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of the luxuries of civilized society; and I doubt whether even Mr. Wilberforce himself, with all his benevolence, would not allow a negro to be quite rich enough, who can afford to pay thirty pounds a year for the hire of a kept mistress.'—Lewis, p. 217-219.
The mention of negro sicknesses in the above passage reminds us of an amusing story told by Mrs. Carmichael, and which we must quote:—
'We were better situated at Laurel-Hill than most planters, as regarded the sick list, because Dr. C. lived upon the estate; but notwithstanding this, they sometimes were cunning enough to baffle massa, misses, and the doctor too. Let one instance suffice :—one woman, C, came perpetually up, morning after morning, to the doctor; her pulse was good, her skin cool, not the least appearance of sickness about her, excepting her tongue—and that tongue certainly did astonish the doctor, for such a tongue he had never either read of or seen. Every morning it was of a perfectly different colour; all the browns, greens, and shades of white had been exhausted, when, to the horror of the doctor, a perfectly bright blue tongue was thrust out. He was now convinced how matters stood; so taking a wet clean towel, he told her to put out her tongue: she rather objected to this ordeal, but the doctor insisted upon it; and having washed the dye off, C. showed as clean and healthy a tongue as possible, and for a good while after she did not skulk from work, for the good negroes quizzed her unmercifully. Many such cases are continually occurring on every estate. It ought to be remarked, that skulkers never appear on a Sunday, holiday, or on their own day; or, if skulking the day before, they uniformly recover on those days.'—Carmichael, vol. ii. p. 202-4.
Had we been treating, in a serious manner, of the great subject to which this sensible woman's work refers, we should have made much more use of her interesting and instructive volumes, which, describing things much more recently than Mr. Lewis's Diaries, would of course carry more immediate weight with them. But, as we said at starting, there is now no practical good to be expected from the expositions of a thousand witnesses. Jacta est alea. We therefore apologize to Mrs. Carmichael for dismissing her labours with a notice extremely inadequate to their merits.
The good-natured Lewis made it his business to converse freely with his negroes, and nothing can be more interesting than the accounts of their native African superstitions, which he jots down from their own lips—his stories of their duppy, or ghosts, in particular: but we shall stick to prosaic realities. Nay, of the numberless highly-amusing stories of actual Jamaica life, introduced m the course of his volume, we shall content ourselves with one specimen—namely, the adventurous career of a certain (Imppily so called) Plato, a runaway negro, captaiu of a troop of banditti, established among the Moreland mountains, at no great distance from the plantation of Cornwall:—
'He robbed very often, and murdered occasionally; but gallantry was his everyday occupation. Indeed, being a remarkably tall athletic young fellow, among the beauties of his own complexion he found but few Lucretias ; and his retreat in the mountains was as well furnished as the harem of Constantinople. Every handsome negress who had the slightest cause of complaint against her master touk the first opportunity of eloping to join Plalo, where she found freedom, protection, and unbounded generosity; for he spared no pains to secure their affections by gratifying their vanity. Indeed, no Creole lady could venture out on a visit, without running the risk of having her bandbox run away with by Plato for the decoration of his sultanas; and if the maid who carried the bandbox happened to be well-looking, he ran away with the maid as well as the bandbox. Every endeavour to seize this desperado was long in vain: a large reward was put upon his head, but no negro dared to approach him ; for, besides his acknowledged courage, he was a professor of Obi, and had threatened that whoever dared to lay a rmger upon him should suffer spiritual torments, as well as be physically shot through the head.
