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Reprinted by permission of
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES, Kingston, Jamaica
A Division of
KRAUS-THOMSON ORGANIZATION LIMITED
Printed in Germany
VoL. 10. No. 1
Editorial Comments and Notes 1
PREDESTINATION, FRUSTRATION AND SYMBOLIC
DARKNESS IN NAIPAUL'S "A House for Mr. Biswas"
F. 0. Rohlehr .... .... ... 3
DOCUMENTS WHICH HAVE GUIDED EDUCATIONAL
POLICY IN THE WEST INDIES (THE LUMB
Shirley Gordon .... 12
THE ENCHANTED GARDEN: A MEXICAN
LOOKS AT JAMAICA.
.G. R. Coulthard .... .... 25
THE PRACTICE OF EDUCATION
G. D. Bishop ... ..... 31
THE GROWTH OF A VILLAGE SYSTEM IN JAMAICA
AND BRITISH GUIANA -
I The Free Village System in Jamaica
Hugh Paget .... .... .... 38
II The Rise of Village Settlements in British Guiana
Rawle Farley .... ... 52
Some Thoughts on Adult Education
H. L. Wynter .... .... ... 62
SOUTH a poem
Edward Brathwaite .... 64
(i) West Indian Migrants and the London Churches
by C. S. Hill (G. K. Brown) .... 65
(ii) Introduction 2: Stories by New Writers
Edward Brathwaite .... .... .... 68
(id) The Children of Sisyphus
by H. Orlando Patterson (G. R. Coulthard) 69
BOOK LIST .... 72
NOTE ON MANUSCRIPTS
MSS. and Communications should be addressed to the Editor. Unsolicited MSS.
which are not accepted for publication will be returned if accompanied by a stamped
Copyright reserved, and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden.
Editorial Comments and Notes
SIR Allen Lane of Penguin Books Ltd., gave a prize in 1952 to be
awarded annually to the best essay on some aspect of English literature.
The competition is open to students from all faculties. Between 1953
and 1962 the prize was awarded three times, in 1953 (Sheila Evans-
Smith) in 1955 (A. B. Mullings) 1957 (Jean Creary). In some years
there has been no essay to examine. In contrast to the recent past
the 1963 competition had three essays of quality and the examiners
recommended that in addition to the award to Mr. F. 0. Rohlehr, whose
prize essay we publish in this issue, Mr. V. J. Ramraj and Mr. Rupert
West should also share a prize between them. The prize essay for 1964
was written by Mr. Cameron King on The Poetry of Derek Walcott.
In the last four issues of Caribbean Quarterly we have published
some articles which we hope were of interest to all concerned with
education in the West Indies, but which we thought would be a help
to those teaching in the schools. In this issue there are three such
articles. We reprint from Vol. 1 No. 4 (now out of print) Hugh Paget's
"Free Village System in Jamaica" and from Vol. 3 No. 2 Rawle Farley's
"The Rise of Village Settlements in British Guiana" in order to make
them available to the increasing number of sixth former studying
post-Emancipation West Indian history. The fifth of the documents
which Shirley Gordon has selected to illuminate official policy on educa-
tion in the West Indies, the Lumb Report, Jamaica 1898, is published
in this issue. The other four are The Stirling Report, West Indies 1835,
Vol. 8 No. 3; the Keenan Report, Trinidad 1869, Vol. 8 No. 4 and Vol. 9
No. 1; the Mitchinson Report, Barbados 1875, Vol. 9 No. 3; Report on the
Juvenile Population, Jamaica 1879, Vol. 9 No. 4. George Bishop dis-
cusses the Practice of Education.
We have published two commentaries before in Vol. 8 No. 3. In
this issue our commentator is His Excellency Mr. Hector Wynter who
is on leave of absence from his duties as Director of Extra-Mural Studies
and who is serving as Jamaican High Commissioner in Trinidad and
Tobago. We should like to make the commentary a regular part of the
Our literary contributions come from Edward Brathwalte who was
working in Ghana when we last printed a poem of his, but is now a
member of the History Department at Mona. And from G. R. Coulthard,
who discusses what Kingston and Jamaicans looked like to the Mexican
Jose Vasconcelos, in 1917. Vasconcelos enjoys a high reputation in
Latin America, and it is not often that English speaking West Indians
read what a Latin American intellectual thinks of them. Perhaps the
opinions of Vasconcelos, dated though they are, shed an oblique light
on the current refusal of some Latin American countries to allow Ja-
maica and Trinidad and Tobago into international Latin American
Contributors in this issue:
F. G. Rohlehr Undergraduate, University of the West Indies.
Shirley Gordon Department of Education, University of the West
G. R. Coulthard Department of Spanish, University of the West
G. D. Bishop Department of Education, University of the West
H. L. Wynter Director of Extra-Mural Studies now serving as
Jamaican High Commissioner in Trinidad and
Edward Brathwaite Department of History, University of the West
G. K. Brown Principal, St. Peter's College, Jamaica.
Predestination, Frustration And
Symbolic Darkness In Naipaul's
"A House For Mr. Biswas."
F. G. ROHLEHR
WEST INDIAN fiction is distinctive for Its intense social conscious-
ness. Faced by a society formed through slavery and colonialism, whose
values have never been defined before, the novelist in the West Indies
must recreate experience and simultaneously create the standards
against which such experience Is to be judged. Since such standards
are lacking in his society, his task becomes even more complex, and
not infrequently, characters in West Indian fiction appear as sociological
norms, and speak as though they were forever conscious of the burden
of defining their society. The Boy narrator in Lammlng's Castle is a
good example of this. Criticism of West Indian fiction, like the fiction
itself, has tended to be an evaluation of sociological truth, perhaps to
the detriment of analysis which aims at making statements about
The purpose of this essay, therefore, is to see Naipaul's A House
for Mr. Biswas in its context as a superb artistic achievement. Com-
ments will be made on its prevailing tone, on the quality of the author's
personality as it is seen reflected in the book, and on its structure and
symbolic pattern. It is beyond the scope of this article to evaluate the
book as, say, a picture of the East Indian's acculturation, as he evolves
in the multi-racial Trinidad society. Comments to this end will be
made only insofar as they aid criticism of Nalpaul's presentation of a
human being placed in a particular environment.
