Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/140

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two years, but in the end Ponce was forced to yield the political control to the representatives of Columbus. While Ponce was exploring Florida in 1513 the conquerors of Porto Rico had established their domination in the upper western portion of the island by a series of settlements. The ruthless methods by which the Spaniards forced the natives to labour for them caused a change in the attitude of the erstwhile friendly Borinqueños. Both Ponce and his rivals had introduced the system of repartimientos established by Columbus in Haiti. A preliminary distribution of 1060 natives in 1509-1510 was the direct precursor of the rebellion of the natives in 1511. For a time the Borinqueños, aided by Caribs from the neighbouring islands, threatened to destroy all vestiges of white occupation in Porto Rico, but in the end the Spaniards prevailed. Immediately after this rebellion a second distribution of more than 4000 natives foreshadowed the rapid disappearance of those unfortunates, despite the well-meaning regulations of the Council of the Indies. For some decades the inevitable extermination was postponed by the fact that the Spaniards were not numerous enough to occupy the southern and eastern portions of the island. Here a remnant of the Borinqueños, assisted by the Caribs, maintained a severe struggle with the conquerors, but in the end their Indian allies were subdued by English and French corsairs, and the unfortunate natives of Porto Rico were left alone to experience the full effect of forced labour, disastrous hurricanes, natural plagues and new diseases introduced by the conquerors. By 1520 philanthropic churchmen directed their attention to the miserable conditions of the natives; but remedial legislation was largely nullified by the rapacity of subordinate officials, and before the end of the 16th century the natives disappeared as a distinct race.

To replace the natives as a labour element and also to preserve them from extermination African slavery was early permitted, and by 1530 there were over 1500 negro slaves in Porto Rico. Although the extravagant prices paid at first almost ruined the planters, the traffic continued to flourish in hands of foreign concessionaires until 1820, when through English influence it was abandoned. At this period negroes were an important element of the population, but by no means the most numerous one.

At no period of its history has Porto Rico enjoyed great prosperity. Besides the causes already indicated the evil character of many of the white settlers conspired to retard its development. In 1515 its European population may have been 400. Until 1782 the island was divided into the eastern district of Puerto Rico and the western one of San Germán. In 1513 the arrival of its first bishop, who later also exercised the function of general inquisitor, added one more to the discordant elements ruling the island. About 1520 Caparra was abandoned for a more healthy site, and the city of San Juan de Puerto Rico was founded as the capital of the eastern district. In time Puerto Rico became the name of the whole island. In 1536 legislation for changing the method of general government and regulating common pasturage's and public property caused extreme dissatisfaction, but for many years thereafter the form of control alternated between alcaldes selected by the inhabitants and annual governors appointed by the Council of the Indies.

To the difficulties caused by disaster, depopulation and maladministration there was added the danger of foreign invasion when war broke out in Europe between Francis I. of France and the emperor Charles V. In 1528 San Germán was plundered by a French corsair and twenty-six years later utterly destroyed. In 1533 the fortaleza, now the governor's palace, was begun at San Juan, and in 1539-1584 Morro Castle was erected at the entrance of the harbour. Possibly these slight fortifications preserved the capital from the destruction which overwhelmed all the other settlements; but these measures for defence were due more to the loyalty of the inhabitants than to the efforts of the home government, which at this time remained indifferent to appeals for help from the island.

In 1595 San Juan was unsuccessfully attacked by an English fleet under Sir Francis Drake; two years later another English force, led by Sir George Cumberland, occupied the city for some weeks. The city was attacked in 1625 by a Dutch fleet, which was easily repulsed. The buccaneers or filibusters, who during the 17th century were drawn to the West Indies by the prospect of plundering the possessions of decadent Spain, often invaded Porto Rico, but that island escaped the conquest which Haiti experienced. The English attacked the island in 1678, 1702, 1703 and 1743; and in 1797 an English force attempted to reduce San Juan, but was repulsed by the strong fortifications vigorously manned by resident volunteers. After this event the city was permitted to add the words “very noble and very loyal” to its coat of arms.

Porto Rico was comparatively unaffected by the great Spanish-American uprising of the early 19th century. During the struggle of Spain against Napoleon, the island, in common with the other American dominions, was represented in the Spanish Cortes and had its first legislative assembly. Trade with the United States was permitted in 1815, although only in Spanish ships. The island suffered from the reactionary policy of Ferdinand VII., but the few sporadic attempts at revolution between 1815 and 1820 were readily suppressed. Columbian insurgents made ineffectual attempts to invade the island during 1819-29. Governor Miguel de la Torre, who ruled the island with vice-regal powers during the second period of Ferdinand's absolutism, sternly repressed all attempts at liberalism, and made the island the resort for loyal refugees from the Spanish mainland. This policy, coupled with certain administrative and revenue reforms, and some private attempts in behalf of public education, made the last seven years of his rule, from 1827 to 1834, the most prosperous in the Spanish regime. The unsettled political condition of Spain during the next forty years was reflected in the disturbed political conditions of Porto Rico and Cuba. The suffrage was restricted, the Press was placed under a strict censorship, and the right of public assemblage was unknown. Economically the island in 1868 was in a much worse condition than thirty years before. The Revolution of 1868 in Spain promised such salutary changes for the Antilles as the introduction of political parties, the restoration of representation in the Spanish Cortes, and the enfranchisement of the slaves; but the imprudent “Insurrection of Lares,” and other outbreaks of 1867-68, delayed these anticipated reforms. The reactionaries feared separation from the mother country. Under the short-lived republican government in Spain Porto Rico was in 1870-1874 a province with a provincial deputation, and in 1873 slavery was abolished. After the restoration of the monarchy under Alphonso XII. there was some improvement in the commerce of the island, but politically it displayed all the evils of an obsolete system of administration disturbed by a premature liberalism. In 1877 the provincial deputation was re-established, but it was not until 1895 that the home government attempted, far too late, to enact a series of adequate reform measures, and in November 1897 followed this by a grant of autonomy.

When in April 1898 war broke out between Spain and the United States the former strongly garrisoned the island, but the fortifications of the capital were largely of the massive stone construction that had repelled Abercrombie a century before, most of the artillery was of an obsolete pattern and the few cruisers in the harbour were antiquated in type. The American invasion of the island occurred in July. On the 25th of that month, while a few vessels made a demonstration before San Juan, the main American fleet was landing some 3400 troops under General Nelson A. Miles at Guánica, a small town on the southern shore, some 15 m. west of Ponce. Three days later the latter town surrendered, amid demonstrations of joy on the part of the inhabitants. The people seemed to regard the American flag as the harbinger of a new era. General Miles's policy in affording employment for the natives likewise served to make the new American régime acceptable.

Meanwhile the Spanish governor-general, Manuel Macias y