The transition is sudden and unpleasant. Everything below is stately, exuberant: the sugar-cane, the cotton-tree, the coffee-shrub are suggestive of luxury; the orange and lemon shine through the glossy leaves; the palm-tree, the elegant papayo, the dark green candle-wood, the feathery bamboo, the fig, the banana, the mahogany, the enormous Bombax ceiba, the sablier,[B] display their various shapes; shrubs and bushes, such as the green and red pimento, the vanilla, the pomegranate, the citron, the sweet-smelling acacia, and the red jasmine, contest the claim to delight one's senses; and various flowers cover the meadows and cluster along the shallow water-courses. No venomous reptiles lurk in these fragrant places: the seed-tick, mosquito, and a spiteful little fly are the greatest annoyances. The horned lizard, which the Indians esteemed so delicate, and the ferocious crocodile, or caiman, haunt the secluded sands and large streams, and the lagoons which form in marshy places.
[Footnote B: Hura crepitans, one of the handsomest trees in the West Indies, called sablier because its fruit makes a very convenient sandbox, when not fully ripe, by removing the seeds. It is of a horn-color, about three and a half inches wide and two high, and looks like a little striped melon. The ripe fruit, on taking out one of the twelve woody cells which compose it, will explode with a noise like a pistol, each cell giving a double report. This sometimes takes place while the fruit is hanging on the tree, and sometimes when it stands upon the table filled with sand. To prevent this, it is prettily hooped with gold, silver, or ivory.]
The trees and thickets do not glitter with fruits alone: gay birds fill them with shifting colors, and a confusion of odd, plaintive, or excited notes. Several kinds of pigeons, paroquets, thrushes, bright violet and scarlet tanagras go foraging among the bananas, the rice, and the millet. The ponds of the savannas are frequented by six or eight varieties of wild ducks, and the wild goose; woodcock and plover abound in the marshy neighborhoods; and the white crane, the swan, different kinds of herons, and an ibis are found near the sea. On the shores stand pelicans and cormorants absorbed in fishing enterprises, and the flamingo,[C] whose note of alarm sounds like a trumpet.
[Footnote C: When the English were meditating a descent upon the coast of Gonaive, a negro happened to see a prodigious number of these red-coated birds ranked on the savanna near the sea, as their habit is, in companies. He rushed into the town, shouting, "Z'Anglais, yo apres veni, yo en pile dans savanne l'Hopital!" "The English, they are after coming, they are drawn up on l'Hopital savanna!" The generale was beaten, the posts doubled, and a strong party was sent out to reconnoitre.
The pelican is a source of great amusement to the negroes. They call this bird blague a diable, because of the incredible number of fish it can stow away in its pouch. They call the cormorant grand gosier, big gullet; and they make use of the membranous pocket which is found under the lower mandible of its beak to carry their smoking tobacco, fancying that it enhances the quality and keeps it fresh. Among the queer birds is the cra-cra, or crocodile's valet, a bold and restless bird with a harsh cry, represented in its name, which it uses to advertise the dozing crocodile of any hostile approach. It is a great annoyance to the sportsman by mixing with the wild ducks and alarming them with the same nervous cry.]
Charming valleys open to sight from the coast, where the limestone bluffs let in the bays. The eye follows the rivulets as they wind through green, sequestered places, till the hills bar the view, but do not prevent the fancy from exploring farther, and losing itself in a surmise of glens filled with rare vegetation and kept quiet by the inclosing shadows. From the sea this picture is especially refreshing, with the heat left out which is reflected with great power from the sandy rocks and every denuded surface. Below all appears beautiful, luxurious, and new; but above the signs of decrepitude appear, and the broad wastes stretch where little grows except the bayaonde, (Mimosa urens,) with its long murderous spines and ugly pods. Sudden contrasts and absence of delicate gradations mark the whole face of the island. All is extreme; and the mind grows disquieted amid these isolated effects.
