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At Last by Charles Kingsley

CHAPTER III: TRINIDAD

It may be worth while to spend a few pages in telling something of the history of this lovely island since the 31st of July 1499, when Columbus, on his third voyage, sighted the three hills in the south- eastern part. He had determined, it is said, to name the first land which he should see after the Blessed Trinity; the triple peaks seemed to him a heaven-sent confirmation of his intent, and he named the island Trinidad; but the Indians called it Iere.

He ran from Punta Galera, at the north-eastern extremity -- so named from the likeness of a certain rock to a galley under sail -- along the east and south of the island; turned eastward at Punta Galeota; and then northward, round Punta Icacque, through the Boca Sierpe, or serpent's mouth, into the Gulf of Paria, which he named 'Golfo de Balena,' the Gulf of the Whale, and 'Golfo Triste,' the Sad Gulf; and went out by the northern passage of the Boca Drago. The names which he gave to the island and its surroundings remain, with few alterations, to this day.

He was surprised, says Washington Irving, at the verdure and fertility of the country, having expected to find it more parched and sterile as he approached the equator; whereas he beheld groves of palm-trees, and luxuriant forests sweeping down to the seaside, with fountains and running streams beneath the shade. The shore was low and uninhabited: but the country rose in the interior, and was cultivated in many places, and enlivened by hamlets and scattered habitations. In a word, the softness and purity of the climate, and the verdure, freshness, and sweetness of the country, appeared to equal the delights of early spring in the beautiful province of Valencia in Spain.

He found the island peopled by a race of Indians with fairer complexions than any he had hitherto seen; 'people all of good stature, well made, and of very graceful bearing, with much and smooth hair.' They wore, the chiefs at least, tunics of coloured cotton, and on their heads beautiful worked handkerchiefs, which looked in the distance as if they were made of silk. The women, meanwhile, according to the report of Columbus's son, seem, some of them at least, to have gone utterly without clothing.

They carried square bucklers, the first Columbus had seen in the New World; and bows and arrows, with which they made feeble efforts to drive off the Spaniards who landed at Punta Arenal, near Icacque, and who, finding no streams, sank holes in the sand, and so filled their casks with fresh water, as may be done, it is said, at the same spot even now.

And there -- the source of endless misery to these happy harmless creatures -- a certain Cacique, so goes the tale, took off Columbus's cap of crimson velvet, and replaced it with a circle of gold which he wore.

Alas for them! That fatal present of gold brought down on them enemies far more ruthless than the Caribs of the northern islands, who had a habit of coming down in their canoes and carrying off the gentle Arrawaks to eat them at their leisure, after the fashion which Defoe, always accurate, has immortalised in Robinson Crusoe. Crusoe's island is, almost certainly, meant for Tobago; Man Friday had been stolen in Trinidad.

Columbus came no more to Trinidad. But the Spaniards had got into their wicked heads that there must be gold somewhere in the island; and they came again and again. Gold they could not get; for it does not exist in Trinidad. But slaves they could get; and the history of the Indians of Trinidad for the next century is the same as that of the rest of the West Indies: a history of mere rapine and cruelty. The Arrawaks, to do them justice, defended themselves more valiantly than the still gentler people of Hayti, Cuba, Jamaica, Porto Rico, and the Lucayas: but not so valiantly as the fierce cannibal Caribs of the Lesser Antilles, whom the Spaniards were never able to subdue.

