« ПретходнаНастави »
if to excite anew the attention of its inhabitants to the search of mineral treasures, a mine of silver has been discovered near Villa Clara, which is said by the discoverer to cover a considerable extent of ground, and by the assayers to contain, (mingled with an oxyd of iron, and resembling a great many of the ores of Peru,) a portion of silver, which, in South-America, would entitle it to be considered as a very rich ore. Several veins of copper have also been discovered in the same district, and it would appear from the interesting journal we quote that some attention has been excited by these discoveries.
From the sketch we have given, it will not create any surprise to learn how destitute of rivers this magnificent island is found to be. Its breadth, or to speak more accurately, its want of breadth forbids their existence. Many small streams descend from the hills and hurry to the ocean; but in the season of drought, some of these become dry, and others furnish but scanty rills. Indeed, if the improvement and cultivation of Cuba should continue to advance in such rapid progression as it has done for the last twenty years, it is not improbable that all of her streams will be employed and exhausted in the irrigation of the plains, for, as we have already intimated,t in all tropical climates the value of land employed in raising the sugar cane, is incalculably increased by the acquisition of the means of irrigation. It may, perhaps, be said that water is the greatest want felt in this island. Few permanent springs exist, and in many places wells are dug from 150 to 300 feet deep through solid limestone before water can be obtained. Its quality, however, is good, but the expense of sinking these wells is so great that few planters encounter this apparently necessary part of their establishment until they have ascertained that the soil of their plantations is rich, arable and productive. They submit to the inconvenience of employing an ox cart constantly to bring from the nearest stream or farm, their daily supply of water. Indeed as the island has been more and more deprived of its forests, the annual fall of rain is supposed to diminish.
“ The climate of the Havana,” says our author, “is that which corresponds to the extreme limit of the torrid zone. It is a tropical climate, in which a more unequal distribution of beat between the different parts of the year announces already the passage to the climates of the temperate zone." The discussion of climates is a favourite topic with Humboldt, and is not forgotten in his account of Cuba. We shall briefly notice from him the facts that seem to be most important, and the • Anales de Ciencias, Agricultura, &c.-May & October, 1828. January, 1829.
Southern Review, No. 6-p. 336.
comparisons which he has made of the temperature of the Havana with other cities in different quarters of the globe. The mean temperature of the Havana is, after four years of good observation, 25.7 of the centigrade thermometer, (78 Fabrenheit) only two degrees lower than that of Cumana, so much nearer to the equator. The proximity of the ocean elevates along the coast the mean temperature of the year; but in the interior of the island where the north winds penetrate with equal force, and the soil is elevated to the small height of 240 or 250 feet, the mean temperature only reaches 23.6. (73.4
F.) and does not surpass that of Cairo and Lower Egypt. The difference between the mean temperature of the warmest and the coldest month in the interior of the island, amounts to 12° (21.6 F.); on the coast to 8° (14.4 F.); at Cumana scarcely to 30 (5.4 F.) In the warmest months (July and August) the mean temperature reaches 20 to 290 (82 to 84 F.) as under the equator. In the coldest months (December and January) the temperature is in the interior 17° (62.6 F.); at the Havana 21° (69.8 F.) three degrees higher (5.4 F.) than the warmest month at Paris. One peculiarity which has been frequently noticed when coinparing temperatures, may yet be mentioned—it is, that the thermometer often attains a higher point at places far removed from the equator, than at the equator itself. Thus, for instance, the thermometer does not rise at Cumana but to 330 (91.5 F.); at Vera Cruz in thirteen years it was only once to 32° (89.6 F.); at the Havana in three years, M. Ferrer has only seen it range between 16 and 30° (60.8 and 86 F.) It was noticed as a remarkable fact by M. Robredo, that in 1801 the mercury rose to 34.4 (94 F.) while at Paris, according to the observations of M. Arago, the Mercury four times in ten years, (between 1793 and 1x03) rose to 36.7 and 38° (97.5 and 100 F.) and the registers of our northern cities will corroborate this statement. Ice has been seen in Cuba, but it is known that by the effect of radiation, this will sometimes be produced when the thermometer is 9 to 12. Fahrenheit, above the point of congelation. Hail, which at Macao, in nearly the same latitude, falls very frequently and very large, does not occur at the Havana above once in fifteen years.
Snow is never seen. The occasional fall of the temperature in Cuba, though sometimes considerable, is yet of so short a duration that neither the banana, the sugar cane, nor the other productions of the torrid zone, suffer habitually from it. It is known that plants which enjoy a vigorous organization, resist easily a slight cold—the
VOL. IV.NO. 8.
orange at Genoa survives the fall of snow, and a degree of cold equal to 19 or 20 of Fahrenheit. We have seen the fraugpin Carolina within a few vears resist cold when the thermomeer of Fahrenheit descended to 12o, (II" on the cent. thermoner below 0) and suffer no injury but the destruction of the sery small and tender branches, and the loss of the crop of the ensuing summer. Under other circumstances, however, that is, when severe cold has occurred early in the fall or late in the spring, or has been accompanied by a sleety rain, this tree has been killed to the surface of the earth with the thermometer of Fahrenheit between 18 and 2.2o.
