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as contrasted with the cultivated land behind its sea-wall ; in
its artificial dykes and dams and trenches ; ... in all these
things it makes up a very varied and interesting whole.' 1


Honduras, so named from a Spanish term meaning depth,
and the only continental possession of Great Britain in Central
America, lies to the east of Guatemala and to the south of
Mexico. Adventurers from Jamaica came here to cut wood
in 1638, amongst them the well-known Dampier ; and for many
years the colony was considered as a kind of dependency of
Jamaica. Not until 1862 did the country become a separate
British colony. The Honduras settlers were called 'Bay men,'
and upheld their occupancy of the country against the attacks
of the Spaniards, whose last attack upon them was made in
1798. Sometimes the settlers turned the tables upon the
Spaniards, and in 1678 took possession of the town of Cam-
peche, on the west coast of Yucatan. To the present day
there is some part of the country still unexplored toward the
Guatemala boundary and westward of the Cockscomb Peak,
which has an elevation of 4000 feet. For many years
mahogany and logwood have been the products of the colony,
the mahogany-tree growing in vast forests along the mountain
sides ; but the greater part of the colony is scarcely utilised by
Great Britain. The colony lies between 16 and 18 N., with
a hot and moist climate, averaging 80 to 82 Fahr.

The Mosquito Shore is a tract of country described by
1 -For facts and figures see Appendix I. Section E.

The West Indies 1 9

Martin x as extending from Cape Gracios a Dios southerly to
Punta Gorda and St. Juan's River. The Mosquito Indians
have always been celebrated for their successful opposition to
the Spaniards and their friendship with the British. In 1847
Lord Palmerston laid down that the King of the Mosquito
Indians was under the protection of the British Crown. In
the early accounts of colonisation and adventure in Central
America the Bay of Honduras and the Mosquito Shore figure
somewhat prominently.

In later years the interest taken in them has somewhat
waned, so many other and more attractive portions of the
world having been thrown open to British and European
enterprise. Montgomery Martin maintained in 1830 that
England had never realised the value of the colony, both in
respect to its timber supplies, cotton, and all the variety of
tropical products. 2

1 British Colonies, vol. ii. p. 399.

2 For facts and figures see Appendix I. Section F.



THE Leeward Islands belong partly to France, as Mar-
tinique, Guadeloupe, and St. Bartholomew ; partly to Holland,
as St. Eustatius, Saba, and a portion of St. Martin's Bay ;
partly to Denmark, as Santa Cruz and St. Thomas. The rest
belong to Great Britain, and are Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts,
Nevis, Anguilla, Dominica, Montserrat, and the Virgin Islands.
Politically the Leeward Islands form a confederacy with five
presidencies : (i) Antigua with Barbuda and Redonda, (2)
Dominica, (3) Montserrat, (4) St. Kitts with Nevis and
Anguilla, (5) the Virgin Islands. These islands are small
and dotted at intervals on the surface of the sea, extending in
a circular line from Porto Rico to Trinidad ; the detached
settlement of Barbados, as already mentioned, lying about
fifty miles out of the line to the eastward. They are known
as the Lesser Antilles.

The more southerly of this long chain of islands are de-
scribed as the Windward Islands, whilst the more northerly are
known as the Leeward Islands a description not exactly
correct from a geographer's point of view. The trade-wind of
these latitudes blows from the north-east, and consequently the
more northerly of the islands are more to the windward than
the southern islands. The old geographers maintained that the
true Leeward Islands were the Greater Antilles, viz. Porto Rico,
Hayti, Cuba, and Jamaica. But as the present nomenclature
has stood for so many years, it must be accepted. It was in
1671 that the colony of the Leeward Islands was separated


The West Indies 21

from Barbados, the seat of government up to that time, and
from the Windward Islands. Nevis first of all, and then
Antigua, became the administrative centre of the Leewards.

Nearly all the Leewards were discovered by the Spaniards,
and Columbus gave a name to Dominica, because it was first
seen on a Sunday ; to Montserrat, after a mountain in Spain ;
to Redonda, from its round shape ; to Antigua, in comme-
moration of the Church of Santa Maria la Antigua in Seville ; to
Anguilla, from its resemblance to a snake ; to the numerous
Virgin Islands, after the legend of St. Ursula and the 11,000
virgins ; to Nevis, from the mountain of Nieves in Spain ;
St. Kitts, contracted from St. Christopher, took its name from
the great Christopher Columbus himself. The honours of
discovery, therefore, lie very clearly with the Spaniards ; but,
attracted probably by the prospects of the Greater Antilles,
they left the Lesser Antilles unoccupied.

