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Chambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) online

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Toussaint L'Ouverture, was a slave born, and an able as well as
a benevolent man ; but, like most of the negroes who had arrived
at his period of life, he had not had the benefit of any systematic
education. Petion, on the other hand, had been educated in
the Military Academy of Paris, and was accordingly as accom-
plished and well-instructed as any European officer. The title
with which Petion was invested, was that of President of the
Republic of Hayti, in other words, president of the republican
part of Hayti ; the southern and western districts preferring the
republican form of government. For some time Christophe bore
the simple title of chief magistrate, and was in all respects the
president of a republic like Petion : but the blacks have always
shown a liking for the monarchical form of government ; and
accordingly, on the 2d of June 1811, Christophe, by the desire
of his subjects, assumed the regal title of Henry I., king of
Hayti. The coronation was celebrated in the most gorgeous
manner; and at the same time the creation of an aristocracy
took place, the first act of the new sovereign being to name four
princes, seven dukes, twenty-two counts, thirty barons, and ten

Both parts of the island were well governed, and rapidly
advanced in prosperity and civilisation. On the restoration of
the Bourbons to the French throne, some hope seems to have
been entertained in France that it might be possible yet to obtain
a footing in the island, and commissioners were sent out to col-
lect information respecting its condition ; but the conduct both
of Christophe and Petion was so firm, that the impossibility of
subverting the independence of Hayti became manifest. The
island was therefore left in the undisturbed possession of the


TOrSSAIXT l'oUVERTURE and the republic of HAITI.

blacks and mulattoes. In 1818 Petion died, and was succeeded
by General Boyer, a mulatto who had been in France, and had
accompanied Leclerc in his expedition. In 1820, Christophe
having- become involved in differences with his subjects, shot
himself; and the two parts of the island were then reunited
under the g-eneral name of the Republic of Hayti, General Boyer
being" the first president. In the following* year, the Spanish
portion of the island, which for a long* time had been in a lan-
guishing condition, voluntarily placed itself under the govern-^
ment of Boyer, who thus became the head of a republic including
the entire island of St Domingo. In 1825, a treaty was con-
cluded between President Boyer and Charles X. of France, by
which France acknowledged the independence of Hayti, in
consideration of 150 millions of francs (£6,000,000 sterling), to
be paid by the island in five annual instalments, as a compen-
sation for the losses sustained by the French colonists during
the revolution. The first instalment was paid in 1836 ; but as
it was found impossible to pay the remainder, the terms of the
agreement were changed in 1838, and France consented to accept
60 millions of francs (£2,400,000), to be liquidated in six instal-
ments before the year 1867. Two of the instalments have
already been paid. In the political constitution of the island,
no change of any importance has taken place till the present
time ; and the republic of Hayti continues to be governed by a
president elected for life, and two legislative houses ; one a senate,
the other a chamber of representatives.

According to the latest accounts of this interesting island, the
annual exports amounted to upwards of thirty millions of pounds
of coffee, six millions of pounds of logwood, one million of pounds
of cotton, five millions of feet of mahogany, besides considerable
quantities of tobacco, cigars, sugar, hides, wax, and ginger.
Certain goods are admitted duty free, among which the prin-
cipal are, arms, ammunition, agricultural implements, cattle, and
school-books. The Roman Catholic religion is over the whole
island, but all other sects are tolerated. The clergy are said to
be ignorant and corrupt ; and their influence over the opinions
or the morals of the community is small. In the principal
towns there are government schools, some of them on the Lan-
casterian plan : in the capital there is a military school ; and
there are also a number of private academies in the island. The
armed force of Hayti consists of thirty-three regiments of the
line, five regiments of artillery, two of dragoons, the president's
guard, and a numerous police, amounting in all to nearly 30,000
men. Besides this regular force, there "is a militia or national
guard of about 40,000 men, the superior officers of which are
nominated by the president, the inferior elected by the privates.
Hayti possesses scarcely any naval force. In 1837 the revenue
of the island was 3,852,576 dollars, and its public expenditure
2,713 102 dollars.



