DAY'S FIVE YEARS' RESIDENCE IN THE WEST INDIES..
THE author of this work is a man of much shrewdness and some vigour of mind, with a good deal of worldly experience, and, ap- parently, extensive travel. His intelligence is not, indeed, of the highest kind, nor his native oomprehension or his habitual training of the highest order. He is brimful of the prejudices of a cosmopolitan Sohn Bull ; that is, travel has rounded and enlarged his original likes and dislikes, without mollifying them. In his opinion, an American is about the worst epee- men of the genus Homo —meaning White man, both as re- gards manners and morals. Next to him comes, with some very few exceptions, the gentry class of the West Indies,— officials, doctors, and divines of the English Church. At some distance from these rank the lawyers, the Creole Whites, and the managers of estates ; followed pretty closely by store-keepers, White clerks, and so forth. In point of roguery, the Mulattoes would beat the Americans if they could, but they want the in- tellect; in the meaner passions, in presumption, in ignorance, and in bad manners, they "whip creations" bating the Negroes, Of the Negroes he entertains the worst opinion we have yet seen put forth by any man of " none," experience, and some literature. As regards intellect, their qualities are of the lowest order ; and their passions, where they rise above the animal, of the very vilest kind. Indeed, the redeeming feature of Jonathan's character is that be understands the Black and Coloured races, and knows how to keep them under.
The opportunity that enabled Mr. Day to form his conolusions
was a visit extending over five years which he made to the West India Islands. His starting-point was America ; but what object took him to the States, or subsequently to the West Indies, does not clearly appear. He visited nearly all our Colonies, except De- merara and Jamaica, and remained some time at each ; establishing himself at hotels or taking lodgings, and exploring the interior, it would seem,, for pleasure, curiosity, or a love of art. In addition to his free remarks upon the manners and characters of all classes, with illustrative aneedoteat Mr. Day furnishes many striking pic- tures of landscape and natittel phenomena, with some useful hints as to the climate. This, lie says, in many of the islands, and in well-selected spots, is not nearly so deadly as is supposed. " St. Vincent is certainly a noble island, as well as highly salubrious' but the windward side is to be preferred for health. The West India islands generally are by no means the bugbears they were formerly cousidered. The change is not in the climate, but in the habits of European, who, instead of going drunk to bed at two o'clock every morning, Dow retire to rest sober at nine or ten. But even yet many of the West India habits are so opposed to common sense, the wonder is that the people live half as long as they do, Sea-bathing is, from sharks and sea-eggs, dangerous; but almost every house has a cold bathing-tank, into which they get and soak, so that no re. action can possibly take place. A shower-bath, that obvious and cheap re- source in a hot climate, producing all the effect necessary for health, is al- most if not quite unknown. About Kingston there are a few tanks for sup- plying the sugar-works with water, and here a few of the Whites bathe. The habit of sitting in thorough draughts is also fatally prevalent. In St. Vincent I have suffered much more from cold, consequent on the imprudent habits of the people, than from heat. I believe that a rational person, with correct ideas on the subject of health, may live longer without sickness in St. Vincent than he would in England : but the people generally are ex- tremely ill-informed on most of the subjects that form part of the education of Europeans.
" It is a curious fact, however, that healthy as St. Vincent is, St. Lucia, only eighteen miles from the North point of the island, has the worst cli- mate in all the West Indies, Tobago perhaps excepted."
The windward side of St. Vincent's, and by parity of reasoning of all the other islands, is, however, unfavourable for commercial purposes, and therefore not so well situated for plantations. The sites of the temples of Mammon all over the world, indeed, are comparatively unhealthy ; and the West Indies is not yet a place of resort for the tourist or the invalid, though some spots are naturally well adapted for the purpose. To be sure, there wants a number of things to be supplied in the way of conveniences and passable roads.
Mr. Day has something of Cobbett's style about him, with a good many of Cobbett's prejudices. It is not that his statements, even when extreme, may be altogether untrue as regards the mere facts; but all the other and larger truths that should qualify them are left out. Annoyances are probably made too prominent--certainly enough allowance is not made for the peculiarities of the annoyances,. since every place has some. Above all, the comparisons instituted are unfair ; for it is unfair to expect from a petty island in au unpleasant and unhealthy climate, where people only go to. make money, the same agremens, the same polish or manners, and the same intellectual activity, that are to be found in an imperial country or the capital of a great empire. The noise and jabbering of' the Negroes is very offensive to Mr. Day ; but if be landed at any busy British seaport, and still more at any Irish, he would have noise enough, and touting enough, though it would probably take a dif- ferent form, and be less °abusive so far as familiar and ignorant impertinence was concerned. The Negro dances at night, with the unceasing tom-toms, is doubtless disagreeable to a would-be sleeper : but so is any place of great resort anywhere—the neigh- bourhood of the operahouse even ; though the noise would be dif- ferent—less barbarian, Mr. Day would hold. The picture of West Indian society is very dark, but probably true so far as it goes. " Smart " men, fraudulent dealers, pettifoggers fomenting litigation • Five Years' Residence in the West Indies. By Charles William Day. Esq., An• thor of " Hints on Etiquette." In two volumes. Published by Colburn and Co.