The Leeward Islands lie somewhat out of the line of the
main ocean routes, and are consequently not so often visited
and described as other West Indian islands. Canon Kingsley
passed them by altogether, and Mr. Froude visited only one
of them, viz. Dominica. A more recent traveller, Mr. Morris,
has thus spoken of them : * They are literally " green islands of
glittering seas," bathed in continuous sunlight, and fanned by
cooling breezes. . . . There are the forest-clad mountains
and valleys of Dominica ; the highly cultivated slopes of St.
Kitts ; the more sober, but not less interesting, undulating
sugar-cane fields of Antigua ; and the lime and orange groves
of Montserrat. All these constitute a picture of tropical
wealth and beauty almost unknown to the people of this
country.' 1

Some of these islands are volcanic, viz. Dominica, Mont-
serrat, St. Kitts, and Nevis, and from their centres cone-
shaped mountains rise sometimes to the height of 3000 to
5000 feet above the level of the sea, their sides being deeply
scored out into rugged channels and ravines, whilst their
1 Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute, vol. xxii. p. 227.

22 British Colonisation

crowns are hidden, day and night, by soft, fleecy masses of
clouds. Such is the wealth and profusion of the tropics, that
down to the very edge of the sea the shores are covered with a
mass of vegetation. The non-volcanic islands are low, and,
with the exception of Antigua and Tortola, devoid of hills.


Of all the Leeward Islands Dominica is the most beautiful,
and, if we take the Leewards from south to north, it is the
first to be described. In this island the native Caribs were
more numerous than in any other island excepting St. Vincent.
In 1640 Aubert, the French Governor of Guadeloupe, con-
ciliated the Caribs by kindness, and in 1660 'a peace was
signed at Guadeloupe between English, French, and Caribs,
by which the natives were secured from European interference
in St. Vincent and Dominica.' Subsequently the French
appear to have taken a great interest in the island, and in 1778
a French force from Martinique attacked and captured the
island ; but after Rodney's great victory Dominica was restored
to England.

It was off Dominica that Rodney, known afterwards as
Baron Rodney of Stoke, Somersetshire, in company with Sir
Samuel Hood, another Somersetshire celebrity, defeated the
French admiral de Grasse on that memorable April day in
1782. It has been said that on this occasion the salvation
of the West Indies and Jamaica, with the whole hope
and fortune of the war, depended upon the ability of the
English admirals to prevent the junction of de Grasse's fleet
with the French and Spanish fleets at Hispaniola. The scene
of action lay in the large basin between the islands of
Guadeloupe, Dominica, Saintes, and Mariegalante, bounded on
the leeward and westward by dangerous shores. The battle
began at seven o'clock, and lasted the whole of April 12.
Just as the sun was sinking, Sir Samuel Hood ranged along-
side of the celebrated Ville de Paris, the French admiral's ship,

The West Indies 23

and poured in a volley that killed sixty men outright. This was
repeated, and at last the French admiral, with only three men
left unhurt himself being one of the three surrendered his
sword to Sir Samuel Hood. This was one of the most decisive
as well as one of the bloodiest sea-fights ever fought between
French and British. It came at a most opportune time, and was
a splendid victory to set against the surrender of Cornwallis at
Yorktown, in October 1791, the year before.


The island of Montserrat is small, being only eleven miles in
length and seven in breadth, and lies north of the French
colony of Guadeloupe a proximity from which it has some-
what suffered in former days and is 1 2 7 miles from Antigua.
This Presidency does not present so diversified a record as
some of the others, although it has experienced a change of
masters more than once. Colonised in the first instance by Sir
Thomas Warner in 1632, it had to surrender to the French in
1664, who levied heavy imposts on the islanders. It was
restored to England in 1668, and continued in her possession
for more than a hundred years. In 1782 it had again to
surrender to the French, but Rodney's crowning victory here,
as elsewhere, turned the scale permanently in favour of
England, so that since 1783, by the Peace of Versailles,
Montserrat has continued to be an English colony.

It should be remarked that in the beginning Montserrat was
settled largely by Irish Roman Catholics, and England's
enemies found in these malcontents sympathy and assistance
on more than one occasion ; just as in the Bahamas, in 1661,
the Irish were found leagued with the negroes in a contemplated
rising. Indeed, on many of the West Indian Islands the
Irish element, consisting originally of political prisoners and
convicts, was found to be a source of danger to English rule.