'Unluckily for Plato, rum was an article with him of the first necessity; the look-out, which was kept for him, was too vigilant to admh of his purchasing spirituous liquors for himself; and once, when for that purpose he had ventured into the neighbourhood of Montego Bay, he was recognized by a slave, who immediately gave the alarm. Unfortunately for this poor fellow, whose name was Taffy, at that moment all his companions happened to be out of hearing; and, after the first moment's alarm, finding that no one approached, the exasperated robber rushed upon him, and lifted the bill-hook with which he was armed, for the purpose of cleaving his skull. Taffy fled for it; but Plato was the younger, the stronger, and the swifter of the two, and gained upon him every moment. Taffy, however, on the other hand, possessed that one quality by which, according to the fable, the cat was enabled to save herself from the hounds, when the fox, with his thousand tricks, was caught by them. He was an admirable climber, an art in which Plato possessed no skill; and a bread-nut tree, which is remarkably difficult of ascent, presenting itself before him, in a few moments Taffy was bawling for help from the very top of it. To reach him was impossible for his enemy; but still his destruction was hard at hand; for Plato began to hack the tree with his bill, and it was evident that a very short space of time would be'sufficient to level it with the ground. In this dilemma, Taffy had nothing for it but to break off the branches near him ; and he contrived to pelt these so dexterously at the head of his assailant, that he fairly kept him at bay till his cries at length reached the eRrs of his companions, and their approach compelled the banditti-captain once more to seek safety among the mountains.
'After this Plato no longer dared to approach Montego town; but
still still spirits mast be had:—how was he to obtain them? There was an old watchman on the outskirts of the estate of Canaan, with whom he had contracted an acquaintance, and frequently had passed the night in his hut; the old man having been equally induced by his presents and by dread of his corporeal strength and supposed supernatural power, to profess the warmest attachment to the interests of his terrible friend. To this man Plato at length resolved to intrust himself: he gave him money to purchase spirits, and appointed a particular day when he would come to receive them. The reward placed upon the robber's head was more than either gratitude or terror could counterbalance; and on the same day when the watchman set out to purchase the rum, he apprized two of his friends at Canaan for whose use it was intended, and advised them to take the opportunity of obtaining the reward.
'The two negroes posted themselves in proper time near the watchman's hut. Most unwisely, instead of sending down some of his gang, they saw Plato, in his full confidence in the friendship of his confidant, arrive himself and enter the cabin; but so great was their alarm at seeing this dreadful personage, that they remained in their concealment, nor dared to make an attempt at seizing him. The spirits were delivered to the robber: he might have retired with them unmolested ; but, in his rashness and his eagerness to taste the liquor, of which he had so long been deprived, he opened the flagon, and swallowed draught after draught, till he sunk upon the ground in a state of complete insensibility. The watchman then summoned the two negroes from their concealment, who bound his arms, and conveyed him to Montego Bay, where he was immediately sentenced to execution. He died most heroically; kept up the terrors of his imposture to his last moment; told the magistrates who condemned him that his death should be revenged by a storm, which would lay waste the whole island, that year; and, when his negro gaoler was binding him to the stake at which he was destined to suffer, he assured him that he should not live long to triumph in his death, for that he had taken good care to Obeah him before his quitting the prison. It certainly did happen, strangely enough, that, before the year was over, the most violent storm took place ever known in Jamaica; and as to the gaoler, his imagination was so forcibly struck by the threats of the dying man, that, although every care was taken of him, the power of medicine exhausted, and even a voyage to America undertaken, in hopes that a change of scene might change the course of his ideas, still, from the moment of Plato's death, he gradually pined and withered away, and finally expired before the completion of the twelvemonth.'— Lewis, pp. 88-94.
