Q U A R TR R
VOLUME 3 : MBER 3 A
Designed and printed at the Government Printing Office, Trinidad. B.W.I.
Reprinted from a copy in the collections of the
University of Florida Librairies
Reprinted by permission of
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES, Kingston, Jamaica
A Division of
KRAUS-THOMSON ORGANIZATION LIMITED
Nendeln/Liech tens tein
Printed in Germany
EDITORIAL NOTE 121
CITIZENSHIP IN AN EMERGENT NATION
R. K. Gardiner 123
THE ARCHIVES OF JAMAICA
Clinton V Black 130
RESEARCH AND THE LAY SCHOLAR
M. W Barley 136
THE APPRENTICESHIP PERIOD IN JAMAICA, 1834-1838
D. G. Hall 142
Dantes Bellegarde 167
WEST INDIAN REPTILES
Garth Underwood 174
ON BEING A WEST INDIAN
H. W Springer 181
CARIBBEAN QUARTERLY, VOL. I, Nos. 1-2
The Editors received numerous requests for Nos. 1 and 2 of Vol. I of
Caribbean Quarterly, and would be most grateful if any readers who have either
of these to spare would be willing to return them. Forty-eight cents will be paid
for each copy. It will be understood that many libraries are anxious to get them
in order to have a complete series of Caribbean Quarterly.
PHILIP SHERLOCK, University College, Jamaica, B.W.I.
ANDREW PEARSE, Caribbean Quarterly Editorial Office, La Fantasie Road, St. Ann's.
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, B.W.I.
VOL. 3. No. 3
Single copies can be obtained in the British West Indies from booksellers or from
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Trinidad and Tobago
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of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.
Rawle Farley, Regent Street, Belize, British Honduras.
Stanley Sharp, Extra Mural Department, St. John's, Antigua.
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THE picture on the cover, "Hombres Caragando" is a reproduction of a linoleum-cut
done by Raphael Tufifio, a Puerto Rican artist working for the Division of
Community Education of the Department of Education of Puerto Rico. It is one
of a series which was widely distributed in that country illustrating the various
situations in the story of the film "El Puente" (The Bridge) which tells of the
struggles of a rural community in the mountains of Orocovis whose members were
able to build a bridge over a dangerous river which split the community physically
in two. The makers of the film also embodied the linoleum cuts into the film itself,
passing from the naturalness and flux of motion-picture photography into the still
yet graphically intense expression of the various crises through which the story
moves. The picture in question shc- s men of the village carrying down to the
river an old motor-car chassis bought cheap in the town to serve as main support
of one span of their bridge.
We hope our readers will take the picture of men labouring to build a bridge
as a symbol of an editorial intention that Caribbean Quarterly should enable people
living in the non-British Caribbean to know more about us, and we about them.
Puerto Rico and Haiti particularly are countries which in quite different ways have
much in common with us. Together their population is twice our total.
Puerto Rico is facing the problems of a growing population pressing against
limited resources by introducing energetic economic measures, but also through
community development and extension programmes; she is making decisions and
adjustments in moving from a colonial relationship to a great power having a
different culture and language towards a status satisfying her political and cultural
ambitions, and at the same time preserving an economically advantageous position
vis-a-vis the United States. Both of these situations have implications of the
greatest interest for us.
The Haitian experience is of equal interest and possibly greater relevance.
Little is known in the rest of the Caribbean of the intellectual and artistic movement
which has been growing throughout the present century. Its voice has been the
newspapers of Haiti and small editions of novels, poems and critical essays in
French which were hardly distributed elsewhere in the Caribbean except perhaps in
the French possessions. Yet one only has to read these writings to realise that
the Haitians, in illuminating what they thought to be exclusively Haitian problems,
have precisely defined social situations, conflicts and patterns common to other West
Our growing contact with these two territories has led to the point where leading
scholars and writers in both are realising the value contributing to an English-
language journal for the whole area, and it seems that our publication has begun
to awaken an interest in our territories and their problems amongst Haitians and
Puerto Ricans which has been lacking heretofore. We are therefore very glad to be
able to publish in this issue an article by the well-known Haitian historian Dantes
Bellegarde, and we look forward to publishing further articles from both these
Mr. Robert Gardiner's "Citizenship in an Emergent Nation" is published
partly because it is an exhortation which, owing to certain similarities in contem-
porary developments in West Indian and West African Colonies might have been
spoken in these islands, but particularly since it expresses something of the "ethos"
which it was intended should inform the work of the Extra-Mural Departments
of the University Colleges which have been established in the colonies during the
last few years. Mr. Gardiner is now Permanent Secretary to the Department of
Social Welfare in Gold Coast; he was formerly Director of Extra-Mural Studies of
the University College of Ibadan.
Citizenship in an Emergent Nation
R. K. GABDINER
A Lecture delivered before members of an Extra-Mural Residential
Course at Oshogobo, Nigeria, on 12th January, 1053, by the Director
of Extra-Mural Studies at the University College of Ibadan, West
Africa. Printed by kind permission of the author.
FROM the newspapers and pronouncements of Nigerian leaders, one gets the
impression that the supreme duty of every Nigerian citizen is to join the fight for
Self-Government. This is a noble and worthy aspiration but, nevertheless a
commonplace one. I have felt it myself in connection with my own country, the
Gold Coast. I have come across it in my study of dependent territories in other
paits of Africa, the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Middle East. It is noticeable
in the attitude of the small powers which often expresses itself in resentment against
domination by the great powers. It is inherent in the determination of the great
powers to defend their independence and what they vaguely describe as their "way
of life." Put in this way, the nationalism of Nigerian citizens becomes part of a
world-wide struggle which is legitimate, human, and justifiable. It at once
strengthens the case of the nationalist and affords a perspective.
Commenting on the Preamble to the constitution of India, Professor Ernest
Barker expresses pride that the people of India should begin their independent life
by subscribing to the principles which are usually considered western but have
become in fact more than western. This is significant because sometimes the desire
to get rid of political domination creates the impression that nationalists wish to
reject all foreign ideas. World history and recent events show that independence
leads to voluntary acceptance of world ideas. If I could trust my own interpretation
of the language of Nigerian politics, I should conclude that Nigeria aspires to join
the community of nations and to share the ethos of our age.
Citizenship involves the theory and practice of politics. Some schools of thought
regard the study of politics as part of moral philosophy. Ancient Greek writers like
Plato and Aristotle regarded it as 'moral philosophy' applied to the life of the whole
community. "Morality" it has been said, "is the very sinews of politics, being in
truth nothing more than the conscience of a nation striving to express itself in state
action. This definition of politics needs special emphasis in Nigeria today, because
too often political discussions concentrate on the mechanics of Government to the
exclusion of the purposes of Government. We need, in any country, not only to
study the Government as it is-that is, to study political science-but also to look
beyond the existing framework towards Government as it might be, as it ought to
be-that is, to study political philosophy-A good constitution only provides an
opportunity for the good life; but the realisation of the good life depends on the
vision of citizens and their recognition of the ends of Government,
In the struggle for self-Government it is necessary sometimes to hate oppression.
Indeed it has been said that "Nothing great has been accomplished without
passion." And yet passion has its dangers. In periods of tension we may adopt
methods which may serve immediate ends. An instance of this is seen in the
continued persuasion of our followers to believe the worst about our enemies. Such
intolerance deliberately fostered against enemies, or in some cases against all aliens,
ultimately does harm to the whole community. It destroys sympathy even for our
fellow citizens. What we are apt to forget, under such circumstances, is that
'hatred, even of the objectively hateful, does not produce that charity and justice
on which a Utopian Society must be based' I call attention to this to make you
aware of the relationship between means and ends in the struggle for self-
government or independence.
The choice of means is not as easy as some of us sometimes assume. Hobhouse
has the following guidance to give us.
"The most difficult problems of politics arise when a claim based on solid and
substantial grounds clashes with another claim no less solid and substantial in itself.
In such cases, the statesman shows his wisdom by a synthesis in which the sub-
stance of each claim is preserved, but its spirit transformed by relation to the
common good; the politician shows his cleverness by a compromise in which enough
is given to each claimant to keep him quiet without reference to the permanent
effect on the common welfare; the strong man shows his weakness by shutting the
door on inconvenient facts.
"Finally, to all progressive statesmanship, to all wise guidance of any people
at whatever stage, the general principle of harmony propounds a very simple and
comprehensive rule. Deal with the disharmony which faces you-He who removes
one course of conflict, without exciting another, opens a new opportunity without
closing an old one, lifts the weight of a repression without weakening respect for
law, enlarges the scope of harmony however far he may be from realizing all its
There is another danger to responsible citizenship which nationalism tends to
bring to the fore. All nations old and new should be aware of it and should guard
against it. There is a tendency not only to refuse to admit unpleasant truth, but to
shut our eyes to inconvenient facts about our country. We have to remind ourselves
here about the relation between political theory and moral philosophy. There are
people, perhaps even in this course, who have the impression that one has to be
clever or cunning to be a successful politician. This is a very short-sighted view and
soon many will realise that the easiest way to forfeit the confidence of a community
is to deceive it. Even with all the modern instruments of mass communication and
propaganda only those nations which have enjoyed the leadership of people
endowed with sufficient moral courage to speak frankly and to give full account
even of national catastrophes have passed through trials successfully. It is wise to
remember, when facing distasteful facts about ourselves or our country that 'the
truth may sometimes hurt us: it can never harm us'-
Sometimes we wonder why seemingly powerful nations appear to resent
criticism, and are ready to suppress internal criticism ruthlessly. The dictatorships
are sometimes described as if they have a monopoly of this weakness. But the
spread of the fear of communism in the non-communist world seems to sap away
the confidence of the democracies and to drive them into suspicion and intolerance.
In dependent territories, especially during the period of agitation for self-govern-
ment, a similar tendency develops. Those who refuse to accept the over-simplified
explanations and solutions offered by popular leaders are considered traitors. Fellow
citizens-who refuse to share in fanatical outbursts, are labelled "fifth columnists",
"Uncle Toms" "Stooges" &c. In doing this we ignore the warning that "in
matters which are really important we must eschew labels as a snare of the devil."
The labels may affect those to whom they are applied directly and immediately;
but they have more and far-reaching effects on the community as a whole. We may
very rightly state that the fear of uncomplimentary labels is the beginning of social
cowardice, civic hypocrisy and insincerity.
Circumstances are changing. West African leaders must be able to mix on
equal terms with their opposite numbers in other parts of the world. In other words,
they are to be accepted socially and officially as equals. If we persist in popularising
the stereotypes listed above we shall add immensely to the difficulties of our new
and inexperienced leaders. It will obviously not be possible for West African leaders
to develop self-confidence and dignity if they are nurtured in an atmosphere of
distrust and suspicion. In this connection the sullen silence of the representatives of
some of the fear-ridden countries of our day should be a warning to us. It seems to
me that the most important task confronting emergent nations, equal to winning of
independence, is that of earning the good-will and association with dignity of the
outside world. In this, every one of us has a part to play, and for most of us that
part may very well entail, first, a rigorous self-examination to see where we have
slipped into this fatal habit of slipshod criticism and suspicion of those to whom
we have entrusted our hopes of good government; followed by a realistic under-
standing of the problems which they face in this period of development. The
problems belong to all of us, however varied our responsibilities towards them
I hope the time will never come when Nigeria, or any other part of West Africa,
will be driven by suspicion to recall its representatives from foreign conferences or
to disown its leaders in the midst of serious negotiations, or, again, to consider
association with foreigners as a criminal action. These possibilities may seem remote
and far-fetched. One may be tempted to state that they will never occur here in
Nigeria or any other part of West Africa. But to state such a thing is unreasonable
and dangerous. For situations which are conveniently fostered and exploited by
politicians sometimes get out of control and engulf innocent victims and those
whose guilt may not be noticeable. Indeed, some sentiments which in other respects
are virtuous, such as loyalty to one's community, can be misdirected into
destructive channels. It is significant that the methods and policies of Gandhi and
his colleagues who believed in non-violence frequently contributed to the occurrence
of communal strife in India. A contemporary Indian writer has remarked that there
appears to be "a stern historical logic, terrifying and chastening at the same time,
in the coincidence between the victory of the movement which Mahatma Gandhi
had led and his own death. Suspicion, distrust and violence encouraged by the
nationalist movement cost Burma her cabinet and s)me of her capable leaders in
one fell swoop. The history of the French revolution and in recent times, the
Bolshevik revolution show that movements initiated by idealists can be vitiated by
tactics and methods devoid of principles and turned into tyrannies. Here, again,
the lessons are ready for us to learn, if, as citizens, we will read with understanding
what history has said down the ages.
For a healthy social and political development we need to recognize the idea
of "an adversary in good faith." No co-operation is possible among fellow citizens
and between citizens and foreigners so long as each party refuses to admit that the
other party can disagree without being treacherous, vicious or wicked. Our most
earnest desires for the welfare of our community may be wrong, and especially may
our consideration of means or methods be divergent. There is plenty of room for
differences of opinion even in nationalist hopes. In other words, nationalism does
not render individuals or people omniscient and infallible. When we lose sight of
this fact we drift into authoritarianism.
The forces which hold African society together rest in the traditionally
recognized functions of different groups. This system of kinship rights and
obligations has its advantages. But its greatest disadvantages are inertia and, in
some cases, blind resistance to change. For modern life, especially at this transitional
stage, consists of innovations and adaptations. Thus one of the primary duties of
citizens of nascent nations is to organise for change-to prepare the masses for
change. We are told that legislation has failed to put an end to the caste system in
India and that reformers have had to fall back on the age-old system of enlightening
It is the duty of every citizen to take an interest in public affairs and to see
that public opinion is organised not only during elections but all the time. This is
where the ability to form and direct groups acquires special significance. I believe
that the unpaid organising secretaries of Extra-Mural classes are gaining an
experience which will be invaluable to political parties and the general political
progress of Nigeria. Without well-informed public opinion and the recognition of
the principle that officers of the state and elected representatives are responsible
and accountable to the people, parliamentary democracy does not make sense.
Ignazio Silone tells a story which sums up some of the problems of societies,
emerging from feudalism, like ours.
'In an Italian village, a Squire set his great dog at a woman coming out of a
Church. The woman was badly mauled and her clothes were torn to bits. When
action was taken in court against the squire, no one could be found to give evidence
and no Lawyer was prepared to plead for the woman. But the Squire had a Lawyer
and many bribed witnesses who were prepared to perjure themselves. Everybody
in the village had known the facts about the case, and pitied the woman, but the
Magistrate-a most worthy, honest person in private life-decided the case in
favour of the Squire and ordered the woman to pay the costs.'
This is an example from a society which is not directly controlled by an alien
power and yet its members are not free. The citizen of a colonial territory cannot
consider his struggle for freedom over with the over-throw of foreign rule.
Man throughout the ages has given as much thought to the provision of good
systems of government as to the establishment of a system of up-bringing which
will produce good citizens. Sir Richard Livingstone's approach to current affairs
and adult education from the point of view of a student of the ancient classics
re-emphasises this point. The type ot education envisaged by the Greeks and other
thinkers is that which enables the individual to have a "vision of greatness." The
education of citizens includes the cultivation of virtue and honour. One is compelled
to observe that some of the abuses such as bribery which now plague us are
symptoms of the disease we seek to cure rather than the disease itself.
Some of you may have come here thinking that some knowledge of political
theory, or information about the Nigerian constitution or even facts about the
policies of your elected representatives and the developments taking place in
Nigeria, will assist you in becoming good citizens of a great country. All these can
help you in a way; but the decisive factor is the material out of which the citizenry
of Nigeria is cast. "On a group of theories," it has been said, "one can found a
school but on a group of values one can found a culture, a civilisation, a new way
of living together among men."
Moral values and personal relations call for ideas and expressions which are
sometimes considered sentimental-"love for justice, instinct for kindness and faith
in truth." Yet these are fundamental concepts. If we possess these qualities we
cannot neglect patients in hospitals; or accept a bribe rather than ensure the road-
worthiness of a vehicle; underestimate justice in the interests even of the weakest
and the poorest. It seems to me that the most striking weakness: of those who
trample on the rights of the weak and helpless is their lack of imagination. Such
men are incapable of putting themselves in the place of the helpless. I believe that
ideas like freedom and justice are meaningless cliches in a society where people
have no charity, or have a restricted idea of it in terms of tribe, language-group,
region, race, or nation.
One can trace a rough line of development in most nationalist movements.
First there is a period of acquiescence in which dependent peoples seem
to accept alien rule. This is followed by a period of doubt during which resentment
and criticism grow more vocal. It is during this period that the final liberations
are reared. We must not forget this. The men who, in the old Legislative Councils
of Nigeria, started questioning the absolute rule of Britain were not only the fore-
runners but the moulders of the outlook of the present generation. It is interesting
to compare the ages of our ministers with the ages of the leaders of the 'young
Turks' or with those of the contemporaries of Lenin during the 1917 revolution.
If these young men had started the movements themselves they would not have
lived long enough to see the final outcome of their efforts. The citizen of today
ought to remember what he owes to the past and to the elder statesmen of Nigeria.
The next stage in the nationalist movements may be described as a period of
transfer of power. This has not always been a peaceful process-but-thanks to
the experience of Great Britain in dealing with United States, with Canada, India,
Pakistan-we here in West Africa seem to have secured recognition of our rights
almost without bloodshed. The pattern of development is also almost identical.
Poverty, crop failures, famine, ignorance and disease are all attributed to the
deliberate politics or failures of the alien government. The transfer of power
followed by the drawing up of plans for radical changes. It looks as if all new
countries need the sobering revelation of a "Bombay plan" to enable them to start
a realistic development programme.
Up to this stage it is assumed that transfer of power will mean freedom for
all and that local initiative and local responsibility will provide services and
amenities which have been considered unobtainable. Any attempt to question the
basis of these assumptions is considered undesirable. Fortunately this phase does
not last very long. A second or a third budget session challenges the new cabinet.
This is the period of disillusionment for those who have believed in the promises of
costless, and painless revolutionary changes. This is the time for re-examination of
the past, and admission of errors in forecasting. This is also the time when leaders
may be tempted to resort to evasive excuses, shifting of blame and the distortion
of facts to exonerate the party in power. This is the testing time of responsible
citizenship and statesmanship. It was at this time the Bolsheviks launched their
New Economic Policy. India and Pakistan are passing through this phase. The
price they are paying for maturity is still unknown; but it is a price every nation
In a Parliamentary Democracy, instead of a small community in which leaders
and supporters are in frequent contact, representatives become remote and
impersonal. But tribal loyalties are not easily discarded by members of new nations.
Thus there is a temptation to consider loyalty to the new state as artificial and
without traditional basis. The degree of national strength in the emergent African
states will depend upon the integration of the interests of the component tribes and
The new loyalty which is needed in a democracy is not based on blood but on
the principle of the inherent rights of the individual. It is, of course, meaningless
to talk as if the individual has rights outside society. On the other hand, it is
equally invidious to contend that the individual has rights only as a member of a
particular communal group. The second alternative leads to communalism or the
acceptance of the principle of "E Pluribus Unum" The value of the individual
in this connection should be distinguished from the numerical evaluation of a
herd which attaches great significance only to purity and members of large groups.
In a free society the individual ought to feel that certain things cannot happen to
him as a person, not because he is a member of this tribe or that group. Where
people feel secure under the protection of the law there will be no need for them
to seek re-assurance in numbers and ancestral relations. This notion of the inherent
rights of the individual is regarded as one of the answers to India's communal
problems and the only basis on which general nationality can be reached.
In a nation-state "the masses and man become one" Opinions and passions
become the targets of vote catchers. Those who seek to attain power do not always
appeal to reason but resort to questionable methods. Some men act on the
assumption that the memory of the public is so short that if a lie is big enough and
repeated often enough, it tends to be accepted by the people as truth. The
temptation to abuse power and to cheat increases when one has to deal with an
anonymous body which is easy to sway and has no definite views. It takes a strong
character to deal honestly with crowds. It is for these reasons that some of us
believe in the lectures and discussions of Extra-Mural classes. They afford us an
opportunity to exercise our minds in intelligent listening and marshalling of facts.