and promoting law for the sake of its costs, corrupt or negligent offi- cials, and downright swindlers, exist everywhere. In the West In- dies, the matter of colour and the familiar impertinence which seems inherent in the Negro blood add bad manners to bad conduct. But the question is, whether Mr. Day is correct in affirming that these are the staple of the community. According to his account, there is neither a gentleman, a well-informed, nor even an honest man in the West Indies, except the military, a stray lawyer, doc- tor, or official, with here and there a merchant or planter. The old race of West Indians has died out ; the better class of modern planters have left the country in disgust, or ruined ; and their suc- cessors in trade or agriculture are of an inferior class—mostly, he says, low Scotchmen, who are among his antipathies.
As regards the prospects of the West Indies Mr. Day agrees with those who predict the worst. The wishes of Lord John Russell and the Colonial Office are in the way of realization ; there will be a Black Arcadia minus the poetry and innocence. With some variety in mode, but with uniformity in result, Mr. Day pre- dicts their possession by America ; a series of Haytis ; the expul- sion of the Whites, and Black barbarism. His opinions as to the impending ruin are distinct ; his ideas as to causes are not always consistent, or thoroughly conclusive. In the islands he visited, which except Trinidad are more or less densely peopled, the rate of wages would not seem to be the only or the main difficulty. Wages do not appear to have been very exorbitant ; and as they varied in amount with the quantity of the work done and the kind of the labourer—the Negro getting more than the Indian Coolie—it may be assumed that there is some check upon the labourer. The la- bour difficulty seems to rest in its uncertainty ; the planter can never be sure of getting it when he wants it. The Negro, having enough for his semibarbarous wants in his provision-ground, and animated by the caprice of all savages, will only work when he pleases, and perhaps goes off at a most critical time. Want of capi- tal seems to have something to do with the planter's difficulties now. Estates are too frequently bought on credit ; so that the planter begins in debt and hampered. Even when this is not the case, there seems to be a general lack of means. The following, the only direct fact we remember of the kind, is dropped into a foot-note on Trinidad.
"This year 1848, (the worst for planters,) Signor Guisseppe, of Valsyn es- tate, made five hundred and seventy hogsheads of sugar. He paid higher wages than any other planter in the colony, and went to the extra expense of coal when the rainy weather did not permit the use of trash or mogass ' ; yet, after paying all expenses, he cleared sixteen thousand dollars, or three thousand two hundred pounds. Monsieur Bayer, whose estate is free from debt, has done as well. ' Ah ! but,' says the general planter, they had the capital to do so' : of course they had. 'They were not in debt at home, as we are' : of course not. It merely shows that with a reasonable capital people can profitably carry on sugar-making, but that they cannot do so without any capital at all.'
The description of the planters, in the close of this extract, ap- plies to all the Colonies so far as Mr. Day's evidence is concerned, with moral ill qualities superadded to pecuniary embarrassment. In fact, they hardly seem the people to carry on any kind of re- spectable business. A mode of payment adopted more or less in many places may perhaps have something to do with the unwil- lingness to labour continuously. The extract relates to Trinidad.
"Here the Negro labourers were still more insolent and insubordinate ; treating their employers as the party favoured by their labours. Never be- fore did I so wish for whip and brand, to punish these wretches. British legislation for the Colonies has indeed brought about these dire results. I found that some of the insubordination arose from the doubts of the Negroes as to whether they should ultimately get paid. It is nominally the practice to pay them every six weeks,—a period which is often allowed to run on to within a day or two of three months ; and as, ad interim, they have been compelled from want of cash to buy all their necessaries at a very high price, at the shop belonging to the estate, the balance that they have to re- ceive is often a very small one. The truth is, that in Trinidad the pay of i the Negro labourer is far too high—more than the sugar-planter can pay ; being our bits or one shilling and eightpence per diem, a house rent-free, and nothing in the shape of taxes. Efforts are being made to reduce the price of labour, but it is stoutly resisted. Hence the necessity of paying at long periods, and bagging as much as possible through the high profits of the shop. A field Negro seldom works more than five hours a day. In the boiling-house, during the crop season, it is different, as sugar-boiling is often not over until ten o'clock at night. Sometimes, indeed, they work as late as eleven ; but then those so employed get more pay. Judging from the inso- lent demeanour and scowling brows of the Negroes, I should scarcely be astonished if, when the estates are abandoned and these labourers are left quite to their own resources, they should rise and oust the Whites alto- gether."
Notwithstanding the writer's prejudices, perhaps in consequence of them, the book is amusing, although the diatribes against the Coloured races become wearisome from repetition. The writer has an artistlike eye for scenery ; and the descriptions of his many explorations and adventures, with the landscapes he saw, are good, —as witness this ride and road on the windward coast of St. Vin- cents.
