Page images

walk or garden in the principal towns of the island, would be a most desirable thing to the inhabitants. There is something of this kind near to Kingston, called Harmony-hall gardens. For want of such a spot as an evening promenade, many of the ladies of these places chuse rather to take their evening airing in their carriages, than be exposed to the inconvenience of promiscuous company. Though such a spot would require some length of time to establish, yet the expence would be but trifling to a community. A piece of ground might be enclose for the purpose, which might be laid out in gravel walks, vistas of fruit trees, flowering shrubs, and plats of Bahama grass (a plant which spreads rapidly, and forms a smooth and beautiful sward); and, if possible, a stream of water conducted through its recesses, with a few pavilions and benches, conveniently placed, and adorned and perfumed with the native jessamine, or the granadillo. The price of the land for such a purpose would be incansiderable ; and, after having been laid out, the annual trouble of keeping it in repair could be performed by a white gardener, employed for the purpose, and a few negroes under him, for very little; and even that little might be defrayed, in time, by the sale of the fruits it produced. There is no liberal ininded inhabitant but would gladly join in such an undertaking, so conducive to health, and affording so delightful a recreation.


Planters.- Proprietors.----Attornies.. Over's

seers.-Book-keepers.The situation of these last considered.

THE number of white inhabitants in Jamaica may be from thirty to thirty-five thousand. These consist of Creoles, or natives, and Europeans, who may be divided into various classes, according to their situation, profession, and circumstances; as planters, merchants, shopkeepers, and those filling various other professions, trades, and occupations. Previous to entering upon a delineation of the general character of the people, and the state of society and manners here, it may not be improper to describe these in order.

The planters may be classed in the following order :-proprietors, attornies or agents, overseers, and book-keepers.

The resident proprietor of Jamaica, if a mar of education, talents and virtue, generally passes his time in a manner useful to the community, and honourable and pleasant to himself, being equally divided between the discharge of some public duty or trust, and an attention to his own private affairs, and occasionally enlivened with innocent amusements and liberal recreations.

This character may be considered as the most respectable in the island. But it cannot be dissembled, that there are too many, even of this respectable class, who are debased by ignorance, licentiousness, and low, frivolous, and groveling pursuits. If of the former character, he has a great latitude for doing good,—by setting a commendable example in his own person of that decorous respect for religious and moral duty, which is so little attended to in this country, by humanity and attention to his slaves, by an encouragement of merit in those in his employ, and by countenancing and promoting whatever may contribute to the real interests and substantial good of the country in which he has so much at stake.

The attorney is either a substantial merchant, or experienced overseer, to whom the non-resident proprietor commits the care and management of his estates. Sometimes both these are joined in the care of the same properties; and either or both has often the management of several estates belonging to different people. The merchantattorney manages the mercantile affairs of the estate, such as shipping the produce, &c. &c. and the planter the planting part. An attorney, who has ten, fifteen, or more estates under his care (which is by no means unusual), is in the way of realizing a rapid fortune ; his profits are considerable, having a commission of six per cent on all sales and purchases ; though a few are employed at a certain salary. Besides this, they have the privilege, if they chuse, of residing on one of the properties, and have the use of servants, &c. belonging to the property : besides various imprescriptive rights, and privileges, which it were useless, and invidious, perhaps, to particularize. Thus an attorney, if what is called a money-making man, and not burthened with an over-scrupulous conscience; soon rises to wealth, and becomes a proprietor himself, perhaps by purchase (or rather by buying and selling) from his lazy and inactive constituent; who, fascinated by a continual round of gaiety and pleasure in the British metropolis, will not take upon himself the trouble of managing his own property, because he cannot doom himself to a removal from the country of which he is so enamoured. Hence, too often, heavy debts and mortgages to mercantile houses in England, and even perhaps to his own faithful agent,+Not that the author would insinuate that integrity and faithful management are not often to be found in Jamaica agents, his experience evinces the contrary; but practices which prove that these are not always the guides of the conduct of many of these gentlemen, are certainly too common and notorious. If the attorney be also a merchant, this is a very convenient union of two occupations, which, if rightly managed, must be

productive of peculiar advantages to the holder, by enabling him to supply the estates under his care with a variety of necessaries, which he could not perhaps have so expeditiously disposed of, on the most reasonable terms. Princely fortunes have been made by men who have had a great number of attorneyships for several years.'s These attorneyships have sometimes lain in three or four different parishes, and at a distanco'of thirty or forty miles from each other. Quære whether one man was competent to pay proper attention to fifteen or twenty estates, so isolated and detached ?

The overseer is one who, serving a certain number of years as a book-keeper, is, at length, entrusted with the management of an estate, at an advanced salary. His duty consists in superintending the planting concerns of the estate, ordering the proper work to be done, and seeing that it is executed as it should. Under his controul and direction, but qualified by the authority and occasional intervention of the attorney or proprietor, are the book-keepers and tradesmen on the estate. The negroes, stock, fields, buildings, and utensils, are committed to his attention and care; bis situation is, therefore, an arduous and important one. It is the indispensable duty of the proprietor or attorney to watch attentively over the conduct of his overseer for some time, till he becomes convinced, by experience, that he

[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »