Part 7 out of 16
Although this planter looked forward with sanguine hopes to 1840, yet he
would freely say that he did not think the apprenticeship would be any
preparation for entire freedom. The single object with the great
majority of the planters seemed to be to _get as much out_ of the
apprentices as they possibly could during the term. No attention had
been paid to preparing the apprentices for freedom.
We were introduced to a planter who was notorious during the reign of
slavery for the _strictness of his discipline_, to use the Barbadian
phrase, or, in plain English, for his rigorous treatment and
He is the proprietor of three sugar estates and one cotton plantation in
Barbadoes, on all of which there are seven hundred apprentices. He was a
luxurious looking personage, bottle-cheeked and huge i' the midst, and
had grown fat on slaveholding indulgences. He mingled with every
sentence he uttered some profane expression, or solemn appeal to his
"honor," and seemed to be greatly delighted with hearing himself talk.
He displayed all those prejudices which might naturally be looked for in
a mind educated and trained as his had been. As to the conduct of the
apprentices, he said they were peaceable and industrious, and mostly
well disposed. But after all, the negroes were a perverse race of
people. It was a singular fact, he said, that the severer the master,
the better the apprentices. When the master was mild and indulgent, they
were sure to be lazy, insolent, and unfaithful. _He knew this by
experience; this was the case with_ his _apprentices_. His house-servants
especially were very bad. But there was one complaint he had against
them all, domestics and praedials--they always hold him to the letter of
the law, and are ready to arraign him before the special magistrate for
every infraction of it on his part, however trifling. How ungrateful,
truly! After being provided for with parental care from earliest
infancy, and supplied yearly with two suits of clothes, and as many yams
is they could eat and only having to work thirteen or fifteen hours per
day in return; and now when they are no longer slaves, and new
privileges are conferred to exact them to the full extent of the law
which secures them--what ingratitude! How soon are the kindnesses of the
past, and the hand that bestowed them, forgotten! Had these people
possessed the sentiments of human beings, they would have been willing
to take the boon of freedom and lay it at their master's feet,
dedicating the remainder of their days to his discretionary service!
But with all his violent prejudices, this planter stated some facts
which are highly favorable to the apprentices.
1. He frankly acknowledged that his estates were never under better
cultivation than at the present time: and he could say the same of the
estates throughout the island. The largest crops that have ever been
made, will he realized this year.
2. The apprentices are generally willing to work on the estates on
Saturday whenever their labor is needed.
3. The females are very much disposed to abandon field labor. He has
great difficulty sometimes in inducing them to take their hoes and go
out to the field along with the men; it was the case particularly _with
the mothers!_ This he regarded as a sore evil!
4. The free children he represented as being in a wretched condition.
Their parents have the entire management of them, an they are utterly
opposed to having them employed on the estates. He condemned severely
the course taken in a particular instance by the late Governor, Sir
Lionel Smith. He took it upon himself to go around the island and advise
the parents never to bind their children in any kind of apprenticeship
to the planters. He told them that sooner than involve their free
children in any way, they ought to "work their own fingers to the
stubs." The consequence of this imprudent measure, said our informant,
is that the planters have no control over the children born on their
estates; and in many instances their parents have sent them away lest
their _residence_ on the property should, by some chance, give the
planter a claim upon their services. Under the good old system the young
children were placed together under the charge of some superannuated
women, who were fit for nothing else, and the mothers went into the
field to work; now the nursery is broken up, and the mothers spend half
of their time "_in taking care of their brats_."
5. As to the management of the working people, there need not he any
more difficulty now then during slavery. If the magistrates, instead of
encouraging the apprentices to complain and be insolent, would join
their influence to support the authority of the planters, things might
go on nearly as smoothly as before.
In company with Rev. Mr. Packer, late Rector of St. Thomas, we rode out
to the Belle estate, which is considered one of the finest in the
island. Mr. Marshall, the manager, received us cordially. He was
selected, with two others, by Sir Lionel Smith, to draw up a scale of
labor for general use in the island. There are five hundred acres in the
estate, and two hundred and thirty-five apprenticed laborers. The
manager stated that every thing was working well on his property. He
corroborated the statements made by other planters with retard to the
conduct of the apprentices. On one point he said the planters had found
themselves greatly disappointed. It was feared that after emancipation
the negroes would be very much verse to cultivating cane, as it was
supposed that nothing but the whip could induce them to perform that
species of labor. But the truth is, they now not only cultivate the
estate lands better than they did when under the lash, but also
cultivate a third of their half-acre allotments in cane on their own
accounts. They would plant the whole in cane if they were not
discouraged by the planter, whose principal objection to their doing so
is that it would lead to the entire neglect of _provision cultivation_.
The apprentices on Belle estate will make little short of one thousand
dollars the present season by their sugar.
Mr. M. stated that he was extensively acquainted with the cultivation of
the island, and he knew that it was in a better condition than it had
been for many years. There were twenty-four estates under the same
attorneyship with the Belle, and they were all in the same prosperous
A short time before we left Barbadoes we received an invitation from
Col. Barrow, to breakfast with him at his residence on Edgecome
estate--about eight miles from town. Mr. Cummins, a colored gentleman, a
merchant of Bridgetown, and agent of Col. B., accompanied us.
The proprietor of Edgecome is a native of Barbadoes, of polished manners
and very liberal views. He has travelled extensively, has held many
important offices, and is generally considered the _cleverest_ man in
the island. He is now a member of the council, and acting attorney for
about twenty estates. He remarked that he had always desired
emancipation, and had prepared himself for it; but that it had proved a
greater blessing than he had expected. His apprentices did as much work
as before, and it was done without the application of the whip. He had
not had any cases of insubordination, and it was very seldom that he
had any complaints to make to the special magistrate. "The apprentices."
said he, "understand the meaning of law, and they regard its authority."
He thought there was no such thing in the island as a _sense of
insecurity_, either as respected person or property. Real estate had
risen in value.
Col. B. alluded to the expensiveness of slavery, remarking that after
all that was expended in purchasing the slaves, it cost the proprietor
as much to maintain them, as it would to hire free men. He spoke of the
habit of exercising arbitrary power, which being in continual play up to
the time of abolition, had become so strong that managers even yet gave
way to it, and frequently punished their apprentices, in spite of all
penalties. The fines inflicted throughout the island in 1836, upon
planters, overseers, and others, for punishing apprentices, amounted to
one thousand two hundred dollars. Col. B. said that he found the legal
penalty so inadequate, that in his own practice he was obliged to resort
to other means to deter his book-keepers and overseers from violence;
hence he discharged every man under his control who was known to strike
an apprentice. He does not think that the apprenticeship will be a means
of preparing the negroes for freedom, nor does he believe that they
_need_ any preparation. He should have apprehended no danger, had
emancipation taken place in 1834.
At nine o'clock we sat down to breakfast. Our places were assigned at
opposite sides of the table, between Col. B. and Mr. C. To an American
eye, we presented a singular spectacle. A wealthy planter, a member of
the legislative council, sitting at the breakfast table with a colored
man, whose mother was a negress of the most unmitigated hue, and who
himself showed a head of hair as curly as his mother's! But this colored
guest was treated with all that courtesy and attention to which his
intelligence, worth and accomplished manners so justly entitle him.
About noon, we left Edgecome, and drove two miles farther, to Horton--an
estate owned by Foster Clarke, Esq., an attorney for twenty-two estates,
who is now temporarily residing in England. The intelligent manager of
Horton received us and our colored companion, with characteristic
hospitality. Like every one else, he told us that the apprenticeship was
far better than slavery, though he was looking forward to the still
better system, entire freedom.
After we had taken a lunch, Mr. Cummins invited our host to take a seat,
with us in his carriage, and we drove across the country to Drax Hall.
Drax Hall is the largest estate in the island--consisting of eight
hundred acres. The manager of this estate confirmed the testimony of the
Barbadian planters in every important particular.
From Drax Hall we returned to Bridgetown, accompanied by our friend
TESTIMONY OF SPECIAL MAGISTRATES, POLICE OFFICERS, CLERGYMEN, AND
Next in weight to the testimony of the planters is that of the special
magistrates. Being officially connected with the administration of the
apprenticeship system, and tire adjudicators in all difficulties between
master and servant, their views of the system and of the conduct of the
different parties are entitled to special consideration. Our interviews
with this class of men were frequent during our stay in the island. We
found them uniformly ready to communicate information, and free to
express their sentiments.
In Barbadoes there are seven special magistrates, presiding over as many
districts, marked A, B, C, &c., which include the whole of the
apprentice population, praedial and non-praedial. These districts
embrace an average of twelve thousand apprentices--some more and some
less. All the complaints and difficulties which arise among that number
of apprentices and their masters, overseers and book-keepers, are
brought before the single magistrate presiding in the district in which
they occur. From the statement of this fact it will appear in the outset
either that the special magistrates have an incalculable amount of
business to transact, or that the conduct of the apprentices is
wonderfully peaceable. But more of this again.
About a week following our first interview with his excellency, Sir Evan
McCregor, we received an invitation to dine at Government House with a
company of gentlemen. On our arrival at six o'clock, we were conducted
into a large antechamber above the dining hall, where we were soon
joined by the Solicitor-General, Hon. R.B. Clarke. Dr. Clarke, a
physician, Maj. Colthurst, Capt. Hamilton, and Mr. Galloway, special
magistrates. The appearance of the Governor about an hour afterwards,
was the signal for an adjournment to dinner.
Slavery and emancipation were the engrossing topics during the evening.
As our conversation was for the most part general, we were enabled to
gather at the same time the opinions of all the persons present. There
was, for aught we heard or could see to the contrary, an entire
unanimity of sentiment. In the course of the evening we gathered the
following facts and testimony:
1. All the company testified to the benefits of abolition. It was
affirmed that the island was never in so prosperous a condition as
2. The estates generally are better cultivated than they were during
slavery. Said one of the magistrates:
"If, gentlemen, you would see for yourselves the evidences of our
successful cultivation, you need but to travel in any part of the
country, and view the superabundant crops which are now being taken off;
and if you would satisfy yourselves that emancipation has not been
ruinous to Barbadoes, only cast your eyes over the land in any
direction, and see the flourishing condition both of houses and fields:
every thing is starting into new life."
It as also stated that more work was done during the nine hours required
by law, than was done during slavery in twelve or fifteen hours, with
all the driving and goading which were then practised.
3. Offences have not increased, but rather lessened. The
Solicitor-General remarked, that the comparative state of crime could
not be ascertained by a mere reference to statistical records, since
previous to emancipation all offences were summarily punished by the
planter. Each estate was a little despotism, and the manager took
cognizance of all the misdemeanors committed among his slaves
--inflicting such punishment as he thought proper. The public knew
nothing about the offences of the slaves, unless something very
atrocious was committed. But since emancipation has taken place, all
offences, however trivial, come to the light and are recorded. He could
only give a judgment founded on observation. It was his opinion, that
there were fewer petty offences, such as thefts, larcenies, &c., than
during slavery. As for serious crime, it was hardly known in the island.
The whites enjoy far greater safety of person and property than they
Maj. Colthurst, who is an Irishman, remarked, that he had long been a
magistrate or justice of the peace in Ireland, and he was certain that
at the present ratio of crime in Barbadoes, there would not be as much
perpetrated in six years to come, as there is in Ireland among an equal
population in six months. For his part, he had never found in any part
of the world so peaceable and inoffensive a community.
4. It was the unanimous testimony that there was no disposition among
the apprentices to revenge injuries committed against them. _They are
not a revengeful people_, but on the contrary are remarkable for
forgetting wrongs, particularly when the are succeeded by kindness.