It was in 1595, nearly a century after Columbus discovered the island, that 'Sir Robert Duddeley in the Bear, with Captain Munck, in the Beare's Whelpe, with two small pinnesses, called the Frisking and the Earwig,' ran across from Cape Blanco in Africa, straight for Trinidad, and anchored in Cedros Bay, which he calls Curiapan, inside Punta Icacque and Los Gallos -- a bay which was then, as now, 'very full of pelicans.' The existence of the island was known to the English: but I am not aware that any Englishman had explored it. Two years before, an English ship, whose exploits are written in Hakluyt by one Henry May, had run in, probably to San Fernando, 'to get refreshing; but could not, by reason the Spaniards had taken it. So that for want of victuals the company would have forsaken the ship.' How different might have been the history of Trinidad, if at that early period, while the Indians were still powerful, a little colony of English had joined them, and intermarried with them. But it was not to be. The ship got away through the Boca Drago. The year after, seemingly, Captain Whiddon, Raleigh's faithful follower, lost eight men in the island in a Spanish ambush. But Duddeley was the first Englishman, as far as I am aware, who marched, 'for his experience and pleasure, four long marches through the island; the last fifty miles going and coming through a most monstrous thicke wood, for so is most part of the island; and lodging myself in Indian townes.' Poor Sir Robert -- 'larding the lean earth as he stalked along' -- in ruff and trunk hose, possibly too in burning steel breastplate, most probably along the old Indian path from San Fernando past Savannah Grande, and down the Ortoire to Mayaro on the east coast. How hot he must have been. How often, we will hope, he must have bathed on the journey in those crystal brooks, beneath the balisiers and the bamboos. He found 'a fine- shaped and a gentle people, all naked and painted red' (with roucou), 'their commanders wearing crowns of feathers,' and a country 'fertile and full of fruits, strange beasts and fowls, whereof munkeis, babions, and parats were in great abundance.' His 'munkeis' were, of course, the little Sapajous; his 'babions' no true Baboons; for America disdains that degraded and dog-like form; but the great red Howlers. He was much delighted with the island; and 'inskonced himself' -- i.e. built a fort: but he found the Spanish governor, Berreo, not well pleased at his presence; 'and no gold in the island save Marcasite' (iron pyrites); considered that Berreo and his three hundred Spaniards were 'both poore and strong, and so he had no reason to assault them.' He had but fifty men himself, and, moreover, was tired of waiting in vain for Sir Walter Raleigh. So he sailed away northward, on the 12th of March, to plunder Spanish ships, with his brains full of stories of El Dorado, and the wonders of the Orinoco -- among them 'four golden half-moons weighing a noble each, and two bracelets of silver,' which a boat's crew of his had picked up from the Indians on the other side of the Gulf of Paria.

He left somewhat too soon. For on the 22d of March Raleigh sailed into Cedros Bay, and then went up to La Brea and the Pitch Lake. There he noted, as Columbus had done before him, oysters growing on the mangrove roots; and noted, too, 'that abundance of stone pitch, that all the ships of the world might be therewith laden from thence; and we made trial of it in trimming our shippes, to be most excellent good, and melteth not with the sun as the pitch of Norway.' From thence he ran up the west coast to 'the mountain of Annaparima' (St. Fernando hill), and passing the mouth of the Caroni, anchored at what was then the village of Port of Spain.

There some Spaniards boarded him, to buy linen and other things, all which he 'entertained kindly, and feasted after our manner, by means whereof I learned as much of the estate of Guiana as I could, or as they knew, for those poore souldiers having been many years without wine, a few draughts made them merrie, in which mood they vaunted of Guiana and the riches thereof,' -- much which it had been better for Raleigh had he never heard.

Meanwhile the Indians came to him every night with lamentable complaints of Berreo's cruelty. 'He had divided the island and given to every soldier a part. He made the ancient Caciques that were lords of the court, to be their slaves. He kept them in chains; he dropped their naked bodies with burning bacon, and such other torments, which' (continues Raleigh) 'I found afterward to be true. For in the city' (San Josef), 'when I entered it, there were five lords, or little kings, in one chain, almost dead of famine, and wasted with torments.' Considering which; considering Berreo's treachery to Whiddon's men; and considering also that as Berreo himself, like Raleigh, was just about to cross the gulf to Guiana in search of El Dorado, and expected supplies from Spain; 'to leave a garrison in my back, interested in the same enterprise, I should have savoured very much of the asse.' So Raleigh fell upon the 'Corps du Guard' in the evening, put them to the sword, sent Captain Caulfield with sixty soldiers onward, following himself with forty more, up the Caroni river, which was then navigable by boats; and took the little town of San Josef.

It is not clear whether the Corps du Guard which he attacked was at Port of Spain itself, or at the little mud fort at the confluence of the Caroni and San Josef rivers, which was to be seen, with some old pieces of artillery in it, in the memory of old men now living. But that he came up past that fort, through the then primeval forest, tradition reports; and tells, too, how the prickly climbing palm, {58} the Croc-chien, or Hook-dog, pest of the forests, got its present name upon that memorable day. For, as the Spanish soldiers ran from the English, one of them was caught in the innumerable hooks of the Croc-chien, and never looking behind him in his terror, began shouting, 'Suelta mi, Ingles!' (Let me go, Englishman!) -- or, as others have it, 'Valga mi, Ingles!' (Take ransom for me, Englishman!) -- which name the palm bears unto this day.

