Friday, March 12, 2010

29Jan1872, Final Thoughts on Jamaica

ON BOARD THE " NILE " GOING HOME, January 29th, 1872.
—I carry away rather conflicting notions of the negroes. Sir J. C. Grant won't have it that they are lazy ; and indeed it does not look like it in Jamaica, where so many of the settlers do well, carrying their produce miles to market, and often looking thoroughly thriving and comfortable. On the other hand, in Barbados they don't work, if they can help it, more than three or four days a week on the estates, though this can only just keep body and soul together ; and they will get their wives to do even this for them if possible. These people don't seem to have any wish to make money ; so that they can just live they seem perfectly happy, and look so, it must be confessed. In St. Vincent we heard the same, and there they have a frightful amount of bankruptcy ; but I do believe a fair trial given in the way of promising higher wages to good continuous work might be found to have an effect. There is such jealousy on the part of the planters at the blacks becoming independent, that one does not easily hear more than one side of the question ; they delight in calling all the small settlers "squatters," though that word only properly applies to people living on patches of ground to which they have no title. I fancy that those who only own an acre do fall into lazy uncivilisd habits, being able to get a mere living out of the ground with little exertion, and nothing else ; but one can hardly doubt that those who own more are doing well, and improving, at all events in Jamaica. We saw one good stone house in two stories, with verandah, etc., on Mr. Cooke's estate, built and owned by a black man, and heard of similar cases. But tho' Mr. C. showed it off with some pride, he would not allow that one ought to take it as an encouraging sign ; but only as exceptional. As to old General Monro at Barbados, he is a frantic negro hater, abusing all squatters as lazy, selfish savages. When I remarked that one could hardly wonder at people's preferring independence when they could get it, and that in England one rather thought the better of a labourer who had raised himself, he said the negroes should have more public spirit, and should be willing to sacrifice their own interests to the general good of the Colonies ; and cited as examples they ought to rival the devoted public-spirited M.P.s in England ! ! ! (Not so very numerous either, I fear.) Now, with all my good opinion of Sambo, I think this is expecting a good deal of him, poor creature ; even granting that his continuing an estate labourer at a fixed wage to the end of time is the beau ideal for all parties.

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