Page images
PDF
EPUB

/

[ocr errors]

been told by many respectable gentlemen who were witnesses of what they related, that the negroes on the different properties throughout the island were every day perishing in numbers, partly from diseases (chiefly dysenteries) brought on by unwholesome food, and partly from absolule starvation! that the lowest price of a barrel of old decayed flour was ten pounds currency; that it was a great favour to obtain it at any price ; that a universal dearth of other provisions prevailed to a most awful and alarming degree ; and that the poor negroes were compelled to feed on the wild yam (a bitter and unwholesome root) and other wretched vegetables, which to their craving appetites were yet sweet and gratifying. At this time of general misery and want, there were some avaricious monopolizers, who, to the disgrace of humanity, it is said, kept back their flour with a view of obtaining a still higher price for it. As a base avarice often over-reaches itself, it will be gratifying to the reader to learn that one of those wretches kept a considerable quantity of this article on hand till the arrival of a fresh supply, which was generously sold by the importer at a moderate price; and, this man's flour being by this time nearly spoilt by keeping, he was under a necessity of selling it by public outcry, for about one twentieth of what he had expected to exact for it.

The negroes are at a loss what to think of earthquakes : they are often shrewd in their remarks and conjectures, but earthquakes and eclipses puzzle them. As to hurricanes, they naturally enough consider them as indications of the divine wrath, as punishments inflicted by heaven on the human race for their crimes and impiety; they have no idea of their arising from natural causes; the necessary war of the elements is to them an incomprehensible doctrine; and they would smile to hear the philosopher say, that, though these visitations inflict evil, they also impart benefit, by purifying the atmosphere of those pestilential vapours which would otherwise spread disease and death. They do not look much to natural causes and remote consequences. If the winged lightening which flashes across the fields should strike dead an oppressive overseer, they hail the circumstance as a just judgment of the Almighty; but they are guilty of blasphemy when they arraign him of partiality, if, when their day of rest returns, it should prove an unfavourable one, or when any other unforeseen disaster befalls them. But above all, they cannot reconcile it to fairness, that the supreme ruler of the universe should have shewn so marked a predilection in favour of the whites, as to give dominion to them, while he placed the blacks, who never offended him, in a state of perpetual bondage under them. Poor creatures ! they bave not yet learned the doctrine of unrepining submission to the will of providence ; though those who boast of being Christians, when they meet with little petty vexations, usually exclaim-" the Lord's will be done."

CHAPTER IV.

one.

Government, fc.--Laws.-Litigiousness, &c.

of the people.--Eeclesiastical affairs.-Parochial regulations.

THE government of Jamaica is formed after the model of that of the mother country.

It consists of the governor, council, and assembly, or house of representatives. The council may be considered as equivalent to the house of lords. The office of governor, or lieutenant-governor, of Jamaica, is a very lucrative and important

He is usually a staff officer, and has performed some acceptable services to the country and government, or is at least in high favour with the ministry. His office is two-fold, civil and military; he is both commander-in-chief of the forces, and chancellor. It may be asked, how it can reasonably be expected, that one who has been bred up in a camp, and educated merely for the military profession, and who has never, perhaps, thought of, much less studied, civil jurisprudence, can be at all competent 10 the functions of a chancellor? The court in which he presides, being a court of equity, not of law, legal professional talents are not so indispensably necessary therein ; besides that he has had the advice and assistance of the masters of chan

1

[ocr errors]

cery, who ought, of course, to be well acquainted both with the spirit and practice of that court. An anecdote is mentioned of Lord Chanceltor Hardwick, and a general officer, who was appointed as lieutenant-governor of one of our West India islands. The officer waited on his lordship, and expressed himself extremely embarrassed at the thought of his incompetency to fulfil the important duties of a colonial chancellor, which he understood was attached to his new appointment, and begged the favour of his advice and instructions how to act. His lordship said " that there was little occasion for detailed instructions ; that all he had to do was to hear patiently both sides of the question, and then to decide according to the dictates of his unbiassed conscience.” It was remarked of Lord Effingham, who died during his government in Jamaica, about fifteen years ago, that he was the most indefatigable and learned chancellor the island had ever known : his decrees gave universal satisfaction, and so prompt were they that, like the great Sir Thomas More, he seldom had many undecided cases on hand.

The governor's income may be about 10,0001. currency, or rather better than 7,000l. sterling ; the half of which sum arises out of his perquisites of office, and the pen or farm of which he has the use.

The council consists of twelve (including the

« PreviousContinue »