So Raleigh, having, as one historian of Trinidad says, 'acted like a tiger, lest he should savour of the ass,' went his way to find El Dorado, and be filled with the fruit of his own devices: and may God have mercy on him; and on all who, like him, spoil the noblest instincts, and the noblest plans, for want of the 'single eye.'

But before he went, he 'called all the Caciques who were enemies to the Spaniard, for there were some that Berreo had brought out of other countreys and planted there, to eat out and waste those that were natural of the place; and, by his Indian interpreter that he had brought out of England, made them understand that he was the servant of a Queene, who was the great Cacique of the North, and a virgin, and had more Caciques under her than there were trees in that island; and that she was an enemy to the Castellani in respect of their tyranny and oppression, and that she delivered all such nations about her as were by them oppressed, and, having freed all the northern world from their servitude, had sent me to free them also, and withal to defend the country of Guiana from their invasion and conquest. I showed them her Majesty's picture' (doubtless in ruff, farthingale, and stomacher laden with jewels), 'which they so admired and honoured, as it had been easy to make them idolatrous thereof.'

And so Raleigh, with Berreo as prisoner, 'hasted away toward his proposed discovery,' leaving the poor Indians of Trinidad to be eaten up by fresh inroads of the Spaniards.

There were, in his time, he says, five nations of Indians in the island, -- 'Jaios,' 'Arwacas,' 'Salvayos' (Salivas?), 'Nepoios,' and round San Josef 'Carinepagotes'; and there were others, he confesses, which he does not name. Evil times were come upon them. Two years after, the Indians at Punta Galera (the north-east point of the island) told poor Keymis that they intended to escape to Tobago when they could no longer keep Trinidad, though the Caribs of Dominica were 'such evil neighbours to it' that it was quite uninhabited. Their only fear was lest the Spaniards, worse neighbours than even the Caribs, should follow them thither.

But as Raleigh and such as he went their way, Berreo and such as he seem to have gone their way also. The 'Conquistadores,' the offscourings not only of Spain but of South Germany, and indeed of every Roman Catholic country in Europe, met the same fate as befell, if monk chroniclers are to be trusted, the great majority of the Normans who fought at Hastings. 'The bloodthirsty and deceitful men did not live out half their days.' By their own passions, and by no miraculous Nemesis, they civilised themselves off the face of the earth; and to them succeeded, as to the conquerors at Hastings, a nobler and gentler type of invaders. During the first half of the seventeenth century, Spaniards of ancient blood and high civilisation came to Trinidad, and re-settled the island: especially the family of Farfan -- 'Farfan de los Godos,' once famous in mediaeval chivalry -- if they will allow me the pleasure of for once breaking a rule of mine, and mentioning a name -- who seem to have inherited for some centuries the old blessings of Psalm xxxvii. --

'Put thou thy trust in the Lord, and be doing good; dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

'The Lord knoweth the days of the godly: and their inheritance shall endure for ever.

'They shall not be confounded in perilous times; and in the days of dearth they shall have enough.'

Toward the end of the seventeenth century the Indians summoned up courage to revolt, after a foolish ineffectual fashion. According to tradition, and an old 'romance muy doloroso,' which might have been heard sung within the last hundred years, the governor, the Cabildo, and the clergy went to witness an annual feast of the Indians at Arena, a sandy spot (as its name signifies) near the central mountain of Tamana. In the middle of one of their warlike dances, the Indians, at a given signal, discharged a flight of arrows, which killed the governor, all the priests, and almost all the rest of the whites. Only a Farfan escaped, not without suspicion of forewarning by the rebels. He may have been a merciful man and just; while considering the gentle nature of the Indians, it is possible that some at least of their victims deserved their fate, and that the poor savages had wrongs to avenge which had become intolerable. As for the murder of the priests, we must remember always that the Inquisition was then in strength throughout Spanish America; and could be, if it chose, aggressive and ruthless enough.