Although truth ultimately prevails, the immediate harm done to an uncritical
society should be avoided wherever possible.
In our country everything in print carries the weight of certified truth. It is
impossible to exaggerate the responsibility of the press in such a society. A unique
civic duty imposes itself on all educated members of predominantly illiterate
societies. Those who own the press and those of us who read it have it in our power
to educate public opinion towards noble ideals or to lead it astray.
We cannot escape the judgment of history-for we are making history-and
already it is not difficult to see some of the issues on which judgment will be passed.
In a world bitterly divided by prejudices, especially racial prejudices, we have
risen in spite of malicious misconceptions. We, the people of Africa, have had all
the odds against us. Future generations will wonder whether our group experience
made us sensitive to the suffering of others. Our Self-Government or independence
will mean nothing to mankind if it does not enable us to set some moral example
to the rest of the world. We are the offspring of the abolitionist movement which
appealed to the conscience of the world.
Finally, some of you may feel that only prominent citizens and politicians can
influence the course of public affairs. This is untrue. The Roman writer Seneca
has this advice for all of us.
"Even if others shall hold the front line and your lot has placed you among
those of the third line, from there where you are do service with your voice,
encouragement, example, and spirit; even though a man's hands are cut off, he
finds that he can do something for his side in battle if he stands his ground and
helps with the shouting. Some such things you should do. If fortune has removed
you from the foremost position in the state, you should nevertheless stand your
ground and help with the shouting, and if someone stops your throat, you should,
nevertheless, stand your ground and help in silence. The service of a good citizen
is never useless; by being heard and seen, by his expression, by his gesture, by
his silent stubbornness, and by his very walk he helps."
The Archives of Jamaica
CLINTON V BLACK
Archivist to the Colonial Archives, Jamaica
IT IS A CURIOUS FACT that although reports on the archives of Jamaica and
other British West India islands have been appearing at roughly ten-year intervals
since 1906, the nature and importance of the collections are still little understood.
This is perhaps the more curious since these reports were often strong indictments
of that very lack of understanding, appreciation and care with which West Indians
have for too long treated their records.
One of the earliest of these reports is by Prof. Charles H. Hull of Cornell
University, published by the Royal Commission (1910) on Public Records.
Prof. Hull noticed that there was no "repository of documents originating in various
departments of government"-in other words, no established Archive Department.
The lack of arrangement and proper storage made investigation difficult. Here
is a typical example: "The Records of the Island Treasury, said to run far back,
were stored in a damp cellar. Mr. Andrews, the Treasurer, believed them to be
'wholly formal accounts' It is not clear on what information this opinion was
The second report was the valuable Summary Inventory, compiled in 1916
by Luis M. P6rez, then Librarian of the Cuban House of Representatives, which
was included ten years later in the Carnegie Guide to British West Indian Archive
Materials, in London and in the Islands, for the History of the United States, by
H. C. Bell and D. W. Parker. His account is more depressing. In his section
on the archives of the Grand Court, Chancery and Vice-Admiralty Courts, he writes:
After the earthquake of January, 1907, these records, consisting of several
hundred large folio volumes, were transferred to the Wolmer's Free School
building, and in 1910 to the first floor of the eastern block of public buildings,
King Street. On being transferred to the Wolmer Building the volumes of
old court records were completely disorganized, and on the second removal
to the new Court-House they became still more confused. As many volumes
were very old, the covers and first and last leaves were in a great many
instances torn off. Time and dampness had already done their share in
destroying the volumes, when the two removals came to their aid as new
factors of destruction.
Yet this does not tell the whole story. The volumes, about three thousand
in number, were placed in a small room and piled up to the ceiling, upon rude
shelves without the least semblance of order. The heavy volumes so arranged
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SIGNATURE OF CUTHBERT COLLINGWOOD (1750-1810)-One of Nelson's
companions throughout his career-it was he who assumed command at
Trafalgar on Nelson's death.
Court of Vice-Admiralty, Prize Papers.
AL NOM tDI- LA RLPIUI1IQUE.
CO, M %I I I ( ION C I IL.F.
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71'1: //zv/y) I
(or disarranged) on the shelves proved too heavy for them, and during an
earthquake shock the shelves broke down at the farther end of the room, so
that more than one-half of the volumes fell one upon another in a huge pile.
By the time Senor P6rez did his survey, the ancient records of the Treasury
(to which Prof. Hull had been denied access on the ground that they were 'wholly
formal') had disappeared, together with early proclamations and the records of
In 1930, Prof. Richard Pares's Public Records in British West India Islands
was published in the Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research. Conditions
of storage, preservation and availability had deteriorated still further by then. In
Jamaica the Vice-Admiralty records were impossible to describe; it was scarcely
possible even to look at them for they lay in a mound of which only the edges
could be examined. The Chancery records were in no sort of order, "but they
at least were open to investigation on the principle of lucky dips." Documents
mentioned in previous reports were by this time no longer to be found.
Prof. Pares found that the records of Barbados had suffered more than those
of Jamaica from the destructive agencies of fire, storm and vermin; "in the last
of these classes", he writes, "we may include a certain Governor of the last century
who threw great quantities of accounts into the sea. All the early chancery and
vice-admiralty records seem to have disappeared in this way; indeed, I was told
that we even owe those series that remain to the admirable insubordination of a
Registrar, who intercepted some of the tumbrils loaded for destruction and surrepti-
tiously unloaded them at the back door of the public building."
Prof. Pares saw enough of West Indian archives, however, to be greatly
impressed by their historical significance and this, in view of the appalling lack
of interest he found wherever he went, moved him to conclude his report with
the hope that the Public Record Office in London would assume the responsibility
at least of filling up the gaps in its own series of documents from the series existing
in the islands.
That was 1930. A change was shortly to take place which was to have a
beneficial effect on record preservation in Jamaica. In 1935, Mr. Agnes Butterfield
inspected the record room of the Court House, already described by Senor Perez.
The only change she found was that the shelves had been repaired and the books
restacked on them, in the process of which hundreds of volumes, including many
early ones, mentioned as extant in the Guide, had been lost! The room was being
used by the watchman of the Supreme Court building, and a space seems to have
been cleared for his table and chair. He could often be seen, his chair tilted back,
his heels on the backs of the old volumes, entertaining his friends.
The unbound papers, mainly those of the Vice-Admiralty Court, were stored
in a similar room across the passage. This was shared by the cleaning staff who
used it as a dressing and lunch room (Mrs. Butterfield often found the evil-smelling
remains of a meal wrapped up in some Vice-Admiralty document) and as a store
room for their dripping mops and buckets. Bicycles were also kept there and
all departments used the room as a dumping place for unwanted articles, including
packing cases, iron piping, cement and paint pots, even the mudguard and
steering wheel of a car had been flung into the room. Originally the documents
had been tied up in brown paper parcels, but in time these wrappings had burst,
precipitating the records on the floor where they became hopelessly mixed up with
the accumulated rubbish.
The attention of Government was drawn to this state of affairs and
Mrs. Butterfield secured permission to make an attempt to put the records in order.
After great effort and much devoted work on her part these records were removed
early in 1936 to the Old Armoury Building in Spanish Town, and the office, later
to be known as the Colonial Archives, was born. This was a great step towards
the better care and establishment of the island's archives. The next event of
importance was the transfer of the accumulation to the custody of the Institute of
Jamaica in 1940, followed in May, 1948, by the generous grant of 518,000 by the
Trustees of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, for the development of the
At approximately the same time Mr. Clinton Black was awarded a British
Council scholarship for a course in Archive Administration in London. It was
intended that he should return to Jamaica and work with a visiting, senior archivist,
but it was found impossible to secure the services of such a person and with due
reference to the Carnegie Corporation a revised scheme was developed involving
a visit to Jamaica by Sir Hilary Jenkinson, Deputy Keeper of the Public Records
of England. Sir Hilary arrived in February, 1950; Mr. Black who had returned
in December of the previous year, was with him throughout his survey and was
appointed Institute Archivist in April, 1950.
The first expenditure under the grant covered the Deputy Keeper's visit; this
was followed by the appointment of a clerical assistant, and, in January, 1951,
by the appointment of Mr. Geoffrey Yates, M.A. (Oxon), as Deputy Archivist.
Before his departure Sir Hilary Jenkinson prepared an interim report for the
Institute's Board of Governors on the subject of the Spanish Town archives. His
full Report on the island's records as a whole, taking into account both ancient
and modern and embodying recommendations for their proper establishment and
care, was presented to Government in April, being published by the Government
Printer early in the following year.
What are these records at the Colonial Archives? They are mainly the older
judicial records of the Colony (substantially the same accumulation that was
transferred through Mrs. Butterfield's efforts, with certain notable additions) being,
as a result, but a small portion of the records of public administration as a whole.
They consist of a large number of volumes and some thousands of packets of loose
papers, and may be roughly described under the headings:-
(a) Common Law Records of the former Grand Court (now the Supreme
Court) from 1680 to the later 19th century; including series of Judg-
ments; Hurry and Assignment Books, Minute and Order Books, &c.,
together with more than 50 volumes of Judgments of the Assize and
(b) Records of the Court of Chancery, 1672 to 1882, including three series
of General Proceedings, Decrees, Master's Reports, &c.
(c) Records of the Vice-Admiralty Court of the 18th and 19th centuries;
consisting of about 2,800 packets of unbound papers, being chiefly the
records of Prize Cases, but including Oyer and Terminer Records, as
well as Minute Books, Account Books, &c.
(d) Other archives from various sources. These include the Minutes and
Journals of the Council, 1661 (transcript) to 1854; some 175 files of
Despatches (Jamaica, British Honduras, Turks and Caicos, and the
Bay Islands) 1726 to 1898; a certain quantity of Parochial Records (Tax
Rolls, Vestry Minutes, &c.) dating from 1735; a number of Civil Status
Registers, 1693 to 1925, deposited by the Island Record Office; and
some 380 volumes of the older records of the Treasury Department,
This is a considerable accumulation of records and yet it represents only a
fraction of the whole, and, as far as the particular groups are concerned, only a
part of what should have survived. It is known that the Court of Chancery was
established in 1663, yet only two decaying fragments of volumes from the
17th century remain today. The Vice-Admiralty Court also had a long history,
from the early days of English settlement to the end of the 19th century, and
yet, although a great mass of its records survives, it represents but a small part
of what once existed. The records now begin quite late, about 1740, and are very
scanty until 1776. A considerable proportion still awaits final arrangement; there
is a large repair problem with peculiar local features yet to be faced; and, in short,
these archives are still far from being in a state which would make it possible for
a considerable quantity of them to be made generally available for public inspection.
Archives as a rule have two functions, the primary being to assist Government
to run efficiently. To put it in its lowest terms, the preservation of proper records
saves time and money. There are records of legal and financial importance which
must be safely kept or the Government may be involved in costly claims and
litigation. But, with the passing of time, the immediate usefulness of these records
as tools of Government grows less and they acquire a broader historical value.
This is the secondary function of archives and our second good reason for keeping
The historical significance of the Jamaica records is great. It was because
of this significance that the compilers of the Carnegie Guide prepared so considerable
a volume upon these and the other West Indian archive materials for American
history, recognizing that "the history of the British Empire in America and of its
administration cannot be rightly understood except by taking into the student's
view not the continental colonies alone, but the whole series of dependencies,
continental and insular alike;" furthermore, the commercial relations between the
island colonies and those of the mainland form an important part of the economic
history of the latter. The relationship between the Jamaica records and the
corresponding groups in the Public Record Office, London, is a close one, both
collections being mutually complimentary. It was because of this relationship that
the compilers of the Guide combined in one volume the treatment of the Island
Archives with the related material in the Public Record Office.
Prof. Pares, among others, has pointed out the value of the Jamaica Chancery
records as a source for the study of the island's social and economic history; while
Prof. Samuel Eliot Morison has described the Vice-Admiralty records as unrivalled
in the British West Indies or the United States of America for the Naval History
of the period 1775 to 1815.
The variety of interest to be found in these naval records is almost limitless.
There are many items of artistic and autographic importance; private letters;
Spanish Royal Commissions; early State Papers of the American Congress and
States; documents issued and signed by Toussaint L'Ouverture, Petion and others;
papers signed by George Washington and other early American Presidents; as well
as much Nelson and Rodney material.
The court documents relating to seven of the eight prizes captured by
Lord Rodney at the Battle of the Saints in 1782 have been found; here also are
the official records of the famous case of the "Shark Papers" Recently a broad-
side edition of the Tory Act was discovered among the papers of the ship America,
captured in April, 1776. Investigation so far shows that the only other copy of
this edition known to have survived is among the Continental Congress Papers
in Washington. Also recently discovered was part of a French medieval parch-
ment document used as a cover for a 19th century.ship's log!
Nor are the other groups lacking in interest of this kind. In a Kingston
Register of Marriages of the year 1762, for example, is recorded one of the five
marriages of "Con" Phillips, the notorious Mistress of the Revels; and in a similar
Register for St. James' Parish is registered the only official marriage of
Annee Palmer, the "witch" of Rose Hall estate; while in among the records of
the Grand Court may be found the trial of Lewis Hutchinson, the mad murderer
of Edinburgh Castle, St. Ann.
The Jamaica archives have come a long way since Prof. Hull inspected them
in 1905, but much remains to be done about them and about West India archives
as a whole. "The present time," writes Sir Hilary Jenkinson, "when a new
Constitution is in operation and a new University movement in process of
initiation (from which there will result, we must hope, in due course a series of
Research Students for whose needs we are to cater), offers an opportunity which
will not recur for formulating not only immediate measures to meet dangers the
dealing with which should not be postponed, but also for long term planning."
Although he was writing of Rhodesia, Mr. V W. Hiller's words are not
without application to Jamaica when he says that with a country which is still
in its formative stages the acquisition of a just self-consciousness is a matter of
great importance. Without the concentrate of past experience which we find in
history, without a proper understanding of our country's past, we are at the mercy
of impulse and prejudice, lacking in balance and continuity: without contemporary
records our history itself is a thing of gaps and myths, conditioned by the whims
of writers who choose to illuminate this or that landmark but leave the intervening
years in obscurity.
"West Indians," said the Daily Gleaner, in August, 1948, "up to the present
time have placed no value on the raw materials of their history. Times, however,
are changing The growth of national feeling is beginning to stimulate interest
in social origins and in the records of past times."
In this the Archives have a vital r6le to play by preserving the whole record
of the past so that all alike may profit by it without distinction of class or creed
[The Government of Jamaica has recently announced its approval in principle
of the Report on the Jamaica Archives by Sir Hilary Jenkinson, and a committee
under the Chairmanship of the Hon. the Chief Justice has been set up to implement
Research and the Lay Scholar
BY M. W. BARLEY
ONE of the advantages of the University Colleges founded recently is that they have
as it were come into the world fully fledged. I mean that from the beginning of their
existence they have had an Extra-Mural Department. That was true of the
University College of Hull in England, which was founded in 1928, just as it is true
of the University College of the West Indies. These newer universities had not to
overcome the conservatism which in some of the older provincial universities in
England delayed the establishment of an adult education department and postponed
recognition of the parity of Extra-Mural with internal work. To readers of the
Caribbean Quarterly, for which the Extra-Mural Department of the University
College of the West Indies is responsible, and which is edited by members of its
staff, these words may seem too obvious to be worth writing. They are however
written by an outsider, albeit one who brought back from a brief visit to Trinidad
a close interest in Caribbean educational affairs and a very lively recollection of
the opportunities and problems. That entitles him, it is hoped, to remind West
Indian readers of what they may already be beginning to take for granted, and to
point to some particular achievements of extra-mural students in England which
may be relevant.
A second feature of some of the newer universities in England is a recognized
interest in local studies. University College, Leicester, is for instance the only one
whose staff includes a Reader in Local History: that is, a senior member of the
staff whose duty is not teaching but research in local history. The staff of the Adult
Education Department at Hull has always included one member specially
responsible for adult classes in local history. The staff of the University of
Nottingham includes Dr. J. D. Chambers, now a Reader in Economic History on
the internal staff, but formerly a member of the extra-mural staff; he has done
much to promote local historical research in the east midlands. One of the most
marked features of adult education in England since 1935 has been the very large
increase of interest in local studies, particularly historical, among members of adult
classes. In the West Indies, for perfectly good reasons, there is at this time a
stronger interest in social studies, such as current economic problems, and for
equally powerful reasons, there is not the same urge to explore the past. Such
attitudes are not represented in the Caribbean Quarterly, which in such articles as
"A Rada Community in Trinidad" (Vol. 3, No. 1), is making a very valuable
contribution to local history; but my remarks are, I believe, true in a general way
of the men and women who join extra-mural classes. The development of the West
Indies in the near future is certain to include a much stronger popular interest in
its past history. I want to show that extra-mural students can make a contribution
to the study of the past which will not only be of immense value to them as students,
but will also make the histories of the West Indian Islands, when they come to be
written, much more real, lively and firmly based.
Readers of Red Brick University, a critical account of the provincial universities
in England published in 1943 under the pseudonym Bruce Truscott, and now
known since his death to have been written by the late Professor Alison Peers of
Liverpool, will recall that he defines a university as a corporation devoted to a
search after knowledge. Its two-fold aim is research and teaching, and Professor
Alison Peers put research first. Apart from that done by members of staff and
graduate students, it is increasingly the practice for undergraduates to do a
dissertation in which they have a chance to show that they understand the methods
of research and are capable of using them. The existence of an Extra-Mural
Department brings teaching of a university character to those outside who are
deprived of the opportunity of a university education. That teaching may provide
a chance of demonstrating to adult students the problems in which research is
needed or is being done, the technique evolved for doing it, and the results achieved.
At best this is a second hand affair, but how can the adult student, engrossed in
earning a living and trying, in his spare time, to make up for the lack of an
advanced education, participate more fully? Research can be genuinely exciting,
but also at times very dull, and above all it must absorb much time and thought.
Only those who are willing to live with a problem, to think about it day in, day
out-perhaps to become in consequence somewhat like an absent minded professor
-are likely to find a solution. To put the matter in such terms is to emphasise the
responsible nature of research; it is possible, however, to find ways in which the
adult student, without having full responsibility for its direction, can participate in
it sufficiently to learn its methods, enjoy its prosecution and share the satisfaction
of obtaining results from it. The important thing is not so much to produce results,
although they may be invaluable. It is to learn from the study of a particular
limited set of facts and the conclusions drawn from them that all facts are worth
fresh and independent thought. That is true in the realm of social studies, where
facts may appear difficult to distinguish from theories and beliefs, and in the
sciences, where they appear to be tougher and more real. The most valuable thing
that an adult student can gain from membership of an extra-mural class is a healthy
disrespect of the printed word. The men and women who come to classes have,
naturally, a special veneration for what is printed in books, from which alone they
can learn. Assertions in print seem to have an existence independent of the man
who made them and are harder to assail than when delivered in a lecture. One way
to reach an independent judgment is to choose statements from the printed page,
take them to pieces in discussion and submit them to the test of clear thinking;
then, if there is anything left, put them together again. An even better way is to
find a piece of clear ground on which no one has already built such structures,
assemble the facts and try to build statements which will work-i.e., which will
embody all the facts in a logical way, not leave any of them lying about unused,
and produce a set of conclusions which hold together. Those who have practised
for themselves such research, even on the smallest scale, may in future read more
critically, whether their reading is the result of others research or merely the daily
It is a mistake to think that only the professional, engaged in full time
research, is likely to make genuine contributions to knowledge. In England one
great source of strength in research of many kinds, particularly in those sciences
which call for field work, has been the importance of the amateur. Some fields of
enquiry, such as archaeology, are being taken over increasingly by the professional,
and under his influence, in the conditions of this century, methods are becomingly
increasingly technical. The archaeologist is no longer the man with a spade and
trowel; he is able, or he has at his elbow other specialists who can help him, to
describe for instance the vegetation of thousands of years ago by identifying the
pollen grains in a sample of peat, or to date a prehistoric timber structure by
measuring the degree of radioactivity in the remains of carbonised wood. But the
study of archaeology is expanding rapidly, and rising costs make it impossible for
the professional to cover the whole field with his teams of paid workers; there is a
greater opportunity than ever for the amateur to record sites and finds, to carry
out small excavations with voluntary help and to develop particular problems to
a stage at which the professional can take over for a large scale investigation. The
danger to the amateur is of becoming a crank, who has lived so long with facts of
his own collecting that they have built themselves into a pattern that has no
relation to the patterns of adjacent facts, and are no longer examined critically
with a fresh mind. Another danger which besets the amateur working alone is that
of losing the ability to discard irrelevant facts, like the collector who cannot bear
to throw away any specimens. The antiquarian who collects any facts that are old
and the local historian any information that is local are not scholars. Their facts
need to be tested by a discipline. The best safeguard is close and regular contact
with a university and the existence of an Extra-Mural Department should make
Research consists in the collecting of facts, their sorting, classifying and
ordering, and the presentation in a form interesting to others of conclusions based
upon them. There are many aspects of local history in which the amateur can help
to collect facts which, if they are not preserved by him, may disappear for ever
from the historian's view. The word history is used in the widest possible sense, to
include all the activities of man. It will thus cover the kind of recording mentioned
in the last number of Caribbean Quarterly, of the music and dance of Carriacou,
which reflect both the present and the past of the people. The two cannot be
separated; the diary kept today will be historical material next year. Minute books
of the friendly societies and discussion clubs should if possible be preserved. The-
public librarian of the town of Newark on Trent invites all local societies to deposit
their minute books and accounts in the library as soon as they are no longer in
everyday use. One of the most valuable forms of record is the collection of
reminiscences of older people. Some of them can be persuaded to write them down
themselves; more often they need the help of younger people. In one class which
I conducted last winter I brought together the oldest member, an old lady in her
eighties and nearly blind, and one of the youngest, a stenographer. The two of
them have produced a very valuable collection of facts about an English village.
