« PoprzedniaDalej »
ideas of his importance, a method of enforcing respect, practised by most of the distinguished personages of the country.
We spent the remainder of the day in viewing the town, and visiting our countrymen, of whom we found two or three established in trade. Port de Paix has once been a neat pretty town of apparently three or four hundred houses, but conflagrations have reduced it to a pile of ruins, and it now exhibits much the same appearance, as so forcibly attracted my attention when I first visited the Cape. It has a small and tolerably good road for shipping, and is well defended by fortifications, but its local situation in the vicinity of extensive marshes, renders it exceedingly unhealthy. Vessels here have in frequent instances lost the whole of their crews, and there is scarcely an example of one making any considerable delay in the port, without having experienced sickness on board. The water of the town is not potable, but a stream called Les Trois Rivieres, which discharges itself into the sea within the distance of a mile or two of it, furnishes an abundant and wholesome supply to the inhabitants, to whom it is conveyed by beasts of burden. In addition to these disadvantages, the town from its particular site, is favoured with but a very small portion of that delightful seabreeze, which adds so much to the salubrity of the places under its influence. You may perhaps be surprized that a spot so miserably circumstances, should ever have been selected for a town, and that that town should have arisen to so much commercial importance as Port de Paix once held. This shall be accounted for. The situation is in the immediate neighbourhood of the fertile parishes of St. Louis, Moustique and Jean Rabel, which produced in former times an abundance of the finest coffee raised in the island, and still continues so to do, though in a reduced quantity. The coffee of this quarter, particularly that of Moustique, is distinguishable by the smallness and rotundity of its grains, from the generality produced in other parts, and bears a great resemblance to the Mocha. The harbour of Port de Paix, being protected from the violence of the easterly winds by a point of land, and from that of the nothern by the island of Tortugas which is directly in front of it, at the distance of about three lcagucs, (advantages enjoyecl
by no other anchorage in that vicinity) afforded the most eligible seat for the establishment of a mart, to which the produce of that part of the island could be transported for sale, and from which it might be exported.
At the present day its population is reduced to a very diminutive number, and its demand for foreign commodities proportionably small. Its inhabitants are miserably poor, and perhaps the facility of getting houses to live in for the mere pains and expense of repairing them, may be the only inducement for many to reside there. These circumstances together with its proximity to the Cape render it impracticable to dispose of an entire cargo, without much delay and hazard from sickness, and it is therefore seldom frequented by foreign vessels. The principal part of the coffee produced in its vicinity is transported to the Cape in boats, but the government sometimes issues orders upon that quarter for large parcels, in payment of its national debts, in which cases vessels sail there to receive it.
On the morning of the sixteenth we set sail and pursued our course for the Cape. As there was considerable danger cven in this short distance of being captured by the French, we thought it prudent to take a native pilot, who being acquainted with all the small harbours on the coast, night be able to assist us in escaping should we be pursued by an enemy. A head wind and an adverse current prevented us from performing our passage with expedition, for it was not until the night of the seventeenth that we arrived off Picolct. That fort has so complete a command of the entrance of the harbour, that we did not think it prudent to venture too near it in the dark, but preferred to lie off and on, until the morning. This we did, and at eleven o'clock of the eighteenth anchored before the town. immediately visited by the interpreter üid the licutenant of the port, who convcyed us to the shore in their boat which carried a flag and six gens d'armes.
Without a moment's dclay, not even suisicient to exchange salutatious with our countrymen who were assembled on the wharf in expectation of letters and news from liome, we were hurried by the interpreter to the offices of thc captain of the port and commandant of the plaie; where the report of.Olrtes:ei
was respectively entered. Thence we proceeded to the house of the general in chief, Christophe, who received us with civility, and made several inquiries relative to the existing state of affairs in Europe and the prospects of peace, subjects extremely interesting to the chiefs of Layti. Upon this occasion I made before the general a little faux pas, the particulars of which I will relate, to give you a specimen of the politeness of a Haytian gentleman. Having been in the island once before, I knew the value of newspapers to the Americans, and was also perfectly aware of the difficulty of getting them again, after they had once been in possession of the officers of the gorernment. On these accounts I had determined upon denying that I had any, and what my pockets would not contain, I snugly concealed in the crown of my hat, previously to leaving the vessel. When his excellency asked me if I had any, I replied in the negative, under ihe persuasion, that in so harmless a case as this, the end would excuse if not justify the means. No sooner had we left the room, than the interpreter to my astonishment said to me, “ When you told the general that you had no newspapers, why did you let him see into the inside of your hat ?" I was no less surprized at the discovery, than chagrincd at the unguarded action by which it was produced; but although I was not positively convinced tliat the general had perceived the papers, I was sure the interpreter had, and as I felt myself indebted to his urbanity in not exposing my hat, I could not refuse to lend them to him
upon promise to return then, which he strictly adhered to.
