« VorigeDoorgaan »
an amount of cash is taken over the counter at stalls for dress and hoops, and bonnets, and calicoes, and ribbons, and boots and shoes, as for many years past, and this in spite of the increasing price?' Then he proceeds to notice a point which has entirely escaped Mr. Underhill and his coadjutors. With increased price of imported articles our prices for ground provisions have gone up. Yams from 5s. per 100 lbs. to 6s., 8s., and 10s. ; cocoes from 3s. and 4s. to 5s., 6s., and 8s. These would pay well at 4s. Tobacco yields a crop of 501. per acre sold in the markets by the yard ; corn sells readily; pork and fowls in demand,' &c., &c. And as for the duty on imported provisions; he might ask, as others ask, “Why do the negroes import provisions at all ?' Surely, of all places in the world, Jamaica is the last which should be dependent on foreign countries for articles of food. How can it be contended that in such a country, and under such circumstances, the 127 per cent. duty causes poverty among the negroes? We say emphatically the negroes : for there is in Jamaica, as in all the West India Islands, a poor class, whose poverty is of the most pitiable kind; but these are 'poor whites,' whose families lost their all when they lost their slaves. But it is not of these, but of the negro population that Mr. Underhill speaks.
That the immigration of Coolies should be resented by the political Baptists was only what might have been expected. It is no doubt a very plausible grievance to represent the
poor negroes as taxed in order to introduce rivals to compete in the same labour-market with themselves.
To such an appeal the negroes were sure to give a ready ear. But, as we have seen above, the negroes do not contribute inordinately to the taxation; and it was not by what they paid, but what the planters paid, that the means of introducing immigrants were provided. Nor was there any alternative to such a course. The negro, in the great majority of instances, would not work continuously. And continuous work was necessary for sugar operations, . The planter, therefore, to save himself from ruin, was compelled to resort to the same species of labour which restored the drooping industries of Mauritius, Guiana, and Trinidad. That his scheme of immigration may have been, as Mr. Underhill states, “abortive,' is probable enough. For certainly, considering the length of time that immigration into Jamaica has been sanctioned, there are now very few Coolies in the colony. But the abortiveness of the scheme was a detriment, not to the negro who did not pay for it, and was not to benefit by it, but to the planter, who, if it had succeeded better, would have been in a far better condition than he now is. A good immigration system is one of .
the first remedies that must be applied to Jamaica when its tranquillity is fully restored.
As to the other grievances insinuated rather than alleged by Mr. Underhill, viz., the refusal of just tribunals and the denial of political rights to the emancipated negroes, we may pronounce the latter to be wholly unsubstantiated, and the former only in part true.
It is now almost useless to discuss the political rights of the negroes, for the discreet suicide which has terminated the noxious career of the Colonial Assembly has terminated also the franchise of the voters who elected it. But so long as the Assembly lasted, so long had the negroes the option of voting for its members. The qualifications for voting were,
(1). The possession of a freehold of the annual value of 61. (2). The occupation of a house of the annual value of 201.
(3). The payment of direct taxes to the amount of 11. annually.
(4). A bank receipt, showing the holder to be owner of 1001. in a savings'-bank or other bank,
(5). The receipt of a salary of 501.
Now these qualifications are certainly liberal enough to admit the smaller freeholders, and such of the negroes as had any pretension to education. And the grievance which exasperates Mr. Underhill, of the registration fee by which its exercise was limited, seems to us to have been a rough and not very ingenuous way of remedying an evil which arose from a precipitate liberalism.
But there is one other, and that a very important point,—that of the inadequate administration of justice, -on which we in part agree with Mr. Underhill. We do not for one moment suspect the Supreme Court of Jamaica to have been tainted with partiality or corruption. We believe that in this, as in every other British colony, the judges have ever fully maintained the character and the honour of the English Bench. We believe that the poorest negro who presented himself before the Court at Spanish Town as plaintiff or defendant, prosecutor or prisoner, would be as sure of obtaining justice from the Colonial Judges as he would be at Westminster. We say nothing about the juries; possibly trial by jury was quite out of place in Jamaica. But the cases in which negroes would have to attend the Supreme Court would be necessarily few. The great majority of suits and prosecutions would be for petty debts and petty offences. And for the adjudication of these we fear the judicial machinery is at once insufficient and unsatisfactory. There are no—or very few-stipendiary magistrates. Justice is administered by unpaid magistrates; and however high their value may be in England,
where their character, property, and ancestral associations give them a great moral support
, and where public opinion prevents their abuse of their functions--yet in Jamaica, where they have no hereditary influence over the people about them, are frequently called on to decide cases in which they or their class are interested, and are uncontrolled by a sound public opinion, the unpaid magistracy has failed to win respect. We do not say that the unpaid magistrates generally give unjust decisions; but they have the reputation among the peasantry of giving them ; and this suspicion is unfavourable to the right administration of justice. Stipendiary magistrates, unconnected with colonial families, would perhaps not be really fairer, but they would be held to be fairer judges by the negroes, and their decisions would command greater respect. We should add, too, that the sittings of the petty Courts seem irregular and uncertain, their distances from one another great, and the cost of attending them heavy. All these things should be remedied.
