American Anti-Slavery Society.

The Anti-Slavery Examiner, Part 2 of 4 online

. (page 38 of 75)
Online LibraryAmerican Anti-Slavery SocietyThe Anti-Slavery Examiner, Part 2 of 4 → online text (page 38 of 75)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

body was lashed, with his face towards the machine, and his arms
extended at right angles, and tied by the wrists. The missionary had
witnessed the floggings at this machine repeatedly, as it stood but a
few steps from his house. Before we reached Bath, the machine had been
removed from its conspicuous place and _concealed in the bushes, that
the governor might not see it when he visited the village_.

As this missionary had been for several years laboring in the island,
and had enjoyed the best opportunities to become extensively acquainted
with the negroes, we solicited from him a written answer to a number of
inquiries. We make some extracts from his communication.

1. Have the facilities for missionary effort greatly increased since the
abolition of slavery?

The opportunities of the apprentices to attend the means of grace are
greater than during absolute slavery. They have now one day and a half
every week to work for their support, leaving the Sabbath free to
worship God.

2. Do you anticipate that these facilities will increase still more
after entire freedom?

Yes. The people will then have _six days of their own to labor for their
bread_, and will be at liberty to go to the house of God every Sabbath.
Under the present system, the magistrate often takes away the Saturday,
as a punishment, and then they must either work on the Sabbath
or starve.

3. Are the negroes likely to revenge by violence the wrongs which they
have suffered, after they obtain their freedom?

_I never heard the idea suggested, nor should I have thought of it had
you not made the inquiry._

We called on Mr. Rogers, the teacher of a Mico charity infant school in
Bath. Mr. R., his wife and daughter, are all engaged in this work. They
have a day school, and evening school three evenings in the week, and
Sabbath school twice each Sabbath. The evening schools are for the
benefit of the adult apprentices, who manifest the greatest eagerness to
learn to read. After working all day, they will come several miles to
school, and stay cheerfully till nine o'clock.

Mr. R. furnished us with a written communication, from which we extract
the following.

_Quest._ Are the apprentices desirous of being instructed?

_Ans._ Most assuredly they are; in proof of which I would observe that
since our establishment in Bath, the people not only attend the schools
regularly, but if they obtain a leaf of a book with letters upon it,
that is their _constant companion_. We have found mothers with their
sucking babes in their arms, standing night after night in their classes
learning the alphabet.

_Q._ Are the negroes grateful for attentions and favors?

_A._ They are; I have met some who have been so much affected by acts of
kindness, that they have burst into tears, exclaiming, 'Massa so
kind - my heart full.' Their affection to their teachers is very
remarkable. On my return lately from Kingston, after a temporary
absence, the negroes flocked to our residence and surrounded the chaise,
saying, 'We glad to see massa again; we glad to see school massa.' On my
way through an estate some time ago, some of the children observed me,
and in a transport of joy cried, 'Thank God, massa come again! Bless God
de Savior, massa come again!'

Mr. R., said he, casually met with an apprentice whose master had lately
died. The man was in the habit of visiting his master's grave every
Saturday. He said to Mr. R., "Me go to massa grave, and de water come
into me yeye; but me can't help it, massa, _de water will come into
me yeye_."

The Wesleyan missionary told us, that two apprentices, an aged man and
his daughter, a young woman, had been brought up by their master before
the special magistrate who sentenced them to several days confinement in
the house of correction at Morant Bay and to dance the treadmill. When
the sentence was passed the daughter entreated that she might be allowed
to _do her father's part_, as well as her own, on the treadmill, for he
was too old to dance the wheel - it would kill him.