In Montserrat it is said that to this day the negroes have
inherited the Irish brogue ; and a story is told of a Connaught

24 British Colonisation

emigrant who, on arriving at the island, was hailed in broad
Connaught brogue by a negro from one of the boats that came
alongside. * Thunder and turf ! ' exclaimed the new-comer,
' how long have you been here ? J * Three months,' the black
man answered. ' Three months ! ' ejaculated the Irishman ;
' and so black already ! By the powers ! I'll not stay among
ye ! ' and so the visitor returned, it is said, to his native land.

In the eighteenth century Montserrat rilled up quickly, so that
by 1729 there were said to be 7000 inhabitants, of whom 5600
were negroes. Like the rest of the West Indies, it has felt the
usual depression of trade, and as far as wealth is concerned
has sunk from its high estate. Still, most of the ground there
cultivated is devoted even now to the sugar-cane. The limes,
however, have given an impulse to Montserrat trade.

The lime-plantations cover about 1000 acres, and great skill
has been employed in bringing this industry to its perfection.
There are exported both fresh and pickled limes, raw lime-
juice, concentrated lime-juice, essence of limes (prepared by
a process known as ecuelling, from the rind of the lime), and
oil of limes, prepared by distillation. 1 This industry has been
promoted by the Montserrat Company.

The island is noted for its negro peasantry, who are small
freeholders and gardeners, living in cottages that are well kept
and surrounded by fertile garden-lots. These small freeholders
number 1200, and constitute a most orderly element in the
island society who, under the benign influences of British rule,
have risen from the status of labourers to that of owners and
cultivators on a small scale.


Antigua, like Dominica, was long a disputed possession
between England and France, and its growth was somewhat later
than that of St. Kitts or Nevis. In 1640, when the population
of St. Kitts was 12,000 or 13,000, that of Antigua was only

1 Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute, vol. xxii. p. 242.

The West Indies 25

thirty families. In 1663 Charles n. made a grant of the island
to Lord Willoughby, who sent out a large number of colonists,
the town of Parham denoting this immigration period. In
1666 the French took possession of it, but the following year
Lord Willoughby retook it, and the report he gave of the
island, troubled as it was by wars and disasters, was very
favourable. It was described as 'the most proper island in
the Indies for cattle, horses, and sheep, 7 with harbours ' incom-
parably safe.'

Amongst his followers was Major Willian Byam, a well-known
Royalist, and of Somersetshire extraction, whose uncle was
chaplain to Charles IL, and his intimate friend in adversity.
Major Byam had been chosen Lieutenant-Governor by the
Council and Assembly of the settlement at Paramaribo, in
Surinam, for many years ; and a nominee of Cromwell, being
sent out to supersede him, withdrew when he discovered that
the colonists were determined to obey Major Byam and no

The sugar-cane was introduced into Antigua by Colonel
Codrington, who settled on the island from Barbados in 1674.
Barbuda, the appanage of Antigua, was the property of the
Codrington family. The inhabitants of Antigua were the first
who, by means of legislation, endeavoured to ameliorate the
evils of slavery. Owing to the elevation of the land and the
absence of deep woods, the climate of Antigua, unlike Jamaica
and Dominica, is dry. The scenery of this island has been
described by Dr. Coleridge :

'Antigua/ he writes, 'on a larger scale, is formed like
Anguilla that is, without any central eminences, but for the
most part ramparted around by very magnificent cliffs.' The
whole island, which is of a rough circular shape, lies in sight.
The shores are indented in every direction with creeks and
bays and coves.

26 British Colonisation


Together with St. Kitts and Nevis must be included the
island of Anguilla, so named from its snake-like shape, which
is about sixty miles distant. In St. Kitts the English made
their first settlement in the West Indies, the first emigrants
being fourteen Londoners under Sir Thomas Warner ; and on
this island it would appear that the French and English lived
amicably together, the upper portion, called Capisterre, being
allocated to the French, and the lower portion, called Basse-
terre, falling to the English. Quarrels, however, soon arose,
and the island passed through the ordeals of internal discord
and invasion from without. The mastery of the island lay
with the French in 1689, who were aided by the Irish rebels ;
but in 1690 the island was retaken by Codrington with the
aid of troops from Barbados, and the tables were turned upon
the French settlers, many of whom were banished, until, in
1697, the French regained their share of the island by the
terms of the Peace of Ryswick. More discord followed upon
this, until 1713, when, by the Treaty of Utrecht, an end was
finally put to the dual partnership, and England reigned
supreme in St. Kitts.