History books always have disproportionately much to say about the powerful and
wealthy and little about the poor. This is in part a reflection of the feudal past of
the English countryside; it is also a consequence of the fact that the poor have not
kept the same records. It is very difficult for the historian, even if he tries, to
arrive at a balanced view of social history.
The village which I have already mentioned is one in which during the past
two centuries, a majority of the households depended not on agriculture, but on
framework knitting: the production of stockings, in the home, on the stocking frame,
a machine invented by a Nottinghamshire man in the time of Elizabeth I. The
industry has now been transferred to factories in the towns. The village in question
still differs from others which have always been purely agricultural, but some of
the ways in which it has been different may well escape the view of the historian
of the future. Discussion in an adult class revealed two important aspects of the
difference. One was the strength of Non-conformity; class members could recount
their parents' stories of a tremendous struggle in the 1870's to compel the Anglican
parson to relinquish control of the village school. Another was that in this village
(and in others nearby where the men were not subject to the discipline of factory
hours) cricket flourished exceedingly. There was plenty of time for practice and
for care of the wicket; the men became so good that at one time forty of them were
away from the village serving as professionals-in the Lancashire League, on the
ground staff of county clubs and as coaches at schools. That fact, now that it has
been rescued from oblivion, will one day find its place in the history of rural
Nottinghamshire. There must be many equally telling points in the history of West
Indian communities which will be lost if they are not recorded by this generation.
The recording of English folklore is much more a matter of rescuing the last
remnants of traditional practices than it is in the West Indies, where folk music
is still being made. In England, in spite of the existence of two national societies,
the Folklore Society and the Folk Dance and Song Society, much remains to be
done. In Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, for instance, nearly every village, up
to about half a century ago, had once a year a performance of a play by the village
ploughmen in which, through a mock killing and resurrection, the revival of the
earth in the spring was ensured. The actual words of the play, descriptions of the
costumes worn and the notes of the songs have now been recovered from about
sixty villages. In many cases this has been done by members of adult classes.
I recall one instance where, when I asked whether the Plough Monday play had
ever been done in the village, an old man in the class stood up and could not be
stopped until he had gone through the whole play, songs and all. Another play
I got a few months ago from a man aged seventy-nine who had last performed it
in 1913. He remembered every line without hesitation, and I found later that much
of it was identical with a play from a neighboring village written down in 1842.
In England, in spite of the immense changes of the past century, the folk memory
is very long, and it may be even longer in the West Indies.
It may be said that the historian's proper business is with records. How can
the member of an adult class become an amateur historian? The records are
certainly there; for instance, the first number of the Caribbean Historical Review
contained a preliminary survey of the archives of Tobago by David K. Easton.
There is a rich field, as far as 1 know, unused. Since none of the records go back
more than a century and a half or so, they will all be legible by the amateur (that
is, if they are in good enough condition) without special training in palaeography.
There are many classes of local record which, because of their bulk and nature,
really call for a mass attack by a team of students. In Lincoln such a team,
organised in a class sponsored by the University of Nottingham, met monthly over
a period of years to prepare a calendar of quarter sessions records for part of the
County of Lincoln. Because of their bulk they are unlikely ever to be published,
but to local historians they are important, and the existence of the calendar, or
index, will save the necessity of searching the whole collection. I can see, similarly,
the value of a calendar of the minutes of the Legislative Council and Assembly of
Tobago, which run from 1794 onwards. Those who prepared such an index would
learn much of the history of Tobago, and much of the problems of the historian,
even if they never wrote a history of the Island. Another group of Lincolnshire
students carried out, under Dr. J. D. Chambers of Nottingham, a piece of research
whose results modified an important historical generalisation. It had been confidently
stated that the small peasant farmer in England was squeezed out of existence at
the end of the eighteenth century by the enclosure of the open fields which most
midland villages possessed. There are land tax returns in which the number of
freehold farmers in each village is, incidentally, recorded. Adult students spent
their spare time tabulating the information on the returns, which would have taken
an individual many months and which no one man would in fact have been likely
to tackle. The result showed that the small peasant freeholder flourished for some
fifty years longer than the text books had said.
Still another piece of team research, carried out under my direction, was
concerned with the houses of Lincolnshire peasants three or four centuries ago.
None of them have survived and history books are largely silent about the homes
of the poor. Records of them exist, however, in great quantity; many thousands of
inventories of their contents were made on the occasion of peasants' wills being proved.
These inventories have not been used by historians, and the fact that they exist by
the thousand, rather than by the score, makes it difficult to know what one man
can do with them. A team of students spent two weeks of their holidays sampling
them that is, examining a random selection which ought to reflect accurately the
information in the whole collection. The result of their work is that one can assert
that in the time of Elizabeth I a large number of the poorest peasants were still
living in houses of one room only. By 1640 many of those men and women had
homes of two rooms, a living room and a bedroom. Wealthier men had homes with
a kitchen or a dairy, and chambers over the ground floor rooms in which corn,
cheese and such agricultural products were stored. The wealthiest homes were
different mainly in having more bedrooms, called parlours and situated on the
ground floor for servants and guests. Thus a more precise and real account of home
life and housing conditions three centuries ago is beginning to take shape. It would
have been further delayed, but for the willingness of a group of students to pool
their amateur skill and interests in a larger project. Each of them had the genuine
thrill of seeing the conclusions appear, without the expenditure of as much time as
individual research can involve. Since this project was completed the same team has
spent a week examining a large and miscellaneous collection of records in order
produce a picture of agrarian conditions in two widely differing Lincolnshire
village. Conditions vary so much in any rural area that one cannot argue even
from so small an area as an English County to the villages in it. From an examina-
tion of specific villages generalisations about a County or a wider region can be
built up. In the Lincolnshire enquiry a very wide variety of documents was
examined. None of them seemed particularly important or revealing when considered
alone, but as the notes made by students were put together, the many small
contributions made an astonishingly full and interesting picture. One village had
from the Tudor period specialised in pasture farming, and economic forces had not
been strong enough to liquidate the small peasant freeholders thriving on the rich
land. In the other, not more than fifteen miles away but on very different soil which
lent itself only to mixed farming, small peasants had not been able to prevent
farms being swallowed up in a large estate which eventually comprised most of the
parish. Neither of these conclusions was in any way surprising, but whereas before
the historian could only surmise, amateur research has now provided him with
solid evidence. It may be argued that the story of two English villages is really of
trifling importance and of only local interest. 0. G. S. Crawford, the famous English
archaeologist, recently provided an answer to that criticism when he remarked that
"England is made up of a lot of localities"
The local approach is a sound one and it is adopted by archaeologists more
often than by historians. The historian may very often concern himself with large
forces at work: the effect of a war, or an economic crisis or an Act of Parliament
on a whole nation. The archaeologist is conscious of the local forces that have shaped
pre-history: the problem of crossing a river or a mountain range, which leads to
settlement at fords and at the foot of mountain passes; the problem of getting a
living, which makes fishermen settle by the sea or a lake and farmers learn the
very frequent and minute changes in soil conditions. Only the systematic recording
of prehistoric finds and sites, which can then be plotted on a distribution map,
will make possible a grasp of the prehistory of any land or region. Excavation may
be necessary but is not inevitable; it is worth while to remember that excavation
destroys the evidence, and a wise archaeologist decides to dig only when he cannot
find the answer any other way The first thing is to get every archaeological object
into a museum and on to a map, and this task cannot be done without the amateur's
participation. Most finds are made in the first place by accident, and the local
amateur who is in touch with farmers, who knows where quarrying and similar
industrial activities are going on, has opportunities which the professional, tied
to a museum miles away, may easily miss. In the neighbourhood of Newalk on
Trent local amateurs whose knowledge of archaeology has been gained in an extra-
mural class have found dozens of sites occupied by prehistoric man or in the Roman
period, and the map of prehistoric occupation in the area has been revolutionised.
They have done it by walking the fields and picking up flint implements or scraps
of Roman pottery turned up by the plough.
These examples of what the amateur scholar can do, under the guidance of
an extra-mural department, have been taken from the fields of folk-lore, history
and archaeology. No doubt a scientist could give equally telling examples from
the fields of botany, zoology or geology. It is certain that the part of an adult
student in a class need not be the merely passive one of acquiring information
imparted by the tutor; by his own activities he can help to increase the bddy of
The Apprenticeship Period In Jamaica,
D. G. HALL
THE Jamaica Assembly was the first of the Colonial Legislatures to enact the
Abolition Law, but they were not by any means the most willing. There was, how-
ever, the matter of compensation to be gained, and of the total 20,000,000, sterling
set aside by the British Government Jamaican slave owners were awarded
6,149,939 for their 311,070 slaves. The planters and planting-attornies were worried
about the continuation of estate labour after the slaves should be apprenticed, and
they objected to the newly-arrived stipendiary Magistrates. Many of them, in anti-
cipation of freedom, had reduced their acreages of canes-in some cases, because
they truly believed that a shortage of labour would necessitate some curtailment of
production; and in other cases, because they hoped, by sabotaging production, to
make matters seem worse than they really were. The owners of jobbing slaves could
not have faced the prospect of emancipation without dread of the eventual loss of
their main source of income. They were referred to in 1833 as
that numerous class of persons in Jamaica who derive their
support, not from the production of sugar, rum, or coffee, but chiefly from
the hire of some of the Slaves, as Artisans or Domestics: I do not think
I err greatly in computing the number of families in this class at from four
to five thousand, as from the returns of the Slaves, there cannot be many
less than fifty thousand of them in Jamaica, who belong to these small
It is not difficult to see how two main attitudes towards the apprenticeship
developed. On one side the British Government and the supporters of emanci-
pation regarded the apprenticeship as a period of transition during which the
labourers would be guided along the paths of social and economic improvement
towards complete freedom in 1840; on the other side, many of the slave owners
and slave managers regarded the apprenticeship as a part of the compensation, a
short and partial reprieve granted that they might squeeze the last juice out of
compulsory labour before the great ruin of freedom set in.
There was little hope that these conflicting opinions could be reconciled, and
the Abolition Act, which might have been so designed as to compel conformity of
practice, if not of opinion, was a vague inadequate piece of legislation which left
the Colonial legislatures free to fill in details, or not, as they chose. Some of the
shortcomings of the apprenticeship system, an unhappy attempt at compromise
between slavery and freedom, will become evident as we proceed; and it will be
seen how incompatible were the interpretations by conflicting groups of some of its
vaguer clauses. The original plan called for the complete freedom of the non-
praedial labourers in 1838, and the praedial labourers in 1840; but by the former
year the discontent was general, and full freedom was granted to all the apprentices.
The Jamaica Assembly, however, in accordance with past practice, yielded only
under strong pressure.
According to the Abolition Act the Jamaica apprentices were bound to give
401 hdurs of free labour to their owners every week. Both masters and labourers
knew that this would be quite insufficient during the rushed period of crop-taking,
when mills and boilers would have to be kept working for the greater part of every
24 hours. Indeed, during slavery, they had often been kept going non-stop by shift
labour until the last cane had been ground and the manufacturing process was
complete. It was obvious, therefore, that some paid labour would be necessary if
the crop was to be taken. The organisation of compulsory labour into shifts lasting
through 24 hours was impossible, because the Abolition Law required compulsory
labour to be given only between the hours of sunrise and sunset.
In any case the estates were faced with a general diminution of their labour
forces. Children under six years were free, and could only be employed if their
mothers agree, which, in fact, they very seldom did, fearing to implicate their
youngsters in any form of contract or bondage with their ex-owners. There was, too,
the expected effect of the compulsory manumission clause of the Abolition Act, by
means of which many adult apprentices would doubtless try to obtain complete
freedom by purchase.
The hours of work, the rates of wages, and the strength of their labour gangs,
were the subjects of managerial concern; and connected with all three was the
knowledge that even during the allotted 40) hours per week the disciplinary powers
of managers, overseers, and book-keepers would, legally, be reduced almost to
nothing, and jurisdiction would lie with the stipendiary Magistrates.
It is possible, depending upon the sources of information, to form either of two
opinions about these men: either that poorly paid and ignorant, they were over-
powered by the rich hospitality and whispered advice of the pro-slavery colonists,
and therefore did not do their duty by the apprentices; or, contrarily, that as a body
of men dependent upon the favour of the Governor and the British Government for
the continuation of their jobs and salaries, they set themselves up as protectors of
the apprentices and either deliberately, or unwittingly, but generally the former,
wrecked any sincere attempt the planters or their agents made to obtain fair labour
for fair wages. The truth is that there were all kinds of people in the stipendiary
Magistracy; some were intelligent and sincere, others were disinterested and not so
bright; some were won over by the planters, and others leaned too far backwards
to protect the apprentices. It must have been almost impossible for any of them
to hold unbiassed views on the question of slavery or freedom, and it is perhaps
indicative of their general sympathy for the 'New Order' that of the 42 recommended
by Sir Lionel Smith, the Governor, to be kept on after the apprenticeship ended,
16 had been "persecuted or thwarted in their duties by the planters, or the Public
Press", and of the 18 whose services were not retained, only a few were branded
as "no friend to the apprentice" Generally speaking, many of the Specials would
seem to have swerved from the strict line of duty and to have become less the
impartial adjudicators in matters of dispute than the watchdogs of appren-
tice welfare. This was partly because they favoured the principle of emancipation,
and partly because the apprentices sought their advice and protection while the
masters came less willingly to the new seat of judgment. They, after all, a mere few
weeks ago, or only yesterday, had been the judges.
The last months of 1834 were a period of unrest. There had been some discussion
among the planters before the 1st of August on the question of wage rates to be
offered to the apprentices for labour in their own time, but no general agreement
had been formed, and little effort had been made to discuss matters with the slaves
in preparation for the coming change. As a result, the bargaining started after the
apprenticeship had begun, and on many estates the season for crop-taking arrived
before any settlement had been made. The effect was double-sided. The unsatis-
factory state of affairs meant that the sugar crop of 1834-1835 was greatly reduced,
and the possibility of a good crop in 1835-1836 was lessened. The extra labour
required to take the present crop was not always forthcoming, as the apprentices
bargained for higher wages than their masters offered, and so nearly all the extra
labour which could be obtained was put to cutting and carting canes and making
sugar, while the necessary agricultural preparations for the following year were
neglected. Early in October, 1834, the Governor, Lord Sligo, wrote to the Secretary
of State for the Colonies-
"I cannot, after two months trial of the New System, report to you,
that it is working at all in a satisfactory manner
and in the following month a Committee of the Jamaica Assembly, after hearing
the evidence of several planters and attornies, reported that except in a few instances,
the apprenticeship was not succeeding.
In the disputes over wages and allowances the apprentices held the stronger
bargaining position. Without their extra labour the estates would fail, but they
could work profitably elsewhere in the cultivation of their provision grounds and
the sale of foodstuffs in the local markets. Unless the estate could pay them regularly,
in money, a wage which they considered more attractive than the profits to be gained
from their sale of provisions, they would be unlikely to agree to do estate labour.
Nor should the psychological influences go unmentioned freedom was new and to
be enjoyed, perhaps all the more so because it was limited to a few hours a day.
The new experience of being able to choose, not only between leisure and labour,
but between types of labour and individual employers who now competed for the
free hours of each other's apprentices-all this was rich and to be flirted with before
any desire came for definite arrangements.
Two courses of action were open to the employers they could either tempt
the apprentices with attractive offers of money and allowances; or, they could try
to compel them to choose the estate rather than the provision ground as a source of
income. The first course, the kinder of the two, was practicable only on estates
which could afford to offer relatively high wages, and were managed by people who
had no antipathy towards the ex-slaves. The second course was the one necessarily
adopted by the poorer planters, and pursued by the members of the pro-slavery
It was not, however, the personal opinions of the disputing parties, or even the
financial circumstances of individual estates, which alone influenced the behaviour
of masters and apprentices. Jamaica produced a variety of crops, and also possessed
in British West Indian Island terms, large areas of good grazing land on which
cattle pens flourished. Topographical irregularity and geological variation served to
make the conditions in one parish or district different from those in another, although
they were separated by only a few miles, or perhaps lay adjacent to one another.
The situation, the size, the type of soil, and the population of each parish, together
with the number and kinds of estates which it contained, all had their bearing on
the labour problem and the wage disputes; and, to carry the argument still further,
parochial land taxes and other revenues differed greatly in the various parishes and
so placed heavier or lighter burdens upon the employers and indirectly affected their
ability to pay wages.
It is possible, without becoming involved in a mass of statistical data, to
indicate some of the differences between the parishes. It may be possible, by doing
this, to gain an idea df the economic pattern of the island after 1833, and the possible
effects of a system of wage labour in its various parts. By the end of slavery the
more difficult and more expensive cultivation of the cane in the mountain areas was
being given up, and these parts were now supporting, chiefly, crops of coffee, some
of the lesser export staples such as pimento and ginger, and provisions for the island
markets. The Pens, though concerned with the Tearing of livestock, were usually
productive of other goods and services. The manager of Beeches Pen, in Clarendon,
for example advertised that-
"Stock will have plenty of water and Guinea grass, and the utmost care
taken of them, at the rate of 12s. 6d. per month if above 50, if less 15s.;
also every kind of hardwood for Wagons or House-Timber will be got at
shortest notice; likewise any quantity of White-Lime will be made for any
person who may want it, either on this Pen or Palmetto, as may be most
convenient for the purchasers.
It is not surprising, therefore, to find Pens in every parish of the island, and they
enjoyed a greater flexibility of administration and production than did the sugar and
coffee estates. Stipendiary Magistrate Daughtrey, reporting from St. Elizabeth in
November 1835, explained that
in some instances pastures and fences have been left to compara-
tive neglect by the transfer of labour to the more profitable cultivation of
which was, at that time, fetching good prices in Britain. Stipendiary Magistrate Bell,
in the same parish, wrote that St. Elizabeth soil was "not real sugar soil" and that
pimento, coffee, and ginger, were being planted on previously idle lands, some of
it by small settlers whose prospects were brightening.
It was in the sugar parishes that labour shortage was most likely to be felt
in the crop season, but here too circumstances affected the degree of shortage. In
Port Royal and St. Andrew, bordering Kingston, and in those parts of St. Catherine
near Spanish Town, there would have been strong inducement to the apprentices to
use their spare time for growing provisions to be sold in the sizeable town markets.
