Imágenes de páginas

that the negroes are overworked. For the purpose of exhibiting the absence of all foundation for such an accusation, she enters into a detail of the nature of their employment, and commences with that well-known cultivation in which the great majority of negroes are engaged, namely, the cultivation of the sugar-cane. Early in November, she informs us, the land is prepared for holing: the holes are about fifteen inches deep, and from three to four feet square, lined regularly off: they are as exact as the squares of a backgammon-board : this is the hardest work upon the estate, and an allowance of rum and water is distributed to each in the field so occupied.

Now, this is the hardest work required in the culture of the cane; and Mrs. Carmichael declares that, after having watched the negroes employed in it over and over again, it is nothing at all compared, as to the fatigue that attends it, to the common operations of ploughing, reaping, or mowing, in this country. The hoe used by the negroes is by no means weighty, or anything like too heavy for an adult. The work of holing is very slowly gone through, and the negroes are described as losing half their time in pauses, during which they tell some pleasant stories to each other. They were never heard by Mrs. Carmichael to complain of their labour as too hard, but she knew many of them to rejoice at the approach of the season which was to bring it round, as they then obtained an additional allowance of rum and water. During the whole year there is a person whose duty it is to fetch water three times a day to the negroes; and, if the day be very hot, he brings it five times. Either rum or mandango sugar or molasses is given, and the women generally prefer the sugar. The other stages of this cultivation are described as follows:

Planting canes generally commences in the end of November, or beginning of December; from three to four plants are put in each square.

The plant consists of the upper joints of the cane, which contain no saccharine juices, from eight to nine inches long, with generally five to six eyes, from which the shoots sprout. This is very light work, and they make it more so by trifling over it in such a way, that this at once strikes the eye of a stranger,-premising that stranger to have been in the habit of watching farming operations in Great Britain.

Weeding the young canes succeeds planting; it is begun when the cane is about twenty inches in height: this is very easy work, and is performed by children from eight years and upwards; they have each hoes proportioned to their strength. Children are uniformly preferred for this work, because, their feet being small, they do not tread down the young plants as a grown person would do.

Stripping canes is the next operation: every joint of the cane as it grows throws out two very long leaves with serrated edges. From the powerful sun of that country these leaves soon droop, wither, and become dry as straw. They are, therefore, stript off the cane to expose it to the full effect of the sun's rays, in order to ripen it sufficiently, otherwise it would be unfit for the after progress

of sugar making. These dried leaves are called trash, and are

[ocr errors]

laid along the ground to prevent the sun's influence on the earth, that every moisture possible may be retained for the nourishment of the plant, Part, of the trash is used for foddering the cattle; and it is always used for thatching houses, and suits equally well as straw. Stripping is light but disagreeable work; for, though the serrated edges have become too dry to cut the fingers, they are then brittle, add fly about like thistle-down. They are stript once, or many times, according as the season proves wet or dry.

*Cutting canes in general commences in January; at least anything cut before that time is merely small cutting to obtain plants, or make a few hogsheads before Christmas.

During crop time (that is, harvest) the negroes are employed in the manufacture of sugar, and the general agriculture of the estate.

The negroes are described as enjoying the crop time precisely with as much glee as the harvest is celebrated in this country. Songs are sung, and old stories are told, whilst, from the very cane which they are cutting, a sweet and cool juice may be drunk without the least hindrance on the part of the planters, who, on the contrary, encourage them to use it during their labours, in order to prevent their stealing the canes. But this is a crime which is not unfrequently committed, the stolen canes are wanted privately by negroes for feeding their own hogs, or selling to huxter women for 4d. a bottle of the juice. The latter manufacture from this a syrup, which usually sells for about 13d. the bottle. Mrs. Cara michael assures us, what would appear without her authority to be difficult to be believed, that the planters know how, and to what extent, they are plundered in this way, yet that they overlook all this out of mere indulgence to the negroes.

