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and defendants, this offering being considered as an indispensable preliminary to the dispensing of justice. It is wonderful, however, with what patience they would hear each other's long harangues; though sometimes, where there was an irreconcileable difference of opinion between the judges, the court would break up with much clamour,

CHAPTER XXII.

Negro amusements.— Festivity and dissipation

at Christmas and harvest-home.-Gambling. --Ideas which the negroes have of the inventions, fic. of the Europeans.

one.

THE negroes have few amusements, nor have they much time to devote to amusement. Plays, as they call them, is their principal and favourite

This is an assemblage of both sexes, who form a ring round a male and female dancer, who perform to the music of their drums, and the songs of the other females of the party, one alternately going over the song, wbile her companions repeat in chorus. Both the singers and dancers shew the exactest precision as to time and measure. This rude music is usually accompanied by a kind of rattles, being small calabashes filled with the black hard seed of a plant which the negroes call Indian shot, or with the seed of the wild liquorice. Nigh at hand, this music is harsh and clamorous; at a distance, however, it has a not unpleasing sound. When two dancers have fatigued themselves pretty well, a second couple enter the ring, and thus the amusement continues. So fond are the negroes of this amusement, that they will continue for nights and days enjoying it, when allowed ; but their owners find it prudent and necessary to restrain them from it, excepting at Christmas, when they have two or three days allowed them. This and harvesthome may

be considered as their two annual fes. tiyals. Little do they consider, and less do they care, for the origin and occasion of the former of these festivals; it suffices that Buckera gives them their three days; though the law appoints only two, in consideration of the injury the negroes may sustain by three days and nights of unbounded dissipation, and of the danger, at such a time of unrestrained licentiousness, of riots, disorder, and even insurrection. On this occasion, these poor people appear as it were quite another race. They shew themselves off to the greatest advantage, by fine clothes, and a profusion of trinkets; they affect a genteeler behaviour, and more select and correct mode of speech ; they address the whites with greater familiarity; they come into their master's houses, and drink with them the distance between them appears to be annihilated for the moment, like the familiar footing on which the Roman slaves were with their masters at the feast of the Saturnalia ; to which a West India Christmas may be compared; pleasure animates them, and seems to throw a veil of oblivion over their cares and their condition; in short, they seem as a people recreated and renewed. Many of then, however, give way to excessive

many deaths.

intemperance, drink inordinately of spirituous liquors, which, with their nocturnal dances and debauches, often brings sickness on them, and is the cause of

Such is the severe exercise they undergo in their violent and athletic dances, such is their fondness for this pastime, such is the heedless manner in which they give themselves up to it during whole nights, even in the

open air; such is their inconsiderate dissipation and exposure of themselves in this celebration of Christmas, that the author has often thought, that if this unrestrained indulgence were permitted for two or three weeks together, instead of two or three days, it would sweep off a considerable portion of the negro population of the country. There is not so great a latitude for indulgence at harvest-home as at Christmas, as here the negroes are allowed only one day. After the riotous festivity of Christmas, the negroes experi. ence à degree of languor and lassitude, which for some days incapacitates them from much exertion or labour.

On new year's day it was customary for the negro girls of the towns (who conceive themselves far superior to those oo the estates, in point of taste, manners, and fashion) to exhibit theinselves in all the pride of gaudy splendor, under the denomination of blues and reds-parties in rivalship and opposition to each other, and dislinguished by these colours.

These girls were

1

wont to be decked out with much taste, some: times at the expence of their white or brown miss tresses, who took a pride in shewing them off to the greatest advantage. Their dress was of the finest muslin, trimmed with gold or silver, and ornamented with blue or red ribbons, according to their party; and gold necklaces, ear-rings, and other expensive trinkets, shone to advantage on their sable wearers. The most comely young negresses were selected, and such as bad a fine and tutored voice; they paraded through the streets, two and two, in the most exact order, uniform in their dress, and nearly of the same stature and age. They were accompanied by instrumental music; but they generally sung together different songs which they had learned for the occasion, or those which they had caught up from the whites, in a style far superior to the negresses on the plantations. Their appearance, in short, was splendid, elegant, and tasteful, such as would surprise and delight a stranger. At night they had booths erected, illuminated with variegated lamps, and embellished with transparencies and other devices: here they were flattered by the attendance of the white ladies and gentlemen of the place, who came to see this exhibition, and were regaled by a profusion of wines, liqueurs, and sweet-meats. This spirit of emulation, in these parties, for finery and shew, is, however, less prevalent now than it used to

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