A House for Mr. Biswas which will henceforth be referred to as
The House, includes and transcends the three novels before it but
is most akin in tone to Miguel Street. Although the cover of the
paperback edition of Miguel Street proclaims this book "a riotous and
colourful novel of the West Indies", its prevailing tone is one of frustra-
tion. Almost every person fails to obtain his objective in life. Ellas
after failing several exams makes the leap in aspiration from doctor to
scavenger. Man-Man fails even as an eccentric. Morgan's fireworks
are successful only when his house is burning. Laura, the jovial pro-
ducer of illegitimate children, cries when her daughter follows in the
"And for the first time I heard Laura crying. It wasn't ordinary
crying. She seemed to be crying. . all the cry she had tried
Editor's Note: Allen Lane Prize Essay 1963.
to cover up with her laughter. It made me feel that the world
was a stupid sad place."
This feeling that the world is a stupid sad place, comes across
forcibly in The House. As in Miguel Street, there is always a wry
edge to the humour, something unhappy and grey beneath the riot and
Miguel Street is therefore important in any study of Naipaul's
tone, and the personality which produces it. Here we see his peculiar
dry-eyed restraint in operation. Emotion is suggested by its very
absence and irony is the painful left side of sympathy, which enables
Nalpaul to retain detachment in presenting the frightening realities
of his self-drama. For there is no doubt that much of Naipaul Is
autobiography, set at a distance through irony. This irony is not
assumed, but grows out of a timid evasive personality, which shrinks
in the presence of a largeness of emotion, and a full vital life, and can
therefore only express itself negatively and indirectly.
It is not accidental that the essential character in The House,
Mr. Biswas himself, is isolated in the lonely task of self-discovery and
psychic self-preservation. There can, therefore, be little tenderness in
his life, and he fails to make emotional contact with his wife and
family. The relationship between father and son, for example, which
is so prominent in the book, can only show itself in the most indirect
and painful of ways through "exaggerated authority" on the part
of the father, and "exaggerated respect" on the part of the son. Con-
scious of the danger of emotionalism degenerating into maudlin senti-
mentality, Naipaul tries to keep both his pity and emotion dry. This
is both his deficiency and his success. To put it more precisely, his art
lies in his successful handling of negative states of emotion, and in the
heightening of a personal drama which reveals a decided deficiency in
the author himself.
It is important to the satirist that he interpose between his vision
of society, and his emotional response to this vision, a screen of rational
levelheadedness. Satire is, perhaps, the most intellectual of all artistic
genres, and deals with emotion at one remove. We see not emotion,
but its effect on the behaviour of individuals. The House goes beyond
satire, and points out central incongruities, not merely in the behaviour
of individuals in society, but in life itself. It depicts an Individual
carrying out a pathetic rebellion against a society, which he neither
likes nor can discard, which offers him both protection and imprison-
ment. The dry restraint mentioned above, is ideally suited to the
theme. The futility of the struggle is embodied in the irony, which
always shows Mr. Biswas's littleness and frequent absurdity.
He is "Mr. Biswas" even as a baby, a separate individual, bent on
preserving his personality against the frustration of life and society.
None of the characters of Miguel Street is clearly defined. Most of
them have nicknames, and are caricatures of real human beings, in-
dividuals only in their eccentricity, and human in their common failure.
At the end of Miguel Street, the narrator, who is obviously Naipaul
himself, has to escape from the engulfing world of the street which
reduces everyone to its own level of amorality, violence, farce, and
eccentricity. For Mr. Biswas there is no escape. He fights till death
against a reductive society which is the enemy of individuality.
"Mr. Biswas had no money or position. He was
expected to become a Tulsi. At once he rebelled".
A strange, futile rebellion! The theme of one man pitted against a
whole way of life is tragic In scope, and The House is nearly so.
Predestination is suggested in the structure of the book, and in the
symbols of darkness and stagnation which recur almost like themes
throughout. The book begins with a prologue.
"Ten weeks before he died, Mr. Mohun Biswas...."
Death is present even in the overture. The Prologue is really a sum-
mary of all the action of the book, succint and anticipatory of the long
story which is to follow. We know the outcome beforehand, and as we
read the book we are the spectators of a particular human being's life,
seeing with the eyes of Eternity and Destiny, and the whole struggle,
the created pain and inevitable defeat. Much of the powerful irony of
the book, stems from just this fact. When in the last chapter of the
book on page 511, a conversation which we first heard in the Prologue
on page eleven is repeated, in which Mr. Biswas tells one of the Tulsi
women to return to her goats at home, we feel that a circle has been
completed, that predestination has been fulfilled and the whole long
life of Mr. Biswas is at its prophesied end.
The house which Mr. Biswas is perpetually trying to build, is more
than a place in which he can lead a private life with his family. It is
his personality symbolised, the private individuality which he must not
only build, but preserve against society and life itself; the external
symbol of an inner significance. For Biswas, hell is certainly other
people. The house is described in detail in the prologue. It is the
summit of Mr. Biswas's achievement in life, and it seems that the
struggle has hardly been worthwhile. It has "no protection from the
sun", is "irretrievably mortgaged", rickety, grotesque, and dangerously
cracked in places. Yet it is his own, and his only alternative to having
"without even attempting to lay claim to one's portion
of the earth, to (having) lived and died as one (is)
born, unnecessary and unaccommodated".
The struggle for personality The House is at times reminiscent of
King Lear, although I do not suggest that Naipaul had the play
in mind when he wrote the book. For one thing, Lear starts out
accommodated and rich, though mentally and spiritually deficient,
and moves downwards, losing everything until he is naked in the storm.
Mr. Biswas starts with nothing except a dubiously potent sneeze, and
moves upwards until the storm finds him with his house half-built, his
personality barely able to survive the shock which ensues from a
realisation of both his inner and outward insignificance. Both Lear
and Biswas suffer mentally before they can accept the vision of their
frailty, and proceed into "the trailing consequence of further days and
hours" before the final extinction. Although the parallels must not be
laboured, it Is true that both works explore in widely different ways, a
centre of terror and nakedness in humanity. Further reference to
King Lear will therefore be made, since such comparison may enable
us better to appreciate the core of experience in The House.
