« AnteriorContinuar »
speaking, generally of the character of the negroes, Mrs. Carmichael certainly does not spare her terms of severity, and, on the whole, she bestows on them a very bad reputation.
In another chapter in this volume, Mrs. Carmichael gives some conversations which she had with some of the natives of Africa, but the language put into the mouth of these negroes, we confess, appears to us to be a very different thing from what such a person would or could say; for, one who, like these Africans, could speak English so well as we find it in her register, must be too old a bird not to suit his words to the occasion.
When Mrs. Carmichael comes to the chapter on the relation between the planter and the slave, she lets out the admission fairly, that there are few negro servants who have not, at one time or another, been whipped, that is, whipped with a switch, or, if for a very flagrant offence, perhaps with a horsewhip. But then, she asks, are not the same offences as these slaves are punished for, visited with the like penalty in England? She admits that every driver has a whip: but then what is it for? she answers, that the driver is first out in the morning always, and that, by cracking his whip three times, he gives the warning to the slaves to go to work. To this explanation, she adds, that she has been frequently both late and early on plantations, and that she never saw a single instance of the whip being used. But how futile, how unworthy of her good sense and understanding, are these palliations of Mrs. Carmichael.
Not see the driver flog? Why to be sure not—what!- do it in the
presence of an English lady? No, no,- the system of negro ill-treatment stands upon a better organized footing than that. In the name of simple reason, if the whip is only carried to be a matin alarm-bell to the lazy negro, what business has the driver with it after he has discharged his functions as a watchman? In truth, were we to credit the whole of the highly charged picture of a negro's life, as it is given here, we should certainly conclude that the sylvan scenes of Arcadia were only a purgatory compared to it. The negroes, according to this lady, are only contemptible and vicious in every part of their conduct, except in that which is immediately under the controul of the planters; and the moment that their influence begins, the poor negro assumes an unwonted importance in the scale of humanity; he is seen smiling and singing and making his labour a source of amusement; he is decked out in his cottage, with his mosquito beds, and surrounded by his garden of valuable trees and aromatic plants; he is then shewn to be an object of tenderness, should his little black finger only ache; and, in short, the prosperous state of the negro is not more to be admired than the generosity of the paternal government under which he has the good fortune to live! No wonder then that she should express her admiration of the wise administration of justice to the slave, both from proprietors and managers, who accurately measure the treatment of a negro, according to his real personal character. This involves a world of trouble, but it is a trouble they daily take. To manage a West Indian estate with wisdom, justice, humanity, and prudence, with a never-ceasing reference to individual character, both as to rewards and punishments, requires more patience, good temper, and penetration, than those who never lived upon, or knew the real circumstances of an estate, can almost believe. She, herself, tried for two years to have no recourse to corporal punishment among her domestics (and town domestics are more unmanageable than country negroes), but, finding at length, after a course of kindness, indulgence, and instruction, that her servants became notorious for insolence and misconduct, and abhorring the alternative of corporal punishment, she had them all sent to the estate.
In addition, Mrs. Carmichael can aver, from personal knowledge, that the field labour on an estate is never begun before a quarter to six in that season of the year when the sun rises earliest, -say from April to July: in the other months, from a quarter past six to halfpast, is as early as work ever commences. At eight, the negroes go to breakfast; they return at nine; at noon they go to dinner, and return at two in the afternoon: and at six they leave the field ; after which they have generally to bring a bundle of grass each, or cane top, for the stock, which occupies them from five to ten minutes more; but they may all be in their houses by a quarter after six, or at half-past six at furthest.
Such is the excessive solicitude of the planter for the health of the negroes, that the moment a shower of rain is threatened, the great bell of the estate is immediately tolled to call the men from the field, and Mrs. Carmichael has seen a whole day lost in this way; a heroic sacrifice, no doubt, of the planters, to their benevolent apprehensions lest the negro should suffer the inconvenience of a wetting!