When the cane becomes about twenty inches high, after the first weeding the ground about it is manured. Pens for the stock, well laid with trash, are put up in different parts of the estate, so that the manure may never be far distant from any part of the estate which requires it. It is carried by mules or carts, or, if too steep for these, by the negroes, from the pens, in light wicker baskets. These they carry on their heads; in fact, a negró carries every thing on his head, and, be what it may, poises it with surprising nicety: give a little child a tea-cup to carry, and it is always hoisted on his head, and he will trip off with as much unconcern as if he had nothing on it, while his arms are swung on each side like two pendulums. Mrs. Carmichael has often asked them why they always carried every thing on their head, and they uniformly answered, " what's on the he head we no feel, what on a hand hurt da shoulder."

Whatever may be our feelings about carrying the manure, the negro is perfectly indifferent to any sensibility on that point.

After the cane has been cut it is submitted twice to the rollers. These rollers are worked on a spindle by mills. The latter being worked by either water power, wind, or mules. The rollers are studded with teeth, so that they dovetail into one another; the

rotation of the spindle turns the rollers, all being covered with an iron case. The cane is passed twice through the rollers; the juice is dropped during the process into the mill-bed, this bed being covered with sheet lead, and, as its plane is inclined, the juice runs ofi' quickly into a large receiver beneath. The juice is then sent off by a spout to the boiling house, which, for the sake of securing the property against accidents by fire, must always be built at some distance from the mill-house. The boiling over the juice is received into the clarifier, or, if such a vessel is not on the estate, then it goes into the grand copper. Carbonate of lime is then added, in different proportions, from one to twelve ounces, in the grand copper, according to the age, ripeness, and luxuriance of the canes, some being so ripe and old as to require little or no temper lime. Mrs. Carmichael continues her interesting account of the manufacture of sugar in the following passage:

• These coppers or boilers are in number from five to six; the largest, which is farthest from the fire, may hold from 300 to 500 gallons; they decrease in size as they approach the fire place, until the smallest of them, which is called the teach, decreases to 70 or 80 gallons. By the time the juice has been boiled down from the grand copper containing 500 gallons, to the teach over the fire containing 70 or 80 gallons, the sugar then nearly approaches to granulation. The time that this process occupies depends entirely on the state of the weather; for, when the weather is dry, and the canes ripe, a strike of sugar (which is the contents of the smallest copper) may be taken off in three quarters of an hour, or an hour; but, should the weather be showery, the fuel is damp, and there is what is technically termed a spring in the canes, which produces such watery juices, that more boiling is necessary to evaporate those watery particles before granulation takes place: this destroys the qualitp of the sugar, from having been so long on the fire. The head boiler-man is at the teach, and is a person of no small consequence, as he is responsible for the cleanliness of the boiling-house: at each of the other coppers there is a negro to assist, who are also responsible to him. When the head boiler-man thinks it probable that the liquor is nearly approaching to granulation, he puts it in a copper skimmer, and, turning it two or thre mes in the air, he knows by the consistency of the drop, whether the liquor is likely to granulate sufficiently; or, if too much so, he adds some portion of the liquor in the second teach, to reduce it. As soon as he finds it in a proper state to strike, that is, to send it by means of a spout from the teach to the wooden cooler, he then performs this operation. There are always from two to three wooden coolers, each being able to contain from five to six strikes, that is, a hogshead of sugar, generally averaging at the king's beam about fifteen cwt. According to the size of the estate, there is made from one to three hogsheads per day; but, if there are two sets of coppers, it will produce nearly double that quantity.

* The sugar conuected in the different boilings throughout the day is next morning put in the hogsheads, as nearly as can be guessed, at a certain temperature; this requires some nicety, for, if it is pnt too hot into the hogshead, the molasses carry off a great part of the sugar through the curing holes of the hogshead into the cistern made to receive the molasses. If, on the contrary, it is put into the hogshead too cold, it retains the molasses, and this of course spoils the sugar.

* After being put into the hogshead, it remains from twelve to fifteen days in the curing-house, to afford time for the molasses to drain thoroughly from it; it is next rammed down with heavy rarmers or mallets, until the hogshead is perfectly filled; and it is then headed up by the cooper, marked with the name of the estate and number of hogshead and weight, and carted to be shipped for Great Britain.'