The climate also corresponds to this region of luxury and desolation. From November to April everything is parched with heat; some of the trees lose their leaves, the rest become brown, and all growth ceases. From April to November everything is wet; vegetation revives without a spring, and the slender streams suddenly become furious rivers, which often sweep away the improvements of man, and change the face of the country in a single night. During the dry season the inhabitants depend upon the sea-breeze which blows in over the heated land to replace the rarefied air. It blows from six in the morning to three in the afternoon, in the eastern part of the island; in other parts, from nine to three. But frequently a furious northeast wind interrupts this refreshing arrangement: the air becomes hard and cold; thick, wintry-looking clouds sweep over the hills; the inhabitants shut themselves up in their houses to escape the rheumatism, which is a prevalent infliction; a March weather which was apparently destined for New England seems to have got entangled and lost among these fervid hills. The languid Creole life is overtaken by universal discomfort.
Great fires break out over the elevated plateaus and hill-sides, during the dry season. They sweep with incredible rapidity across great tracts, levelling everything in the way. The mountains seem tipped with volcanic flames. The angry glow spreads over the night, and its smoke mixes with the parched air by day. These fires commence by some carelessness, though they are sometimes attributed to the action of the son's rays, concentrated by the gray cliffs upon great masses of vegetation dried to tinder.
In the rainy season the earthquakes occur; and not a year passes without the experience of several shocks in different parts of the island. The northern part is exempt from them.[D] Those which take place in the west, around the shores of the great bay upon which Port-au-Prince is situated, are severe, and sometimes very disastrous. At mid-day the wind falls instantly, there is a dead calm on land and sea, the heat is consequently more intense, and the atmosphere suffocating; then the vibrations occur, after which the wind begins to blow again. Sometimes, at an interval of ten or twelve hours, there is a supplementary shock, less violent than the first one. It is said that the coast-caves bellow just before an earthquake. Their noise probably seems more emphatic In the sudden calm which is the real announcement of the earth's shudder.
[Footnote D: Not entirely. The great earthquake of the 7th of May, 1842, was very destructive at Cap Haytien. On this occasion Port-au-Prince escaped with little injury.]
Port-au-Prince was entirely destroyed by an earthquake in June, 1770. The Inhabitants built the new town upon the edge of the gulf which had just swallowed up their old one, convinced that the same disaster would not recur in the same spot. But that region is peculiarly sensitive: the subterranean connections with the Mexican and South-American volcanic districts chronicle disturbances whose centre is remote.
The rains are short and frequent showers, very heavy, and almost always accompanied by violent electric phenomena. By June they are at their height. Then the land-slides take place, which often affect seriously the cultivation, not only by their direct ravages, but by the changes which they make in the water-courses: large tracts of good soil are turned into swamp-land, the rivers are forced to bend out of their direction and to desert places which depended upon them for irrigation. These damages were seldom repaired, for the indolent planter would not undertake the work of draining and of permanently securing the tillable surface of his land. It is good luck, if a land-slide, instead of creating a new morass, fills up an old one.
As if completely to unsettle any claim that this Creole climate might make to character, the hurricane leaves its awful trace upon the island. This rotating storm of wind has its origin to the east of the Caribbee Islands; its long parabolic curve sweeps over them, and bends to the northeast below Florida. In its centre, as it moves, it carries a lull whose breadth varies from five to thirty miles. This dreadful calm comes suddenly in the height of the storm, and is as suddenly interrupted, after lasting sometimes for half an hour, by the revolving edge of the wind. Torrents of rain go with it, and heavy thunder, and it brings from the sea an enormous wave, which sweeps harbors clean of their ships, and runs up, like an earthquake-wave, upon the shore. This vortex, moving often a hundred miles an hour, takes hold of the Bombax ceiba like an enormous proboscis, pulls it from the thin soil of the tropics despite the great lateral clutch of its knotty roots, and swallows it up. Houses, cultivated fields, men and animals, are obliterated by its heavy foot.
In some years no less than three hurricanes have occurred in the West Indies. Father Du Tertre, a French missionary in St. Christophe, describes one which he witnessed in 1642,—a year memorable for three. During the second of these, more than twenty vessels, laden with colonial produce and just ready to sail for Europe, were wrecked in the harbor, including the ship of De Ruyter, the Dutch Admiral. The island was swept of houses, trees, cattle, and birds; the manioc and tobacco plants were destroyed, and only one cotton shrub survived. The shores were covered with dead fishes blown out of the water, and the bodies of ship-wrecked men. The salt-works were flooded and spoiled, and all the provisions on the island were so damaged that the inhabitants were put on rations of biscuit till the arrival of vessels from France.