Mrs. Carmichael soon grew tired of St. Vincent, and fixed on Trinidad as her ultimate residence. It is proper for us here to mention that this lady has been profoundly mysterious from the very commencement, as to the motives which brought her to the West Indies. During the whole of our progress through the first volume, we were altogether puzzled to find out if Mrs. Carmichael was a traveller merely by taste, who had made an excursion to St. Vincent, in pursuance of some benevolent impulse connected with the spiritual welfare of the poor negro-or was the wife of a military officer stationed with the his regiment in the island, or haply the lady of one of those calumniated men, the planters, whose parental kindness to the poor kidnapped creatures from Africa she so enthusiastically eulogizes. It is not, however, until we came to the second volume,
information on this head is vouchsafed to us, and even then we only have it indirectly, for, it is merely implied in some statements which are made for altogether different purposes. We were not a little astonished when we pursued our guide to the island of Trinidad, to find that Mr. Č. (such is the designation that we are authorized to employ) migrated there for the purpose of taking an estate and cultivating it as a planter.
Of Trinidad, its produce, commerce, curiosities, and inhabitants, the authoress gives us a particular account; and we infer from some passages in the work, but we are never directly informed, that Mr. Carmichael became proprietor of an estate at a place called Mount Laurel, at some distance from the Port of Spain, the chief town, where, of course, he employed a considerable number of slaves. Amongst other characteristics which distinguished the Port of Spain, was the state of the law, enforcing some particular municipal regullations. For instance, all householders in that locality are legally bound to sweep and keep perfectly clean the whole front of their houses, or lot of ground, and every drain is daily washed and kept clear. Every house, too, is obliged to be furnished with a barrel of water in case of fire, and there is a heavy penalty for any one who transgresses these regulations. There are two places where the whole sweepings, &c. of the town are ordered to be deposited; so that no nuisance of any description ever meets the eye. No swine or goats are allowed to be seen, either in the town or suburbs: any person, whether free or not, is permitted to kill the animal, if found at large within those bounds. The person who kills a hóg, is entitled to cut off, instanter, and carry away the head; but half an hour is allowed for the owner to claim the body: meanwhile the slayer, generally a negro, is seen watching at a convenient distance, and no sooner is the half-hour expired, than he pounces on the body of the pig, and drags it away with him, which he is entitled by usage to do. Dogs are under the same law as to the right of killing; besides a fine of 101. currency upon the owner. Every owner of a dog must have it licensed: and it must be secured, during the day, with a collar round its neck, with its owner's name: by neglect of this, a penalty is incurred of 251. currency.
In the Port of Spain, Mrs. Carmichael was bound to confess that the society was far superior to that of St. Vincent, but, as if to compensate for this advantage, the negroes of Trinidad were quite as immoral as the slaves of St. Vincent. On going out to St. Laurel, one day, it seems that Mr. Carmichael pointed out to his lady the place where some treasure was found, when he, (Mr. Carmichael), was sent to look for it, with Captain Rhind and a brother lieutenant with a company of the 53rd regiment. By this, we learn that Mr. Carmichael was an officer of the army, who had visited this quarter before with his regiment, and who was induced, by what he saw of the prosperity of former times to the planters, to become one of them himself. It so happened, that the individual who pointed out the plantation where the Spanish treasure was laid, was an Irishman named Malony, a baker in Port of Spain, of whom the following anecdote was told by a local judge.
• Two gentlenien of St. Joseph's had intentionally annoyed and vexed him, and a quarrel ensued, -Malony vowing vengeance against them. He
had a hut in the mountains, whither he occasionally retired for recreation. These gentlemen going out upon an excursion to see that part of the island, lost their way, and were in danger of starving. Seeing, at last, to their great delight, something like a human habitation, they approached it, and asked if they could get any thing to eat or drink, as they were in a state of great exhaustion: imagine their feelings, when they were answered in the affirmative with the greatest civility, by their old enemy Malony. Starvation, however, conquered pride, and they were fain to accept the offer of a dinner. In the meantime Maiony, to complete the farce, begged them to come in and rest, and have a little rum and water, while dinner was being cooked. Dinner at length made its appearance: it was an excellent ragout, and not only looked well, but tasted admirably. The tra. vellers, delighted and refreshed, thanked Malony gratefully for his attentions; and added, “whenever you come to town, you will make our house your home." Malony heard them very quietly, and, looking archly at them, said, " Indeed, gentlemen, you need not be thanking me so much: may be you don't know what you've had for dinner ?". So saying, hé turned round the door on its hinges, exhibiting to the grateful travellers the skin of an immense yellow, full-grown monkey. They did not dare to remonstrate:-probably Malony gave the only thing he had to bestow; though no doubt, Irish humour, and a spice of revenge, had made him not overscrupulous about the matter.'
