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the last place made, when I tell them that there was not a single lawyer in the place, and never had been ; but, lest some of my enterprising professional brethren should forthwith be tempted to pack their trunks for a descent upon the exempt city, I consider it my duty to add that I do not believe there is the least chance for one. As there is no bar to prepare men for the bench, the judges, of course, are not lawyers. Of the five then sitting, two were merchants, one a mahogany cutter, and the mulatto, second to none of the others in character or qualifications, a doctor. This court is the highest tribunal for the trial of civil causes, and has jurisdiction of all amounts above £15. Balize is a place of large commercial transactions; contracts are daily made and broken, or misunderstood, which require the intervention of some proper tribunal to interpret and compel their fulfilment. And there was no absence of litigation; the calendar was large, and the courtroom crowded. The first cause called was upon an account, when the defendant did not appear, and a verdict was taken by default. In the next, the plaintiff stated his case, and swore to it; the defendant answered, called witnesses, and the cause was submitted to the jury. There was no case of particular interest. In one the parties became excited, and the defendant interrupted the plaintiff repeatedly, on which the latter, putting his hand upon the shoulder of his antagonist, said, in a coaxing way, “Now don't, George; wait a little, you shall have your turn. Don't interrupt me, and I won't you.” All was done in a familiar and colloquial way; the parties were more or less known to each other, and judges and jurors were greatly influenced by knowledge of general character. I re
A RIDE TO THE BARRACKS. 19
marked that regularly the merits of the case were so clearly brought out, that, when it was committed to the jury, there was no question about the verdict; and so satisfactory has this system proved, that, though an appeal lies to the Queen in Council, as Mr. Evans, the foreman, told me, but one cause has been carried up in twenty-two years. Still it stands as an anomaly in the history of English jurisprudence; for, I believe, in every other place where the principles of the common law govern, the learning of the bench and the ingenuity of the bar are considered necessary to elicit the truth.
At daylight the next morning I was roused by Mr. Walker for a ride to the barracks. Immediately beyond the suburbs we entered upon an uncultivated country, low and flat, but very rich. We passed a racecourse, now disused and grown over. This is the only road opened, and there are no wheel-carriages in Balize. Between it and the inhabited part of Central America is a wilderness, unbroken even by an Indian path. There is no communication with the interior except by the Golfo Dolce or the Balize River; and, from the want of roads, a residence there is more confining than living on an island.
In half an hour we reached the barracks, situated on the opposite side of a small bay. The soldiers are all black, and are part of an old Jamaica regiment, most of them having been enlisted at the English recruiting stations in Africa. Tall and athletic, with red coats, and, on a line, bristling with steel, their ebony faces gave them a peculiarly warlike appearance. They carry themselves proudly, call themselves the " Queen's Gentlemen," and look down with contempt upon the "niggers."
We returned to breakfast, and immediately after made an excursion in the government pit-pan. This is the same fashion of boat in which the Indians navigated the rivers of America before the Spaniards discovered it. European ingenuity has not contrived a better, though it has, perhaps, beautified the Indian model. Ours was about forty feet long, and six wide in the centre, running to a point at both ends, and made of the trunk of a mahogany-tree. Ten feet from the stern, and running forward, was a light wooden top, supported by fanciful stancheons, with curtains for protection against sun and rain; it had large cushioned seats, and was fitted up almost as neatly as the gondolas of Venice. It was manned by eight negro soldiers, who sat two on a seat, with paddles six feet long, and two stood up behind with paddles as steersmen. A few touches of the paddles gave brisk way to the pit-pan, and we passed rapidly the whole length of the town. It was an unusual thing for his excellen-cy's pit-pan to be upon the water; citizens stopped to gaze at us, and all the idle negroes hurried to the bridge to cheer us. This excited our African boatmen, who, with a wild chant that reminded us of the songs of the Nubian boatmen on the Nile, swept under the bridge, and hurried us into the still expanse of a majestic river. Before the cheering of the negroes died away we were in as perfect a solitude as if removed thousands of miles from human habitations. The Balize River, coming from sources even yet but little known to civilized man, was then in its fulness. On each side was a dense, unbroken forest; the banks were overflowed; the trees seemed to grow out of the water, their branches spreading across so as almost to shut out the light of the sun, and reflected in the water as in a mirror. The sources of the river were occu
A BEGINNING OF HONOURS. 21
pied by the aboriginal owners, wild and free as Cortes found them. We had an eager desire to penetrate by it to the famous Lake of Peten, where the skeleton of the conquering Spaniard's horse was erected into a god by the astonished Indians; but the toil of our boatmen reminded us that they were paddling against a rapid current. We turned the pit-pan, and with the full power of the stream, a pull stronger, and a chant louder than before, amid the increased cheering of the negroes, swept under the bridge, and in a few minutes were landed at the Government House.
In order that we might embark at the hour appointed, Colonel M'Donald had ordered dinner at two o'clock, and, as on the two preceding days, had invited a small party to meet us. Perhaps I am wrong, but I should do violence to my feelings did I fail to express here my sense of the colonel's kindness. My invitation to the Government House was the fruit of my official character; but I cannot help flattering myself that some portion of the kindness shown me was the result of personal acquaintance. Colonel M'Donald is a soldier of the "twenty years' war," the brother of Sir John M'Donald, adjutant-general of England, and cousin of Marshal Macdonald of France. All his connexions and associations are military. At eighteen he entered Spain as an ensign, one of an army of ten thousand men, of whom, in less than six months, but four thousand were left. After being actively engaged in all the trying service of the Peninsular War,- at Waterloo he commanded a regiment, and on the field of battle received the order of Companion of the Military Order of the Bath from the King of England, and that of Knight of the Order of St. Anne from the Emperor of Russia. Rich in recollections of a long military life, personally acquainted with the public and private characters of the most distinguished military men of the age, his conversation was like reading a page of history. He is one of a race that is fast passing away, and with whom an American seldom meets. But to return. The large window of the diningroom opened upon the harbour; the steamboat lay in front of the Government House, and the black smoke, rising in columns from her pipe, gave notice that it was time to embark. Before rising, Colonel M'Donald, like a loyal subject, proposed the health of the Queen; after which he ordered the glasses to be filled to the brim, and, standing up, he gave, " The health of Mr. Van Buren, President of the United States," accompanying it with a warm and generous sentiment, and the earnest hope of strong and perpetual friendship between England and America. I felt at the moment, "Cursed be the hand that attempts to break it;" and albeit unused to taking the President and the people upon my shoulders, I answered as well as I could. Another toast followed to the health and successful journey of Mr. Catherwood and myself, and we rose from table. The government dory lay at the foot of the lawn. Colonel M'Donald put his arm through mine, and, walking away, told me that I was going into a distracted country; that Mr. Savage, the American consul in Guatimala, had, on a previous occasion, protected the property and lives of British subjects; and, if danger threatened me, I must assemble the Europeans, hang out my flag, and send word to him. I knew that these were not mere words of courtesy, and, in the state of the country to which I was going, felt the value of such a friend at hand. With the warmest feelings of gratitude I bade him farewell, and stepped