Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

/HT. IV. A Voyage to St. Domingo, in the Years 1788, 1789, and 1790. By Francis Alexander Stanislaus Baron de Wimpffen. Translated from the original Manuscript, which has never been published. By J. Wright. 8vo. pp. 400. 6s. Boards. Cadell jun. and Davie*. 1797.

TN a preface to this volume, we are informed by the author * that in 1788 he sent to the press «« Letters of a Traveller" which were merely extracts from a more voluminous, work, intended by him to have been printed with his " Voyage to the Cape of Good Hope:" but that, being called by particular circumstances to St. Domingo, he saw himself compelled to renounce a publication ' which, in the present situation of affairs, might possibly not have been uninteresting to the reader.'

Of the volume before us, he says that it contains 'a part of his observations during a residence of two years, in the richest and most flourishing of all the colonies.' but that it may perhaps be objected to him, * that to some details of importance, he has joined others of too minute and trifling a nature, for such as look for nothing in voyages but great political and commercial events.'—In answer to this, however, he observes that travellers are not more exempt than other people,« from the weakness of attaching a certain value to the honour of occupying for a moment the attention of the public. But exclusive of this consideration, there are many readers more or lesa pleased with what may be called the dramatic part of a book of travels; and I frankly confess (says he) that I am one of the number.'

'The work, however, (continues the author,) is very far from being so complete as it might have been, if unforeseen events had not compelled me to leave, in a depot from whence it may never be possible for me to recover them, together with the manuscript of my "Voyage to the Cape of Good Hope," a variety of materials, by the assistance of which 1 proposed some day or other, to give a greater extension to my observations on Saint Domingo.'

The remaining and greatest part of the author's preface consists of observations 'on the manner in which the conquest of St. Domingo has been conducted;' or, as he might have more accurately said, attempted.—Of these, however, we shall take no particular notice, since nearly all that Great Britain had acquired in that island, at an enormous expence in men and money, has been lately abandoned; without, as we believe, any intention even of endeavouring to extend our remaining possessions there.

Baron de WimpfFen's account of his voyage to St. Domingo is formed and divided into Letters, which are in general well

D 4 written^ written; and they are rendered lively and more entertaining, by the frequent introduction of his own sentiments and reflexions on the various objects and events which presented themselves. The occurrences at sea, which our author describes, are in general similar to those that we find in the accounts of modern voyages; and indeed many of his communications from St. Domingo resemble those which have been made by other travellers in different parts of the West Indies, because the circumstances, productions, and modes of life, in all these islands, have a near resemblance.

The true and original name of St. Domingo, according ta our author, is involved in obscurity:

« FrancisCoreal(sayshe) informs us that the natives called it Qnisqufa, Haiti, and Cipanga *. It seems to me that these were not so much the name of the whole island, as of the different districts, in which the original inhabitants had formed their establishment. The Spaniards, at first, called it Isabella f; afteiwards they gave it the name of Hispaniola. In this they were followed by all the commercial people of Europe, except the French, who, confounding the name of the capital, San Domingo J, with that of the Island, called, and still continue to call it, Saint Domingo.'—

* The Spanish part of this Island is infinitely more extensive, more fertile, and more abundantly supplied with water than the French; but, on the other hand, there is too little industry to be found in it, and too many monks.'—' The Spanish colonists, naturally indolent, and moderate in their desires, are satisfied with breeding a few head of cattle, on whose milk they subsist; and planting a little tobacco, which they smoke, stretched at their length in a hammock, suspended between two trees. The more active among them carry on a trifling commerce with the French in. tasso or smoked bacon, and in live stock, of which the horse, known by the name of Baya-hondrot, is the most valuable article. They also, I believe, furnish Europe at present with that excellent species of tobacco called Saint Domingo; for the inhabitants of the French part of the island scarcely cultivate enough to supply the home consumption.'—