By the end of the seventeenth century there were but fifteen pueblos, or Indian towns, in the island; and the smallpox had made fearful ravages among them. Though they were not forced to work as slaves, a heavy capitation tax, amounting, over most of the island, to two dollars a head, was laid on them almost to the end of the last century. There seems to have been no reason in the nature of things why they should not have kept up their numbers; for the island was still, nineteen-twentieths of it, rich primeval forest. It may have been that they could not endure the confined life in the pueblos, or villages, to which they were restricted by law. But, from some cause or other, they died out, and that before far inferior numbers of invaders. In 1783, when the numbers of the whites were only 126, of the free coloured 295, and of the slaves 310, the Indians numbered only 2032. In 1798, after the great immigration from the French West Indies, there were but 1082 Indians in the island. It is true that the white population had increased meanwhile to 2151, the free coloured to 4476, and the slaves to 10,000. But there was still room in plenty for 2000 Indians. Probably many of them had been absorbed by intermarriage with the invaders. At present, there is hardly an Indian of certainly pure blood in the island, and that only in the northern mountains.

Trinidad ought to have been, at least for those who were not Indians, a happy place from the seventeenth almost to the nineteenth century, if it be true that happy is the people who have no history. Certain Dutchmen, whether men of war or pirates is not known, attacked it some time toward the end of the seventeenth century, and, trying to imitate Raleigh, were well beaten in the jungles between the Caroni and San Josef. The Indians, it is said, joined the Spaniards in the battle; and the little town of San Josef was rewarded for its valour by being raised to the rank of a city by the King of Spain.

The next important event which I find recorded is after the treaty of 27th August 1701, between 'His Most Christian' and 'His Most Catholic Majesty,' by which the Royal Company of Guinea, established in France, was allowed to supply the Spanish colonies with 4800 Negroes per annum for ten years; of whom Trinidad took some share, and used them in planting cacao. So much the worse for it.

Next Captain Teach, better known as 'Blackboard,' made his appearance about 1716, off Port of Spain; plundered and burnt a brig laden with cacao; and when a Spanish frigate came in, and cautiously cannonaded him at a distance, sailed leisurely out of the Boca Grande. Little would any Spanish Guarda Costa trouble the soul of the valiant Captain Teach, with his six pistols slung in bandoliers down his breast, lighted matches stuck underneath the brim of his hat, and his famous black beard, the terror of all merchant captains from Trinidad to Guinea River, twisted into tails, and tied up with ribbons behind his ears. How he behaved himself for some years as a 'ferocious human pig,' like Ignatius Loyola before his conversion, with the one virtue of courage; how he would blow out the candle in the cabin, and fire at random into his crew, on the ground 'that if he did not kill one of them now and then they would forget who he was'; how he would shut down the hatches, and fill the ship with the smoke of brimstone and what not, to see how long he and his could endure a certain place, -- to which they are, some of them, but too probably gone; how he has buried his money, or said that he had, 'where none but he and Satan could find it, and the longest liver should take all'; how, out of some such tradition, Edgar Poe built up the wonderful tale of the Gold Bug; how the planters of certain Southern States, and even the Governor of North Carolina, paid him blackmail, and received blackmail from him likewise; and lastly, how he met a man as brave as he, but with a clear conscience and a clear sense of duty, in the person of Mr. Robert Maynard, first lieutenant of the Pearl, who found him after endless difficulties, and fought him hand-to-hand in Oberecock River, in Virginia, 'the lieutenant and twelve men against Blackbeard and fourteen, till the sea was tinctured with blood around the vessel'; and how Maynard sailed into Bathtown with the gory head, black beard and all, hung at his jibboom end; all this is written -- in the books in which it is written; which need not be read now, however sensational, by the British public.

The next important event which I find recorded in the annals of Trinidad is, that in 1725 the cacao crop failed. Some perhaps would have attributed the phenomenon to a comet, like that Sir William Beeston who, writing in 1664, says -- 'About this time appeared first the comet, which was the forerunner of the blasting of the cacao- trees, when they generally failed in Jamaica, Cuba, and Hispaniola.' But no comet seems to have appeared in 1725 whereon to lay the blame; and therefore Father Gumilla, the Jesuit, may have been excused for saying that the failure of the trees was owing to the planters not paying their tithes; and for fortifying his statement by the fact that one planter alone, named Rabelo, who paid his tithes duly, saved his trees and his crop.

