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IV. GOSSIP OF A PLAYER. BY THE LATE WILLIAM ABBOTT,
XL STANZAS: YOU AND I. BY WILLIAM PITT PALMER, ESQ.,
XVI. DEATH: THE RECORD OF A DREAM,
MR. HUESTON, a gentleman of character and standing, is about visiting the South and South-west, upon business connected with this and similar establishments. He will receive subscriptions for the KNICKERBOCKER; and our friends will confer a favor upon the Editor, by rendering him such aid, and extending to him such courtesies, as may be in their power.
THE political changes adopted in Spain in 1812 and 1820 were productive of similar changes in the island; and when in both instances the constitution was proclaimed, the perpetual members of the municipalities were at once deprived of office, and their successors elected by the people. The provincial assembly was called, and held its sessions. The militia was organized; the press made entirely free, the verdict of a jury deciding actions for its abuses; and the same courts were in no instance to determine a cause the second time. But if the institution of the Consulado was very beneficent during Ferdinand's absolute sway, the ultra-popular grants of the constitutional system, which could hardly be exercised with quiet in Spain, were ill-adapted to a country more advanced in civilization, and stained with all those vices that are the legitimate curse of a slave country. That system was so democratic, that the king was deprived of all political authority. No intermediate house of nobility or senators tempered the enactments of a single elective assembly. This sudden change from a very absolute government, with its usual concomitant, a corrupt and debased public sentiment, to the full enjoyment of republican privileges, served only to loosen all the ties of decency and decorum throughout the Spanish community. Infidelity resulted from it; and that veil of respect for the religion of their fathers, which still covered the deformity of such a state of society, was imprudently thrown aside. As the natural consequence of placing the instruments of freedom in the hands of an ignorant multitude, their minds were filled with visions of that chimerical equality which the world is never to realize. The rich found themselves deprived of their accustomed influence, and felt that there was little chance of obtaining justice from the common people, (in no place so formidable as in Cuba, from the heterogeneous nature of the population,) and who were now, in a manner, arrayed against them throughout the land. They, of course, eagerly wished the return of the old system of absolute rule. But
I would here remark, and particularly call your attention to the fact, that the proprietors only asked for that liberal and noble policy which they had enjoyed at the hands of the Spanish monarch; not, most surely, that oppressive and nondescript government which, by separating the interest of the country from that of her nearest rulers, and destroying all means of redress or complaint, has thrust the last offspring of Spain into an abyss of bloodshed and ruin.
During the second period of democratic, or what was called constitutional government, which commenced in 1820, the masonic societies came into vogue here as they did in the mother country. They adopted different plausible pretexts, though to speak the truth, they were little more than clubs for amusement and revelry. One of them, called the 'Sons of Bolivar,' went so far as to discuss whether, in case of a Columbian invasion, it would be more expedient to avoid a collision in the presence of the slaves, by giving way peaceably before the invading army. Happily for Cuba, and certainly in consequence of the judicious interference of the United States, which foresaw in the preservation of its tranquillity the advantages of a fruitful commerce, the invasion did not take place. And if the island has since had to lament the gradual encroachments of the executive, in all the several branches of its politics and administration, it has also been preserved from the sanguinary results which the premature establishment of ultra free institutions has produced in all the numerous countries which once formed the dominion of Spain in America. They may now be recovering from the anarchical effects of the sudden change; but that they have experienced a severe scourge, the principal and only fruits of independence to the first generation of its recipients, the people of Cuba are most thoroughly convinced. We must, however, consider that the subsequent jealous policy of the Spanish government has been altogether unwarranted.
First, because those discussions of the Sons of Bolivar' were owing to the countenance of the liberal government given to those very societies; a thing entirely uncalled for among a people permitted to meet freely and name a portion of their rulers.
Secondly, because for political ends, no property qualification was required; a provision which, however well adapted to a country like ours, where constitutional rights have been exercised ever since colonial times, could not be safely overlooked in one just emerging from a despotic though beneficent government.
Thirdly, because a respectable portion of the old Spaniards residing here were themselves desirous of upholding the constitutional system in Cuba which they saw tottering in Spain. General Vives, who commanded at that time, regarded the circumstance with anxious solicitude, and very reasonably inferred that, if the constitution of 1812 was sustained in this country after the king's absolute power was acknowledged in Spain, the consequences would be fatal to its dependence, however rational and honest the views of the constitutionalists might be considered. Hence his strenuous efforts in 1824, after the restoration of Ferdinand, to make the most of the wild and varying schemes which had been proposed in the Soles de Bolivar, under the democratic institutions, and of the relaxation of the reins of government I have described. The