« PreviousContinue »
be. For some years back, no exhibitions have taken place :--and perhaps it is just as well; for they sometimes gave rise to much riot and uproas, and were indeed a powerful temptation to pilferage and robbery; as every individual of each party must, for the honour of her party, and her own credit sake, obtain, somehow, a suitable dress, and corresponding ornaments. Indeed, it is astonishing how costly some of them appear equipped. The queen, as she is called, of each party, displays, in particular, a richness of dress, and a profusion of ornament, which would not disgrace even a theatrical empress. Some of these dresses would perhaps amount to little less than fifty or sixty pounds. This annual finery cannot on any account be dispensed with; if a negress were to go a!l the rest of the year in filth and raggedạess, still she must have her finę clothes for Christmas.
The negroes of Jamaica have no games nor pastimes, except such as have been described, whatever the Africans may have in their native country. Here, indeed, they have little time, whatever taste, skill, or inclination they might have for such amusements. The negroes in the towns, and indeed the Creole negroes in general, have imbibed from the whites a spirit of gambling; these are mostly such as are, or have at some time acted as, servants to gentlemen. They privately assemble and play at games of hazard with the dice, though there is a law against such species of gambling, and such negroes as are found assembled for this purpose, are taken up and imprisoned. At horse-races betting goes on among the negroes who are present, as generally as among the whites. The Creole negroes affect much to copy the manners, language, &c. of the whites; those who have it in their power, have, at times, their convivial parties; when they will endeavour to mimic their masters in their drinking, their songs, and their toasts ; and it is curious to see with what an awkward minuteness they aim at such imitations. The author recollects having given an entertainment to a party of negroes, who had resided together, and been in habits of intimacy for twenty years or more. After a variety of curious toasts, and some attempts to entertain each other with European songs, one, who conceived himself more knowing and accomplished than the 'rest, stood up and very gravely drank, “Here's to our better acquaintance, gentlemen !"
The negroes are astonished at the ingenuity of the Europeans; and there are some articles of their manufacture which appear quite unaccountable to them, as watches, looking-glasses, gunpowder, &c. &c. The author once amuşed a party of negroes with the deceptions of a inagic lanthorn. They gazed with the utmost wonder and astonishment at the hideous figures conjured
up by this optical machine, and were of opinion that nothing short of witchcraft could have produced so curious an instrument. They are also astonished at the means by which the Europeans can find their way to remote countries, such as Africa, &c. and guide their vessels through trackless oceans with as much certainty as they can travel over a few miles of well known country.-In short, they say that they require no greater proof, that the Almighty chose the whites as his favoured people, than that he has thus taught them every curious and useful invention, that he has taught them the use of books, that he has taught them how to make gun-powder to defend themselves, or to assail others ;--that he has taught them the way to make all kinds of merchandize, and pointed out to them the country were slaves were to be bought for such merchandize ;-in short, that he has taught them the method of sailing thither to fetch these slaves, for the purpose of cultivating sogar in their islands, a task which they themselves could never have performed. Such are the opinions which the poor negroes have of European invention, arts, learning, and dominion.
Different diseases, &c. to which the negroes
are subject.--Infantile disorders.-Various causes to which may be attributed the decrease of negro population in the West Indies.--Polygamy among the negroes, &c.
IT is not a little remarkable, that many of the diseases to which the white people in this island are subject, seldom or never affect the negroes; while the former are totally exempt from most of the disorders peculiar to the negroes,
upless communicated byinfection. But there are diseases, also, which are common to both, as pulmonary complaints, diseases of the liver, bowel disorders, dropsy, : common intermittent fever, &c. The negro is, however, exempt from the ravages and epidemic influence of the yellow fever ; nor is he subject often to consumptions, nor to the gout, and some other chronic disorders known to the Europeans. He is, however, peculiarly, subject to rheumatic affections, and to a disorder of the bones, which seems peculiar to him, called the bone.ache, appearing in round swellings about the joints. He is also more often subject to obstructions and inflammations of the bowels than the whites. Formerly there was a terrible dis
ease of the bowel kind, called the dry bellyache in this country, which was wont to sweep off great numbers of the whites, with a violence of pain and rapidity of execution which was truly terrible; but this scourge of the white people is now totally unknown. It would be a curious subject of inquiry to discover to what cause was to be attributed this disappearance of so formidable an enemy. The author has never heard any other hypothesis advanced on the subject than that it was owing to the atmosphere being less humid and better ventilated, from the country being now generally cleared of wood. Neither the small-pox nor the measles are native diseases of that part of Africa inhabited by the negroes, nor are some other diseases to which they are subject in the West Indies. But there are diseases peculiar to the Africans, which are of a more terrible nature. One of these is called the cocabay; a distemper the most horrible and revolting in its nature, and the more so as it is peculiarly infectious, and utterly incurable. The unhappy patient who is infected with it becomes soon changed in appearance, different parts of his body swell, he is covered over with a leprous scurf, his spirits sink into deep dejection, he loathes his food, and yet his miserable existence is prolonged for years, though he continually invokes death to come and put a period to it, and io his hopeless sufferings ; at least, this is the