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Gurney's Letters--antigua

Gurney's Letters--antigua image
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Mr. Gurney landed in Antigua, Jan. 15 1840. Hp was hospitably received by the Governor and the principal persons o tliis I;lanó. 'The 'Governor, Sir VVilliam Colebrooke. in answer to his inquines respecting the value of real estáte, observed, "At the lowest computation, the land, wiihout a single slave upön it, is fully as valuable now, asitwas includingall theslaves before emancipa ion." Nathaniel Gilbert, a Friend, possessed a fine estáte on this island. His sugar plantation was very profitable, the molassee alono, the year before, having paid the whole expenses of the estáte, including labor; his whole erop of sugar was therefore so much cleargain. understood he had received $25,000 as a compensation for his slavës. líe said that this sum was a mere gratuity put into his pocket - a present, on which he had no reasonable claim. Gilbert said that during slavery only one half of his slaves were operativo. Subsequcnt exiensive inquiries convinced Mr. Gurney that through the West Indies generally, only about one third of the slaves were operativo. VVhat with childhood, agc, infirmity, sickness, sham sickness and other causes , fuif two thirds of the negro popuiation nnghtbe regarded before emancipation, as a dead vveighf. In the various charity schools in the island, seven thousaid scholars were instructed. In all of them, the Biblo was read and taught. Marriages were increasing. During 7 years of slavery the vicar of St. Johns married HOcouplesof negroes. In 1839, he fnarried 185 pairs. . Crime wasdecreasing. The duties on imports had increased. A greaí demand had arisen among (he laboréis for dry goods and other articles. The quantity of bread and meat consumed by them had surprisingly increased. Their wedding cakes and dinners were extravagant. Mr. Gurney held a meeting one rainy day, at which about 200 negroes attended. He was told they were not as willing to attend meetings in rainy weatherfcs formerly, becauso they now had shoes and stockings, which they were unwüling to exposé to the mud. On one occasion he overtook a wcddin"e? party. "Both bride and bridegroom were coramon laborera on the estáte. The I bridegroom was attired in a blue coat, handsomo waistcoat, with a broacb, white ; pantaloons,8and Wellington boots - the bride in a vast pink silk bonnet, lace cap and white muslin gown, with fashionable sleeves!"On one estáte, the manager said to him, "it is less trouble to conduct tho whole concern now, tlmn it was to manage the hospital alone, before emancipation." The exports of the islaqd were as follows: The averaae of five years of slavery, from 1829 to '33, were, Sugar, 12,189 hhds. Molassess, 3,308 punch. Rum, 2,4(58 Tho average of five years of liberty, from 1834, to '33 were, Sugar, 13,545 hhds. Molasses, e,308 punch. Rum, 1,100 The exports of 1839 were, Sugar, 22,383 hhds. Molasses, 12,433 punch. Rum, 582 This large erop, and the continued increase in the erop, Mr. G. thought were conclusive evidence that the ncgroes were neither iazy nor impracticable. On taking leave, he asked the Governor if there was any person on the island who wishedfora restoralion of slavery? iïe anawerecf, without a moment'e hesitation, "No not one." DOMINICA. ' Dominica is a moist island, of luxuriani fertiiïty, and yet not more than nine-tenths of it are occupied, The soil is excellentfor the production of oranges, and other kindred fruits. Crime was decreastng. Jossph Phillips, a magistrale, informed him thatin the early part ot the apprenticeship systcm, 'he number of punisbments per month in his district, vas 70. They were now reduced to ïwo. In a late r.eport, addressed to Sir Wiliiam Colebrook, he observed, "The amount of crime in this colony oí' 20,000 soule, is perhaps lesa than in any other part of heraMajesty's dominions." - Olher magistrales}, made similar statements. In 1833, ihe commitments to jai? wero 100; in 1839, only 88, being a dilference in favor, offreedom of -72. The export ofsugar in 1837, was 2,221 hogsheads; in 1839, 2474 hogsheads. - The imports hadfclargely increased since emancipatiori. Before emancipation, thé black people who were free considered it below their dignity to vvork in. the field. Now it wasquite othenvise; the}r worked promiscuously with the emaneipated laborers, in cutting .ihe cane and boiling the sugar. A majority of the lower house of the Legislature, are colored -persons, elected by the freeholders of the Island. They are remarkable for their lnyalty and devotion to the Brilish Goverinnent.NEVIS AND M iNTSEURAT . Friend Gurney did not visit these islands, hut says lie s.iw reports from (hem to Sir W.Colebrooke, which were highly satisfactory. The magÍ3írate of Nevisres ported in Nov. 1839, that "the conduct of the luborcrs was peaceable and orderly, and that a guod understandjng gencrally orevaiicu beiween themand their employers - that schools were nurnerous and wel! attended, marriages frequent, and the Sab)ath welt nbserved." The President of Montserrat stated, that 'job work is daily gninirig ground; that he amount of imports is much increased, marriages among the peasantry are nu merous, schools improved and extended, and the progress in general moráis satisactory." JAMAICA. Al Kingston, Friend CJurney visited the ails, and prieached to the prisoners, and was sorry to find his audience numerous. Ig letirned from the best authority, that aking the island as a whole, critne had decidedly diminished since tho abolition of lavery; and in manv of the country dis- ricts it had almosl ceased. Uut the scum of the population had found its way into he city, and the consequence was an increase-of crime ihere. He attended a meeting at the Baptist Chapel, in Kingston, where nearly three ïundred black people, chiefly emancipated aborers, assembled for religious worship attired aftcr their favorite custom, in neat vhite raiment. They were chiefly from he adjoining country, and were most res)ectable