« IndietroContinua »
been exercised in its construction is, I believe, Blanchet, a citizen of the Cape, who is considered as a man of colour, but who is of so light a complexion, that he might readily pass for a white man.
The fort is built entirely of stone, the outer walls are about six feet thick, and perhaps twenty high, of an evident solidity, and enclose an area, as nearly as I can estimate it, of about three to four hundred feet square, which is all neatly paved. The terraces are well mounted with pieces of heavy artillery of such weight, as one would scarcely believe it practicable to convey over such rugged and steep roads. The magazine is well stored with ammunition and small arms, and every arrangement appears to have been adopted, to render the place, in the fullest sense of the word, a strong hold. In the centre of the area is a spacious government house for the residence of the general in chief, should he ever be compelled to retreat to the mountains, a strong prison for malefactors and disorderly soldiers, and a sufficient number of other buildings to accommodate those who are eventually to share in the security to result from this extensive asylum.
The prospects from the batteries of this fortification, are of a character truly sublime. On the north is a complete view of the town of the Cape, with the shipping in its harbour-the seacoast as far as the eye can reach, and the immense and fertile Plaine du Nord, which extends from the foot of the mountain to the coast, and parallel to the latter from west to east farther than the sight can command. On the west is a tremendous precipice, commencing with the very base of the walls, and extending down the side of the mountain, which in that place varies so little from a perpendicular that a rock projected from the walls, would descend at least a mile before its progress would be impeded. On this side of the fort also, are extensive views of plantations, some of which are so near, that the cultivators labouring in the fields, appear to be immediately beneath you. The rural scenery of the whole, when thus beheld from an elevation, affording so complete a bird's eye prospect, is truly picturesque and beautiful, and cannot fail to excite in the mind of the spectator the highest gratification. On the east are stupendous mountains accessible only by the road we travelled,
and on the south, ridges entirely impassable to an army, but which might possibly offer to the mountaineers of the country a passage to convey provisions to the fort, in case it should ever be so closely besieged as to require additional supplies.
The cold temperature of this elevated and pure atmosphere, sharpened our appetites. We sat down to a breakfast consisting of a sort of beefsteak, a salt mackarel, some sallad, yams, plantains and cassave, enlivened by a glass of good claret, and some icy cold water, of which latter, there is a copious supply obtained from the rains, and preserved in cisterns. Whilst upon this visit, we had an opportunity of seeing female industry in the greatest perfection. The women of the country who reside in the vicinity of the fort, are called upon in turns to perform a tour of duty there, which continues about a week. It consists in carrying sand, mortar, lime, and other articles requisite for building up to the fort, from the spot where I informed you we had left our horses, that being the steepest part of the road and entirely impassable for loaded animals. A daily task is set them of twelve loads, at the conclusion of which, they are at liberty to dance for the remainder of the day. We saw about fifty from the ages of fifteen to half a century, black and yellow intermixed, engaged in this arduous and severe employment. The poor wretches seemed to bear their hardship with perfect resignation, and by way of supporting their spirits, chanted a Creole chorus, similar to the songs they are accustomed to in their dances, when accompanied by the harmonious melody of the tambourine. One of the party preceded the troop bearing an old standard, composed of a stuff that looked as if it might once have been blue calimanco. Upon viewing these industrious labourers, I could not help remarking to the colonel, that I thought it a great reflexion upon his gallantry, to employ the fair sex in an occupation so extremely coarse, and so ill adapted to the softness of their delicate nature. He replied, that the fort was constructed as much for their safety as that of the men, and that of consequence it was no more than just they should contribute in some degree to its establishment. This is the fort, to which in the early part of the year
1804, the women of the Cape were compelled to carry bullets, in the manner I once described.
About the time of our leaving Millot in the morning, the regiment which had been reviewed, set out on foot with heavy loads of brick and sand, upon their heads, for the fort, or rather for the foot of the steep hill, at which the women receive their burdens. “In these piping times of peace," as there is no military employment for the troops, they are constantly occupied in this species of amusement, and it is by such a laborious mode of conveyance, that the materials for the construction of the fort, have been thither transported. I was truly astonished at the indefatigableness in ascending steep roads, exhibited by these soldiers, and in one instance rode in sight of a boy apparently not more than fifteen years of age, who proceeded near three miles, with a heavy load upon his head, without stopping to rest. So accustomed indeed, are both men and women in this country to carry weight upon their heads, that it is attended with little inconvenience, and a basket of sand or bricks is carried as firmly, as though it were nailed to the fellow's crown who bears it.
