William Henry Parr Greswell.

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In 1789 St. Lucia was the scene of wild republican revolt.
The tricolour was hoisted on Morne Fortune, the celebrated
stronghold of the island; estates were abandoned by the
negroes, who, stirred up by the appeals of the well-known
incendiary Citoyen Victor Hugues, fought for the rights of
man. At this time matters looked serious in the West
Indies, and Sir John Moore, the hero of Corunna, had to
cope with most crafty and implacable enemies, who concealed
themselves in the fastnesses of the island and carried on
bush-fighting until 1797. Sir John Moore was nearly cap-
tured on one occasion as he was being rowed along the
coast, and the arduous work impaired his health seriously.

It may be mentioned that during this island war the Duke
of Kent, the father of Queen Victoria, succeeded in planting
the English colours in 1794 upon Morne Fortune, although
this act did not result then in permanent occupation.

But this guerilla warfare carried on during 1790-97, san-
guinary as it was, does not equal in importance the great fight

32 British Colonisation

between Rodney and de Grasse in 1782. ' It was from a rock
on Pigeon Island (an island on the extreme north of St.
Lucia) that Rodney watched, through his glass, the move-
ments of de Grasse's fleet as the stately ships came out of the
harbour of Martinique. De Grasse was full of the anticipa-
tions of victory. It was not for the possession of an island or
two, but for a dominating influence in Europe, that the struggle
was intended.'

St. Lucia is within 24 miles of Martinique, of which at one
time it was a dependency, and 2 1 miles of St. Vincent. From
a strategic point of view the island has many advantages, the
harbour of Castries, the value of which attracted the eye of
Rodney and many other British officers, being the best in the
whole West Indies. Recently it has been chosen as the chief
coaling-station for the fleet, and is being strongly fortified. It
is the second naval station in these waters.

The island is noted for two remarkable rocks called Pitons,
which guard the entrance to the Bay of Souffriere. One of
them is said to be 3000 feet and the other 3300 feet high,
both rising from the sea and tapering like church spires. A
souffriere and boiling fountains are also amongst the sights of
the island. Morne Fortune, the hill-fortress, 800 feet high, is
perhaps the most interesting as it is the most historical spot in
the island.


The island of St. Vincent, discovered by Columbus on the
22nd of January 1498, lies about 20 miles to the south-west of
St. Lucia and 100 miles west of Barbados. Although the
history of this settlement is not so diversified as that of St.
Lucia, it has the unenviable distinction of having been swept
(1780) by the fiercest hurricane ever known in the West Indies;
also, of having been devastated by a most destructive volcanic
eruption (1812). In the beginning it was found to be inhabited
by the fiercest race of Caribs in the West Indies, who were a

The West Indies 3 3

great obstacle to European rule. St. Vincent was peculiar in
having a native question quite as embarrassing in its small way
as that of New Zealand, and only solved thoroughly when Sir
Ralph Abercromby transported, in 1797, no less than 5000
Caribs to the island of Ruatan, in the Bay of Honduras, and
peace followed upon solitude.

As if to make some small compensation for these vagaries
of primitive man and these terrible inroads of Nature, the
island of St. Vincent produces the best arrowroot in the West

The Souffriere is the natural wonder of the island, and is
said to present the grandest sight in the West Indies. The
crater is three miles in circumference and 500 feet in depth,
and contains within it a conical hill beautifully streaked with
sulphur and covered with shrubs and flowers. The approach
towards !t passes through a richly covered country until the
summit is reached, when the bleak signs of volcanic action are
visible. 'A mighty cloud of vapour fills the crater to the
brim, gradually clears off, and then the awful majesty of the
scene is unfolded. The eastern top of the crater is about
3500 feet above the level of the sea; a cold mist commonly
rests upon the surface of the green, slimy, and unfathomable
water at the bottom.' l


The Bahamas are a scattered group of islands and reefs
extending from the northern coast of St. Domingo to the east
coast of Florida, divided almost equally by the Tropic of
Cancer. They lie in a crescent-shape over 600 miles of ocean
from south-east to north-west. On the west is the remarkable
Great Bahama Bank and the Straits of Florida. They are said
to number 29 islands, 661 'cays' or flats, and 2387 rocks.
The Turks and Caicos would seem to form part of this island
group, but politically they belong to Jamaica, as already

