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The History of Cuba, vol. 1 by Johnson

When Governor Cordova suddenly died on the second of June


Spain

was at this period at the lowest ebb of her power. Financially she was on the brink of bankruptcy. Her commerce was paralyzed by stupid laws. The scandalous conduct of her officials had sadly lowered her prestige. Nature herself seemed to conspire against the once so powerful empire. Storms and inundations had swept over the country and ravaged the land, until its very soil had become unproductive. Tempests along her shores had destroyed even the ships lying in port. The mentally and physically feeble monarch, Charles II., was a helpless puppet in the hands of his favorites. A believer in witchcraft, astrology and the black arts and devoted to superstitious practices, he left the affairs of state to his prime ministers who conducted them with varying ability.

When Ledesma's governorship terminated on the thirty-first of August, 1680, there was appointed in his place D. Alonso de Campos Espinosa. But as Valdes and other authorities on Cuban history have nothing to record about his official career, it must have been only provisional, and was certainly very brief. For in September of that year the Field Marshal D. Jose Fernandez de Cordova Ponce de Leon took charge of the office. Governor Cordova proved to be a very conscientious and energetic functionary and distinguished himself first by the vigor and perseverance with which he pushed work on the fortifications of Havana. He also showed his ability in fighting the pirate scourge. The filibusters

had begun to organize bases of operation on the islands of Signale and Lucayas, similar to those of Tortuga. He sent against them an expedition headed by the captains Acosta and Urubarru, who succeeded in destroying the outlaw colonies in the name of the king and took a great number of prisoners. The chief event of Governor Cordova's administration was an encounter which the coast guard Galliot of the port Virgen del Rosario y Santa Jose had with a host of French invaders. The governor and organized forces of patriotic citizens so ably seconded the guard in the defense of the place that the enemy was defeated.

Governor Cordova made many enemies by his vigorous persecution of the smugglers who had greatly increased in number and by their clandestine operations were interfering with and discrediting the legitimate trade of the island. They had become such a power that they had the audacity to bring denunciations and accusations against the governor before the court, which, however, set these charges aside and approved all of Cordova's measures directed against them. He also had grave difficulties with the commissary of the Santo Officio, D. Jose Garaondo. They were not yet settled, when Governor Cordova suddenly died on the second of June, 1685. There were rumors afloat that he, too, like Bishop Calderon, had been poisoned by his enemies. During the interim between his death and the arrival from Spain of his successor, the affairs of the island were administered by D. Antonio Manuel de Murgina y Mena and Captain D. Andres de Munive, who shared between them the political and military authority.

The newly appointed governor of Cuba was the general of artillery, D. Diego de Viana y Hinojosa. When he arrived in Havana in November, 1687, he brought with him the first copies of the "Codigo e Recopilacion de India," as the statutes or laws of the West Indies were called. They were in force by royal decree, although they were in reality only a confirmation of the famous Ordinances of 1542. They were distinguished by a spirit of rectitude and impartiality and were particularly commendable for their justice towards the native Indians, who were exempted from all servitude and were accorded equal rights with the Spaniards. Unfortunately these laws suffered from one serious defect: they were framed so as to apply to all dominions of Spanish America and did not take into account the indisputable fact that laws applicable to and beneficent in Peru, might be prejudicial in Mexico and Cuba. This did not, however, diminish in the least the ethical significance and humanitarian value of this codex of some four hundred laws, decrees and mandates; they gave proof of the admirable sentiment of the mother country towards her colonies.


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