Hurricanes are much more rare in Cuba than at St. Domingo, Jamaica or the smaller Antilles. The centre of this chain of islands appears to be the seat of suffering from their frequent occurrence, and, as with us, they generally happen in August and September. They were formerly supposed to be periodical, but observation has effaced this opinion. In the Caribbean Islands, in twenty-five years, from 1770 to 1795, there were seventeen hurricanes, whilst at Martinique, from 1788 to 1804, not one was felt, vet the same island was devastated by three in the course of the year 1642.
The oscillations of the mercury in the barometer are very inconsiderable under the equator; they become more indicative of atmospheric changes as we approach the temperate zones, but accompany rather than foretell these changes within the tropics. In the great hurricane of the 27th and 28th Auglist, 1794, at the Havana, careful observations taken every hour or half hour, shewed that from the commencement to the height of the gale, the mercury gradually fell from 29.95 to 29.50, and then as gradually rose until at its termination it had reached the height of 30.01, the indication of clear and settled weather.
Humboldt appears not to have noticed the quantity of rain which annually falls in Cuba. From the information we can collect from other sources, it does not equal the amount we should expect in a tropical island. In the Anales de Ciencias, &c. the quantity for the year 1828, is given as 33. 3: we suspect this was a dry year, and it would require observations continued through at least ten years to give a tolerably fair average.
We have presented to our readers the peculiarities and the advantages this island exhibits as the gifts of nature. We will now view it under another aspect, and see how much it has been indebted for its improvements to the efforts of man.
Cuba, with all its advantages, was for a long time neglected by the Spaniards. The settlements on the island were early;
they date from the year 1511, when, in pursuance of the orders of Don Diego Colomb, Velasquez landed at Puerto de Palmas, near Cape Maysi, and subdued the Cacique Hatuey, who, a fugitive from St. Domingo, had retired into the south-eastern part of Cuba, and become the head of a confederacy of native chieftaius. Baracoa was commenced in 1512, Santiago de Cuba in 1514, and San Christobal de la Havana, in its present situation,* in 1519. But for many years the island remained almost without culture, and when the search for metals was diverted into new channels, was divided and distributed into hatos and protreros or cattle-farms of different descriptions, and abandoned very much to the rearing of stock, an occupation to which the Spaniards have always manifested much attach
To this circumstance Cuba is, perhaps, at this day indebted for the comparatively large white population which it possesses, and also for the number of free-coloured people which the enumeration of its inhabitants discloses; although this latter class of its inhabitants is rather the production of cities than of the country.
It was by the capture of the Havana by the British in 1762, that the first great impulse was given to the permanent improvement of Cuba. The importance of its position, as the key of Mexico, as a point of communication with all the territory ihat surrounds the Caribbean Sea, was seen and felt by Spain the instant it was occupied by an enemy. When it was restored, the expense lavished on the fortifications of the Havana to secure it against all future assaults, the encouragement offered by the Crown to the settlement and cultivation of the country by wealthy proprietors, perhaps, also some stimulus given to the commercial spirit of the people by the example and opinions of the British during their short occupation of the island, led to the great and still progressing improvements that have distinguished its subsequent bistory. Another important accession to the wealth and agricultural intelligence of Cuba, took place when a great number of French colonists, with the wrecks and rennants of their property, were driven over to Cuba by the disastrous convulsions of St. Domingo. Until this period, the agriculture of the island had been rude and slovenly, the manufacture of sugar imperfect, the preparation of coffee defective, its culture, in fact, scarcely known, and the great sources of wealth which have since been opened to the island, in a great measure neglected. It may be remarked that the improve
* The city was at first, in 1515, located on the southern side of the Island, but, on account of its commercial advantages, removed to its present position.
ment, we may say, the establishment of the culture of sugar in Louisiana, may be dated from the same period and the same cause. A third great period in the prosperity of Cuba may be dated from the time when a liberal policy, in contradistinction to its practice in all other cases, was adopted by the Spanish government in the administration of this island. To the Havana many privileges were granted from an early period, which were gradually enlarged, until at length, since 1822, an entire freedom of trade with all nations of the world has been wisely allowed, and the benefits of this liberality have been felt not only by the colony, but by the parent state.
The following tables will show the population of Cuba at different periods, as far as documents have been obtained, or exist to ascertain these facts. In 1762, at the time of the capture of the Island by the British, the population was estimated at less than 200,000; of this number, 32,000 were slaves.
The estimate made by Humboldt for the year 1825, not by actual enumeration, but from the calculation of probabilities, is as follows:
In a preceding number of this Journal,* we have already given the opinion of Mr. Abbot, that the number of the slaves in Cuba was quite or nearly double the amount supposed by Humboldt. Many circumstances will support this conjecture. There has always been an apprehension in the Spanish West Indies, as well as elsewhere, that whenever a census has been ordered, these inquests into the population were designed as the basis
* Southern Review, No. 7–p. 135.