Page images

assembly and bulk of the inhabitants, yet the colony owes him many acknowledgements for his zealous and unexampled attention to the improvement of its militia, on which subject more will hereafter be said. On the appointment of his successor, the customary addresses were presented by the council, assembly, &c.—that from the former couched in adulatory strains; while the other was drawn out in respectful and friendly language, conveying thanks and eulogia on his military talents and exertions, but perfectly silent as to his civil government. Indeed, a fulsome indiscriminate strain of flattery, in such circumstances especially, would have been degrading. To make political truths or discontents subservient to political complaisance would have been a little too much in the jesuitical style.

There is an anecdote (I think related in the Spectator) of one of our smaller islands having been justly punished for this disregard to sincerity. On the demise of it's lieutenant-governor, the civil and military command fell upon the next senior officer (a lieutenant-colonel of a regiment), whose conduct excited great dissatisfaction among the inhabitants. Sensible that his government was likely to be but of short duration, he caused it to be intimated, that he was willing to make a voluntary resignation of his government, provided the inhabitants would compliment him with addresses expressive of their thanks for his mild,

equitable, and wise government, and of their lively regret at the prospect of his so speedy departure, &c. Glad to get rid of him on any terms, they were not backward in this. The colonel pocketed the addreses, returned gracious answers, went home to England, and, in a few months after, returned with a commission as full governor, obtained on the strength of those very addresses.


Perhaps the assembly of Jamaica never agreed more perfectly and uniformly with any governor than it did with the Earl of Balcarras, who filled that situation about twelve years ago. The inhabitants remember him with much affection and gratitude. They say, that, instead of wishing to carry any measures inimical to the sense of the assembly and country, he was ever zealous to hear their complaints, redress their grievances, avoid as much as possible all disagreements of opinion with the other branches of the legislature, and act rather as a sort of mediator between. them and the British ministry than as an imperative vicegerent.

The coins in circulation in this island are chiefly Spanish, with some Portuguese gold pieces, and a few guineas. As an inducement to the bringing of the latter to the island, they are made to go for about three shillings above the exchange; which is as five to seven, or an hundred pounds sterling to an hundred and forty pounds

currency. The Spanish gold coins are doubloons (16 dollars, or 51. 6s. 8d. currency); pistoles of four dollars, or 26s 8d. and half pistoles: the silver coins are dollars (6s. 8d.), half dollars, and quarter dollars, or maccaronies as they are here popularly called; pesterines and bitts, at 18. Sd. and 74d. (these are rare); tenpenny and five penny pieces; the latter is the smallest coin in use, there being no copper coin in circulation. The Portuguese coins are gold pieces, called joes, or johannoes, and half joes; these pass for 51. 10s. and 2l. 15s.

There is at present a much greater scarcity of specie in Jamaica than has been known at any former period. This is owing to various causes. In former times, the Spanish trade was peculiarly beneficial to this islaud, from the specie (chiefly dollars) which they were wont to bring to it for the purpose of purchasing cloth, hardwares, and other British merchandize. Little of this, comparatively speaking, is, however, now brought to it. As the Spaniards are not in the habit of purchasing so much of this merchandize; the balance of trade is therefore often in their favour.

One great drain of the specie here, is the custom-house, which annually sends home to England considerable quantities of dollars. Frequent other mercantile and other remittances are also sent thither in dollars; and the amount of the voJuntary subscriptions of this island, in aid of go-

[ocr errors]


vernment, viz. about three hundred thousand pounds, was chiefly remitted in dollars: these never returned; but transformed by Mr. Bolton's patent machine into British crown-pieces, or retaining their native shape at the value of four shillings and sixpence, continue to circulate inthe mother country. The Americans often receive considerable balances for their cargoes in cash. The author has often thought, and he presumes he is not mistaken in his conjecture, that a very considerable quantity of specie (silver coin) lies dormant in the hands of the negroes, many of whom, denying themselves the comforts they could afford to purchase, hoard up and bury their money, as they acquire it, with a surprising avaricious avidity.

The want of specie is here a very serious evil, as there are no banks (which is somewhat extraordinary, considering the great utility they would be of) to supply a circulating medium. During the season of crop, payments are often made in rum, which thus becomes a sort of circulating medium; but where rum is either to be paid, or received in payment, and a balance on either şide accrues, the difficulty is-how is this balance to be paid? for cash cannot be obtained. It is amusing enough to see how various accounts are settled in this way. A puncheon of rum will, perhaps, have passed through the hands of fifty possessors in the course of as many days, by

orders, indorsed over and over again, on the wharfinger, at whose wharf it is supposed to lie; when, perhaps, it has never been sent thither, or, if sent, seldom stirs from it all the time it is thus rapidly transferred from hand to hand. If there were abundance of specie in the country, or a circulation of good bank notes to supply its place, and short credits and punctual payments were more in fashion among the inhabitants, it would be of considerable advantage to them in all their dealings with each other. It would give additional confidence and facility to those deal ings, and it would tend to render more reasonable most of the necessary articles of life. A merchant or storekeeper here, in making his calculations of probable profit, pre-supposes that a certain portion of his customers are such as he will never receive a farthing from; he therefore adds, in proportion, to the price of his goods, so that the honest and punctual customer is made to pay for the delinquency or the incapacity of him who never pays, or cannot pay.


The principal taxes in this island are a polltax of ten shillings on negroes; a tax on cattle, horses, and mules; a tax called the deficiencytax, being a tax of twenty shillings per head on slaves and stock, but with this proviso, that every able-bodied man, whether proprietor or other person employed by him, who does duty in the militia, saves to the amount of fifty pounds of

« PreviousContinue »