5. The apprentices were described as being generally civil and
respectful toward their employers. They were said to manifest more
independence of feeling and action than they did when slaves; but were
seldom known to be insolent unless grossly insulted or very
6. Ample testimony was given to the law-abiding character of the
negroes. When the apprenticeship system was first introduced, they did
not fully comprehend its provisions, and as they had anticipated entire
freedom, they were disappointed and dissatisfied. But in a little while
they became reconciled to the operations of the new system, and have
since manifested a due subordination to the laws and authorities.
7. There is great desire manifested among them to purchase their
freedom. Not a week passes without a number of appraisements. Those who
have purchased their freedom have generally conducted well, and in many
instances are laboring on the same estates on which they were slaves.
8. There is no difficulty in inducing the apprentices to work on
Saturday. They are usually willing to work if proper wages are given
them. If they are not needed on the estates, they either work on their
own grounds, or on some neighboring estate.
9. The special magistrates were all of the opinion that it would have
been entirely safe to have emancipated the slaves of Barbadoes in 1834.
They did not believe that any preparation was needed; but that entire
emancipation would have been decidedly better than the apprenticeship.
10. The magistrates also stated that the number of complaints brought
before them was comparatively small, and it was gradually diminishing.
The offences were of a very trivial nature, mostly cases of slight
insubordination, such as impertinent replies and disobedience of orders.
11. They stated that they had more trouble with petty overseers and
managers and small proprietors than with the entire black population.
12. The special magistrates further testified that wherever the planters
have exercised common kindness and humanity, the apprentices have
generally conducted peaceably. Whenever there are many complaints from
one estate, it is presumable that the manager is a bad man.
13. Real estate is much higher throughout the island than it has been
for many years. A magistrate said that he had heard of an estate which
had been in market for ten years before abolition and could not find a
purchaser. In 1835, the year following abolition, it was sold for one
third more than was asked for it two years before.
14. It was stated that there was not a proprietor in the island, whose
opinion was of any worth, who would wish to have slavery restored. Those
who were mostly bitterly opposed to abolition, have become reconciled,
and are satisfied that the change has been beneficial. The
Solicitor-General was candid enough to own that he himself was openly
opposed to emancipation. He had declared publicly and repeatedly while
the measure was pending in Parliament, that abolition would ruin the
colonies. But the results had proved so different that he was ashamed of
his former forebodings. He had no desire ever to see slavery
15. The first of August, 1834, was described as a day of remarkable
quiet and tranquillity. The Solicitor-General remarked, that there were
many fears for the results of that first day of abolition. He said he
arose early that morning, and before eight o'clock rode through the most
populous part of the island, over an extent of twelve miles. The negroes
were all engaged in their work as on other days. A stranger riding
through the island, and ignorant of the event which had taken place that
morning, would have observed no indications of so extraordinary a
change. He returned home satisfied that all would work well.
16. The change in 1840 was spoken of as being associated with the most
sanguine expectations. It was thought that there was more danger to be
apprehended from the change in 1834. It was stated that there were about
fifteen thousand non-praedials, who would then be emancipated in
Barbadoes. This will most likely prove the occasion of much excitement
and uneasiness, though it is not supposed that any thing serious will
arise. The hope was expressed that the legislature would effect the
emancipation of the whole population at that time. One of the
magistrates informed us that he knew quite a number of planters in his
district who were willing to liberate their apprentices immediately, but
they were waiting for a general movement. It was thought that this state
of feeling was somewhat extensive.
17. The magistrates represented the negroes as naturally confiding and
docile, yielding readily to the authority of those who are placed over
them. Maj. Colthurst presides over a district of 9,000 apprentices;
Capt. Hamilton over a district of 13,000, and Mr. Galloway over the same
number. There are but three days in the week devoted to hearing and
settling complaints. It is very evident that in so short a time it would
be utterly impossible for one man to control and keep in order such a
number, unless the subjects were of themselves disposed to be peaceable
and submissive. The magistrates informed us that, notwithstanding the
extent of their districts, they often did not have more than from a
dozen to fifteen complaints in a week.
We were highly gratified with the liberal spirit and the intelligence of
the special magistrates. Major Colthurst is a gentleman of far more than
ordinary pretensions to refinement and general information. He was in
early life a justice of the peace in Ireland, he was afterwards a juror
in his Majesty's service, and withal, has been an extensive traveller.
Fifteen years ago he travelled in the United States, and passed through
several of the slaveholding states, where he was shocked with the
abominations of slavery. He was persuaded that slavery was worse in our
country, than it has been for many years in the West Indies. Captain
Hamilton was formerly an officer in the British navy. He seems quite
devoted to his business, and attached to the interests of the
apprentices. Mr. Galloway is a _colored_ gentleman, highly respected for
his talents. Mr. G. informed us that _prejudice_ against color was
rapidly diminishing--and that the present Governor was doing all in his
power to discountenance it.
The company spoke repeatedly of the _noble act of abolition, by which
Great Britain had immortalized her name more than by all the
achievements of her armies and navies._
The warmest wishes were expressed for the abolition of slavery in the
United States. All said they should rejoice when the descendants of
Great Britain should adopt the noble example of their mother country.
They hailed the present anti-slavery movements. Said the
Solicitor-General, "We were once strangely opposed to the English
anti-slavery party, but now we sympathize with you. Since slavery is
abolished to our own colonies, and we see the good which results from
the measure, we go for abolition throughout the world. Go on, gentlemen,
we are with you; _we are all sailing in the same vessel._"
Being kindly invited by Captain Hamilton, during our interview with him
at the government house, to call on him and attend his court, we availed
ourselves of his invitation a few days afterwards. We left Bridgetown
after breakfast, and as it chanced to be Saturday, we had a fine
opportunity of seeing the people coming into market. They were strung
all along the road for six miles, so closely, that there was scarcely a
minute at any time in which we did not pass them. As far as the eye
could reach there were files of men and women, moving peaceably forward.
From the cross paths leading through the estates, the busy marketers
were pouring into the highway. To their heads as usual was committed the
safe conveyance of the various commodities. It was amusing to observe
the almost infinite diversity of products which loaded them. There were
sweet potatoes, yams, eddoes, Guinea and Indian corn, various fruits and
berries, vegetables, nuts, cakes, bottled beer and empty bottles,
bundles of sugar cane, bundles of fire wood, &c. &c. Here was one woman
(the majority were females, as usual with the marketers in these
islands) with a small black pig doubled up under her arm. Another girl
had a brood of young chickens, with nest, coop, and all, on her head.
Further along the road we were specially attracted by a woman who was
trudging with an immense turkey elevated on her head. He quite filled
the tray; head and tail projecting beyond its bounds. He advanced, as
was very proper, head foremost, and it was irresistibly laughable to see
him ever and anon stretch out his neck and peep under the tray, as
though he would discover by what manner of locomotive it was that he got
along so fast while his own legs were tied together.
Of the hundreds whom we past, there were very few who were not well
dressed, healthy, and apparently in good spirits. We saw nothing
indecorous, heard no vile language, and witnessed no violence.
About four miles from town, we observed on the side of the road a small
grove of shade trees. Numbers of the marketers were seated there, or
lying in the cool shade with their trays beside them. It seemed to be a
sort of rendezvous place, where those going to, and those returning from
town, occasionally halt for a time for the purpose of resting, and to
tell and hear news concerning the state of the market. And why should
not these travelling merchants have an exchange as well as the
stationary ones of Bridgetown?
On reaching the station-house, which is about six miles from town, we
learned that Saturday was not one of the court days. We accordingly
drove to Captain Hamilton's residence. _He stated that during the week
he had only six cases of complaint among the thirteen thousand
apprentices embraced in his district._ Saturday is the day set apart for
the apprentices to visit him at his house for advice on any points
connected with their duties. He had several calls while we were with
him. One was from the mother of an apprentice girl who had been
committed for injuring the master's son. She came to inform Captain H.
that the girl had been whipped twice contrary to law, before her
commitment. Captain H. stated that the girl had said nothing about this
at the time of her trial; if she had, she would in all probability have
been _set free_, instead of being _committed to prison_. He remarked
that he had no question but there were numerous cases of flogging on the
estates which never came to light. The sufferers were afraid to inform
against their masters, lest they should be treated still worse. The
opportunity which he gave them of coming, to him one day in the week for
private advice, was the means of exposing many outrages which would
otherwise he unheard of: He observed that there were not a few whom he
had liberated on account of the cruelty of their masters.
Captain H. stated that the apprentices were much disposed to purchase
their freedom. To obtain money to pay for themselves they practice the
most severe economy and self-denial in the very few indulgences which
the law grants them. They sometimes resort to deception to depreciate
their value with the appraisers. He mentioned an instance of a man who
lead for many years been an overseer on a large estate. Wishing to
purchase himself, and knowing that his master valued him very highly, he
permitted his beard to grow; gave his face a wrinkled and haggard
appearance, and bound a handkerchief about his head. His clothes were
suffered to become ragged and dirty, and he began to feign great
weakness in his limbs, and to complain of a "misery all down his back."
He soon appeared marked with all the signs of old age and decrepitude.
In this plight, and leaning on a stick, he hobbled up to the
station-house one day, and requested to be appraised. He was appraised
at L10, which he immediately paid. A short time afterwards, he engaged
himself to a proprietor to manage a small estate for L30 per year in
cash and his own maintenance, all at once grew vigorous again; and is
prospering finely. Many of the masters in turn practice deception to
prevent the apprentices from buying themselves, or to make them pay the
very highest sum for their freedom. They extol their virtues--they are
every thing that is excellent and valuable--their services on the estate
are indispensable no one can fill their places. By such
misrepresentations they often get an exorbitant price for the remainder
of the term--more, sometimes, than they could have obtained for them for
life while they were slaves.
From Captain H.'s we returned to the station-house, the keeper of which
conducted us over the buildings, and showed us the cells of the prison.
The house contains the office and private room of the magistrate, and
the guard-room, below, and chambers for the police men above. There are
sixteen solitary cells, and two large rooms for those condemned to hard
labour--one for females and the other for males. There were at that time
seven in the solitary cells, and twenty-four employed in labor on the
roads. This is more than usual. The average number is twenty in all.
When it is considered that most of the commitments are for trivial
offences, and that the district contains thirteen thousand apprentices,
certainly we have grounds to conclude that the state of morals in
Barbadoes is decidedly superior to that in our own country.
The whole police force for this district is composed of seventeen
horsemen, four footmen, a sergeant, and the keeper. It was formerly
greater but has been reduced within the past year.
The keeper informed us that he found the apprentices, placed under his
care, very easily controlled. They sometimes attempt to escape; but
there has been no instance of revolt or insubordination. The island, he
said, was peaceable, and were it not for the petty complaints of the
overseers, nearly the whole police force might be disbanded. As for
insurrection, he laughed at the idea of it. It was feared before
abolition, but now no one thought of it. All but two or three of the
policemen at this station are black and colored men.
STATION-HOUSE AT DISTRICT A.
Being disappointed in our expectations of witnessing some trials at the
station-house in Captain Hamilton's district (B,) we visited the court
in district A, where Major Colthurst presides. Major C. was in the midst
of a trial when we entered, and we did not learn fully the nature of the
case then pending. We were immediately invited within the bar, whence we
had a fair view of all that passed.
There were several complaints made and tried, during our stay. We give a
brief account of them, as they will serve as specimens of the cases
usually brought before the special magistrates.