Situated as Mrs. Carmichael was in Trinidad, not merely as a casual observer, but a mistress of slaves herself, we cannot be surprised that she very speedily turned her attention to them in such a manner as speedily enabled her to detect such nice distinctions as existed between the two. The driver of Trinidad, for instance, she found was no driver at all, being utterly destitute of his badge of office, to wit, his avenging whip-cord. Here he carries neither stick, whip, nor other such emblem of his office: he stands behind them at work, precisely the same way as a foreman does in England, and a grieve in Scotland. If they are incorrigible, he can report them to the white overseer,--and he again to the master,—or he may, and often does, report direct to the master: this plan was always followed at Laurel Hill. The driver has no power to punish in any way, whether by corporal punishment or confinement.
At Laurel Mount, after she had got possessionof it, she made very laudable exertions to communicate instruction, both sacred and profane, to the negroes; but the obstinate creatures were dead to all attempts at improvement. Upon the whole, she found them just the same as she had already described those of the former colony. Here again, Mrs. Carmichael found good reason, as she thinks, to justify fresh charges against the Wesleyan missionaries. She had seen at Mount Laurel many of those who had been in atrendance at their chapels; and yet, strange to tell, she could never find one, even the most intelligent of their disciples, who had gained a single idea. When, therefore, she found this ignorance of the negroes who had been taught by the methodists in Trinidad, and compared their case with that of a similar class in identical circumstances in St. Vincent, it was next to impossible that she could get over the conclusion that the method of teaching adopted by the Wesleyan ministers was a hopeless means of instruction, save only as far it encouraged the habit, on the part of the negroes, of attending divine service. In illustration of this statement, Mrs. Carmichael mentions the case of an European child, of nearly eight years old--a very sharp little girl for her age. She attended a day-school, where she learned English, French, writing, and sewing. On Sunday she attended a methodist school: her memory was crammed full; it was absolutely beyond belief, the number of hymns and passages of Scripture which this child could repeat, and very correctly too. One of Mrs. C's. family, however, suspected that the understanding of the child did not accompany all this showy work, and asked this simple question—"My dear, who do you mean when you say, • Our Father which art in heaven?!” Her answer was, “It is my papa, who died last year, and you know he is in heaven." No child could have been more in earnest.
Mrs. Carmichael not only attempts to show that the methodist missionaries are altogether at sea as to the possibility of their making any practical impression on the minds of the negroes, but she finds them doggedly adverse to take any steps for the purpose of diminishing that ignorance of the real character of this people which is the real source of all their misdirected, though very zealous exertions. From this she proceeds to a higher key of indignation, to think that such a parade should be made in the mother country about the heroic toils, and privations, and exhausting efforts to which their zeal in the great cause is constantly exciting. Humbug! exclaims Mrs. Carmichael; it is all a farce. Exertions and fatigue, indeed! their mental and bodily labour, too, are a bagatelle compared with the performance of the ordinary duties in the colony; and it is quite ridiculous, she pledges her word for it, to think of associating, for one moment, the name of Wesleyan missionary with privation or persecution.
Mrs. Carmichael is also a great enemy to the substitution of free labour for slave labour; but she does not treat the question with that extent of knowledge which is essential to its due and useful consideration. One of the closing chapters of the second volume, is, upon the recreations of the negroes, to which subject the authoress found, on consideration, that she had not done sufficient justice. We have not space to dwell upon the details, and we can afford merely room for a song which she heard sung in Trinidad, andwhich turned out to be one of the many auxiliaries to the insurrectionary movement of the time.
Fire in da mountain,
Chorus.---Poor John! nobody for out him, &c.