From Bath we went into the Plantain Garden River Valley, one of the
richest and most beautiful savannahs in the island. It is an extensive
plain, from one to three miles wide, and about six miles long. The
Plantain Garden River, a small stream, winds through the midst of the
valley lengthwise, emptying into the sea. Passing through the valley, we
went a few miles south of it to call on Alexander Barclay, Esq., to whom
we had a letter of introduction. Mr. Barclay is a prominent member of
the assembly, and an attorney for eight estates. He made himself
somewhat distinguished a few years ago by writing an octavo volume of
five hundred pages in defence of the colonies, i.e., in defence of
colonial slavery. It was a reply to Stephen's masterly work against West
India slavery, and was considered by the Jamaicans a triumphant
vindication of their "peculiar institutions." We went several miles out
of our route expressly to have an interview with so zealous and
celebrated a champion of slavery. We were received with marked courtesy
by Mr. B., who constrained us to spend a day and night with him at his
seat at Fairfield. One of the first objects that met our eye in Mr. B.'s
dining hall was a splendid piece of silver plate, which was presented to
him by the planters of St. Thomas in the East, in consideration of his
able defence of colonial slavery. We were favorably impressed with Mr.
B.'s intelligence, and somewhat so with his present sentiments
respecting slavery. We gathered from him that he had resisted with all
his might the anti-slavery measures of the English government, and
exerted every power to prevent the introduction of the apprenticeship
system. After he saw that slavery would inevitably be abolished, he drew
up at length a plan of emancipation according to which the condition of
the slave was to be commuted into that of the old English _villein_ - he
was to be made an appendage to _the soil_ instead of the "chattel
personal" of the master, the whip was to be partially abolished, a
modicum of wages was to be allowed the slave, and so on. There was to be
no fixed period when this system would terminate, but it was to fade
gradually and imperceptibly into entire freedom. He presented a copy of
his scheme to the then governor, the Earl of Mulgrave, requesting that
it might be forwarded to the home government. Mr. B. said that the
anti-slavery party in England had acted from the blind impulses of
religious fanaticism, and had precipitated to its issue a work which
required many years of silent preparation in order to its safe
accomplishment. He intimated that the management of abolition ought to
have been left with the colonists; they had been the long experienced
managers of slavery, and they were the only men qualified to superintend
its burial, and give it a decent interment.

He did not think that the apprenticeship afforded any clue to the dark
mystery of 1840. Apprenticeship was so inconsiderably different from
slavery, that it furnished no more satisfactory data for judging of the
results of entire freedom than slavery itself. Neither would he consent
to be comforted by the actual results of emancipation in Antigua.

Taking leave of Mr. Barclay, we returned to the Plantain Garden River
Valley, and called at the Golden Grove, one of the most splendid estates
in that magnificent district. This is an estate of two thousand acres;
it has five hundred apprentices and one hundred free children. The
average annual crop is six hundred hogsheads of sugar. Thomas McCornock,
Esq., the attorney of this estate, is the custos, or chief magistrate of
the parish, and colonel of the parish militia. There is no man in all
the parish of greater consequence, either in fact or in seeming
self-estimation, than Thomas McCornock, Esq. He is a Scotchman, as is
also Mr. Barclay. The custos received us with as much freedom as the
dignity of his numerous offices would admit of. The overseer, (manager,)
Mr. Duncan, is an intelligent, active, business man, and on any other
estate than Golden Grove, would doubtless be a personage of considerable
distinction. He conducted us through the numerous buildings, from the
boiling-house to the pig-stye. The principal complaint of the overseer,
was that he could not make the people work to any good purpose. They
were not at all refractory or disobedient; there was no difficulty in
getting them on to the field; but when they were there, they moved
without any life or energy. They took no interest in their work, and he
was obliged to be watching and scolding them all the time, or else they
would do nothing. We had not gone many steps after this observation,
before we met with a practical illustration of it. A number of the
apprentices had been ordered that morning to cart away some dirt to a
particular place. When we approached them, Mr. D. found that one of the
"wains" was standing idle. He inquired of the driver why he was keeping
the team idle. The reply was, that there was nothing there for it to do;
there were enough other wains to carry away all the dirt. "Then," inquired
the overseer with an ill-concealed irritation, "why did not go to some
other work?" The overseer then turned to us and said, "You see, sir,
what lazy dogs the apprentices are - this is the way they do every day,
if they are not closely watched." It was not long after this little
incident, before the overseer remarked that the apprentices worked very
well during their own time, _when they were paid for it_. When we went
into the hospital, Mr. D. directed out attention to one fact, which to
him was very provoking. A great portion of the patients that come in
during the week, unable to work, are in the habit of getting well on
Friday evening, so that they can go out on Saturday and Sunday; but on
Monday morning they are sure to be sick again, then they return to the
hospital and remain very poorly till Friday evening, when they get well
all at once, and ask permission to go out. The overseer saw into the
trick; but he could find no medicine that could cure the negroes of that
intermittent sickness. The Antigua planters discovered the remedy for
it, and doubtless Mr. D. will make the grand discovery in 1840.