* As it seems necessary that a certain number of absurd prejudices should imprint the mark of folly on every thing which relates to the human species; it is here the colour of the skin, which, in its different degrees of shade from black to white, takes place of the distinctions of rank, of merit, of birth, of honours, and even of fortune. Sy that a negro, although he proved his descent in a right line from the Magi who came to adore our Saviour, although he joined to the ge

* " Relation tks Voyages" &c. Tom. I. Chap. I. ■f ' Correspondence de Fernand Cort;z, Sec. Lettrel, J * The "Histoire Gencrale des Voyages" concludes the history of the foundation of this city, with a mo6t unpardonable blunder, f It became," says he, " in process of tijne, under the name of Saint Domingo, one of the most flourishing of the French Settlements."

nius nlus of a celestial intelligence, all the gold "which the profound earth hides," would never be any thing in the eyes of the poorest, the most paltry, the most stupid, the most contemptible of the whites, but the dregs of the human race, a worthless slave, a Had.'

"He has relations on the coast!" Such, Sir, is the expression by which they manifest their contempt, on the slightest suspicion that a single drop of African blood has found its way into the veins of a white. And such is the force of prejudice, that it requires an effort of reason and courage to enable you to contract with such an unfortunate being, that kind of familiarity, which a state of equality pre-supposes and demands.'

In opposition to the general outcry against the climate of the West Indies, the Baron puts these questions: 'Can the population of the Whites be only maintained by emigrations from Europe? Is there any law to prevent the women from breeding here? Or was it ever heard or said that the air of this country was prejudicial (insalubrious) to a Creole?'—« Let us, (adds he,) introduce good morals into St. Domingo. Let the planters, instead of attaching themselves to those black, yellow, livid complexioned mistresses, who brutify, and deceive them; marry women of their own colour, and we shall soon see the country assume, in the eyes of the observer, a very different aspect.'

Baron de WimpfTen joins with those writers who so strongly reprobate what he calls ' the infamous traffic'we maintain on the coasts of Africa:' but he thinks ' that they have justly merited the reproaches of combating by vain and empty declama-* tion an abuse, whose defects are more than balanced by its adr vantages. I farther think, that, as every proceeding of this kind ought to have in view the common good, it is dangerous, nay unlawful, to excite a prejudice against an order of things involving the safety and fortune of the public, without producing *t the same time a remedy for the necessary evil. We have no need of those officious gentlemen to tell .us thatslavery is a hateful thing.'

• Your colonies, (he continues) such as they are, cannot exist without slavery. This is a frightful truth, I confess; but the not recognising it is more frightful still, and may produce the most terrible consequences. You must then sanction slavery, or renounce the colonies: and as thirty thousand whites can only controul four hundred and sixty thousand negroes by the force of opinion, (the sole guarantee of their existence) every thing which tends to weaken pr destroy that opinion, is a crime against society.'

Of the first settlement made by Europeans in the French part of St. Domingo, the author gives the following account:

• Some Frenchmen, driven from Saint Kitts by the Spaniards, with other adventurers of their nation, together with a few English,

found found themselves on the western coast of St. Domingo, then uninhabited. They established themselves there in 162 7, and were the original stock of the Flebustiers; of those men, whose audacity in undertaking, whose prodigious courage in executing the most difficult enterprises, reduced to the level of children's play, the fabulous exploits of the demi-gods of antiquity; and whose ferocity occasioned one of their chiefs to be called Monbars the Exterminator.

* Disgusted with their vagabond and perilous mode of existence, some of these extraordinary men, of whom the greater part were English, betook themselves to the isle of Tortua*, (which they had made their magazine in 1630, after driving aw|y about five and twenty Spaniards) on the coast of Saint Domingo, where they joined themselves to the Buccaneers, a species of hunters, whose wandering and precarious habits of life, served the Flebustiers as an intermediate step in their passage from the state of sailors and soldiers, to that of planters.

