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new system_.

The first of August passed off very quietly. The people labored on that
day as usual, and had a stranger gone over the island, he would not have
suspected any change had taken place. Mr. C. did not expect his people
would go to work that day. He told them what the conditions of the new
system were, and that after the first of August, they would be required
to turn out to work at six o'clock instead of five o'clock as before. At
the appointed hour every man was at his post in the field. Not one
individual was missing.

The apprentices do more work in the nine hours required by law, than in
twelve hours during slavery.

His apprentices are perfectly willing to work for him during their own
time. He pays them at the rate of twenty-five cents a day. The people
are less quarrelsome than when they were slaves.

About eight o'clock in the evening, Mr. C. invited us to step out into
the piazza. Pointing to the houses of the laborers, which were crowded
thickly together, and almost concealed by the cocoa-nut and calabash
trees around them, he said, "there are probably more than four hundred
people in that village. All my own laborers, with their free children,
are retired for the night, and with them are many from the neighboring
estates." We listened, but all was still, save here and there a low
whistle from some of the watchmen. He said that night was a specimen of
every night now. But it had not always been so. During slavery these
villages were oftentimes a scene of bickering, revelry, and contention.
One might hear the inmates reveling and shouting till midnight.
Sometimes it would be kept up till morning. Such scenes have much
decreased, and instead of the obscene and heathen songs which they used
to sing, they are learning hymns from the lips of their children.

The apprentices are more trusty. They are more faithful in work which is
given them to do. They take more interest in the prosperity of the
estate generally, in seeing that things are kept in order, and that the
property is not destroyed.

They are more open-hearted. Formerly they used to shrink before the eyes
of the master, and appear afraid to meet him. They would go out of their
way to avoid him, and never were willing to talk with him. They never
liked to have him visit their houses; they looked on him as a spy, and
always expected a reprimand, or perhaps a flogging. Now they look up
cheerfully when they meet him, and a visit to their homes is esteemed a
favor. Mr. C. has more confidence in his people than he ever had before.

There is less theft than during slavery. This is caused by greater
respect for character, and the protection afforded to property by law.
For a slave to steal from his master was never considered wrong, but
rather a meritorious act. He who could rob the most without being
detected was the best fellow. The blacks in several of the islands have
a proverb, that for a thief to steal from a thief makes God laugh.

The blacks have a great respect for, and even fear of law. Mr. C.
believes no people on earth are more influenced by it. They regard the
same punishment, inflicted by a magistrate, much more than when
inflicted by their master. Law is a kind of deity to them, and they
regard it with great reverence and awe.

There is no insecurity now. Before emancipation there was a continual
fear of insurrection. Mr. C. said he had lain down in bed many a night
fearing that his throat would be cut before morning. He has started up
often from a dream in which he thought his room was filled with armed
slaves. But when the abolition bill passed, his fears all passed away.
He felt assured there would be no trouble then. The motive to
insurrection was taken away. As for the cutting of throats, or insult
and violence in any way, he never suspects it. He never thinks of
fastening his door at night now. As we were retiring to bed he looked
round the room in which we had been sitting, where every thing spoke of
serenity and confidence - doors and windows open, and books and plate
scattered about on the tables and sideboards. "You see things now," he
said, "just as we leave them every night, but you would have seen quite
a different scene had you come here a few years ago."

_Mr. C. thinks the slaves of Barbadoes might have been entirely and
immediately emancipated as well as those of Antigua._ The results, he
doubts not, would have been the same.

He has no fear of disturbance or insubordination in 1840. He has no
doubt that the people will work. That there may be a little unsettled,
excited, _experimenting_ feeling for a short time, he thinks
probable - but feels confident that things generally will move on
peaceably and prosperously. He looks with much more anxiety to the
emancipation of the non-praedials in 1838.

There is no disposition among the apprentices to revenge their wrongs.
Mr. C. feels the utmost security both of person and property.