I. The first was a complaint made by a colored lady, apparently not more
than twenty, against a colored girl--her domestic apprentice. The charge
was insolence, and disobedience of orders. The complainant said that the
girl was exceedingly insolent--no one could imagine how insolent she had
been--it was beyond endurance. She seemed wholly unable to find words
enough to express the superlative insolence of her servant. The justice
requested her to particularize. Upon this, she brought out several
specific charges such as, first, That the girl brought a candle to her
one evening, and wiped her greasy fingers on her (the girl's) gown:
second, That one morning she refused to bring some warm water, as
commanded, to pour on a piece of flannel, until she had finished some
other work that she was doing at the time; third, That the same morning
she delayed coming into her chamber as usual to dress her, and when she
did come, she sung, and on being told to shut her mouth, she replied
that her mouth was her own, and that she would sing when she pleased;
and fourth, That she had said in her mistress's hearing that she would
be glad when she was freed. These several charges being sworn to, the
girl was sentenced to four days' solitary confinement, but at the
request of her mistress, she was discharged on promise of amendment.
II. The second complaint was against an apprentice-man by his master,
for absence from work. He had leave to go to the funeral of his mother,
and he did not return until after the time allowed him by his master.
The man was sentence to imprisonment.
III. The third complaint was against a woman for singing and making a
disturbance in the field. Sentenced to six days' solitary confinement.
IV. An apprentice was brought up for not doing his work well. He was a
mason, and was employed in erecting an arch on one of the public roads.
This case excited considerable interest. The apprentice was represented
by his master to be a praedial--the master testified on oath that he was
registered as a praedial; but in the course of the examination it was
proved that he had always been a mason; that he had labored at that
trade from his boyhood, and that he knew 'nothing about the hoe,' having
never worked an hour in the field. This was sufficient to prove that he
was a non-praedial, and of course entitled to liberty two years sooner
than he would have been as a praedial. As this matter came up
incidentally, it enraged the master exceedingly. He fiercely reiterated
his charge against the apprentice, who, on his part, averred that he did
his work as well as he could. The master manifested the greatest
excitement and fury during the trial. At one time, because the
apprentice disputed one of his assertions, he raised his clenched fist
over him, and threatened, with an oath, to knock him down. The
magistrate was obliged to threaten him severely before he would
The defendant was ordered to prison to be tried the next day, time being
given to make further inquiries about his being a praedial.
V. The next case was a complaint against an apprentice, for leaving his
place in the boiling house without asking permission. It appeared that
he had been unwell during the evening, _and at half past ten o'clock at
night_, being attacked more severely, he left for a few moments,
expecting to return. He, however, was soon taken so ill that the could
not go back, but was obliged to lie down on the ground, where he
remained until twelve o'clock, when he recovered sufficiently to creep
home. His sickness was proved by a fellow apprentice, and indeed his
appearance at the bar clearly evinced it. He was punished by several
days imprisonment. With no little astonishment in view of such a
decision, we inquired of Maj. C. whether the planters had the power to
require their people to work as late as half past ten at night. He
replied, "Certainly, _the crops must be secured at any rate, and if they
are suffering, the people must be pressed the harder_."[A]
[Footnote A: We learned subsequently from various authentic sources,
that the master has _not_ the power to compel his apprentices to labor
more than nine hours per day on any condition, except in case of a fire,
or some similar emergency. If the call for labor in crop-time was to be
set down as an emergency similar to a "fire," and if in official
decisions he took equal latitude, alas for the poor apprentices!]
VI. The last case was a complaint against a man for not keeping up good
fires under the boilers. He stoutly denied the charge; said he built as
good fires as he could. He kept stuffing in the trash, and if it would
not burn he could not help it. He was sentenced to imprisonment.
Maj. C. said that these complaints were a fair specimen of the cases
that came up daily, save that there were many more frivolous and
ridiculous. By the trials which we witnessed we were painfully impressed
with two things:
1st. That the magistrate, with all his regard for the rights and welfare
of the apprentices, showed a great and inexcusable partiality for the
masters. The patience and consideration with which he heard the
complaints of the latter, the levity with which he regarded the defence
of the former, the summary manner in which he despatched the cases, and
the character of some of his decisions, manifested no small degree of
2d That the whole proceedings of the special magistrates' courts are
eminently calculated to perpetuate bad feeling between the masters and
apprentices. The court-room is a constant scene of angry dispute between
these parties. The master exhausts his store of abuse and violence upon
the apprentice, and the apprentice, emboldened by the place, and
provoked by the abuse, retorts in language which he would never think of
using on the estate, and thus, whatever may be the decision of the
magistrate, the parties return home with feelings more embittered
There were twenty-six persons imprisoned at the station-house,
twenty-four were at hard labor, and two were in solitary confinement.
The keeper of the prison said, he had no difficulty in managing the
prisoners. The keeper is a colored man, and so also is the sergeant and
most of the policemen.
We visited one other station-house, in a distant part of the island,
situated in the district over which Captain Cuppage presides. We
witnessed several trials there which were similar in frivolity and
meanness to those detailed above. We were shocked with the mockery of
justice, and the indifference to the interests of the negro apparent in
the course of the magistrate. It seemed that little more was necessary
than for the manager or overseer to make his complaint and swear to it,
and the apprentice was forthwith condemned to punishment.
We never saw a set of men in whose countenances fierce passions of every
name were so strongly marked as in the overseers and managers who were
assembled at the station-houses. Trained up to use the whip and to
tyrannize over the slaves, their grim and evil expression accorded with
their hateful occupation.
Through the kindness of a friend in Bridgetown we were favored with an
interview with Mr. Jones, the superintendent of the rural police--the
whole body of police excepting those stationed in the town. Mr. J. has
been connected with the police since its first establishment in 1834. He
assured us that there was nothing in the local peculiarities of the
island, nor in the character of its population, which forbade immediate
emancipation in August, 1834. He had no doubt it would be perfectly safe
and decidedly profitable to the colony.
2. The good or bad working of the apprenticeship depends mainly on the
conduct of the masters. He was well acquainted with the character and
disposition of the negroes throughout the island, and he was ready to
say, that if disturbances should arise either before or after 1840, it
would be because the people were goaded on to desperation by the
planters, and not because they sought disturbance themselves.
3. Mr. J. declared unhesitatingly that crime had not increased since
abolition, but rather the contrary.
4. He represented the special magistrates as the friends of the
planters. They loved the _dinners_ which they got at the planters'
houses. The apprentices had no sumptuous dinners to give them. The
magistrates felt under very little obligation of any kind to assert the
cause of the apprentice and secure him justice, while they were under
very strong temptations to favor the master.
5. Real estate had increased in value nearly fifty per cent since
abolition. There is such entire security of property, and the crops
since 1834 have been so flattering, that capitalists from abroad are
desirous of investing their funds in estates or merchandise. All are
making high calculations for the future.
6. Mr. J. testified that marriages had greatly increased since
abolition. He had seen a dozen couples standing at one time on the
church floor. There had, he believed, been more marriages within the
last three years among the negro population, than have occurred before
since the settlement of the island.
We conclude this chapter by subjoining two highly interesting documents
from special magistrates. They were kindly furnished us by the authors
in pursuance of an order from his excellency the Governor, authorizing
the special magistrates to give us any official statements which we
might desire. Being made acquainted with these instructions from the
Governor, we addressed written queries to Major Colthurst and Captain
Hamilton. We insert their replies at length.
COMMUNICATION FROM MAJOR COLTHURST, SPECIAL MAGISTRATE.
The following fourteen questions on the working of the apprenticeship
system in this colony were submitted to me on the 30th of March, 1837,
requesting answers thereto.
1. What is the number of apprenticed laborers in your district, and what
is their character compared with other districts?
The number of apprenticed laborers, of all ages, in my district, in nine
thousand four hundred and eighty, spread over two hundred and
ninety-seven estates of various descriptions--some very large, and
others again very small--much the greater number consisting of small
lots in the near neighborhood of Bridgetown. Perhaps my district, in
consequence of this minute subdivision of property, and its contact with
the town, is the most troublesome district in the island; and the
character of the apprentices differs consequently from that in the more
rural districts, where not above half the complaints are made. I
attribute this to their almost daily intercourse with Bridgetown.
2. What is the state of agriculture in the island?
When the _planters themselves_ admit that general cultivation was
_never_ in a better state, and the plantations extremely clean, _it is
more than presumptive_ proof that agriculture generally is in a most
prosperous condition. The vast crop of canes grown this year proves this
fact. Other crops are also luxuriant.
3. Is there any difficulty occasioned by the apprentices refusing to
No difficulty whatever has been experienced by the refusal of the
apprentices to work. This is done manfully and cheerfully, when they are
treated with humanity and consideration by the masters or managers. I
have never known an instance to the contrary.
4. Are the apprentices willing to work in their own time?
The apprentices are most willing to work in their own time.
5. What is the number and character of the complaints brought before
you--are they increasing or otherwise?
The number of complaints brought before me, during the last quarter, are
much fewer than during the corresponding quarter of the last year. Their
character is also greatly improved. Nine complaints out of ten made
lately to me are for small impertinences or saucy answers, which,
considering the former and present position of the parties, is naturally
to be expected. The number of such complaints is much diminished.
6. What is the state of crime among the apprentices?
What is usually denominated crime in the old countries, is by no means
frequent among the blacks or colored persons. It is amazing how few
material breaches of the law occur in so extraordinary a community. Some
few cases of crime do occasionally arise;--but when it is considered
that the population of this island is nearly as dense as that of any
part of China, and wholly uneducated, either by precept or example, this
absence of frequent crime excites our wonder, and is highly creditable
to the negroes. I sincerely believe there is no such person, of that
class called at home an accomplished villain, to be found in the whole
island.--Having discharged the duties of a general justice of the peace
in Ireland, for above twenty-four years, where crimes of a very
aggravated nature were perpetrated almost daily. I cannot help
contrasting the situation of that country with this colony, where I do
not hesitate to say perfect tranquillity exists.
7. Have the apprentices much respect for law?
It is perhaps, difficult to answer this question satisfactorily, as it
has been so short a time since they enjoyed the blessing of equal laws.
To appreciate just laws, time, and the experience of the benefit arising
from them must be felt. That the apprentices do not, to any material
extent, _outrage_ the law, is certain; and hence it may be inferred that
they respect it.
8. Do you find a spirit of revenge among the negroes?
From my general knowledge of the negro character in other countries, as
well as the study of it here, I do not consider them by any means a
revengeful people. Petty dislikes are frequent, but any thing like a
deep spirit of revenge for former injuries does not exist, nor is it for
one moment to be dreaded.
9. Is there any sense of insecurity arising from emancipation?
Not the most remote feeling of insecurity exists arising from
emancipation; far the contrary. All sensible and reasonable men think
the prospects before them most cheering, and would not go back to the
old system on any account whatever. There are some, however, who croak
and forebode evil; but they are few in number, and of no
intelligence,--such as are to be found in every community.
10. What is the prospect for 1840?--for 1838?
This question is answered I hope satisfactorily above. On the
termination of the two periods no evil is to be reasonably anticipated,
with the exception of a few days' idleness.
11. Are the planters generally satisfied with the apprenticeship, or
would they return back to the old system?
The whole body of respectable planters are fully satisfied with the
apprenticeship, and would not go back to the old system on any account
whatever. A few young managers, whose opinions are utterly worthless,
would perhaps have no objection to be put again into their puny
12. Do you think it would have been dangerous for the slaves in this
island to have been entirely emancipated in 1834?
I do not think it would have been productive of danger, had the slaves
of this island been fully emancipated in 1834; which is proved by what
has taken place in another colony.