The weakness of Biswas is stressed at every point. His birth has
not been recorded; all marks of his birthplace are obliterated. "The
world (bears) no record of Mr. Biswas's existence". His clothes are
always too big, and we at one time see him contemplating them in
shame at his littleness. He Is physically weak, has chronic Indigestion,
and Is useless at any job where neither his wit nor art can find a warped
expression. At the end of the first section of the book he leaves
Hanuman House as he entered it, with bundle and paint brushes.
Conscious of this weakness at every turn, he can only go through the
motions of rebellion against society. He has to use his wit to reduce
the Tulsis to mere caricatures..."the old hen", "the gods", "the monkey-
house", "crab-catcher". At such caricature he has no equal. It shows
itself In the grotesque wit of his "Sentinel" articles, the type of wit
which Naipaul himself demonstrates in scenes such as Cuffy's wake in
The Suffrage of Elvira and the burning of Morgan's house in Miguel
Street. Where, however, Nalpaul's sympathy is suggested, Biswas'
irony is always reductive. He learns to lose a regard for other people.
as Shama so rightly points out.
He blames everyone and everything for his position fate, his
parents, the Tulsis, life itself never his gullibility and lack of drive.
To admit these is to admit defeat, and in the storm he is nearly
defeated by a recognition of his helplessness. Biswas accepts the idea
that he is predestined to fall, and as the Prologue suggests, Nalpaul is
almost as fatalistic. The only thing man is left with in his struggle
against nonentity, he seems to say, is a sense of his individual reality.
To strip him of that (as does life in Hanuman House) is to leave
nothing at all. Moreover, a man must own something concrete and
tangible to be convinced that his life is meaningful.
"Allow not nature more than nature needs
Man's life is cheap as beast's".
The sense of failure is always present in the symbolic patterns
throughout the novel. The shop in which Biswas works as a boy, is
described as having
"thick edges of darkness".
It is a place of frustration with
"useless people crying in corners, their
anguish lost in the din and press of
standing drinkers" (page 54).
the gas lamp's hissing assumes a sinister tone. Biswas's ambition is to
leave all this and his mother's house with its
"mud walls and low sooty thatch" (page 61)
"Hanuman House" the
"alien white fortress, bulky, impregnable
and blank.... .windowless.. .slightly
sinister" (page 73)
from outside, is even more forbidding inside. Woodlice
"left wood looking so new where it was
rotten".... "The kitchen had mud walls,
It was lower than the hall and completely
without light. The doorway gaped black;
soot stained the wall about it and the
ceiling just above, so that blackness seemed
to fill the kitchen like a solid substance" (page 78)
It is possible that such symbolism is unconscious, but its constant
recurrence throughout the book bears all the marks of a structural
design, and shows at least Naipaul's clear grasp and coherent realiza-
tion of the world he creates. In Hanuman House, even the furniture
suggests the type of world into which Biswas has been betrayed by his
own timidity and inexperience.
"Scattered about were a number of unrelated chairs,
stools and benches.... More elegant pieces...
choked the staircase landing . The vacated space, dark
and dusty, was crammed with all sorts of articles.
Mr. Biswas couldn't distinguish" (page 79).
Every little detail suggests decay, frustration, crampedness and stagna-
tion. Darkness Is ever present in any reference to the Tulsl world.
There the people, like the furniture are "scattered about", "unrelated"
except in a fantastic pettiness and capacity for intrigue. It is "chocked"
and "crammed" with generations of Tulsis, all without any obvious
individuality. As in Miguel Street, people are only distinguished by
eccentricity. Sushila is the widow, Chinta the maker of dubious ice-
cream, Hari is constipated and religious, and Biswas is recognized as a
buffoon. Far from being King Lear, he is seen as The Fool! Against
all this he has to fight alone. His wife remains a Tulsi and deserts the
old ritualistic life only when Biswas gains his house. He fails to make
psychological contact with his children, and his attempts to recapture
his lost fatherhood are, like all his other attempts, pathetic.
But he is many things besides the Fool. At the moment of infinite
weakness he disclaims fatherhood of Anand
"God is your father"
he says. In a most subtle declaration of his own irresponsibility for
Anand's suffering in the world, he shifts the weight on the shoulders
"I am just somebody. Nobody at all. I am just a man
you know". (Page 251).
He is ourselves, or at least a part of us the Fool, irrelevant humanity
- and his struggle against the darkness of life and the final darkness
of death is man's elemental struggle for significance. Were Biswas less
weak as a man, his fate would cease to be deeply pathetic, and be a
true tragedy. Part of Naipaul's achievement lies in the fact that he
has presented a hero of such limited stature, and has yet been able to
preserve a sense of the man's inner dignity. He has been able to
elevate man's inherent littleness by dramatizing it.
Biswas's shop at The Chase is immediately identified as a Tulsi
world. It is
"a short narrow room with a rusty galvanized iron roof"
(127). "The walls were black and fluffy with soot,
as though a new species of spider had been bred there,
with the ability to spin webs as black and furry as
its legs" (128).
It is not long before this spidery out-post of Hanuman House is
invaded by the Tulsis with their empty ritual and petty intrigue. His
wife deserts him for Hanuman House, and he too is forced to return
for a companionship which ironically reminds him of his isolation. He
has no alternative either in a sense of personal worth, or in a sense of
new social values, to replace the Tulsi-world against which he rebels.
Although we can see the necessity for rebellion against such a reductive
world, we also recognize its uselessness in the absence of an alternative
way of life. Rejecting the Tulsis, Biswas is a man displaced in life,
"As soon as he stepped out of the yard he returned to
He remembers a boy he once saw
"a boy leaning against an earth house that had no reason
for being there, under the falling sky, a boy who didn't
know where the road and that bus went" (171).
Again the picture of the boy suggests a littleness, an irrelevance
almost; and a perplexity at a life which, like the bus, is always rushing
away. Biswas's next place of abode is at Green Vale, in another Tulsi
house referred to as The "Barracks". Part of the Hanuman House is
called "the old-barracks" earlier in the book. "Green Vale" is iron-
ically named, because here nature itself mirrors the stagnation of
Blswas's whole life, and predicts the pain which he is soon to endure.