The wicked (according to Dauxion Lavaysse, a Frenchman inoculated somewhat with scientific and revolutionary notions, who wrote a very clever book, unfortunately very rare now) said that the Trinidad cacao was then, as now, very excellent; that therefore it was sold before it was gathered; and that thus the planters were able to evade the payment of tithes. But Senor Rabelo had planted another variety, called Forestero, from the Brazils, which was at once of hardier habit, inferior quality, and slower ripening. Hence his trees withstood the blight: but, en revanche, hence also, merchants would not buy his crop before it was picked: thus his duty became his necessity, and he could not help paying his tithes.

Be that as it may, the good folk of Trinidad (and, to judge from their descendants, there must have been good folk among them) grew, from the failure of the cacao plantations, exceeding poor; so that in 1733 they had to call a meeting at San Josef, in order to tax the inhabitants, according to their means, toward thatching the Cabildo hall with palm-leaves. Nay, so poor did they become, that in 1740, the year after the smallpox had again devastated the island and the very monkeys had died of it, -- as the hapless creatures died of cholera in hundreds a few years since, and of yellow fever the year before last, sensibly diminishing their numbers near the towns -- let the conceit of human nature wince under the fact as it will, it cannot wince from under the fact, -- in 1740, I say the war between Spain and England -- that about Jenkins's ear -- forced them to send a curious petition to his Majesty of Spain; and to ask -- Would he be pleased to commiserate their situation? The failure of the cacao had reduced them to such a state of destitution that they could not go to Mass save once a year, to fulfil their 'annual precepts'; when they appeared in clothes borrowed from each other.

Nay, it is said by those who should know best, that in those days the whole august body of the Cabildo had but one pair of small- clothes, which did duty among all the members.

Let no one be shocked. The small-clothes desiderated would have been of black satin, probably embroidered; and fit, though somewhat threadbare, for the thigh of a magistrate and gentleman of Spain. But he would not have gone on ordinary days in a sansculottic state. He would have worn that most comfortable of loose nether garments, which may be seen on sailors in prints of the great war, and which came in again a while among the cunningest Highland sportsmen, namely, slops. Let no one laugh, either, at least in contempt, as the average British Philistine will think himself bound to do, at the fact that these men had not only no balance at their bankers, but no bankers with whom to have a balance. No men are more capable of supporting poverty with content and dignity than the Spaniards of the old school. For none are more perfect gentlemen, or more free from the base modern belief that money makes the man; and I doubt not that a member of the old Cabildo of San Josef in slops was far better company than an average British Philistine in trousers.

So slumbered on, only awakening to an occasional gentle revolt against their priests, or the governor sent to them from the Spanish Court, the good Spaniards of Trinidad; till the peace of 1783 woke them up, and they found themselves suddenly in a new, and an unpleasantly lively, world.

Rodney's victories had crippled Spain utterly; and crippled, too, the French West Indian islands, though not France itself: but the shrewd eye of a M. Rome de St. Laurent had already seen in Trinidad a mine of wealth, which might set up again, not the Spanish West Indians merely, but those of the French West Indians who had exhausted, as they fancied, by bad cultivation, the soils of Guadaloupe, Martinique, and St. Lucia. He laid before the Intendant at Caraccas, on whom Trinidad then depended, a scheme of colonisation, which was accepted, and carried out in 1783, by a man who, as far as I can discover, possessed in a pre-eminent degree that instinct of ruling justly, wisely, gently, and firmly, which is just as rare in this age as it was under the ancien regime. Don Josef Maria Chacon was his name, -- a man, it would seem, like poor Kaiser Joseph of Austria, born before his time. Among his many honourable deeds, let this one at least be remembered; that he turned out of Trinidad, the last Inquisitor who ever entered it.

Foreigners, who must be Roman Catholics (though on this point Chacon was as liberal as public opinion allowed him to be), were invited to settle on grants of Crown land. Each white person of either sex was to have some thirty-two acres, and half that quantity for every slave that he should bring. Free people of colour were to have half the quantity; and a long list of conditions was annexed, which, considering that they were tainted with the original sin of slave- holding, seem wise and just enough. Two articles especially prevented, as far as possible, absenteeism. Settlers who retired from the island might take away their property; but they must pay ten per cent on all which they had accumulated; and their lands reverted to the Crown. Similarly, if the heirs of a deceased settler should not reside in the colony, fifteen per cent was to be levied on the inheritance. Well had it been for every West Indian island, British or other, if similar laws had been in force in them for the last hundred years.