The French inhabitants migrated to St. Domingo, and the
Government received a large sum of money by the sale of Crown
lands, of which ^40,000 went as a dowry to a daughter of
George u. In 1722 a terrible hurricane swept over the island
and destroyed ^500,000 of property. In 1729 the population
had grown to more than 18,000, of whom 14,000 were negroes.
In 1782 the French, under the Marquis de Bouille and Count
de Grasse, took the island ; but by the Treaty of Versailles it
was restored to England.

St. Kitts was the birth-place of Christophe, first a slave, and
ultimately the Emperor of Hayti. In earlier times it was the
residence of Dr. Grainger, an army surgeon, who became a
friend of Dr. Johnson. He was the author of a kind of
Georgic on the sugar industry of the island, called The Sugar-

The West Indies 27

Cane. Dr. Johnson, according to Boswell, approved of Dr.
Grainger, and thought he was a man who would do any good
in his power ; but his Sugar-Cane did not please him ; for what,
he exclaimed, could he make of a sugar-cane ? He might as
well write The Parsley Bed: a Poem. It must be confessed that
Grainger's paragraph beginning 'Now, Muse, let's sing of rats/
which was afterwards paraphrased :

' Nor with less waste the whisker'd vermin race,
A countless clan, despoil the lowland cane,'

was sufficient to excite ridicule. However, Dr. Grainger, when
he wrote this couplet on the black labourers

' Servants, not slaves : of choice and not compelled
The blacks should cultivate the cane-land isles '

proved that at this date (1764) he was living before his time.


The first colonisation of Nevis was English (1628), and,
together with the rest of the Leeward Islands, it was included
in the Carlisle grant. It lies to the south-east of St. Kitts, and
is separated from it by a narrow strait about two miles wide.
Like the rest of the Caribbee islands, it was subject to French in-
vasion, and in 1666 defended itself successfully against a French
fleet. It became a place of refuge and of considerable import-
ance. In 1671 it is described as the most considerable of the
Leeward Islands, and the centre of the sugar trade in the group.

Nevis was known as ' the mother of the English Charibbee
islands,' and the Governor of Nevis held a dormant commission
as Governor- in-Chief of the Leeward Islands, and 'pirates were
tried at Nevis only, as being deemed the mother-island.' It
was also a slave-mart, like Kingston in Jamaica. 1

The island is described as almost circular in outline, and,
like many of the West Indian volcanic islands, consisting of a

1 Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute, vol. xxii. p. 247.

28 British Colonisation

platform more or less wide leading up to the slopes of a crater
peak whose head is in the clouds.

Nevis is celebrated as the birth-place of Alexander Hamilton,
who became famous in the annals of the United States as a
writer to The Federalist and a framer in company with others
of the American Constitution. He was an orphan and poor,
but, fretting at the condition of a clerk, came to New York in
1773. In the American War Hamilton's opinions were first
on the side of the British, but he soon changed to the other
side. 1 It may be noticed, also, that it was at Nevis that
the great Nelson married ' the widow Nisbet,' a widow of a
doctor ; and in one of the parish churches may be seen the
entry of the marriage, at which William, Duke of Clarence,
afterwards King William the Fourth, was best man.


Anguilla, the third constituency of St. Kitts-Nevis, lies about
fifty or sixty miles to the north-west of St. Kitts. It was dis-
covered and appropriated by the English in 1650, who found
it uninhabited. In 1668 it was reported by Lord Willoughby
to be of little value, with a population of 200 to 300, mainly
refugees. It was subject to occasional attacks from the
French, and its peace was disturbed in 1796 by Victor
Hugues, a partisan of Robespierre, who crossed over to the
West Indies and endeavoured to spread in these islands the
doctrines of the French Republic. Of the Anguilla colonists
Mr. Eves has written : ' The islanders have always displayed
the true insular qualities of bravery and independence. If
they were only 100 strong they would meet 1000 of their
foes with light hearts and good courage. The colonists were
men as well as tillers of the soil. They had their virtues,
passions, ambitions, fears and hopes ; and, living on this little
island, they tried to conduct their affairs with propriety and
success, remained steadfast to the British flag, and behaved
1 Bancroft's History of the United States, vol. iv.

