« VorigeDoorgaan »
formance, in Paraguay as elsewhere, was a thing too universal. What a time of it had this strict man with unreal performers, imaginary workmen, public and private, cleric and laic! Ye Gauchos,-it is no child's-play, casting-out those Seven Devils from you !
Monastic or other entirely slumberous church-establishments could expect no great favour from Francia. Such of them as seemed incurable, entirely slumberous, he somewhat roughly shook awake, somewhat sternly ordered to begone. Debout, canaille fainéante, as his prophet Raynal says ; Debout : aux champs, aux ateliers ! Can I have you sit here, droning old metre through your nose; your heart asleep in mere gluttony, the while ; and all Paraguay a wilderness or nearly so,—the Heaven's blessed sunshine growing mere tangles, lianas, yellow-fevers, rattlesnakes, and jaguars on it? Up, swift, to work ;-or mark this governmental horsewhip, what the crack of it is, what the cut of it is like to be!-Incurable, for one class, seemed archbishops, bishops, and suchlike; given merely to a sham-warfare against extinct devils. At the crack of Francia's terrible whip they went, dreading what the cut of it might be. A cheap worship in Paraguay, according to the humour of the people, Francia left; on condition that it did no mischief. Wooden saints and the like ware he also left sitting in their niches : no new ones, even on solicitation, would he give a doit to buy. Being petitioned to provide a new patronsaint for one of his new Fortifications once, he made this answer: “O People of Paraguay, how long will you continue idiots ? While I was a Catholic, I thought as you do : but I now see there are no saints but good cannons that will guard our frontiers !"15 This also is noteworthy. He inquired of the two Swiss Surgeons, what their religion was; and then added, “Be of what religion you like, here : Christians, Jews, Mussulmans, -but don't be Atheists.”
Equal trouble had Francia with his laic workers, and indeed with all manner of workers ; for it is in Paraguay as elsewhere, like priests like people. Francia had extensive barrack-buildings, nay city-buildings (as we have seen), arm-furnishings; immensities of work going on; and his workmen had in general a tendency to be imaginary. He could get no work out of
them ; only a more or less deceptive similitude of work! Masons so-called, builders of houses, did not build, but merely seem
to build ; their walls would not bear weather, stand on their pinay bases in high winds. Hodge-razors, in all conceivable kinds,
were openly marketed, 'which were never meant to shave, but only to be sold'! For a length of time Francia's righteous soul struggled sore, yet unexplosively, with the propensities of these unfortunate men. By rebuke, by remonstrance, encouragement, offers of reward, and every vigilance and effort, he strove to convince them that it was unfortunate for a Son of Adam to be an imaginary workman ; that every Son of Adam had better make razors which were meant to shave. In vain, all in vain ! At length Francia lost patience with them. “Thou wretched Fraction, wilt thou be the ninth part even of a tailor? Does it beseem thee to weave cloth of devil's-dust instead of true wool ; and cut and sew it as if thou wert not a tailor, but the fraction of a very tailor! I cannot endure every thing !" Francia, in despair, erected his · Workman's Gallows. Yes, that institution of the country did actually exist in Paraguay ; men and workmen saw it with eyes. A most remarkable, and, on the whole, not unbeneficial institution of society there. Robertson gives us the following scene with the Belt-maker of Assumpcion ; which, be it literal, or in part poetic, does, no doubt of it, hold the mirror up to Nature in an altogether true, and surely in a very surprising manner:
'In came, one afternoon, a poor Shoemaker, with a couple of grenadiers' belts, neither according to the fancy of the Dictator. “Sentinel,”—said he,-and in came the sentinel ; when the following conversation ensued :
'Dictator. "Take this bribonazo" (a very favourite word of the Dictator's, and which, being interpreted, means “most impertinent scoundrel'')—" take this bribonazo to the gibbet over the way; walk him under it half-a-dozen times :—and now," said he, turning to the trembling shoemaker, “bring me such another pair of belts, and instead of walking under the gallows, we shall try how you can swing upon it."
Shoemaker. “Please your Excellency, I have done my best."
'Dictator. “Well, bribon, if this be your best, I shall do my best to see that you never again mar a bit of the State's leather. The belts are of no use to me; but they will do very well to hang you upon the little framework which the grenadier will show you."
‘Shoemaker. “God bless your Excellency, the Lord forbid! I am
your vassal, your slave : day and night have I served, and will serve my lord; only give me two days more to prepare the belts; y por el alma de un triste zapatero (by the soul of a poor shoemaker), I will make them to your Excellency's liking.”
· Dictator. “Off with him, sentinel !"
Shoemaker. “Señor Excelentisimo,—this very night I will make the belts according to your Excellency's pattern.”
* Dictator. “Well, you shall have till the morning; but still you must pass under the gibbet: it is a salutary process, and may at once quicken the work and improve the workmanship.”
'wentinel. “Vamonos, bribon; the Supreme commands it."
Off was the Shoemaker marched: he was, according to orders, passed and repassed under the gibbet; and then allowed to retire to his stall.'
He worked there with such an alacrity and sibylline enthusiasm, all night, that his belts on the morrow were without parallel in South America ;—and he is now, if still in this life, Beltmaker-general to Paraguay, a prosperous man ; grateful to Francia and the gallows, we may hope, for casting certain of the Seven Devils out of him !
