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is decided, and it is demonstrated that the banks of the rivers are not crown lands, but that they belong to the owners of the lands inundated by the rivers; and consequently that they ought to recover their full dominion on them to improve the same, or to enter into some conventional arrangement with the planters of tobacco. Because it is demonstrated in the most conclusive manner, that his majesty made the original grants without any restriction; and he has been pleased to ratify the absolute dominion of the possessors by the tenor of the royal orders that have been quoted.
Your commissioners, after having proved that it would be against justice, against the laws, and against the will of the king our lord, to oblige the owners of grazing farms to give up, or to rent their lands to any one who may want them for the cultivation of tobacco, have now to examine whether any advantages could result from so doing.
Your commissioners might decide this question, merely by stating a maxim acknowledged as true in both a political and moral point of view, which is, that an unjust law is never expedient; because, although it may at first partially produce some advantage, in the end it is always prejudicial and injurious. Justice is not offended with impunity. But as your commissioners wish fully to substantiate the second part of their report, they will be a little more diffuse, so as to prove completely that neither the natives in general, nor the crown, have obtained, nor will they obtain, either directly or by the means in question, any advantage from encouraging the cultivation of tobacco.
Although the science that treats upon the wealth of nations has not yet any fixed principles, and although it varies according to times, places, and other circumstances; nevertheless it has certain bases or fundamental maxims, if we can so term them, upon which all economists, however opposite in their opinions and systems, agree. Such is the maxim which disapproves of any interference on the part of the government, with the direction and encouragement of individual industry. All agree in saying that "the protection of the government must be confined, with regard to agriculture, to removing those obstacles that may oppose the free action of the interest of the individuals within a certain sphere pointed out by justice;" a luminous truth which your commissioners cannot pass in silence, in a question of political economy. To apply, then, to the present case, it is necessary for your commissioners to enter into a little discussion; bringing to their assistance, with the memory of the past, the lessons of experience.
What culture, they would ask, could offer more profit to the island of Cuba, than that of tobacco? None, indeed; because its quality renders it exclusive. What culture has yielded less to the cultivator? None; because, generally speaking, the tobacco planers never rise from the poorer classes, and in other kinds of husbandry many and rapid fortunes have been made. What kind of cultivation has received more encouragement than that of tobacco!
We do not know any that has been more protected and has received more concessions and privileges, nor any that has been more exempted from contributions. What culture has progressed less in the island of Cuba, than that of tobacco? None has; because if we speak of coffee the produce was such that it overbalanced the demand, and, as we may say, inundated all the European markets; causing at last the absolute ruin of the cultivators. It is enough to say, about sugar, that it has succeeded the tobacco, and produced in 1740, twenty thousand arrobas, (each arroba has 25 pounds;) at present it exceeds by the enormous sum of nine millions, whilst the produce of tobacco has not always been sufficient to supply the peninsula and, astonishing as it may appear, we have seen whole cargoes of foreign tobacco sold at Havana. In short, we ask, what kind of produce has sustained its price better than tobacco? None; because in 1711, it was bought on account of the king at 16 cuartos; 30 years afterwards, it was purchased at 52, and at present at -; whilst coffee ruins the cultivator, the expenses of cultivation exceeding so much the price of the produce: brandy scarcely pays the cost; molasses is sometimes thrown away because it is of no value; and sugar, after many fluctuations, is at a very low price, a price still unsettled, and very inferior to that which it commanded in the beginning of the manufacture.
If, then, tobacco without a rival, fully protected, and with a progressive augmentation in price, has not improved in proportion, has not produced great fortunes nor yielded to the royal treasury the great revenue, that has been received from coffee and sugar; and if these productions without the advantages and protection that the former has enjoyed, have had the most astonishing increase, what is the reason of such a remarkable difference? Your commissioners do not dare to mention all the causes, but they find some of them in the different kinds of liberty they have enjoyed; in the protection given to the culture of tobacco, and above all in the fact that the factory was established and its operations commenced by invading the sacred right of property, which now presents itself to reclaim its privileges after experience has proved the sad truth of the maxim above mentioned; that an unjust law is never expedient.
