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THE WINDWARD ISLANDS.
THE PASSAGE OF THE WINDWARD ISLANDS.
In the good old days, when men called things by their proper names, those islands which run down in a string from north to south, from the Virgin Islands to the mouth of the Orinoco River, were called the Windward Islands -the Windward or Caribbean Islands. They were also called the Lesser Antilles. The Leeward Islands were, and properly speaking are, another cluster lying across the coast of Venezuela, of which Curaçoa is the chief. Oruba and Margarita also belong to this lot, among which, England, I believe, never owned any.*
But now-a-days we Britishers are not content to let the Dutch and others keep a separate name to themselves; we have, therefore, divided the Lesser Antilles, of which the greater number belong to ourselves, and call the northern portion of these the Leeward Islands. Among them Antigua is the chief, and is the residence of a governor supreme in this division.
After leaving St. Thomas, the first island seen of note is St. Christopher, commonly known as St. Kitts, and Nevis is close to it. Both these colonies are pros pering fairly. Sugar is exported, now I am told in increasing, though still not in great quantities, and the
* The greater Antilles are Cuba, Jamaica, Hayti, and Porto Rico, though I am not quite sure whether Porto Rico does not more properly belong to the Virgin Islands. The scattered assemblage to the north of the greater Antilles are the Bahamas, at one of the least considerable of which, San Salvador, Columbus first landed. Those now named, I believe, comprise all the West India Islands.
appearance of the cultivation is good. Looking up the side of the hills one sees the sugar-canes apparently in cleanly order, and they have an air of substantial comfort. Of course the times are not so bright as in the fine old days previous to emancipation ; but nevertheless matters have been on the mend, and people are again beginning to get along. On the journey from Nevis to Antigua, Montserrat is sighted, and a singular island rock called the Redonda is seen very plainly. Montserrat, I am told, is not prospering so well as St. Kitts or Nevis.
These islands are not so beautiful, not so greenly beautiful as are those further south to which we shall soon
The mountains of Nevis are certainly fine as they are seen from the sea, but they are not, or do not seem to be covered with that delicious tropical growth which is so lovely in Jamaica and Trinidad, and, indeed, in many of the smaller islands.
Antigua is the next, going southward This was, and perhaps is, an island of some importance. It is said to have been the first of the West Indian colonies which itself advocated the abolition of slavery, and to have been the only one which adopted complete emancipation at once without any intermediate system of apprenticeship. Antigua has its own bishop, whose diocese includes also such of the Virgin Islands as belong to us, and the adjacent islands of St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat.
Neither is Antigua remarkable for its beauty. It is approached, however by an excellent and picturesque harbor, called the English Harbor, which in former days was much used by the British navy; indeed, I believe it was at one time the head-quarters of a naval station. Premising, in the first place, that I know very little about harbors, I would say that nothing could be more secure than that. Whether or no it
sailing vessels to get in and out with certain winds, that, indeed, may be doubtful.
St. John's, the capital of Antigua, is twelve miles from English Harbor. I was in the island only three or four hours, and did not visit it. I am told that it is a good town—or city, I should rather say, now that it has its own bishop.
In all these islands they have Queen, Lords, and Commons in one shape or another. It may, however, be hoped, and I believe trusted, that, for the benefit of the communities, matters chiefly rest in the hands of the first of the three powers. The other members of the legislature, if they have in them anything of wisdom to say, have doubtless an opportunity of saying it-perhaps also an opportunity when they have nothing of wisdom. Let us trust, however, that such opportunities are limited.
After leaving Antigua we come to the French island of Guadaloupe, and then passing Dominica, of which I will say a word just now, to Martinique, which is also French. And here we are among the rich green wild beauties of these thrice beautiful Caribbean islands. The mountain grouping of both these islands is very fine, and the hills are covered up to their summits with growth of the greenest. At both these islands one is struck with the great superiority of the French West Indian towns to those which belong to us. That in Guadaloupe is called Basseterre, and the capital of Martinique is St. Pierre. These towns offer remarkable contrasts to Roseau and Port Castries, the chief towns in the adjacent English islands of Dominica and St. Lucia. At the French ports one is landed at excellently contrived little piers, with proper apparatus for lighting, and well-kept steps. The quays are shaded by trees, the streets are neat and in good order, and the shops
show that ordinary trade is thriving There are water conduits with clear streams through the towns, and every thing is ship-shape, I must tell a very different tale when I come to speak of Dominica and St. Lucia.
The reason for this is, I think, well given in a useful guide to the West Indies, published seme years since, under the direction of the Royal Mail Steam-Packet Company. Speaking of St. Pierre, in Martinique, the author says:
“The streets are neat, regular, and cleanly. The houses are high, and have more the air of European houses than those of the English colonies. Some of the streets have an avenue of trees, which overshadow the footpath, and on either side are deep gutters, down which the water flows. There are five booksellers' houses, and the fashions are well displayed in others shops. The French colonists, whether Creoles* or French, consider the West Indies as their country. They cast no wistful looks toward France. They marry, educate, and build in and for the West Indies and for the West Indies alone. In our colonies it is different. They are considered more as temporary lodging-places, to be deserted as soon as the occupiers have made money enough by molasses and sugar to return hone."
All this is quite true. There is something very cheering to an English heart in that sound, and reference to the word home-in that great disinclination to the idea of life-long banishment. But nevertheless, the effect as shown in these islands is not satisfactory to the
* It should be understood that a Creole is a person born in the West Indies, of a race not indigenous to the islands. There may be white Creoles, colored Creoles, or black Creoles. People talk of Creole horses and Creole poultry ; those namely which have not been themselves imported, but which have been bred from imported stock. The meaning of the word Creole is, I think, sometimes misunderstood.
amour propre of an Englishman. And it is not only in the outward appearance of things that the French islands excel those belonging to England which I have specially named. Dominica and St. Lucia export annually about 6,000 hogshead of sugar each. Martinique exports about 60,000 hogsheads. Martinique is certainly rather larger than either of the other two, but size has little or nothing to do with it. It is anything rather than want of fitting soil which makes the produce of sugar so inconsiderable in Domica and St. Lucia.
These French islands were first discovered by the Spaniards ; but since that time they, as well as the two English islands above named, have passed backwards and forwards between the English and French, till it was settled in 1814 that Martinique and Guadaloupe should belong to France, and Dominica and St. Lucia, with some others, to England. It certainly seems that France knew how to take care of herself in the arrangement.
There is another little island belonging to France, at the back of Guadaloupe to the westward, called MarieGalante ; but I believe it is but of little value.
Το my mind, Dominica, as seen from the sea, is by far the most picturesque of all these islands. Indeed, it would be difficult to beat it either in color or grouping. It fills one with an ardent desire to be off and rambling among those green mountains—as if one could ramble through such wild, bush country, or ramble at all with the thermometer at 85. But when one has only to think of such things without any idea of doing them, neither the bushes nor the thermometer are considered.
One is landed at Dominica on a beach. If the water be quiet, one gets out dry shod by means of a strong jump; if the surf be high, one wades through it; if it be