13. Has emancipation been a decided blessing to this island, or has it
Emancipation has been, under God, the greatest blessing ever conferred
upon this island. All good and respectable men fully admit it. This is
manifest throughout the whole progress of this mighty change. Whatever
may be said of the vast benefit conferred upon the slaves, in right
judgment the slave owner was the greatest gainer after all.
14. Are the apprentices disposed to purchase their freedom? How have
those conducted themselves who have purchased it?
The apprentices are inclined to purchase their discharge, particularly
when misunderstandings occur with their masters. When they obtain their
discharge they generally labor in the trades and occupations they were
previously accustomed to, and conduct themselves well. The discharged
apprentices seldom take to drinking. Indeed the negro and colored
population are the most temperate persons I ever knew of their class.
The experience of nearly forty years in various public situations,
confirms me in this very important fact.
The answers I have had the honor to give to the questions submitted to
me, have been given most conscientiously, and to the best of my judgment
are a faithful picture of the working of the apprenticeship in this
island, as far as relates to the inquiries made.--_John B. Colthurst,
Special Justice of the Peace, District A. Rural Division_.
COMMUNICATION FROM CAPT. HAMILTON.
Barbadoes, April 4th, 1837.
Presuming that you have kept a copy of the questions[A] you sent me, I
shall therefore only send the answers.
[Footnote A: The same interrogatories were propounded to Capt. Hamilton
which have been already inserted in Major Colthurst's communication.]
1. There are at present five thousand nine hundred and thirty male, and
six thousand six hundred and eighty-nine female apprentices in my
district, (B,) which comprises a part of the parishes of Christ Church
and St. George. Their conduct, compared with the neighboring
districts, is good.
2. The state of agriculture is very flourishing. Experienced planters
acknowledge that it is generally far superior to what it was
3. Where the managers are kind and temperate, they have not any trouble
with the laborers.
4. The apprentices are generally willing to work for wages in their own
5. The average number of complaints tried by me, last year, ending
December, was one thousand nine hundred and thirty-two. The average
number of apprentices in the district during that time was twelve
thousand seven hundred. Offences, generally speaking, are not of any
magnitude. They do not increase, but fluctuate according to the season
of the year.
6. The state of crime is not so bad by any means as we might have
expected among the negroes--just released from such a degrading bondage.
Considering the state of ignorance in which they have been kept, and the
immoral examples set them by the lower class of whites, it is matter of
astonishment that they should behave so well.
7. The apprentices would have a great respect for law, were it not for
the erroneous proceedings of the managers, overseers, &c., in taking
them before the magistrates for every petty offence, and often abusing
the magistrate in the presence of the apprentices, when his decision
does not please them. The consequence is, that the apprentices too often
get indifferent to law, and have been known to say that they cared not
about going to prison, and that they would do just as they did before as
soon as they were released.
8. The apprentices in this colony are generally considered a peaceable
race. All acts of revenge committed by them originate in jealousy, as,
for instance, between husband and wife.
9. Not the slightest sense of insecurity. As a proof of this, property
has, since the commencement of the apprenticeship, increased in value
considerably--at least one third.
10. The change which will take place in 1838, in my opinion, will
occasion a great deal of discontent among those called praedials--which
will not subside for some months. They ought to have been all
emancipated at the same period. I cannot foresee any bad effects that
will ensue from the change in 1840, except those mentioned hereafter.
11. The most prejudiced planters would not return to the old system if
they possibly could. They admit that they get more work from the
laborers than they formerly did, and they are relieved from a great
12. It is my opinion that if entire emancipation had taken place in
1834, no more difficulty would have followed beyond what we may
naturally expect in 1810. It will then take two or three months before
the emancipated people finally settle themselves. I do not consider the
apprentice more fit or better prepared for entire freedom now than he
was in 1834.
13. I consider, most undoubtedly, that emancipation has been a decided
blessing to the colony.
14. They are much disposed to purchase the remainder of the
apprenticeship term. Their conduct after they become free is good.
I hope the foregoing answers and information may be of service to you in
your laudable pursuits, for which I wish you every success.
I am, gentlemen, your ob't serv't,
_Jos. Hamilton, Special Justice_.
TESTIMONY OF CLERGYMEN AND MISSIONARIES.
There are three religious denominations at the present time in
Barbadoes--Episcopalians, Wesleyans, and Moravians. The former have
about twenty clergymen, including the bishop and archdeacon. The bishop
was absent during our visit, and we did not see him; but as far as we
could learn, while in some of his political measures, as a member of the
council, he has benefited the colored population, his general influence
has been unfavorable to their moral and spiritual welfare. He has
discountenanced and defeated several attempts made by his rectors and
curates to abolish the odious distinctions of color in their churches.
We were led to form an unfavorable opinion of the Bishop's course, from
observing among the intelligent and well-disposed classes of colored
people, the current use of the phrase, "bishop's man," and "no bishop's
man," applied to different rectors and curates. Those that they were
averse to, either as pro-slavery or pro-prejudice characters, they
usually branded as "bishop's men," while those whom they esteemed their
friends, they designated as "no bishop's men."
The archdeacon has already been introduced to the reader. We enjoyed
several interviews with him, and were constrained to admire him for his
integrity, independence and piety. He spoke in terms of strong
condemnation of slavery, and of the apprenticeship system. He was a
determined advocate of entire and immediate emancipation, both from
principle and policy. He also discountenanced prejudice, both in the
church and in the social circle. The first time we had the pleasure of
meeting him was at the house of a colored gentleman in Bridgetown where
we were breakfasting. He called in incidentally, while we were sitting
at table, and exhibited all the familiarity of a frequent visitant.
One of the most worthy and devoted men whom we met in Barbadoes was the
Rev. Mr. Cummins, curate of St. Paul's church, in Bridgetown. The first
Sabbath after our arrival at the island we attended his church. It is
emphatically a free church. Distinctions of color are nowhere
recognized. There is the most complete intermingling of colors
throughout the house. In one pew were seen a family of whites, in the
next a family of colored people, and in the next perhaps a family of
blacks. In the same pews white and colored persons sat side by side. The
floor and gallery presented the same promiscuous blending of hues and
shades. We sat in a pew with white and colored people. In the pew before
and in that behind us the sitting was equally indiscriminate. The
audience was kneeling in their morning devotions when we entered, and we
were struck with the different colors bowing side by side as we passed
down the aisles. There is probably no clergyman in the island who has
secured so perfectly the affections of his people as Mr. C. He is of
course "no bishop's man." He is constantly employed in promoting the
spiritual and moral good of his people, of whatever complexion. The
annual examination of the Sabbath school connected with St. Paul's
occurred while we were in the island, and we were favored with the
privilege of attending it. There were about three hundred pupils
present, of all ages, from fifty down to three years. There were all
colors--white, tawny, and ebon black. The white children were classed
with the colored and black, in utter violation of those principles of
classification in vogue throughout the Sabbath schools of our own
country. The examination was chiefly conducted by Mr. Cummins. At the
close of the examination about fifty of the girls, and among them the
daughter of Mr. Cummins, were arranged in front of the altar, with the
female teachers in the rear of them, and all united in singing a hymn
written for the occasion. Part of the teachers were colored and part
white, as were also the scholars, and they stood side by side, mingled
promiscuously together. This is altogether the best Sabbath school in
After the exercises were closed, we were introduced, by a colored
gentleman who accompanied us to the examination, to Mr. Cummins, the
Rev. Mr. Packer, and the Rev. Mr. Rowe, master of the public school in
Bridgetown. By request of Mr. C., we accompanied him to his house, where
we enjoyed an interview with him and the other gentlemen, just
mentioned. Mr. C. informed us that his Sabbath school was commenced in
1833; but was quite small and inefficient until after 1834. It now
numbers more than four hundred scholars. Mr. C. spoke of prejudice. It
had wonderfully decreased within the last three years. He said he could
scarcely credit the testimony of his own senses, when he looked around
on the change which had taken place. Many now associate with colored
persons, and sit with them in the church, who once would have scorned to
be found near them. Mr. C. and the other clergymen stated, that there
had been an increase of places of worship and of clergymen since
abolition. All the churches are now crowded, and there is a growing
demand for more. The negroes manifest an increasing desire for religious
instruction. In respect to morals, they represent the people as being
greatly improved. They spoke of the general respect which was now paid
to the institution of marriage among the negroes, Mr. C. said, he was
convinced that the blacks had as much natural talent and capacity for
learning as the whites. He does not know any difference. Mr. Pocker, who
was formerly rector of St. Thomas' parish, and has been a public teacher
of children of all colors, expressed the same opinion. Mr. Rowe said,
that before he took charge of the white school, he was the teacher of
one of the free schools for blacks, and he testified that the latter has
just as much capacity for acquiring any kind of knowledge, as much
inquisitiveness, and ingenuity, as the former.
Accompanied by an intelligent gentleman of Bridgetown, we visited two
flourishing schools for colored children, connected with the Episcopal
church, and under the care of the Bishop. In the male school, there were
one hundred and ninety-five scholars, under the superintendence of one
master, who is himself a black man, and was educated and trained up in
the same school. He is assisted by several of his scholars, as monitors
and teachers. It was, altogether, the best specimen of a well-regulated
school which we saw in the West Indies.
The present instructor has had charge of the school two years. It has
increased considerably since abolition. Before the first of August,
1834, the whole number of names on the catalogue was a little above one
hundred, and the average attendance was seventy-five. The number
immediately increased, and new the average attendance is above two
hundred. Of this number at least sixty are the children of apprentices.
We visited also the infant school, established but two weeks previous.
Mr. S. the teacher, who has been for many years an instructor, says he
finds them as apt to learn as any children he ever taught. He said he
was surprised to see how soon the instructions of the school-room were
carried to the homes of the children, and caught up by their parents.
The very first night after the school closed, in passing through the
streets, he heard the children repeating what they had been taught, and
the parents learning the songs from their children's lips Mr. S. has a
hundred children already in his school, and additions were making daily.
He found among the negro parents much interest in the school.
We called on the Rev. Mr. Fidler, the superintendent of the Wesleyan
missions in Barbadoes. Mr. F. resides in Bridgetown, and preaches mostly
in the chapel in town. He has been in the West Indies twelve years, and
in Barbadoes about two years. Mr. F. informed us that there were three
Wesleyan missionaries in the island, besides four or five local
preachers, one of whom is a black man. There are about one thousand
members belonging to their body, the greater part of whom live in town.
Two hundred and thirty-five were added during the year 1836, being by
far the largest number added in any one year since they began their
operations in the island.
A brief review of the history of the Wesleyan Methodists in Barbadoes,
will serve to show the great change which has been taking place in
public sentiment respecting the labors of missionaries. In the year
1823, not long after the establishment of the Wesleyan church in the
island, the chapel in Bridgetown was destroyed by a mob. Not one stone
was left upon another. They carried the fragments for miles away from
the site, and scattered them about in every direction, so that the
chapel might never be rebuilt. Some of the instigators and chief actors
in this outrage, were "gentlemen of property and standing," residents of
Bridgetown. The first morning after the outrage began, the mob sought
for the Rev. Mr. Shrewsbury, the missionary, threatening his life, and
he was obliged to flee precipitately from the island, with his wife. He
was hunted like a wild beast, and it is thought that he would have been
torn in pieces if he had been found. Not an effort or a movement was
made to quell the mob, during their assault upon the chapel. The first
men of the island connived at the violence--secretly rejoicing in what
they supposed would be the extermination of Methodism from the country.