In St. Ann, where a great deal of pimento was grown, the increased demand for
labour to gather the crop in October attracted workers from the sugar estates just
when the sugar crop was approaching maturity, and so still further weakened the
bargaining power of the sugar planters. The coffee estates, lying in the mountain
districts, were nearest to much of the idle land which proved attractive to the
apprentice who chose to spend his own time farming for himself on a humble scale.
The ameliorating factor, as far as the planters were concerned, was that the
apprentices were still bound to their owners' estates for 40) hours per week, so
that the mobility of the labour supply was limited. The trend of events in the various
parishes is best followed through the reports of the Stipendiary Magistrates, the
planters, and others.
Added to the lack of preparation by the planters for the new system were the
difficulties introduced by the fact that neither employers nor employees were familiar
with the methods of wage-bargaining. The revolutionary aspect of the change can
hardly be over-emphasised. Slave owners had become the buyers of labour, and
slaves had become the sellers of labour; the former were reluctant to recognize their
loss of power, and the latter hesitated to enter into any sort of agreement for fear
that they might lose some of that freedom so recently attained. A correspondent
writing from Westmorland in October 1834 described, in rather biblical language,
an incident in which
a spell of People employed about the Works, did accept of Money
for their own time for one day, and on the following day they came to their
Master and requested him to take back the Money, and as he hesitated doing
so and reasoned with the people, they put the whole of the Money they had
received down upon a table and went off, saying that they could not work
for him again, only during the hours the Law forced them to do so, and in no
one instance have I heard of the apprentices yet working in the Field or at
the Works for Money."
This reluctance was gradually overcome as experience was gained on both sides, and
as some of the early mutual mistrust was eliminated.
The reports of the Stipendiary Magistrates during the last months of 1834, and
the whole of 1835, indicated an increasing willingness of the apprentices to work for
money in their spare time. They were, however, exceptions to the general rule, and
the Magistrates consistently pointed out that good and fair management was essential
if the confidence of the apprentices was to be won and a reliable supply of extra
labour obtained. In a grimly amusing report on Richmond Hill Estate in St. James,
Stipendiary Magistrate Thompson wrote
"This estate has been very badly managed in times past; the overseer
came to it about three months past, and has brought it up very fast; the
crop will certainly be better than last; the people have had very little comfort
allowed by the proprietor, and they are equally determined they will do but
little, but act disagreeably. They have poisoned one overseer, and I tremble
for this poor fellow. I give them some terrible lectures."
The exceptions were sometimes parochial in scope. Stipendiary Magistrate Harris
reported that the price of labour demanded in St. Thomas in the Vale was very
high, the apprentices sometimes refusing as much as 2/6 to 3/4, currency, per day.
His colleague, Magistrate Jones, at the same time remarked that on many estates
in that parish the plough was being introduced with great success. The reason for
the high wages asked were not stated, but they were probably due to the accessibility
of open land for the cultivation of foodstuffs and other small crops. Labour relations
in St. Thomas in the Vale and the adjacent parish of St. John remained poor for a
long time, but whether the ill-feeling was a cause or an effect of disagreement over
wages and allowances it is hard to say.
From his district of Clarendon, Magistrate Langrisshe despatched a more
straightforward letter saying that the apprentices would not work for hire.
"I have frequently been told by the negro, that he made more money
by working his own ground than any sum of money his overseer or manager
would give him; this is evidently the case in Clarendon. Four Paths market
is well stocked every Saturday with the finest provisions. They will not refuse
their manager to work occasionally in their own time, but they prefer being
paid the time back again to money."
During 1836 the higher prices obtainable in Britain for sugar, largely as a result
of the reduced output of 1834-1835, seemed to offer some encouragement to the
planters. On the other hand, the apprentices had tended more and more to use their
savings from high wages in the purchase of plots of land to which they might retire
in 1840 as independent small cultivators. The planters showed great concern over
this development. As one of them put it
"If the lands in the Interior get into the possession of the Negroes, good-
bye to lowland cultivation, and to any cultivation. You are aware, I dare say
that very many of the Apprentices are purchasing their Apprenticeship and
buying 5, 10, 15, 50 and even 100 acres. I myself sold a Head Constable
100 acres outlying land at L4. 10s. and another 100 acres is now offered for
by three or four free people at 5 per acre-the man who can buy such a
quantity may be trusted, and views with fully as much suspicion the squat-
ting of an Apprentice as I do; he looks forward to the cultivation of his
property by the labour of others."
The increasing tightness of the regular labour supply was mirrored in the high
prices asked and received by the jobbers. The owner of jobbing apprentices could
get 3/4 a day for the labour of each one of his labourers, and, if they chose to hire
themselves out in their own time and on their own account they sometimes earned
7)d. or 10d. for two and a half hours work in the evenings.
Although the Stipendiary Magistrates reported a better feeling to exist between
masters and apprentices they can hardly have been right. They based their assertions
on the diminishing numbers of complaints brought before them by workers and
employers, but there is no reason to believe that the figures they submitted, though
probably accurate, were of much value as barometers of cordiality. It would appear
rather that the struggle between management and labour had been transferred to a
more subtle plane than the bickering of individuals and personal charges of unfair-
ness. Wage levels had continued to rise, and the willingness of the apprentices to do
extra estate labour depended to a very great extent upon the existence of alternative
and more lucrative employment-either for themselves, or for other employers who
offered better terms than their own masters. These were not problems which the
Magistrates could solve. The complaints of the labourers, too, began to assume new
forms as the masters generally abandoned hasty acts of violence and outrage, and
'legalised' their anti-apprentice measures by exploiting the vaguenesses of the
Jamaica Abolition Law. This was the state of affairs which continued until the end
of the apprenticeship, and it remains now to survey the manoeuvres of the opposing
parties as far as they affected productivity.
The employers wanted an abundance of cheap, effective labour. Effective labour
depended upon three main factors the number of labourers, the number of hours
of labour, and the intensity of the labour performed. They attempted to get the
maximum labour out of the apprentices during the compulsory 404 hours of the
week, they tried to increase the numbers of their apprentices engaged in field work,
and, by means later to be described, they endeavoured to prevent the labourers
finding profitable employment off the estates in their free time.
Slave labour had not been willing labour, and the apprentices with a long slave
tradition behind them had mastered to a fine art the technique of 'going slow' The
problem for the planters was how to exact their own estimate of 'a fair day's work'
How much should the employers expect the labourers to do in a day of nine
hours? There could be no standard rule for the whole island because conditions were
so variable. Taking even the standard job of digging cane-holes it was obvious
that fewer could be dug in a day where the ground was hard, or by women, or by
the less efficient workers who usually formed the 'Second Gang' for field work.
In July, 1837, the Governor, Sir Lionel Smith, drew up a very detailed 'Scales of
Labour' The Scales fixed the maximum amount of each type of work to be done
by a given number of apprentices in a given period-usually a nine-hour day. It
was an extremely carefully arranged piece of work, taking into consideration every
branch of agricultural labour and the related trades, and allowing for differences
of soil, produce, and the general state of cultivation in different districts. It also
made allowances for differences in strength between 'first' and 'second' gang people,
and men and women. As a final safeguard of the rights of the apprentices the
Governor instructed the Stipendiary Magistrates that if the custom had been to
perform less labour than the amount specified in the scales, they were to uphold
the customary performance.
The regulation brought some order into the preceding confusion. Not only was
the limit set upon what the apprentice should be expected to do during his hours
of compulsory labour; but the setting of jobs to be done in their own time for wages
was also affected. If an apprentice, for example, agreed to work for nine of his free
hours for 2/6, both he and his employer knew how much of that work might be
done in that time and the employer was restrained from setting an impossible target.
On the other side, the apprentice found it more difficult to go slow during the hours
of compulsory labour.
Other sources of contention, however, remained. There was the matter of work
during rainfall. In slave days it had been customary to cease work during a parti-
cularly heavy downpour, but now some of the employers, refusing to lose any of
their allotted 40) hours, insisted that work must continue. Some employers, too,
ordered that the apprentices should go to and from their places of work in their
own time, so that the 40) hours should be spent actually at labour. This was a hard-
ship on those apprentices whose living accommodation was far away from their
work, and it was aggravated by some employers who deliberately set their workers
at tasks in distant parts of the estates.
The efforts of the planters to persuade the apprentices to allow their free
children to work for the estates were notably unsuccessful. During the entire period
of the apprenticeship, only nine free children, who had been less than six years old
on 1st August, 1834, were allowed by their mothers to apprentice themselves to the
Some planters attempted to reinforce their field gangs by sending non-praedial
labourers, and those women who had previously been exempted from field labour,
into the cane-pieces. Mothers of several children had usually, in later slave days,
been allowed certain privileges, of which freedom from exacting field work was
one of the commonest and most treasured, and now that they were being pressed
into field work they resented it. So did many of the domestic servants, and field
cooks, the nurses, and the washerwomen; and the Stipendiary Magistrates many
times reported that it was dissatisfied women who were the instigators of apprentice
misbehaviour. Apart from these women, who had clear reason to object to a return
to field labour, there was a common disinclination on the part of all mothers to go
out to work if they had children at home. The idleness and ill-discipline of the
free children was a subject of repeated protest from the Magistrates and observers
of all kinds, but whilst schools and churches were lacking, and mothers were sent
out to work, there was little chance for improvement in their condition.
Another way in which employers tried to maintain the strength of their gangs
was by putting difficulties in the way of apprentices who tried to buy their freedom.
In June, 1836, Lord Sligo had written to the Secretary of State for the Colonies
that the system of illegal valuation, which I have so frequently before
reported, is still very prevalent."
The price which the apprentice had to pay was determined by two Stipendiary
Magistrates and one local Justice of the Peace, the three sitting together. The process
of valuation was as follows the evidence of interested parties was given on their
estimates of the annual value to the estate of the labour of the apprentice concerned.
The Magistrates and the Justice then, in view of that evidence, decided upon what
they thought was a fair estimate of the annual value. One third of this amount was
deducted for possible contingencies, such as the loss of labour through death or
ill-health, and the remainder was multiplied by the number of years still due to be
served by the apprentice. The trouble was that the magistrates and justice could
seldom agree on what was a fair estimate of the apprentice's annual work, and there
was no set rule by which a figure should be reached. There was the non-praedial
female apprentice, for example, who came up for valuation early in 1836. She was
said to be a most trustworthy, good worker, hired out for 13/4 a week, of which
she was allowed 3/4 for her keep and her owner kept 10/-. Mr. Moresby, Stipendiary
Magistrate, took 10/- a week as her value to the estate, and, deducting a third for
contingencies, valued her at 48. 6s. 8d. for the remaining two years of her service.
Mr. Finlayson, the other Stipendiary, made no apparent calculation but took her
great honesty into account and valued her at 60. 8s. lld. Mr. Clement, the local
Justice, considered her worth 13/4 a week to the estate, and after deducting the
third, valued her at 61. 15s. 7d. The three could come to no agreement, and after
long debate the woman was finally freed by private arrangement with her owner
A comparison of the numbers of manumissions purchased before and during
the apprenticeship illustrates the increasing value of labour to the employers.
Between the first of January, 1829, and the 31st December, 1830, a total' of
556 slaves had purchased their freedom for prices which ranged from as low as 5
to as high as 300 each, and 503 slaves had received their freedom as a gift or for
the nominal consideration of a few shillings. In many of these cases manumission
had only been obtained because the slaves were no longer fit for estate labour
because of age or injury; but whenever an able-bodied slave had actually bought
his freedom the price paid had been for the value of the labour due to the master
for the rest of the slave's expected life. Even when rumours of emancipation began
to float the masters would have made no concessions on that account. Later on,
from August 26th, 1834, to November Ist, 1836, when masters could not legally
refuse to sell freedom, a total of 1,480 apprentices purchased their 404 hours of
compulsory labour per week until the end of the apprenticeship at an average
price of about f35 each. In the first three months of 1836 the highest amounts
actually paid for freedom were 11 I. 2s. 3d. paid by Thomas M'Dermot, a praedial
labourer on Green Castle Estate in St. Thomas in the East, and 101. 3s. 4d. paid
by William Pike, a non-praedial apprentice working as a butcher in Kingston.
In June, 1837, Richard Hill, a distinguished coloured Jamaican who was a
Stipendiary Magistrate and Secretary of that Magistracy, reported on the matter
of excessive valuations. He pointed out the unfair practice of employers in basing
the value of the ordinary field labourer on the price which they had to pay for
jobbing labour. The average jobber got 3/4 a day for the hire of one of his appren-
tices, but deductions should be made for the cost to the jobber of accommodation,
gardens, provisions, and various supplies for his apprentices. Even more to the
point was the fact that the field labourer, attached to an estate, was not a jobbing
and by prohibitions of the law, cannot be made a jobber; in him
value can result only from what the plantation to which he is attached can
realise by his productive industry."
In other words, the value of an attached field labourer should not be unrelated to
the actual condition of the individual estate itself, and on a less productive estate,
the value of his labour being less, the price of his freedom should also be less. This
was logical, but it was also hard talking and the planters could hardly have been
expected to accept it.
The methods of valuation remained very much the same until very near the
end of the apprenticeship, and to complaints of excessive pricing the Colonial Office
replied that since the valuations of the Stipendiary Magistrates were commonly low,
and favourable to the apprentice, the general result of the J.P.'s too high assess-
ments might very well be a balancing out to what might not be an unfair figure.
This might have been so if the Magistrates and the Justices had always been able
to agree on a compromise. Once a definite figure had been reached, however, and
the money paid, the apprentice was free. In July, 1836, came the first evidence of
retaliation on the part of ex-masters against workers who had bought their freedom.
The Colonial Office noted that four apprentices who had recently obtained their
freedom "have been turned off the property by the attorney." There was no law
to prevent such action, but it is probable that it occurred only on those estates whose
managers felt that the newly freed apprentices would not work for them at a price
which they could afford.
The planters also attempted to restrict the ability of their apprentices to find
more remunerative employment elsewhere in their free time. Some of the planters'
actions were designed to reduce the amount of that time at the apprentices disposal.
In some cases they were given provision grounds at long distances from their huts,
so that much valuable time would be used merely going to and from their work.
Most planters, when they brought charges against their apprentices, preferred such
punishments as might be awarded to be given in lashes or in a forfeiture of time to
the estate-in the one case not diminishing the estate labouring time, and in the
other, actually increasing it. Other devices were the presentation of charges to the
Stipendiary Magistrates on Saturday mornings, thus depriving the apprentices con-
cerned of part of their only fully free working day; objections to the use of estate
tools by the apprentices when they were not actually working for the estate; the
stoppages of allowances of saltfish and other supplies for trifling reasons; and the
refusal to allow the apprentices to graze any livestock they owned on the estate
commons. The latter annoyances were very probably designed to increase the need
of the apprentices for ready cash, while the former sought to ensure that they
made their earnings working for their own estates.
These annoyances were not, however, widely and frequently practiced through-
out the island. Individual gpasters employed them at various times. The really
widespread provocations were the inflated valuations previously described, the use
of the estate hospitals as places of punishment since the abolition of the legal use
of coercive measures by the planters, and the attempt to take the compulsory labour
of the apprentices in eight-hour, rather than nine-hour, days. The estate hospitals
often rivalled the Parochial Houses of Correction as places of maltreatment of the
apprentices. Again some of inadequacies of the Abolition Law were evident. The
Stipendiary Magistrates had no right of entry into estate buildings, and no control
over the management of the Houses of Correction. Apprentices could therefore be
detained by their masters in the former without much fear of interference from the
Magistrates; and an apprentice sentenced by a Magistrate to go to a House of
Correction passed at once out of the control of the Stipendiary and entered under
the harsher surveillance of the local Justices. These were issues upon which long
battles were fought between Governor Smith and the Stipendiary Magistrates on
one side, and the Jamaica Assembly and the local Justices on the other, but neither
solution nor settlement was reached until near the end of the apprenticeship.
The Abolition Law had stipulated that the apprentices should give 401 hours
of labour to their masters every week, but it had not stated how many hours should
be given in a day. A nine-hour day meant that the labourers could complete their
compulsory work by midday on Friday, leaving them a full day and a half in
which to sell their time to an employer, or to cultivate their grounds and take their
produce to market. If they worked an eight-hour day, they could not complete
their week's compulsory labour until Friday evening. True they worked an hour
less every day, but the extra hour in the late afternoon was not nearly as valuable
as the whole of Friday afternoon taken together. If they had a long way to go to
their work for wages the extra late hour may have been of little benefit, for in the
tropics it soon becomes too dark for outdoor labour. Besides, the late hour came
at the end of a day's work and energy might have been low; and there was too the
possibility that a job done piecemeal, an hour at a time, might not have been as
satisfactory or as speedily done as one begun and completed with one sustained
The introduction of the eight-hour system was, on most estates, very probably
intended to obstruct the apprentices from seeking wage labour away from their own
estates, or from devoting too much attention to the cultivation of provisions. The
qualified language is necessary, for in this, as in nearly every other instance of
hardship mentioned, the master could claim legitimacy for his action, or at least
could challenge his critic to prove that it was not legitimate. The master had a case
why should the apprentice depreciate estate equipment by wear and tear in his own
use or in the service of a rival producer? Why should he be allowed to graze his
livestock on estate property without paying a rent, when after fattening them up
he could sell them at good prices? Why should he have the benefit of Friday after-
noons, when it was probably just as much to the benefit of his master that he should
work shorter hours on the other days and give that sustained effort on Fridays to
the estate? The only answer was that in slave days the slaves had been allowed to
use the estate equipment for their own purposes, to graze their stock on the estate
grass, and that the long workday from sunrise to sunset had been customary. And
yet was not the whole meaning of the apprenticeship a break with the customs of
slavery, and did not every critic of the sugar planters proclaim their hide-bound
conservatism and servility to wasteful traditions?
Some of the planters, finding that the eight-hour day was unpopular with the
apprentices, soon reverted to the nine-hour system rather than invite the dissatis-
faction and animosity of their workers. Others, who out of spite or plain necessity
were driven at all costs to keep their apprentices away from the enticements of other
employment, maintained the eight-hour day and suffered from the discontent of
their labourers. On some estates, however, the system was retained and the workers
remained happy. The instances of this were few, and they occurred on those estates
which were purchasing the free time of their own apprentices and paying wages
superior, or at least equal, to what the apprentices could make at any other employ-
ment in the district. On such estates the eight-hour day was acceptable to the
apprentices because it did not handicap their possible earnings in their spare time.
There is a statement of the costs of production incurred on two unidentified
Jamaican estates for the years 1837 ind 1838, taken by one of the Stipendiary
Magistrates from the account books of the Attorney concerned. It seems clear that
the accounts refer to the costs of cultivation during 1837 and the costs of taking
the crop during the end of that year and the beginning of 1838, so that they have
no connection with the state of completely free labour which commenced on the first
of August, 1838. The information is not as complete as could be wished. It gives
the itemised account set down below, but does not say what processes of manufacture
were used, or how much sugar was made, or what was its quality. It will be seen
that the expenditures on wages and salaries and the maintenance of the apprentices
formed the greater part of the total costs, amounting to 4,109. 16s. 3d. of a total
of 6,031. 8s. 9jd. There is no indication whether these sums are in sterling, or
Jamaica currency, but the latter is more probable. The additional expenditures
arising purely out of the new system of labour would have been only that part of
Item Two which represented the actual money paid in wages to the apprentices for
labour in their free time.