With respect to tlie social condition of the island, there are,
unfortunately, few trustworthy particulars ; althoug-h the general
fact is indisputable, that it is a condition of advancement. There
are undoubtedly many imperfections in the republic, many traces
of barbarism, much absurdity perhaps, and much extravagance ;
but still the fact remains that here is a population of blacks
which, in the short space of fifty years, has raised itself from
the depths and the degradation of slavery to the condition of
a flourishing and respectable state. All that we are accustomed
to regard as included in the term civilisation, Hayli possesses
— an established system of government, an established system
of education, a literature, commerce, manufactures, a rich and
cultivated class in society. Twenty-six years since, the Baron
de Vastey, one of the councillors of Christophe, and himself
a pure negro, published some reflections on the state of Hayti,
in which the following passage occurs: — " Five -and -twenty
years ago," says he, "we were plunged in the most complete
ignorance; we had no notion of human society, no idea of
happiness, no powerful feeling*. Our faculties, both physical and
moral, were so overwhelmed under the load of slavery, that I
myself who am writing this, I thought that the world finished
at the line which bounded my sight ; my ideas were so limited,
that things the most simple were to me incomprehensible ; and
all my countrymen were as ignorant as myself, and even more
so, if that were possible. I have known many of us," he
continues, " who have learned to read and write of them-
selves, without the help of a master ; I have known them
walking with their books in their hands inquiring of the pas-
sengers, and praying them to explain to them the signification
of such a character or word ; and in this manner many, alreadj-
advanced in years, became able to read and write without the
benefit of instruction. Such men," he adds, " have become
notaries, attorneys, advocates, judges, administrators, and have
astonished the world by the sagacity of their judgment ; others
have become painters and sculptors by their own exertions, and
have astonished strangers by their works ; others, again, have
succeeded as architects, mechanics, manufacturers ; others have
worked mines of sulphur, fabricated saltpetre, and made excellent
gunpowder, with no other guides than books of chemistry and
mineralogy. And yet the Haytians do not pretend to be a
manufacturing and commercial people; agriculture and arms
are their professions ; like the Romans, we go from arms to the
plough, and from the plough to arms."

In conclusion, we can only express a hope that nothing may
occur to disturb either the external relations or the internal
repose of this singularly regenerated people.



G-pfSiX^^ HE vegetation wliich everywhere adorns tlie surface
'^^^} of tlie o-lobe, from the moss that covers the weather-
fcj^^ worn stone, to the cedar that crowns the mountain,
:^y) is replete with matter for reflection and admiration.
Not a tree that lifts its branches aloft, not a flower or leaf
that expands beneath the sunlig-ht, but has something- of
'"""^^ habit or of structure — something- of form, of fragrance, or
^y^ of colour — to arrest the attention. It is true that early
&nd constant familiarity has a tendency to render us unob-
servant of that which surrounds us ; but that individual must
be idle, and ignorant as idle, whose curiosity cannot be avv'akened
by a description of the wonderful mechanism and adaptations
of veg-etable life. It is to a brief account of the more remark-
able phenomena that the following' pag'es are devoted ; not with
a view to excite miere unreasoning wonder, but with a desire
to create a spirit of inquiry into principles as well as into facts,
and to lend the mind to one of the most ag-reeable pursuits which
the wide lield of nature presents.


Minerals, plants, and animals, are all formed by the chemical
combination of certain elementary' substances. In minerals, these
elements combine by the force of chemical affinity only ; but in
plants and animals, they are held in combination by vital action.
Vitality enables plants and animals to absorb and assimilate food,
consisting: of the elements necessary for their increase, and also
to reproduce beings of their own kind by means of certain org-aus ;
No. 5». " 1


hence they are said to be organised, and the substances of which
they are composed are known by the general name of organic
■matter. Minerals not possessing vitality have no organs, and
consist only oiinorganic matter. Plants derive their sustenance
from inorganic matter — air, earth, and w^ater; animals cannot
do so, but must live on vegetables, or prey upon each other.
Vegetation, therefore, must be the precursor of animal life in the
economy of nature.