Having satisfied our curiosity, at 10 o'clock we left the fort on our return, and in about one hour reached Millot.
We were there invited to breakfast at the house of a major Pool, a mulatto officer, by whom we were treated with much civility. Pere Corneille, the jolly French priest resident at the Cape, who occasionally preaches at this town, was of the party, and after having given us a specimen of his claim to the title of bon vivant, he favoured the company with a song. The general in chief's band of music attended us at the luxurious repast, and it was not until 3 o'clock that we arose from the breakfast table. mounted our horses, and in a couple of hours reached home, well pleased with our jaunt.
I have heard it remarked, that a French marquis and a French barber make use of precisely the same kind of complimentary language. Whether this be true or not, certain it is, that the lower class of people among the French are possessed of a degree of polish in their manners, entirely unknown to
those of the same class in England or America. The Haytians, from their former domestic intercourse with the Frenchmen, have acquired a considerable similarity in their customs, and have been so successful in their imitations, that many of them fall little short of their ancient masters in polite address. An instance wherein the truth of this position was evinced, occurred at the fort, to our great diversion. It was a complete specimen of a French congé. A mulatto man who had been some days confined, was ordered to be liberated. The prison door was opened, and the poor de vil rejoicing at his good fortune, issued forth. As soon as he had tied up a small bundle of clothes in a handkerchief, he turned round to his fellow prisoners, who were gazing at him through the iron-grated windows with a wistful look, and with all the air of politesse, which a man of quality would use, on suddenly leaving a party of his fashionable friends at dinner, says
excusez mes freres." Various opinions have been entertained relative to the future state of the island, and the probability of its being again subjected to the dominion of France. I have devoted some reflection to the subject, and as the result thereof, am inclined to the opinion, that the colony will never be reduced to a peaceable submission, by any invasion of an European army. This belief is founded upon considerations which I shall proceed to state.
The animosity against the French, which now exists deeprooted in the breasts of the whole people, will always be superior to any domestic dissentions which may in time arise. Should therefore, the ambitious views of aspiring chiefs ever plunge the nation into the horrors of civil war, the first intelligence of
French expedition against the island, would be the means of restoring internal tranquillity. The contending parties would bury for the moment, their factious enmity, and co-operate with their united forces to crush the common foe. The chiefs have sworn to be cruel to every one who should “dare to talk to them of slavery,” and they have also pledged themselves by a solemn oath, never to suffer a Frenchman to exist in the island, under the title of “proprietor.” Liberté ou la mort is the motto of the government, and although the great body of the people have never yet tasted much of the sweets of liberty, they have con
tracted certain notions and habits which are entirely incompatible with the system of colonial slavery. This national prejudice against the French is cherished and encouraged by various means, and in order that the rising generation, who were too young to witness the sanguinary events produced by the revo. lution, may partake of the spirit of their sires, the children are taught to consider a Frenchman as the deadly foe of their liberty.
In case of the invasion by a French army (an event which is considered here as certain, whenever a peace shall take place in Europe) every advantage which appertains to a complete knowledge of the face of the country, but particularly of its mountainous parts, would be in favour of the Haytians, and such an advantage would by no means be an unimportant one. Their avowed determination, as soon as a French fleet is seen approaching their shores is, to set fire to their sea-port towns and consume them to ashes, to devastate the gardens and plantations in the plains, and to retreat to the heights. They make little calculation upon meeting so formidable an enemy as the French, in a pitched battle, as that mode of warfare is not adapted to their military genius. From the number and security of their strong holds, which are constructed principally on mountains, they will have the command of all the plantations. The coffee, which is an inhabitant of the hills, they can destroy at pleasure, and the immense fields of sugar-cane in the low.grounds can be conflagrated with less labour. Of what use then to the invaders would be the possession of the seaport towns, where even houses would not be found with roofs to shelter them from the nocturnal air and vapours? Without the produce of the soil, their conquests would avail them nothing, and therefore to obtain this, the enemy must be pursued and destroyed. Here then commences the triumph of the blacks. They are concealed in ambush every where throughout the country. The invincible troops of Bonaparte fall in heaps by invisible hands, as they pass along the roads. They reach the foot of a mountain; they ascend with the pleasing hope of storming the fort which they behold upon its summit, and of putting to the sword its rebellious garrison. But they are deceived. They are met near the top where the ascent is steepest by rude batte=