So into Trinidad poured, for good and evil, a mixed population, principally French, to the number of some 12,000; till within a year or two the island was Spanish only in name. The old Spaniards, who held, many of them, large sheets of the forests which they had never cleared, had to give them up, with grumblings and heart-burnings, to the newcomers. The boundaries of these lands were uncertain. The island had never been surveyed: and no wonder. The survey has been only completed during the last few years; and it is a mystery, to the non-scientific eye, how it has ever got done. One can well believe the story of the northern engineer who, when brought over to plan out a railroad, shook his head at the first sight of the 'high woods.' 'At home,' quoth he, 'one works outside one's work: here one works inside it.' Considering the density of the forests, one may as easily take a general sketch of a room from underneath the carpet as of Trinidad from the ground. However, thanks to the energy of a few gentlemen, who found occasional holes in the carpet through which they could peep, the survey of Trinidad is now about complete.

But in those days ignorance of the island, as well as the battle between old and new interests, brought lawsuits, and all but civil war. Many of the French settlers were no better than they should be; many had debts in other islands; many of the Negroes had been sent thither because they were too great ruffians to be allowed at home; and, what was worse, the premium of sixteen acres of land for every slave imported called up a system of stealing slaves, and sometimes even free coloured people, from other islands, especially from Grenada, by means of 'artful Negroes and mulatto slaves,' who were sent over as crimps. I shall not record the words in which certain old Spaniards describe the new population of Trinidad ninety years ago. They, of course, saw everything in the blackest light; and the colony has long since weeded and settled itself under a course of good government. But poor Don Josef Maria Chacon must have had a hard time of it while he tried to break into something like order such a motley crew.

He never broke them in, poor man. For just as matters were beginning to right themselves, the French Revolution broke out; and every French West Indian island burst into flame, -- physical, alas! as well as moral. Then hurried into Trinidad, to make confusion worse confounded, French Royalist families, escaping from the horrors in Hayti; and brought with them, it is said, many still faithful house-slaves born on their estates. But the Republican French, being nearly ten to one, were practical masters of the island; and Don Chacon, whenever he did anything unpopular, had to submit to 'manifestations,' with tricolour flag, Marseillaise, and Ca Ira, about the streets of Port of Spain; and to be privately informed by Admiral Artizabal that a guillotine was getting ready to cut off the heads of all loyal Spaniards, French, and British. This may have been an exaggeration: but wild deeds were possible enough in those wild days. Artizabal, the story goes, threatened to hang a certain ringleader (name not given) at his yard-arm. Chacon begged the man's life, and the fellow was 'spared to become the persecutor of his preserver, even to banishment, and death from a broken heart.' {65}

At last the explosion came. The English sloop Zebra was sent down into the Gulf of Paria to clear it of French privateers, manned by the defeated maroons and brigands of the French islands, who were paying respect to no flag, but pirating indiscriminately. Chacon confessed himself glad enough to have them exterminated. He himself could not protect his own trade. But the neutrality of the island must be respected. Skinner, the Zebra's captain, sailed away towards the Boca, and found, to his grim delight, that the privateers had mistaken him for a certain English merchantman whom they had blockaded in Port of Spain, and were giving him chase. He let them come up and try to board; and what followed may be easily guessed. In three-quarters of an hour they were all burnt, sunk, or driven on shore; the remnant of their crews escaped to Port of Spain, to join the French Republicans and vow vengeance.

Then, in a hapless hour, Captain Vaughan came into Port of Spain in the Alarm frigate. His intention was, of course, to protect the British and Spanish. They received him with open arms. But the privateers' men attacked a boat's crew of the Alarm, were beaten, raised a riot, and attacked a Welsh lady's house where English officers were at a party; after which, with pistol shots and climbing over back walls, the English, by help of a few Spanish gentlemen, escaped, leaving behind them their surgeon severely wounded.

Next morning, at sunrise, almost the whole of the frigate's crew landed in Port of Spain, fully armed, with Captain Vaughan at their head; the hot Welsh blood boiling in him. He unfurled the British flag, and marched into the town to take vengeance on the mob. A Spanish officer, with two or three men, came forward. What did a British captain mean by violating the law of nations? Vaughan would chastise the rascally French who had attacked his men. Then he must either kill the Spaniard or take him prisoner: and the officer tendered his sword.