But the juice is not the only part that supplies the means of convenience and comfort to man. The dry leaves of the cane do for fodder, for thatch, and for fuel. The green upper leaves, which remain on the plant until it is ripe, are chopped and mixed up with some of the skimmings from the sugar and molasses with plenty of water and a few handfuls of salt, and forms a capital feeding for the stock. The rind and substance of the cane, after the juice has been extracted from it, is called migass. It is made up into small bundles, and carried to a house, called the migass house, a large building, where it goes through the process of fermentation: in the course of a month it becomes perfectly dry, and is the best possible fuel for boiling the sugar. Even the ashes of this fuel is a useful material in enriching the soil. In making rum, which is sometimes an after process, about eighty-five gallons of water, twenty-five of molasses, twenty of the skimmings of sugar, are put into a large cask, and left there to ferment. When the liquor has fallen, that is, when the fermentation has subsided it is taken out, and is submitted to distillation. From the subject of the sugar cane Mrs. Carmichael proceeds to give us an account of the negro servants, amongst whom is invariably a nondescript, with undefined power, commonly called the head servant. The cook is generally a male; he is a man of great consequence, and does nothing but manufacture soups, dress meat, fish, vegetables, &c.; be would demean himself by baking or making puddings; he scours no pans, and always has a boy and woman to obey his orders. Nothing will induce him to submit to such an innovation as any sort of a jack for roasting: it is in vain that the most exquisite art has exhausted itself in contrivances for the cooking of meat by exposing it to the fire; massa rejects such trumpery, and will have his own way, which is simply this, to place two strong logs of wood on each side of the fire, a nail is driven in the wood to support the spit, a boy then turns the spit, and the meat is in general tolerably well roasted.

The style of domestic life amongst the negroes is next noticed by Mrs. Carmichael. Their houses, she tells us, are built in various ways, some of stone, cemented by mud and white-washed; some are built of wood, while others are wove like basket work, the interstices being filled up with clay and mud, which, when white-washed, look very nice. They thatch them neatly with migass. They liave no chimneys, as they rarely work in doors. As to the size of their house, that is in some measure dependent upon the rank of the negro,

and the number in family. Generally speaking, the area of negro houses varies from fifteen feet by twenty, to twenty by thirty. Some single men and single women have a house with only one sitting room, and a smaller chamber apart for their bed-room. But head negroes, or families, have always two good rooms, and some have three.

There are in these houses windows and window-shutters-locks to the doors, boarded floors, and, in the houses of negroes of character and rank, there are bedsteads with mosquito curtains, their bedding being for the most part a bag filled with the dried plantain leaf. This I have myself slept upon, and used in my own family, and have found it a very comfortable bed indeed. They have a bolster and pillows of the same materials ; blankets (one Witney blanket is given every year by the master), a good sheet, and very often a nice bed-quilt, the two latter articles are furnished by themselves. A little shelved corner cupboard, displaying many à showy coloured plate, cup, and saucer, is a common piece of furniture; a good table, one or two benches, and some chairs, with a high table to serve as a sideboard, upon which are displayed the tumblers and wine glasses, often a large shade for the candle—these, with their box of clothes, form the general furniture of a good industrious negro's house, who is probably a head man; for, a common field negro, although he can afford all this, has not in general reached that stage of civilization that engenders the desire of possessing such articles.

Mrs. Carmichael, upon a strict survey with her own eyes of the state of the negro residences, does not hesitate to declare, that, in her opinion, the negroes of the West Indies “ are more comfortably lodged than the working classes in England or Scotland.” The place selected for their houses is always the healthiest spot in the estate, neither too high, to be cold, nor too low, to be damp. They have a piece of ground behind their houses, where they cultivate various profitable plants and fruits : they are encouraged in every way to cultivate these gardens, and even seeds are provided for them whenever he may require them; so that Mrs. Carmichael seems to be entitled to conclude that the negroes are well off, according to their idea of comfort, and the climate in which they reside; and as for the necessaries of life, they are abundantly supplied with those. She is so satisfied with their state at present that she is by no means sure that we should be conferring any benefit by introducing European fashions in the colonies ; so that, while we should labour to civilize and inform the negro, which will by and by produce all its effects, taste, among others,—we should also studiously avoid suddenly introducing, or unnaturally encouraging artificial wants ; which, although originally luxuries, become in time necessary to comfort.

The clothing provided for the negroes forms an important chapter in this work. It is distributed annually, and consisted of the English broad cloth, called Pennistown, the same which is worn by the

« AnteriorContinuar »