The slaves were very much excited by the discussions in England. They
were well acquainted, with them, and looked and longed for the result.
They watched every arrival of the packet with great anxiety. The people
on his estate often knew its arrival before he did. One of his daughters
remarked, that she could see their hopes flashing from their eyes. They
manifested, however, no disposition to rebel, waiting in anxious but
quiet hope for their release. Yet Mr. C. had no doubt, that if
parliament had thrown out the emancipation bill, and all measures had
ceased for their relief, there would have been a general
insurrection. - While there was hope they remained peaceable, but had
hope been destroyed it would have been buried in blood.

There was some dissatisfaction among the blacks with the apprenticeship.
They thought they ought to be entirely free, and that their masters were
deceiving them. They could not at first understand the conditions of the
new system - there was some murmuring among them, but they thought it
better, however, to wait six years for the boon, than to run the risk of
losing it altogether by revolt.

The expenses of the apprenticeship are about the same as during slavery.
But under the free system, Mr. C. has no doubt they will be much less.
He has made a calculation of the expenses of cultivating the estate on
which he resides for one year during slavery, and what they will
probably be for one year under the free system. He finds the latter are
less by about $3,000.

Real estate has increased in value more than thirty per rent. There is
greater confidence in the security of property. Instances were related
to us of estates that could not be sold at any price before
emancipation, that within the last two years have been disposed of at
great prices.

The complaints to the magistrates, on the part of the planters, were
very numerous at first, but have greatly diminished. They are of the
most trivial and even ludicrous character. One of the magistrates says
the greater part of the cases that come before him are from old women
who cannot get their coffee early enough in the morning! and for
offences of equal importance.

Prejudice has much diminished since emancipation. The discussions in
England prior to that period had done much to soften it down, but the
abolition of slavery has given it its death blow.

Such is a rapid sketch of the various topics touched upon during our
interview with Mr. C. and his family.

Before we left the hospitable mansion of Lear's, we had the pleasure of
meeting a company of gentlemen at dinner. With the exception of one, who
was provost-marshal, they were merchants of Bridgetown. These gentlemen
expressed their full concurrence in the statements of Mr. C., and gave
additional testimony equally valuable.

Mr. W., the provost-marshal, stated that he had the supervision of the
public jail, and enjoyed the best opportunity of knowing the state of
crime, and he was confident that there was a less amount of crime since
emancipation than before. He also spoke of the increasing attention
which the negroes paid to neatness of dress and personal appearance.

The company broke up about nine o'clock, but not until we had seen ample
evidence of the friendly feelings of all the gentlemen toward our
object. There was not a single dissenting voice to any of the statements
made, or any of the sentiments expressed. This fact shows that the
prevailing feeling is in favor of freedom, and that too on the score of
policy and self-interest.

Dinner parties are in one sense a very safe pulse in all matters of
general interest. They rarely beat faster than the heart of the
community. No subject is likely to be introduced amid the festivities of
a fashionable circle, until it is fully endorsed by public sentiment.

Through the urgency of Mr. C., we were induced to remain all night.
Early the next morning, he proposed a ride before breakfast to Scotland.
Scotland is the name given to an abrupt, hilly section, in the north of
the island. It is about five miles from Mr. C.'s, and nine from
Bridgetown. In approaching, the prospect bursts suddenly upon the eye,
extorting an involuntary exclamation of surprise. After riding for
miles, through a country which gradually swells into slight elevations,
or sweeps away in rolling plains, covered with cane, yams, potatoes,
eddoes, corn, and grass, alternately, and laid out with the regularity
of a garden; after admiring the cultivation, beauty, and skill exhibited
on every hand, until almost wearied with viewing the creations of art;
the eye at once falls upon a scene in which is crowded all the wildness
and abruptness of nature in one of her most freakish moods - a scene
which seems to defy the hand of cultivation and the graces of art. We
ascended a hill on the border of this section, which afforded us a
complete view. To describe it in one sentence, it is an immense basin,
from two to three miles in diameter at the top, the edges of which are
composed of ragged hills, and the sides and bottom of which are
diversified with myriads of little hillocks and corresponding
indentations. Here and there is a small sugar estate in the bottom, and
cultivation extends some distance up the sides, though this is at
considerable risk, for not infrequently, large tracts of soil, covered
with cane or provisions, slide down, over-spreading the crops below, and
destroying those which they carry with them.