'I will not accept the arms of a brave man who is doing his duty,' quoth poor over-valiant Vaughan, and put him aside. The hot Welsh blood was nevertheless the blood of a gentleman. They struck up 'Britons, Strike Home,' and marched on. The British and Spanish came out to entreat him. If a fight began, they would be all massacred. Still he marched on. The French, with three or four thousand slaves, armed, and mounting the tricolour cockade, were awaiting them, seemingly on the Savannah north of the town. Chacon was at his wits' end. He had but eighty soldiers, who said openly they would not fire on the English, but on the French. But the English were but 240, and the French twelve times that number. By deft cutting through cross streets Chacon got between the two bodies of madmen, and pleaded the indignity to Spain and the violation of neutral ground. The English must fight him before they fought the French. They would beat him: but as soon as the first shot was fired, the French would attack them likewise, and both parties alike would be massacred in the streets.

The hot Welsh blood cooled down before reason, and courage. Vaughan saluted Chacon; and marched back, hooted by the Republicans, who nevertheless kept at a safe distance. The French hunted every English and Irish person out of the town, some escaping barely with their lives. Only one man, however, was killed; and he, poor faithful slave, was an English Negro.

Vaughan saw that he had done wrong; that he had possibly provoked a war; and made for his error the most terrible reparation which man can make.

His fears were not without foundation. His conduct formed the principal count in the list of petty complaints against England, on the strength of which, five months after, in October 1796, Spain declared war against England, and, in conjunction with France and Holland, determined once more to dispute the empire of the seas.

The moment was well chosen. England looked, to those who did not know her pluck, to have sunk very low. Franco was rising fast; and Buonaparte had just begun his Italian victories. So the Spanish Court -- or at least Godoy, 'Prince of Peace' -- sought to make profit out of the French Republic. About the first profit which it made was the battle of St. Vincent; about the second, the loss of Trinidad.

On February 14, while Jervis and Nelson were fighting off Cape St. Vincent, Harvey and Abercrombie came into Carriacou in the Grenadines with a gallant armada; seven ships of the line, thirteen other men-of-war, and nigh 8000 men, including 1500 German jagers, on board.

On the 16th they were struggling with currents of the Bocas, piloted by a Mandingo Negro, Alfred Sharper, who died in 1836, 105 years of age. The line-of-battle ships anchored in the magnificent land- locked harbour of Chaguaramas, just inside the Boca de Monos. The frigates and transports went up within five miles of Port of Spain.

Poor Chacon had, to oppose this great armament, 5000 Spanish troops, 300 of them just recovering from yellow fever; a few old Spanish militia, who loved the English better than the French; and what Republican volunteers he could get together. They of course clamoured for arms, and demanded to be led against the enemy, as to this day; forgetting, as to this day, that all the fiery valour of Frenchmen is of no avail without officers, and without respect for those officers. Beside them, there lay under a little fort on Gaspar Grande island, in Chaguaramas harbour -- ah, what a Paradise to be denied by war -- four Spanish line-of-battle ships and a frigate. Their admiral, Apodaca, was a foolish old devotee. Their crews numbered 1600 men, 400 of whom were in hospital with yellow fever, and many only convalescent. The terrible Victor Hugues, it is said, offered a band of Republican sympathisers from Guadaloupe: but Chacon had no mind to take that Trojan horse within his fortress. 'We have too many lawless Republicans here already. Should the King send me aid, I will do my duty to preserve his colony for the crown: if not, it must fall into the hands of the English, whom I believe to be generous enemies, and more to be trusted than treacherous friends.'

What was to be done? Perhaps only that which was done. Apodaca set fire to his ships, either in honest despair, or by orders from the Prince of Peace. At least, he would not let them fall into English hands. At three in the morning Port of Spain woke up, all aglare with the blaze six miles away to the north-west. Negroes ran and shrieked, carrying this and that up and down upon their heads. Spaniards looked out, aghast. Frenchmen, cried, 'Aux armes!' and sang the Marseillaise. And still, over the Five Islands, rose the glare. But the night was calm; the ships burnt slowly; and the San Damaso was saved by English sailors. So goes the tale; which, if it be, as I believe, correct, ought to be known to those adventurous Yankees who have talked, more than once, of setting up a company to recover the Spanish ships and treasure sunk in Chaguaramas. For the ships burned before they sunk; and Apodaca, being a prudent man, landed, or is said to have landed, all the treasure on the Spanish Main opposite.

