Sidor som bilder

hands of De Foe to arrange and form them into a regular narrative. From this account of Selkirk, De Foe took the idea of writing the romance of Robinson Crusoe, and basely defrauded the original proprietor of his share of the profits,

CUBA is a large and important island, seven hundred miles long and eighty-seven broad. It commands the entrance of the gulfs of Mexico and Florida, as well as the windward passages; and thus it



properly called the Key of the West Indies. It was discovered in 1429 by Columbus, who

gave it the name of Ferdinando in honour of King Ferdinand of Spain; but it soon recovered its ancient name of Cuba. By the year 1511, the Spaniards had become complete masters of this island, and, according to their own accounts, they had in that time destroyed several millions of people. The possession of Cuba, however, was far from answering the expectations of the Spanish adventurers, whose avarice could not be gratified with any thing but gold. These men finding that there was gold upon the island, concluded it must come from mines; and therefore tortured the few inhabitants they had left, in order to extort from them a discovery of the places where these mines lay. The miseries endured by the unfortunate natives were such, that they had almost unanimously resolved to put an end to their own lives; but were prevented by one of the Spanish tyrants, who threatened to hang himself along with them, that he might bave the pleasure, as he said, of tore menting them in the next world worse than he had done in this; and so much were they afraid of the Spaniards, that this ridiculous threat proved sulfi. çient to divert them from their desperate resolution.

The soil of Cuba, if we except a ridge of mountains that runs through the island from east to west, is generally very fruitful, and produces abundance of cotton, tobacco, coffee, sugar, and other articles, which are raised upon the other West India islands. The climate, also, is tolerably healthful.

Hispaniola, or St. Domingo, is a fertile and plea: sant island, about sixty miles distant from Porto Rico, sixty-six from Cuba, a hundred and thirtyfive from Jamaica, and three thousand five hundred from the land's end of England. It is estimated to be a hundred and sixty leagues in length from east to west, and nearly seventy in breadth from north to south. The climate is hot, but cannot be reckoned insalubrious, as many of the inhabitants attain to longevity. It is sometimes refreshed by breezes and rains; and its salubrity is in a great measure owing to the beautiful variety of hills and valleys, woods and rivers, which every where present themselves. It is, indeed, reckoned by far the finest and most pleasant island of the Antilles, as being the best accommodated to all the purposes of life when duly cultivated. In the plains the heat is nearly uniform, but it varies in proportion to the distance from the mountains. The thermometer is sometimes at 99, but in the mountains it rarely rises above 77. There the nights are cool enough to render a blanket wel: come; and there are mountains where even a fire is necessary in some evenings. The contrast of violent heats and heavy rains renders St. Domingo humid; hence the tarnished appearance of almost all metals, however brilliant the polish they may originally have had. This is particularly observable on the sea coast, which is more unhealthy than the interior parts of the island. The southern part is very subject to hurricanes, called here southern gules, because they are not attended with such dreadful consequences as the hurricanes in the 'windward islands.

The two great chains of mountains which extend from east to west; and their numerous spires, give the island an aspect, at a distance, not so favourable as it deserves. They are, however, the cause of its greatest fertility ; as they give rise to innumerable rivers, repel the violence of the winds, vary the temperature of the air, and multiply resources of human industry. They abound with excellent timber, and mines of iron, lead, copper, silver, gold, and even mercury. The mountains of Cibao, Selle, and Hotte, are reckoned six thousand feet above the level of the sea. In the bowels of the first, the cruel Spaniards condemned thousands of the natives to sacrifice their lives in search of gold. The mines are not now worked, although many persons are of opinion that they might be wrought with advantage. For many years, this island belonged partly to the French and partly to the Spaniards; it was afterwards ceded entirely to the French; but is now erected into an independent republic

Porto Rico, the third of the Great Antilles, is likewise divided by a chain of mountains from east to west, and is tolerably well watered with bruoks and rivers. The northern parts are said to contain mines of quicksilver, tin, lead, and some gold and silver ; but there are none of the latter wrought at present, nor were there ever any considerable ones in the islan 1, though its rivers have some gold dust mingled with their sand and gravel.

Jamaica, the largest of the Antilles, is about a hundred and seventy miles long and sixty broad ; and is situated between 17 and 19 degrees of north

latitude and between 76 and 79 of west longitude. This island was discovered by Columbus in his second voyage, and he was so charmed with it, as always to prefer it to the rest of the islands. The prospect of this island from the sea, by its constant verdure and numerous bays is extremely pleasant. The coast, and for some miles within, ihe land is low; but towards the interior it is hilly. The whole island is divided by a ridge of mountains running east and west, and composed of rocks and very hard clay; through which the rains have worn long and deep cavities called gullies. There are also about a hundred zivers that issue from them on both sides ; but scarcely any of them are navigable except by canoes, wherein sugars and other goods are carried from the plantations to the sea side, and from thence in sloops and schooners to Port Royal and Kingston. This is occasioned either by their falling too precipitately from the mountains, or the shortness of their course : besides, they often carry with them great stones or pieces of timber, and generally much clay or earth, which fouls the water, and gives it a copperish taste, though it becomes tolerably clear and sweet after standing for a few days in earthen jars. In dry seasons, fresh water is very scarce at a distance from the rivers; and the well-water near the sea is brackish and unwholesome.

There are some springs in this island that are remarkable for their petrifying quality; and near Point Morant there is a hot bath in a wood, whose water has proved very serviceable, both by drink ing and bathing, for the cure of the cholic, the common disease of the country. In another place there are several salt springs, which, being united, form what is called the Salt River. Salt is made at Jamaica in ponds, into which the sea water comes, and the water being exhaled by the heat of the sun, the salt is left at the bottom. Nor must we omit mentioning a roaring cascade, and a remarkable lake in this island, the latter of which receives abundance of water from a river without any visible outlet,

The climate, like that of all countries between the tropics, is very warm towards the sea, and in marshy places unhealthy; but in more elevated situations it cooler, and where people live tem. perately, it is as healthy as any part of the West Indies. The rains fall heavy for about a fortnight in May or October; and hail and thunder are pretty frequent; but ice and snow, except on the tups of the mountains, are never seen, though at no very great height the air is exceedingly cold. The climate was certainly more temperate before the great earthquake, and the island was supposed to be out of the reach of hurricanes, which it has since felt very severely. The heat, however, is much tempered by land and sea breezes; and the hottest time of the day is about eight o'clock in the morning. At night, the wind blows from the land on all sides, so that no ships can then enter. The soil of this island varies very considerably ; some parts are deep, black, and rich, and mixed with a kind of potter's earth ; some are shallow and sandy, and others of a middle nature.

Barbadoes, the most easterly of the Caribbee islands, subject to Great Britain, is situated between 12 degrees 56 minutes, and 13 degrees 16 minutes north latitude, and between 59 degrees 50 * minutes and 60 degrees 2 minutes west longitude. It is generally supposed to extend twenty-five miles from north to south, and about fifteen from

« FöregåendeFortsätt »