Henry A. Murray.

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dishearten him, for, independent of his courage, he had a feeling of
revenge to gratify.[AA] Having recruited his forces, he landed the
following year, 1851, with a stronger and better-equipped force of
American piratical brigands, and succeeded in stirring up a few Cubans
to rebellion. He maintained himself for a few days, struggling with a
courage worthy of a better cause. The pirates were defeated; Lopez was
made prisoner, and died by the garotte, at Havana, on the 1st of
September. Others also of the band paid the penalty of the law; and the
ruffian crew, who escaped to the United States, now constitute a kind of
nucleus for the "Lone Star," "Filibustero," and other such pests of the
community to gather round, being ready at any moment to start on a
buccaneering expedition, if they can only find another Lopez ass enough
to lead them.

Concha became governor-general just before Lopez' last expedition, and
the order for his execution was a most painful task for poor Concha, who
had been for many years an intimate friend of his. Concha appears to
have left an excellent name behind him. I always heard him called "the
honest governor." He introduced a great many reforms into the civil
code, and established a great many schools and scientific and literary
societies. During my stay in the island, his successor, Cañedo, was the
governor-general. Whenever I made inquiries about him, the most
favourable answer I could get was, a chuck-up of the head, a slight
"p'tt" with the lips, and an expression of the eyes indicating the sight
of a most unpleasant object. The three combined required no dictionary
of the Academy to interpret.[AB]

The future of this rich and lovely island, who can predict? It is talked
of by its powerful neighbours as "the sick man." Filibustero vultures
hover above it as though it were already a putrid corpse inviting their
descent; young America points to it with the absorbing index of
"manifest destiny;" gold is offered for it; Ostend conferences are held
about it; the most sober senators cry respecting it - "Patience, when the
pear is ripe, it must drop into our lap." Old Spain - torn by faction,
and ruined by corruption - supports its tottering treasury from it. Thus,
plundered by friends, coveted by neighbours, and assailed by pirates, it
lies like a helpless anatomical subject, with the ocean for a
dissecting-table, on one side whereof stands a mother sucking its blood,
and on the other "Lone Stars" gashing its limbs, while in the
background, a young and vigorous republic is seen anxiously waiting for
the whole carcass. If I ask, "Where shall vitality be sought?" Echo
answers "Where?" If I ask, "Where shall I look for hope?" the very
breath of the question extinguishes the flickering taper. Who, then, can
shadow forth the fate that is reserved for this tropical gem of the
ocean, where all around is so dark and louring?... A low voice, borne on
a western breeze, whispers in my ear - "I guess I can."

Cuba, farewell!

[Note: The subsequent squabbles between the Cuban authorities and the
United States have taken place long since my departure, and are too
complicated to enter into without more accurate information than I


[Footnote X: I put up at "The Havana House," where I found everything
very clean, and the proprietor, an American, very civil. It is now kept
by his son.]

[Footnote Y: This was written in January, 1853.]

[Footnote Z: The Filibustero movement in the United States has caused
Spain to increase her military force considerably.]

[Footnote AA: When first suspected of treason, he had been hunted with
dogs like a wild beast, and, with considerable difficulty, escaped to

[Footnote AB: Those who desire more detailed information respecting Cuba
will find it in a work entitled _La Reine des Antilles_. Par LE VICOMTE


_Change of Dynasty_.

The month of February was drawing to a close, when I took my passage on
board the "Isabel," bound for Charleston. A small coin removed all
difficulty about embarking luggage, cigars, &c.; the kettle was boiling,
hands shook violently, bells rang rapidly, non-passengers flew down to
shore-boats; round go the wheels, waving go the kerchiefs, and down fall
the tears. The "Isabel" bounds o'er the ripp'less waters; forts and
dungeons, as we gaze astern, fade from the view; an indistinct shade is
all by which the eye can recal the lovely isle of Cuba; and, lest memory
should fail, the piles of oranges, about four feet square, all round the
upper-deck, are ready to refresh it. How different the "Isabel" from the
"Cherokee!" Mr. Law might do well to take a cruise in the former; and,
if he had any emulation, he would sell all his dirty old tubs for
firewood, and invest the proceeds in the "Isabel" style of vessel. Land
a-head! - a flourishing little village appears, with watch-towers high as
minarets. What can all this mean?