The West Indies 29

themselves generally as good citizens. For all these things
they lived and died unnoticed, their deeds unsung by poets.'


The last and most northerly of the Leeward Islands are
the Virgin Islands, which consist of thirty to forty small
scattered islands due east of Porto Rico. Some of the
Virgin Islands belong to Spain, and one of them, viz. St.
Thomas, to Denmark. The principal members of the English
group are (i) Anegada, the inundated island; (2) Virgin
Gorda ; (3) Tortola. Anegada is ' merely a low reef elevated
a few feet above the level of the sea.' Tortola, so named from
the sea-tortoise, is composed of hills, the highest of which
rises to nearly 1600 feet. ' The surface is much broken up into
ravines, and nearly the whole of it has been under cultivation
in former years, chiefly in sugar. Virgin Gorda is also hilly
Virgin Gorda peak being 1370 feet high but apparently less
fertile than Tortola. Copper mines have been worked here,
but at present they are not productive. The inhabitants of
these islands are hardy and skilful seamen. The climate is cool
and healthy. The great drawback to cultivation is the destruc-
tive hurricanes that occasionally sweep over these islands.' 1

To these must be added the little islands of Jost van Dyke
discovered by the Dutch ; and Sombrero, so named by the
Spaniards from its resemblance to a hat, and little more than
a bare rock, forty feet high, valuable for phosphates. 2


The islands of Grenada, the Grenadines, St. Vincent, and St.
Lucia form officially the Windward Islands, the headquarters
of government being at Grenada. The island was discovered

1 Proceedings of Royal Colonial Institute, vol. xxii. p. 248.

2 For facts and figures see Appendix I. Section G.

30 British Colonisation

by Columbus in 1498. It lies in the route of the trade-
winds, which makes its climate pleasanter than that of the
Gulf of Paria. The island of Carriacou is one of the Grena-
dines and a dependency of Grenada. It is about nineteen
miles in circumference, lying to the north of Grenada. Some
of the other islets in the neighbourhood are included under
the Grenadines, and are cultivated.

Grenada was inhabited originally by warlike Caribs, and
was not occupied by Europeans until 1650, when the French
Governor of Martinique, du Parquet, resolved to seize the
island. The island was officially annexed to France in 1674.
It remained in the possession of the French for nearly 100
years, when in 1762 it was taken by a British force, and
finally ceded to Great Britain in 1763. This island, in
common with many others, was. subject to the imposition of
a 4^ per cent, duty upon its produce, payable to the King ;
but the colonists objected to the impost, and in a well-known
case before the King's Bench a decision was given in their
favour by Lord Mansfield. As a sequel to this decision the
duty had to be abandoned in Dominica, St. Vincent, and
Grenada. In 1779 Grenada was retaken by the French, but
in 1783, by the Versailles Treaty, was restored to England.

Grenada is an island where the sugar industry, has been
almost entirely blighted of recent years. In the earlier years
of this century (from 1821-1831) the sugar produced an
amount ranging annually from 12,000 to 20,000 tons. In
1873 tm ' s na d dropped 10-3600 tons, in 1883 to 1840 tons,
and in 1887 to less than 200 tons. 1 In 1776 the exports of
the island consisted of sugar, rum, coffee, cocoa, cotton, and
indigo, amounting to the value of ^"600,000. The sugar was
the produce of 106 plantations, worked by 18,293 slaves a
return said to be unequalled by any other island in the West
Indies excepting St. Kitts. 2

i The West Indies, by C. W. Eves, p. 208.
- Martin's British Colonies, vol. ii. p. 283.

The West Indies 31


The island of St. Lucia, first discovered by the Spaniards
on St. Lucia's Day, June 15, 1502, and first colonised by the
French in 1635, ls tne m st beautiful of the Windward Islands.
No island, however, has felt the scourge of war and din of
civil tumult more than this one. Seven times at least the
English have placed their feet upon the land as conquerors
or colonists. Twice it yielded to Admiral Rodney once in
1762 and again in 1782 ; yet neither the Treaty of Paris nor
the Peace of Versailles, following respectively upon these
conquests, settled the question of dominion. Not until 1803
did the island finally pass into permanent British occupation
by its capitulation to General Greenfield. No less than thrice
has the island been given back to France ; and so when
England gained it at last she gained a colony, to use Mr.
Martin's words, 'with French population, language, and

Online LibraryWilliam Henry Parr GreswellOutlines of British colonisation → online text (page 3 of 31)