'Two things which will always unite men in society closer together, the necessity of order, and of perpetuating themselves, determined these new inhabitants to ask for a chief, and for women. The government sent thern at first Duparquct, and soon after Bertrand d'Ogeron de la Bouere, a gentleman of Angers, who arrived on the sixth of June 1636. He was succeeded by Ducasse, and L'Arnage; and the selection of these men, worthy in every respect to command others, proves that governments are not always deceived in the choice of those to whom they delegate a part of their power. 44 Mild and firm," says a modern historian, speaking of D'Ogeron, "patient and adroit: instructed by misfortune, and the habitude of living ■with this ferocious people; cherished by them, and respected by those above him, he was still superior to the opinion they had formed, I would not say of his virtues, but of his talentB f."

'The choice of women was less difficult to make. France, at that time, abounded with poor, industrious, and modest females, whose sweet and ingenuous dispositions would have softened, nay, purified the morals of men, rather unformed than corrupted. What, Sir, did they do? They sent them prostitutes from the hospitals, abandoned wretches raked up from the mud of the capital, disgusting compounds of filth and impurity of the grossest kind. And it is astonishing to me, that their manners, as dissolute as their language,

* * At first occupied by the English in 1638, under the command of Willis. A French engineer of the name of Le Vasse ur drove them out; adopted, with the title of prince, the manners of a tyrant, and was assassinated by two of his nephews. Tortna then fell under the command of the Chevalier de Fontenay, who restored it to the Spanish; when a third adventurer, Deschamps du Rausset, took it from them again in 1669, and five years afterwards, sold it to the West India Company. See Labat, Nottveau Voyage aux Islet Franqoiscs de L'Amerique. Tom. 5. Chap. 6.

f 4 Histotre Generak de PAsie, de PAfrique, el de FAmerique, Tome 14.'

are are not perpetuated in their posterity, to a greater degree than they really appear to be.”

M. de Charmilly, in a work which we lately reviewed, has blamed Mr. Edwards for giving too unfavourable an account of Port au Prince, and of the treatment of the slaves in St. Domingo ; our readers may therefore not be displeased at seeing what the Baron de Wimpffen writes on these topics.-Of the first, he says,

* When a person has been acquainted in France with colonists, and above all with Creole colonists, he cannot approach Port-auPrince, now become the residence of the civil and military powers, the capital of the richest country on the face of the globe the most fertile in delights the throne of luxury the center of voluptuousness without experiencing that secret shivering, that pleasing and vague anxiety, which precedes admiration, and prepares the soul for enthusiasm—To be brief; I entered between two rows of huts, jolting along a dusty track called a street, and searching in vain for Persepolis, amongst a chaotic mass of wooden barracks “I defy, Sir, the most volcanic imagination to resist the first effects of such a surprize. In a state .# stupefaction, I asked my companion where we were 2 At Port-au-Prince.—Yes, just as we are at Paris, in the suburbs of Saint Marceau, I suppose —You will see that to-morrow. * The next day, although my eagerness to satisfy myself made me get up before the sun, yet ten o’clock surprized me, still seeking the true Port-au-Prince, the Pot-au-Pince * of the inhabitants, without being able to find it.' I discovered, indeed, from time to time, some casas, more large, more ornamented than the rest. An insulated edifice of stone, and of a tolerably regular construction, announced to me the residence of the governor; I saw, also, a market lace, which the present intendant, Mons. Barbet de Marbois, has i. decorated with two fountains, in a good taste, but which are o; inaccessible from the filth which the negroes, who come for water, never fail to leave behind them. Adjoining this place, on a rising ground which overlooks it, I observed too, a little esplanade, planted with a few rows of young trees, and a bason with a jet d'eau in the midst of it, destined to serve for a terrace to the new government offices, which they propose building—but all this, even granting the streets were more regular than they are, would scarcely constitute a city of the third rank with us. Besides, most of this is the work of Mons. de Marbois, and of the last two or three years; and clearly proves that the inhabitants of St. Domingo saw, and still see, the present Port-au-Prince as the Jews are said to see the New Jerusalem in the old one.”

Of the treatment of the negroes, the author gives the following among other instances;

* * The Creolian method of pronunciation.’

« AnteriorContinuar »