No one can rise from the contemplation of the Jamaica Blue Books without being struck by the dissoluteness of every class, and the utter absence of all moral sense on the part of the lowest. Every witness, official, lay, clerical, or sectarian, Episcopalian, Baptist or Moravian, holds but one language respecting the immorality and viciousness of that class which would be called the working-class in England. We will begin by quoting Governor Eyre, who in his Despatch No. 18, of April 19th, says,—“The utter want of principle or moral sense which pervades the mass of the people, the total absence of all parental control or proper training of the children, the incorrigible indolence, apathy, and improvidence of all ages . . . . are quite sufficient to account for any poverty or crime which may exist among the peasantry of Jamaica. . . . Crime, especially larceny, is fearfully on the increase, but that is not due to want compelling to steal. The young and the strong of both sexes are those who fill the gaols ; and they almost universally come in in good condition. Mr. Bowerbank; the Rev. R. B. Lynch ;
ch; the Superintendent of Moravian missions; the Custos for Elizabeth parish; all confirm the Governor's views. The memorial of the Society of Arts of Kingston gives a description of the negro population of the place which fills us with horror. Wilful and wanton idleness, unblushing obscenity, the most impudent dishonesty, and impurity of the foulest kind, seem to reign triumphant among young and old. Neither sense of shame nor fear of the law has any effect upon them. The darkest parts of this description are applicable to Kingston alone. But there is a very lax morality in many of the country districts. In Kingston the
V negroes repudiate, for the most part, any notion of honest work ;
in the country they work irregularly and discontinuously. In Kingston they cheat, rob, and pillage; in the country they too often plunder the provision grounds of their neighbours, black and white. It is a question of degree; though the difference of the degree is favourable to anticipation of good for the country districts of Jamaica. We see the green wood in the country, the dry wood in Kingston; and we hope to save the green wood from premature corruption.
Before any good thing can be effected in Jamaica, two conditions must be enforced the law must be made more stringent against offenders; education must be more generally diffused, and more soundly established ; the principle of property must be inculcated. At present, the discipline of the prisons is regarded with contempt by the prisoners. The gaols in Kingston are rather liked than avoided by the criminal population, which finds in them pleasant places of occasional resort, where they get better food than they could elsewhere, and where a wholesome appetite is provoked by a periodical walk on the high road, which is ironically termed hard labour.' Whoever has been in the West Indies and seen a prison gang, with light chains on their ankles and pickaxes in their hands, lounging on the high-roads, laughing and chattering with each other and with the overseers till four o'clock in the afternoon, when they returned to a hearty refection, must have wondered at the peculiar state of mind which could have supposed that such treatment could ever deter from crime. Last year the Jamaica Legislature passed an act for punishing larcenies by flogging. The number of lashes proposed was thought too great by the Secretary of State, who sent the Bill back to be re-considered. Whether larcenies are now punishable by the cat-o’-nine-tails we cannot say; but we do say, on the authority of the magistrates and ministers, that they never will really be stopped until visited by this punishment. It is the only one which the idle thieving negro cares for.
But indispensable as the enactment of stringent provisions for the repression of theft undoubtedly is, mere punitive measures will not by themselves succeed. The whole system of education must be invigorated. The curse of the colony is the deterioration of the negro character. Every witness, of any knowledge and position, speaks the same language on the degeneracy of the Creole youth in Jamaica. Mr. Eyre sums up the general opinion in a despatch to Mr. Cardwell: ‘By universal consent it is admitted that those persons who were men or youths at the time of the Emancipation are the best and most trustworthy servants now, and that those born since have, as a rule, become idle,
vicious, and profligate. Nor could it well be otherwise, considering that the discipline and obedience exacted by the masters in slavery have not been replaced by parental control, or the exercise of any other adequate supervision since.'
It is well that all Jamaica is not like Kingston, else its condition were desperate indeed. But there is the same want of parental control and home discipline in other parts that there is in Kingston. The parents in Kingston are far more wicked; in the country they are only weak. But in Kingston and in the country alike the training of youth will require all that the highest zeal, the strongest energy, and the purest self-devotion can effect. Unfortunately, it is far more easy to state this want than to satisfy it. Nothing is more difficult, under existing circumstances, than to educate the negro.
We once heard a person who had long resided in the West Indies say, “There is only one way to civilise negroes-surround every negro with three white people. The imitativeness of the negro is so strong, that he will readily ape the manners, gestures, and language of those with whom he habitually consorts
. There must be many people in England who remember negro servants long domiciled in English families, where they had learned more than the mere externals of English politeness. If it were possible to subject the negro youth to the discipline not only of good English schoolmasters, but also of good English schoolmates, this. imitativeness might produce valuable results. But this is the cardinal difficulty of the case. The English element is gradually disappearing from Jamaica. These recent misfortunes are likely still further to diminish it. What there is English in the colony is far from comprising the best specimens. The schools, too, can rarely support European masters. Those in the country districts have fallen into the hands of black or coloured teachers. Hence the influence i of the higher civilisation is rapidly declining. The black and coloured people, deprived of the models of European thought and character, become a standard to themselves, form their own code of manners, morals, dress, opinion, and education. The young Creoles grow up in an atmosphere of laxity and license : they care nothing for learning, know nothing of control or reverence for authority ; they despise labour, and as they earn nothing by industry, imagine that they have a right to live by theft. This is what does happen in many parts of Jamaica already; it is what will happen soon in all, unless some steps be taken to check the retrogressive tide and plant European settlers there. confess we entertain but slight hope of ever seeing this vision realised. We have upwards of 400,000 people, more or less African by descent, who find themselves increasing while the Vol. 120.-No. 239.