On returning to the "great house," we found the custos sitting in state,
ready to communicate any official information which might be called for.
He expressed similar sentiments in the main, with those of Mr. Barclay.
He feared for the consequences of complete emancipation; the negroes
would to a great extent abandon the sugar cultivation and retire to the
woods, there to live in idleness, planting merely yams enough to keep
them alive, and in the process of time, retrograding into African
barbarism. The attorney did not see how it was possible to prevent this.
When asked whether he expected that such would be the case with the
negroes on Golden Grove, he replied that he did not think it would,
except with a very few persons. His people had been _so well treated_,
and had _so many comforts_, that they would not be at all likely to
abandon the estate! [Mark that!] Whose are the people that will desert
after 1840? Not Thomas McCornock's, Esq.! _They are too well situated.
Whose_ then will desert? _Mr. Jocken's_, or in other words, those who
are ill-treated, who are cruelly driven, whose fences are broken down,
and whose provision grounds are exposed to the cattle. They, and they
alone, will retire to the woods who can't get food any where else!

The custos thought the apprentices were behaving very ill. On being
asked if he had any trouble with his, he said, O, no! his apprentices
did quite well, and so did the apprentices generally, in the Plantain
Garden River Valley. But in _far off parishes_, he _heard_ that they
were very refractory and troublesome.

The custos testified that the negroes were very easily managed. He said
he had often thought that he would rather have the charge of six hundred
negroes, than of two hundred English sailors. He spoke also of the
temperate habits of the negroes. He had been in the island twenty-two
years, and he had never seen a negro woman drunk, on the estate. It was
very seldom that the men got drunk. There were not more than ten men on
Golden Grove, out of a population of five hundred, who were in the habit
of occasionally getting intoxicated. He also remarked that the negroes
were a remarkable people for their attention to the old and infirm among
them; they seldom suffered them to want, if it was in their power to
supply them. Among other remarks of the custos, was this sweeping
declaration - "_No man in his senses can pretend to defend slavery._"

After spending a day at Golden Grove, we proceeded to the adjacent
estate of Amity Hall. On entering the residence of the manager, Mr.
Kirkland, we were most gratefully surprised to find him engaged in
family prayers. It was the first time and the last that we heard the
voice of prayer in a Jamaican planter's house. We were no less
gratefully surprised to see a white lady, to whom we were introduced as
Mrs. Kirkland, and several modest and lovely little children. It was the
first and the last _family circle_ that we were permitted to see among
the planters of that licentious colony. The motley group of colored
children - of every age from tender infancy - which we found on other
estates, revealed the state of domestic manners among the planters.

Mr. K. regarded the abolition of slavery as a great blessing to the
colony; it was true that the apprenticeship was a wretchedly bad system,
but notwithstanding, things moved smoothly on his estate. He informed us
that the negroes on Amity Hall had formerly borne the character of being
the _worst gang in the parish_; and when he first came to the estate, he
found that half the truth had not been told of them; but they had become
remarkably peaceable and subordinate. It was his policy to give them
every comfort that he possibly could. Mr. K. made the same declaration,
which has been so often repeated in the course of this narrative, i.e.,
that if any of the estates were abandoned, it would be owing to the
harsh treatment of the people. He knew many overseers and book-keepers
who were cruel driving men, and he should not be surprised if _they_
lost a part, or all, of their laborers. He made one remark which we had
not heard before. There were some estates, he said, which would probably
be abandoned, for the same reason that they ought never to have been
cultivated, because they require _almost double labor_; - such are the
mountainous estates and barren, worn-out properties, which nothing but a
system of forced labor could possibly retain in cultivation. But the
idea that the negroes generally would leave their comfortable homes, and
various privileges on the estates, and retire to the wild woods, he
ridiculed as preposterous in the extreme. Mr. K. declared repeatedly
that he could not look forward to 1840, but with the most sanguine
hopes; he confidently believed that the introduction of complete freedom
would be the _regeneration of the island_. He alluded to the memorable
declaration of Lord Belmore, (made memorable by the excitement which it
caused among the colonists,) in his valedictory address to the assembly,
on the eve of his departure for England.[A] "Gentlemen," said he, "the
resources of this noble island will never be fully developed until
slavery is abolished!" For this manly avowal the assembly ignobly
refused him the usual marks of respect and honor at his departure. Mr.
K. expected to see Jamaica become a new world under the enterprise and
energies of freedom. There were a few disaffected planters, who would
probably remain so, and leave the islands after emancipation. It would
be a blessing to the country if such men left it, for as long as they
were disaffected, they were the enemies of its prosperity.