The simplest forms of life are observable in certain plants and
animals whose economy is limited to the absorption and assi-
milation of nutriment, and the power of reproduction : and the
difference between these humble jDlants and animals is so trifling',
that in them the animal and vegetable kingdoms seem to pass
into each other. Thus, notwithstanding all the light which
modern science has thrown on org-anic life, we are yet unable-
to distinguish between certain lowly forms of corallines and
spong'es, and to say which are plants and which are animals.
But while to the eye of imperfect knowledg-e the lowest forms
of plants and animals seem to merge into each other, it must
be ever borne in mind that, beyond a faint analogy, there is
nothing like identity between the resjDective functions of these
two great kingdoms.

Few plants possess the power of locomotion ; and though
the aquatic plant called the fresh-water sailor seems to detach
itself from the mud in which it originally grows, and rises to the
surface of the water to expand its flow^ers, this must be regarded
as the necessary result of a peculiar mechanism, and not of voli-
tion. Plants are jDropagated by division ; and it is only among
the lowest living forms, as sponges and polyps, that detached
parts will become perfect individuals. Plants have no stomach ;
and though the lobe-like leaves of Venus's fly-trap are said to
digest the flies they catch, this fact must be regarded rather as
the result of ordinary decay than of true digestion. Plants are
without feeling. Though the leaves of the sensitive plant shrink
at the slightest touch, yet we cannot, without a misapplication of
words, apply the term feeling where no nervous structure has
yet been discovered. In like manner, the growth of young- trees
and shrubs has been compared to the spinal marrow of animals ;,
the upward current of the sap in spring*, and its descent in
autumn, to the circulation of the blood ; and the exhalation of
oxygen, and the absorption of carbonic acid gas in the leaves, to
respiration ; but all these are mere analogies, not identities of
function. Indeed all the vital operations of plants are performed
in a different manner from those of animals ; the instances of
locomotion, sensitiveness, and power of digestion in plants being
very rare and imperfect, while the power of propagating by divi-
sion in animals is equally so.

Plants, whether rooted in the soil or on other organic bodies
— whether floating in water or suspended in the atmosphere.


are dependent upon air, moisture, heat, and light, for their perfect
development. Besides these conditions, many require nourish-
ment from the soil ; hut, strang-e as it may appear at first sig-ht,
soil is not essential to veg'etation in general ; for many plants,
such as aquatics, parasites, and aerials, grow and propag'ate
their kind without once coming in contact with the ground.
It is common to divide the vegetable king-dom into two great
sections — those plants which flower, as trees, shrubs, and grasses,
and those which do not flower, as ferns, sea-weeds, and mush-
rooms. It is also usual to arrange them according' to their
manner of gTowth. Thus, some increase by external layers, as
the fir, the wood of which shows many concentric layers, each
ring being" a year's growth ; others grow from within, as the
palm, the trunk of which shows no concentric layers ; and some
increase by mere prolongation of the apex, or growing point,
as the ferns, sea-weeds, and lichens. Those which increase by
external layers, have the nerves of the leaves reticulated or netted,
as in the apple ; those which grow by internal additions, have
the nerves arrang'ed in parallel order, as in the lily ; and those
which add to their bulk by simple extension of the growing
point, have no distinct venation, as m the lichens.


The main object of a plant during growth seems to be the
reproduction of its kind. Whether the term of its being* be
limited by a day, by a year, or by centuries, its sole eff'ort — as
it proceeds from leaf to stem, from stem to branch, and from
branch to flower and fruit — is the multiplication of itself. This
is effected variously : by seeds, by spores or embryo plants, by
tubers, by runners which put forth shoots as they elongate, by
branches which send down roots, by branches bending down-
wards and taking' root, by slips or detached branches, or even
by single leaves.

