« PreviousContinue »
island at the expense of the government. The difficulty of traversing the country during the Maroon war pointed out the expediency of these improvements; and, besides this public expediency, these new tracts operate to enhance the value of the lands in their neighbourhood, and so encourage settlers to cultivate them. Along some of the public roads by the sea-side are planted rows of cocoa-nuts, which help to intercept the piercing beams of a hot vertical sun, and have a pleasing rural appearance. For the same purpose, a variety of fruit and other trees appear scattered throughout the towns. In the neighbourhood of the houses, the tall cabbage-tree or palmetto, the cocoa-nut, the elegant orange, or the shaddock, serve to adorn the premises, and refresh the eye of the panting inhabitant; and sometimes the umbrageous tamarind throws its spacious shade over the area of a dwelling, and yields, during the sun's noon-tide blaze, a sweet and ineffable relief. At a distance, and particularly from sea, this mixture of tropical foliage has a picturesque and pleasing effect.
Mr. Robertson, a surveyor of Jamaica, of considerable talents, assisted by an able and ingenious delineator (Mr. Robson), has lately published, under the sanction of the assembly of that island, three very complete maps of the three counties thereof. They are of a very large size, and comprize, besides the usual matter con
tained in maps, a delineation of roads, springs, mountains, and all the principal properties. No map was ever, perhaps, more complete and comprehensive; and though such a work is not of much moment to the world in general, yet to the Jamaica proprietor it must prove peculiarly interesting.
Soil.-Climate.-Seasons.-Diseases incident to the Whites. Precautions to guard against Sickness.-Earthquakes.-Hurricanes.-Description of one.-Opinion the Negroes have of those visitations.
THERE are a very great variety of soils in Jamaica. The principal are a rich brown loam, intermixed with flint stones; a brown loam, without stones, on a stiff clay; a deep and rich black mould; a kind of fuller's earth; and a species of brick mould, of a strong and firm texture. All these are considered as excellent sugar soils, and are also well adapted for coffee, which requires a deep and rich soil. There are besides these various other lighter soils, in which there is a considerable admixture of gravel, of small stones, and of marl; but these are neither adapted to the sugar cane nor to coffee; they, however, produce guinea-grass, and various roots, particularly the sweet potatoe, which flourishes best in a light superficial soil, as the guinea-grass luxuriates in a stony and rocky one. So variously, and capriciously as it were, are all these soils intermingled on some spots, that the author has known frequently four or five of them contained within the compass of one small field
of eight or ten acres. This was in a mountainous part of the island, where this diversity is chiefly observable; in the level parts there is a greater uniformity of soil. As the clays here are in generál very stiff, the planter finds it indispensably necessary, in tilling such soils, either to plough the land, or turn it up with the hoe (which is the most common method), some time previous to planting the cane, in order to have it mellowed and pulverised. But on the subject of the treatment and cultivation of the land here, something will be said in another place.
Jamaica being situated within eighteen degrees of the equator, its climate will naturally be expected to be of a degree of warmth considerably above temperate. In these tropical regions it has been wisely ordained by providence, that the heat, which would otherwise be insufferablė, should be tempered by appropriate causes. While the inhabitant of the mountains of Jamaica enjoys a purer and more wholesome air than he who resides near to the ocean, the latter is comforted and refreshed by the daily sea-breeze, which periodically sets in at a certain hour. So peculiarly grateful and welcome is this friend of man, that the poor half-parched seaman, when he eyes the distant rippling of the ocean, and the dark blue streak on its farthest verge, indicative of its approach, hails it by the healing appellation of the doctor. To speak poetically, health sits
perched on its wing, and joy and cheerfulness follow in its train. It is also observable, that, during the hottest times of the day, and the most sultry months, a succession of light flying clouds continually pass over and intercept the sun's fiercer blaze. It is cooler and more salubrious on the north side of the island than on the south. The medium temperature of the air may be said to be 75 degrees of Fahrenheit. During the hottest times, it is often as high as 96, and sometimes upwards of 100. In the mountains the author has, however, known it as low as 49.
There is little variation of the seasons here, except what is occasioned by the alternation of rainy and dry weather. In the months of December, January, and February, the air on the mountains is indeed sensibly colder, but this is chiefly observable in the morning; and at this time it is here so keen, at times, as to cause one to shiver, and almost wish for a fire. In the low valleys and level grounds this coldness is not so observable. Indeed, between the high mountain and sea-side air there is difference of many degrees, which is very perceptible on passing from the one to the other. July and August may be considered as the hottest months of the year. The rainy weather does not always take place in the same months. Sometimes the springrains do not set in till the beginning of June, and sometimes later; sometimes they begin in the