The supreme government, with the most sound and praiseworthy intention, although badly informed about the right of property on the banks of the rivers, thought that there was no better way to encourage the culture of tobacco, than to make use of said property, obliging the landholders to enter into a kind of forced partnership. Since that moment, these partners were in a continual civil war; and they thought of nothing but of mutually injuring each other. One, in order to avoid the injuries and extortions which are always the consequence of usurpation; and the other, because he could inflict these injuries under the protection of his possession and privileges. The tobacco planter, who generally commences cultivating the land without a capital and without slaves, is not even able, on account of his natural indolence, to live comfortably exclusively on
the produce of his hard and irksome labour, but is in debt from one year to another: in the mean time he goes about his plantation, using and wasting every thing there which he can obtain. He does not confine himself to the prescribed twenty yards, but he extends the limits as he pleases, and he occupies more ground in raising grain and vegetables, than in planting tobacco; under the pretext that he has a right to occupy the piece of high ground assigned to him by the extinguished factory, for raising his own provisions. He destroys the palm trees, so useful in the feeding of hogs, and the trees, more necessary for sheltering cattle. Seeing himself always poor, from a planter he makes himself grazier, and he cultivates, or does not cultivate the plantation; and at last he abandons it entirely, transferring his plantation clandestinely to another tenant no better, and no less idle than himself. The landholder who resides at the distance of 40 or 50 leagues from his property, cannot remedy these disorders, either because he does not hear of them, or because he will not go to law and expose himself to the effects of an act of insolvency, which makes a rich man tremble, though well aware of the justness of his cause. In the meantime he tolerates the iniquity because it cannot be helped; but he molests the tenant; he treats him as his domestic enemy, and denies him the protection, favour and assistance that he would lend to his tenants if he had the power of ejecting from his property those who do not suit. What has been, then, the ultimate result of this kind of protection! The result has been that the landholders have been injured and the rights of property encroached upon, without any advantage resulting to the planters of tobacco, to the wealth of the nation, or to the royal treasury. Indeed, the difference between the lot of the tobacco planter and the grazier, consists in the different degrees of protection the parties receive, the latter being more useful, more overcharged with contributions, and much more profitable to the treasury of the nation than the former. And why ought such distinctions to exist between children of the same family? It is impossible to favour one source of wealth without injuring the others: and above all it should not be so, because agriculture, like any other kind of industry, does not want a direct protection. Tobacco, like any of the other staples, needs no more encouragement than individual interest requires. The moment that these contracts or rentings shall be thrown open, its cultivation will increase, the grazing farms will prosper, public wealth will augment, and under such a system all will be gainers: the landholder will be able to encourage and assist the honest tenant, and the idler will not have the right to enter his house like an enemy, under the pretext that it is the property of the crown, which any one who wishes to be a tobacco planter can seize on with impunity.
We have seen that the rights of property, public convenience, the culture of tobacco, the sound principles of political economy, and above all, reason,-yes, your commissioners repeat it again, with the illustrious Jovellanos, above all, reason,-cry out for the abolishing
of such an abuse; "a principle of justice and of social rights anterior to any other law and custom, and superior to every law, cries out against such a shameful violation of the rights of individual property. Every share in the property of a man granted to a stranger against the will of the owner, is an encroachment on it, is an offence against his rights, and contrary for that very reason to justice, without which no custom can exist."
But your commissioners are very far from recommending rigorous or violent measures in this case.
The families now engaged in this branch of agricultural industry, and the culture itself of tobacco might feel the effects of the sudden want of hands. All that your commissioners think necessary at present is an act that might conciliate the interests of all concerned, and avert the impending evils. Your commissioners, as they promised, propose the following plan in this last part of their report, viz. : That no innovation should be made with regard to the planters who may have been in possession of the lands for the space of ten or more years; and that every thing tending to consolidate the contracts now existing between them and the landholders be interpreted in their favour. But with regard to those who cannot prove a possession during ten years, and to the new demands for lands, it shall be decided, that the landholders have a right to enter into conventional agreements with them, and to their lands as they may think most convenient for themselves.
If the junta should think proper to adopt the ideas contained in this report, the same can be sent to his excellency the general superintendent of the royal finances, requesting his excellency, that in case of said report meeting his approbation, he may be pleased the same into effect at once, and provisionally, by virtue of the high authority with which his majesty has invested him, or that he may at least suspend his decision until having informed his majesty of the contents of this report and of all the proceedings, he may request and obtain from his majesty a final decision, in which his majesty may be pleased to approve the measure proposed by the junta, and to declare the absolute right of the landholders to the banks of those rivers which cross their respective possessions.
Your commissioners cannot conclude this report without making a most sincere acknowledgment. They know that their report has been delayed rather too long. They do not pretend to excuse themselves, but they hope that the junta will be indulgent towards them; considering that such a delay has not been owing to any want of zeal, nor to a want of the regard due to the different claims that have been made. It has rather been occasioned by an excessive timidity on their part in considering a subject in which they believed that correctness should be preferred to brevity. Habana, 15th May, 1830.
CONCERNING CROWN LANDS.
In a letter dated 15th January, 1817, your excellency encloses the documents of the "proceedings concerning the crown lands, with a view to regulate this important point in conformity with the laws and ordinances, and thus to terminate a great number of law suits, vicious denunciations and the consequent distress, which cause great injury to agriculture, without yielding any profit to the royal treasury;" together with the decision of your excellency on the subject, given with the concurrence of the supreme junta. His majesty, after due consideration, and in conformity with the opinion of the supreme council of the Indies, dated 16th March of the present year, has been pleased to decide, that in the law suits now pending, or that may commence in future, the following regulations shall be observed in all the island; hereby repealing the anterior orders on the subject, whether general or special.
1st. The grants of lands by municipalities as late as the year 1729, shall be respected and considered as a good legal title of property; with full liberty on the part of the possessors to alien, transfer or otherwise dispose of and use said lands, as they may think most convenient.
2d. In the absence of other title, a just prescription, that is a possession of forty years, duly proved according to law, shall be admitted and respected.
3d. Those who have acquired lands by grants, purchase, agreement or prescription, have a right to dispose freely of them, whether said lands be in a state of cultivation or otherwise.
4th. Except in cases relative to fallow lands or crown lands, the legal proceedings on this point shall never be ex officio, but must be by legal denunciation made in writing: and said legal denunciation shall be admitted also in cases of this class of lands, as well as in those classes possessed without any of the titles specified in the preceding regulation. It is hereby expressed that in the former cases the lands must be considered as belonging to the crown, and that they will be disposed of in the most expedient manner. In the cases relative to the latter class, the government shall enter into some arrangement with the actual possessors if they have held the same