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A thousand thoughts and feelings connected with the rapid rise and fall of empires, and the short-lived vanity of human greatness, are suggested to the mind, on first beholding a city, which, like Madrid, has both in earlier and in later times, been a theatre where so many kings and heroes, attended by their conquering armies or their splendid courts, have figured a brief hour upon the stage, and then, expelled by others, or cut off by death, have passed away and been forgotten. The Greeks, Romans, and Carthaginians; - the Goths, the Saracens, and the Moors, the Portuguese, English, and French, - all have had their day of power, and all have shed their blood, and left their bones to whiten on the fertile plains of Spain.
But returning from this digression, I remark, that though "there are near two hundred villages within thirty or forty - miles of Madrid, yet, owing to gentle hills which rise in every
direction, scarce one of them can be seen from the immediate vicinity of the city, and the whole surrounding country has as desolate and deserted an appearance, as the Campagna Romana, without the walls of Rome. The soil is free from stones, and of a clayey cast, with, here and there, deep ravines caused by heavy rains. Throughout all the central parts of Spain, scarce a tree is seen, except upon the mountains, and in the gardens and pleasure-grounds of the larger cities. This fact is said to be owing in part to the dryness of the soil and climate, and a prejudice against trees, on the ground of their attracting birds to devour the crops, but the main reason is, the long use there has been of timber for building, as well as of wood and charcoal for fuel, in a climate so cold as that of Madrid. In the higher and less fertile parts of Spain, there is much to remind one of those portions of the southern United States, where, as a necessary result of slavery, the population are thinly scattered over the country, and too rapid a succession of crops on the same soil, has exhausted its strength, leaving to its possessors no alternative but to content themselves with a scanty subsistence, or else, seeking out new plantations, there to repeat the same unwise experiment, thus in their onward course, like a cloud of locusts, leaving only barrenness and desolation behind them.
Near a mile from the city, we were met by two gentlemen, - a son of the old lady who was with us, and a friend of his, who, in accordance with the custom of the country, had come out to meet and to welcome her. The son was a young
man of genteel dress and appearance, and a captain in the Royal Guard of Cavalry. A thousand questions were asked and answered, as we passed along, until having crossed the bridge over the Manzanares, we were stopped on entering the city, at the gate of Segovia, where our passports and baggage were examined. This operation occupied more than an hour, and every article which had been stowed away in the capacious pouch of our travelling caravansary, was closely scrutinized by the officers of the customs. There were, among other things, numerous little bags and boxes of nuts, sweetmeats, and confectionery, such as country cousins send to their city friends, and the Ark itself could hardly have contained a greater variety of the good things of life. These were all opened, and the officers who performed the task, made no scruple of helping themselves to some choice eatable, belonging to owners who chanced to be absent. Around us were a large number of poor little donkeys, laden with lime, charcoal, meat, fruit, vegetables, and every variety of articles for market. Every thing was weighed and examined, thus causing not only the vexation of a tedious delay, but also of paying those duties, which are exacted at the gates of all the large towns in Spain. Since the year 1601, meat in market pays a duty of about one cent. per pound, and every animal slaughtered for eating, whether sold or used in the family of the owner, pays a duty of forty cents. Wine, oil, and vinegar are taxed one eighth of their price. There used to be in Castile, fixed prices for every thing, and the sovereign has for centuries, enjoyed a monopoly of brandy, cards, gunpowder, lead, quicksilver, sealing-wax, salt, sulphur, and tobacco. As an example of the effects of this system, it is enough to state, that the sovereign not only takes as his own one eighth of all the brandy manufactured in the kingdom, but also claims the right of buying the rest, paying for it a dollar and ten cents for every twenty-eight pounds, and selling it again for three dollars and twenty cents or about 200 per cent. advance. For the same quantity of spirits of wine, one dollar and forty cents were paid, and it was sold for five dollars or nearly four times its cost. In collecting these internal duties, about 100,000 men have been employed, including spies, and every variety of understrappers, and not only have this large number been withdrawn from useful labor, but like so many bloodhounds, turned loose to prey upon the people. Their knavery has given them
possession of the property of whole villages, by means of oppressive and vexatious suits against the inhabitants, and the seizure of their estates on the charge of having violated the revenue laws. This has been the natural result of employing in this department, those who had shown their shrewdness, only by their uncommon villany, just on the same principle, that the boldest and most notorious robbers and smugglers, ever receive from the Spanish government the greatest encouragement, as commanders of vessels for the protection of the revenue, and as guards for diligences, and for the security of public roads. These men of violence and blood have little regard for human life, provided it be not their own, and hence, in more than one case during the last summer, were poor peasants coolly shot down by them when entering the gates of Madrid, and that too, without so much as having been hailed, or ordered to stop and pay their taxes, on what they carried. Recently, however, there have been partial changes as to internal taxation. The revolution in Barcelona last summer, resulted in effecting the overthrow of the system there; and in Malaga, but half the former duties are now paid. There is reason to hope, that still greater changes will soon be effected.