This is a thriving, happy community, fixed on the most dreary and
unhealthy-looking point imaginable, and deriving all their wealth and
happiness from the misfortunes of others. It is Key West, a village of
wreckers, who, doubtless, pray earnestly for a continuance and increase
of the changing currents, which are eternally drifting some ill-fated
barque on the ever-growing banks and coral reefs of these treacherous
and dangerous waters; the lofty watch-towers are their Pisgah, and the
stranded barques their Land of Promise. The sight of one is doubtless as
refreshing to their sight as the clustering grapes of Eschol were to the
wandering Israelites of old. So thoroughly does the wrecking spirit
pervade this little community, that they remind one of the "Old Joe
Miller," which gives an account of a clergyman who, seeing all his
congregation rise from their seats at the joyous cry of, "A wreck! a
wreck!" called them to order with an irresistible voice of thunder, and
deliberately commencing to despoil himself of his surplice, added,
"Gentlemen, a fair start, if you please!"

We picked up a couple of captains here, whose ships had tasted these
bitter waters, and who were on their road to New York to try and make
the best of a bad job. We had some very agreeable companions on board;
but we had others very much the contrary, conspicuous among whom was an
undeniable Hebrew but no Nathanael. He was one of those pompous loud
talkers, whose every word and work bespoke vulgarity in its most
obnoxious form, and whose obtuseness in matters of manners was so great
that nothing short of the point of your shoe could have made him
understand how offensive he was. He spoke of courts in Europe, and of
the Vice-regal court in Ireland, as though he had the _entrée_ of them
all; which it was palpable to the most superficial observer he never
could have had, except possibly when, armed with a dingy bag on his
shoulder and an "Ol clo'" on his lips, he sought an investment in
cast-off garments. He was taking cigars, which, from their quantity,
were evidently for sale; and as the American Government is very liberal
in allowing passengers to enter cigars, never - I believe - refusing any
one the privilege of five hundred, he was beating up for friends who had
no cigars to divide his speculations among, so as to avoid the duty; at
last his arrangements were completed, and his mind at ease.

On entering the port of Charleston he got up the box containing his
treasures, and was about to open it, when, to my intense delight and
amusement, an officer of the ship stayed his hasty hand. "What's that
for?" exclaimed the wrathful Israelite. "I guess that box is in the
manifest," was the calm reply, "and you can't touch it till it goes to
the custom-house." Jonathan had "done" the Hebrew; and besides the duty,
he had the pleasure of paying freight on them also; while, to add to his
satisfaction, he enjoyed the sight of all the other passengers taking
their five hundred or so unmolested, while compelled to pay duty on
every cigar himself. But we must leave the Jew, the "Isabel" - ay,
Charleston itself. "Hurry hurry, bubble bubble, toil and trouble!"
Washington must be reached before the 4th of March, or we shall not see
the Senate and the other House in session. Steamer and rail; on we
dash. The boiling horse checks his speed; the inconveniences of the
journey are all forgotten: we are at Washington, and the all-absorbing
thought is, "Where shall we get a bed?"

My companion[AC] and myself drove about from hotel to boarding-house,
from boarding-house to hotel, and from hotel to the Capitol, seeking a
resting-place in vain. Every chink and cranny was crammed; the
reading-rooms of the hotels had from one to two dozen stretcher beds in
each of them. 'Twas getting on for midnight; Hope's taper was flickering
faintly, when a police-officer came to the rescue, and recommended us to
try a small boarding-house at which he was himself lodging. There, as an
especial favour, we got two beds put into a room where another lodger
was already snoring; but fatigue and sleep soon obliterated that fact
from our remembrance. Next morning, while lying in a half doze, I heard
something like the upsetting of a jug near my bedside, and then, a sound
like mopping up; suspicious of my company, I opened my eyes, and lo!
there was the owner of the third bed, deliberately mopping up the
contents of the jug he had upset over the carpet, with - what do you
think? His handkerchief? oh, no - his coat-tails? oh, no - a spare towel?
oh, no; the savage, with the most placid indifference, was mopping it up
with my sponge! He expressed so much astonishment when I remonstrated,
that I supposed the poor man must have been in the habit of using his
own sponge for such purposes, and my ire subsided gradually as he wrung
out the sponge by an endless succession of vigorous squeezes,
accompanying each with a word of apology. So much for my first night at