Another storm like this desolated Martinique in 1657; and the annals of most of the islands abound in similar narratives. They are less severe in Hayti, and seldom sweep violently over Cuba. The word hurricane is a European adaptation of a Carib word, borrowed by the Haytian Indians from the natives of the Antilles.
The inhabitants of Hayti do not agree in the statements which they make concerning their climate. The commencement of the two seasons, the range of the thermometer, the duration of the different winds, the liability to earthquakes, are subjects upon which the North is at variance with the East, and the West with both. The most trustworthy notices of these phenomena are held to represent that portion of the island which was formerly occupied by the French. Still the variations cannot be important over so small an area: the petty and fitful changes of every day are more noticeable, but the climate has its average within which these local caprices occur.
In another climate the mountains would present a gradation of vegetable growth, from the tropical through the temperate to the northern zone. And this can be traced in some quarters, where the palm and mahogany are succeeded by resinous trees, of which there are several varieties, till the bare summits show only lichens and stunted shrubs. But the seasons do not harmonize with this graduated rise of the mountain-chains, and the temperate forms are interrupted, or confined to a few localities. Yet the people who live upon the mornes, those for instance which are drained by Trois-Rivieres in the northwestern part of the island, are healthier and plumper, and the Creoles have a fresher look, than the inhabitants of the plains. In the still more elevated regions the cold is frequently so great that people do not like to live there. Newly imported negroes frequently perished, if they were carried up into the southern range of mountains; and the dependent Creole was forced to abandon places where the slave could not go.
It would be singular, if a place of such marked natural features, and with such phenomena of climate, should have no perceptible effects upon the Eastern races of all kinds which have been transported there. We shall expect that the Creole will betray a certain harmony with his petulant and capricious skies, and imitate the grace and exuberance of the tropical forms amid which he lives, the languor of the air that broods over them, its flattering calms and fierce transitions; he will mature early and wilt at maturity with passions that despise moderation and impulses that are incapable of continuity. In Hayti the day itself rushes precipitately into the sky, and is gone as suddenly: there is no calm broadening of dawn, and no lingering hours of twilight. The light itself is a passion which fiercely revels among the fruits and flowers that exhale for it ardently; it gluts, and then suddenly spurns them for new conquests. Nothing can live and flourish here which has not the innate temperament of the place.
One would not expect to find great wealth in these gray-looking mountains of simple and uniform structure; yet they abound in stones and metals. Besides the different kinds of marble, which it is not strange to find, diamonds also, jasper, agates, onyx, topaz, and other stones, a kind of jade and of malachite, are found in a great many places. Copper exists in considerable quantities in the neighborhood of Dondon and Jacmel, and in the Cibao; silver is found near San Domingo, and in various places in the Cibao, together with cinnabar, cobalt, bismuth, zinc, antimony, and lead in the Cibao, near Dondon and Azua, blue cobalt that serves for painting on porcelain, the gray, black specular nickel, etc.; native iron near the Bay of Samana, in the Mornes-du-Cap, and at Haut-and Bas-Moustique; other forms of that metal abound in numerous places, crystallized, spathic, micaceous, etc. Nitre can be procured in the Cibao, that great storehouse which has specimens of almost every metal, salt, and mineral; borax at Jacmel and Dondon, native alum at Dondon, and aluminous earth near Port-au-Prince; vitriol, of various forms, in a dozen places; naphtha, petroleum, and asphaltum at Banique, and sulphur in different shapes at Marmalade, La Soufriere, etc. The catalogue of this wealth would be tedious to draw up.