SUMMARY OF THE EXPENDITURES OF Two ESTATES FOR 1837 AND 1838
1. Expenditure for the manufactory of sugar, including staves.
freight for sugar, lumber for repairs, and purchase of mill
2. Expenditure for feeding, clothing, medical care, and hire
in extra time of 207 apprentices
3. Expenditure for three white apprentices' feeding, clothing,
and medical care
4. Expenditure for the hire of engineer and tradespeople, and
other white servants
5. Expenditure for law accounts and other miscellaneous
6. Expenditure for overseer's salary and expenses, and
planting attorney's commission
1,538 13 21
1,982 4 2
587 10 2
328 1 5s
382 19 4
1,212 5 54
6,031 8 91
841 14 34
Balance in favour of Proprietor
A more specific piece of information had been given at the end of 1834 by
Thomas McNeel on Prospect Estate in Hanover. His apprentices were willing to
work extra time during crop, and he paid 25/- per hogshead for all sugar
"manufactured during their own hours" His cartmen and mulemen, he continued,
were being given 4 each for the whole crop. Unfortunately he did not say how
many hogsheads he expected to make, or how many cartmen and mulemen he
employed. This expense, however, was for taking crop only, without any
There were three types of agreement between masters and apprentices for extra
labour. There was payment offered for so many hours of the apprentices time to be
placed at the disposal of the master for any necessary labour; there was payment
for the days task, in which the master and apprentice, presumably on the basis of
Sir Lionel Smith's Scales of Labour, agreed on a quantity of work to be done in a
day for a stated wage; and thirdly, there was the system of job labour in which the
apprentice undertook to complete a defined task for an agreed wage, without any
stipulation about how long he should take to do it. The apprentices generally
favoured the last system, for it allowed them to finish the work as speedily as
possible, claim their wages, and move on to something else. Speed, however, was
not always desirable from the planters point of view In ordinary field labour, for
example, it was important that the cane-holes should be well dug, and the cane-
pieces properly weeded; and the planters sometimes complained that the apprentices,
when employed by the job, hurried through the work and did not do it properly.
During the various crop seasons, however, the planters desire for fast labour became
greater and they were more willing to use job labour. Some protected themselves
by defining the job in terms of quantities of produce actually gathered or made.
The coffee or pimento planter, for example, offered a wage, not for the number of
trees picked or the acreage covered by the pickers, but for a stated quantity of
produce actually brought in-usually a bushel or a basket. The sugar planters went
even further Like Mr. McNeel, they did not pay for an acreage of canes cut
or a cartload of canes passed through the mill, but for a quantity of sugar actually
produced and ready for export. This reduced the need of supervision over the
apprentices during the crop-taking, for it dkl not matter how they worked as long
as the sugar was being made, and the more -ugar that was made the more money
they would earn. It also ensured for the planter that every penny he paid out
in wages was covered by a quantity of saleable produce in his hands.
There were three possible means by which this extra cost of production could
be met. There was the compensation money paid to the planters, and in fact one
employer, John Nelson Bond, of Amity Hall Estate in St. Thomas in the East,
wrote to the Governor that his outlay in wages would be "more than mec by the
Interest on the Compensation money" In the same month, December 1834
Stipendiary Magistrate MacLeod reported from St. Dorothy that he had recently
sanctioned an agreement between Masters and Apprentices both
on the estates of the Lodge and Colbeck's in this parish which will not
cost the Proprietors nearly one half of their Year's interest of the Compen-
But even in those cases, the majority, in which the compensation money did not
actually rtach the planter but went to liquidate outstanding debts, he benefited, for
fewer debts meant less interest to be paid and a reduction of the coats of production.
Secondly, there was the increased volume of returns to the planter following the
rise in price of sugar in Britain, part of which might have been used to meet wage
costs. Thirdly, there was the possibility of reducing other costs of production, such
as money spent on supplies for the apprentices, whose indulgencese' were not
There was, of course, the possibility of reducing labour costs by the introduction
of labour saving techniques, but such a process would be slow and could offer no
immediate relief. Even the modest plough was stili an 'innovation' In July, 1835,
Stipendiary Magistrate Daughlrey remarked of estates in St. Elizabeth that
"It is an interesting circumstance in the present condition of things, as
applied to sugar estates, that in this neighbourhood the plough is now taking
place of the barbarous, unsightly, hoe-gang, and with complete success. It is
found, too, that even negroes can guide and manage it, that they can see
straight enough, which till of late seems to have been generally disbelieved.
By the spring of the following year, reports had come of similar successes
St. Thomas in the Vale, St. Ann, and St. Thomas in the East. The plough was
also. very probably, in use in other parishes at this time. Other improvements
and innovations were still of slow adoption, and were employed only in isolated
cases by individual planters who possessed more than the common share of both
capital and initiative. The old system and habits still persisted and were indicated
by more than one observer. Stipendiary Magistrate Lyon was a standard critic. tHe
wrote from St. Thomas in the East
"Nearly every estate has made extreme exertion, and with success, to
establish a greater number of plants this season than usual; with din.inished
means, prudence would dictate the propriety of a contraction of surface, and
a more scientific mode of cultivation. The present monotonous treatment of
soils essentially various, and ofttimes chemically opposite, must have a sen-
sible effect on the quantity and the quality of the cane-juice, and not
unfrequently disappoint the expectations of the planter."
The fact that wage rates rose steadily throughout the period indicates that, for
some planters anyway, the system, despite its faults, was promising. In December,
1834, various planters had suggested that they could offer rates varying from about
1/ 3 to 1/8 a day for field labour, and about 2/6 a day for skilled labour-the day
to consist of nine hours. In June, 1837, they were commonly paying 1/8 to 2/6 a
day for ordinary field labour, and 3/4 a day for skilled workers. Jobbing labour also
worked out at about 3/4 a day, but that depended on the size and nature of the
job, and the job workers could often make more.
It has been pointed out that rising wages resulted from competition for extra
labour between individual employers, the least of whom must have bid a wage
more remunerative to the apprentice than the cultivation of provisions would be.
Fluctuations in estate wages therefore reflected the prices obtainable for provisions
in the local markets, in the amount the apprentice demanded; and the prices paid
for sugar in Britain, in the amount that the planters generally could afford to offer.
During the apprenticeship the former varied considerably, as the apprentices
produced more or less, or as a result of good or bad weather; the la ter, however,
tended to steady increase. The effect of these price movements was to maintain a
fairly steady demand by the estates for labour, and a rather erratic willingness on
the part of the apprentices to supply it. But even assuming consistently good prices
for provisions, it was not always that this alternative invited the apprentice. The
amount of profit the apprentice could make out of provisions depended, not only
on their price, but also on the amount of land available to him for their cultivation,
and upon the nearness of the market.
The estates paid as high as 3/4 a day for some types of labour, and it often
paid the apprentice better to do work of that kind and to spend his remaining free
time growing provision for his own use, than to depend entirely upon the local
markets for his money earnings. His free hours were limited, and if he failed to get
rid of his produce in time to get back to the estate there were the 'higglers' waiting
to snap it up at 'obliging' bargain prices. The danger of this sacrifice increased as
more apprentices brought more produce to the markets. There was, clearly, the
need fur the apprentice to work out some balance which would provide the most
profitable division of his labour between the provisions-ground and the estate. The
limited free time at his disposal, however, made such an arrangement difficult, and
unless the apprentice had sufficient land for his own use, and lived close enough
to a good market, the temptation might have been strong for him to work for the
estate, and to use his grounds only to supply his own larder.
An essential point, however, was that when the apprentice did work for the
estate he wanted his wages immediately as they became due. The lowest provisions
prices were better than the promises of an impoverished planter, and so too, perhaps,
was leisure. Even for the planters who could afford to pay, this often involved
some difficulty for there was a chronic shortage of small coin during the apprentice-
ship which was only very slowly corrected. By the end of 1835, however, Lord Sligo
had been able to report to the Colonial Office that on 528 estates the apprentices
had worked for hire. on 203 estates they had neither been offered work nor refused
it, and on 69 estates they had positively declined the offers made to them. Many
of the Stipendiary Magistrates reported that when wages and allowances were equal
the apprentices seemed to prefer to work, in their own time, on properties other
than those on which they lived. Daughtrcy in St. Elizabeth, suggested that
"The bondage in which they grew up seems to have induced a disposition
to secrecy and reserve with regard to their gains and possessions-or,
perhaps, there a more perfect feeling of the freedom of labour
when bestowed away from the places where it has been compulsory."
When wages were not regularly paid, or when the apprentices felt that in some
way or another they were being unfairly treated, they sometimes "combined for
the purpose of doing little or no work" A detailed study of slave and apprentice
combinations for this purpose should prove interesting, for many of the conditions
favoured them. Field work was traditionally performed by gangs of labourers
classed according to their strength. On any estate, therefore, the members of any
one gang were probably well acquainted with each other. The youngest and
strongest people in the 'first gang' were the prime working force of the estate, and
if they decided to stop work or to go slow the estate production would suffer
heavily. In slave days the only blacklegg' labour had been that of the jobbing
slaves, whose owners demanded high prices for their services; on the other hand,
in slave days, the coercive power of the master had been practically unlimited.
The fear of insurrection, too, had led many masters to keep strict watch over the
behaviour of their slaves even when they were not at work, and combinations or
societies of any kind had been roughly squashed at the first signs of their appear-
ance. During the apprenticeship conditions improved. The ex-slaves continued
to work in the same gangs, and lived together in the old slave quarters, so that
while the coercive powers of the masters had been taken away the facility of
intercourse between the labourers on an estate remained. Combinations for the
purpose of delaying or stopping work, or refusing to work during free time, could
legally be punished only by referring them to the Stipendiary Magistrates; and
there was no guarantee that the judgment would be favourable to the employer.
But during the apprenticeship it became easier for the employer to find outside
labour when his own people became recalcitrant, for the apprentices on neighboring
estates might be willing to come in their spare time and work for him. There is a
report of apprentices complaining to a Stipendiary Magistrate that their master
was employing such outside labour when they themselves were ready and willing
to do the work for the same wages, but it is not clear whether this was an example
of strike-breaking, or whether the employer was simply being nasty to his own
The reactions of the planters to the apprenticeship system differed, but the
majority by far declared that it was anything from 'unsatisfactory' to 'ruinous'
By the 1830's, however, the Jamaica planters' cry of 'Ruin' had come simply to
mean that something new was upon them. It was the perennial exclamation of the
sub-marginal producer, and was re-echoed by his more fortunate brethren because
it suited them to present their situation in the worst possible light. It is necessary
to distinguish at this point between the resident proprietor planters, and the planting
attornies who supervised the estates of the absentee owners. It was, perhaps, in
the interest of the latter to announce dissatisfaction, for if the estates under their
management thrived their absent employers would credit them with more ability
than they perhaps possessed; and if they failed they could always say 'I told you
so' No matter what they said, the better and more responsible resident planters
and attornies must certainly have tried to make as much sugar as possible. Several
reports suggested, however, that the subordinate white employees on many estates
were not so inclined. The end of slavery and apprenticeship would bring about a
reduction of the need for white employees on the estates. Many of the apprentices
were qualified to take over the responsibilities of an overseer's or a book-keeper's
job, and on some estates free coloured people were already employed in positions
of this kind. The fear of insurrection would be diminished, and the 'deficiency'
laws would be thrown out, so that estate owners would not be required to employ
more supervisory staff than could be usefully employed. The possible development
of schemes for white immigration might fill the interior with white farmers, create
a surplus of whites for those jobs which they would readily accept; and, in short,
those estate whites who lost their position might well find themselves faced with
the alternatives of destitution or labour in the fields among the Negroes they had
so recently commanded. Several of these lesser white employees, therefore, weie
accused of deliberately setting out to wreck the apprenticeship. to disorganise the
estates and reduce production, to bring about a decline in the value of property,
and so to enable themselves to obtain land for their own settlement when complete
freedom came. As one writer put it:-
"Recent accounts from Jamaica state that the Negroes have been excited
to acts of outrage on several estates. This is what I have long expected.
There is in the Colony but one class which expects to derive much advantage
from this system of outrage, this class is Overseers. My intercourse with these
men enables me to penetrate their designs. It has ever been their practice,
to prevent the extension of useful practical knowledge, dther than the hewing
of cane fields, and feeding the mill, to the Negro lest he may one day rise
to the rank of an Overseer, and supersede Massa Busher (Overseer). But
disappointed in this speculation, they enter upon another with more zeal.
Their present plan is to excite the Negrroes to demand full and unrestricted
emancipation, and to aid them in this they are resolved to make the
apprenticeship as disagreeable as possible thus to disrupt production
and force planters so that they must either sell their estates for what
they will bring, or rent them, or let them rather, for some small annuity
to those very Overseers, who are now so active in opposing the apprentice-
ship. I could mention the names of some overseers who have openly expressed
themselves to this effect."
The scheme could not have succeeded for according to most reports there was a
gradual building up of confidence among the planters, and land prices increased as
speculators entered the market.
One of the more successful attornies, who did not attempt to hide his optimism.
was Mr. Oldham. He wrote to Lord Sligo in May, 1836, to say that
a decided improvement has taken place in the apprentices since
1st August, 1834,--and matters at this moment wear a favourable aspect
these facts being established, justify me in the views I take of the future.
I am not aware that my opinion is very popular; on the contrary, I rather
think not: however I have given incontrovertible proof it is my real one,
by having invested part of my funds in the purchase of a sugar estate, and
further that I am at this moment in treaty for the purchase of two others.
His apprentices, he continued, were well treated and they worked willingly for
wages. All of them were "building new or rebuilding and enlarging their old
houses" provisions were abundant, and they seemed well content. He was the
attorney for 5 sugar estates in St. Mary, 3 sugar and I coffee in St. George, and
3 sugar in Portland. He also owned Canewood Sugar Estate in St. George. On
none of these properties had there been any diminution of the crop since the
previous year, and, in fact, on 10 of them there had been increases. He thought
that now the great task must be to prepare for freedom,
to cultivate the feelings and minds of the apprentices-above all
things to substitute a spirit of emulation for fear df corporal punishment
and to teach reciprocity between employers and labourers.
On the side of the optimistic resident owners, Alexander Bravo remarked that
no doubt can exist of cultivation being profitably carried on in the
West Indies, as long as the apprenticeship lasts, I still further think that
emancipation will ndt fail to be attended with beneficial results both to the
employers and the labouring population "
He thought that if each man were paid according to the labour he performed the
cultivation of the island would go on
much better under a system of well paid and properly encouraged
free labour than ever it did under a system of slavery."
The twc oft-repeated conditions again present themselves: the ability to pay,
and the willingness to act fairly, would ensure to any employer an adequate supply
of labour. Those who could not fulfil these conditions were most certainly headed
for disaster. It was the poor estates, and the ones controlled by the pro-slavery
diehards, which faced extinction because they could no longer function in
the changed circumstances.
Other signs of confidence were reported by the Stipendiary Magistrates. Dillon,
in the Upper Dry Harbour District of St. Ann's, wrote of the
erecting expensive works, extending plantations, and forming
estate roads; the first may be seen at Cave River, the second is general, and
the third at Aboukir.
Daughtrey, from St. Elizabeth, mentioned the increasing prices of "planters' stock,
steers, mules, &c. as cultivation and manufacture were being restored to the earlier
levels. From St. Thomas in the East, Baines reported that
the crops are very light, but the managers are making strong
preparations for next year by putting in a large proportion of plant; the
cane pieces and pastures are in a much more forward and healthy state, and
the produce will be taken off in good time."
There were many who did not share in this optimism, but the prevailing opinion,
of the big planters at any rate, seems to have been that matters could have been
a good deal worse for they could at least continue to make sugar or grow coffee
for export. Two contentious issues of the time must be given particular attention:
they were the effects of absentee ownership, and the need for immigrants.
By 1834 absentee ownership was a long-established feature of the British
West Indian sugar industry, and during the apprenticeship many people, including
the Governor and certain of the Stipendiary Magistrates, expressed the opinion
that at this crucial time of transition from slavery to freedom the absentee owners
should, if at all possible, come to take personal charge of their estates. The main
benefit, it was thought, would be that owners would more readily and more efficiently
undertake the reforms in management which were needed to meet the new conditions
of production by free workers. But, even assuming the readiness of proprietors
who may have had other interests at stake elsewhere to come out to the colonies
to supervise their properties, the matter could not thus have been satisfactorily
settled for two important reasons. First, many proprietors owned estates in more
than one colony. Mr. John Gladstone, for example, the father of the statesman,
had property in Jamaica and British Guiana, and unless he had disposed of that
part of it in either colony he could not have avoided being an absentee owner by
either the Jamaican or the Guianese definition. The smallness of the West Indian
islands had served to make absenteeism an almost inescapable feature of large-
scale ownership, because no individual island was big enough to contain many
really extensive estates. There was evidence of this in the overflow of capital from
the older colonies and from the West India Body in Britain into the other possessions
in the Caribbean as they were acquired by the British. Secondly, there could have
been no satisfactory basis for the general assumption that owners would make the
best managers. The point is that at all times the well-being of an estate depends
less upon who owns it than upon the successful choice of a suitable person to manage
it. Lord Sligo, Governor of Jamaica during the first years of the apprenticeship,
though himself a blamer of absenteeism to which he attributed much of the bad
feeling between masters and apprentices, did not hesitate to say that many of the
absentee-owned estates were conducted by able and intelligent attornies. He referred
to Mr. Oldham, previously mentioned, as
one of the three attornies, whose system has been the most success-
ful in this Island; the estates under his charge have ever been the best
cultivated, and the most advanced of any in their neighbourhood, and fewer
complaints come from them before the Special Justices, than from those near
them under other management."
Again, after the investigation of a complaint by two women apprentices about the
improper use of the hospital on Recess Estate belonging to a Mr. Gyles, Lord Sligo
wrote to the Secretary of State for the Colonies:
"I am however far from wishing it to be understood to say that these
sort of things do occur on estates under the management of the great attornies.
Most of those I have heard of, happen on estates of obscure persons like
this very Mr. Gyles
A number of absentee proprietors responded to the urgings of Lord Sligo and
the Stipendiary Magistrates and began to tighten their control over their estate staffs,
either through orders to their attornies, or by sending representatives from Britain
to look over their estates or even to take over the management. But the problem
1 1 *
was not one which could easily be solved, even by a change of management, for
a change of management was not necessarily accompanied by a change of attitude,
and that was the essential need.
The second issue was that of immigration. The planters were worried about
the probable further diminution of the labour supply after the apprenticeship. Some
people felt that without compulsion the labourers would refuse to work, and would
take to the hills.
"Negroes, having fewer wants than whites, will need to work very little,
and since hard labour is disliked by all men it is clear that they will work
no harder than will be necessary to provide them with their 'most urgent
wants' What appear as necessaries to the whites are often regarded by
Negroes and free Indians 'as troublesome and cumbrous appendages,
undeserving the labour requisite for attaining them'
This was the old-fashioned argument, stated in traditional style, and it was fast
losing popularity. Most planters who could afford to pay wages at the current
levels were willing to admit that the apprentices were not adverse to labour, though
they may have regretted that the apprentices had a choice of masters and occupa-
tions in their free time. The more popular view, supported by some of the Stipendiary
Magistrates as well as the majority of the planters, was that after the apprenticeship
the labourers would settle independently as small farmers on the wide areas of
open land in Jamaica. and that they would not be tempted to work on the estates
for wages which the planters could afford.
How well founded this idea was, of course, depended partly upon the quantity
of open cultivable land which did actually exist, and on this point there seems
to have been wide misunderstanding, even after investigations had been carried
out. It was Lord Sligo who first began the official queries by asking the opinions
of planters and surveyors on the extent of the island area as a whole, on the
area of land which had already been patented, and on the extent of the lands
still in the possession of the Crown. Alexander Bravo was one of the few of his
class who saw no cause for alarm.
"It strikes me that when your Lordship has made due enquiry from
those persons most likely to be able to furnish accurate information of fhe
subject, namely the County and other Surveyors, that your Lordship will
find that there is very little land remaining in this Island which is not covered
by patents, at least such I know to be the case in several Parishes in which
I possess property and I have good reason to believe that it is so in almost
all the other Parishes in Jamaica-or if there be lands uncovered by Patents
that such lands are either perfectly inaccessible, or, totally unfit for
In the following month, May, 1836, Sligo received a report from Mr. McGeachy,
the County Surveyor of Surrey. He thought that the extent of Crown Lands was
"very considerable" and suggested that they should be discovered, surveyed, and
protected. The expense of this, he said, could easily be defrayed by the collection
of quit-rents, long unpaid, on those lands which had been patented but neglected
by the holders. A subsequent passage of his letter illustrates the complete confusion
which clothed the question of available land.
