Oldalképek
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

their way.

young gentleman, which probably was not over-rated, but as to the manners and life of the place. I imagine that the gentleman has hardly once found himself in that society which it was supposed he would adorn. The time,

, however, will probably come when he and others of the same class will have sufficient society of their own.

I have said elsewhere that the colored people in Jamaica have made their way into society; and in what I now say I may seem to contradict myself. Into what may perhaps be termed public society they have made

Those who have seen the details of colonial life will know that there is a public society to which people are admitted or not admitted, according to their acknowledged rights. Governor's parties, public balls, and certain meetings which are semi-official and semi-social, are of this nature. A Governor of Jamaica would, I imagine, not conceive himself to have the power of excluding colored people from his table, even if he wished it. But in Barbados I doubt whether a Governor could, if he wished it, do the reverse.

So far colored people in Jamaica have made their footing good ; and they are gradually advancing beyond this. But not less as a rule are they disliked by the old white aristocracy of the country ; in a strong degree by the planters themselves, but in stronger degree, by the planters' wives.

So much for my theory as to the races of men in Jamaica, and as to the social condition of the white and colored people with reference to each other. Now I would say a word or two respecting the white man as he himself is, without reference either to his neighbor or to his prospects.

A better fellow cannot be found anywhere than a gentleman of Jamaica, or one with whom it is easier to live

100

GENTLEMEN OF JAMAICA.

so;

on pleasant terms. He is generally hospitable, affable, and generous ; easy to know, and pleasant when known; not given perhaps to much deep erudition, but capable of talking with ease on most subjects of conversation ; fond of society, and of pleasure, if you choose to call it

but not generally addicted to low pleasures. He is often witty, and has a sharp side to his tongue if occasion be given him to use it. He is not generally, I think, a hard-working man. Had he been so, the country perhaps would not have been in its present condition. But he is bright and clever, and in spite of all that he has gone through, he is at all times good-humored.

No men are fonder of the country to which they belong, or prouder of the name of Great Britain than these Jamaicans. It has been our policy—and, as regards our larger colonies, the policy I have no doubt has been beneficial—to leave our dependencies very much to themselves ; to interfere in the way of governing as little as might be ; and to withdraw as much as possible from any participation in their internal concerns. This policy is anything but popular with the white aristocracy of Jamaica. They would fain, if it were possible, dispense altogether with their legislature, and be governed altogether from home. In spite of what they have suffered, they are still willing trust the statesmen of England, but are most unwilling to trust the statesmen of Jamaica.

Nothing is more peculiar than the way in which the . word "home" is used in Jamaica, and indeed all through the West Indies. With the white people, it always signifies England, even though the person using the word has never been there. I could never trace the use of the word in Jamaica as applied by white men or white women to the home in which they live, not even though that home had been the dwelling of their fathers as well

[blocks in formation]

as of themselves. The word “home” with them is sacred, and means something holier than a habitation in the tropics. It refers always to the old country.

In this respect, as in many others, an Englishman differs greatly from a Frenchman. Though our English, as a rule, are much more given to colonize than they are; though we spread ourselves over the face of the globe, while they have established comparatively but few settlements in the outer world; nevertheless, when we leave our country, we almost always do so with some idea, be it ever so vague, that we shall return to it again, and again make it our home. But the Frenchman divests himself of any such idea. He also loves France, or at any rate loves Paris ; but his object is to carry his Paris with him; to make a Paris for himself, whether it be in a sugar island among the Antilles, or in a trading town upon the Levant. And in some respects the Frenchman is the wiser

He never looks behind him with regret. He does his best to make his new house comfortable. The spot on which he fixes is his home, and he so calls it, and so regards it. But with an Englishman in the West Indies--even with an English Creole England is always his home.

If the people in Jamaica have any prejudice, it is on the subject of heat. I suppose they have a general idea that their island is hotter than England ; but they never reduce this to an individual idea respecting their own habitation.

" Come and dine with me," a man says to you ; give you a cool bed.” The invitation at first sounded strange to me, but I soon got used to it; I soon even liked it, though I found too often that the promise was

man.

- I can 102

HEAT AT KINGSTON.

not kept. How could it be kept while the quicksilver was standing at eighty-five in the shade ?

And each man boasts that his house is ten degrees cooler than that of his neighbors ; and each man if you contest the point, has a reason to prove why it must be so.

But a stranger, at any rate round Kingston, is apt to put the matter in a different light. One.place may

be hotter than another, but cool is a word which he never

On the whole, I think that the heat of Kingston, Jamaica, is more oppressive than that of any other place among

the British West Indies. When one gets down to the Spanish Coast, then, indeed, one can look back even to Kingston with regret.

uses.

DECREASE IN VALUE OF JAMAICA.

103

CHAPTER VII.

JAMAICA-SUGAR.

That Jamaica was a land of wealth, rivalling the East in its means of riches, nay, excelling it as a market for capital, as a place in which money might be turned ; and that it now is a spot on the earth almost more poverty-stricken than any other—so much is known almost to all men.

That this change was brought about by the manumission of the slaves, which was completed in 1838, of that also the English world is generally aware. And we may also say that the solicitude of Englishmen at large goes no further. The families who are connected with Jamaica by ties of interest are becoming fewer and fewer. Property has been abandoned as good for nothing, and nearly forgotten; or sold for what wretched trifle it would fetch ; or left to an overseer, who is hardly expected to send home proceeds—is merely ordered imperatively to apply for no subsidies. Fathers no longer send their younger sons to make their fortunes there. Young English girls no longer come out as brides. Dukes and earls do not now govern the rich gem of the west, spending their tens of thousands in royal magnificence, and laying by other tens of thousands for home consumption. In lieu of this, some governor by profession, unfortunate for the moment, takes Jamaica with a groan, as a stepping stone to some better Barataria-New Zealand perhaps, or Frazer River; and by strict economy tries to save the price of his silver forks. Equerries, aides-decamp, and private secretaries no longer flaunt it about

« ElőzőTovább »