The reports concerning gold do not agree. It is maintained that there are mines and washings which have been neglected, or improperly worked, and that a vigorous exploration would reopen this source of wealth; but it is also said as confidently that the Spaniards took off all the gold, and were reduced to working mines of copper, before the middle of the sixteenth century. It is certain, however, that great quantities of gold were taken from the island by the Spaniards, while they had the natives to perform the labor. The principal sources from which gold can be procured are in the part of the island formerly occupied by the Spaniards; and when their power decayed, all important labors came to an end. But Oviedo records several lumps of gold of considerable size: one was Bobadilla's lump, found, during his government, at Bonne Aventure, which was worth thirty-six hundred castellanos, or $19,153. This was lost at sea on the way to Spain. The finding of pieces in the River Yaqui weighing nine ounces was occasionally recorded, and pieces of pure gold, without the least mixture, more than three inches in circumference, in the River Verte: they were undoubtedly found much oftener than recorded. Good authorities, writing at the close of the last century, declare that the mines of Cibao alone furnished more gold than all Europe had in circulation at that time. All the larger streams, and the basins near their sources, furnished gold.
Bobadilla's lump was found by a slave of Francisco de Garay, afterwards Governor of Jamaica. He and the famous Diaz worked a mine together in San Domingo. His slave was poking about with a pike in the shallows of the River Hayna, when the head struck the metal. Garay was so rejoiced that he sacrificed a pig, which was served upon this extemporaneous platter, and he boasted that there was no such dish in Europe. Twenty other ships with gold on board went down in the storm which swallowed up Garay's waif.[E]
[Footnote E: Great quantities of gold were embezzled by the Spanish officials. Las Casas in his lively arguments with the Council of State in behalf of the Indians, always insisted that his plan for controlling them would be more profitable as well as humane. He promised large increase of treasure, and showed how the royal officers appropriated the gold which they extorted from the natives. Piedro Arias, for instance, spent six years at Castilla-du-Oro, at a cost to the Government of fifty-four thousand ducats, during which time he divided a million's worth of gold with his officers, at the expense of thousands of natives, whose lives were the flux of the metallic ore, while he paid only three thousand pesos for the king's fifth.—Llorente: Oeuvres de Las Casas, Tom. II—p.472.]
Many French writers have maintained that the Indians procured their golden ornaments from Yucatan and other points of the main-land, by way of traffic. But they had nothing to barter, and their ornaments were numerous. Besides, the Spaniards found in various places near the rivers the holes and slight diggings whence the gold had been procured. It is said that the Haytian natives only washed for gold, but the Caribs had frequented the island long previously, and they without doubt earned gold away from it. The Spaniards were deceived by the Haytians, who did not wish to dig gold under the lash to glitter on the velvet of hidalgos.
It is difficult, as Humboldt says, to distinguish, in the calculations by the Spanish writers of the amount of gold sent to Spain, "between that obtained by washings and that which had been accumulated for ages in the hands of the natives, who were pillaged at will." He inclines, however, to the opinion, that a scientific system of mining would renew the supply of gold, which may not be represented by the scanty washings that have been occasionally tried in Hayti and Cuba. In Hayti, "as well as at Brazil, it would be more profitable to attempt subterraneous workings, on veins, in primitive and intermediary soils, than to renew the gold-washings which were abandoned in the ages of barbarism, rapine, and carnage."[F]
[Footnote F: Personal Narrative, Vol. III. p. 163, note. Bohn's Series.]
But the chief interest which Spain took in Hayti was derived from the collars and bracelets which shone dully against the skins of the caciques and native women in the streets of Seville. It did not require an exhausted treasury, and the clamor of a Neapolitan war for sinews, to stimulate the appetite of a nation whose sensibility for gold was as great as its superstition. Columbus triumphed over the imaginations of men through their avarice; the procession of his dusky captives to the feet of Isabella was as if the Earth-Spirit, holding a masque to tempt Catholic majesties to the ruin of the mine, sent his familiars, "with the earth-tint yet so freshly embrowned," to flatter with heron-crests, the plumes of parrots, and the yellow ore. Behind that naked pomp the well-doubleted nobles of Castile and Aragon trooped gayly with priests and crosses, the pyx and the pax, and all the symbols of a holy Passion, to crime and death.