There are now resident at this place of our countrymen about twelve or fifteen, and a few English and Irish gentlemen, who are ranked in the class of American merchants, we being at this day the only people carrying on the commerce of the island. Our society is pretty much confined to ourselves, for except hy special invitations to festivals or balls, there is very little social intercourse supported between the natives and the Americans. This arises principally from the disposition of both to associate with those of their own colour and language, tud.partly from the pride of the former, who do not by any incans fcel disposed to be intiinata and familiar with the whites. I speak of the nabohs of the country, who being the present
lords of the soil, assume all the pompous dignity and conse. quence of noblemen. Those of a middling class among the citizens are much inclined to be civil, and such of the Amerieans as are desirous of cultivating their acquaintance, find no difficulty in so doing. But what is lost in attention from the warriors, statesmen, and other grand dignitaries of the empire, is amply compensated by the kind reception which is every where met with from the fair sex, by our gallant countrymen, who are lovers of beauty under whatever coloured veil it may appear.
A description of the persons and characters of the women, constitutes a very important branch of the duty of the traveller, who undertakes to write an account of any particular nation; and I should consider myself as falling very far short in my respect for the ladies, were I to pass unnoticed the gay and sprightly damsels who make so conspicuous a figure in the beau-monde of Hayti, or who display their charms with such fascinating lustre at the imperial court of Jacques the First. anticipate the smile which will be excited, as you picture to yourself a sable belle decorated in all the splendor and taste of fashion, tripping down the mazy dance, and rivalling even the very Graces, in a display of her accomplished movements and graceful attitudes. But pardon the interruption, I mean not to embellish my narrative with such fancy coloured descriptions, as your imagination may invent, but to delineate the Haytian ladies in their true colours, that you may yourself form a judgment of their merits. You, as well as others must know, that the inhabitants of the United States have been accustomed to see people of colour in no other capacity than that of slaves, servants, or labourers, without education and consequently incapacitated for any stations in life but those of the most humble nature. This being the case, they have very naturally im-bibed certain prejudices, which have become so habitual as to be with difficulty removed. They are accustomed to consider all those who are possessed of even a single drop of African blood in their veins, as belonging to the class of negroes, and the only idea they are disposed to form of people of colour, is founded upon what they have been in the constant habit of wit
niessing. Thus it is extremely difficult for an American to believe, that there can be in this island, mulatto men who have been brought up by their white fathers, with all the care and attention, which parents usually bestow upon their legitimate cil'spring, who have been educated at colleges in France, and uho are accomplished classical scholars. Yet the fact is so, and perhaps when this information is premised, it may not appear so extraordinais, that aniong th: lsaytian women also, many should be found who are a'layted for a different sphere of life, from those of our own country.
During the existence of the ancient system of colonial government, which was terminated !y the French revolution, when peace and tranquillity held their united empire within the bosom of this then happy island, Hispaniola possessed in a profuse degrce, all that wealth and luxury, which the fertility of its soil was calculated to produce, and the inclinations of its inhabitants predisposed to enjoy. Ilospitality then extended her downy wings over the splendid intension of every opulent planter, and with joyful welcome invited the sun-oppressed and weary traveller, to partake of the festive board of her generous patron. But unfortunately it not unfrequently happened, that tokens of domestic kindness, and of zeal for the accommodation of the guest, were not confined to the social pleasures of the table, or the unbounded varietics with which it was loaded. A looseness of niorals liad by degrees been introduced, which corrupting the virtue of a chaste hospitality, transformed her sacred rights into the lewd practices of a brothel. The master too was not ashamed to indulge in a similar illicit and disgraceful commerce with his own female slaves, and hence was produced a race of people, whose approximation in colour to the white, advanced with every new generation, until in the year 1789, a population equal to four fifths of that of the whites, was extended over the island. As the colonies became gradually more and inore accustomed to the sight of persons of a mixed blood, it was in the same proportion deemed less discreditable in a white father to rear and educate his coloured child. Bul a deep-rooted prejudice against people of colour as regarded their claims to any degree of rank, so completely governed the European as well