The governor, Sir Henry Ward, utterly refused to interfere, and would
not suffer the militia to repair to the spot, though a mere handful of
soldiers could have instantaneously routed the whole assemblage.
The occasion of this riot was partly the efforts made by the Wesleyans
to instruct the negroes, and still more the circumstance of a letter
being written by Mr. Shrewsbury, and published in an English paper,
which contained some severe strictures on the morals of the Barbadians.
A planter informed us that the riot grew out of a suspicion that Mr. S.
was "leagued with the Wilberforce party in England."
Since the re-establishment of Wesleyanism in this island, it has
continued to struggle against the opposition of the Bishop, and most of
the clergy, and against the inveterate prejudices of nearly the whole of
the white community. The missionaries have been discouraged, and in many
instances absolutely prohibited from preaching on the estates. These
circumstances have greatly retarded the progress of religious
instruction through their means. But this state of things had been very
much altered since the abolition of slavery. There are several estates
now open to the missionaries. Mr. F. mentioned several places in the
country, where he was then purchasing land, and erecting chapels. He
also stated, that one man, who aided in pulling down the chapel in 1823,
had offered ground for a new chapel, and proffered the free use of a
building near by, for religious meetings and a school, till it could
The Wesleyan chapel in Bridgetown is a spacious building, well filled
with worshippers every Sabbath. We attended service there frequently,
and observed the same indiscriminate sitting of the various colors,
which is described in the account of St. Paul's church.
The Wesleyan missionaries have stimulated the clergy to greater
diligence and faithfulness, and have especially induced them to turn
their attention to the negro population more than they did formerly.
There are several local preachers connected with the Wesleyan mission in
Barbadoes, who have been actively laboring to promote religion among the
apprentices. Two of these are converted soldiers in his Majesty's
service--acting sergeants of the troops stationed in the island. While
we were in Barbadoes, these pious men applied for a discharge from the
army, intending to devote themselves exclusively to the work of teaching
and preaching. Another of the local preachers is a negro man, of
considerable talent and exalted piety, highly esteemed among his
missionary brethren for his labors of love.
THE MORAVIAN MISSION.
Of the Moravians, we learned but little. Circumstances unavoidably
prevented us from visiting any of the stations, and also from calling on
any of the missionaries. We were informed that there were three stations
in the island, one in Bridgetown, and two in the country, and we learned
in general terms, that the few missionaries there were laboring with
their characteristic devotedness, assiduity, and self-denial, for the
spiritual welfare of the negro population.
The colored, or as they were termed previous to abolition, by way of
distinction, the free colored population, amount in Barbadoes to nearly
thirty thousand. They are composed chiefly of the mixed race, whose
paternal connection, though illegitimate, secured to them freedom at
their birth, and subsequently the advantages of an education more or
less extensive. There are some blacks among them, however, who were free
born, or obtained their freedom at an early period, and have since, by
great assiduity, attained an honorable standing.
During our stay in Barbadoes, we had many invitations to the houses of
colored gentlemen, of which we were glad to avail ourselves whenever it
was possible. At an early period after our arrival, we were invited to
dine with Thomas Harris, Esq. He politely sent his chaise for us, as he
resided about a mile from our residence. At his table, we met two other
colored gentlemen, Mr. Thorne of Bridgetown, and Mr. Prescod, a young
gentleman of much intelligence and ability. There was also at the table
a niece of Mr. Harris, a modest and highly interesting young lady. All
the luxuries and delicacies of a tropical clime loaded the board--an
epicurean variety of meats, flesh, fowl, and fish--of vegetables,
pastries, fruits, and nuts, and that invariable accompaniment of a West
India dinner, wine.
The dinner was enlivened by an interesting and well sustained
conversation respecting the abolition of slavery, the present state of
the colony, and its prospects for the future. Lively discussions were
maintained on points where there chanced to be a difference of opinion,
and we admired the liberality of the views which were thus elicited. We
are certainly prepared to say, and that too without feeling that we draw
any invidious distinctions, that in style of conversation, in ingenuity
and ability of argument, this company would compare with any company of
white gentlemen that we met in the island. In that circle of colored
gentlemen, were the keen sallies of wit, the admirable repartee, the
satire now severe, now playful, upon the measures of the colonial
government, the able exposure of aristocratic intolerance, of
plantership chicanery, of plottings and counterplottings in high
places--the strictures on the intrigues of the special magistrates and
managers, and withal, the just and indignant reprobation of the uniform
oppressions which have disabled and crushed the colored people.
The views of these gentlemen with regard to the present state of the
island, we found to differ in some respects from those of the planters
and special magistrates. They seemed to regard both those classes of men
with suspicion. The planters they represented as being still, at least
the mass of them, under the influence of the strong habits of
tyrannizing and cruelty which they formed during slavery. The
prohibitions and penalties of the law are not sufficient to prevent
occasional and even frequent outbreakings of violence, so that the
negroes even yet suffer much of the rigor of slavery. In regard to the
special magistrates, they allege that they are greatly controlled by the
planters. They associate with the planters, dine with the planters,
lounge on the planters' sofas, and marry the planters daughters. Such
intimacies as these, the gentlemen very plausibly argued, could not
exist without strongly biasing the magistrate towards the planters, and
rendering it almost impossible for them to administer equal justice to
the poor apprentice, who, unfortunately, had no sumptuous dinners to
give them, no luxurious sofas to offer them, nor dowered daughters to
present in marriage.
The gentlemen testified to the industry and subordination of the
apprentices. They had improved the general cultivation of the island,
and they were reaping for their masters greater crops than they did
while slaves. The whole company united in saying that many blessings had
already resulted from the abolition of slavery--imperfect as that
abolition was. Real estate had advanced in value at least one third. The
fear of insurrection had been removed; invasions of property, such as
occurred during slavery, the firing of cane-fields, the demolition of
houses, &c., were no longer apprehended. Marriage was spreading among
the apprentices, and the general morals of the whole community, high and
low, white, colored, and black, were rapidly improving.
At ten o'clock we took leave of Mr. Harris and his interesting friends.
We retired with feelings of pride and gratification that we had been
privileged to join a company which, though wearing the badge of a
proscribed race, displayed in happy combination, the treasures of
genuine intelligence, and the graces of accomplished manners. We were
happy to meet in that social circle a son of New England, and a graduate
of one of her universities. Mr. H. went to the West Indies a few months
after the abolition of slavery. He took with him all the prejudices
common to our country, as well as a determined hostility to abolition
principles and measures. A brief observation of the astonishing results
of abolition in those islands, effectually disarmed him of the latter,
and made him the decided and zealous advocate of immediate emancipation.
He established himself in business in Barbados, where he has been living
the greater part of the time since he left his native country. His
_prejudices_ did not long survive his abandonment of anti-abolition
sentiments. We rejoiced to find him on the occasion above referred to,
moving in the circle of colored society, with all the freedom of a
familiar guest, and prepared most cordially to unite with us in the wish
that all our prejudiced countrymen could witness similar exhibitions.
The gentleman at whose table we had the pleasure to dine, was _born a
slave_, and remained such until he was seventeen years of age. After
obtaining his freedom, he engaged as a clerk in a mercantile
establishment, and soon attracted attention by his business talents.
About the same period he warmly espoused the cause of the free colored
people, who were doubly crushed under a load of civil and political
impositions, and a still heavier one of prejudice. He soon made himself
conspicuous by his manly defence of the rights of his brethren against
the encroachments of the public authorities, and incurred the marked
displeasure of several influential characters. After a protracted
struggle for the civil immunities of the colored people, during which he
repeatedly came into collision with public men, and was often arraigned
before the public tribunals; finding his labors ineffectual, he left the
island and went to England. He spent some time there and in France,
moving on a footing of honorable equality among the distinguished
abolitionists of those countries. There, amid the free influences and
the generous sympathies which welcomed and surrounded him,--his whole
character ripened in those manly graces and accomplishments which now so
eminently distinguish him.
Since his return to Barbadoes, Mr. H. has not taken so public a part in
political controversies as he did formerly, but is by no means
indifferent to passing events. There is not, we venture to say, within
the colony, a keener or more sagacious observer of its institutions, its
public men and their measures.
When witnessing the exhibitions of his manly spirit, and listening to
his eloquent and glowing narratives of his struggles against the
political oppressions which ground to the dust himself and his brethren,
we could scarcely credit the fact that he was himself born and reared to
BREAKFAST AT MR. THORNE'S.
By invitation we took breakfast with Mr. Joseph Thorne, whom we met at
Mr. Harris's. Mr. T. resides in Bridgetown. In the parlor, we met two
colored gentlemen--the Rev. Mr. Hamilton, a local Wesleyan preacher, and
Mr. Cummins, a merchant of Bridgetown, mentioned in a previous chapter.
We were struck with the scientific appearance of Mr. Thorne's parlor. On
one side was a large library of religious, historical and literary
works, the selection of which displayed no small taste and judgment. On
the opposite side of the room was a fine cabinet of minerals and shells.
In one corner stood a number of curious relics of the aboriginal Caribs,
such as bows and arrows, etc., together with interesting fossil remains.
On the tops of the book-cases and mineral stand, were birds of rare
species, procured from the South American Continent. The centre table
was ornamented with shells, specimens of petrifactions, and elegantly
bound books. The remainder of the furniture of the room was costly and
elegant. Before breakfast two of Mr. Thorne's children, little boys of
six and four, stepped in to salute the company. They were of a bright
yellow, with slightly curled hair. When they had shaken hands with each
of the company, they withdrew from the parlor and were seen no more.
Their manners and demeanor indicated the teachings of an admirable
mother, and we were not a little curious to see the lady of whose taste
and delicate sense of propriety we had witnessed so attractive a
specimen in her children. At the breakfast table we were introduced to
Mrs. Thorne, and we soon discovered from her dignified air, from the
chaste and elevated style of her conversation, from her intelligence,
modesty and refinement, that we were in the presence of a highly
accomplished lady. The conversation was chiefly on subjects connected
with our mission. All spoke with great gratitude of the downfall of
slavery. It was not the slaves alone that were interested in that event.
Political oppression, prejudice, and licentiousness had combined greatly
to degrade the colored community, but these evils were now gradually
lessening, and would soon wholly disappear after the final extinction of
slavery--the parent of them all.
Several facts were stated to show the great rise in the value of real
estate since 1834. In one instance a gentleman bought a sugar estate for
nineteen thousand pounds sterling, and the very next year, after taking
off a crop from which he realized a profit of three thousand pounds
sterling, he sold the estate for thirty thousand pounds sterling. It has
frequently happened within two years that persons wishing to purchase
estates would inquire the price of particular properties, and would
hesitate to give what was demanded. Probably soon after they would
return to close the bargain, and find that the price was increased by
several hundreds of pounds; they would go away again, reluctant to
purchase, and return a third time, when they would find the price again
raised, and would finally be glad to buy at almost any price. It was
very difficult to purchase sugar estates now, whereas previous to the
abolition of slavery, they were, like the slaves, a drug in the market.
Mr. Joseph Thorne is a gentleman of forty-five, of a dark mulatto
complexion, with the negro features and hair. _He was born a slave_, and
remained so until about twenty years of age. This fact we learned from
the manager of the Belle estate, on which Mr. T. was born and raised a
slave. It was an interesting coincidence, that on the occasion of our
visit to the Belle estate we were indebted to Mr. Thorne, the former
_property_ of that estate, for his horse and chaise, which he politely
proffered to us. Mr. T. employs much of his time in laboring among the
colored people in town, and among the apprentices on the estates, in the
capacity of _lay-preacher_. In this way he renders himself very useful.
Being very competent, both by piety and talents, for the work, and
possessing more perhaps than any missionary, the confidence of the
planters, he is admitted to many estates, to lecture the apprentices on
religious and moral duties. Mr. T. is a member of the Episcopal church.
BREAKFAST AT MR. PRESCOD'S
We next had the pleasure of breakfasting with Mr. Prescod. Our esteemed
friend, Mr. Harris, was of the company. Mr. P. is a young man, but
lately married. His wife and himself were both liberally educated in
England. He was the late editor of the New Times, a weekly paper
established since the abolition of slavery and devoted chiefly to the
interests of the colored community. It was the first periodical and the
only one which advocated the rights of the colored people, and this it
did with the utmost fearlessness and independence. It boldly exposed
oppression, whether emanating from the government house or originating
in the colonial assembly. The measures of all parties, and the conduct
of every public man, were subject to its scrutiny, and when occasion
required, to its stern rebuke. Mr. P. exhibits a thorough acquaintance
with the politics of the country, and with the position of the various
parties. He is familiar with the spirit and operations of the white
gentry--far more so, it would seem; than many of his brethren who have
been repeatedly deceived by their professions of increasing liberality,
and their show of extending civil immunities, which after all proved to
be practical nullities, and as such were denounced by Mr. P. at the
outset. A few years ago the colored people mildly petitioned the
legislature for a removal of their disabilities. Their remonstrance was
too reasonable to be wholly disregarded. Something must he done which
would at least bear the semblance of favoring the object of the
petitioners. Accordingly the obnoxious clauses were repealed, and the
colored people were admitted to the polls. But the qualification was
made three times greater than that required of white citizens. This
virtually nullified the extension of privilege, and actually confirmed
the disabilities of which it was a pretended abrogation. The colored
people, in their credulity, hailed the apparent enfranchisement, and had
a public rejoicing in the occasion. But the delusion could not escape
the discrimination of Mr. P. He detected it at once, and exposed it, and
incurred the displeasure of the credulous people of color by refusing to
participate in their premature rejoicings. He soon succeeded however in
convincing his brethren that the new provision was a mockery of their
wrongs, and that the assembly had only added insult to past injuries.
Mr. P. now urged the colored people to be patient, as the great changes
which were working in the colony must bring to them all the rights of
which they had been so cruelly deprived. On the subject of prejudice he
spoke just as a man of keen sensibilities and manly spirit might be
expected to speak, who had himself been its victim. He was accustomed to
being flouted, scorned and condemned by those whom he could not but
regard as his interiors both in native talents and education. He had
submitted to be forever debarred from offices which were filled by men
far less worthy except in the single qualification of a _white skin_,
which however was paramount to all other virtues and acquirements! He
had seen himself and his accomplished wife excluded from the society of
whites, though keenly conscious of their capacity to move and shine in
the most elevated social circles. After all this, it may readily be
conceived how Mr. P. would speak of prejudice. But while he spoke
bitterly of the past, he was inspired with buoyancy of hope as he cast
his eye to the future. He was confident that prejudice would disappear.
It had already diminished very much, and it would ere long be wholly
Mr. P. gave a sprightly picture of the industry of the negroes. It was
common, he said, to hear them called lazy, but this was not true. That
they often appeared to be indolent, especially those about the town, was
true; but it was either because they had no work to do, or were asked to
work without reasonable wages. He had often been amused at their
conduct, when solicited to do small jobs--such as carrying baggage,
loading of unloading a vessel, or the like. If offered a very small
compensation, as was generally the case at first, they would stretch
themselves on the ground, and with a sleepy look, and lazy tone, would
say, "O, I can't do it, sir." Sometimes the applicants would turn away
at once, thinking that they were unwilling to work, and cursing "the
lazy devils;" but occasionally they would try the efficacy of offering a
larger compensation, when instantly the negroes would spring to their
feet, and the lounging inert mass would appear all activity.
We are very willing to hold up Mr. P as a specimen of what colored
people generally may become with proper cultivation, or to use the
language of one of their own number,[A] "with free minds and space
[Footnote A: Thomas C. Brown, who renounced colonization, returned from
a disastrous and almost fatal expedition to Liberia, and afterwards went
to the West Indies, in quest of a free country.]
We have purposely refrained from speaking of Mrs. P., lest any thing we
should be willing to say respecting her, might seem to be adulation.
However, having alluded to her, we will say that it has seldom fallen to
our lot to meet with her superior.
BREAKFAST AT MR. LONDON BOURNE'S.
After what has been said in this chapter to try the patience and
irritate the nerves of the prejudiced, if there should be such among our
readers, they will doubtless deem it quite intolerable to be introduced,
not as hitherto to a family in whose faces the lineaments and the
complexion of the white man are discernible, relieving the ebon hue, but
to a household of genuine unadulterated negroes. We cordially accepted
an invitation to breakfast with Mr. London Bourne. If the reader's
horror of amalgamation does not allow him to join us at the table,
perhaps he will consent to retire to the parlor, whence, without fear of
contamination, he may safely view us through the folding doors, and note
down our several positions around the board. At the head of the table
presides, with much dignity, Mrs. Bourne; at the end opposite, sits Mr.
Bourne--both of the glossiest jet; the thick matted hair of Mr. B.
slightly frosted with age. He has an affable, open countenance, in which
the radiance of an amiable spirit, and the lustre of a sprightly
intellect, happily commingle, and illuminate the sable covering. On
either hand of Mr. B. _we_ sit, occupying the posts of honor. On the
right and left of Mrs. B., and at the opposite corners from us, sit two
other guests, one a colored merchant, and the other a young son-in-law
of Mr. B., whose face is the very double extract of blackness; for which
his intelligence, the splendor of his dress, and the elegance of his
manners, can make to be sure but slight atonement! The middle seats are
filled on the one side by an unmarried daughter of Mr. B., and on the
other side by a promising son of eleven, who is to start on the morrow
for Edinburgh, where he is to remain until he has received the honors of
Scotland's far famed university.
We shall doubtless be thought by some of our readers to glory in our
shame. Be it so. We _did_ glory in joining the company which we have
just described. On the present occasion we had a fair opportunity of
testing the merits of an unmixed negro party, and of determining how far
the various excellences of the gentlemen and ladies previously noticed
were attributable to the admixture of English blood. We are compelled in
candor to say; that the company of blacks did not fall a whit below
those of the colored race in any respect. We conversed on the same
general topics, which, of course, were introduced where-ever we went. The
gentlemen showed an intimate acquaintance with the state of the colony,
with the merits of the apprenticeship system, and with the movements of
the colonial government. As for Mrs. B., she presided at the table with
great ease, dignity, self-possession, and grace. Her occasional remarks,
made with genuine modesty, indicated good sense and discrimination.
Among other topics of conversation, prejudice was not forgotten. The
company were inquisitive as to the extent of it in the United States. We
informed them that it appeared to be strongest in those states which
held no slaves, that it prevailed among professing Christians, and that
it was most manifestly seen in the house of God. We also intimated, in
as delicate a manner as possible, that in almost any part of the United
States such a table-scene as we then presented would be reprobated and
denounced, if indeed it escaped the summary vengeance of the mob. We
were highly gratified with their views of the proper way for the colored
people to act in respect to prejudice. They said they were persuaded
that their policy was to wait patiently for the operation of those
influences which were now at work for the removal of prejudice. "_Social
intercourse_," they said, "was not a thing to be gained by _pushing_."
"They could not go to it, but it would come to them." It was for them
however, to maintain an upright, dignified course, to be uniformly
courteous, to seek the cultivation of their minds, and strive zealously
for substantial worth, and by such means, and such alone, they could aid
in overcoming prejudice.
Mr. Bourne was a slave until he was twenty-three years old. He was
purchased by his father, a free negro, who gave five hundred dollars for
him. His mother and four brothers were bought at the same time for the
sum of two thousand five hundred dollars. He spoke very kindly of his
former master. By industry, honesty, and close attention to business,
Mr. B. has now become a wealthy merchant. He owns three stores in
Bridgetown, lives in very genteel style in his own house, and is worth
from twenty to thirty thousand dollars. He is highly respected by the
merchants of Bridgetown for his integrity and business talents. By what
means Mr. B. has acquired so much general information, we are at a loss
to conjecture. Although we did not ourselves need the evidence of his
possessing extraordinary talents, industry, and perseverance, yet we are
happy to present our readers with such tangible proofs--proofs which are
read in every language, and which pass current in every nation.
The foregoing sketches are sufficient to give a general idea of the
colored people of Barbadoes. Perchance we may have taken too great
liberties with those whose hospitalities we enjoyed; should this ever
fall under their notice, we doubt not they will fully appreciate the
motives which have actuated us in making them public. We are only sorry,
for their sakes, and especially for that of our cause, that the
delineations are so imperfect. That the above specimens are an exact
likeness of the mass of colored people we do not pretend; but we do
affirm, that they are as true an index to the whole community, as the
merchants, physicians, and mechanics of any of our villages are to the
entire population. We must say, also, that families of equal merit are
by no means rare among the same people. We might mention many names
which deservedly rank as high as those we have specified. One of the
wealthiest merchants in Bridgetown is a colored gentleman. He has his
mercantile agents in England, English clerks in his employ, a branch
establishment in the city, and superintends the concerns of an extensive
and complicated business with distinguished ability and success. A large
portion, of not a majority of the merchants of Bridgetown are colored.
Some of the most popular instructors are colored men and ladies, and one
of these ranks high as a teacher of the ancient and modern languages.
The most efficient and enterprising mechanics of the city, are colored
and black men. There is scarcely any line of business which is not
either shared or engrossed by colored persons, if we except that of
_barber_. _The only barber in Bridgetown is a white man._
That so many of the colored people should have obtained wealth and
education is matter of astonishment, when we consider the numerous
discouragements with which they have ever been doomed to struggle. The
paths of political distinction have been barred against them by an
arbitrary denial of the right of suffrage, and consequent ineligibility
to office. Thus a large and powerful class of incitements to mental
effort, which have been operating continually upon the whites, have
never once stirred the sensibilities nor waked the ambition of the
colored community. Parents, however wealthy, had no inducement to
educate their sons for the learned professions, since no force of talent
nor extent of acquirement could hope to break down the granite walls and
iron bars which prejudice had erected round the pulpit, the bar, and the
bench. From the same cause there was very little encouragement to
acquire property, to seek education, to labor for the graces of
cultivated manners, or even to aspire to ordinary respectability, since
not even the poor favor of social intercourse with the whites, of
participating in the civilities and courtesies of every day life, was
The crushing power of a prevailing licentiousness, has also been added
to the other discouragements of the colored people. Why should parents
labor to amass wealth enough, and much of course it required, to send
their daughters to Europe to receive their educations, if they were to
return only to become the victims of an all-whelming concubinism! It is
a fact, that in many cases young ladies, who have been sent to England
to receive education, have, after accomplishing themselves in all the
graces of womanhood, returned to the island to become the concubines of
white men. Hitherto this vice has swept over the colored community,
gathering its repeated conscriptions of beauty and innocence from the
highest as well as the lowest families. Colored ladies have been taught
to believe that it was more honorable, and quite as virtuous, to be the
kept mistresses of _white gentlemen_, than the lawfully wedded wives of
_colored men_. We repeat the remark, that the actual progress which the
colored people of Barbadoes have made, while laboring under so many
depressing influences, should excite our astonishment, and, we add, our
admiration too. Our acquaintance with this people was at a very
interesting period--just when they were beginning to be relieved from
these discouragements, and to feel the regenerating spirit of a new era.