On leaving the gates of the city, we passed through a number of streets and public squares, to the Puerta del Sol, or Gate of the Sun. This is an open place in the heart of the city, from which the principal streets diverge like radii from a common centre, and as the postoffice and other public buildings are there, it is a favorite noonday resort. There, the politician and the merchant go to talk of business and of news, and the fashionable to show off their own dear selves, and the finery with which the tailor, the hatter, and the shoemaker have decked them. My first movement was to fix myself in a Cassa de huespide, or boarding-house, where I could talk as much Spanish as I might choose, and hear not a word of any thing else. For my rooms, lodging, breakfast, and brassero, I bargained for seventy cents a day, and, as the common custom in such cases is, took my dinner and supper abroad.
History of Madrid.— Its Gates. – Public Squares.--Fountains.—Gallegos. — Population. — Public Buildings. – Streets. -- Lights. – Paseos. – The Prado. — Public Gardens. – Convents. – Royal Palace. — Library. — Armory. — Military Museum. – Cabinet of Natural Sciences. – Museum of the Fine Arts. – Royal Museum of Paintings.-Prisons.—Holydays. – Beggars. — Confession. – General Hospital. – Foundling Hospital. — Mrs. Mendoza. — School for Female Orphans. – Private Charity. — Mount of Piety. — The Deaf and Dumb.-The Blind. — Modes of Burial.- Friar's Robes. – The Escurial; its History, Form, and Size. — Tomb of Spanish Kings. – Paintings. – Cambiaso. — Relics. - Dangerous Adventures. – The Cortes. – The Pope. — The Clergy. – Nunneries. – Feelings of the People. — Sermons.—ldolatry. — Catholics in the United States.— Public Speaking. — The Spanish Language. —Don Quixote. — Party Strife. — Exiles. – Houses. – Insurance.
MANY Spanish historians have labored to prove that Madrid, under the name of Mantua, was founded by the Greeks more than 4,000 years ago, - and maintain that it owed its origin to Prince Ocno Bianor, son of Tiberius, king of Tuscany, who gave it the title of Carpetana, the name of the province in which it was, to distinguish it from Mantua in Italy. Others hold that Mantua was six leagues west of Madrid, where the town of Willamanta now stands. But, be this as it may, we learn from authentic history, that 220 years after the irruption of the Moors into Spain, – that is, in the year 939, Ramiro the Second, king of Leon, attacked Madrid, and, entering on the Sabbath, overthrew the walls, committed a great slaughter of the Moors, and then returned to his capital to enjoy his victory in peace. At that period Madrid seems to have been a strongly fortified outpost, with walls, gates, towers, and an alcazar or castle, and was relied upon as a defence to Toledo, the Moorish capital, against the invasions of the armies of Castile and Leon, who used to rush down from their strongholds in the north, through the mountain passes of Guadarama and Fuenfria, and, spreading havoc and desolation around, hastily retreat again, before the enemy had time to rally their forces. After the attack on the city by Ramiro, the walls were repaired, and the Moors held it 110 years longer, until Ferdinand the First, of Leon, extended his conquests to the Tagus, took Madrid, slaughtered a great number of the Moors, and made them his tributaries. During the dominion of the Saracens, Madrid was large and rich, with extensive suburbs, distinguished schools, and numerous mosques and churches, while her Alcayde or Governor, held the first rank among those of the kingdom of Toledo, and her fame was spread far abroad by the songs of her native bards. After the expulsion of the Moors from the central parts of Spain, the favorable position of Madrid, its fortifications and the pure air and water found there, led Ferdinand the Fourth, in 1309, and his son Alfonso the Eleventh, in 1327, to collect the Cortes there, and fix upon it as their capital. Henry the Third was the first king of Castile who was crowned in Madrid. This took place in 1394, and from that time until the year 1560, when Philip the Second ascended the throne, the king and court resided sometimes at Walladolid, and then again at Madrid. Since that date Madrid has been the sole capital, except for five years, during the reign of Philip the Third. This monarch thought of fixing upon Seville, as his capital, enjoying as she does the advantages of commerce, and supplied with every luxury which nature produces. In order to dissuade him from this step the inhabitants of Madrid offered him the sixth part of the rent of all the houses in the city for ten years, which was afterwards commuted for the sum of 250,000 ducats. Successive monarchs have enriched the city by erecting palaces, convents, and other public buildings, until it has become in many respects one of the most interesting capitals in Europe. It is situated on a number of sand-hills of unequal heights, in the midst of a large tract of open country, bounded on the northeast and north by the mountains of Somosierra, and on the northwest by those of the Guadarrama. Its height above the level of the sea is 2,412 feet, thus making its elevation twice as great as that of any other European capital. Its circumference is little less than eight miles, while its diameter from east to west is about a mile and two thirds, and from north to south it is two miles. Madrid has five large or “royal gates,” and twelve smaller ones. At the former the duties are collected, and they are open until ten o’clock at night in winter, and till eleven in summer, while the small gates are shut at dark, and not opened until morning. The Gate of Alcala is a magnificent triumphal arch, constructed in the reign of WOL. I. 24