1 For facts and figures see Appendix I. Section H.

34 British Colonisation

shown. It was at one of the Bahamas, San Salvador or
Watling Island, that Columbus made his landfall on that
memorable day in October 1492, the scene of which is now
being painted for the Chicago Exhibition by a well-known
artist, Mr. Bierstadt. These islands were included in Sir
H. Gilbert's charter, but no effective occupation took place.
The island of New Providence became, at an early period of
religious troubles in England, a refuge for many of the Non-
conformists. 1

Later on the Bahamas, together with the provinces of North
and South Carolina, were entrusted to the same Anglican
Bishop, and the connection between the islands and the main-
land was always very close. In 1612 they were regarded as
part of Virginia. It was not, however, until 1666 that any
real attempt was made to colonise the group, and settlers
arrived from the Bermudas. New Providence became in time
a mere nest of pirates and wreckers, of whom Edward Teach,
a Bristol man, was the most notorious in those days. These
were finally suppressed by Captain Woodes Rogers, noted for
his voyage round the world (1708-11), during which he rescued
Alexander Selkirk from his desert Island. Rogers became
Governor of the Bahamas.

At the time of the American War (1776) the islands were
attacked and taken by Commodore Hopkins. The islands
had become a refuge again for a different class of colonists,
viz. fugitive Royalists from the States, who introduced cotton
cultivation. Still later the group became the headquarters of
many blockade-runners in the American Civil War, and many
a daring deed of seamanship was done by British officers who
ran the gauntlet from southern ports with their precious
cargoes. Marryat has made the Bahamas figure largely in his
romances of the sea, and no islands could be better adapted
for his purpose.

First the precarious abode of Puritan exiles, then the narrow
perch of wreckers and pirates, then the asylum of Royalist
1 Anderson's Hist, of the Colonial Church, vol, ii, p. 295,

The West Indies 35

refugees, then the headquarters of blockade-runners, the
Bahamas have a thrilling record. More peaceful times appear
to be in store for them. They are the market-gardens of the
United States, sending thither cargoes of pineapples, oranges,
and bananas ; and their sunny slopes afford a sanatorium for
broken-down Americans, who find in the climate of the
Bahamas those advantages which Europeans experience in
Madeira and Tenerife.

With regard to the occupation of the inhabitants, fishing is
carried on largely by a fleet of 100 boats employing 500
sailors. Sponge-fishing is a flourishing sea industry, no less
than ^60,000 worth being exported annually. The latest
development, however, is the cultivation of the sisal fibre plant,
which is attracting a large number of capitalists and giving a
new turn to the industries of the Bahamas. 1


With the West Indies it is customary to associate the
Bermudas, although they lie far to the north. It was thirty
years after the first discoveries of Columbus that these distant
islands, lying 600 miles off the American continent, were
sighted by Europeans. A Spanish captain, Bermudaz by
name, chanced across them in mid-ocean and was wrecked.
English ships strove to avoid them, as they were considered
dangerous and inhospitable places. * The islands were reported
to be the habitation of furies and monsters, whose enchant-
ments evoked fierce hurricanes, and rolling thunders, and
visions of most hideous aspect. Shakspeare, accordingly, did
but avail himself of the prevalent belief in these wild stories,
and make this department, as indeed every other, of the world
of fiction or of reality tributary to his own genius, when in the
play of The Tempest he introduces Ariel as able

"... to fly,

To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride

On the curl'd clouds,"

1 For facts and figures see Appendix I, Section I.

36 British Colonisation

and makes Ariel answer the question of Prospero by saying :

"... Safely in harbour

Is the king's ship, in the deep nook where once
Thou call'dst me up at midnight to fetch dew
From the still vext Bermoothes, there she 's hid." ' *

It was upon these islands that the vessel containing Gates,
Somers, and Newport, the leaders of the Virginia expedition
in 1609, was wrecked. These colonists were surprised to see
that these islands were so fair, but, notwithstanding, they were
in a terrible plight. First they fitted out the long-boat and sent
her with six sailors and the master's mate to Virginia ; but
nothing more was heard of them. They resolved, however,
to build a ship out of the oak-beams and planks belonging to
the wrecked vessel and of the cedar-trees which grew on the
island a task they effected with great labour.