We must now draw to a conclusion. Mr. Lewis returned to England in 1816, but went back to Jamaica the following year; and he left the West Indies after his second, as after his first visit, fully convinced that from the time when the slave-trade ceased,
the the interest of the planters themselves, to say nothing of humanity, was sufficient to insure for the negroes, with very rare exceptions, good treatment in every essential respect. He will not, however, leave the subject without expressing his conviction that no proprietor could be perfectly sure of his instructions being carried into full effect unless he occasionally visited his possessions in person; and he gives the following striking testimony from the experience of his own people on Cornwall:—
'My father was one of the most humane and generous persons that ever existed; there was no indulgence which he ever denied his negroes, and his letters were filled with the most absolute injunctions for their good treatment. When his estates became mine, the one upon which I am now residing was managed by an attorney, considerably advanced in years, who had been long in our employment, and who bore the highest character for probity and humanity. He was both attorney and overseer; and it was a particular recommendation to me that he lived in my own house, and therefore had my slaves so immediately under his eye, that it was impossible for any subaltern to misuse them without his knowledge. His letters to me expressed the greatest anxiety and attention respecting the welfare and comfort of the slaves ;—so much so, indeed, that when I detailed his mode of management to Lord Holland, he observed, "that if he did all that was mentioned in his letters, he did as much as could possibly be expected or wished from an attorney;" and on parting with his own, Lord Holland was induced to take mine to manage his estates, which are in the immediate neighbourhood of Cornwall. This man died about two years ago, and since my arrival, I happened to hear, that during his management a remarkably fine young pen-keeper, named Richard, (the brother of my intelligent carpenter, John Fuller,) had run away several times to the mountains. I had taken occasion to let the brothers know, between jest and earnest, that I was aware of Richard's misconduct; and at length, one morning, John, while he blamed his brother's running away, let fall, that he had some excuse in the extreme ill-usage which he had received from one of the bookkeepers, who " had had a spite against him." The hint alarmed me; I followed it, and nothing could equal my anger and surprise at learning the whole truth.
'It seems, that while I fancied my attorney to be resident on Cornwall, he was, in fact, generally attending to a property of his own, or looking after estates of which also he had the management in distant parts of the island. During his absence, an overseer of his own appointing, without my knowledge, was left in absolute possession of his power, which he abused to such a degree, that almost every slave of respectability on the estate was compelled to become a runaway. The property was nearly ruined, and absolutely in a state of rebellion; and at length he committed an act of such severity, that the negroes, one and all, fled to Savannah la Mar, and threw themselves selves upon the protection of the magistrates, who immediately came over to Cornwall, investigated the complaint, and now, at length, the attorney, who had known frequent instances of the overseer's tyranny, had frequently rebuked him for them, and had redressed the sufferers, but who still had dared to abuse my confidence so grossly as to continue him in his situation, upon this public exposure thought proper to dismiss him. Yet, while all this was going on—while my negroes were groaning under the iron rod of this petty tyrant—and while the public magistrature was obliged to interfere to protect them from his cruelty—my attorney had the insolence and falsehood to write me letters, filled with assurances of his perpetual vigilance for their welfare—of their perfect good treatment and satisfaction; nor, if I had not come myself to Jamaica, in all probability should I ever have had the most distant idea how abominably the poor creatures had been misused.
'I have made it my business to mix as much as possible among the negroes, and have given them every encouragement to repose confidence in me; and I have uniformly found all those, upon whom any reliance can be placed, unite in praising the humanity of their present superintendent. Instantly on his arrival, he took the whole power of punishment into his own hands: he forbade the slightest interference in this respect of any person whatever on the estate, white or black; nor have I been able to find as yet any one negro who has any charge of harsh treatment to bring against him. However, having bran' already so grossly deceived, I will never again place implicit confidence in any person whatever in a matter of such importance.'
In all this we lind nothing to wonder at. Absenteeism all the world over is the greatest of evils that can befall a labouring population; and it is impossible not to admit that if the West India proprietors had generally visited their estates in person, and endeared themselves, as Lewis did, to their dependents, it would have been a hard matter indeed for all the fanatics, backed Jay all the liberals, and all the East India sugar-dealers, to consummate their ruin. These admissions, however, in no respect touch the real national question as to the West Indies. The proprietors there were no worse than many hundreds of the Enghsh and Scotch, many thousands of their Irish compeers; and we only hope these latter personages will at length take warning by what has befallen the extravagantly abused, though not guiltless colonists. It is most lamentable to observe the extent to which aristocratical emigration is at this particular time going. We happen to know that the letters of credit granted to English continental travellers by the two principal banking-houses in the west end of London, exceed this year, both in number and value, by more than a half, those of any preceding year!
There are so many verses in Mr. Lewis's volume, that we ought