Such an institution of society would evidently not be introducible, under that simple form, in our old-constituted European countries. Yet it may be asked of constitutional persons in these times, By what succedaneum they mean to supply the want of it, then? In a community of imaginary workmen, how can you pretend to have any government, or social thing whatever, that were real ? Certain Tenpound Franchisers, with their “tremendous cheers,' are invited to reflect on this. With a community of quack workmen, it is by the law of Nature impossible that other than a quack government can be got to exist. Constitutional or other, with ballot-boxes or with none, your society in all its phases, administration, legislation, teaching, preaching, praying, and writing periodicals per sheet, will be a quack society ; terrible to live in, disastrous to look upon. Such an institution of society, adapted to our European ways, seems pressingly desirable. O Gauchos, South-American and European, what a business is it, casting out your Seven Devils !
But perhaps the reader would like to take a view of Dr. Francia in the concrete, there as he looks and lives ; managing that thousand-sided business for his Paraguenos, in the time
of Surgeon Rengger ? It is our last extract, or last view of the Dictator, who must hang no longer on our horizon here:
"I have already said, that Doctor Francia, so soon as he found himself at the head of affairs, took-up his residence in the habitation of the former Governors of Paraguay. This Edifice, which is one of the largest in Assumpcion, was erected by the Jesuits, a short time before their ex. pulsion, as a house of retreat for laymen, who devoted themselves to certain spiritual exercises instituted by Saint Ignatius. This Structure the Dictator repaired and embellished; he has detached it from the other houses in the City, by interposing wide streets. Here he lives, with four slaves, a little negro, one male and two female mulattoes, whom he treats with great mildness. The two males perform the functions of valet-de-chambre and groom. One of the two mulatto women is his cook, and the other takes care of his wardrobe.
‘He leads a very regular life. The first rays of the sun very rarely find him in bed. So soon as he rises, the negro brings a chafing-dish, a kettle and a pitcher of water; the water is made to boil there. The Dictator then prepares, with the greatest possible care, his maté, or Paraguay tea. Having taken this, he walks under the Interior Colonnade that looks upon the court; and smokes a cigar, which he first takes care to unroll, in order to ascertain there is nothing dangerous in it, though it is his own sister who makes-up his cigars for him. At six o'clock comes the barber, an ill-washed, ill-clad mulatto, given to drink too; but the only member of the faculty whom he trusts in. If the Dictator is in good humour, he chats with the barber; and often in this manner makes use of him to prepare the public for his projects : this barber may be said to be his official gazette. He then steps out, in his dressing-gown of printed calico, to the Outer Colonnade, an open space with pillars, which ranges all round the building: here he walks about, receiving at the same time such persons as are admitted to an audience. Towards seven, he withdraws to his room, where he remains till nine ; the officers and other functionaries then come to make their reports, and receive his orders. At eleven o'clock, the fiel de fecho (principal secretary) brings the papers which are to be inspected by him, and writes from his dictation till noon. At noon all the officers retire, and Doctor Francia sits down to table. His dinner, which is extremely frugal, he always himself orders. When the cook returns from market, she deposits her provisions at the door of her master's room ; the Doctor then comes out, and selects what he wishes for himself.
‘After dinner he takes his siesta. On awakening he drinks his matė, and smokes a cigar, with the same precautions as in the morning. From this, till four or five, he occupies himself with business, when the escort to attend him on his promenade arrives. The barber then enters and dresses his hair, while his horse is getting ready. During his ride, the Doctor inspects the public works, and the barracks, particularly
those of the cavalry, where he has had a set of apartments prepared for his own use. While riding, though surrounded by his escort, he is armed with a sabre and a pair of double-barrelled pocket-pistols. He returns home about nightfall, and sits down to study till nine; then he goes to supper, which consists of a roast pigeon and a glass of wine. If the weather be fine, he again walks in the Outer Colonnade, where he often remains till a very late hour. At ten o'clock he gives the watchword. On returning into the house, he fastens all the doors himself.'
Francia's brother was already mad. Francia banished this sister by and by, because she had employed one of his grenadiers, one of the public government's soldiers, on some errand of her own. 16 Thou lonely Francia !
Francia's escort of cavalry used to strike men with the flat of their swords,' much more assault them with angry epithets, if they neglected to salute the Dictator as he rode out. Both he and they, moreover, kept a sharp eye for assassins ; but never found any, thanks perhaps to their watchfulness. Had Francia been in Paris !-At one time also, there arose annoyance in the Dictatorial mind from idle crowds gazing about his Government House, and his proceedings there. Orders were given that all people were to move on, about their affairs, straight across this government esplanade ; instructions to the sentry, that if any person paused to gaze, he was to be peremptorily bidden, Move on !—and if he still did not move, to be shot with ball-cartridge. All Paraguay men moved on, looking to the ground, swift as possible, straight as possible, through those precarious spaces ; and the affluence of crowds thinned itself almost to the verge of solitude. One day, after many weeks or months, a human figure did loiter, did gaze in the forbidden ground : “Move on!” cried the sentry sharply; -no effect : “ Move on!” and again none. “Move on!" for the third time :-alas, the unfortunate human figure was an Indian, did not understand human speech, stood merely gaping interrogatively :—whereupon a shot belches-forth at him, the whewing of winged lead; which luckily only whewed, and did not hit ! The astonishment of the Indian must have been considerable, his retreat-pace one of the rapidest. As for Francia, he summoned the sentry with hardly suppressed rage, “ What