"Half the leaves were dead; the others at the top were a
dead green. It was as if all the trees had, at the same
moment been blighted in luxuriance, and death was
spreading at the same pace from all the roots....But
death was forever held in check and new leaves came,
sharp as daggers....; they came into the world old,
without a shine, and only grew older before they too
It needs but little comment to draw the parallel between Biswas's life
and the scene just depicted. He too has "come into the world old" and
is "Mr. Biswas" since birth. His death has been mentioned in the very
first sentence of the book, and he is only growing older before he too
The images of darkness and stagnation and decay again appear
"The trees darkened the road, and their rotting leaves
choked the grass gutters. The trees surrounded the
It is another Hanuman House eaten out within by woodlice, crumbling
but persistent, and again Biswas Is powerless to rebel or escape. He
cannot "step out of the yard" lest he "return to nonentity", so he has
to withdraw into himself.
"The dead trees ringed the barracks, a well of flowless
black. He locked himself In his room" (213).
Biswas is confined and bound in, by this dead social order, but unable
to face himself. For him there can be no escape anywhere. The new
leaves, "sharp as daggers" suggest the anguish which he will experience
in this chapter the claustrophobia, fear of people, darkness and
Wavering helplessly he surrenders to the darkness at one point.
"The dark cloud billowed in. How heavy, how dark.
He surrendered to the darkness" (240).
But Biswas is Incapable of surrendering to anything and on the next
"Bravely, exposing himself to menace, he stripped to
bath at the water-barrel"
The anti-climax is fantastic, but not funny. It Is too much like life.
Biswas is man, pathetic in his imagined fears, yet brave in his trembling
attempts to face them. Flashes of insight such as this raise the novel
far above satire by uncovering the incongruities and icy sense of fear
at the heart of life itself.
Again one can draw a parallel to King Lear. Lear In the storm
recognizes just this, "the frail, the bare shivering human soul, stripped
to the last shred, the naked force of the human psyche for which
nothing has changed, because It was always frail and shivering and
reaching out to its nearest neighbour, as cold and lonely as itself".
These words quoted hopelessly out of their context in Doctor Zhivago,
yet serve to identify the timbre and distinctive quality of The House.
In a restrained voice which refuses to be maudlin, Naipaul probes at the
raw nerve of experience. The appropriate quotation in King Lear I
will state merely because it also illuminates the situation of Biswas
stripping, "bravely exposing himself" to an imagined menace. It is an
image central to the tone of The House as this quotation Is to that
of King Lear. "Is man no more than this? consider him well... Thou
art the thing itself; unaccommodated man is no more but such, a poor,
bare, forked animal as thou art. Off, off, you lending! Come;
unbutton here (tearing off his clothes)". Perhaps here we remember
the close of the Prologue.
"How terrible it would have been... to have lived and died as
one had been born, unnecessary and unaccommodated".
Biswas and Anand are Isolated in the storm, but even here the sympathy
between father and son can find no articulation. The "frail shivering
psyche" reaches out to its equally lonely neighbour, but can make no
contact. Biswas lies on the bed, uttering the formulae of a religion he
has rejected, "Rama, Rama, Sita, Rama". Even here the irony is
ruthless and directed at Biswas, for the satirist must be scrupulously
fair although it pains. We remember Mr. Biswas the boy, who leaves
Pundit Jairam and Hindu ritual, ironically defecating on such a life.
At Hanuman House he gargles and spits on it, while he scoffs at Shama
having "her share of the established emotions". In the storm he
desperately clings to it. Even here the dead trees form a circular wall
of flawless black around the barracks of his personality and he cannot
In the storm, Anand also recognizes his own situation and the fate
of weakness in the world of Nature. Black biting ants attack and kill
weaker winged ants. Life is governed by the law of the jungle. Later
in the Tulsi world, the mouldering order collapses and only the fittest
survive. The widows are therefore no match for Govind or W. C. Tuttle.
This return to the law of the jungle which follows the break-up of
established order, is brilliantly depicted in the Shorthills' episode. One
notes how the beautifully described scenery is steadily marred until
everything goes to waste and ruin. There is even a landslide, and the
brothers-in-law sell not only the trees, but the very earth. In the
midst of the general scramble there is the ridiculous picture of Biswas
sneaking off with a few fruits in his saddle bag which he sells in town.
The true complexity of the irony of the storm scene lies in our
knowledge that Biswas's fears are largely self-dramatizations, while
we also know that his success will be strictly limited. The Prologue
and other hints have fixed this in our minds. After the storm, Biswas
awakens from a sleep, numb, and sets out into the world
"to test it for its power to frighten" (274).
This is Naipaul at his wryest and best. The second half of the book
never achieves the sense of pained futility which we see in the first
part. We have an accumulation of horrors and then a slow inevitable
movement down-hill, until Biswas does gain his house and is saddled
with debt for the rest of his life. At the climax in the storm his house
is half-built; at Shorthills he does complete a house but it is remote
and uninhabitable. These advances parallel his material and psycho-
logical development. Hence it is no surprise that he feels frustrated
and duped even in ownership.
Death Is for him a natural climax.
"Living had always been a preparation, a waiting. And
so the years had passed; and now there was nothing to
wait for" (528).
Biswas has no escape from society as has Anand through education, or
the narrator of Miguel Street, or of The Mystic Masseur or Naipaul
himself. It is a terrible comment either on West Indian society or on
Naipaul, that the alternatives which it offers him are escape or frustra-
tion. Naipaul is afraid of something vital but crude in Trinidad society,
as he shows in Miguel Street, or more openly in The Middle Passage.
This timidity in the presence of other people, shows itself, as I stated
above, In his avoidance of scenes demanding tenderness, or of the
depiction of a reciprocal emotional relationship. But he is also afraid
of the Hindu family organization, and this quotation from The Middle
Passage may be compared with the description of Hanuman House
"an enclosing self-sufficient world absorbed with its
quarrels and jealousies, as difficult for the outsider
to penetrate as for one of its members to escape. It
protected and imprisoned, a static world awaiting
This description of Hindu life in Trinidad exactly parallels all the
descriptions of Hanuman House, The Chase, The Barracks, Green Vale,
and finally the house in Port-of-Spain around which the Tulsis build
a wall. The whole story has shown the difficulty of escape and the
uselessness of rebellion.