[Footnote A: Lord Belmore left the government of Jamaica, a short time
before the abolition act passed in parliament.]

Mr. K. conducted us through the negro quarters, which are situated on
the hill side, nearly a mile from his residence. We went into several of
the houses; which were of a better style somewhat than the huts in
Antigua and Barbadoes - larger, better finished and furnished. Some few
of them had verandahs or porches on one or more sides, after the West
India fashion, closed in with _jalousies_. In each of the houses to
which we were admitted, there was one apartment fitted up in a very neat
manner, with waxed floor, a good bedstead, and snow white coverings, a
few good chairs, a mahogany sideboard, ornamented with dishes,
decanters, etc.

From Amity Hall, we drove to Manchioneal, a small village ten miles
north of the Plantain Garden River Valley. We had a letter to the
special magistrate for that district, R. Chamberlain, Esq., a colored
gentleman, and the first magistrate we found in the parish of St. Thomas
in the East, who was faithful to the interests of the apprentices. He
was a boarder at the public house, where we were directed for lodgings,
and as we spent a few days in the village, we had opportunities of
obtaining much information from him, as well as of attending some of his
courts. Mr. C. had been only five months in the district of Manchioneal,
having been removed thither from a distant district. Being a friend of
the apprentices, he is hated and persecuted by the planters. He gave us
a gloomy picture of the oppressions and cruelties of the planters. Their
complaints brought before him are often of the most trivial kind; yet
because he does not condemn the apprentices to receive a punishment
which the most serious offences alone could justify him in inflicting,
they revile and denounce him as unfit for his station. He represents the
planters as not having the most distant idea that it is the province of
the special magistrate to secure justice to the apprentice; but they
regard it as his sole duty to _help them_ in getting from the laborers
as much work as whips, and chains, and tread-wheels can extort. His
predecessor, in the Manchioneal district, answered perfectly to the
planters' _beau ideal_. He ordered a _cat_ to be kept on every estate in
his district, to be ready for use as he went around on his weekly
visits. Every week he inspected the cats, and when they became too much
worn to do good execution, he _condemned_ them, and ordered new ones
to be made.

Mr. C. said the most frequent complaints made by the planters are for
_insolence_. He gave a few specimens of what were regarded by the
planters as serious offences. An overseer will say to his apprentice,
"Work along there faster, you lazy villain, or I'll strike you;" the
apprentice will reply, "You _can't_ strike me now," and for this he is
taken before the magistrate on the complaint of _insolence_. An
overseer, in passing the gang on the field, will hear them singing; he
will order them, in a peremptory tone to stop instantly, and if they
continue singing, they are complained of for _insubordination_. An
apprentice has been confined to the hospital with disease, - when he gets
able to walk, tired of the filthy sick house, he hobbles to his hut,
where he may have the attentions of his wife until he gets well. That is
called _absconding from labor_! Where the magistrate does not happen to
be an independent man, the complaint is sustained, and the poor invalid
is sentenced to the treadmill for absenting himself from work. It is
easy to conjecture the dreadful consequence. The apprentice, debilitated
by sickness, dragged off twenty-five miles on foot to Morant Bay,
mounted on the wheel, is unable to keep the step with the stronger ones,
slips off and hangs by the wrists, and his flesh is mangled and torn by
the wheel.