Mr. C. pointed to the opposite side of the basin to a small group of
stunted trees, which he said were the last remains of the Barbadoes
forests. In the midst of them there is a boiling spring of considerable
notoriety.

In another direction, amid the rugged precipices, Mr. C. pointed out the
residences of a number of poor white families, whom he described as the
most degraded, vicious, and abandoned people in the island - "very far
below the negroes." They live promiscuously, are drunken, licentious,
and poverty-stricken, - a body of most squalid and miserable
human beings.

From the height on which we stood, we could see the ocean nearly around
the island, and on our right and left, overlooking the basin below us,
rose the two highest points of land of which Barbadoes can boast. The
white marl about their naked tops gives them a bleak and desolate
appearance, which contrasts gloomily with the verdure of the surrounding
cultivation.

After we had fully gratified ourselves with viewing the miniature
representation of old Scotia, we descended again into the road, and
returned to Lear's. We passed numbers of men and women going towards
town with loads of various kinds of provisions on their heads. Some were
black, and others were white - of the same class whose huts had just been
shown us amid the hills and ravines of Scotland. We observed that the
latter were barefoot, and carried their loads on their heads precisely
like the former. As we passed these busy pedestrians, the blacks almost
uniformly courtesied or spoke; but the whites did not appear to notice
us. Mr. C inquired whether we were not struck with this difference in
the conduct of the two people, remarking that he had always observed it.
It is very seldom, said he, that I meet a negro who does not speak to me
politely; but this class of whites either pass along without looking up,
or cast a half-vacant, rude stare into one's face, without opening their
mouths. Yet this people, he added, veriest raggamuffins that they are,
despise the negroes, and consider it quite degrading to put themselves
on term of equity with them. They will beg of blacks more provident and
industrious than themselves, or they will steal their poultry and rob
their provision grounds at night; but they would disdain to associate
with them. Doubtless these _sans culottes_ swell in their dangling rags
with the haughty consciousness that they possess _white skins_. What
proud reflections they must have, as they pursue their barefoot way,
thinking on their high lineage, and running back through the long list
of their illustrious ancestry whose notable badge was a _white skin_! No
wonder they cannot stop to bow to the passing stranger. These sprouts of
the Caucasian race are known among the Barbadians by the rather
ungracious name of _Red Shanks_. They are considered the pest of the
island, and are far more troublesome to the police, in proportion to
their members, than the apprentices. They are estimated at about
eight thousand.

The origin of this population we learned was the following: It has long
been a law in Barbadoes, that each proprietor should provide a white man
for every sixty slaves in his possession, and give him an acre of land,
a house, and arms requisite for defence of the island in case of
insurrection. This caused an importation of poor whites from Ireland and
England, and their number has been gradually increasing until the
present time.

During our stay of nearly two days with Mr. C., there was nothing to
which he so often alluded as to the security from danger which was now
enjoyed by the planters. As he sat in his parlor, surrounded by his
affectionate family, the sense of personal and domestic security
appeared to be a luxury to him. He repeatedly expressed himself
substantially thus: "During the existence of slavery, how often have I
retired to bed _fearing_ _that I should have my throat cut before
morning_, but _now_ the danger is all over."

We took leave of Lear's, after a protracted visit, not without a
pressing invitation from Mr. C. to call again.

SECOND VISIT TO LEAR'S.

The following week, on Saturday afternoon, we received a note from Mr.
C., inviting us to spend the Sabbath at Lear's, where we might attend
service at a neighboring chapel, and see a congregation composed chiefly
of apprentices. On our arrival, we received a welcome from the
residents, which reassured us of their sympathy in our object. We joined
the family circle around the centre table, and spent the evening in free
conversation on the subject of slavery.

