Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

and personal property and on industries and commerce of all kinds. Every profession, art, or manual occupation contributed its quota, while, as far back as 1638, seal and stamp taxes were established on all judicial business and on all kinds of petitions and claims made to official corporations, and subsequently on all bills and accounts. These taxes were in the form of stamps on official paper, and at the date of American occupation the paper cost from 35 cents to $3 a sheet. On deeds, wills, and other similar documents the paper cost from 35 cents to $37.50 per sheet, according to the value of the property concerned. Failure to use even the lowest-priced paper involved a fine of $50.

There was also a municipal tax on the slaughter of cattle for the market. This privilege was sold by the municipal council to the highest bidder, with the result that taxes were assessed on all animals slaughtered, whether for the market or for private consumption, with a corresponding increase in the price of meat.

Another tax established in 1528, called the derecho de averia, required the payment of 20 ducats (816) by every person, bond or free, arriving in the island. In 1665 this tax was increased to $22, and continued in force to 1765, thus retarding immigration, and, to that extent, the increase of population, especialiy of the laboring class.

An examination of these taxes will show their excessive, arbitrary, and unscientific character, and how they operated to discourage Cubans from owning property or engaging in many industrial pursuits tending to benefit them and to promote the material improvement of the island.

Taxes on real estate were estimated by the tax inspector on the basis of its rental or productive capacity, and varied from 4 to 12 per cent. Similarly, a nominal municipal tax of 25 per cent was levied on the estimated profits of all industries and commerce, and on the income derived from all professions, manual occupations, or agencies, the collector receiving 6 percent of all taxes assessed. Much unjust discrimination was made against Cubans in determining assessable values and in collecting the taxes, and it is said that bribery in some form was the only effective defense against the most flagrant impositions.

Up to the year 1638 the taxes were collected by royal officers appointed by the King, and their accounts were passed on by the audiencia of Santo Domingo. In that year contadores (auditors) were appointed who exercised fiscal supervision over the tax collectors, until, by royal cedula of October 31, 1764, the intendancy of Habana was created, the administration of taxes being conducted as in Spain. Since 1892 the taxes have been collected by the Spanish Bank under a ten years' contract, the bank receiving a commission of 5 per cent. About 18 per cent of the assessed taxes remained uncollected between

1886 and 1897, and the deficits thus caused were added to the Cuban debt, ever a subject of universal discontent.'

If to high taxes, high tariffs, and utter indifference, apparently, to the needs of the island be added a lack of banking facilities of all kinds, and a system of currency dependent entirely on the Spanish Government and affected by all its financial difficulties, we have some of the reasons why the economic development of Cuba has been slow. “All her industrial profits were absorbed by Spain, leaving no surplus to provide for the accumulation of capital and the material progress of the island," which was apparently regarded as a government monopoly, whose productive capacity was in no wise connected with its economic interests. Accordingly, such interests were invariably subordinated to those of Spain--with which they rarely accorded-no matter how injurious the result. That this course should have been followed in the early period of Spanish colonization is not strange. All sorts of economic experiments, based on what are now considered absurd economic theories, were tried about that time by European countries in vain efforts to promote national prosperity by entirely unnatural methods. Thus, for many years Cuba was prohibited, in common with other colonies, from the cultivation of raw products raised in Spain, thus reversing the theory and practice under which England subsequently developed her manufacturing industries at home, successfully colonized all parts of the habitable globe, and established her enormous colonial trade, by the very natural process of paying for the raw products of her colonies in manufactured articles. No nation in Europe during the sixteenth century was in a better condition than Spain to establish such a system, as she was essentially a manufacturing country. But with the expulsion of the Moors her manufactures were practically ruined; the wealth which for many years had poured in from the colonies in exchange for the supplies shipped them now passed through her to other countries in consequence of her extinguished industries, and she became little more than a clearing house for foreign products. Five-sixths of the manufactured articles used in Spain were imported, and foreigners, in direct violation of Spanish laws, soon carried on nine-tenths of the trade with her colonies.

"It may be said that results equally unfortunate appear to have attended all other branches of Spanish colonial government. Under a policy so shortsighted that it was blind to the most ordinary precautions, and

1 According to the data of the tribunal of accounts (tribunal de suentas) of Habana, referred to by Señor la Sagra, Cuba received as ordinary and extraordinary situados" from Mexico, from 1766 to 1788, 57,739,346 pesos fuertes, and from 1788 to 1806 the sum of 50,411,158 pesos fuertes.

2 The proof of this is the bad condition of the roads and harbors, the absence of docking facilities, the lack of adequate water supply in cities, of sewers, paved streets, schoolhouses and other public buildings essential to every community and provided by private or public enterprise.

long after repeated warnings should have suggested a greater measure of economic and political independence for Cuba, the entire system of Cuban government and administration was retained in the hands of Spanish officials to the exclusion of native Cubans, thus substituting for home rule a government which, however necessary in the earlier history of the island, became, with the lapse of centuries, an object of suspicion and hatred to a large majority of Cubans, as the medium through which Spain exercised despotic power over them and appropriated to herself the wealth of the island. That these feelings would have yielded to greater economic and political freedom, there can be no question. Political independence was not generally advocated at first. Autonomy under the protection of Spain was as far as the industrial classes cared to go, and had this been granted ten years earlier Cuba might and probably would have remained a Spanish colony. It was the economic rather than the political aspect of the island that concerned the greater part of its population. But in Cuba political and economic conditions were inseparable under the theory of colonial government which prevailed, and economic concessions were not to be thought of if the practice of stripping Cuba by the various means described without giving Cubans the least opportunity to prevent it in a peaceful way was to continue.

