« EdellinenJatka »
bon, queen of Spain and the Indies,
Captain Widdrington evidently con purpose to which this fertile territory siders that this daring attempt on the might be applied. part of Christina's faction, as well as The roads through these districts subsequent almost equally strange are, as might be expected, execrable, events that have occurred in Spain, intersected by large open ditches to were in great measure concerted and
carry off the water; and subsequently organized in France, the money pro to each journey the diligence requires ceeding partly from the French trea extensive repairs. After Truxillo, sury and partly from the coffers of however, public conveyances are no Christina-coffers which she had taken longer to be found, and mules supply excellent care to fill during the period their place. On these the travellers of her regency. We have been rather reach Logrosan, where is situate the amused at the diplomatic caution dis vein of phosphorite that it was one of played by the Captain when alluding the objects of their journey to visit. to French intrigues. The French are Four mule-loads of the mineral are always “our neighbours," and Louis taken as a sample, and forwarded to Philippe a certain personage." His Seville; and this done, an excursion meaning, however, is plain enough, is made to the famous sanctuary of and we fully agree with him, that Guadelupe, in the sacristy at which French gold and French counsels and place are some of the finest paintings influence have been at the bottom of of Zurbaran. Not the least agreeable most of the disturbances that have portions of Captain Widdrington's taken place in Spain since the year
book are his descriptions of the 1810. But enough, for the present, churches and other edifices he visits, of plots and plotters; we shall perhaps and of the pictures and carvings they find more of them before we bid our contain. Details of that kind are author farewell in Vigo Bay. At pre often apt to be dry and wearisome; sent we will follow him to the mines but these are done con amore, and of Almaden, whither he betakes him varied by reflections and criticisms, self after rambling through a con of which many are very interesting. siderable portion of Estremadura, one It had been a matter of deliberation of the most fertile, but neglected and with Captain Widdrington, upon thinly peopled, of Spanish provinces. commencing his wanderings in the “Nothing,” he says, “is wanted but Peninsula, whether it were advisable a good government to assist the boun- to be armed or not. The usual advice teous hand with which the gifts of one gets upon this subject on entering Providence have been showered on Spain, is to take neither arms nor this beautiful region.” But, alas ! in money, or at least no more of the stead of a thriving peasantry and
latter than is absolutely necessary for well-tilled soil, what does he meet the journey. By being unarmed, the with ? Despoblados, or deserts, with traveller is said to avoid risk of ill here and there some wretched villages, treatment at the hands of any banfew and far between, and from time ditti he may chance to encounter, and to time a cortijo, or farm-house, with who, if they see him with weapons, its cultivated patch ; but the general are apt her to give him a volley face of the country is zaral, ground from some ambuscade, or to murder covered with the cistus, numerous him for having thought of resistance. varieties of that beautiful plant Captain Widdrington's theory is difabounding in the province. Captain ferent. He calculates that, as the Widdrington mentions four sorts he majority of Spanish robbers are rafound in flower—the gum cistus, a teros, or ignoble and dastardly cutlarge white species without spots, a purses, who prowl about by twos and smaller white, and the purple kind threes, it is just as well to be provided common in English gardens. Furze, with a few fire-arms, the mere sight then just breaking into flower, and of which may make all the differenee retama, or brooms, vary the collec between being robbed or not. He tion; interesting enough, no doubt, to has accordingly armed himself, his the botanist, but a melancholy sight companion, and attendant with muswhen one reflects on the far better kets; and between Logrosan and Al.
work Gone he m
Th speil increa
maden he finds the advantage of hav to the seller; and, once made, the coning done so. While passing through sumer is entirely at the mercy of the a wild and broken country, with no contractor-the Almaden mines proroad, and scarcely any visible track, ducing a very large portion of all the he perceives three suspicious-looking quicksilver known to exist in the customers descending through a field world. Madame Calderon de la Barca, to the further side of a thicket which in her Life in Mexico, alludes to this he is about to traverse. He calls up when speaking of the unsuccessful his companions, who are a little in mining speculations in that country, the rear-they look to their arms, and where "heaps of silver lie abandoned, prepare for a brush. If the three men because the expense of acquiring that have been seen are alone, the quicksilver renders it wholly unprotravellers are a match for them ; but fitable to extract it.” That lady furthey may be only the van or rear ther observes, that quicksilver has guard of a larger force.
been paid for at one hundred and fifty “After waiting a little time in si dollars per quintal in real cash, when lence, there was no appearance of their the same quantity was given at creemerging from the thicket, which was dit by the Spanish government for very close; and, as it would have fifty dollars. Madame Calderon is been imprudent to enter it, we called good authority ; but we suspect that out to them to advance. They were the cause of such a vast difference still invisible, but a voice answered, between the price given and demanded • Come on, we shall not meddle with by the contractor, must have been the you.' We then rode through, and found cash advances required by the Spathem on the banks of a pretty stream nish government.
6. The contract that flowed through the ravine, pre once made," says Captain Widdringparing to breakfast; some beautiful ton, “it is clear that, excepting any bread, far better than any we could qualms of conscience the lessee may find in the villages, being part of their be influenced by, there is no check intended repast. The man who had upon his cupidity. The temptation answered was nearest to the ford, to charge exorbitant prices is inand the others a little higher up. Of creased by the habit of the governcourse we passed them at the re ment requiring large sums to be paid cover,' and the simple salutation of down. This practice, which was unVaya va con Dios ! was interchangedavoidable during the civil war, when Had we omitted exchanging this com it frequently produced the only ready pliment, even with the people we money they could lay their hands on, were now dealing with, we should has continued, and must still do so, have risked being thought unpolished.” unless a financial change take place."
There is something characteristic Owing to this state of things, the and Gil Blas-like about this—Spanish profit to the government is only about all over. Pass we on to the Almaden £75,000 per annum; although we are mines, of which there is a detailed told that the price has been raised, in and very interesting account.
a few years, from thirty-four to eightyThe quicksilver mines of Almaden four dollars the quintal—the price are one of the sure cards of the Spa- paid to the government we presume. nish finance minister, and during the The contract was taken in 1843 by late war, especially, were often a great those great accapareurs of good things, resource to the poverty-stricken go the Rothschilds. Of course, as long vernment. When other sources of as the civil war lasted, if the contracrevenue failed, there were always to tors had to give money in advance, be found speculators willing to treat the risk they ran entitled them to a for the quicksilver contract; and these large rate of profit. Had Don Carlos mines, like the tobacco and other mo got the upper hand before they had nopolies, and the Havanna revenue, reimbursed themselves, their lien upon have helped many a Spanish minister the mines would have been so much in his moment of greatest need. Of waste paper; or even, without that, course, as the usual demand was mo
they might have been exposed to conney down, the bargains were fre siderable loss and delay had Messrs quently made at great disadvantage Cabrera, Balmaseda, Palillos, or
others of the same kidney, chosen to ployed at the Almaden establishtake a turn in that direction, carry off ment, and most of those who work the workmen, destroy or damage the in the mines suffer, as may be supworks, or drown out the mines. posed, in their health, from the unGomez did pay Almaden a visit when wholesome exhalations. In the sumhe made the tour of Spain with his mer, when tlfey are most liable to be expeditionary corps. He burned a affected in that way, work is suspendpart of the town and plundered all he ed, the labourers retire to their recould; but did no harm to the mine- spective provinces to recruit, and genwhich was either very foolish or very erally return in the autumn, restored considerate of him.