It was to us like walking through a garden in the early spring. We could
see the young buds of hope, the first bursts of ambition, the early
up-shoots of confident aspiration, and occasionally the opening bloom of
assurance. The star of hope had risen upon the colored people, and they
were beginning to realize that _their_ day had come. The long winter of
their woes was melting into "glorious summer." Civil immunities and
political privileges were just before them, the learned professions were
opening to them, social equality and honorable domestic connections
would soon be theirs. Parents were making fresh efforts to establish
schools for the children, and to send the choicest of their sons and
daughters to England. They rejoiced in the privileges they were
securing, and they anticipated with virtuous pride the free access of
their children to all the fields of enterprise, all the paths of honest
emulation, and all the eminences of distinction.
We remark in conclusion, that the forbearance of the colored people of
Barbadoes under their complicated wrongs is worthy of all admiration.
Allied, as many of them are, to the first families of the island, and
gifted as they are with every susceptibility to feel disgrace, it is a
marvel that they have not indignantly cast off the yoke and demanded
their political rights. Their wrongs have been unprovoked on their part,
and unnatural on the part of those who have inflicted them--in many
cases the guilty authors of their being. The patience and endurance of
the sufferers under such circumstances are unexampled, except by the
conduct of the slaves, who, though still more wronged, were, if
possible, still more patient.
We regret to add, that until lately, the colored people of Barbadoes
hate been far in the background in the cause of abolition, and even now,
the majority of them are either indifferent, or actually hostile to
emancipation. They have no fellow feeling with the slave. In fact; they
have had prejudices against the negroes no less bitter than those which
the whites have exercised toward them. There are many honorable
exceptions to this, as has already been shown; but such, we are assured,
is the general fact.[A]
[Footnote A: We are here reminded, by the force of contrast, of the
noble spirit manifested by the free colored people of our own country.
As early as 1817, a numerous body of them in Philadelphia, with the
venerable James Forten at their head, pledged themselves to the cause of
the slave in the following sublime sentiment, which deserves to be
engraver to their glory on the granite of our "everlasting
hills"--"Resolved, That we never will separate ourselves voluntarily
from the slave population in this country; they are our brethren by the
ties of consanguinity, of suffering, and of wrong; and we feel that
there is more virtue in suffering privations with them, than enjoying
_fancied_ advantages for a season."
We believe that this resolution embodies the feelings and determinations
of the free colored people generally in the free states.]
BARBADOES AS IT WAS, AND IS.
According to the declaration of one of the special magistrates,
"Barbadoes has long been distinguished for its devotion to slavery."
There is probably no portion of the globe where slave-holding, slave
driving, and slave labor, have been reduced to a more perfect system.
The records of slavery in Barbadoes are stained with bloody atrocities.
The planters uniformly spoke of slavery as a system of cruelties; but
they expressed themselves in general terms. From colored gentlemen we
learned some particulars, a few of which we give. To most of the
following facts the narrators were themselves eye witnesses, and all of
them happened in their day and were fresh in their memories.
The slaves were not unfrequently worked in the streets of Bridgetown
with chains on their wrists and ankles. Flogging on the estates and in
the town, were no less public than frequent, and there was an utter
shamelessness often in the manner of its infliction. Even women were
stripped naked on the sides of the streets, and their backs lacerated
with the whip. It was a common practice, when a slave offended a white
man, for the master to send for a public whipper, and order him to take
the slave before the door of the person offended, and flog him till the
latter was satisfied. White females would order their male slaves to be
stripped naked in their presence and flogged, while they would look on
to see that their orders were faithfully executed. Mr. Prescod mentioned
an instance which he himself witnessed near Bridgetown. He had seen an
aged female slave, stripped and whipped by her own son, a child of
twelve, at the command of the mistress. As the boy was small, the mother
was obliged to get down upon her hands and knees, so that the child
could inflict the blows on her naked person with a rod. This was done on
the public highway, before the mistress's door. Mr. T. well remembered
when it was lawful for any man to shoot down his slave, under no greater
penalty than twenty-five pounds currency; and he knew of cases in which
this had been done. Just after the insurrection in 1816, white men made
a regular sport of shooting negroes. Mr. T. mentioned one case. A young
man had sworn that he would kill ten negroes before a certain time. When
he had shot nine he went to take breakfast with a neighbor, and carried
his gun along. The first slave he met on the estate, he accused of being
concerned in the rebellion. The negro protested that he was innocent,
and begged for mercy. The man told him to be gone, and as he turned to
go away, he shot him dead. Having fulfilled his bloody pledge, the young
knight ate his breakfast with a relish. Mr. H. said that a planter once,
in a time of perfect peace, went to his door and called one of his
slaves. The negro made some reply which the master construed into
insolence, and in a great rage he swore if he did not come to him
immediately he would shoot him. The man replied he hoped massa wan't in
earnest. 'I'll show you whether I am in earnest,' said the master, and
with that he levelled his rifle, took deliberate aim, and shot the negro
on the spot. He died immediately. Though great efforts were made by a
few colored men to bring the murderer to punishment, they were all
ineffectual. The evidence against him was clear enough, but the
influence in his favor was so strong that he finally escaped.
Dungeons were built on all the estates, and they were often abominably
filthy, and infested with loathsome and venomous vermin. For slight
offences the slaves were thrust into these prisons for several
successive nights--being dragged out every morning to work during the
day. Various modes of torture were employed upon those who were
consigned to the dungeon. There were stocks for their feet, and there
were staples in the floor for the ankles and wrists, placed in such a
position as to keep the victim stretched out and lying on his face. Mr.
H. described one mode which was called the _cabin_. A narrow board, only
wide enough for a man to lie upon, was fixed in an inclined position,
and elevated considerably above the ground. The offending slave was made
to lay upon this board, and a strong rope or chain, was tied about his
neck and fastened to the ceiling. It was so arranged, that if he should
fall from the plank, he would inevitably hang by his neck. Lying in this
position all night, he was more likely than not to fall asleep, and then
there were ninety-nine chances to one that he would roll off his narrow
bed and be killed before he could awake, or have time to extricate
himself. Peradventure this is the explanation of the anxiety Mr. ---- of
----, used to feel, when he had confined one of his slaves in the
dungeon. He stated that he would frequently wake up in the night, was
restless, and couldn't sleep, from fear that the prisoner would _kill
himself_ before morning.
It was common for the planters of Barbadoes, like those of Antigua, to
declare that the greatest blessing of abolition to them, was that it
relieved them from the disagreeable work of flogging the negroes. We had
the unsolicited testimony of a planter, that slave mothers frequently
poisoned, and otherwise murdered, their young infants, to rid them of a
life of slavery. What a horrible comment this upon the cruelties of
slavery! Scarce has the mother given birth to her child, when she
becomes its murderer. The slave-mother's joy begins, not like that of
other mothers, when "a man is born into the world," but when her infant
is hurried out of existence, and its first faint cry is hushed in the
silence of death! Why this perversion of nature? Ah, that mother knows
the agonies, the torments, the wasting woes, of a life of slavery, and
by the bowels of a mother's love, and the yearnings of a mother's pity,
she resolves that her babe shall never know the same. O, estimate who
can, how many groans have gone up from the cane field, from the
boiling-house, from around the wind mill, from the bye paths, from the
shade of every tree, from the recesses of every dungeon!
Colonel Barrow, of Edgecome estate, declared, that the habit of flogging
was so strong among the overseers and book-keepers, that even now they
frequently indulge it in the face of penalties and at the risk of
forfeiting their place.
The descriptions which the special magistrates give of the lower class
of overseers and the managers of the petty estates, furnish data enough
for judging of the manner in which they would be likely to act when
clothed with arbitrary power. They are "a low order of men," "without
education," "trained up to use the whip," "knowing nothing else save the
art of flogging," "ready at any time to perjure themselves in any matter
where a negro is concerned," &c. Now, may we not ask what but cruelty,
the most monstrous, could be expected under a system where _such men_
were constituted law makers, judges, and executioners?
From the foregoing facts, and the still stronger circumstantial
evidence, we leave the reader to judge for himself as to the amount of
cruelty attendant upon "the reign of terror," in Barbadoes. We must,
however, mention one qualification, without which a wrong impression may
be made. It has already been remarked that Barbadoes has, more than any
other island, reduced slave labor and sugar cultivation to a regular
system. This the planters have been compelled to do from the denseness
of their population, the smallness of their territory, the fact that the
land was all occupied, and still more, because the island, from long
continued cultivation, was partly worn out. A prominent feature in their
system was, theoretically at least, good bodily treatment of the slaves,
good feeding, attention to mothers, to pregnant women, and to children,
in order that the estates might always be kept _well stocked with
good-conditioned negroes_. They were considered the best managers, who
increased the population of the estates most rapidly, and often premiums
were given by the attorneys to such managers. Another feature in the
Barbadoes system was to raise sufficient provisions in the island to
maintain the slaves, or, in planter's phrase, to _feed the stock_,
without being dependent upon foreign countries. This made the supplies
of the slaves more certain and more abundant. From several circumstances
in the condition of Barbadoes, it is manifest, that there were fewer
motives to cruelty there than existed in other islands. First, the slave
population was abundant, then the whole of the island was under
cultivation, and again the lands were old and becoming exhausted. Now,
if either one of these things had not been true, if the number of slaves
had been inadequate to the cultivation, or if vast tracts of land, as in
Jamaica, Trinidad, and Demerara, had been uncultivated, or were being
brought into cultivation; or, again, if the lands under cultivation had
been fresh and fertile, so as to bear _pushing_, then it is plain that
there would have been inducements to hard driving, which, as the case
was, did not exist.
Such is a partial view of Barbadoes as it _was_, touching the matter of
cruelty. We say partial, for we have omitted to mention the selling of
slaves from one estate to another, whereby families were separated,
almost as effectually as though an ocean intervened. We have omitted to
notice the transportation of slaves to Trinidad, Berbice, and Demerara,
which was made an open traffic until prohibited in 1827, and was
afterwards continued with but little abatement by evasions of the law.
From the painful contemplation of all this outrage and wrong, the mind
is relieved by turning to the present state of the colony. It cannot be
denied that much oppression grows out of the apprenticeship system, both
from its essential nature, and from the want of virtuous principle and
independence in the men who administer it. Yet it is certainly true that
there has been a very great diminution in the amount of actual cruelty.
The total abolition of flogging on the estates, the prohibition to use
the dungeons, and depriving the masters, managers, overseers and
drivers, of the right to punish in any case, or in any way whatever,
leave no room for doubt on this subject. It is true, that the laws are
often violated, but this can only take place in cases of excessive
passion, and it is not likely to be a very frequent occurrence. The
penalty of the law is so heavy,[A] and the chances of detection[B] are
so great, that in all ordinary circumstances they will be a sufficient
security against the violence of the master. On the other hand, the
special magistrates themselves seldom use the whip, but resort to other
modes of punishment less cruel and degrading. Besides, it is manifest
that if they did use the whip and were ever so cruelly disposed, it
would be physically impossible for them to inflict as much suffering as
the drivers could during slavery; on account of the vast numbers over
whom they preside. We learned from the apprentices themselves, by
conversing with them, that their condition, in respect to treatment, is
incomparably better than it was during slavery. We were satisfied from
our observations and inquiries, that the planters, at least the more
extensive and enlightened ones, conduct their estates on different
principles from those formerly followed. Before the abolition of
slavery, they regarded the _whip_ as absolutely necessary to the
cultivation of sugar, and hence they uniformly used it, and loudly
deprecated its abolition as being _their_ certain ruin. But since the
whip has been abolished, and the planters have found that the negroes
continue, nevertheless, industrious and subordinate, they have changed
their measures, partly from necessity, and partly from policy, have
adopted a conciliatory course.