We will pass over breakfast, and away to the Capitol. There it stands,
on a rising knoll, commanding an extensive panoramic view of the town
and surrounding country. The building is on a grand scale, and faced
with marble, which, glittering in the sunbeams, gives it a very imposing
appearance; but the increasing wants of this increasing Republic have
caused two wings to be added, which are now in the course of
construction. Entrance to the Senate and House of Representatives was
afforded to us with that readiness and courtesy which strangers
invariably experience. But, alas! the mighty spirits who had, by their
power of eloquence, so often charmed and spell-bound the tenants of the
senate chamber - where were they? The grave had but recently closed over
the last of those giant spirits; Webster was no more! Like all similar
bodies, they put off and put off, till, in the last few days of the
session, a quantity of business is hustled through, and thus no scope is
left for eloquent speeches; all is matter of fact, and a very
business-looking body they appeared, each senator with his desk and
papers before him; and when anything was to be said, it was expressed in
plain, unadorned language, and free from hesitation. The only
opportunity offered for eloquence was, after the inauguration, on the
discussion of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty. I will not say that the
venerable senator for Delaware - Mr. Clayton - was eloquent, but he was
very clear both in language and delivery, and his bearing altogether
showed the honest conviction of a man who knew he was in the right, and
was certain he would be ultimately so judged. His principal antagonist
was the senator for Illinois - Mr. Douglas - one of the stars of the Young
American party, and an aspirant to the presidential honours of the
Republic. He is a stout-built man, rather short, with a massive
overhanging forehead. When he rose, he did so with the evident
consciousness that the gallery above him was filled with many of his
political school, and thrusting both hands well into the bottom of his
breeches pockets, he commenced his oration with an air of great
self-confidence, occasionally drawing one hand from its concealment to
aid his oratory by significant gesture. He made an excellent
clap-trap - or, as they term it in America, Buncombe - speech, aiding and
emphasizing, by energetic shakings of the forefinger, such passages as
he thought would tell in the gallery above; his voice was loud and
clear, his language blunt and fluent, and amusingly replete with "dares
and daren't;" "England's in the wrong, and she knows it;" if the
original treaty, by which America was to have had the canal exclusively,
had been concluded, "America would have had a rod to hold over all the
nations." Then came "manifest destiny;" then the mare's nest called
"Monroe doctrine;" then more Buncombe about England; and then ... he sat
down - satisfied, no doubt, that he had very considerably increased his
chances for the "tenancy of the White House."

I regretted much not being able to hear Mr. Everett speak, for I believe
he is admitted on all hands to be the most eloquent and classical orator
within the precincts of the senate at the present moment; but I was
obliged to leave Washington before he addressed the assembly. The
absence of all signs of approbation or disapprobation, while a senator
is addressing the House, gives a coldness to the debate, and I should
think must have a damping effect upon the enthusiasm of the speaker. The
"Hear hears" and "cheers" of friends, and the "Oh ohs" or "laughter" of
opponents, certainly give an air of much greater excitement to the
scene, and act as an encouragement to the orator. But such exclamations
are not allowed either in the Senate or the House of Representatives.
The chamber of the latter is of course much larger than that of the
Senators, and, as far as I can judge, a bad room to hear in. When the
new wings are finished, they will move into one of them, and their
present chamber is, I believe, to be a library. I had no opportunity of
hearing any of the oratory of this house, as they were merely hustling a
few money and minor bills through, previous to the inauguration, which
closed their session. They also have each a desk and chair; but with
their increasing numbers I fear that any room large enough to afford
them such accommodation must be bad for speaking in. - Let us now turn to
the great event of the day, i.e., the Inauguration.

The senators are all in their places; ministers of foreign Powers and
their suites are seated on the row of benches under the gallery; the
expectant masses are waiting outside; voices are suddenly hushed, and
all eyes turned towards the door of the senate-chamber; the herald walks
in, and says, "The President Elect of the United States." The chosen of
his country appears with as little form or ceremony as a gentleman
walking into an ordinary drawing-room. All rise as he enters.