Columbus discovered Guanahani, which he named San Salvador, on the morning of the 12th of October, 1492. After cruising among these Lucayan Islands, or Bahamas, for some time, he reached Cuba on the 28th of the same month. His Lucayan interpreters were understood by the natives of Cuba, notwithstanding they spoke a different dialect. They were also understood at Hayti, which was reached on the 6th of December; but here the Cuban interpreter was found to be more useful. Each island appeared to have a dialect of a language whose origin has been variously attributed to Florida, to Central America, and to the Caribbee Islands. But the Indians of Central America could not understand the Cubans and Haytians, and they in turn spoke a different language from the Caribs, some of whose words they had borrowed. A favorite theory is, that the Ygneris were ancient inhabitants of the West Indian Islands, distinct from the Caribs, who made their way from Florida by the Lucayan Islands, leaving Hayti to the right, and reaching South America by that fringe of islands that stretches from Porto Rico to Trinidad, through which the great current is strained into the Caribbean Sea. Humboldt says,[G] in noticing the difference between the language of the Carib men and their women, that perhaps the women descended from the female captives made in this movement, the men being as usual slain. But the Haytians also claimed to have come from Florida. Perhaps, then, an emigration from Florida, which may be called, for want of any historical data, that of the Ygneris, covered all the West Indian Islands at a very early period, to be overlapped, in part, by a succeeding emigration of Caribs who were pressed out of Florida by the Appalachians.[H]
[Footnote G: Personal Narrative, Vol. III. p. 78, where see the subject discussed at length.]
[Footnote H: Histoire Generale des Antilles, par Du Tertre, Paris, 1667, Tom. II. p. 360.]
The Caribs are supposed to have derived the compliment of their name, which means "valiant men," from the Appalachians, who had great trouble in dislodging them. They were very different from the Haytians: they cut their hair very short in front, leaving a tuft upon the crown, bandaged the legs of their children to make a calf that Mr. Thackeray's Jeames would have envied, pulled out their beard hair by hair, and then polished the chin, with rough leaves. A grand toilet included a coat of scarlet paint, which protected them from the burning effect of the sun and from the bites of insects. It also saved their skins from the scurf and chapping which the sea-water occasioned. A Carib chief, in a full suit of scarlet, excited once the anger of Madame Aubert, wife of a French governor of Dominica, because he sat upon her couch, which had a snowy dimity cover, and left there the larger portion of his pantaloons. But afterwards, upon being invited to dine at the Government-House, he determined to respect the furniture, and, seeing nothing so appropriate as his plate, he removed it to his chair before he took his seat. The Caribs, however, had such an inveterate preference for dining au naturel, that they frequently served up natives themselves, whenever that expensive luxury could be obtained. The Spaniards brought home the word Cannibal, which was a Haytian pronunciation of Cariba (Galiba); and it gradually came into use to express the well-known idea of a man-eater. The South-American Caribs preserve this vicious taste.
The Caribs had not overrun the island of Hayti, but it was never free from their incursions. That hardy and warlike race was feared by the milder Haytians, who had been compelled, especially in the southern provinces of the island, to study the arts of defence, which do not appear to have been much esteemed by them. Their arms were of the simplest description: wood pointed and hardened in the fire, arrows tipped with fish-bone or turtle-shell, and clubs of the toughest kinds of wood. The Caribs used arrows poisoned with the juice of the manchineel, or pointed with formidable shark's-teeth, their clubs of Brazil-wood were three feet long, and their lances of hardened wood were thrown with great adroitness and to a great distance. The southern Haytians learned, warlike habits from these encroaching Caribs, and were less gentle than the natives whom Columbus first met along the northern coast.