"I can mention one instance of about 2,000 acres being lately discovered
by its proprietor (previously quite forgotten)-quit-rents paid up, and an
offer of 10/- per acre immediately made to him for the whole-the offer was
rejected and more than double that sum demanded."
It is hard to believe that a patentee could have "forgotten" 2,000 acres of his grant.
What probably happened was that he or his predecessors had originally obtained
it as a part of a larger grant, of which the most suitable area had been brought
under cultivation and the 2,000 acres left in their natural state. Not gaining any
income from this unused land, he had conveniently "forgotten" it so as to evade
payment of land taxes and quit-rent, but had suddenly "discovered" it again
vhien, during the apprenticeship, a brisk business in real estate developed as the
apprentices sought to invest their savings in small lots. The offer of 10/- an acre
had possibly been made by a speculator who intended to parcel out the land for
re-sale in smaller portions. In February, 1839, a Commission appointed by
Sir Lionel Smith to study the matter, reported that during the previous 20 years
there had been an average annual loss to the Island Revenues of 15,896. 13s. 5d.
as a result of evasions of the quit-rents of Id. per acre, and the Island Land Tax
of 3d. per acre. This was very probably an overestimation, but it shows that the
practice of "forgetting" could not have been uncommon.
The Commission had based its investigations on "such relative documents as
the Island Secretary and the Receiver General could provide", and it showed that
the totai Island area was 4,000,000 acres, of which 3,403,359 acres were covered
by patents, and 596,641 acres remained as Crown Property. Nobody, however,
seemed able to say exactly where these Crown Lands were situated. Phi'ip Morris,
the Cornwall County Surveyor, could account for 548 acres, chiefly in St. James
and Trelarny; Joseph Bryant, the Middlesex Surveyor, knew only of a small
quantity of rough 'cockpit' country on the St. Ann-St. John border; and McGeachy
of Surrey estimated that in his County there were about 3,000 unpatented acres.
The main feature of the report was its exaggeration of the Island area-which
explains why some of it could not be found. Jamaica actually contains
2,692,480 acres. One reason for the Commissioners' magnificent error was that
the Island had never been accurately measured in width; and another was that
lacking reliable information from the surveyors, area estimates, like those of the
Commission, were usually based on the records of land grants and paid-up quit-
rents. This as a highly unsatisfactory method because grants had been carelessly
bestowed and a great deal of overlapping had occurred. Any given piece of land
might therefore, quite easily, have been included more than once in the estimate.
There is no need to go further into detail on this subject. The important point
is that the planters commonly believed that sufficient free land was there to allow
the apprentices to quit the estates when complete freedom was given, and that
the apprentices would go. The answer lay in immigration. The prevailing opinion
was that white immigrants should be brought in to work the cooler mountain estates.
to set an example of industry to the Negroes, to form a white peasantry
by settlement in the interior, to fill out the ranks of white police and militia, and
to reduce the great disproportion between the white and black inhabitants of the
Island. The black labourers on the mountain properties would thus be forced down
into the coastal areas to work the big sugar estates, the quantity of free land
available for purchase by them would be decreased, and the necessity for them
to labour in the canefields thereby made greater.
Immigration plans in the post-emancipation years took three forms. There were
the immigrants brought out by individual proprietors, the immigrants brought out
at the Island's expense in an attempt to form inland Townships of Whites, and
there were the various proposals to form Immigration Companies to undertake the
scheme on a grand scale. In June, 1836, the Island Legislature passed an Act which
regulated the manner in which persons could be brought into the island; detailed the
rights of the immigrants and their employers in the matters of terms of indenture,
supplies of food, clothing, and shelter, the rates of wages, and the settlements of
disputes. It also authorised the payment of fixed bounties to the importers of labour,
(12 if the immigrant was over 12 years old, and 8 if younger.
The arrivals of the first immigrants preceded the Immigration Act. The first
recorded lot had arrived in the latter part of 1834, brought to the Island by
"Mr. Solomon Myers, a German Jew possessing a small Coffee Plantation in
St. George's." They had come from Bremen, where Mr. Myer's agent, Mr. Gude-
mann, lived. There were 63 in all, about 40 of whom were women and children.
To a certain extent the experiment was a failure. The immigrants did not work in
the coffee-walks, but as domestics, and even so some of them deserted Mr. Myers
and joined the Clarendon Police. Financially, however, the attempt had proved
worthwhile, for an overjoyed Assembly had granted Mr. Myers a (15 bounty on
every immigrant-man, woman, or child-and a round sum of (500 as well. In
January, 1835, Mr. Myers brought in a second lot. This time they numbered over
500. They went to various estates throughout the island, but they soon announced
that Mr. Gudemann had deceived them about conditions in Jamaica, and a year
later Lord Sligo wrote to the Colonial Office that
"The German immigrants are going to America as fast as they can get
away from here, and all I have seen express a determination to do so the
moment they can get free."
Mr. Myers, however, had got his (15 per head, and the need for an Immigration Act
was becoming clear.
There were others who were bringing white immigrants into the Island.
Towards the end of 1835 Mr. Salmon, a member of the Council, brought in
70 English and settled them on his own property as tenants. They did not all remain
with him, but he seemed to think the experiment a success and suggested that it
should be carried out on a large scale to settle the interior of the island. He did not,
however, favour the efforts of the Jamaica Government to finance the settlement
of three inland townships of white immigrants at Altamont, Seaford, and
"Having always been opposed to them I would say nothing unkindly-
there is an old and very true saying 'Everybody's business is nobody's'
Seaford Town is I hear a failure."
He was quite right about Seaford Town. In December 1835, a Mr. Lemonius, acting
as agent for the Jamaica Assembly, had brought in 532 Germans for settlement
both at Seaford, the most advanced of the three planned townships, and on various
estates in the neighbourhood. On their arrival at Montego Bay it was discovered
that there was no accommodation ready for them in Seaford Town. The cottages in
which they were to have been housed were
very imperfectly thatched, badly walled, without flooring, and
carelessly designed and constructed."
The comparative failure of these schemes of individuals and Government did
not remove the general idea that white immigrants were the answer to the labour
problem which was expected at the end of the apprenticeship; although a few people,
including the Governor, felt that with 28,160 spent by March 1836, and so little to
show for it, the policy should be abandoned. There still existed the relatively
grandiose plans of Mr. A. A. Lindo, who, from his residence in Finsbury, London,
bombarded the Colonial Office with reams of notes and proposals on almost every
West Indian problem; of Mr. Lemonius, who on his way to North Germany to find
settlers for Seaford Town had paused at the Colonial Office to hand in a few notes
on the need for immigration'on a large scale; of the West India Body in Britain,
some of whom had formed an association "for the purpose of settling the Interior
of the Island of Jamaica by the formation of a Jamaica Immigration
Company; and of Mr. Salmon, who supported this plan and thought that such a
Company should have a subscribed capital of 1,000,000 with which to do the job
properly. None of these schemes actually came into operation, and immigration into
Jamaica continued piecemeal until after the middle of the century.
The attitude of the British Government to all these endeavours was one of
benign neutrality. They did not object to immigration, but they did object to the
enticement of settlers by false pretences about life in the Colonies. Throughout the
whole period of the Apprenticeship the British Government, or to be more specific
the Colonial Office, paid the greatest attention to the smallest details of conditions in
Jamaica. Not only the despatches of the Governors, but the numerous and often
verbose quarterly reports of the Special Magistrates, and the letters of private
individuals, were read, annotated, and acknowledged. The focus of interest had,
however, changed. Jamaica, once the "darling plantation" of Charles II, and the
prime source of wealth that sugar had been in the eighteenth century, was no
longer the golden-haired child of the imperial family to be petted and preferred.
The Jamaican scene was being observed by people who were watching a tremendous
experiment in the transition from slave to free labour, and if sugar suffered in the
process because of the fewness of the whites, or the disinclination of the labourers
to work the estates, well, that was
a matter for later consideration, but Property can hardly cease to
be valuable in Jamaica, though the cultivation of sugar may cease to be profit-
able. It is their-the proprietors-business to see what else can be made of it."
The inference was clear. In 1836 the British people no longer depended upon
British West Indian sugar to sweeten their tea, for that commodity could be obtained
elsewhere. Cubans, Brazilians, and others, had sugar and wanted British
Immigration apart, there was another suggestion as to how labourers might be
kept on the estates. It was made by Mr. William Burge, the Jamaica Agent in Britain.
He proposed that the Parishes should be divided into 'Hundreds' containing one to
two thousand inhabitants and
as many established Sugar, Coffee, or other Plantations in full
operation, as will afford the Population ample room for selecting places of
The labourer, having chosen one of these places of employment, would be compelled
to remain there for an agreed period, and he would be forbidden to leave the
'hundred' "without showing good cause for so doing" Laws in support of this
system would prevent vagrancy, and, perhaps,
prevent the sale of land, except in such quantities as would afford
a surety that the Purchaser would engage in the cultivation of Staple articles.
There were obvious weaknesses in this scheme. It took no account of the great
probability that the apprentices, once completely free, would endure no further
regimentation; it ignored the problem of uneven population trends in the different
'hundreds'; it assumed the continuity of production by estates which were "in full
operation" in 1837; it paid no attention to the problems which would arise if too
many workers in the same 'hundred' should choose to work for the same employer
and refuse to serve another; it ignored the differences of wages and types of labour
on the various estates; it paid no regard to parochial differences of all kinds-it
was a purely theoretical scheme, devised by a thoroughly conservative gentleman.
It was received at the Colonial Office without apparent enthusiasm, and the labour
problem in Jamaica remained.
The prime fault of the apprenticeship system was that it attempted an impos-
sible compromise between slavery and freedom. It involved the continuation of
many features 'of slavery such as forced labour, the distribution of indulgencese'
and allowances, and the restricted mobility of the labour force; and it tried to mix
with these such incompatible ingredients as labour for wages, and competition
between employers for labour. It was hardly to be expected that the apprentice would
work as industriously during his compulsory hours as he would when working in
his free time for money. Wage agreements between masters and apprentices were
made difficult because some indulgencies were a legal right, and some were not; as
a result the apprentice often demanded as a right what the master withheld as a
wage. Nor could disputes be fought out by outright refusals to do any labour,
because the apprentice was compelled to give his 40) hours per week; or by the
threat of dismissal, for the apprentice was fixed to the estate. In short, the coercive
power of the master, the essential force of slavery, had been removed; and the full
freedom to bargain, the essential force of free labour, had not been substituted.
The efforts of the Stipendiary Magistrates, the unskilled interpreters of a vague law,
though often brave, could hardly have solved the difficulties inherent in the system.
In November 1836, the newly arrived Governor, Sir Lionel Smith, enumerated
some of the problems which he thought should be settled by Laws to supplement
the Emancipation Act.
"The most material is a positive Law for the 9 hours system of labour
still disputed. The grant of Fish (called by the Negroes here salt) and other
allowances to be fixed by Law-and a Law for more time, for the mothers of
Children and the better care of Children when their parents are working in
the field. God only knows whether I shall be able to accomplish the.'
The Assembly, in fact, proved adamant, until in the following year a disturbing
In that year, 1837, Messrs. Sturge, Harvey, and Lloyd came to Jamaica.
Joseph Sturge carried a letter from Sir George Grey at the Colonial Office, asking
the Governor to afford him every facility in his mission, which was to ascertain for
certain anti-Slavery bodies in Britain what were the real effects of emancipation in
the West Indies. He did not, apparently, take much advantage of the Governor's
willingness to assist him, for Sir Lionel Smith, himself branded by the planters as a
partisan of the apprentices, complained that Sturge
put himself in the hands of violent disaffected people of colour,
or in those Partisan Magistrates-and the very sight of the Society he sought
was sufficient to excite the Negro population to discontent, and to the belief
that 'Joseph' was a great 'Buckra' come to terminate their apprenticeship.
The behaviour of Sturge and his associates did, it seems, affect both planters and
apprentices. It excited the latter to the belief that the apprenticeship would soon
be over; and it led the planters to wonder if the British Government was considering
such a move. In October the Assembly decided, of its own accord, to debate the
subject, and a motion was carried that it was
highly inexpedient to entertain any measure having for its object
the abbreviation of the period of Apprenticeship as fixed by the Abolition
More important, perhaps, was that about a third of the members had been willing
to vote for an amendment to the motion, saying that the final termination of the
apprenticeship in August 1838, would be considered if some form of compensation
were granted by Britain. The desire to continue the apprenticeship was due less to
complete satisfaction with its working than to fear of \what might follow It had at
least been ascertained that as long as the apprenticeship continued the majority of
the estates could function, and could even make some profit. That in itself seemed
to be something to be secured.
Apart from Sturge's visit, however, there were other happenings which
influenced the behaviour of the Assembly One was the growing tear that if they
did not soon comply with requests for an Act in Aid of the Emancipation Law the
British Government might pass one for them, or worse, might go so far as to end
the apprenticeship. The other was the information of the firm way in which the
British Government had handled the House of Assembly of Lower Canada after
the 1837 rebellion. In March 1838, Sir Lionel Smith reported that the Jamaica
Assembly had at last passed an Act in Aid, which he thought was satisfactory It
allowed praedial apprentices time in which to go to their places of work, without
infringement on their free hours; and it fixed valuation prices from that time forward
at sums ranging from f15 to 7, according to the field gang to which the applying
apprentice belonged. Headmen and tradesmen or skilled workers, however, were
still to be valued by the old system. Other improvements included the compulsory
provision of medical attendance on estates of 60 or more apprentices; and the
bettering of some of the conditions of field labour, such as the obligatory appoint-
ment of cooks and water-carriers for the gangs.
The deed had come too late. The Jamaica Act was quickly followed by a
British Act to Amend the Act for the Abolition of Slavery, to become law on the
l th April, 1838. It contained some hard blows for the Assembly. All allowances
legally or customarily given for a period of 3 years before 1833 were now to be
granted as of right to the apprentices, and in cases of dispute the Governor was
authorized to settle the issue; the Stipendiary Magistrates were given the right of
entry to all parts of estates, and those obstructing them would be liable to prosecu-
tion; the administration of prisons and workhouses was regulated, and all flogging
was abolished; the apprentices were to be classified so that there should be a mini-
mum of dispute on the 1st August, 1838, when the non-praedials were due to
receive full freedom; and further regulations removed other apprentice disabilities
In May, accounts from the other West Indian Colonies indicated that Barbados,
Nevis, M'ontserrat, and Tortola, had all passed Acts of general emancipation,
releasing all apprentices on Ist August, 1838; and it seemed that the legislatures of
St. Kitts, Grenada, St. Vincent, Dominica, Tobago, and St. Lucia intended to
follow suit. The Packet from England also brought news that several proprietors in
Britain had sent out orders to their Attornies to give general freedom to all their
apprentices on the 1st of August.
The Jamaica Assembly could do nothing to stem the tide, and when the
Governor asked them to consider general freedom on the Ist of August, and this
without compensation, they answered
"The apprenticeship was forced on the acceptance of the House, as one
of the precautionary measures to be adopted in the transition from slavery to
freedom, and was a portion of our compensation; while therefore we discuss
the propriety of its abolition we neither assume the responsibility nor
exonerate the public faith.
The discussion was short, and within a couple of days an Act was passed ending
the entire apprenticeship on the 1st of August, 1838. It cannot be said that the
Jamaica Assembly was quite happy to see it go.
SOURCES AND SUGGESTED READING
Colonial Office Documents the Public Record Office, London, Series 137,
2. Burn, W L. "Emancipation and Apprenticeship in the British Indies"
3. Deerr N. "History of Suga.r" 2 Vols. (London, 1949).
4. Hovey, S. "Letters from the West Indies" (New York, 1838).
5. Madden, R. R. "A Twelvemonth's Residence in the West Indies during the transition
from Slavery to Apprenticeship" 2 Vols. (Philadelphia, 1835).
6. Mathieson, W L. "riitish Slavery and Its Abolition" (London, 1926).
7 Stur'g, 1. and Harvey, T "The West Indies in 1837" (London, 1838)
8. Thome. I :,pA Kimball, J. : "Emancipation in the West Indies" (New York, 1838).
The Founder of Rural Democracy i: Haiti
BY DANTES BELLEGARDE
THE history of Haiti is dominated by four great men who fought and worked for
its independence: Toussaint Louverture, Dessalines, Christophe and P6tion.
Toussaint is the best known of all because his extraordinary genius and spectacular
career have engaged the attention of numerous authors. From a variety of angles
they have related the story of this one-time slave who became the Governor-General
of the French colony of Sainl-Domingue only to die a captive in a dungeon of the
The career of Dessalines was scarcely less dramatic than that of Toussaint, for
it was he who led to decisive victory the negroes and mulattoes, united in the sacred
struggle for freedom. Christophe, who became King of Haiti and revealed great
administrative powers, is principally known by the public works he constructed in
the Northern Kingdom. The most remarkable of these is the Citadelle Laferriere,
which has been justly called one of the wonders of America.
Of these four Haitian heroes, Alexandre Phtion is the least known in the United
States, but his name is revered in Latin America because he played a role of first
importance in the history of the New World.
Alexandre 1Ption was born at Port-au-Prince, April 2, 1770, the son of a
mulatto woman and a white man, Pascal Sabes, who, considering his son too dark
of skin, refused to recognize him. His elementary education was very inadequate
because the whites had not established schools in the Colony oef Saint-Domingue He
learned the trade of silversmith from one of his father's friends, M. Guiole, a native
of Bordeaux, whose wife showed much solicitude for the young boy. She called
him Pichoun (which in her southern patois meant mon petit, "my little one"),
whence the name Petion, by which he continued to be known and which he finally
adopted as his own.
Associating at an early age with the non-commissioned officers of the garrison
at Port-au-Prince, young Alexandre took a liking to the military profession, and
became particularly interested in the artillery. When he was eighteen he joined the
militia. In 1791, he took part in the uprising of the Freedmen against white colonists.
He distinguished himself at the battle of Pernier (August 2, 1791), not only by his
calm courage, but also by his chivalrous spirit which prompted him to expose
himself to the guns of his own soldiers in order to save the lives of French officers
who had been taken prisoner. P6tion served as a Lieutenant-General under Andr6
Rigaud during the civil war of 1800 between Toussaint Louverture and Rigaud,
who then commanded the Southern Province. He valiantly defended the town of
Jacmel, attacked by a large army under the command of Dessalines, and made a
sortie which military experts of the time considered a remarkable operation. His
commanderr having been defeated, P6tion went to France where he used his enforced
leisure to complete his knowledge of ballistics.
When Bonaparte decided to send a powerful army to Saint-Dominguc to
overthrow the power of Toussaint, P6tion, with many other officers who were
followers of Rigaud, enlisted in the expeditionary force. As head of the artillery
battalion in the division of General Debelle, he took part in the siege of I.a
Cretc-A-Pierrot, one of the most famous episodes in the history of Haiti.
Bonaparte had given secret instructions to his brother-in-law, General Leclerc,
Coinmandcr-in-Chief of the expeditionary army, first to get rid of Toussaint and
the black leaders, both Negroes and mulattoes, and then to re-establish slavery,
which had been officially abolished in the French colonies by an act of the
Convention Nationale in 1793. Toussaint Louverture, defeated, was drawn into a
trap, deported to France, and imprisoned in the Fort of Joux in the Jura. He died
of cold and privation, April 7, 1803, after ten months of rigorous captivity.
The first part of the French programme having been accomplished by the
deportation of the man who was justly called "Le Premier des Noirs" Leclerc took
steps to continue the policy prescribed by the French Government. He had the
natives disarmed. In all parts of the territory, mass executions took place. There
was a reign of terror as bloody as in the most horrible days of the French
Revolution. The colonists openly talked of the imminent re-establishment of slavery.
These rumours and rigorous measures created among the blacks a general feeling
of anxiety and insecurity.