Increase by seed is the most familiar mode of reproduction,
being common to all flowering plants. Seeds are merely leaves

preserved in peculiar cerements
against the return of the season
of growth. They are also fur-
nished with a sufficiency of nutri-
ment for the embryo j)lant, till its
roots have struck into the soil,
and its leaves be expanded into
the atmosphere. For the excite-
ment of growth in seeds, a certain
amount of heat and moisture is
necessary ; but too much heat
would parch them, and too much
cold or moisture would destroy
their vitality. To provide against


Section of a Peach.


siich conting'encies, nature has conferred on them the most insfe-
nious and perfect covering's. The cocoa has a toug'h fibrous coir
a]id woody nut impervious alike to drought and rain ; the chest-
nut has a compact leathery envelope ; the peach a hard stony
drupe ; the apple a lleshy pome, enclosing- leathery cells ; the
rose a waterproof hip, packed with down ; the pea and bean a
pod of parchment ; and seeds apparently naked have either a
coriaceous membrane, or have their exterior tissue so condensed,
that they look as if thej^ had come from the hand of the japanner.
In all of them, the protection against cold, drought, moisture,
and other destructive agencies is so complete, that seeds which
have been buried for centuries have, on being* brought to the
surface, sprung up into healthy plants : even a crop of wheat
has been reared from seeds taken from the hand of an Egyptian
mummy more than three thousand years old !

Equally perfect with this protection is the means for their dis-
persion over the surface of the globe. What could be better adapted
for floating from island to island than the cocoa-nut, with its
light fibrous coir and woody shell? What more easily caug-ht
up by the slightest breath of air than the seeds of tlie thistle
or dandelion, with their little parachutes of down ? Or what
more aptly fitted for attachment to the coats of wandering* ani-
mals than the hooked lieads of the teasel and burdock t Nor
does contrivance end here. Many, when ripe, are ejected from
the vessels which contain them with considerable force by means
of elastic valves and springs. The Cardamine impaticns throws
its ripe seed to a considerable distance on being touched ; so does
the squirting cucumber, the g'eranium, the common broom, and
others, as if they were endowed w^ith vitality, and had a care
for their embryo progeny. Some do not even part with their
seeds till these have struck root as independent plants. Thus the
mangrove, which flourishes amid the mud of tropical deltas and
creeks, retains its berries till they have sent down long thread-
like radicles into the silt belovv^, as if it felt
that the water and slime by which it was sur-
rounded were elements too unstable to be in-
trusted with its offspring.

Plants that reproduce themselves by spores
or germs belong to the flowerless section of
vegetation, as the ferns, sea -weeds, mosses,
mushrooms, and the like. In many of these ^^^f\5^^^A
the reproductive spores are so minute that ^^^^^t-^^^^i/f^tV^
they float in the air unseen ; and not a dried ^^^^^^^^^
mushroom or puff-ball that is struck by the ""^^^^^^"^^^
wandering foot, but disperses thousands of its ^Cl^^^^r
kind around it. The little brown specks on
tlie leaf of the fern, the snuiF-Hke powder of Female Fern,
tlie puff-ball, or the dust arising from the mould of a decayed
clieese, are all alike the g'erms of future plants ; and when v/e



consider hov,? minute each individual is, how liable to be borne
about by winds, by water, and by the covering's of animals, to
which they may adhere, Ave shall cease to wonder at the fact,
that there is not a portion of surface, org-anic or inorganic, that
may not be covered Vv'ith their growth. The spores of sea-weeds,
which are always surrounded by water, are covered by a muci-
lag-e that enables them to adhere to whatever solid body they
touch ; and what is peculiar in this adhesive substance — it is
insoluble in water. " Let chemistry," says Macculloch in his
Illustrations of the Attributes of God, "name another muci-
lage, another substance which water cannot dissolve, thoug-h
apiDarently already in solution with water, and then ask if this
extraordinary secretion v,-as not designed for the special end
attained, and whether also it does not afford an example of that
Power which has only to will that it may produce what it desires,
even by means the most improbable."