But, comments on Nalpaul's supposed quirks of character are only
marginal to the literary merit of A House for Mr. Biswas. A pessimist
can produce great art by dramatizing his depression and setting it at a
distance. The characteristic dry voice closes the story.
"Afterwards, the sisters returned to their respective
houses and Shama and the children went back in the
Prefect to the empty house" (531).
Biswas is private at last, the sisters depart to ritual and Tulsidom, and
Mr. Biswas' house is empty. For all his littleness he does make a
difference. By preserving his unattractive individuality he is defeated
but not disgraced in the struggle to be accommodated. He has also won
his family's loyalty. Life after all, it is suggested, is not entirely use-
less, although its ultimate reward may closely resemble failure and
frustration. The positive conclusion is in typical Naipaul fashion,
Documents Which Have Guided
Educational Policy In The West Indies
The Lumb Report, Jamaica, 1898
WHEREAS representations have been made by Members of the
Legislature and other persons from time to time that the present system
of education in the Colony has not produced satisfactory results; that
the curriculum adopted by the Board of Education is not suitable to
the needs of the population, and that the cost of education is too high
in proportion to the financial resources of the Colony.
And whereas It is expedient that full and authentic information
should be obtained as to the system of education pursued in Elementary,
Secondary and Industrial Schools, and Reformatories, and the training
of the teachers therefore.
Now, therefore, know ye that I..... appoint you .... to be com-
missioners to make full and diligent enquiry into the system of educa-
tion adopted in the Colony, and its cost; to report whether the Educa-
tion given at present is calculated to inculcate a sense of duty and
responsibility, and to impart useful knowledge, and to suggest such
changes in the Educational system as may appear to you calculated to
secure efficiency and economy.
This briefing of the commission under the chairmanship of Judge
Lumb Invited and received a thorough-going examination of the Ja-
maican system of education at the end of the nineteenth century when
the schools had been working and financed under a rigid system of
"payment by results" for thirty years. 1 It is a moot point whether
efficiency or economy was the greatest requirement for the colonial
government. The Lumb Commissioners themselves, however, in the
terms of the hard financial times sought a fair balance between the two
They wrote a lengthy report of detailed recommendations for a consider-
able change In elementary education because they thought it "more
useful to education and more honest" to work out the practical implica-
tions of their general suggestions.
In their conclusion the commissioners reported that "In our opinion
the education at present given is not sufficiently calculated to inculcate
a sense of duty and responsibility and to impart useful knowledge, and
we have in the foregoing paragraphs suggested such changes in the
educational system as appear to us calculated to secure efficiency and
I The payment by results system of 1867 in Jamaica is given in Gordon: A Century of
We Indian Education, pp. 84-87.
economy". These changes would, they thought: a) simplify the
administration, b) reduce the numbers and cost of inspectors, c)offer
teachers better salaries and prospects, with an improved as well as less
costly training, d) give to greater numbers and at less cost a more
efficient and useful education "and generally will result in benefit to
the scholar, teacher and to Jamaica".
To secure these results the commissioners made detailed proposals
under twenty-six heads including an exhaustive discussion on reforms
In curriculum in primary schools which in their turn would guide the
courses of study for the training of teachers.
One of the features of the Lumb Report is the Commissioners'
insistence that priority should be given to an efficient system of primary
education for all children before the government expended public
money on secondary schools. They stated their opinion that the
government had a responsibility in principle to assist secondary and
higher education and "to make adequate provision for placing such
education within the reach of those who need it for their own benefit
and the service of the State". Therefore they recommended that
government should establish more secondary schools where they were
needed 1 and aid suitable private secondary schools "as soon as public
funds are available". This recommendation was in striking contrast
to the commitments for secondary education undertaken by the govern-
ments in Barbados and Trinidad where nearly one-third of the educa-
tion vote was spent on secondary education for a few hundred pupils.
The Commissioners went further in recommending suspended
assistance to secondary education while primary schooling was properly
tackled. They proposed that all scholarships be suspended and that
even the coveted Jamaica Scholarship be only awarded once in three
With this establishment of priorities, the Commission produced a
sounder discussion on the proposed nature of primary schooling than
had ever previously been undertaken anywhere in the West Indies. The
system recommended is now presented under most of the heads con-
sidered in the Lumb Report. 3
1. THE SYSTEM OF EDUCATION.
There should be a dual system of voluntary and government schools.
Some of the 900 existing voluntary schools should be amalgamated; no
new voluntary schools should receive public aid; government schools
should be established to meet any remaining deficiencies in the
1 The only government secondary school was that just opened for boys at Montego Bay.
2 Representations from the Jamaica Schools Commission which administered secondary
education saved the annual award of the Scholarship.
3 The original numbering is maintained to indicate the larger omissions.
The argument for these proposals.
This arrangement is necessary to give anything like a fair oppor-
tunity of developing government schools and taking that method of
meeting difficulties which have arisen. But another fact should be
mentioned which has an important bearing on the case. There appears
to be scarcely a district of the island.... in which voluntary schools
have not been planted; and in many districts the total of such schools
is in excess of the needs of the population. There is hardly a district
where a religious denomination could be asked to open a new school
without other denominations being aggrieved for there is hardly a
place left where a particular denomination, on the ground of the people
of the district belonging solely or chiefly to such a denomination, can
claim the right of establishing there a fresh denominational school.
Moreover such is the pressure of financial difficulty in regard to
the establishment and maintenance of schools, arising partly from the
unwillingness or inability of the people to give much free labour or
financial assistance and partly from the withdrawal of British voluntary
contributions and subsidies, that most if not all the religious bodies,
even those which are greatly in favour of the denominational system of
education, appear to have come to the conclusion that the best they
can do is to endeavour to preserve and sustain the most necessary and
the most efficient of their existing schools. So that arranging to main-
tain on the Government list efficient and necessary voluntary schools,
to amalgamate small and inefficient schools, and make all new schools
government schools, as we have suggested, seems the best and in fact
only solution of the various difficulties of the case.
