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fects of a high-toned Christian morality in giving the strongest possible security to property and life; and the voice of God within us conspires with the written record of His will, in confirming alike the wisdom and the justice of the dread de
Whosoever sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.”
One of our resting-places for a night, was Talavera de la Reyna, or Talavera of the Queen, so called from its formerly having been given in dowry to the queens of Spain. It contains 8,000 or 10,000 inhabitants; and on the plains near the town, there was, in the year_1809, a long, hardfought, and bloody battle between the English and Spanish, commanded by Lord Wellington, on the one side, and the French, under Joseph Bonaparte, on the other. About 15,000 were killed on both sides; and an old English soldier who was there, told me, that during the battle, the French sent a flag of truce, requesting that the fighting might cease long enough to bury the dead; but this was resused, and after the French had retreated, great numbers of bodies were thrown together, and, mixed with olive wood and broken muskels, were burned. The sufferings of the soldiers from heat, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, were extreme. As an evidence of the love of revenge, and the savage ferocity of the Spaniards, the author of “The Subaltern Officer” relates, that when he was himself employed in collecting and placing in the hospitals the French soldiers who were left wounded on the field of action, the Spanish, who had done but little during the action, were engaged in shooting the poor helpless wretches. In one case he arrested and drove away one of these bloodhounds, when in the very act of committing such a murder, but saw him, soon after, slily returning to do the deed of death. Thus do the horrors of war convert man into a demon, and steel the heart to every feeling of sympathy and kindness.
Near the eastern frontier of Portugal, and in all parts of Spain, I often met with large flocks of sheep, under the care of shepherds and their dogs. Besides the merinos, there were many with long white fleeces, of the coarseness of hair. This wool is used throughout Spain for filling beds. Indeed, I have not, since leaving the United States, either in Spain or Italy, met with other than wool beds. There are also great numbers of black sheep, and their wool commands a higher price than the white, because the peasants can make their
cloth of it, without the expense of coloring. The flocks of sheep are confined by night, in low folds, made by bundles of bushes placed upright, and kept together by ropes which are fastened to rows of stakes driven in the ground. The shepherds sleep in small huts in the form of a cone, and thatched or covered with turf. As the country has but few fences, their duty is to keep the sheep from the vineyards and fields of grain, and defend them by night from robbers and from beasts of prey.
The first time that I ever saw one of these encampments, was just at daybreak on Christmas morning, and this coincidence, naturally enough, caused my thoughts to revert with interest, to the time when angels appeared to the shepherds of Bethlehem, as they watched their flocks by night, and announced to them the joyful news of the birth of the Messiah.
Before leaving Talavera, it was proposed that we should take with us three or four soldiers, as an escort, inasmuch as the diligence had been twice robbed near there, within a few days. But to this I objected, on the ground that it was wholly useless, for the robbers are commonly in bands of twelve or fifteen, and the guards of the diligence never risk their lives by opposing such a number. Indeed, it is much more safe travelling in Morocco, and the other Barbary states, than in Spain, for there, a man may move securely in any direction, provided he have with him but a single government soldier ; for the life of the soldier is held responsible for the safety of those whoin he attends, and he is so far looked upon as a representative of the power of his prince, that, as he passes along, the wild Arabs of the desert will humbly approach him, and kiss the hem of his garment. It is also a well-known fact, that the cargo of a ship, wrecked on the coast of Barbary, is in less danger of being violently seized and plundered, than when the same accident occurs on the coast of Spain.
The last fifty or sixty miles of our journey towards Madrid, was parallel to a range of mountains, which lay at the distance of a league or two from the road, on our left. They are called (if I mistake not) the Sierrade los Gregos; Sierra, or Saw, being a common name in Spain for those ranges of mountains which have a thin, uneven summit, with frequent points projecting upwards like the teeth of a saw. The range just referred to, was covered with snow, about a third of the distance from the summit down, and the breezes that swept through the valleys below, were cold enough to chill one to the very heart. They seemed to enter at every pore, and in spite of one's winter garments, darted through him like a shock of electric fluid, until his very lifeblood was ready to freeze and curdle in his veins. It has been my lot, from early childhood, to buffet the cold winter gales, which sweep over the snow-clad hills and ice-bound valleys of New England; but sure I am, that never before, had I felt such a sudden, piercing, and pungent sensation of intense cold, as used sometimes to seize upon me, during my wanderings over the elevated plains, or among the lofty mountains of Central Spain. Before reaching Madrid, and during the whole time of my visit there, the ice on standing water, was six or eight inches thick. Boys were often seen skating upon it, and large numbers of men were employed in breaking it up and carting it into the city for summer use. Still, not a fake of snow was seen upon the plains, though now and then a white frost an inch or two deep, would be thrown down, during the night, from the clear, pellucid atmosphere.
It was a fair, bright morning, when we approached Madrid, and in passing over the successive hills, which lay in our way, we had frequent and beautiful views of the Royal Palace, with the extensive pleasure-grounds, and long, shaded avenues, which line the banks of the river below, while in the back-ground, rose the numerous lofty towers and cupolas, which adorn the churches, and other public buildings of the city. And this, thought I, as with excited feelings I gazed upon the scene before me, this is Madrid, the illustrious and the grand, the idol of the Spaniard's heart, and so noble in his estimation, that compared with it, no other place deserves the name of capital. From this point, a power long went forth which was felt throughout an empire, ranked among the largest the world has ever known; — embracing in its wide extent, not only the fairest portions of southern and of central Europe, but large and fertile groups of islands, in widely distant oceans, and immense domains throughout the western hemisphere. How vast were the wealth and possessions, and how splendid and imposing the display, of the Spanish monarchy, in the time of Charles the Fifth and his immediate successors, but now, alas, how has this once powerful monarchy
“ Fallen, fallen, fallen from its high estate.”
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 suel, 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 blood hounds, turned loose to prey upon the people. Their knavery has given them