The mountaineers were the first to come to the point of revolt. They were soon
joined in their mountain camps by the natives of the towns. The black and mulatto
officers who were still serving in the French army began to understand, by
unmistakable signs, that their lives were in danger. Some of them, who were put
on warships under the pretext of missions to fulfill, were heard of no more. Others
P6tion was commander of a division at this time and was quartered at
Haut-du-Cap, several kilometres from the town of Cap-Frangais, where Leclerc
had his headquarters. In the second week of October, 1802, he received an
unexpected visit from Dessalines, his former adversary in the civil war of 1800,
and three days after their conversation, Pition took up arms against the French
(October 13). The intervention of Petion had the happy result of developing and
hastening the movement of insurrection. The first of the Army of Independence to
recognize the authority of Dessaline. he drew to the latter all the mulatto officers,
his companions in the southern war. Moreover P6tion was popular with the chiefs
of the bands of Negroes known as maroons, of whom the majority detested
Dessalines, and he was able to rally them to the common cause of liberty.
In declaring war on the French, Alexandre P6tion distinguished himself by an
art of generosity, which the French General Pamphile de Lacroix related with
admiration: he sent back to the French lines the European officers and soldiers
who were serving under him since he did not wish to force them to fight against
their own country.
During the month of May, 1803, P6tion, whom Dessalines had assigned to the
mission of organizing the campaign in the West, convoked an assembly of the
officers who were operating in this region. The meeting took place, with Dessalines
presiding, at Arcahaie, a little town situated to the north of Port-au-Prince. Its
purpose was to consolidate the authority of Dessalines and to co-ordinate the various
activities necessary to assure the final liberation of the country. During this meeting,
on May 18, and by recommendation of P6tion, the Haitian flag of two colours was
officially created. Tearing from the French flag the white band, which in the eyes
of the insurrectionists represented the white colonists, Dessalines brought together
the blue and red as a symbol of the union of Negroes and mulattoes. Thanks to
this union the independence of Haiti was about to become a reality.
After numerous engagements in which the Army of Independence proved its
military worth, and of which the most glorious was the battle which Dessalines
fought against General Rochambeau and his troops at Vertikres, the French were
finally forced to capitulate. November 29, 1803, the Army of Independence entered
Cap-Frangais in triumph. On December 4, the last French regiments left Mole
Saint-Nicolas, exactly 411 years after Christopher Columbus had anchored in this
bay (December 6, 1492) and celebrated the first Christian ceremony in the
On January 1, 1804, on the Place d'Armes of the town of Gonaives, in
Artibonite Province, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the erstwhile slave whose body still
showed scars from the lashings of his master's whip, proclaimed the independence
of the former Colony of Saint-Domingue, which took its Indian name of Haiti
meaning Land of Mountains. This proclamation marked both the birth of the second
independent nation in America (after the United States) and the entrance of a
Negro people into the society of civilized nations. It was also an eloquent affirmation
of human liberty and of the equality of races.
The new State entered international life under most difficult conditions. It had
endured a violent revolution which had lasted several years. Its leaders were military
men who had received neither political nor administrative training. Its population
of 400,000 was composed for the most part of former slaves who had learned from
the colonial regime only the deplorable concept that "the master is the man who
does not work; being free means not working" The wealth of the country had
almost entirely disappeared in the campaign of massive destruction and massacre
which had been ordered by Dessalines as the surest means of obtaining victory.
There was no social framework. There was no economic organization. No schools
existed. Moreover, having violently condemned slavery, the young nation saw itself
immediately exposed to the hostility of all the Powers holding slaves in the Western
Hemisphere. It was consequently looked upon as an outlaw. England feared for
Jamaica; Spain for her American colonies; the United States feared the example
of the Haitian slaves for her own slaves in the South.
The first head of the Haitian state, Dessalines, received the title of Governor-
for-Life. As this recalled too vividly the colonial regime, in September, 1804, he
imitated Napoleon and had himself proclaimed Emperor under the title of Jacques I.
He reigned as a dictator until October 17. 1806, when he fell victim to a military
At the death of Dessalines, the imperial regime was abolished. The sad use
which he had made of absolute power seemed to a great number of Haitians to
condemn dictatorship. They believed that a change in the form of government
would result in better direction of public affairs. Alexandre P6tion, who was military
Governor of the Western Province, used all of his influence to have the Republican
form of Government adopted. He was fundamentally democratic and passionately
devoted to the ideals of freedom, as he had proved in his youth. His liberalism
had been strengthened during his stay in Paris by contact with men of the
Revolution, who believed in the progress of democracy by the diffusion of the ideas
of brotherhood. The Constituent Assembly, which met at Port-au-Prince in
December, 1806, was composed mainly of his friends. It voted a constitution which
took its inspiration, in its general outline, from the Declaration of the Rights of
Man and of the Citizen. The new constitution organized the Republic; the executive
power was delegated to a magistrate called the President of Haiti, who was to be
elected for four years; the legislative power resided in a Senate of eighty members;
and the judicial power was vested, except for justices of the peace, in judges named
for life. By excessive reaction from the dictatorship, powers were accorded to the
legislative body which gave it definite advantages over the President. It was in
accordance with this constitution that on December 28, 1806, Henry Christophe,
General-in-Chief of the Army was elected President of Haiti.
Finding his powers too restricted by the Republican constitution, Christophe
isolated himself in the Northern Province, and on February 17, 1807, had a new
constitution voted which named him President for life and Generalissimo of the
military and naval forces, with right of choosing his successor from among the
Generals exclusively, and of designating the members of a Council of State, of
which at least two thirds should be army men. In answer to this act, the Senate
was convened at Port-au-Prince, impeached Christophe, and on March 11, 1807,
elected General P6tion President of the Republic of Haiti.
The Government established in the North was a monarchy without the name.
A law voted by the Northern Council of State, March 28, 1811, proclaimed
Christophe, King of Haiti under the name of Henri I. It accorded titles, prerogatives
and hereditary immunities to his family, and to his legitimate male descendants in
direct line, by right of seniority, to the exclusion of any female descendants. A
nobility was established composed of Princes of the blood of Christophe, Dukes,
Counts, and Barons. I.anded property was set up in favour of the nobles of the
Christople governed his kingdom with an iron hand. But he proved himself
to be an administrator of the first order. He created schools, built public roads,
developed agriculture, encouraged industry. He constructed as a residence the
magnificent palace of Sans-Souci, which was his Versailles; we still admire the
imposing ruins of its splendour. Against the possibility of a return of the French,
he built, on the top of a mountain 2,800 feet high, the Citadelle Laferriere, which
has become one of the places most visited by tourists today.
Elected President of the Haitian Republic in March, 1807, P6tion was re-elected
in March, 1811, and again in March, 1815. A new constitution, voted in 1816,
reaffirmed the principle of the separation of powers, and reorganized the legislative
bodv to be composed of a Chamber of Deputies and a Senate. It established a life
term for the Presidency and gave to the head of the State the right to nominate
his successor, the Senate alone being responsible for the Presidential Election. The
establishment of a life term for the Presidency was severely criticised. As a matter
of fact, the country was not lacking in men who, like General Borgella or General
Bonnet for example, had rendered service to the cause of independence and who
believed themselves as qualified as Petion to govern the country.
The administration of Potion was marked by three acts of capital importance.
first, the distribution of lands of the national domain to officers and soldiers of the
Army of Independence, thus creating medium-sized and small rural properties;
second, the establishment at Port-au-Prince of a lycde for boys and a school of
secondary education for girls, and the encouragement given by public education to
the formation of an intellectual elite among Haitian youth; third, the help given
Simon Bolivar in the emancipation of the Spanish colonies of this hemisphere and
for the abolition of slavery in South America.
The territory of the French Colony of Saint-Domingue had originally been
divided into large domains belonging to a restricted class, that of the grands
planteurs composed of the younger sons of the French aristocracy and of enriched
colonists, who with the labour of many slaves could exploit their plantations on a
large scale. When Haiti proclaimed her independence, the plantations of the
colonists were confiscated and became the property of the Haitian State. A few of
the large estates were given to the Commanding Generals of the Army.
Alexandre Petion had the insight of genius. He understood that the best means
of developing national spirit was to attach the citizen to the soil by making him
the owner of the land he cultivates. He saw also in such a measure the application
of a principle of social justice. By a law in 1809, completed by another in 1814,
P6tion contrived the division of the large colonial plantations and the distribution
of the lots thus formed as "national gifts" to the lower officers and soldiers of the
Army of Independence. Having thus created the small peasant farms, P6tion can
legitimately be called the founder of rural democracy in Haiti. Study of the
economic organization of Haiti demonstrates the resistance which its peasant owner-
ship of the soil and its plan of cultivating small farms were able to oppose to the
world depression. It shows clearly that the agrarian problem, which at the present
time gives so much difficulty to many American and European countries has been
solved by the Republic of Haiti in the most democratic manner, and that in
consequence Haiti is safe from communist revolution. The Haitian peasant is, in
fact, highly individualistic and strongly opposed to all types of collectivism, except
in the rudimentary form of co-operative work which is called coumbite (a kind of
American husking bee). Haiti is an agricultural country. Of its present population
of 3,500,000, about two-thirds live in the country and cultivate the land. Three-
quarters of the territory belongs, with full rights of ownership, to the Haitian
peasants. This is the most certain safeguard of the security and stability of the
state, for if Haiti has known governmental instability too often in the past it has
always had social stability, which is infinitely more precious. The Haitians believe
that though the industrialization of agriculture, implying the use of machinery and
of hired labour, would develop production considerably, it would also bring with
it the destruction of the class of small-proprietors. And Haiti would run the risk
of becoming a richer country with a population more poverty-stricken than they
are. They are convinced that Alexandre P6tion was right in believing in the progress
of their rural democracy by application of surer methods, of which the first is
Alexandre P6tion established in the Constitution of 1816 the principle of free
elementary education. It was to education that he gave his most solicitous attention.
He was almost alone, among his intimate advisers, in thinking that public education
should be the fundamental basis of any government programme in a true democracy.
In this belief he was strongly influenced by the ideas of Condorcet. He liked to
repeat that education "raises man to the dignity of his being" And, since, as
Descartes said, "all our dignity is in our thought", P6tion believed that every
human being, consequently every Haitian, man or woman, had a right to intellectual
development-a belief which implied for him universal education. He felt this
diffusion of culture among the Haitian people all the more necessary because the
partisans of slavery still continued to proclaim, as do the partisans of racialism
today, that Negroes and descendants of Negroes are incapable of any mental
development. This is why he was so anxious to establish secondary education leading
to higher studies. This, he felt, was indispensable for the creation of an intellectual
l6ite and a Haitian culture. With this in view he created the lycde of Port-au-Prince,
which now bears his name. And more remarkable still, when we consider the ideas
of his time regarding the education of girls, he founded the Pensionnat National de
Demoiselles at Port-au-Prince.
Potion proved that he did not desire freedom and independence for Haiti alone,
but also for all those peoples who were burdened by the insufferable yoke of foreign
domination. Simon Bolivar furnished him the opportunity to show his magnificent
altruism in this respect. Imitating the example set by the founders of Haitian
independence, the Venezuelan hero had undertaken to free his country from the
domination of Spain. His first attempts failed. Accompanied by a large number of
followers, he came from Jamaica during the last days of December, 1815.
President P6tion gave him a cordial welcome, and so that Bolivar might begin his
struggle against the Spanish again, he gave him money, arms, munitions, supplies,
ships and a small printing press. Some Haitians enlisted under Bolivar's flag. The
latter, wishing to show his gratitude to P6tion and, as he himself expressed it in
a letter of February 8, 1816, "leave to posterity an irrevocable monument to the
Haitian President's philanthropy", desired that the benefactor be named as "the
author of American liberty" in all documents addressed to the inhabitants of
Venezuela. In his answer of February 28, P6tion declined such an honour for
himself, claiming, as unique recompense for his aid, the proclamation of complete
freedom of slaves in all those countries of America where the arms of the Liberator
The little expedition left the Port of Cayes, in the South of Haiti, in April, 1816.
May 31, Bolivar landed at Carupano, after a short stop at Margarita Island. It
was not until July 3, however, that he occupied Ocumare, and July 6, feeling that
the moment had come to answer in a brilliant manner the request of President
P6tion, he promulgated his famous proclamation decreeing the abolition of slavery
in Spanish America, after having freed 1,500 of his own slaves at San Mateo. "Our
unfortunate brothers", said he, "who are under the bond of slavery, are from this
moment declared free. The laws of nature and humanity and the government itself
proclaim their liberty. Henceforth, there will be in Venezuela only one class of
inhabitants: all will be citizens" This act marks a moment of exceptional
importance in the history of the world: the official recognition in Spanish America
of the rights of Negroes and those of African descent as men and citizens. Haiti is
justly proud of having brought this about.
In a letter of October 9, 1816, Simon Bolivar expressed his appreciation of
P6tion which merits quoting: "Your Excellency", wrote the Liberator, "possesses
a quality which is above empires, namely altruism. It is the President of Haiti alone
who governs for the people. It is he who leads his equals. The other potentates,
content to make themselves obeyed, scorn the love which makes your glory. The
hero of the North, Washington, found only enemy soldiers to conquer. Your
Excellency has all to conquer, enemies and friends, foreigners and countrymen,
the fathers of the country and even the strength of his brothers. This task will not
be impossible for Your Excellency, who is above his country and his epoch"
In this curious letter, Bolivar discreetly made allusion to the trials and
tribulations which the Haitian President suffered because of his own countrymen. He
points out also the essential trait of Petion's character: his kindness. This sentiment
sometimes led him to excessive indulgence-to a tolerance which bordered on
weakness. Totally unselfish, he gave liberally of all he possessed, and one had only
to move his easy compassion to obtain the pardon of the most guilty persons. He
had a deep love for the common people, who love him in return and called him
Papa Bon-Coeur (Father Good-Heart).
Having to face Christophe and the difficulties he encountered in his own
government, torn between his natural goodness and the demands of the powerful
camarilla which had formed around him, grieved also perhaps by the infidelity of
the only woman he ever loved, the brilliant Joute Lachenais, who became the wife
of his successor Jean-Pierre Boyer, P6tion grew discouraged. Weakened, he could
not resist the illness which overcame him March 29, 1818, at the age of 48. His
death caused an explosion of grief such as has never been witnessed in the history
of Haitian leaders, for the people, and specially the peasants, adored him. This
soldier, who had taken part in so many battles, crushed so many revolts, struggled
against so many adversaries, had as his funeral oration this spontaneous cry from
a man of the people: "P6tion caused tears to flow only when he died"
West Indian Reptiles
WHEN we hear talk of West Indians we think immediately of that diverse
assemblage of peoples who make up the present day human population of these
territories; few would pause to think back to the Arawaks and Caribs who were
in occupation long before the human tide rolled in from the East. I wish here to
draw your attention to a host of diminutive West Indians whose claim to these
territories long antedates that of the Amerindian savages, not to mention the
principalities and powers of Europe. I refer especially to the lizards which abound
in all the islands but have in mind also the less generally familiar snakes, turtles
Like the human West Indians the lizards and snakes range through the Antillean
islands, like the human West Indians they also extend onto the mainland but in no
great strength. Again like their human counterparts they are very distinctly island
conscious, each island having a selection of lizards and snakes which is characteris-
tically West Indian but consisting of its own local varieties of each which differ in
detail from those on any other island. A greater Antillean island such as Jamaica is
large enough for people to be parish conscious; again with the lizards there are local
varieties within the island.
Let me illustrate the above points by reference to the tiny lizards of the genus
Sphaerodactylus, known in Jamaica as "polly lizards" I am at a disadvantage
in that I do not know the common names of these animals in other islands. Even
within the island of Jamaica they are at the west end known, not as pollies, but as
"squeechies"; rather than burden my readers with long latin names I will
call all of them pollies. Jamaica has the largest species of polly lizard and that
scarcely attains a length of body of Ij" or 3" total length. They are all secretive
little lizards found under stones, logs and trash; not infrequently they enter houses
but without exposing themselves in bright daylight. They stalk small insects
stealthily, the shoulders and hips wriggling as they go and the tail following the
wriggles of the body. The pollies crawl close against a surface, and they can run up
a vertical wall with facility and even up a sheet of glass if it be not too well polished.
At the end of each finger the claw lies between a covering scale and a tiny round
pad. The pad is like a piece of velvet. Its surface is covered with a pile of fine hairs,
which engage the tiniest irregularities of the surface on which the lizard moves, the
friction being sufficient to support the weight of an animal so small that twenty
would not weigh an ounce. If you look closely you will see that the polly has a low
head with elongated snout. The mobility of the eyes is remarkable. Both eyes are
brought to bear on a small insect victim before the final forward dart is made. Both
eyes may also be turned and brought to bear on a human intruder looking down
on the tiny lizard from above. Pollies are unusual amongst lizards in that they
lay but a single egg at a time, and again unlike most lizards the egg has a hard
Photographs by courtesy of The New York Zoological Society and
Dr. William Beebe.
**' '.L *'. .- .
Cyclura cornuta--GRouND IGUANA (Hispaniola)
Iguana g ( l Trin a -e--sse A le
Iguana igucala-IGUAhNA (Mainland, Trinidad and Lesser Antilles).
- ~ .L
Bothrops atrox-FER-DE-LANCE (Mainland, Trinidad, St. Lucia and Martinique).
r pp j r I-
12 'T'I q 1 1- 114
- 5^- -
tl~~3 "'**' >*-
"*- 7* 'f '
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L. " "" "
1 .. *' '-" 'r "" ^.. *'" " -- ""^
Leptotyphlops tenella-WoRM SNAKE (similar Worm Snakes in Lesser Antilles).
shell, like a minute bird's egg; it is however of a size which is surprising when one
sees the mother who lays it. The common Jamaican polly reaches a length of body
of a little over I" and it lays an egg slightly more than one quarter of its own length.
The belly of the female is sufficiently translucent for an unlaid egg to be seen
through it. These eggs are sometimes found in the same sort of situations as the
lizards themselves and take roughly eight to twelve weeks to hatch, the longer times
for the larger kinds. Now of more than 40 different kinds of polly lizards nine-
tenths occur only in the Antilles. By the Antilles I mean the island chain from
Cuba to Grenada, including the Bahamas; zoogeographically the Bahamas are quite
unequivocally West Indian, in whatever direction they may choose to look politically.
On the mainland they are of limited occurrence from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec
round to the northern slopes of South America. They are somewhat insignificant
beside the great diversity of continental lizards, but on the islands they are
highly characteristic members of the fauna. One adventurer, known appropriately
as Sphaerodactylus pacificus, is found on lonely Cocos Island off the west coast of
Costa Rica, the island on which it is said that the treasures of Lima cathedral are
buried; this is the only polly on a Pacific island. Nearly all the islands have their
own kind of polly lizard. Such small areas as the Swan Islands (between Cuba and
Honduras) and Navassa (between Jamaica and Haiti) have their own peculiar
polly lizards. It is a curious fact that the first polly lizard known to science came
from the small and little visited island of St. Eustatius. In the Greater Antilles there
are a number of different kinds of polly lizards. My present reckoning for Jamaica
is eight. Cuba and Hispaniola have more than this. In any one suitable place in
Jamaica one may find three different kinds of polly lizards together. Differing as
they do in size we may call them simply the small, medium and large pollies. Now
there are two very distinct kinds of large polly, one along the south side and another
along the north side. They do not appear to meet one another and there is no mixing;
they are therefore separate species. Now the north side large polly is not uniform
throughout its range. Those from the western part of the north coast are different
from those from the central north coast, and are not known on the eastern north
coast. As these two kinds appear to merge into one another, they are known as
sub-species. The medium polly of the greater part of the island blends into a some-
what different kind at the western end. In the eastern part of Portland parish it is
replaced by a strikingly distinct kind of medium polly with which it does not blend
at all. This distinct kind of medium polly occupies a 16 mile stretch of coast between
Port Antonio and Manchioneal. This north eastern coast receives the trade winds
and has the highest rainfall in the island. Cuba used to boast the smallest lizard in
the world, a tiny polly known as Sphaerodactylus elegans with body seven-tenths of
an inch long; it later transpired however that this is the young of an already well
known and larger polly. The small Jamaican polly attains a length of body of
barely one inch. Now on the only occasion that I have visited the Hellshire Hills
in Jamaica I discovered a new kind of polly scarcely four-fifths of an inch long
which proved its maturity by laying an egg one-fifth of an inch in length. I believe
therefore that to Jamaica will go the distinction of harbouring the smallest known
lizard in the world!