"After passing three estates, we came into the wild country ; and wild in truth it was—the wildest that I ever saw. A mere bridle-path led along the brink of tremendous precipices, over a succession of enormously lofty headlands, with the sea leaping and breaking with a bellow of thunder im- mediately under us, though far, far below, for the greater part. These frightful precipices were partially concealed from us by a treacherous growth of under-brush, sea-side grape, with tendrilous and parasitical plants pen- dant from the loftier trees, as at intervals there shot up a gru-gru, or a gree-gree, another variety of the palm tribe. At any place, one false step of the horse would have led to the inevitable destruction of its rider. The shore below us was choked with enormous boulders of dark trap.
" Our road consisted of a succession of sharp ascents, up which our ani-
mals when the rider was ignorant what the
mals would scramble at a rate far too fast to be agreeable to the nerves, par- ticularly gained would lead to. The turns round huge trap rocks towering above our heads were very sudden, and the rocky descents down which we plunged frightfully steep,
and for the greater part of our ride the road was seldom visible more than a dozen yards before us. Occasionally a succession of sharp rocky descents brought us to the sea-shore, which was covered with black volcanic sand ; and we would coast along for a quarter of a mile, opening on our left wide valleys of gru-gru palms and wild plantains, and so bristling with bushes as to defy the power of man to penetrate to the interior. Many of the trees were choked in the embraces of a dark green parasite, a species of ivy, and the majority had a multiplicity of long tendrils pendant from them. The mountains of the Souffriere far above us, to which these willies led, were covered with clouds."
Mr. Day greatly prefers foreigners settled in the West Indies, to the British—that is, the foreign civilians. A specimen of the French officers he encountered at Guadeloupe resembled Mr. Angus Beach's picture more than Mr. Cobden's ideaL
"The White civilians were extremely polite to us, but the marine officers maintained a different deportment. The hatred of England, so fostered by the Prince de Joinville, broke out in a most unprovoked and uugentlemanlike man-
ner at the table-d'hete. detest your country,' said a captain of marines to my companion, Mr. W —; if any rembouleversement should take place— if we could but once get alongside your ships—then you should see !' Then came 'Waterloo,' (muttered,) 'Napoleon—St. Helena' ; all this accompa- nied by clenched fists, gnashed teeth, and other symptoms of impotent rage. He said that twenty-five years ago, in St. Helena, a sentry had called him a ' French dog.' I pretended not to hear or to understand ; but my com- panion got rather excited. It is but fair to say, that the rest of the company not only took no part in this, but showed by their looks how much they disapproved of it. Still, in this out-of-the-way place, it was not a pleasant position for two strangers to be in, as the same animus was sufficiently visible in another captain of marines, a great brute in manner and language. How- ever, the next morning, this man came up all smiles, offered his hand to me, and reverted to the plaisanterie of the evening before—a mauvaise plaisanterie, however. I affected to laugh the thing off, so the matter ended. The stand- ard expletives of French liberty, equality, and fraternity, rattled about our ears all meal-time like the Hailstone Chorus,' repeated ad nauseam, when- ever we sat down at table."
Our author is rather a judge of good living, and the subject is not omitted in his pages. Of the fruits, except the pine-apple, he thinks but little. The vaunted grenadine of Trinidad he found " a bad imitation of a strawberry." The fish is inferior to that of Europe Some of the game, if the lizard tribe and suchlike can called I ed game, are good when they can be got ; but the meat and poultry are scarce and bad. On the whole, the days of West In- dian joviality and hospitality are past. This is plantation fare. "The table of a bachelor-manager is seldom very amply supplied. Unless an agiouti, a guana, or an oppossum be shot, fresh meat is scarcely to be had. Fine fish, however, is plentiful, when the weather is calm enough for the boats to go`out and the boatmen of the estate are not engaged in making sugar. A fowl or a pig snag be slaughtered on the arrival of strangers; but salt fish and Irish Balt beef are the general pieces de resistance. Boiled yams, with a soup of pigeon-peas, or callalloo, a sort of spinach-soup, having in it ' tannier,' (a waxy species of potato, that sticks to one's teeth, and is therefore somewhat disagreeable to eat,) forms the customary dinner. Soft bread must not be looked for ; and large square captain's biscuit, an inch thick, baked in America, is the usual substitute. Madeira and bitters, as a provocative, and whisky or brandy and water, or as a dernier ressort rum, are the customary solvents. Eggs, albeit from the mode of cooking uneat- able to an Englishman, are plentiful enough. The eggs are never boiled, but merely put into hot water, and thus brought to table. Egg-cups there are none.'
The " tipple " is not bad. European productions are procurable at comparatively reasonable rates, and the native compounds are good.
" The West Indies is the country for drinks, and for the most extravagant intemperance. Imagine a draught of delectable compound, composed of brandy, rum, wine, and porter, with lime-peel and nutmeg. This compound is appropriately designated rattle-skull. In fact, there is a free and easy style of living here, worthy of Ireland in its palmiest days. Another potation, called cocoa-nut julip, cannot be passed over, being worthy of Ganymede. It is the water of young green cocoa-nuts poured into a glass goblet, holding at least half a gallon ; and to this is added the gelatine which the said nuts con- tain, sweetened, secundum artem, with refined sugar and Holland' gin. Without hyperbole, this is a delicious drink."