THE TRINIDAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Publication No. 126.
Dispatch from Sir Ralph Woodford, Governor of Trinidad to Earl
Bathurst, Secretary of State for the Colonies.
October 3rd, 1814.
Source :--Trinidad Duplicate Despatches, 1814.
MY LORD-The late eventful period will have been to
Your Lordship a sufficient excuse for my apparent omission
in delaying to acknowledge the Despatch No. 22 with which
Your Lordship honoured me on the iotl February both as
to the many more immediate claims on Your Lordship's
attention and the more important consequences to which
such events would lead in this, in common with all the other
Colonial Dependencies of Great Britain.
During the interval however that has elapsed, I have been
able to avail myself of the opinions I have received from the
Members of His Majesty's Council upon the important
matter to which Your Lordship's despatch relates ; and
I herewith enclose copies thereof as being the result of the
experience and observation and worthy of Your Lordship's
The advantage which Your Lordship contemplates in an
emigration of Spanish settlers from the Main cannot be much
relied upon, on account of the peremptory exclusion which
now exists of the slaves which might accompany them;
for although the duties of Herdsmen and Woodcutters are
there performed by the free peons or labourers and Indians,
all domestic offices, the labour on Sugar and Cocoa
Plantations is carried on by slaves.
The slave population being now positively limited and
the free Blacks being generally content to plant only as much
(if so much) as nature requires, an extended cultivation of
the cane can only be procured by the removal from worn
out lands in other Colonies of slaves already introduced
unless indeed captured and apprenticed slaves or indented
Negros may be found to answer the purpose of such
cultivation, which I very much doubt, if the indented
Negros are to be treated as free men.
Your Lordship will observe that with such a population
obligation to labor must be rendered imperious ; for as
twenty-five to thirty days labor would probably furnish
a slave with provisions for six months, his natural inclination
would lead him to be idle during the rest of his life and the
Planter subjected to his caprice would probably often become
his victim. With a free population however will have to be
introduced a new cultivation and provisions (particularly
rice) would have a fair chance of succeeding if undertaken
by such a population as that suggested in No. 5.
The rich and extensive pastures which the Island affords
make it a subject of great and general regret that out of
the two thousand head of cattle that were in the Grand
Savana at the capture of the Island not one remains. The
Spanish Government always encouraged by pecuniary
advances and distribution of cattle, these establishments
in their colonies so that on the Main 25 lbs of beef may now
be purchased for eighteen pence sterling while the like sum
and even two shillings are paid for one pound here. With
such advantages an emigration from that country cannot
be expected but a liberal purchase of cattle from the Spanish
Government and an engagement of some Spaniards fiom
the Main to superintend them, might be the means of restoring
this lucrative source of wealth and advantage to the Island.
The accompanying returns will exhibit to Your Lordship
a general view of the lands in grant and in occupancy either
under the English or the Spanish Government as also those
which have been abandoned. In order to enable Your
Lordship to judge of the several kinds of tenure I have annexed
translations of the Spanish and copies of the English grants.
Of the former the 2nd and 3rd class appear to me to stand
on no better ground than the occupiers of land under the
British Governors ; but it will be extremely desirable that
the Public interested should be relieved from any apprehension
upon these points. As of those classes the lands have generally
been in cultivation for many years I submit to Your Lordship
the propriety of my being furnished with an early authority
for their confirmation and at the same time for a similar
concession of the occupancies under the British Governors
in such proportions and with such reservations as Your
Lordship may deem proper and provided such a proportion
of the grant as may seem reasonable to Your Lordship shall
be in cultivation.
I should have carried the orders into effect which Your
Lordship has given me as to those cultivators who have
exceeded the license given by my predecessors and have
planted canes when the ground was granted for provisions,
but I have learnt since that many augmentations subsequently
made to the portion of land granted in the time of the Spanish
Government though applied to the purpose of raising provisions
have thereby enabled the grantees to employ the whole
extent of their former grant in the cultivation of canes. As
therefore the object of His Majesty's Government, which
I presume to have been to check the demand for slaves
prior to the abolition by limiting the cultivation of the grants
in occupancy to Cocoa and Provisions, has been thus defeated,
I have wished to await the result of Your Lordship's further
consideration of the subject before I carried those orders
into execution. As the slave trade is now abolished by
Parliament and cannot, as long as the registry is rigidly
enforced, be susceptible of any violation in this Island,
I submit to Your Lordship if it might not be advisable to
remove the restrictions which have hitherto been supposed
to attach to a grant of occupancy as to the nature of the
cultivation to which they are to be confined.
The extent of many of those grants made by my
predecessors far exceeds that which it would be desirable
to confirm. As the vast tracts of uncultivated land upon
the old estates have only tended to involve the proprietor
in considerable expenses in erecting works proportionate
to the extent of his domain which he would probably never
see entirely cultivated and thereby creating an irregular
cultivation and removing back settlers to an unnecessary
distance from the seat of government and adding to the
expense of the government and the individual.
The assistance in tools, cattle, mules, &c., afforded by
the King of Spain to the first colonists here, gave a spirit
to the enterprise of the first settlers which has now subsided
and which probably could be only revived by similar
encouragement. An extended cultivation of rice, with rice
mills erected by the government, saw mills which would
render the Colony independent of the United States in
point of lumber, the breeding of cattle and lastly the
cultivation of cocoa and provisions will as far as I can judge,
best suit the nature and the present state of this Island.
The few Chinese that remain (about 30) are useful as
fishermen, butchers, porkfeeders, &c. ; had they brought
with them their wives and families and their priests, they
would certainly have been of great use in supplying many
articles of domestic use and comfort. But I understand that
they did not show themselves to be well calculated for the
fatigues of husbandry nor has their disposition led them
to prefer that pursuit.
The cultivators of Hindostan are known to be peaceable
and industrious. An extensive introduction of that class
of people accustomed to live on the produce of their own
labor only and totally withdrawn from African connections
or feelings, would probably be the best experiment for the
population of this Island where the King has the power
of enacting the laws and regulations he may think fit for
their protection and support and where the soil is grateful
and probably corresponds much with that of their own
country. But without their priests, their chiefs (one of whom
it would be desirable should be acquainted with some one
of the European languages), their families, their artizans,
their plants and seeds, the success of such a plan could not
They might easily select a favourable spot for their
residences and if after some time they should find an
inclination to work on the sugar estates, the Planter would
have the best means of satisfying himself of the advantages
of free labourers over slaves. If sugar can be raised in the
East Indies at so much less an expense than in the West,
the best means would soon be in the power of the speculative
planter to commence an establishment by which from the
reduced capital that only would be necessary and the avoiding
the purchase of foreign provisions, lie would be able to
undersell every c01ompetitor whose produce might be raised
I may be permitted to avail myself of this opportunity
to observe to Your Lordship that mechanics of all kinds
are still required in this community and particularly a middling
class of persons for the inferior offices of the government.
There is no fit person to be found who will act as constable
for the salary of a dollar or a dollar and a half per diem.
I belie' c that some foreigner might be procured from the
West India Rangers if the Corps should be reduced in its
present number of lireigilners or Your I ordshlip would give
permission for them to be discharged.
I have the honour to be,
Your Lordship's obedient and hfithful Servant.