The apprentices frequently called at our lodgings to complain to Mr. C.
of the hard treatment of their masters. Among the numerous distressing
cases which we witnessed, we shall never forget that of a poor little
negro boy, of about twelve, who presented himself one afternoon before
Mr. C., with a complaint against his master for violently beating him. A
gash was cut in his head, and the blood had flowed freely. He fled from
his master, and came to Mr. C. for refuge. He belonged to A. Ross, Esq.,
of Mulatto Run estate. We remembered that we had a letter of
introduction to that planter, and we had designed visiting him, but
after witnessing this scene, we resolved not to go near a monster who
could inflict such a wound, with his own hand, upon a child. We were
highly gratified with the kind and sympathizing manner in which Mr. C.
spoke with the unfortunate beings who, in the extremity of their wrongs,
ventured to his door.

At the request of the magistrate we accompanied him, on one occasion, to
the station-house, where he held a weekly court. We had there a good
opportunity to observe the hostile feelings of the planters towards this
faithful officer - "faithful among the faithless," (though we are glad
that we cannot quite add, "_only he_.")

A number of managers, overseers, and book-keepers, assembled; some with
complaints, and some to have their apprentices classified. They all set
upon the magistrate like bloodhounds upon a lone stag. They strove
together with one accord, to subdue his independent spirit by taunts,
jeers, insults, intimidations and bullyings. He was obliged to threaten
one of the overseers with arrest, on account of his abusive conduct. We
were actually amazed at the intrepidity of the magistrate. We were
convinced from what we saw that day, that only the most fearless and
conscientious men could be _faithful magistrates_ in Jamaica. Mr. C.
assured us that he met with similar indignities every time he held his
courts, and on most of the estates that he visited. It was in his power
to punish them severely, but he chose to use all possible forbearance,
so as not to give the planters any grounds of complaint.

On a subsequent day we accompanied Mr. C. in one of his estate visits.
As it was late in the afternoon, he called at but one estate, the name
of which was Williamsfield. Mr. Gordon, the overseer of Williamsfield,
is among the fairest specimens of planters. He has naturally a generous
disposition, which, like that of Mr. Kirkland, has out-lived the
witherings of slavery.

He informed us that his people worked as well under the apprenticeship
system, as ever they did during slavery; and he had every encouragement
that they would do still better after they were completely free. He was
satisfied that he should be able to conduct his estate at much less
expense after 1840; he thought that fifty men would do as much then as a
hundred do now. We may add here a similar remark of Mr. Kirkland - that
forty freemen would accomplish as much as eighty slaves. Mr. Gordon
hires his people on Saturdays, and he expressed his astonishment at the
increased vigor with which they worked when they were to receive wages.
He pointedly condemned the driving system which was resorted to by many
of the planters. They foolishly endeavored to keep up the coercion of
slavery, _and they had the special magistrates incessantly flogging the
apprentices_. The planters also not unfrequently take away the provision
grounds from their apprentices, and in every way oppress and
harass them.

In the course of the conversation Mr. G. accidentally struck upon a
fresh vein of facts, respecting the SLAVERY OF BOOK-KEEPERS,[A] _under
the old system_. The book-keepers, said Mr. G., were the complete slaves
of the overseers, who acted like despots on the estates. They were
mostly young men from England, and not unfrequently had considerable
refinement; but ignorant of the treatment which book-keepers had to
submit to, and allured by the prospect of becoming wealthy by
plantership, they came to Jamaica and entered as candidates. They soon
discovered the cruel bondage in which they were involved. The overseers
domineered over them, and stormed at them as violently as though they
were the most abject slaves. They were allowed no privileges such as
their former habits impelled them to seek. If they played a flute in the
hearing of the overseer, they were commanded to be silent instantly. If
they dared to put a gold ring on their finger, even that trifling
pretension to gentility was detected and disallowed by the jealous
overseer. (These things were specified by Mr. G. himself.) They were
seldom permitted to associate with the overseers as equals. The only
thing which reconciled the book-keepers to this abject state, was the
reflection that they might one day _possibly_ become overseers
themselves, and then they could exercise the same authority over others.

Online LibraryAmerican Anti-Slavery SocietyThe Anti-Slavery Examiner, Part 2 of 4 → online text (page 38 of 75)