SQUIRR'S NICARAGUA. * Mn. SQL/FER is a fluent "free and easy"
American, with all the no- tions of - a stump orator touching the superiority of the "en- lightened ", to all the natiens of tile earth, and the same personage's idea of the treachery, Cruelty, avarice, &e. &c. of Great Britain. He has a style which sticks at nothing a modesty that never stands in his way, and a liberty of speech which to do him justice is as freely exercised upon what he thinks the faults of " Yankees " as upon an one else. With the ready flowing style of his country- men, Mr. Squier has also an imagination which does not always accompany the pen of a ready writer. It is true, the reader only has imagination in the raw state. Mr. Sprier continually lets his pen run off with him, sometimes throwing away his liveliness on commonplaces, or he is too inventorial even among novelties that will be commonplaces in time. Still he is really equal to the scenery he is travelling among, and that is saying a good deal. The wildly luxuriant scenes of the Tropics, the gorgeous effects of • Nicaragua ; ha People, Scenery, Monuments, and the Proposed Interoceanic Canal. With numerous original Maps and Illustrations. By E. G. Snider, Into Charge d'Affaires of the United States to the Republics of Central America. In two colonies. Published by Lmgman and Co. . sun, air, and animated nature, the grandeur of the mountain and volcanic regions of Central America, are reflected with force and apparently with fidelity in his pages ; the beauty or sublimity of nature sometimes subduing the sufficiency of the self-satisfied Yankee. This picture of a lava flood on the neck of land between Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua is a striking description of a striking scene.
" At the distance of about a league, however, we came to what is called the mal pais,'—literally, the bad country. It was an immense field of lava, which at the last eruption of Masaya had flowed down from the volcano, for a distance of fifteen or twenty miles, in the direction of the lakes. The road crossed it on the summit of a ridge running transversely to the lava current, where the field was narrow, but spreading out on both sides to a great distance. It looked like a vast klain of cast-iron, newly cooled, black and forbidding. In places it was rolled led up in frowning masses, elsewhere piled one flake on the other, like the ice in the spring-time upon the shores and low islands or in the narrow channels of our rivers. An ocean of ink, suddenly congealed during Ft storm, if the imagination of the reader can pic- ture it, would better illustrate its appearance than anything else which oc- curs to me at this moment. Here and there, great ragged masses, fifty or a hundred feet square, had been turned completely over by the current as it flowed beneath, exhibiting upon the exposed surface a regularly striated ap- pearance, like the curling fibre of the oak or maple. I dismounted, and scrambled out amongst the crinkling fragments, but did not go far, as the sharp edges and points cut through my boots like knives. At one place, I observed where the half-cooled lava had wrapped itself, layer on layer, around a large tree, which subsequently burning out or decaying, had left a perfect east of its trunk and principal branches, so accurate that the very roughness of the bark could still be traced."
Mr. Squier, too, has dramatic faculty to enable him to seize the characteristics of what passes before him, if he could not produce a drama. This little bit from San Juan, where he landed, and had to linger before starting for the interior, is a good sketch of an Irishman drunk and Americanized.
"We reached the beach just as the sun was setting, where we found our mate with the yawl : An' it bates any city ve've seen, I'll be bound. Its pier number one, is this blessed spot of dirt where ye are just now ; may be ye don't know it. And yonder hen-coop is the customhouse, be sure ; and that dirty clout is the Nagur King's flag, bad luck to it ! and it's nieself who expects to live to see the stripes and forty stars to back 'em, (Diva a one less!) wavin' here. Hurrah for old Zack ! an' it's him that can do it.'
"It was clear that our mate, who had not looked at a bottle during the whole voyage, thought a d'hrap' necessary to neutralize the miasma of San Juan.
" ' Perhaps ye know what ye'r laughing at, my dark boy ? an it's meself that'll be afther givin' ye a taste of the way we Yankees do the thing, savin• the presence of his honour here,' said the mate dashing his hat on the ground, and advancing a step towards my new acquaintance, who recoiled in evident alarm. We interposed, and the mate cooled at once, and shook hands cordially with the coloured gentleman ; although he spoiled the amende by immediately going to the water's brink and carefully washing his palms."
'Mr. Spier was accredited on the part of the United States as envoy, to the Republic of Nicaragua. His business was a gene-. ral . treaty of friendship, and a particular negotiation touching the. ship-canal, which'when carried into eflhct is to connect the At- lantic and Pacific Oceans by means of the river San Juan, and the Lakes Nicaragua and Managua or Leon. The Republic) itself a few years since formed a portion of the state of Guate- mala or Central America, but rose (or fell) to independence in some of the numerous revolntions that so rapidly succeed each other in the:quondam colonies of Spain. The elements of wealth in Nica- ragua are great, but peace and money-making have been driven from the land by the acts and aggressions of perfidious Albion. Under pretence of defending the rights of our ally the King of the Mosquito shore, we have laid claim to large slices of the Nicaragua territory, and enforced those claims by the ultima ratio. On the arrival of Mr. Squier there was peace and no peace. Open war on the part of the Britons had ceased, but the country was disturbed, and the envoy's progress somewhat delayed, by one Somoza, a rob- ber and revolutionist, whose insurrection against the Government of Nicaragua there are pregnant reasons for supposing were fo- mented by the British. However, soon after Mr. Squierhad made his way to -Granada by the river San Juan and the lake Nicaragua, General. Munoz arrived with a force to go in pursuit of Somoza and, an army being placed between himself and danger, the envoy proceeded to the real capital Leon, and the legisla- tive capital Managua, besides visiting in the course of his diplomatic procession, and after the completion 'of his busi- ness,the most remarkable places in the country, whether connected with natural beauty or wonders, antiquities, or commercial capa- bilities. On some of these occasions Mr. Squier was received as "the minister," and entertained with speeches in which the virtues of his countrymen and the vices of the British were a loading topic. In return for this, the envoy cast his eyes about him with an eye to annexation in the fulness of time. He evidently looks upon Nicaragua as a second California.
