Page images

make merry. Though the season of crop brings along with it many additional labours, yet is it the gayest and most cheerful throughout the year to the negroes. At this time they seem animated with a livelier flow of spirits, and merriment and song every where resounds : in short, a stranger, with the anticipation of being a witness of naught but depression and misery, would be astonished and delighted with this exterior shew of happiness, both at this time, and at Christmas, when they give way to unrestrained festivity. It is difficult to say, whether the juice of the sugar-cane has any effect in elevating their spirits; certain it is, that it has a very evident one in promoting their health. Indeed, so salubrious is this liquor, that not only the negroes, but all the different animals on the estate are fond of, and thrive wonderfully on it. The negroes are formed into different gangs, according to their age and strength. The first gang consists of the ablest hands (of both sexes) on the estate; the second' gang of less able hands, and boys and girls; and the third, or small gang, of children from eight to twelve years of age, who are employed in weeding the young plant-canes, and such other light work. The two principal gangs are followed by black drivers, as they are called, who superintend the work under the book-keepers, and carry whips, as instruments of occasional correction, which it is the duty of the book keeper, in the absence of the overseer, to see they do not unnecessarily or maliciously inflict, and only in a moderate dea gree. It were perhaps to be wished, that this instrument were laid aside, at least only used in cases of marked delinquency, and a mode of common correction, less revolting, substituted; for, however seldom this instrument may be used, it is in itself a disgusting and unnatural thing, and the very

sound of it must be the reverse of music to the ears of a man of sentiment and feeling.

The houses of the negroes are in general comfortable. They are built with hard wood posts, wattled and plaistered, and either roofed with shingles (wood split and dressed into the shape of slates, and used as a substitute for them), or thatched with the top of the sugar-cane; or, if at a short distance from the woods, with the mountain thatch. This latter, when neatly plaited, forins a very handsome roof; and is of so durable a nature, that, like the English thatching-reed, it will last for upwards of half a century. The furniture of this dwelling, which usually consists of three apartments, is a small table, two or three chairs or stools, a small cupboard, furnished with a few articles of crockery-ware, some wooden bowls and calabashes, a water-jar, a wooden mortar for pounding their Indian corn, &c. and various other articles. The beds are seldom more than wooden frames spread with a mat and blankets. The negro's common food is salt meat, or fish boiled with their vegetables, which they season highly with pepper. Those in better circumstances live in a very comfortable manner ; and all of them have it in their power, from the abundance of excellent vegetables which the soil yields, to subsist plentifully. They receive from their masters a weekly allowance of salted herrings; but there are few of them who depend solely on this supply of animal food. Tlrey rear abundance of poultry, hogs, goats, &c. but they are not allowed to keep horses and cattle. The common dress of the men is an Osnaburgh or check frock, and Osnaburgh trowsers, with a coarse hat, but no shoes ; so little are these in fashion among the negroes, that they are seldom worn, even when they dress out the most gaudily in other respects, nor are they usually worn even by gentlemen's servants. The common dress of the women is an Osnaburgh or coarse linen shift, a petticoat made of various stuff, according to their taste and circumstances, and a handkerchief tied round their heads. Both men and women are also provided with great coats (or crookas, as they call them) of blue woollen stuff. There are times, however, when the latter appear tricked off in all the expensive finery of gay and gaudy apparel, as will hereafter be described. The annual allowance of clothing which they receive from their owners, is as much Osnaburgh as will make two frocks, and as much woollen stuff as will make a great coat; with a hat, handkerchief, knife, and needles and thread to make up their clothes. This specific quantity an owner is obliged by law to give to his slaves, and many humanely allow them more.

Besides a small garden attached to his house, the negro has a ground of a quarter or half an acre, according to his industry, which is the principal means of his support. But many negroes support themselves otherwise; as by fishing, collecting and selling wood, grass, &c. and such as are tradesmen, by the sale of various articles which they make,



General character of the negroes-Various

tribes of them that come to the West Indies. - Toussaint L'Ouverture.— Anecdotes of their sagacity, fidelity, and acuteness of feeling, &c.

THE negroes are crafty, artful, and plausible ; not often grateful for small services; but frequently deceitful and over-reaching; of a more mild and pacific disposition than the NorthAmerican savage, and more timid and cowardly; not so easily roused to fierceness and revenge ; but, when once these passions are awakened, equally cruel and implacable: they are avaricious and selfish, obstinate and perverse, giving all the plague they can to their white rulers; little ashamed of falsehood, and strongly addicted to theft. Some of these dispositions doubtless originate in, and are fostered by, the nature of their situation and treatment; and would probably spring up in an European breast, if sunk and degraded by a state of servile bondage. The negro has, however, some good qualities mingled with his unamiable ones. He is patient, cheerful, and commonly submissive, capable, at times, of grateful attachments, where uniformly well

« PreviousContinue »