Compulsion should be enforced in six annual stages beginning in
1900 with the six year olds and achieving by 1906 a compulsory school
age of 6 12 years.
1. The general argument in favour of compulsion and the educational
That there are difficulties in the way of carrying out compulsion
we are well aware; but we cannot see that (to the extent that we recom-
mend that compulsion should be attempted) the difficulties are greater
in Jamaica than in other countries where compulsion is carried out
with manifest advantage. With the voluntary co-operation, which we
suggest should be sought, the expense of achieving compulsion will be
comparatively small. If there be additional cost to the country, it will
chiefly result from the bringing into the schools of a greater propor-
tion of the population. But no intelligent citizen who believes in the
value of a proper education will object to this; for, in the event of
compulsion having this result, it will be the means of preventing a
great waste of public money arising from irregularity of attendance;
and will make the schools effective for a greater proportion of the
2. Specific advantages of compulsory education.
Some of the direct advantages which may be expected to result
from compulsory attendance are the following:-
Full value will more reliably be obtained for outlay of public funds
The greater regularity of attendance will tend to prevent wasteful-
ness of teaching power.
While in the first years compulsion will only be applied to younger
pupils this will help to keep up the attendance of the older ones on
the list, because their parents in many cases will require them to travel
with the younger children to take care of them.
If a right education is good for a people as a whole no recom-
mendations would be wise which did not provide for bringing all the
children under the influence of such good and practical education.
We also desire to point out that the proposed arrangements for
itinerant teachers in sparsely populated districts will be futile without
In fact a large part of our proposals for securing efficiency com-
bined with economy can only be expected to be successful if strengthen-
ed by compulsion.
HI. SCHOOL AGE.
A school age of 6- 12 years is recommended rather than the
current 5 14 years.
1. The advantages of the proposal.
This term of years will (i) Give free education for six years for
every child. (ii) Be sufficient, if attendance be compulsory and if the
new curriculum which we shall recommend later be adopted. (iil) Aid
amalgamation as children of that age can walk greater distances.
(iv) Probably increase punctuality and regularity, the want of which
is greatest among the younger children. (v) Cause a greater number
of children to pass through the schools. (vi) Prevent girls over twelve
being taught by men.
2. The upper age limit justified.
Twelve years of age will be high enough because (i) the children
by that time will have mastered the curriculum: and (ii) that age will
admit of two years for manual and agricultural instruction.
VI. INSPECTORS AND EXAMINATION OF SCHOOLS.
This section in effect abolished payment by results and assumed
that teachers would in future receive fixed salaries. Each school should
henceforth be examined only biennially, and surprise visits should
replace the previous stereotyped annual examination. Discipline and
organisation should be attended to rather than detailed attainment.
1. New duties for the inspectors.
If the classes and curriculum be adjusted and reduced as we
propose, the present laborious and minute system of inspection of
schools will no longer be required. Inspectors will then have time to
give model lessons to the scholars and advice to the teachers; and if
teachers' salaries be fixed, the making up of the annual schedules of
attendance and the calculation of merit grants will not be required.
2. Merits of surprise visits.
The Commission is strongly of opinion that great good will probably
result from a system of surprise visits by inspectors, by which teachers
will be kept on the alert, and during which an inspector can point out
bad habits, make suggestions for improvement, give model lessons and
help and direct teachers.
Teachers should receive fixed salaries and pensions. Every effort
should be made to raise the standard in all grades; before appointment
head teachers should be certificated, experienced as assistants and
found satisfactory by the inspectors. An interim improvement would be
that the bulk of the teachers, who had only achieved their fourth year
pupil teachers' examination, should before promotion satisfy the
inspectors of their ability to teach. Competent existing uncertifleated
teachers should be deemed certificated and eligible for headships after
ten years' satisfactory service, or for assistant posts with under ten
years' service. Pupil teachers should be retained for the current 13 17
year old period, but they should not be required to remain in teaching
thereafter. More women teachers should be appointed as heads of
schools. There should be a teachers' register.
1. A simpler classification of teachers by certification recommended.
We recommend that the classification of teachers so far as certi-
fication is concerned should be simplified, and yet the system should
offer some stimulus for study and progress in knowledge: (I) Every
new teacher placed upon the register should be required first to pass a
specified examination to entitle him to his certificate and to his place
on the register; and he should not be required to pass any further
examination in order to retain his place. (11) But a voluntary examina-
tion of a more advanced character should be arranged for teachers at
the end of the third, fourth, or fifth year after receiving their certificate,
success in which should entitle them to another certificate marked first
class or to be otherwise distinguished. (iii) And this first class certi-
ficate, with the results of their practical work, becomes a factor in
judging of their fitness for specially good appointments.
2. Arguments for assessing teachers' salaries at a modest leveL 1
In considering the amount of teachers' salaries It must not be
(1) That they will have received five years' free education as pupil
teachers. (U) And maintenance and training in the college free.
(1i1) That school work (a) in towns Is 4j days a week (b) in the country
is 4 days a week. (iv) That they have opportunity of supplementing
their Incomes from some other occupations on Fridays and Saturdays.
(v) That they have several weeks of holidays in each year.
3. Arguments for fixed salaries.
If salaries are fixed (1) Persons of superior qualifications will be
induced to enter the profession. (ii) Better attendance will be promoted
as smaller attendance will mean smaller salary...... (v) Teachers will
not have to wait until the Inspection to know what their salaries will be.
This system will also save much work in the Department in calculat-
ing grants-in-aid and attendance grants.
4. Economics in the payment of pupil teachers Justified. 2
Considering (a) That the supply is greater than the demand
(b) That they will have received an additional five years' free education
(c) That they are free to choose any other walk in life after this addi-
tional free education (d) That they will be trained free (e) And that
their work in their first and second year is of such small value:
We recommend that they receive no payment for the first and second
years, and that they should be paid for the third year a sum of 5 and
for the fourth year a sum of 6.
We are of opinion that the result of this arrangement will be:
(i) there will be a sufficient inducement for earnest workers who intend
to follow the profession (ii) and the over supply will be checked.
XIV. CLASSES AND CURRICULUM IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS. 3
1. Criticism of existing curriculum.
Judging from personal observation and from every source of in-
formation, we are of opinion that the curriculum has led to superficial
teaching and that too much has been attempted for the capacity of
the teachers and scholars.
1 Salaries suggested were, for Heads:
Nos. in attendance Male Female
50- 80 50 36
81-140 60 40
141-200 80 54
201 300 100 66
301-400 120 80
For Assistants: 35- 45 25 30
2 They were currently paid 4 for their first year, 5 for their second and 6 for each
of their third and fourth years.
3 Since this is, for its time, the most original part of the Lumb Report, it is reproduced
2. Aims of the new curriculum proposed.
Recognising that the economic conditions of Jamaica are not such
as to call for a curriculum that is suitable for Europe or the United
States of America, it appears to us that our aim should be to give a
thorough foundation in primary education, to train the eye and hand,
to form accurate ideas of shape, distance and time, to give fundamental
manual and agricultural instruction, and so help scholars to earn their
living and to discharge their duties as citizens.
We think that reading requires improvement, and that greater
attention and more time should be devoted to it. It would probably be
improved and made more interesting, and at the same time a love of
reading might be created: i) By a conversational discussion and
explanation of each lesson, in which attention should be paid to
grammar, punctuation and vocabulary, ii) By the use of reading books
more appropriate to Jamaican scholars, and comprising in their sub-
jects broad outlines of the history and geography of Jamaica. Selected
newspapers and "penny selections" from standard authors might also
Although writing seems to be well taught generally, yet more atten-
tion should be paid to letter writing, business forms and dictation.
We are of opinion that too much is attempted in Arithmetic.... We
recommend that it should be confined to simple and compound rules,
reduction, practice, bills of parcels, simple proportion, simple interest
and fractions with denominators not exceeding 20; and that great
attention should be paid to mental arithmetic, tables of weights and
measures, and to questions arising in ordinary life.
6. Geography and History.
Geography.....should be taught in reading lessons and should
comprise the ordinary definitions, the geography of Jamaica, and out-
lines of the geography of the British Empire and the United States of
America, illustrated by reference to maps.
History should be taught in the reading lesson, and to the upper
classes only, and should be confined to Jamaica and to two brief
chapters, one on English history and one on the history of the United
States of America.
Grammar and word building should only be taught in the reading
lesson and in the grammatical explanations at the end of the lessons
in the improved reading books.
8. Scripture and morals.
Scripture, morals and good manners should be taught as at present
with a distribution over all of the classes.
The teaching of sewing now costs 4,200 a year, and it is found to
a large extent to be very unsatisfactory, and not to justify such an
expenditure, owing to the want of competent teachers. We recom-
mend that it should be confined to plain sewing, cutting and repair of
garments and knitting of useful articles; that It should at once cease
to be taught in any school where there is not a registered woman
teacher, and that all women teachers should teach it without addition
to their ordinary salaries.
10. Physical drill, singing and drawing.
Physical drill should form part of the curriculum for boys and
girls. Singing of approved songs and hymns should be taught by note.
If children learn to sing by note this will help them to brighten and
cheer their homes in after life.
The drawing and sub-division of ordinary plane figures should be
taught to boys and girls so as to give accuracy and eye and hand train-
ing; and a detailed syllabus should be drawn up.
11. Object lessons.
Object lessons to boys and girls should be introduced suitable to
Jamaica, which refer to common objects and animals, and to theoretical
elements of agriculture according to a detailed syllabus, and also
lessons on thrift.
12. Domestic Economy.
Domestic economy and household duties should be taught to girls
in the three upper classes.
13. Modified kindergarten methods recommended until the age of 8.
It appears to be almost universally agreed that kindergarten
methods of teaching are very valuable in the case of young children;
that they greatly assist in developing the faculty of observation and
the dexterity of hand and eye, which specially need to be developed
in our Jamaican children. And this form of teaching increases the
power intelligently to take in the more advanced teaching in the
juvenile school and particularly helps to lay a good foundation for the
manual training which we propose should be given in the last two
years of school life.
We therefore desire to see these principles of teaching used in all
infant schools which may hereafter be maintained at public expense
and as far as possible in the teaching of the children between 6 and 8
years of age in the ordinary elementary schools. In the present state
of the finances we cannot recommend grants of public money for
kindergarten apparatus and this will no doubt prevent the rapid intro-
duction on any large scale of kindergarten teaching. But simple and
inexpensive apparatus will suffice for the introduction and practical
use of kindergarten methods in a modified degree, which is all that
may be expected in school generally for a long time to come.
14. A kindergarten training for teachers at Kingston Board School.
The great diffculty in Jamaica hitherto in this matter has been
the absence of qualified teachers, but this difficulty will be partially
removed If, as we recommend, teachers near to Kingston and students
obtain a course of instruction in the kindergarten section of the Board
15. A reduction in textbooks recommended.
We also recommend that fewer textbooks should be in use, and
fewer changes made in them, thereby reducing the cost to parents;
that one reading book, including the instruction in history and
geography, .... be specially composed and be sold at a price not exceed-
ing 6d. If possible; and that the Tropical Readers now in use be
16. The benefits of reducing the curriculum.
By reducing the curriculum greater efficiency will be obtained: The
cost of education will be reduced: greater attention can be paid to
individual and backward scholars: and there will be less work for the
17. The curriculum proposals summarized.
By the above suggested changes in the curriculum;
Dictation ) will be extended
Grammar ) will be reduced
Object Lessons )
Manual Instruction ) will be Introduced
and some subjects will be entirely eliminated.
XVI. MANUAL AND AGRICULTURAL INSTRUCTION.
1. An Integral part of the curriculum.
In our opinion the efforts In this instruction should be such as are
suitable to children and to the wants and resources of the island. Its
object should be to train the mind, hand and eye, and to teach that
labour is honourable. And in order that it should not be irksome to
the children we think it should form part of the ordinary curriculum
and should be given during school hours.