With regard to the discipline preserved amongst the crew
during their sojourn on the island, it is interesting to read that
' wee had daily euery Sunday two Sermons preached by our
Minister, besides euery Morning and Evening at the ringing of
a bell wee repayred all to publique Prayer, at what time the
names of our whole Company were called by Bill, and such as
were wanting were duly punished.' 2

The shipwrecked crew managed to escape to Virginia,
leaving tokens behind them. * Before we quitted our" old
quarter and dislodged to the fresh water with our pinnass, our
Governor set up in Sir George Summers' garden a fair Mne-
mosynon in figure of a Crosse, made of some of the timber
of our ruined shippe, which was scrued in with strong and
great trunnels to a mightie Cedar. In the midst of the Crosse
our Gouernour fastened the picture of his Majestic in a piece
of siluer of twelue pence, and on each side of the Crosse he
set an inscription grauen in Copper in the Latin and English
to this purpose : In memory of our great deliuerance, both
from a mightie storm and leake ; we haue set this up in

1 Anderson's Hist* of the Colonial Church, vol i. p. 206.

2 Ibid. p. 209.

The West Indies 37

honour of God. It is the spoyle of our English ship (of three
hundred tunne) called the Sea Venture, bound, with seven
ships more (from which the storm divided us), to Virginia or
Noua Britannia, in America.'

Such was the first landing of the British upon the Bermudas,
and the group certainly seemed to deserve its ill name which
it had inherited from the Spaniards, and which had been cor-
roborated by Sir Walter Ralegh (1595) and Champlain (1600),
the great French explorer, who had described it as ' a moun-
tainous island which it is difficult to approach on account of
the dangers that surround it.'

Somers returned to the Bermudas, and died there in the
place which, in honour of his Christian name, is still called
Georgetown. The islands were long called Somers Isles,
after him. His heart was buried in the Bermudas, and a
marble stone above it commemorates the fact that

' In the year 1611
Noble Sir George Summers went hence to heaven.'-

His body was embalmed and buried at Whitechurch in Dorset-
shire; Sir George, as well as Gates, his companion, being a

The nephew of Somers was with him when he died, and
upon his return to England gave such a flourishing account of
the islands that 120 members of the Virginian Company were
encouraged to plant a settlement there under the distinct
name of 'The Somers Island Company,' and in 1612 Richard
More, the first Governor, arrived there. This Governor, it is
said, built the first church of timber; and when this was blown
down he erected another, in a more sheltered place, of
palmeto. 1

The chronicles of the little island are quaint reading. In

one year there is a mention of five Irish sailors who, when

permitted to build a boat for fishing purposes, make their

escape to Ireland, having borrowed the minister's ' compasse

1 Anderson's Hist, of the Colonial Church, vol. i. p. 304.

38 British Colonisation

diall': writing to him afterwards that as 'he had oft persuaded
them to patience, and that God would pay them, though none
did, he must now be contented with the loss of his diall with
his own doctrine.' It is said that their boat, when it reached
Ireland, was preserved as a monument, * having sailed 3300
miles by a right line thorow the maine sea,' and that the
escapees were ' honourably entertained by the Earl of Tomund.'

Another year we read of a plague of rats which had been
imported in two ships, and multiplied so quickly that they
threatened to destroy everything.

Again, in these fair islands there was the demon of religious
discord, and the two clergymen in the islands refuse to subscribe
to the Book of Common Prayer ; so the Governor, by way of
compromise, ' bethought him of the Liturgy of Gernsey and
Jersey, wherein all the particulars they so much stumbled at
were omitted.'

As time went on it was thought that something great might
come of the Somers Isles, and Lord Chancellor Bacon,
enumerating the benefits and acts of King James (1620),
observed : * This kingdom, now first in His Majesty's times,
hath gotten a lot or portion in the new world by the Plantation
of Virginia and the Summer Islands. And certainly, it is
with the kingdoms on earth as it is in the kingdom of heaven ;
sometimes a grain of mustard-seed proves a great tree ; who
can tell?'

In the time of the Civil Wars the Bermudas became a refuge
for Loyalists, and the Long Parliament passed an Act pro-
hibiting trade with Barbados, Antigua, and the Bermudas.
The inhabitants have proved themselves to be skilful sailors,
able to adventure, not only to the American coast, but far
afield to the South Seas.