Let us now pass to a group of lizards which must be well known to every
resident in the West Indies however inobservant, the tree lizards of the genus
Anolis. The tree lizards are common on the mainland over a wide area but a very
distinctive assortment of tree lizards fairly swarms on the islands. The adaptations
life in trees which they show are interesting. The middle length of each toe is
expandedd to form a pad, the pad is made up of a number of small transverse plates
each attached by its inner edge, and the outer edge is free. The end of each toe
bears a claw which turns inwards towards the free edges of the plates. Now when
the lizard places its foot on the rough bark of a tree the separately hinged plates
are able to accommodate themselves to the irregularities of the surface and the
inwardly turned claw by its pull causes the edges of the plates to engage with the
irregularities thus giving a firm grip. Many lizards when pursued dive for cover
but the tree lizards will frequently run further up the tree to the smallest branches.
To leap with accuracy from branch to branch requires sharp eyesight and good
judgment of distance. These lizards do in tact have extremely good eyes. This may
be well seen if we watch a lizard catching insects.
Recognition and pursuit of suitable insect prey appears to be entirely by sight.
I have made many interesting observations on a lizard which would every evening
enter our sitting-room to feed on the insects attracted by the lamp. Its area of
operation was a vertical wall. Any insect landing within about a yard would attract
the attention of the lizard and it would turn to view the prospective victim with
both eyes. If the insect were to stay quite still the lizard would hesitate, and with
every slight movement the lizard would advance. If the insect stayed still for long the
lizard would turn its head, apparently giving the insect a more thorough scrutiny
with one eye. When approaching the insect the lizard appeared accurately to assess
the distance for when within striking range it would make a rapid dart and seize the
victim. On one occasion I was feeding some beetles to a large green tree lizard
which I kept in a box. He had turned on one beetle and was advancing on it when
I dropped in the second which fell beside him. The lizard hesitated, clearly caught
between the impulse to turn on the new object of interest and the impulse to follow
through on the first beetle. The dilemma was resolved when the second beetle ceased
to kick; his interest was no longer divided and he took the first, still kicking.
I have an unhappy story to relate about this lizard. He was a little over fourteen
inches long and one of the largest which I have had; for several months he was
alone. Then one day I caught a wife for him. She had spent the night in a ginger
beer bottle and was most unhappy when first presented to him. He however
immediately took a renewed interest in life, bobbed up and down and opened his
fan and really showed off. After several weeks of apparent marital harmony I came
upon an unhappy scene. From what I found I deduced that having been so indiscreet
as to put a single cockroach in the cage she had seized it first. He in his greed took
no account of the fact that it already was in her mouth and seized her head with the
cockroach. I found her, the cockroach in her mouth, with her skull crushed flat by
his powerful jaws. That was a wicked Jamaican lizard mash up him common-
law wife for mout'ful of nyam.
I am not infrequently asked what the fan is for. Only the male tree lizards
have a fan. It is not inflated as some suppose but opens after the manner of a fan.
It is supported by a long flexible slip of cartilage which when not extended may
reach right down the belly beneath the skin. It is a part of the hyoid apparatus
which in ourselves is represented by the little bits of bone and cartilage around the
larynx. When the forward end of this cartilage is turned forwards it lifts the loose
skin and extends it as a fan. Now these lizards occupy definite territories. You will
see the same lizard on your verandah every day and the same lizards on the trees
in your garden. If another lizard intrudes on someone else's territory he is chal-
lenged with a display of the fan. If the intruder be a female or young male and
make no response it is tolerated. If however the intruder be another grown male
and display his fan he may be attacked. A male will only attack another of his own
kind. The fan thus seems to serve also as an identification mark. This is no doubt
the significance of the bright and distinctive colouration of the fan. Males will fight
over their territories viciously, biting one another hard. This I believe to be the
reason for many mutilated tails. At one end of my verandah is a creeper, at the
other end is a stone wall, and each is the territory of a male tree lizard. On a
number of occasions I have watched them fighting in the no-man's-land between.
Before coming to grips each will, besides spreading his fan, raise the skin of the
neck and back to form a crest and bob up and down in a most agitated manner.
These lizards are not infrequently seen mating. Lizards and snakes are
remarkable for the fact that the males have a pair of penes which when everted
from the root of the tail turn so that their ends face upwards and outwards on
either side of the tail. Only one is used depending on which side the male approaches
the female. The male pursues the female catching her by the scruff of the neck in
his mouth. He usually puts an arm over her and cocks his hind leg over her hind-
quarters bringing his tail beneath hers. They may remain together thus for a few
minutes, even running about. Sometimes we may see one of these lizards sloughing.
They do this in a manner which is quite peculiar, the skin splitting along
a regular series of seams. A split runs down the back and across the back of the head.
A split runs down each side of the tail so that the old skin comes off in upper and
lower halves. The skin splits along regular seams on the limbs also. The bedtime
habits of these lizards are interesting too. At night they may be found on trees,
the small ones on leaves and terminal branches. It is suggested that these are
inaccessible positions where they are relatively safe from other animals. A male
who lives on the creeper on our verandah climbs a pole every evening and sleeps on
a beam. Right outside one of our sitting room windows is a small asparagus creeper,
on which a small female lizard sleeps. Every evening by five past six over the last
several weeks she has been in the same position on the same leaf. By keeping a
lookout I have several times seen her approaching and climbing the creeper as
bedtime approaches. For the first two or three hours her eyes are generally open
but by nine o'clock she usually has them shut and gives every appearance of
being sound asleep. I have dwelt on these lizards at some length because, of all the
West Indian reptiles, they are the ones whose habits are such that they offer
excellent opportunities for close observation. As with the pollies every island has
its own tree lizard and the larger islands and the mainland territories have a diverse
Another group of lizards which range through all the islands are the ground
lizards of the genus Ameiva. These are lovers of the sunshine. When a cloud passes
over the sun they disappear to reappear as soon as it shines again. They are stoutly
built lizards which run low on the ground, and they grow to a good size, more than
twelve inches long. Ground lizards running about in the sunshine maintain quite
a high body temperature, which of course falls as soon as they retire. The Jamaican
ground lizard operates at a temperature of about 104"F, and feels quite warm when
held in the hand. Like the polly lizards the ground lizards occur on the mainland
including British Guiana, Trinidad and British Honduras.
Two types of snakes also range through the islands. The small worm snakes are
not well known. Several people in Jamaica have told me that they think that they
are earthworms. These are small shiny dark snakes with tiny eyes and a small
mouth and a tail so short and stumpy that a second glance is necessary to distinguish
front end from back end. These little snakes may sometimes be found under stones
or logs. They are beneficial in that they live on ants and other insects in the soil.
The other type comprises the grass snakes of the genus Dromicus. These are
small gentle snakes not reaching two feet in length, which on account of their
secretive habits are not often seen and happily appear to escape the depredations of
the mongoose. They eat the small whistling frogs which make music at night.
I have handled some dozens of these little snakes and never known one to make the
slightest attempt to bite. These snakes are, incidentally, nearly completely Antillean
in distribution. They occur on all the islands but are rare on the mainland.
Let me here mention that with the sole exception of St. Lucia and Martinique
the Antilles are completely without poisonous snakes. These two islands have the
fer-de-lance, Bothrops atrox, which is common on the mainland. That the other
islands should have so far escaped the chance introduction of this snake in ships'
cargoes from the mainland is indeed extremely fortunate. The fer-de-lance bears
live young. A large female may bear fifty, in fact a liter of seventy-one is on record.
It only requires that a single gravid female should slip ashore from a cargo of lumber
to establish this dangerous snake in a new island. The mongoose was introduced
into St. Lucia to deal with the fer-de-lance and it does appear to have reduced their
numbers. That anything near to complete eradication could be attained is more
than could be reasonably hoped for. The mongoose has discovered that succulent
chickens are to be obtained in the vicinity of human habitations so why should
he chase fer-de-lance in the rough bush. In addition the fer-de-lance is a snake of
mainly nocturnal habits whereas the mongoose is an animal which hunts by day.
Other people then had the bright but ill-conceived idea that the mon-
goose would exterminate rats and it was thoughtlessly, indiscriminately carried to
most of the islands. On balance it has done more harm than good and has
exterminated much of the scant wildlife of the islands but never the rats. Dominica,
Tobago, Montserrat, Anegada, Virgin Gorda, Saba and St. Eustatius are islands
which have escaped the mongoose. On the mongoose-free islands there survive small
snakes, lizards and ground nesting birds which have disappeared elsewhere.
I would like now to say a word or two about the geological history of the
islands and mention some of the reptiles which are not generally distributed. The
Greater Antilles appear to be parts of a former continent which has broken up.
They have a foundation of old sedimentary rocks and but scant indications of
volcanic activity. At one time they were evidently largely submerged and on top
of the old sedimentary rocks shaless) is a thick layer of limestone. This limestone
cap forms a great part of the visible islands at the present day. The channels now
separating the islands are thought to be due to fragmentation of the continent and
sinking of certain sections. The four large islands of Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola
and Puerto Rico were probably not all submerged for they have high mountains.
Now one chain of Lesser Antillean islands have flat caps of limestone and appear to
be small fragments of this continent which were completely submerged when the
white limestone was being laid down. These are the Virgin Islands, Anguilla,
St. Martin, St. Bartholomew, Antigua and Barbuda. The main chain of the Lesser
Antilles has had a different history, all these islands having a volcanic foundation.
There appears to have been a fold of the sea-bed which represented a line of weak-
ness along which volcanoes erupted and formed islands. These islands have there-
fore never been submerged since their appearance and have never been connected
with one another. The volcanic cones of the older islands have been extensively
weathered down, and some of the younger islands are still growing by volcanic
activity as the inhabitants are only too well aware.
This main chain extends from Saba through St. Eustatius, St. Kitts, Nevis,
Montserrat, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the
Grenadines to Grenada. Barbados has had a quite remarkable history. It has a
foundation of rocks which appear to have been laid on the edge of a formerly more
extensive South American continent. On top of this is a layer of deep sea deposit
(radiolarian earth) and on top of this a slab of white limestone which was laid down
in relatively shallow water. Barbados thus started life as a piece of dry land, then
sunk to a great depth and was later raised to the surface. Trinidad and Tobago are
not properly Antillean islands, being detached peripheral portions of continental
The Greater Antilles and Bahamas have several types of animals which appear
to be ancient survivors on the mountains of the large islands from the days before
the general submergence in white limestone times. This is, I should add, a personal
opinion with which all might not agree. As an example let me mention the ground
iguanas of the genus Cyclura. Nothing like these survives on any mainland territory.
They occur only on the Greater Antilles and many of the Bahamas. The mongoose
has exterminated them on many islands but even where there are no mongoose, as
in the Bahamas, they are dying out due to the interference of men and domestic
animals. They are, I believe, survivors from a bygone age which made their way
to the islands before the appearance of small voracious mammals and have survived
solely on account of the isolation of these parts from the teeming life of the mainland.
Steps should be taken to protect some colonies of these remarkable lizards
on small uninhabited islands. These ground iguanas are vegetarian, an unusual habit
for lizards. The Lesser Antillean islands presumably appeared too late for the ground
iguanas to colonise them.
Iguanas, to be sure, occur in nearly all the Lesser Antillean islands but these
are tree climbing iguanas. They are similar to the arboreal iguanas of the mainland.
As they take to water quite readily, including the sea, their wide distribution up the
island chain is not surprising.
Nearly all the Lesser Antillean islands harbour a lizard known in some parts
as the "twenty-four hours" The name apparently purports to indicate the time
that one has to live after this dreadful beast has leapt upon one. It is a lizard which
climbs trees and enters houses and is of nocturnal habits. The same species of
lizard as occurs in the islands has quite a wide distribution on the mainland. He
belongs to the continental fauna. Now Jamaica and Hispaniola have a lizard of
similar habits, the "croaking lizard" but it occurs nowhere on the mainland.
It appears to be an older type surviving in the isolation of these Greater Antillean
islands. Cuba and Puerto Rico do not have relatives of the croaking lizards, but
they have nocturnal arboreal lizards of continental type like the "twenty-four hours"
The lizard members of the rather sparse island fauna do not appear to be able to
hold their own in competition with their continental counterparts. The Greater
Antilles also have crocodiles absent from Puerto Rico and the smaller islands but
found in Florida and Central America; these too may be ancient inhabitants.
The Lesser Antilles must have received all their population across the sea.
This may seem surprising but polly lizards, tree lizards and grass snakes are small
animals which could easily float on logs. We are familiar with the occasional cloud-
bursts when 10 or more inches of rain may fall in a day. The consequent torrents
can easily uproot trees and carry them out to sea. The Greater Antilles may well
have been a headquarters from which such small animals made their way to the
Lesser Antilles when they appeared. Add to this the periodical hurricanes which
have enormous lifting power and travel hundreds of miles and it is not difficult to
believe that small animals can get from island to island. The Lesser Antilles appear
also to have been colonised from the mainland. Every year the Orinoco floods
carry great quantities of floating vegetation out to sea. Some of it is stranded in
Trinidad, some goes further afield, and might well reach the Lesser Antillean chain
occasionally. In the 1870's there was a record of so large an animal as a South
American caiman in Grenada. We may guess that this is how the fer-de-lance got
to St. Lucia and Martinique; other South American snakes and lizards are scattered
through the islands. The haphazard way in which South American types occur in
various odd islands up the chain strongly suggests that they have arrived
accidentally. Barbados, an island which has been long submerged and is rather
isolated has a reptile fauna of scanty odds and ends. Two different kinds of snakes
and four different kinds of lizards are listed not including a polly lizard; to make
matters worse it is reported that half of these are now extinct thanks to
the mongoose. British Honduras, Trinidad, Tobago, and British Guiana have a
plentiful and diverse continental fauna but bordering the Caribbean as they do they
have also some elements in their fauna characteristic of the West Indian islands.
Constitutions are being reformed, talk of federation is in the air. These small
animals will share neither the pride nor the responsibilities of political progress.
They nevertheless help to give a distinctive stamp to these territories, to make the
West Indies different from anywhere else in the world. I therefore urge that people
should take notice of them and that consideration should be given to protecting
some of the interesting forms which are in danger of dying out. Australia figures
some of her peculiar animals on the postage stamps. An awareness of the interest
and distinctiveness of the small animals with which we share these territories may
make a small contribution to the development of a West Indian self-respect, a sign
of the achievement of nationhood.
On Being A West Indian
H. W SPRINGER
I was born in the year before the outbreak of the war of 1914-18 and -,ic of
my early recollections is of a returned soldier, a former pupil of my father's, who
let me sit on his knee and examine his uniform. It was this same soldier who when
I was about 12 years old showed me in the Lobby of the House of Assembly in
Bridgetown, Barbados, the bust in bronze of Sir Conrad Reeves. It would probably
be an exaggeration to say that that was one of the turning points of my life.
The incident, however, did make a deep impression on me. Sir Conrad was a West
Indian as I was, and the fact that his contemporaries had thought him worthy of
a statue was an inspiration to me. For, remember, I could never be quite sure
of my kinship with Nelson or the Duke of Wellington, Pitt, Gladstone or Disraeli,
I had not yet heard of Toussaint, and it was reassuring to discover this visible
and enduring evidence that a veritable West Indian had attained eminence and
a place in history.
This business of being a West Indian assumed great importance when I went
abroad. It was to England that I first went. I was not English. That much was
clear, though in my youthful reading I had more often than not identified myself
with English heroes of history or romance. Now it was borne in upon me strongly
that I wanted a place and a people to belong to which would be recognized and
respected for what they were.
In my student days it was quite common to meet English people who would
ask West Indians to speak in their own language, not knowing that English was
the language in general use in the West Indies. This angered some West Indians.
To others, like myself, it seemed quite natural and reasonable. Indeed far from
feeling vexed with the English I was envious of those other visitors to England
who had a language of their own and all that went with it.
I was painfully, though somewhat vaguely, conscious that as West Indians we
still had our way to make in the world. We were-indeed we are still-unsure of
ourselves, still feeling our way to Nationhood-still trying to discover what we are
like-what makes us characteristically West Indian or, if you like, what is the
essence of our West Indianness.
I well remember how at the end of my four years at Oxford I felt that I should
like nothing better than to start all over again. I was certain that in so many ways
I should have got more out of the experience. I realized that some of this feeling
was due to the fascination of the place and was no more than any one might, indeed
must, have felt on leaving Oxford. My feeling too was not unmixed. I was very
conscious that I had had my due measure of untramelled contemplation and that
it was high time I entered the hard cold world in which one earned one's living.
The thing I had come to realise was that during my time at Oxford the business
of adolescence had absorbed such a lot of my time and energy that I could not look
at the strange world around me with clear and steady eyes, as I should better
have been able to do if I had come there after spending my adolescent years in
my accustomed surroundings. In those days there was no alternative. Now there
is the University College of the West Indies. Its undergraduates are fortunate in
being able to complete their first degree while growing up without at the same time
having to make the major effort of readjustment which is necessary upon going
to live in unfamiliar surroundings among people of somewhat unfamiliar ways.
When they go abroad, as many of them will, they will be better able to profit
by the experience.
But apart from this advantage to the individual there is in addition the value
to the community of developing at the University among the probable future leaders
of society a West Indian consciousness. It is a sign of the times that this aspect
of the matter appeals very strongly to many of the present undergraduates, who
are very eager indeed to be distinctively West Indian-even to the extent
occasionally of wishing to go out of their way to be different. This generation grew
up within a period which I have no doubt will be recognized as one of the climaxes
of West Indian history-the thirties and forties of the 20th century.
During this period the slowly gathering discontent of the depressed classes
reached bursting point and erupted in an energetic and sometimes violent protest,
followed by a spurt of unprecedented political activity which we are still in the
midst of. The dust has not settled yet and the outlines are blurred, but it seems
plain enough that the West Indian people have come to the end of one epoch and
are at the beginning of another.
It is worth pointing out that the whole process that is going on, of which the
spectacular political and economic changes are only the mechanical adjustments,
is a social one. It may be described as the absorption of the majority into the way
of life of the minority. I hasten to add that such a process can never be complete;
it will result not in the absorption of the majority but in the creation of a new
way of life. But it did set out in 1834 to induct the majority of ex-slaves into the
way of life of the minority of free men, and so far as any conscious direction
has been given to the process it has, until very recently, continued in that way.
But now there has been a change of direction, or perhaps we might say a compli-
cation has been introduced. The majority, with increasing self confidence, have
begun to find merit in their own way of life. I have already mentioned how our
undergraduates are very keen on being West Indian. The same spirit is manifest
everywhere. The Calypso has taken on new significance and the steel band has
become to some a symbol to be jealously defended. Painters and sculptors, poets,
novelists and playwrights, and dancers too, all in increasing numbers have been
expressing themselves through West Indian themes and in patterns recognisably
My problem of twenty years ago has nearly disappeared. My son I hope will
understand it only with an effort of imagination. Sometimes when I look back
and see how much has happened and what great changes have taken place in my
half a lifetime I feel tired from thinking what a great distance we have travelled.
And then I look ahead and the tiredness disappears. Tiredness is a luxury we
cannot afford and in any case the prospect is exciting enough to banish it.
Whether I look backwards or forwards, the human being always takes the
centre of the stage, and I see clearly that the future will take its shape from the
actions of all sorts of people, most of them quite undistinguished, and that they
must be trained to society if only for the sake of the power that is in them.
If recent events should have taught us anything it should be that the one
thing we cannot afford to neglect is the provision of the most effective facilities
for education. We have seen that the protest of the disfranchised will express
itself in political action, and that the depressed will seek (and win) political power.
We have also seen enough to make us believe that political action is more effective
and less harmful to the community if the people who act have some education.
The conclusion to be drawn is obvious, though it may be that there are still people
who do not believe that investment in people is the best form of investment.