[Footnote A: A fine of sixteen dollars for the first assault, and the
liberation of the apprentice after a second.]
[Footnote B: Through the complaint of the apprentice to the special
Barbadoes was not without its insurrections during slavery. Although not
very frequent, they left upon the minds of the white colonists this
conviction, (repeatedly expressed to us by planters and others,) that
_slavery and rebellions are inseparable_. The last widely extended
insurrection occurred in 1816, in the eastern part of the island. Some
of the particulars were given us by a planter who resided to that
region, and suffered by it great loss of property. The plot was so
cautiously laid, and kept so secret, that no one suspected it. The
planter observed that if any one had told him that such a thing was
brewing _ten minutes_ before it burst forth, he would not have credited
the statement. It began with firing the cane-fields. A signal was given
by a man setting fire to a pile of trash on an elevated spot, when
instantly the fires broke out in every direction, and in less than a
half hour, more than one hundred estates were in flames. The planters
and their families, in the utmost alarm, either fled into other parts of
the island, or seized their arms and hurriedly mustered in self-defence.
Meanwhile the negroes, who had banded themselves in numerous companies,
took advantage of the general consternation, proceeded to the deserted
mansions of the planters, broke down the doors, battered in the windows,
destroyed all the furniture, and carried away the provision stores to
their own houses.
These ravages continued for three days, during which, the slaves flocked
together in increasing numbers; in one place there were several
thousands assembled. Above five hundred of the insurgents were shot down
by the militia, before they could be arrested. The destruction of
property during the rebellion was loosely estimated at many hundred
thousand pounds. The canes on many estates were almost wholly burned; so
that extensive properties, which ordinarily yielded from two to three
hundred hogsheads, did not make more than fifteen or twenty.
Our informant mentioned two circumstances which he considered
remarkable. One was, that the insurgents never touched the property of
the estates to which they severally belonged; but went to the
neighboring or more distant estates. The other was, that during the
whole insurrection the negroes did not make a single attempt to destroy
life. On the other hand, the sacrifice of negroes during the rebellion,
and subsequent to it, was appalling. It was a long time before the white
man's thirst for blood could be satiated.
No general insurrection occurred after this one. However, as late as
1823, the proprietor of Mount Wilton--the noblest estate in the
island--was murdered by his slaves in a most horrid manner. A number of
men entered his bed-chamber at night. He awoke ere they reached him, and
grasped his sword, which always hung by his bed, but it was wrested from
his hand, and he was mangled and killed. His death was caused by his
_cruelties_, and especially by his _extreme licentiousness_. All the
females on this estate were made successively the victims of his lust.
This, together with his cruelties, so incensed the men, that they
determined to murder the wretch. Several of them were publicly executed.
Next to the actual occurrence of rebellions, _the fear of them_ deserves
to be enumerated among the evils which slavery entailed upon Barbadoes.
The dread of hurricanes to the people of Barbadoes is tolerable in
comparison with the irrepressible apprehensions of bloody rebellions. A
planter told us that he seldom went to bed without thinking he might be
murdered before morning.
But now the whites are satisfied that slavery was the sole instigator of
rebellions, and since its removal they have no fear on this score.
_Licentiousness_ was another of the fruits of slavery. It will be
difficult to give to the reader a proper conception of the prevalence of
this vice in Barbadoes, and of the consequent demoralization. A numerous
colored population were both the offspring and the victims of it. On a
very moderate calculation, nineteen-twentieths of the present adult
colored race are illegitimate. Concubinage was practised among the
highest classes. Young merchants and others who were unmarried, on first
going to the island, regularly engaged colored females to live with them
as housekeepers and mistresses, and it was not unusual for a man to have
more than one. The children of these connections usually sat with the
mothers at the father's table, though when the gentlemen had company,
neither mothers nor children made their appearance. To such conduct no
disgrace was attached, nor was any shame felt by either party. We were
assured that there are in Bridgetown, colored ladies of
"respectability," who, though never married, have large families of
children whose different surnames indicate their difference of
parentage, but who probably do not know their fathers by any other
token. These remarks apply to the towns. The morals of the estates were
still more deplorable. The managers and overseers, commonly unmarried,
left no female virtue unattempted. Rewards sometimes, but oftener the
whip, or the dungeon, gave them the mastery in point of fact, which the
laws allowed in theory. To the slaves marriage was scarcely known. They
followed the example of the master, and were ready to minister to his
lust. The mass of mulatto population grew paler as it multiplied, and
catching the refinement along with the tint of civilization, waged a war
upon marriage which had well nigh expelled it from the island. Such was
Barbadoes under the auspices of slavery.
Although these evils still exist, yet, since the abolition of slavery,
there is one symptom of returning purity, the _sense of shame_.
Concubinage is becoming disreputable. The colored females are growing in
self-respect, and are beginning to seek regular connections with colored
men. They begin to feel (to use the language of one of them) that the
_light is come_, and that they can no longer have the apology of
ignorance to plead for their sin. It is the prevailing impression among
whites, colored, and blacks, that open licentiousness cannot long
_Prejudice_ was another of the concomitants of slavery. Barbadoes was
proverbial for it. As far as was practicable, the colored people were
excluded from all business connections; though merchants were compelled
to make clerks of them for want of better, that is, _whiter_, ones.
Colored merchants of wealth were shut out of the merchants' exchange,
though possessed of untarnished integrity, while white men were admitted
as subscribers without regard to character. It was not a little
remarkable that the rooms occupied as the merchants' exchange were
rented from a colored gentleman, or more properly, a _negro_;[A] who,
though himself a merchant of extensive business at home and abroad, and
occupying the floor below with a store, was not suffered to set his foot
within them. This merchant, it will be remembered, is educating a son
for a learned profession at the university of Edinburgh. Colored
gentlemen were not allowed to become members of literary associations,
nor subscribers to the town libraries. Social intercourse was utterly
interdicted. To visit the houses of such men as we have already
mentioned in a previous chapter, and especially to sit down at their
tables, would have been a loss of caste; although the gentry were at the
same time living with colored concubines. But most of all did this
wicked prejudice delight to display itself in the churches. Originally,
we believe, the despised color was confined to the galleries, afterwards
it was admitted to the seats under the galleries, and ultimately it was
allowed to extend to the body pews below the cross aisle. If perchance
one of the proscribed class should ignorantly stray beyond these
precincts, and take a seat above the cross aisle, he was instantly, if
not forcibly, removed. Every opportunity was maliciously seized to taunt
the colored people with their complexion. A gentleman of the highest
worth stated that several years ago he applied to the proper officer for
a license to be married. The license was accordingly made out and handed
to him. It was expressed in the following insulting style: "T---- H----,
F.M., is licensed to marry H---- L----, F.C.W." The initials F.M. stood
for _free mulatto_, and F.C.W. for _free colored woman_! The gentleman
took his knife and cut out the initials; and was then threatened with a
prosecution for forging his license.
[Footnote A: Mr. London Bourne, the merchant mentioned in the previous
It must be admitted that this cruel feeling still exists in Barbadoes.
Prejudice is the last viper of the slavery-gendered brood that dies. But
it is evidently growing weaker. This the reader will infer from several
facts already stated. The colored people themselves are indulging
sanguine hopes that prejudice will shortly die away. They could discover
a bending on the part of the whites, and an apparent readiness to
concede much of the ground hitherto withheld. They informed us that they
had received intimations that they might be admitted as subscribers to
the merchants' exchange if they would apply; but they were in no hurry
to make the advances themselves. They felt assured that not only
business equality, but social equality, would soon be theirs, and were
waiting patiently for the course of events to bring them. They have too
much self-respect to sue for the consideration of their white neighbors,
or to accept it as a condescension and favor, when by a little patience
they might obtain it on more honorable terms. It will doubtless be found
in Barbadoes, as it has been in other countries--and perchance to the
mortification of some lordlings--that freedom is a mighty leveller of
human distinctions. The pyramid of pride and prejudice which slavery had
upreared there, must soon crumble in the dust.
_Indolence and inefficiency among the whites_, was another prominent
feature in slaveholding Barbadoes. Enterprise, public and personal, has
long been a stranger to the island. Internal improvements, such as the
laying and repairing of roads, the erection of bridges, building
wharves, piers, &c., were either wholly neglected, or conducted in such
a listless manner as to be a burlesque on the name of business. It was a
standing task, requiring the combined energy of the island, to repair
the damages of one hurricane before another came. The following
circumstance was told us, by one of the shrewdest observers of men and
things with whom we met in Barbadoes. On the southeastern coast of the
island there is a low point running far out into the sea, endangering
all vessels navigated by persons not well acquainted with the island.
Many vessels have been wrecked upon it in the attempt to make Bridgetown
from the windward. From time immemorial, it has been in contemplation to
erect a light-house on that point. Every time a vessel has been wrecked,
the whole island has been agog for a light-house. Public meetings were
called, and eloquent speeches made, and resolutions passed, to proceed
to the work forthwith. Bills were introduced into the assembly, long
speeches made, and appropriations voted commensurate with the stupendous
undertaking. There the matter ended, and the excitement died away, only
to be revived by another wreck, when a similar scene would ensue. The
light-house is not built to this day. In personal activity, the
Barbadians are as sadly deficient as in public spirit. London is said to
have scores of wealthy merchants who have never been beyond its limits,
nor once snuffed the country air. Bridgetown, we should think, is in
this respect as deserving of the name _Little London_ as Barbadoes is of
the title "Little England," which it proudly assumes. We were credibly
informed that there were merchants in Bridgetown who had never been off
the island in their lives, nor more than five or six miles into the
country. The sum total of their locomotion might be said to be, turning
softly to one side of their chairs, and then softly to the other. Having
no personal cares to harass them, and no political questions to agitate
them--having no extended speculations to push, and no public enterprises
to prosecute, (save occasionally when a wreck on the southern point
throws them into a ferment,) the lives of the higher classes seem a
perfect blank, as it regards every thing manly. Their thoughts are
chiefly occupied with sensual pleasure, anticipated or enjoyed. The
centre of existence to them is the _dinner-table_.
"They eat and drink and sleep, and then--
Eat and drink and sleep again."
That the abolition of slavery has laid the foundation for a reform in
this respect, there can be no doubt. The indolence and inefficiency of
the white community has grown out of slavery. It is the legitimate
offspring of oppression everywhere--one of the burning curses which it
never fails to visit upon its supporters. It may be seriously doubted,
however, whether in Barbadoes this evil will terminate with its cause.
There is there such a superabundance of the laboring population, that
for a long time to come, labor must be very cheap, and the habitually
indolent will doubtless prefer employing others to work for them, than
to work themselves. If, therefore, we should not see an active spirit of
enterprise at once kindling among the Barbadians, _if the light-house
should not be build for a quarter of a century to come_, it need not
excite our astonishment.
We heard not a little concerning the expected distress of those white
families whose property consisted chiefly of slaves. There were many
such families, who have hitherto lived respectably and independently by
hiring out their slaves. After 1840, these will be deprived of all their
property, and will have no means of support whatever. As they will
consider it degrading to work, and still more so to beg, they will be
thrown into extremely embarrassing circumstances. It is thought that
many of this class will leave the country, and seek a home where they
will not be ashamed to work for their subsistence. We were forcibly
reminded of the oft alleged objection to emancipation in the United
States, that it would impoverish many excellent families in the South,
and drive delicate females to the distaff and the wash-tub, whose hands