He met Chacon in Port of Spain at daybreak. The good governor, they say, wept, but did not reproach. The admiral crossed himself; and, when Chacon said 'All is lost,' answered (or did not answer, for the story, like most good stories, is said not to be quite true), 'Not all; I saved the image of St. Jago de Compostella, my patron and my ship's.' His ship's patron, however, says M. Joseph, was St. Vincent. Why tell the rest of the story? It may well be guessed. The English landed in force. The French Republicans (how does history repeat itself!) broke open the arsenal, overpowering the Spanish guard, seized some 3000 to 5000 stand of arms, and then never used them, but retired into the woods. They had, many of them, fought like tigers in other islands; some, it may be, under Victor Hugues himself. But here they had no leaders. The Spanish, overpowered by numbers, fell back across the Dry River to the east of the town, and got on a height. The German jagers climbed the beautiful Laventille hills, and commanded the Spanish and the two paltry mud forts on the slopes: and all was over, happily with almost no loss of life.

Chacon was received by Abercrombie and Harvey with every courtesy; a capitulation was signed which secured the honours of war to the military, and law and safety to the civil inhabitants; and Chacon was sent home to Spain to be tried by a court-martial; honourably acquitted; and then, by French Republican intrigues, calumniated, memorialised against, subscribed against, and hunted (Buonaparte having, with his usual meanness, a hand in the persecution) into exile and penury in Portugal. At last his case was heard a second time, and tardy justice done, not by popular clamour, but by fair and deliberate law. His nephew set out to bring the good man home in triumph. He found him dying in a wretched Portuguese inn. Chacon heard that his honour was cleared at last, and so gave up the ghost.

Thus ended -- as Earth's best men have too often ended -- the good Don Alonzo Chacon. His only monument in the island is one, after all, 'aere perennius;' namely, that most beautiful flowering shrub which bears his name; Warsewiczia, some call it; others, Calycophyllum: but the botanists of the island continue loyally the name of Chaconia to those blazing crimson spikes which every Christmas-tide renew throughout the wild forests, of which he would have made a civilised garden, the memory of the last and best of the Spanish Governors.

So Trinidad became English; and Picton ruled it, for a while, with a rod of iron.

I shall not be foolish enough to enter here into the merits or demerits of the Picton case, which once made such a noise in England. His enemies' side of the story will be found in M'Callum's Travels in Trinidad; his friends' side in Robinson's Life of Picton, two books, each of which will seem, I think, to him who will read them alternately, rather less wise than the other. But those who may choose to read the two books must remember that questions of this sort have not two sides merely, but more; being not superficies, but solids; and that the most important side is that on which the question stands, namely, its bottom; which is just the side which neither party liked to be turned up, because under it (at least in the West Indies) all the beetles and cockroaches, centipedes and scorpions, are nestled away out of sight: and there, as long since decayed, they, or their exuviae and dead bodies, may remain. The good people of Trinidad have long since agreed to let bygones be bygones; and it speaks well for the common-sense and good feeling of the islanders, as well as for the mildness and justice of British rule, that in two generations such a community as that of modern Trinidad should have formed itself out of materials so discordant. That British rule has been a solid blessing to Trinidad, all honest folk know well. Even in Picton's time, the population increased, in six years, from 17,700 to 28,400; in 1851 it was 69,600; and it is now far larger.

But Trinidad has gained, by becoming English, more than mere numbers. Had it continued Spanish, it would probably be, like Cuba, a slave-holding and slave-trading island, now wealthy, luxurious, profligate; and Port of Spain would be such another wen upon the face of God's earth as that magnificent abomination, the city of Havanna. Or, as an almost more ugly alternative, it might have played its part in that great triumph of Bliss by Act of Parliament, which set mankind to rights for ever, when Mr. Canning did the universe the honour of 'calling the new world into existence to redress the balance of the old.' It might have been -- probably would have been -- conquered by a band of 'sympathisers' from the neighbouring Republic of Venezuela, and have been 'called into existence' by the massacre of the respectable folk, the expulsion of capital, and the establishment (with a pronunciamento and a revolution every few years) of a Republic such as those of Spanish America, combining every vice of civilisation with every vice of savagery. From that fate, as every honest man in Trinidad knows well, England has saved the island; and therefore every honest man in Trinidad is loyal (with occasional grumblings, of course, as is the right of free-born Britons, at home and abroad) to the British flag.

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