I watched the man of the day as he proceeded to his seat on the floor
of the senate. There was neither pride in his eye nor nervousness in his
step, but a calm and dignified composure, well fitted to his high
position, as though gratified ambition were duly tempered by a deep
sense of responsibility. The procession moved out in order to a platform
in front of the Capitol, the late able president walking side by side
with his untried successor, and apparently as calm in resigning office
as his successor appeared to be in entering upon it. Of the inaugural
speech I shall say nothing, as all who care to read it have done so long
since. But one thing should always be remembered, and that is, that the
popular candidates here are all compelled to "do a little Buncombe," and
therefore, under the circumstances, I think it must be admitted there
was as little as was possible. That speech tolled the knell, for the
present at least, of the Whig party, and ushered in the reign of General
Pierce and the Democrats.

Since these lines were penned, the "chosen of the nation" has passed
through his ordeal of four years' administration; and, whatever private
virtues may have adorned his character, I imagine the unanimous voice of
his countrymen would unhesitatingly declare, that so utterly inefficient
a man never filled the presidential chair. He has been succeeded by Mr.
Buchanan, who was well known as the accredited Minister to the Court of
St. James's, and who also made himself ludicrously conspicuous as one of
the famous Ostend manifesto party. However, his talents are undoubted,
and his public career renders it probable that, warned by the failure of
his predecessor, his presidency will reflect more credit upon the
Republic than that of Mr. Pierce. Mr. B.'s inaugural address has been
published in this country, and is, in its way, a contradictory
curiosity. He urges, in diplomacy, "frankness and clearness;" while, to
his fellow-citizens, he offers some very wily diplomatic sentences.
Munroe doctrine and manifest destiny are not named; but they are
shadowed forth in language worthy of a Talleyrand. First, he glories in
his country having never extended its territory by the sword(?); he then
proceeds to say - what everybody says in anticipation of conquest,
annexation, or absorption - "Our past history forbids that, in future, we
should acquire territory, unless this be sanctioned by the laws of
justice and honour" (two very elastic laws among nations). "Acting on
this principle, no nation will have a right to interfere, or to
complain if, in the progress of events, we shall still further extend
our possessions." Leaving these frank and clear sentences to the
consideration of the reader, we return from the digression.

The crowd outside was very orderly, but by no means so numerous as I had
expected; I estimated them at 8000; but a friend who was with me, and
well versed in such matters, calculated the numbers at nearly 10,000,
but certainly, he said, not more. The penny Press, by way of doing
honour to their new ruler, boldly fixed the numbers at 40,000 - that was
their bit of Buncombe. One cause, probably, of the crowd not being
greater, was the drizzling snow, which doubtlessly induced many to be
satisfied with seeing the procession pass along Pennsylvania Avenue.

I cannot help remarking here, how little some of their eminent men know
of England. A senator, of great and just reputation, came to me during
the ceremony, and said, "There is one thing which must strike you as
very remarkable, and that is, that we have no soldiers here to keep
order upon an occasion of such political importance." He was evidently
unaware that, not only was such the case invariably in England, but that
soldiers are confined to barracks, or even removed during the excitement
of elections. There is no doubt that the falsehoods and exaggerations
with which the Press here teems, in matters referring to England, are
sufficiently glaring to be almost self-confuting; but if they can so
warp the mind of an enlightened senator, how is it to be wondered at
that, among the masses, many suck in all such trash as if it were Gospel
truth, and look upon England as little else than a land of despotism;
but of that, more anon. The changing of presidents in this country
resembles, practically speaking, the changing of a premier in England;
but, thank Heaven! the changing of a premier in England does not involve
the same changes as does the changing of a president here.