by their native air. Temperance, There is room for much curious cleanliness, and a milk-diet appear to speculation as to the effect which the be the best preservatives from the perincreased and increasing value of nicious effects of the mercury-infected quicksilver may have upon the mone atmosphere. tary system of Europe, especially in Captain Widdrington does not visit France and other countries where sil- Catalonia, which we regret ; for we ver is the legal currency, and gold should like to have had the result of very little used on account of the pre his observations on that turbulent mium on it. It has been seen above, and troublesome province, to which that, in Mexico, silver is not worth he once or twice alludes. It must refining, owing to the dearness of the truly be a difficult thing to legislate mineral required for the purpose. Un for a country split into so many conless something be discovered as a flicting interests — fancied interests substitute for quicksilver, the same many of them-as Spain is. The result will, in all probability, ensue Catalonians, for instance, have got a in other mining districts ; and the notion that they are cotton-manufacnatural consequence will be the dimi turers-a notion which their northern nished use of silver as a circulating neighbours do all in their power to medium, and the increased employ- nourish and encourage. Of course, ment of gold, the more so as the sup- the French would be much annoyed ply of the latter metal has of late to see Spanish ports opened to cotton years been greatly augmented — a goods at a reasonable duty, until great deal now coming from Asiatic such time (if it ever arrives) as they Russia—while its wear and tear are can compete successfully with English very small. This change would not manufacturers. It suits their book arise from a scarcity of quicksilver, much better to have a prohibition, or the quantity and quality of which, at what amounts to such, imposed on Almaden at least, improve as the all foreign cottons. The Pyrenees are miners get deeper into the vein ; and, high, but it is a long line of frontier moreover, the portion extracted is from Port Vendres to Bayonne, and limited to 20,000 quintals, or weights the deuce is in it if they cannot maof 105 pounds English. • All the
nage to smuggle more French calicoes works are executed in a truly royal and percales, and suchlike commomanner; and so capacious and en dities into Spain, than would ever larged are the views carried out in the be taken by the Spaniards were those management, that they only take away articles admitted at a reasonable duty, about one-half of the mineral, leaving which would put a stop to smuggling the other as a legacy to the future by rendering it unprofitable. At prepossessors of it, and to provide a sup sent there is a regular tariff of smugply in case of unforeseen accidents in glers' charges for passing goods, so the workings." There are other uses much per cent on the value, accorbesides the refining of silver to which ding to the bulk and nature of the quicksilver is applied; and should the articles; and the agents of this traffic contractors continue to raise the price abound in Bayonne, Oleron, Perpigof the latter, the consequence must nan, and all the frontier towns. The necessarily be an increase in the va idea prevailing in Spain, that Esparlue of the former, and a diminution in tero intended entering into a treaty its consumption.
of commerce with England, made There are five thousand men em him enemies of the Catalonians, and
indeed of the majority of the mercan where the land, although rich in its
" To these miserable manu peace, instead of ruining their coun-
These manufacturing madmen, the habit of revolutions and rebellions. Catalonians, are the plague-spot of "In all the larger towns of Spain," the Peninsula. Obstinate, fiery, and we quote Captain Widdrington, there selfish, they think only of themselves, is a crowd of idlers, characters with and of what they consider their in little or no occupation, frequenters of terests, petty and miscrable as the theatres and cafés, great readers of latter are compared to those of the journals, and considerable politicians, rest of Spain. The real interests of pretenders to small places, excessively the country are obvious to any but ignorant, and ready to join in any prejudiced understandings. It is a movement provided it be attended land flowing with milk and honey, or, with little personal risk to themselves. what is far better, with wine and oil ; A large portion of this class took a abounding in valuable products, of very active part in opposing the gowhich the export might be vastly in vernment, and were delighted to figure creased by admitting the manufac in juntas, or fill other analogous sitnatures of countries possessing, perhaps, tions, giving them a momentary ima less-favoured soil and climate, but portance, and possibly a few dollars a more industrious population. In at the public expense.” And this is stead of making bad calicoes at a high one of the great causes of the unsettled price, let the Spaniards set to work to state of Spain, the immense number clear and plant their despoblados of idlers. Wars and revolutions, prolet them improve their system of agri ducing an unflourishing state of trade culture, their mode of producing oil ; and agriculture, have discouraged let them cut canals and make roads, Spaniards, during the last thirty or and get something like decent com forty years, from putting their children munications between towns and pro to trades or professions. “There is no vinces. The irrigation of the soil in knowing how long this war may last," Spain is also a matter of great im they used to say during the Carlist portance, and which, in many parts contest; and as long as it lasts, of the country, is at present sadly there is no good to be done in Spain. neglected. There are vast districts So, instead of bringing up their sons that remain uninhabited and barren, to work, they just let them live on solely because people will not build from day to day, gossiping and or live where they are beyond a cer smoking ; and at the present moment tain distance from water; districts there are many hundred thousand where every thing is parched and dry young and middle-aged men of the for the greater part of the year, and lower and middle classes, especially