During the evening Mr. C. stated, that he had lately met with a planter
who, for some years previous to emancipation, and indeed up to the very
event, maintained that it was utterly impossible for such a thing ever
to take place. The mother country, he said, could not be so mad as to
take a step which must inevitably ruin the colonies. _Now_, said Mr. C.,
this planter would be one of the last in the island to vote for a
restoration of slavery; nay, he even wishes to have the apprenticeship
terminated at once, and entire freedom given to the people. Such changes
as this were very common.

Mr. C. remarked that during slavery, if the negro ventured to express an
opinion about any point of management, he was met at once with a
reprimand. If one should say, "I think such a course would he best," or,
"Such a field of cane is fit for cutting," the reply would be, "_Think_!
you have no right to think any thing about it. _Do as I bid you_." Mr.
C. confessed frankly, that he had often used such language himself. Yet
at the same time that he affected such contempt for the opinions of the
slaves, he used to go around secretly among the negro houses at night to
overhear their conversation, and ascertain their views. Sometimes he
received very valuable suggestions from them, which he was glad to avail
himself of, though he was careful not to acknowledge their origin.

Soon after supper, Miss E., one of Mr. C.'s daughters, retired for the
purpose of teaching a class of colored children which came to her on
Wednesday and Saturday nights. A sister of Miss E. has a class on the
same days at noon.

During the evening we requested the favor of seeing Miss E.'s school. We
were conducted by a flight of stairs into the basement story, where we
found her sitting in a small recess, and surrounded by a dozen negro
girls; from the ages of eight to fifteen. She was instructing them from
the Testament, which most of them could read fluently. She afterwards
heard them recite some passages which they had committed to memory, and
interspersed the recitations with appropriate remarks of advice and
exhortation.

It is to be remarked that Miss E. commenced instructing after the
abolition; before that event the idea of such an employment would have
been rejected as degrading.

At ten o'clock on Sabbath morning, we drove to the chapel of the parish,
which is a mile and a half from Lear's. It contains seats for five
hundred persons. The body of the house is appropriated to the
apprentices. There were upwards of four hundred persons, mostly
apprentices, present, and a more quiet and attentive congregation we
have seldom seen. The people were neatly dressed. A great number of the
men wore black or blue cloth. The females were generally dressed in
white. The choir was composed entirely of blacks, and sung with
characteristic excellence.

There was so much intelligence in the countenances of the people, that
we could scarcely believe we were looking on a congregation of lately
emancipated slaves.

We returned to Lear's. Mr. C. noticed the change which has taken place
in the observance of the Sabbath since emancipation. Formerly the smoke
would be often seen at this time of day pouring from the chimneys of the
boiling-houses; but such a sight has not been seen since slavery
disappeared.

Sunday used to be the day for the negroes to work on their grounds; now
it is a rare thing for them to do so. Sunday markets also prevailed
throughout the island, until the abolition of slavery.

Mr. C. continued to speak of slavery. "I sometimes wonder," said he, "at
myself, when I think how long I was connected with slavery; but
self-interest and custom blinded me to its enormities." Taking a short
walk towards sunset, we found ourselves on the margin of a beautiful
pond, in which myriads of small gold fishes were disporting - now
circling about in rapid evolutions, and anon leaping above the surface,
and displaying their brilliant sides in the rays of the setting sun.
When we had watched for some moments their happy gambols, Mr. C. turned
around and broke a twig from a bush that stood behind us; "_there is a
bush_," said he, "_which has committed many a murder_." On requesting
him to explain, he said, that the root of it was a most deadly poison,
and that the slave women used to make a decoction of it and give to
their infants to destroy them; many a child had been murdered in this
way. Mothers would kill their children, rather than see them _grow up to
be slaves_. "Ah," he continued, in a solemn tone, pausing a moment and
looking at us in a most earnest manner, "I could write a book about the
evils of slavery. I could write a book about these things."

What a volume of blackness and blood![A]

[Footnote A: We are here reminded of a fact stated by Mr. C. on another
occasion. He said, that he once attended at the death of a planter who
had been noted for his severity to his slaves. It was the most horrid
scene he ever witnessed. For hours before his death he was in the
extremest agony, and the only words which he uttered were, "Africa. O
Africa!" These words he repeated every few minutes, till he died. And
such a ghastly countenance, such distortions of the muscles, such a
hellish glare of the eye, and such convulsions of the body - it made him
shudder to think of them.]