Many plants, as the potato, reproduce themselves both by seeds
and tubers. Both modes, however, do not take place with equal
exuberance at one and the same time. In its native region of
South America, where the climate is better adapted for blossom
and ripening" of seed, the potato flowers luxuriantly, but yields au
insignificant crop of small acrid tubers : in our unstable climate,
on the other hand, the underground progeny is the more abun-
dant and prolilic. There is, it would seem, a certain amount of
vital force in every plant, and if that force be expended on
tiowering-, tubers will not be produced, and if on the production
of an underground progeny, the seed will not be matured, as is
the case with the horse-radish and Jerusalem artichoke. Here,
however, it must be remarked, that tubers are not roots in the
botanical sense of the word : they are true underground stems,
which, instead of terminating' in fruit and seed, terminate in
nodes full of eyes or leaf-buds, and supplied with a quantity of
farinaceous matter for the support of the young buds, till they
have struck their roots in the soil sufficient to elaborate their own
sustenance. Let any one unearth a potato plant with care, and
he will at once perceive the difference between the true roots
spreading: out into minute fibres, and the underg-round stems
terminating: in tubers. The former are tough and fibrous,
diverging- into minute radicles, each tipped with its little suck-
ing- point or spongiole ; the latter are soft and succulent, un-
divided, and ending in a mass of farinaceous matter, studded
with young- buds. Each of these buds, if detached with a portion
of the tuber, and placed in proper soil, will spring- up into a
perfect plant — the farinaceous frag-ment supplying- it with food
until roots and leaves are formed.

The manner in which plants reproduce themselves viviparously,
differs according- to the constitutional character of the individual.
Some, as the elm and poplar, have their roots furnished with
buds, v/hich sooner or later sprout forth into offsets and suckers,



as they are called, and these annually increase in hulk and
heio-ht, ultimately becoming, under proper conditions, perfect
trees. Others, as the greater number of bulbs and tubers,
multiply themselves by sending out runners, each of which pro-
duce several young plants ;
and herbaceous jDerennials
extend themselves in the
same way, either by runners
under ground, as the couch-
grass, or above ground, as
the strawberry. Most people
must have observed the con-
tinual efforts of the latter
plant to extend itself in this
way ; and so it is with many

Aquatic Plant extending its creeping stems others — the propensity be-
along the mud. -j^g. j^^g^ powerful where

there is the least opportunity of bringing forth seed. It is often
highly interesting to watch the progress of these runners. AVhere
the soil is soft and favourable throughout, the young shoots are
developed at about equal distances ; but where the soil is hard, or
covered with stones, the runner pushes its way over these ob-
structions, refusing to put forth a single bud until the proper
conditions for its maintenance be reached. We have often seen
a gravel walk thus crossed by a strawberry runner, the runner
being as budless as a piece of copper-wire, until it had arrived
at the soil on the other side, where it immediately put forth its
young progeny in abundance. Instances of this kind are often
ascribed to vegetable instinct ; and were it not for the essential
differences which evidently exist between vegetables and animals,
one would be almost tempted to assign to it a higher designation.
Some plants produce living seeds in the vessels where the ordinary
seed is matured, as may be seen in certain species of the onion
family, known as tree and apple onions ; and others, like some of
the lilies, yield little perfect bulbs in the axils of the stem leaves.
Another manner in which trees multiply themselves is by their
branches bending downwards till they touch the ground v\^ith the
growing points, which then take root and spring up into inde-
pendent stems. This frequently happens among trailing shrubs, as
the bramble and honeysuckle, and may also be witnessed among
our garden roses and gooseberries. A somewhat similar mode
of extension is presented by the banyan, which becomes enlarged
without the assistance of either seeds or suckers. Roots are pro-
duced by the under-side of the lower branches : these hang dang-
ling in the air for months before they reach the ground ; this at
last they penetrate, and become stems to a new head of branches.
An old tree of this kind, as will be shown in another section,
presents a most magnificent object, forming concentric corridors
over a great extent of surface. Acting upon the principles here



pointed out by nature, g-ardeners propag-ate many of their favour-
ites by layers — that is, by bending- a branch or shoot till a portion
of it be buried in the soil, where it tlu'O'.vs out roots, and estab-
lishes itself as an independent plant. This being- done, it is
removed from the jjarent stock and placed in another situation.
Plants are also propagated by slips — that is, by detached young-
shoots being thrust into the soil, where they generally throw
out roots, and grow up into healthy individuals. Budding is
another artificial mode of propagation : it is, in fact, merely
slipping at an earlier stage of growth. It is performed by taking
the leaf-bud from one t^'ee or branch, and neatly inserting it
under the cuticle of another tree or branch, where, fed by the

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of useful and entertaining tracts (Volume v.5-6) → online text (page 53 of 59)