and orderly in their demeanor and appearance. They entirely supported the mission, and were enlarging the chapel at ga expense of L1,000 sterling.Friend Gurney fouud bycarcful inquiry and observation, that the mixing up of the rent of the tenements with the qucstior. of labor, was Uie source of greut disasters throughout tho island. On most of the es tates tbc tenant agreed to work so long in each week, usual ly a day, for his cottage and grounds, and any misunderstanding between the parties, or a neglect to cornply with the requisitionsof theowner, was often followed by the demolition or injury;; of the cottage, the destruction of the tenanl's garden, tho distraint of his goods, or the imprisonment of his person. The tenant, having no lease of the premises, for a t.errn of time, had no security against the augmentation of bis rent to doublé, treble,or even quadruple the original amount. Ilaving no resource against such exactions, the tenant must go to another estáte to find employ, or purebase a little freehold on the mountains. The estale being thus desarted, the crops not attendcd to, and the whole property being a losing concern, an evil report forilnvith arises of thevvorking of emancipation, and il vill also bea true one. On other eatates, perhaps adjoining this, wherc the rent is paid in rnoney at so much per week, and the laborer s left free to dispose of his labor to the best advantage - or when the diflicullies are avoüsd by conciliation aud kindness, the estáte was profitable, the crops were large, and the Jaborers industrious and contented. This would give rise to nfavourable report of the workings of eniancipation ; and this a!so would be a true report. Whence Gurney caiue to the conclusión, that abating exaggerations, botbthe favoruble and unfavorable reports from this island wereto be believeo1. Thcy were both substantially correct. He founc however, tliat the evil was correcting itself, and that a betler understanding between masters and laborers was taking place, and would be continually cemented logether, more and more, by the bond of a common interest. The great majority of the Jamaica estalcs are owncd by absentees, who reside in Englnnd. The proprietors commit them to the care of attornies; and one attorney often takes charge of many estates. To do this, he must employ, on each particular property, an overseer, on whom iheirmnagement of the property necessarily devolves. This state of things is very unfavorable to an advanced state of agrieulture. It wculd bo better if the proprietors would lease them directly to tenants on the spot, wilhout the intervention of attorneys. A meeting of the Jamaica Anti-Slavery Society was held at Kingston, for the purpose of appointiug deputies to the World Convention at Loudon. About two thousand pcople, wite, brown nnd black were present. Many of the laborers wero liberal subscribers to iho society. Our :rareller visited the estáte of one Bravo, a very extensivo proprieior, and once the holder of a ihousand slaves. -Tfiis man ulso hired two largecstates belonging lo líio Míirquisof Sligo. On oue of these, tiie Marquia had gtven dtrcclions for building 150 nc;it cottages, which are to bc leased te the laborera wiih one acre plots of ground. The substance of Mr. Bravo's testimony was,that the laborers were workng we)l on all the esteles uhere thoy were fairly and kindly, and wisely treated. All oppression, and aii harsluiess of demeanor must be-avoided, and their occosional whims and caprices must be niel wiíh a calm and steady resistance. The misionarios in ihe West Indies have great iniluence over the laberers, and it is generally exerled with benevolence and udgrqent. The Baptists in Jamaica have 20,000 members in chuich cornmunon, and the Methodists 22,000; besides the multitude not in membership who attend the respöctive places of worship. Schools erre connected wiih most of the congregations. At Phillipo's chapel, in Kingston, Gurncy saw 500 black children assembled at once. Gurney visited the domains of a planter and attorney, who had the care of twenty coffec estates. This gentleman paid his hands weekly in cash, and hw-ed them chiefly by the job. Ile also built comfortable cottages for his aborers, and sold or let them plots of ground, so as to render them absolutely independent. The ten &nls paid their rents quarterly in money, which is a more pvoiitable system to the proprietpr, as it is found, wherc the tenant works ohe day in the week lo cancel his rent, that he perfbrms less labor than on the otherdays of the week when he works for cash. In this way, an ampio home popqlation is secured, and there will be no scarcity of Iaborers.The expense of working one of this gentleman cstates 11 1837, uuder the appronticeshipsjstcm, was L2400 currency - in 1839, under freedom, it was only L1200- exactly one half. In this case the produce was diminishcd somewhat, but ihe profii was increased. Said the atlorftiey, "I had rather make sixty tierces cf cofiee under freedom, than n humlred and twenty under stovery - such is the saving of expense, that I can make a better profl it by t - neverlkcless, Imean to make 120 as bef ore." The argument fully stated is this: the population, in both casc3, being ihesame, a larger proportion of it bccomeö operativo in freedom than in slavery - and thus more labor is ihrown upon the market, and of course labor becomes cheapcr in freedum than in slavery. This is a pointdeserving attention. Where the pro' ducc of sugar or cofFee is diminishod, ihe profits of the planter may be increased by the saving in the expense of production.-Dr. Stcwart stated, "ihat wherever rent and labor have not been mingled togethcr, prices have been reduced in the picking and curing of coffee from one third to one half, from L10 per tiercé to from L5 to L6-10. Property in Jamaica without the slaves was as valuable as t formerly was with them." (fcjThe anti-slavery Reporter for June gives the proceedings of thirteen churches in England, which have formally excluded slaveholder8 from their fellowship. Ofthese ten were Babtist churches.