When we arose on Monday morning, the daylight has scarcely broken. On
looking out of the window, we saw the mill slowly moving in the wind,
and the field gang were going out to their daily work. Surely, we
thought, this does not look much like the laziness and insubordination
of freed negroes. After dressing, we walked down to the mill, to have
some conversation with the people. They all bade us a cordial "good
mornin'." The _tender_ of the mill was an old man, whose despised locks
were gray and thin, and on whose brow the hands of time and sorrow had
written many effaceless lines. He appeared hale and cheerful, and
answered our questions in distinct intelligible language. We asked him
how they were all getting along under the new system. "Very well,
massa," said he, "very well, thank God. All peaceable and good." "Do you
like the apprenticeship better then slavery?" "Great deal better, massa;
we is doing well now." "You like the apprenticeship as well as freedom,
don't you?" "O _no_ me massa, freedom _till better_."

"What will you do when you are entirely free?"

"We must work; all have to work when de free come, white and black."
"You are old, and will not enjoy freedom long; why do you wish for
freedom, then?" "Me want to _die_ free, massa - good ting to die free,
and me want to see _children_ free too."

We continued at Lear's during Monday, to be in readiness for a tour to
the windward of the island, which Mr. C. had projected for us, and on
which we were to set out early the next morning. In the course of the
day we had opportunities of seeing the apprentices in almost every
situation - in the field, at the mill, in the boiling-house, moving to
and from work, and at rest. In every aspect in which we viewed them,
they appeared cheerful, amiable, and easy of control. It was admirable
to see with what ease and regularity every thing moved. An estate of
nearly seven hundred acres, with extensive agriculture, and a large
manufactory and distillery, employing three hundred apprentices, and
supporting twenty-five horses, one hundred and thirty head of horned
cattle, and hogs, sheep; and poultry in proportion, is manifestly a most
complicated machinery. No wonder it should have been difficult to manage
during slavery, when the main spring was absent, and every wheel out
of gear.

We saw the apprentices assemble after twelve o'clock, to receive their
allowances of yams. These provisions are distributed to them twice every
week - on Monday and Thursday. They were strewed along the yard in heaps
of fifteen pounds each. The apprentices came with baskets to get their
allowances. It resembled a market scene, much chattering and talking,
but no anger. Each man, woman, and child, as they got their baskets
filled, placed them of their heads, and marched off to their
several huts.

On Tuesday morning, at an early hour, Mr. C. took us in his phaeton on
our projected excursion. It was a beautiful morning. There was a full
breeze from the east, which had already started the ponderous wings of
the wind-mills, in every direction. The sun was shaded by light clouds,
which rendered the air quite cool. Crossing the rich valley in which the
Bell estate and other noble properties are situated, we ascended the
cliffs of St. John's - a ridge extending through the parish of that name
and as we rode along its top, eastward, we had a delightful view of sea
and land. Below us on either hand lay vast estates glowing in the,
verdure of summer, and on three sides in the distance stretched the
ocean. Rich swells of land, cultivated and blooming like a vast garden,
extended to the north as far as the eye could reach, and on every other
side down to the water's edge. One who has been accustomed to the
wildness of American scenery, and to the imperfect cultivation,
intercepted with woodland, which yet characterizes the even the oldest
portions of the United States, might revel for a time amid the sunny
meadows. The waving cane fields, the verdant provision grounds, the
acres of rich black soil without a blade of grass, and divided into beds
two feet square for the cane plants with the precision almost of the
cells of a honey comb; and withal he might be charmed with the luxurious
mansions - more luxurious than superb - surrounded with the white cedar,
the cocoa-nut tree, and the tall, rich mountain cabbage - the most



Online LibraryAmerican Anti-Slavery SocietyThe Anti-Slavery Examiner, Part 2 of 4 → online text (page 27 of 75)