I believe it was General Jackson who first introduced the practice of a
wholesale sweeping out of opponents from all situations, however small;
and this bright idea has been religiously acted upon by all succeeding
presidents. The smallest clerkships, twopenny-halfpenny postmasterships
in unheard-of villages - all, all that can be dispensed with, must make
way for the friends of the incomers to power. Fancy a new premier in
England making a clean sweep of nine-tenths of the clerks, &c., at the
Treasury, Foreign-office, Post-office, Custom-house, Dockyards, &c., &c.
Conceive the jobbing such a system must lead to, not to mention the
comparative inefficiency it must produce in the said departments, and
the ridiculous labour it throws upon the dispensers of these gifts of
place. The following quotation may be taken as a sample: -

OUR CUSTOM-HOUSE - WHAT A HAUL. - The _New Hampshire Patriot_, in an
article on proscription, thus refers to the merciless decapitation of
the Democrats of our Custom-house, by Mr. Collector Maxwell: -

"Take the New York Custom-house as a sample. There are 626 officers
there, exclusive of labourers; and it appears from the records that,
since the Whigs came into power, 427 removals have been there made.
And to show the greediness of the Whig applicants for the spoils, it
need only be stated that, on the very day the collector was sworn into
office he made forty-two removals. He made six before he was sworn. In
thirty days from the time of his entrance upon his duties he removed
220 persons; and, in the course of a few months, he had made such a
clean sweep, that only sixty-two Democrats remained in office, with
564 Whigs! A like sweep was made in other custom-houses; and so clean
work did this 'anti-proscription' administration make in the offices,
that a Democrat could scarcely be found in an office which a Whig
could be found to take."

This is ominous, for the 564 Whigs to be turned over to the charity of
the new collector. Alas! the Democrats are hungry - hard shells and
soft shells - and charity begins at home. In the course of the coming
month we may anticipate a large emigration from the custom-house to
California and Australia. What a blessing to ejected office-holders
that they can fall back upon the gold mines! Such is the beautiful
working of our beneficent institutions! What a magnificent country!

As a proof of the excitement which these changes produce, I remember
perfectly there being ten to one more fuss and telegraphing between
Washington and New York, as to who should be collector at the latter
port, than would exist between London and Paris if a revolution was in
full swing at the latter. To this absurd system may no doubt be partly
attributed the frequent irregularities of their inland postage; but it
is an evil which, as far as I can judge from observation and
conversation, will continue till, with an increasing population and
increase of business, necessity re-establishes the old and better order
of things. Political partisanship is so strong that nothing but
imperative necessity can alter it.

The cabmen here, as in every other place I ever visited, make strenuous
efforts to do the new comers. They tried it on me; so, to show them how
knowing I was, I quoted their legitimate fares. "Ah, sir," says Cabby,
"that's very well; but, you see, we charges more at times like these." I
replied, "You've no right to raise your charges; by what authority do
you do it?" "Oh, sir, we meet together and agree what is the proper
thing." "But," says I, "the authorities are the people to settle those
things." "The authorities don't know nothing at all about it; we can
manage our own matters better than they." And they all stoutly stuck to
their own charges, the effect of which was that I scarcely saw a dozen
cabs employed during the ten days I was there.

Nothing could exceed the crowd in the streets, in the hotels, and
everywhere; the whole atmosphere was alive with the smoke of the
fragrant weed, and all the hotels were afloat with the juice thereof.
The city has repeatedly been called the City of Magnificent Distances;
but anything so far behind its fellow cities cannot well be imagined. It
sounds incredible - nevertheless, it is a fact - that, except from the
Capitol to the "White House," there is not a street-light of any kind,
or a watchman. I lost my way one evening, and wandered all over the town
for two hours, without seeing light or guardian of any kind. I suppose
this is intended as a proof of the honest and orderly conduct of the
inhabitants, but I fear it must also be taken as a proof of their
poverty or want of energy. Whatever the reason may be, it certainly is a
reflection on the liberality of the Government, that the capital of this
Great Union should be the worst paved, worst lit, and worst guarded in
the whole Republic.

The system of sweeping changes on the election of a new president tends
materially to stop any increase of householders, the uncertain tenure of
office making the _employés_ prefer clustering in hotels and
boarding-houses to entering on a short career of housekeeping, which
will, of course, militate against any steady increase of the city, and

Online LibraryHenry A. MurrayLands of the Slave and the Free Cuba, the United States, and Canada → online text (page 19 of 46)