But they were all gentler, fairer, more graceful and simple than the Caribs, or the natives of the main. Their ambition found its limit when the necessaries of daily life were procured. The greatest achievement of their manual dexterity was the hollowing of a great trunk by fire to fashion a canoe.[I] Their huts were neatly made of stakes and reeds, and covered with a plaited roof, beneath which the hamaca, (hammock,) coarsely knitted of cotton, swung. Every collection of huts had also one of larger dimensions, like a lodge, open at the sides, where the natives used to gather for their public business or amusement. This was called bohio, a word improperly applied to the huts, and used by the Spaniards to designate their villages. In the southern districts, the bohios, and the dwellings of the caciques, were furnished with stools wrought with considerable skill from hard wood, and sometimes ornamented. But they could not have been made by the natives, who had neither iron nor copper in use. Their golden ornaments were nothing more than pieces of the metal, rudely turned, by pounding and rubbing, into rings for the nose and ears, and necklace-plates. Whatever they had, for use or ornament, which was more elaborate, came by way of trade from Yucatan and the contiguous coasts. It is difficult to conjecture what their medium of barter was, for they prepared nothing but cassava-cakes for food and the fermented juice for drink, and raised only the pimento, (red pepper,) the agi, (sweet pepper,) the yuca, whence the cassava or manioc meal was obtained, and sweet potatoes; and all these productions were common to the tribes along the coast. Tobacco may have been cultivated by them and neglected by other tribes. The Haytian word tabaco, which designated the pipe from which they sucked the smoke into their nostrils, and also the roll of leaves,—for they employed both methods,—has passed over to the weed. The pipe was a hollow tube in the shape of a Y, the mystic letter of Pythagoras: the two branches were applied to the nose, and the stem was held over the burning leaves. The weed itself was called cohiba.
[Footnote I: Canoa is Haytian, and is like enough to Kayak, Esquimaux, to Caique, Turkish and to Kahn, German, to unsettle an etymologist with a theory of origin.]
At the time of the discovery, five principal caciques ruled the island, which was divided into as many provinces, with inferior caciques, who appear to have been the chiefs of settlements. We find, for instance, that Guatiguana was cacique of a large town in the province of which Guarionex was the chief cacique. The power of each cacique was supreme, but nothing like a league existed between the different provinces. When the Haytians in desperation tried the fortune of war against the Spaniards, Caonabo, the cacique of the central province in the South, like another Pontiac, rallied the natives from all quarters, and held them together long enough to fight a great battle on the Vega. But he was a Carib. His brother who succeeded him was also a Carib, and he maintained a union of several caciques till his defeat by Ojeda. Then the less warlike chiefs of the North readily submitted to the Spaniards, and the bolder caciques of the South were compelled to ask for peace.[J]
[Footnote J: In Mr. Irving's Life of Columbus, the characters of the different Indian chieftains are finely drawn, and the history of their intercourse and warfare with the Spaniards admirably told.]
Thus were the natives bound together by the polity of instinct and consanguinity alone. They had no laws, but only natural customs. The cacique was an arbitrator: if his decision did not appease a litigant, the parties had an appeal to arms in his presence. Their cacique received unbounded reverence, and for him they would freely die. Polygamy was permitted only to him, but not always practised by him. The Spaniards were so surprised at the readiness with which the natives gave them everything, both food and ornaments, that they declared them to be defective in the sense of property, and to have everything in common. This was a mistake: each man had his little possessions; stealing was punished with death, as the crime that did the greatest violence to the natural order; and crimes against domestic purity were severely punished, till the people became demoralized by their conquerors, who mistook the childish freedom of the women, for lustful invitation, and imputed to the native disposition something which belonged to their own.[K]
[Footnote K: They even accused the natives of communicating that loathsome disease which results from promiscuous intercourse, when in fact the virus was shipped at Palos, with the other elements of civilization, to give a new world to Castile and Leon! Nations appear to be particularly sensitive upon this point, and accuse each other. But the first time a disorder is observed is not the date of its origin. See the European opinion in the fifteenth century, in Roscoe's Lorenzo de' Medici, p. 350, and note, Bohn's edition. It has probably existed from the earliest times, wherever population was dense and habits depraved. The Romans suffered from it, but, like the Europeans of the Middle Ages, did not always attribute it to its proper source. What did Persius mean in one or two places in his Third Satire, e.g., 113-115? And see also Celaus, Medicina, Lib. V. Sec.3.
When the fighting-man of Europe became a mercenary, (soldier, soldner, paid-man,) he carried this tinder from country to country, and kindled the fire afresh. The Spaniards bore it to Hayti, and it stung like a snake beneath that fervid sky.]
They were timid, credulous, extravagantly friendly, affected easily to tears, not cunning enough for their own good, and little capable of concealing or of planning anything. Yet when their eyes were opened, and they understood at last that the strangers had not descended from the skies, their indignation and loathing were well sustained, with a frankness, indeed, which only embittered their condition. They suffered, but could not dissimulate.