William Charles Dowding.

Africa in the West : its state, prospects, and educational needs : with reference to Bishop Berkeley's Bermuda College (Volume Talbot Collection online

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Online LibraryWilliam Charles DowdingAfrica in the West : its state, prospects, and educational needs : with reference to Bishop Berkeley's Bermuda College (Volume Talbot Collection → online text (page 1 of 2)
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Cant. i. 5.






There are but few persons of education who are
not familiar with the name of Berkeley. They have
not tested (it may be) the virtues of "Tar Water,"
but they have admired the acuteness of its learned
advocate ; and though they still have faith in an
external world, and believe themselves something
better than a bundle of ideas, they know enough
of the times when the good Bishop lived, to rejoice
in a counterpoise to the theories then rampant, even
though the counterpoise itself may have gone some-
what too far.

It is not, however, as an amateur physician nor yet
as a master of the ideal philosophy, but in the higher
character of a Christian philanthropist, that we now
ask attention to his history. It will be remembered
that amongst his works there is a tract with this
title : "A proposal for the better supply of Churches
in our foreign Plantations, and for the converting of
the savage Americans to Christianity by a College to
be erected in the Summer islands, otherwise called
the isles of Bermuda''." This tract was written when
the Bishop was Dean of Derry; and in accordance

" Berkeley's Works, vol. ii., pp. 281—293.
A 2

with the views therein explained, application was
made to the then Government, for a charter of in-
corporation, and a grant of money. After many dif-
ficulties, the end seemed secure ; and Dean Berkeley
set sail for Rhode island. His purpose was to wait
there till the grant should be paid ; and, meanwhile,
to prepare the way for his future operations. Sir
Robert Walpole was then at the head of affairs ; and
knowing the man, we are not surprised at what fol-
lowed : after a long and harassing delay, the Dean
was informed through his friend Bishop Gibson, that
the money voted would not be paid, and that the pro-
ject so dear to him must be given up.

He returned forthwith to Europe ; the funds col-
lected for his College were made over to the Society
for the Propagation of the Gospel; and from that
time to this (I believe) his great project has been in
abeyance. It is in the hope of reviving it that this
paper is put forth.

In reviving it, we seek to meet a case without
parallel. The circumstances of the West Indies are
scarce reahzed in England. Men know that the
slaves have been emancipated; and they have a
general impression that their condition is improving ;
yet but few persons are acquainted with the true
aspect of things, or alive to what we have called
its unparalleled character.

Africa may well be called the great crux of philan-
thropy : the problem which the wisest and most con-
siderate cannot solve. What is to become of it ? how


are its tribes to be taught and christianized ? how are
they to be raised from their deep degradation ? when
shall the children of Ham be forgiven ? when rescued
(if ever) from their world-old curse ?

Now this question is solving itself on the other side
the Atlantic. The future of Africa is to be looked for
in the West.

It is nothing new for conquering nations to be
naturalized in their conquests ; absorbing the strength
and resources of the land, and driving the aborigines
to annihilation ; but in the West India islands we
have the reverse of this. We have there, not a con-
quering but a conquered race, (conquered too, in a
sense the most abject and dishonourable,) who yet, in
God's providence, have so thriven upon their dis-
honour, as to remind us of those who " grew and
multiplied in Egypt." But the comparison fails in
a most material point : in the one case there was a
possible (and actual) removal; while in that which
concerns ourselves such a step is out of question.
We cannot force the departure of om- bondsmen :
we cannot make a merit of necessity in permitting it :
the wide sea severs them (utterly) from their father-
land ; and, for good or for evil, they must remain
where they are. We trust it shall be for good : for
we trace (in their circumstances) that mysterious law
which has made civilization and intelligence to travel
perpetually towards the West. That law at least
seems, so far, to apply to the African, that he has
shewn powers in the West, which in the East were

hidden; and a capacity for developement both
physical and otherwise, which cannot but produce
the most important results.

As a first step towards verifying this opinion, we
must refer to the census of population. It has been
usual in the West Indies, since the abolition of slavery,
to make these Returns without distinction of colour :
in four cases, however, the distinction has been main-
tained : in Jamaica, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, and the
Bahamas ; and as there is nothing very peculiar in
the condition of those islands, we may fairly consider
them as representing the rest.

Now the aggregate population of those islands (as

stated in a Paper read by Mr. Danson to the Statistical

Society in Peb. 1849) amounts to 459,000. Out of

these we have the following as the number of the

whites :

Jamaica ...... 15,776

St. Vincent ..... 1268

St. Lucia. ..... 1039

The Bahamas ..... 6062

Total 24, 145
So that the proportion (per cent.) of whites to coloured
persons is scarcely more than 5.