Besides his fluent liveliness as a describer and narrator, Mr. Squier had a great advantage in the novelty of his subject. It is true that the world knows, or at least may learn, more about the country than he supposes. His diplomatic predecessor Stevens tra-
versed this region and a great deal more in his unsuccessful hunt after the government of Guatemala or Central America. Mr. Montgomery, another American diplomatist, published a book re- lating to 'the lame country. Other travellers have also visited parts of the district, and the existing water communication furnish- ing the most feasible known line for a canal between the Atlantie and Pacific has attracted much geographical attention. The region, however, is unexhausted and interesting. With much presumption, many faults of taste, and learning insufficient for some of the topics he handles, Mr. Squier will be found a lively and very good- natured companion over unfamiliar ground. His topics in this narrative are various. Personal incidents„ sketches of individual character and general manners, scenery, an- tiquities, history, natural productions and pluenomena, commercial capabilities and means of transit, are all touched upon by Mr. Squier. He has also some good stones; of which the following way of "making a house" is one. To avoid local influence, the National Assembly meets at Managua, and on this account few members attend.
"The task of getting together the members of the Assembly, which is comprised of a House of Deputies and a Senate, is not an easy one. The attractions of the city of Managua are notgreat ; the pay is only a dollar and a half per diem.; and such is the precarious condition of the treasury that
this small sum is not always secure. Nor are there any profitable contracts to be obtained for friends, with contingent reversions to incorruptible mem- bers; no mileage to speak of; in fact, few if any of those inducements to patriotic zeal which make our citizens so ambitious of seats in the National Congress. As a consequence, it is usually necessary, in order to secure a constitutional quorum for the transaction of business, to announce before- hand that a sufficient sum for the payment of members is actually in the treasury, and will be reserved for that express purpose. But even this is not always sufficient; and the Government has several times come to a stand-still for want of a quorum. An instance of this kind occurred during the administration of General Guerrero, who found himself for a week in Managua, with his cabinet officers around him, but utterly unable to act. The Assembly lacked two of a quorum, and precisely that number of mem- bers, elected from the city of Leon, were absent. They were the Licenciado Z. and the Doctor of Medicine J., men of mark in the country, but for a variety of reasons not then desirous of committing themselves on the mea- sures of public policy which were to be brought before the Chambers. The Director wrote to them, stating the condition of the Assembly, and soliciting their immediate attendance. The lawyer excused himself on the ground of illness, and the doctor because he had no horse nor money for his expenses. But they mistook their man : in a few minutes after their replies were re- ceived, the General had despatched two officers of the National Guard to Leon, and before daylight the 'next morning the Licenciado was politely waited upon by one of them, attended by a file of soldiers, and informed that there was an ox-cart at the door, with a good bed of straw, in which the soldiers would carefully lift him, and where he would find the army doctor, to administer to his necessities during his journey to Managua The Licen- ciado expostulated; but the officer looked at his watch and coolly observed that the cart must start in precisely three minutes, and dead or alive the Licenciado must go. The doctor was waited upon in like manner, with the information that the Director had sent his own horse for his accommodation and four rials (half a dollar) for his expenses, and that he had five minutes wherein to prepare himself for the excursion. It is needless to add, that the lawyer was suddenly cured, and that both he and the delinquent doctor duly tilled out the quorum at Managua. They each tell the story now as an ex- deedingly good joke; but the General avers that at the time of their appear- ance in their seats their manners and temper were far from angelic."
The personal narrative of Mr. Squier occupies the largest and most popularly interesting portion of his volumes ; but there are several other sections,—a geographical account of the country, a treatise on the aborigines, an "outline" of the political history of Central America, and a consideration of the Interoceanic Canal. The business of this last was in reality the object of his mission, though his labours, he intimates, were frustrated by the Cabinet of Washington after General Taylor's death; his negotiation being put aside for the Bulwer treaty. This is a matter of small mo- ment, if a judgment may be formed from the data Mr. Squier has collected. He properly lays it down as a rule, that the passage must be adapted for vessels of the largest size. The river San Tuan, he says, is not adapted for this purpose, and cannot be made so. An entirely new canal of seventy miles must therefore be cut, to enable ships to reach the lake of Nicaragua. When that is done' there must be a canal from the lake of Nicaragua or Leon to the Pacific, through difficulties so great that where an ac- tual survey has been made they are found insuperable as regards cost. There must also be a connecting passage between the two lakes' and, it strikes us, some operations on the lakes themselves. The shortest line, but impracticable from intervening obstacles, involves a total "canalization" of 83 miles ; the most practicable one, of 94 miles, (put down by Mr. Squier as 194 miles, but this seems a mistake, unless he includes improvement of the lakes). At the same time, " practicable " means conjecturally. The im- practicable line is the only one that has been surveyed, or indeed continuously examined, and that only from Lake Nicaragua to the Pacific—a distance of 13 miles.