That they would ever resort to force was not believed, or if believed, not feared, in the face of a despotic Governor-General with a local army and navy to enforce his authority and the whole power of Spain in reserve. Besides, the Cubans had given ample proof of their loyalty.

But the rulers of Cuba, usually blind to its interests, were to test the loyalty of her people beyond the limits of endurance, and, as a result, to lose for Spain her “ever faithful island.”

From the time of Velasquez, 1512, to General Don Adolpho Jimenez Castellanos, 1898, Cuba had 136 rulers. A list of them will be found in Appendix XV, and it may be said that, with but a dozen exceptions, they did nothing toward the development of the island or the welfare of the people, although clothed with despotic power since 1825. A large number of them were Spanish politicians, appointed without special reference to their fitness, but as a reward for services, personal or political, rendered to the Spanish Government. The resources of Cuba were always available to the home party in control for this purpose, which accounts in some measure for the unanimity of Spanish opinion respecting political concessions to the island. It was necessary that its control should remain absolutely in the hands of the Captain-Generals representing the home government; but there is very little question that had all of them exercised their authority with moderation, lightened the burden of taxation, removed or modified many trade restrictions, promoted public works, and used their authority to extend the influence of the Cubans in the administration of the island, the dominion of Spain might have been continued for years to come, as much of the political agitation would have been avoided, the gulf between Spaniards and Cubans would have been bridged over, until, through these and other influences, an adjustment of the economic situation would have brought peace and prosperity to the people.

The first serious opposition to the insular government was brought out by the attempt of Captain-General Vicente Roja to enforce the government monopoly in tobacco, decreed in 1717. Several bloody riots occurred and Roja was obliged to withdraw temporarily from the island.

Apart from uprisings among the negroes, stimulated no doubt by the success of their race over the French in the neighboring island of San Domingo there were no other attempts at insurrection on the part of Cubans until after the conspiracy of 1823, planned by a secret society known as the “Soles de Bolivar.” This conspiracy resulted from the attempt of Captain-General Vives to carry out the instructions of Ferdinand VII, after the abrogation of the Spanish liberal constitution of 1812, and was intended as a protest against a return to absolutism in Cuba; but, apparently, it failed of effect, and there was no relaxation of efforts to reestablish the old order. The conspiracy was of a serious character and extended over the entire island, but centered in Matanzas, where among the revolutionists was Jose Maria Heredia, the Cuban poet. The conspiracy failed and the leader, Jose Francisco Lemus, and a large number of conspirators were arrested and deported. A feeling of bitter resentment against the Government was the result, and a period of agitation and public demonstration followed. Frequent uprisings were attempted in 1824, but failed.

It would have been well for Spain had Ferdinand VII been warned by these events and endeavored, by conciliatory measures, to allay such manifest feelings of discontent. But neither he nor his advisors would see the “handwriting on the wall.” With characteristic severity, the royal decree of May 28, 1825, was issued, conferring on the Captain-General “all the powers of governors of cities in a state of siege * * * with full and unlimited authority to detach from the island and to send to the Peninsula all officials and persons employed in whatsoever capacity, and of whatsoever rank, class, or condition, whose presence may appear prejudicial, or whose public or private conduct may inspire you with suspicion * * * and further to suspend the execution of any order or general regulations issued in whatever branch of the administration and to whatever extent you may consider convenient to the royal service, etc., to see that faithful

24662— 3

servants of His Majesty be remembered, at the same time punishing without delay or hesitation the misdeeds of those, etc."1

An army from Spain, intended for the subjugation of former Spanish colonies in South America, which was to have been dispatched from Cuba, was retained there, and a military commission was permanently organized to try political offenses under the above decree and the articles of war.

Political agitation having taken the form of revolutionary demonstrations, there was a gradual separation on political lines between the Cubans and Spaniards, and numberless Cuban secret societies were formed throughout the island for political propaganda. Allied with the Cubans were all of the more radical, as well as the more moderate liberal members of the community, while the Spanish party included beneficiaries of former monopolies and the conservative and reactionary elements, which, under the policy of the Captain-Generals, had crystallized around the officials of the government and their coadjutors in the church.

The political agitation continued, and in 1826 a small uprising took place in Puerto Principe, directed by the Sociedad de la Cadena, and aimed against the abuses of the regiment Leon quartered there. The same year (June 22) the Congress of American Republics assembled at Panama, to which the President of the United States appointed Mr. John Sergeant, of Pennsylvania, and Mr. Richard Anderson, of Kentucky, as envoys extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary. Mr. Anderson was United States minister to Colombia and died en route to the congress, which had adjourned before Mr. Sergeant arrived, to meet at Tacabaya. But it did not meet again, and consequently the United States delegates took no part in its deliberations.

The objects of this congress, as set forth in the correspondence, were to urge the establishment of liberal principles of commercial intercourse, in peace and war, the advancement of religious liberty, and the abolition of slavery, to discuss the relations of Hayti, the affairs of Cuba and Porto Rico, the continuation of the war of Spain on her Spanish colonies, and the Monroe doctrine, which announced as a principle, “that the United States could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them (governments in this hemisphere whose independence had been declared and acknowledged by the United States), or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as a manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.”

While the United States no doubt sympathized with the objects of the congress, the debates in the Senate and House of Representatives indicated a desire to avoid interference with Spain, a friendly nation,

Promulgated again in the royal decrees of March 21 and 26, 1834.

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »