Page images
PDF
EPUB

a bequest to an individual of that class: this may be easily evaded by previous gifts, &c. The same attentions, the same education, is bestowed on children of colour, if the offspring of men of fortune, as if they were not an illegitimate race ; so that the boundary between them and the whites must at one period give way, or be broken down; either the free browns will be admitted to an equal participation of the rights and privileges of the whites, or they will, at some future day, enforce that admission. And yet so many of the men of wealth and influence in the island persevere with a blind and fatal obstinacy, to throw obstacles in the

way of increasing white population, by tbus discouraging matrimony:--strange delusion! Perhaps this narrow and illiberal policy would be less countenanced were all the great proprietors to reside in the island; for were they men of families, they would, of course, be anxious for tþeir posterity; they would then be bound by a double tie to provide against remote contingencies; they would look forward with solicitude to future probable events: theirts is a permanent interest; their agents have no other view, in general, than to make a speedy fortune, and return with it, if Europeans, to their native country.

But to return from this digression to the bookkeeper. The man who has received but little education, who has been accustomed from his earliest years to a rustic and drudging life, who,

P

in short, has directed the plough, or wielded the pitch-fork, in his native country, is not so much to be sympathised with; he, perhaps, feels little hardship in the exchange. But the young man, who has been liberally educated, genteelly bred brought up as it were in the lap of luxury and indulgence, ffattered with fond hopes and sanguine expectations, by the affectionate anticipa, țion of kind friends and anxious parents, must naturally, for a long time, find it a subject of sore and melancholy regret. Let this unhacknied youth be traced from bis first departure from his native country. Previous to his crossing the Atlantic, he is terrified and alarmed by exaggerated accounts of the insufferable heat of the climate, the unwholesomeness of the atmosphere, the fatal ravages of the yellow fever, the savage and treacherous disposition of the negroes, and the huge serpents and other venomous reptiles with which the country is infested. But he is at the same time instigated and encouraged by happier representations of the riches with which it abounds, the facility with which these were to be acquired-in short, the prospect of realizing, in a few years, the fortune of a Nabob! These partial representations and delusive promises are fostered in his breast. Full of hope, animated by expectation, he is eager to be freed from parental authority and academic thraldom, and to rush forward on the golden enterprize! But

4

soon the delusion vanishes--soon does he perceive the fallaciousness of his hopes; his disap. pointment is felt with the bitterest chagrin; with sorrow he recalls the blissful moments, when he emerged from the discipline of a school; his fond imagination cherished the pleasing prospect of a speedy period to his voluntary exile—when he should return, in the triumph of wealth, to his native country, and realize those schemes of happiness his fancy had pourtrayed! He wishes he could renew those happy days, 'when every passing moment yielded delight, when every pleasure was undashed with bitterness, and the heart spontaneously exulted with gay hope and unbidden joy! Placed as a book-keeper upon a Jamaica estate, and perhaps under a severe overseer, who rigidly exacts all the fatiguing duties of his situation, often does he seat himself under the soli. tary shade of the plantain, or beneath the welcome foliage of the friendly bread-nut, and give a vent to his full heart ! His active and brooding memory brings a thousand tender things in review; the innocent and playful moments of youthful gaiety, the indulgent fondness of dear parents, whom he is doomed perhaps never more to behold! and, above all, perchance, the image of some sweet amiable maid, who had stolen from him the first dawnings of affection, and in whose charming company he had passed many an envied hour! with whom he had often wan

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

dered along the meanders of some sweet stream, by the blue verge of the ocean, or through the mazes of sylvan retreats, while, at every look, his heart drank deep at the fountain of love! But when he thinks on the melancholy moment, when, with nameless sorrow, he bade adieu to those dear friends, his heart sinks within him, and he only finds. relief in a flood of tears ! He now finds himself placed in a line of life, where, to his first conception, every thing wears the appearance of barbarity and slavish oppression; he sees the negroes assembled in gangs in the fields, and kept to their work with whips, by black drivers, who certainly are not always the most gentle of the human race; and he is apt, at times, to assimilate his own situation with that of his enslayed fellow-creatures. He contemplates the profession with a species of horror, and considers himself as doomed to a kind of banishment and bondage. This first impression is natural to a young mind, unaccustomed to such scenes of life, and before his minuter observation can contemplate the reverse of the medal, and discover, in the condition of the negro slave, many comforts and ameliorations which he could not for some time think compatible with such a situation. It is a novel scene to him, and the melancholy state of his own mind leads him to the most sombre conclusions, casting a dark shade on every thing around him, and conyerting every

[ocr errors]

thought into gloom, dislike, and suspicion. He seenis to himself a forlorn and destitute being, pitied, despised, and neglected by the ignorant and unfeeling, as a sort of menial dependent, while a vast ocean separates him from friends, relatives, and the companions of his youth. Happy, if in this despised situation (though, in truth, it ought to be respected) this young man should possess strength of mind, and consolations and resources within himself, to support him under his hardships and mortifications; happy, if bereft, as he in a great measure is, of the sweets of social intercourse, his mind should have imbibed a taste for literary amusement. By reading, his leisure and solitary hours might be cheered and consoled; but he has little time which he can devote even to this comfort; even Sunday, al. lotted by heaven as a day of rest to man, he cannot always call his own; and it would be sacrilege to allow books to interfere with the business of the estate ! But too many, if they have the misfortune of being placed under harsh, vulgar, and unfeeling overseers--if they have no resource in friends, or other professions; if they want that strength of mind, and resource of consolation in literary taste above mentioned, are apt to sink into an involuntary torpor, and disesteem of themselves; they lose, by degrees, that pride and energy of character, which ought to accompany us through ủife, as a shield against meanness

« PreviousContinue »