In England they became better appreciated, and the

' . . . isle so long unknown,
And yet far kinder than our own,
Safe from the storms and prelates' rage,'

appealed to the imagination of many English poets. Waller

The West Indies 39

and Andrew Marvell both conferred distinction upon them.
Moore has sung :

' May Spring to eternity hallow the shade
Where Ariel has warbled and Waller has strayed.'

At the beginning of the eighteenth century the Bermudas
were best known as the contemplated scene of Bishop Berke-
ley's missionary enterprises. These islands were to be a
centre of light and teaching, and the great idealist seemed
wholly carried away by his project ; as if here, indeed, to use
Lord Bacon's expression, the mustard-seed of truth was to
grow and flourish till it overspread the New World. Swift
wrote thus of Berkeley and his scheme (1724) : 'Berkeley is
an absolute philosopher with regard to money, titles, and
power, and for three years past has been struck with a notion
of founding a University at Bermuda by a charter from the
Crown. He has seduced most of the hopefullest young clergy-
men and others here, many of them well provided for, and all
in the fairest way for preferment ; but in England his conquests
are greater, and, I doubt, will spread very far this winter. He
most exorbitantly proposes a whole hundred pounds a year
for himself, fifty pounds for a fellow, and ten for a student.
His heart will break if his Deanery be not taken from him and
left at your Excellency's disposal. I discouraged him by the
coldness of Courts and Ministers, who will interpret all this as
impossible and a vision; but nothing will do.'

We know that the philosopher's scheme was a failure,
and that the 'St. Paul's College in Bermuda' never sprang
into existence no more than the city of Bermuda, for which
Berkeley had made elegant designs from architectural models
seen in Italy. But Berkeley got so far as to obtain George
i.'s approval for the grant of ^20,000 from the purchase-
money of the island of St. Christopher, ceded to England by
the Treaty of Utrecht, as an endowment of the contemplated
St. Paul's College ; and the whole scheme proves that at the
beginning of the eighteenth century there were not wanting

40 British Colonisation

many Englishmen who were willing to volunteer their services
abroad as teachers and pastors of the subject races. For
North America was in the eighteenth century what Africa has
been in the nineteenth century the great field of missionary
enterprise. 1

These little islands, lying in the track of vessels going to
and fro, were used as a basis for privateering; and in the
American War Washington wished to gain possession of them
to make them ' a nest of hornets ' for the annoyance of the
British. But the Bermudas, standing in the ocean as the watch-
tower of the continent, rose in importance as a strategic point.
In 1794 Admiral Murray recommended the construction of a
dockyard, and, Ireland Island being selected, the fortifications
were begun in 1810. The natural position was strong, as the
sunken coral reef, through which access can be gained only
by a few narrow channels, would prove a formidable obstacle
to an enemy. The Bermudas was the station whither Lord
Durham wished to send the disaffected Canadians in 1838.
There is little of interest in the history of the island since the
commencement of the works which made it a naval depot and
arsenal. In 1815 the town of Hamilton became the seat of
government, and in 1834 the slave emancipation took effect
in the island. Next to Gibraltar the Bermudas form the
smallest dependency of Great Britain. 2


The history of the West Indies has been mainly the history
of the fortunes of the British sugar-planter. Great and pro-
sperous as they were at first, they have been gradually depreci-
ated by a succession of legislative measures. From being the
favoured protege of British commerce, State-aided and State-
supported, the planter has almost become the persecuted

1 See Life of Bishop Berkeley, by Alexander Campbell Fraser, M.A.,

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

The West Indies 41

victim of all nations and all policies. By the abolition of the
slave trade in 1807, by the Emancipation Act of 1834, by the
hard measure of equalisation the unkindliest blow of all
from the paternal hand by the bounties of foreign States,
violating the first principles of Free Trade, he has been brought
low. We cannot but pity the hard estate of this struggling
capitalist, who after all inherited, and did not inaugurate, the
curse of slavery. A countervailing duty at English ports is
the crumb of consolation he asks for in order to fight the
foreign sugar producer fairly ; but even this is denied him.

However, the West Indian planter's courage has never
forsaken him, even in his direst extremity, and by every avail-
able expedient in his power he is striving to rehabilitate him-
self. He has recognised that the crux of his position lies in
the solution of the labour question. He has turned to the
east, and is now busily engaged in redressing the evils of the
West Indies by calling in the labour markets of the East
Indies. Mr. Nevil Lubbock, a great authority on West
Indian affairs, has observed : ' No one who has any knowledge
of British Guiana or Trinidad will doubt that their present
prosperity is entirely due to the Indian immigration.' 1 In
British Guiana alone there are 110,000 East Indians.

Another recent feature in the history of the West Indies, and
especially Jamaica, is the hold which American capitalists are
obtaining upon them, who are taking up unoccupied positions
and developing garden produce of every description. These
American capitalists are far-sighted men, and rightly imagine
that these beautiful and productive islands cannot long lie
desolate. The vastly increasing population of the United States
afford the best field for the products of the West Indies a
large portion of the sugar produced there being shipped to the
States. Canada also is a growing market, and the Dominion
Government have recently subsidised a line of steamers thither.

What may still be done in the West Indies by energy and
enterprise has been ably pointed out by Mr. Morris, assistant-
1 Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute, vol. xxi.

42 British Colonisation

director of the Kew Gardens. 1 ' The production of sugar can
by no means occupy all the available lands suitable for culti-
vation in the West Indies. It is well that it is so : what is
wanted is a diversified system of cultural industries, so that
there may be no collapse of prosperity, as at present, on account
of fluctuation in the price of any single article. The physical
configuration of the West Indian islands, where there are all
gradations from plains to slopes and mountain sides, points to
this conclusion. We cannot do better, therefore, than take
them as they are, and endeavour to cultivate them in such a
skilful and suitable manner as to render them a source of
wealth and prosperity to the community. On lands not already
occupied with sugar, and where sugar-growing does not prove
remunerative, there are numerous industries that might be
successfully established. What has been accomplished in
this respect at Jamaica and other West Indian islands is a
sufficient proof that a system of diversified industries is in the
long-run the best and most lasting.

' Besides sugar, then, we should endeavour to select a number
of industries well suited to the soil and climate. Of these,
none perhaps are more promising at present than coffee.
There are two sorts of coffee the Liberian coffee, for warm,
humid valleys, and the Arabian coffee, for hilly slopes up to
two or three thousand feet. The mountains of Dominica
could grow as fine a coffee as any in the world : while other
people are investigating remote parts of the world for suitable
coffee lands, here, within easy range of us, are some of the
finest coffee lands to be found in any part of the tropics.
There are, besides, the highlands of Montserrat, of St. Kitts,
Nevis, and the hills of Tortola and Virgin Gorda.

'Cacao is easy of culture, and thrives in the rich soil of
humid valleys. These are to be had in Dominica in abundance,
and they are not wanting, also, in Montserrat and St. Kitts.
Spices, such as nutmeg and mace, vanilla, black pepper, cubeb
pepper, long pepper, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, cardamoms, are
1 Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute, 1890-91.

TJte West Indies 43

already introduced to this part of the world. The demand for
spices is increasing, and these islands could grow every one of
these mentioned.

1 A great factor in the future development of these islands
is the growing of fruit. They are geographically the Channel
Islands of the Northern Continent, and their manifest destiny is
to grow such special products and such fruits and vegetables as
the more temperate countries are unable to produce for them-
selves. Bananas are in great demand in the United States and
Canada. The production of these is large, but evidently the
trade is only in its infancy. Jamaica alone exports nearly a
quarter of a million sterling worth of bananas every year, but the
Northern people want more and more. Bananas yield a crop
in a year or so ; the bunches sell for about seven to ten pounds
per hundred, for which ready money is paid. The planter can
thus clear fifteen to twenty pounds per acre for his fruit, while
under the shade of the banana plants he is establishing his
land with cacao, coffee, spices, or other permanent growths.

c Besides bananas there are many fruits in great demand,
such as oranges, pineapples, shaddocks, forbidden fruit,
sapodilla, mango, avocado pear, granadilla, water-lemon, water-
melon, tamarind, guava, cocoa-nut, Barbados cherry, star-apple,
papaw, sweet sop, sour sop, sugar-apple, mammee-apple, lime,
lemon, grapes, figs, cashew-nut, ground-nut, loquat, Malay-apple,
rose-apple, pomegranate, almond, genip, damson plum, balata,

Online LibraryWilliam Henry Parr GreswellOutlines of British colonisation → online text (page 4 of 31)