Such a Return in the days of slavery need have
caused no remark : nay, rather, it might have been
taken as an evidence of prosperity. Now, however,
that the coloured people (God be thanked for it) are
free — willing, too, and able to make use of their
freedom ; anxious for progress, and capable of se-

curing it — the Return sets before us a most por-
tentous fact ; revealing (at a glance) the whole future
of those regions : ^coAot Trpovojiriv TroirjaovaL^ !

But this is not all. To realize the case completely, we
must take another matter into account. It is a com-
mon remark with regard to the English West Indies,
that our countrymen never seem domesticated there.
While the Frenchman in Martinique, and the Spaniard
in Cuba, can each make the land of his adoption a
home, the Englishman remains a sojourner through-
out the longest residence : a visitor to the Plantation,
rather than a member of the Colon?/ ; enduring to be
expatriated for the sake of making a fortune, but
ever fore-casting the day of his return. He is a
stranger in the country, and (bating mercantile pur-
poses) the land has no hold upon him.

Now with Government policy we have nothing to do;
but, in connection with our own question, we must
needs remember, that circumstances are tending to
weaken even this slight bond, and to make the white
man more than ever disposed to look homeward.
Explain it how we may, the fact is certain, that in
Guiana, as well as the islands, a state of things has
risen up, which seems likely to bring into the full-
est prominence, that the Africans are now the real
natives of that region : not only in regard to their
overwhelming numbers ; ^not only in regard to their
having no other home; not only in regard to their
adaptation to the chmate (a climate which must ever

^ Isaiah xxxiii. 23.

prevent the white man from being a native) ; but also,
and especially, and particularly in tins regard — the
ultimate prospect of their being left alone in the land.

I offer no opinion upon questions of finance ; nor
am I insensible to the trials attending social tran-
sitions. I desire only to state facts : and if I have
suggested a clue to their interpretation, it is no more
than others have done before me. De Tocqueville
has pointed to the same probability ; and the lecture
rooms of Oxford have heard it said, that " emanci-
pation may have given a turn to the course of events,
and opened for our magnificent tropical empire of the
West a neio cycle of destiny''!^ The same thought is
working in more practical minds. In conversation,
(last year) with a West India merchant who had re-
cently wound up his affairs in Jamaica (too thankful
to have lost only half his fortune,) I found that he was
consoling himself under his personal losses, as well as
for what he considered to be a public calamity, with
the belief that God has high pm'poses in those re-
gions, and those pm'poses such as I have ventured to
hint at. He was a religious man, of very great in-
telligence ; he had lived all his life in the countries
he spoke of : and he had about him (let me add as a
most important particular) the strongest personal an-
tipathy to the coloured race.

But whatever be our judgment as to the distant
future, this, at least, we have before our eyes already,
a race but of yesterday (in its altered condition), yet

" Merivale's Lectures on Colonization.

even now, in its infancy, shewing signs of promise ;
its powers obvious, though undeveloped ; its energies
undisciplined and irregular as those of a child, yet
exhibiting the raw material of which great nations are
made. A good illustration of this is given by Mr.
Coleridge '\ when comparing the negroes with the
Indians of Trhiidad : ** Their complexion does not
differ so much as their minds and dispositions : in
the first," (the Indians) he says, " life stagnates : in
the last it is tremulous with irritability : the negroes
cannot be silent ; they speak in spite of themselves ;
every passion acts upon them with strange intensity.
Their curiosity is audacious ; their mirth clamorous
and excessive ; their anger sudden and furious ; and
yet, by nature, they are good humoured in the high-
est degree."

To this judgment, put forth some years ago, I am
able to add a little from more recent experience. The
responsibilities of freedom have had their effect in
checking the exuberance which Mr. Coleridge speaks
of; and a more careful education, with higher objects
of pursuit, will, henceforth, prevent their powers from
running to waste. They are now in the fullest career
of improvement : and after knowledge of them as
parishioners, both young and old; in the school, in
the family, and at the sick-bed side, it is impossible
not to call them a most promising people ; intelligent,
orderly, and (for the most part) religious.

It is not necessary for our purpose that we should


Online LibraryWilliam Charles DowdingAfrica in the West : its state, prospects, and educational needs : with reference to Bishop Berkeley's Bermuda College (Volume Talbot Collection → online text (page 1 of 2)