Mr. Langston to Mr. Evarts
Port au Prince, Hayti , May 10, 1878. (Received June 1.)
Sir: On the first day of this month the fête of agriculture was celebrated in this city. The approach of this celebration was announced, on the evening of the 30th of April, by the firing of cannon, and the dawn of the following morning, the day of the fête, was saluted by the firing of the same great guns. At seven o’clock in the morning of the 1st instant, the various functionaries of the government, national and local, present at the capital, assembled at the national palace, and, at eight o’clock, the President, supported by the several ministers of his cabinet, and accompanied by a large escort of troops, repaired to Place Pétion, where, in the presence of a large gathering, the products of agriculture were exhibited and the addresses delivered. Subsequently the assemblage, forming in line of march, led by bands of music and soldiers, accompanied by the President and his cabinet, repaired to the cathedral, where a Te Deum was chanted and high mass celebrated. At the close of the exercises here the competitors to whom prizes had been awarded, accompanied by the secretary of the interior and agriculture, went to the Hôtel Communal, where they were served with a sumptuous dinner. The conduct of this celebration seemed to give general satisfaction.
The present constitution of Hayti (the one of 1867) provides for two national celebrations. One occurs on the 1st day of January, and commemorates Haytian independence and the character and deeds of its chief hero, Jean Jacques Dessalines; the other occurs on the 1st day of May, and is intended, at present, to be an agricultural exhibition with competition for prizes awarded to those who excel in cultivation of quality and quantity of agricultural production. The language of Article 201 of the constitution reads as translated: “The national fêtes are that of the independance of Hayti, and its hero, the 1st of January, and that of agriculture, the 1st of May. The legal fêtes are determined by law.”
On the 21st day of September, 1877, the government, through the department of the interior and agriculture, provided that the administrations of communes and arrondissements should arrange for local agricultural exhibitions; and at the same time and through the same agency provided for a national exhibition to take place at the capital on the Ist day of May. In accordance with such regulation there was held in this city, as already stated, on the 1st day of this month an agricultural exhibition.
The products had on display were neither numerous nor various. A few specimens of coffee, sugar-cane, and fruits constituted the sum total of what was to be seen. There were no horses, no sheep, no hogs, no cattle, no fowls on exhibition. Neither were cereals exhibited, nor such vegetables as potatoes, Irish or sweet. Corn, as grown in this country, is sometimes very good, although very inadequately cultivated generally, and very good specimens of it might have been produced. Horses, especially those used for saddle purposes, donkeys and mules used for draught, sheep and cattle, especially bullocks used in teams, are very abundant, and many of them of excellent quality. The sheep, of course, are valueless for wool, but furnish excellent mutton. Beautiful specimens of such animals as are here enumerated might have been put on [Page 447] exhibition. It is not to be understood that improved breeds are referred to in this connection.
There was, however, no suitable provision made for exhibition, for anything like agricultural display. Every one presenting products held them in his hands. Neither table nor platform was provided as places of deposit and display; and yet, in spite of this very great inconvenience, the earnest attention given by those in attendance, both at Place Pétion and the cathedral, discovered intelligent interest and improving understanding as to the subject of agricultural advancement.
The address of the Hon. Em. M. A. Gutierrez, the secretary of state of the interior and of agriculture, delivered on this occasion, herewith inclosed as translated, marked A, was received with intelligent appreciation and approval. As a representative of the government, presenting its purpose with regard to agricultural improvement in the country, this utterance of Mr. Gutierrez is worthy of special consideration. Other addresses were delivered; one by the magistrat communal; another by the president of the conseil of the arrondissement; but that of the secretary is the one which is significant. His views with regard to improving the machinery and implements of husbandry used in this country are correct and wise.
There is the largest room for improvement, for all the agricultural implements used in this country are rude enough. The chief ones are the common hoe and the machete; sometimes plows are seen, but I think never used. The ax is used for cutting and hewing timber and wood. But it is not a common instrument, and the style is by no means the best. Some machines of the smaller sizes and less improved styles are used in some localities for cleaning coffee and cotton, and grinding and pressing sugar-cane. But, in the main, the laborer here does not use improved implements. As far as the cultivation of the soil is concerned, its preparation and tillage, the harvesting of crops, the thrashing of grain, the cleaning of coffee and cotton, the preparation of rice, sugar, sirup, and taffia, the implements used are primitive and crude; they are faulty and inadequate to prosperous and advantageous tillage. It is not because they cannot be obtained that improved implements are not used; but because the people do not know about their value and are not disposed to learn. They prefer, as at present informed, to follow the old ways, cultivating industrial habits and methods which seem to be more easy because better understood, if they are less remunerative and advantageous. Of the methods of cultivation adopted it is only necessary to say that, as far as the tillers of the soil are concerned, there is not only a general lack of intelligence, but an indisposition, as already stated, to adopt new ones, with improved implements as required. It is hardly true that they are indisposed to labor; for they are, as a class, men and women, good workers. If the field and garden here could only be cultivated according to the well-tested and improved methods of enlightened nations, the same amount of labor—less labor in fact—would bring the abundant harvests of wise tillage to the Haytian laborer.
As more, fully explanatory of the purpose and policy of the government with regard to the subject of this dispatch, I transmit herewith inclosed, as translated, circular numbered 12 of the department of the interior and agriculture. This circular will also render the address of the secretary more intelligible and easy of apprehension. Soil as fertile and easy of cultivation as that of Hayti, so generous in products, deserves kindly treatment of its tillers. And were the tillage improved by the introduction of better implements, and suitable [Page 448] machinery used in harvesting and preparing its products for market, the rewards of agricultural industry would be greatly enhanced, and the general interests of the country promoted.
I have, &c.,