2. General manual skill, not trades, to be taught.
We do not contemplate that by manual instruction specific and
various trades should be taught; it will be sufficient, as in many other
countries, that boys should be taught the Sloyd System, as adopted in
England and America, which prepares for all handicrafts.
3. Alms of practical agricultural instruction for girls and boys.
We recommend that agricultural instruction should be given to
boys and to girls.
The object should be to give sound theoretical and practical teach-
ing; to help to prepare them to earn their living; to teach them that
there is scope for trained intelligence in agriculture; and to create
a taste for agriculture.
It should be practical and not laborious; and should have special
reference to the products of the district in which the school is situated.
4. Theoretical and practical teaching in agriculture described.
Theoretical teaching should be by object lessons and demonstration
in the simple principles of plant life.
Practical teaching 1) should be in a small piece of land near or
adjoining the school; 2) or, if this is not possible, in boxes and pots;
3) should not be field work: and the teacher should a) Set the example
and work with his own hands; b) Make the children familiar with the
use of implements; and c) Explain the reason for every operation.
5. The scheme should overcome a prevalent distaste for manual and
The opinion seems to be held that the present system of education
tends to encourage a distaste for manual labour in favour of clerkships
and such occupations, and to create an exodus from the country into
towns..... We cannot say that it has been shown to us or that we are
of opinion that matters are worse in this respect In Jamaica than in
many other places. But any such general distaste for manual and
agricultural labour must be felt to be an evil, and we believe that,
to whatever extent it may exist in Jamaica, the carrying out of our
recommendation will tend to check it. When a thoroughly sound,
simple and practical education such as we are endeavouring to establish,
becomes universal, it may be expected that, owing to the increased
intelligence thereby gained, agriculture and handicrafts will be esti-
mated at their true value by a steadily increasing number of persons.
XVII. TRAINING COLLEGES AND TRAINING.
Government aid should be given to Mico College and any denomina-
tional college for the training of such teachers as are required. Short-
wood College should be expanded to take 50 students. The training
course should be reduced to two years to allow for more trained teachers,
and the leakage of Mico trained teachers from the profession should
be checked. The training course should be simplified and made more
practical. A short course on teaching methods should be offered to
uncertifcated teachers already in service. A supplementary course
should be provided for successful teachers to equip them for "important
positions" in schools.
1. The teachers are said to be the weakest part of the existing system
and their training does not equip them for practical service.
We are of opinion that the teachers, as a body, are probably the
weakest and most unsatisfactory part of the present system, though
the evidence shows an improvement in those who have been trained in
recent years. Students are, however, trained in too much that is
unnecessary and unfitting and too little in what is useful and practical,
at the expenditure of much public money, producing, in many cases,
teachers who are imbued with false ideas of their duties and occupa-
tion. As some explanation for this state of affairs, it is but right to
remember that neither the present curriculum in Schools nor in the
Training Colleges, will allow of the adoption of a different and more
useful training; therefore, we consider it to be all the more necessary
for us to endeavour to remedy this by the changes we are about to
2. Women teachers should be trained in domestic duties.
We desire to emphasise our opinion that the training of women
teachers should be combined with subjects of a practical nature and
we think this will be attained if they [Shortwood students] 1 take part
and receive instruction In the cooking, laundry work and domestic
arrangements as is done at Bethlehem College. 2 This will reduce the
large staff of servants and will be of great benefit to the students and
to others when they leave the College, for it must not be forgotten
that female teachers by their example to others may be of incalculable
good or evil. Any such changes in the domestic arrangements should
be gradually introduced.
3. The present curriculum is too elaborate and requires too many
We are of opinion that the present curriculum contains too much
of the higher subjects and too little of the primary and practical sub-
jects, and that too many textbooks are indicated.
4. School management should be emphasised in the training courses.
This subject requires the greatest attention, and 50 additional hours
in each year at least-should be given to it. Work in the Practising
School should be done for one week continuously, and this would pro-
duce better results. During examinations the student should teach a
class in the presence of the examiner.
1 Costing 53 p.a. to train.
2 Costing 17. 5s. p.a. to train each student.
3 There follows a revised curriculum, subject by subject almost identical with the
proposed school curriculum, including compulsory and thorough instruction in domestic
economy, plain sewing, laundry and cooking for women students and manual and
agricultural instruction for men.
5. Certain unnecessary studies should be eliminated from teacher
We think the following subjects should be omitted: Elocution as
reading aloud is sufficient: Science what is necessary can be given
in object lessons and in agricultural instruction: Euclid and Algebra -
which are at present compulsory: Latin, French and Mathematics -
which are at present optional. As we consider these subjects entirely
6. The curriculum proposals for training colleges summarised.
The following is a summary of our proposed changes:
will be extended
will be curtailed
will be eliminated
will be introduced
It has been argued that the Lumb Report was merely a set of
proposals for disastrous cheese-paring in educational expenditure. The
Commission was certainly briefed to observe economy, and the colonial
authorities may in practice have been more concerned with this aspect
of the Report than with efficiency, the other requirement. It Is hard
to believe, however, that three churchmen, including Archbishop Nuttall
who had long been concerned with the quality of Jamaican education
and two elected members of the Legislative Council would be more
concerned with economy than efficiency; Judge Lumb already had a
reputation for criticising standards of public education elsewhere and,
although he presented a minority report against compulsion, there
is no evidence that his disagreement went beyond this matter. 1
1 Lumb had been on the Trinidad Education Commission of 1888-9 where he had
presented a much more extensive minority report castigating teachers and the standard
The thoroughness and detail of the Lumb Report in fact suggest
that the commission worked in close accord to produce an effective
alternative to the entrenched system of payment by results. This was
in fact the outcome of their report and the role of the inspectors was
modified. Teachers were given fixed salaries, and soon after, a pension
The financial proposals of the Lumb Report were in fact farcically
low, but this was because the commissioners were anticipating the
increased cost of bringing all the children between 6 and 12 years old
into schools. This would require some new schools on their own
definition to be provided by government, more teachers to be trained
at training colleges at their own suggestion, and the equipment, if not
the textbooks, required for the more practical turn of their proposed
syllabuses. These would all have been additional expenses to improve
the quality and effectiveness of the six years' schooling to be offered
to an ever-growing number of children.
In the event the compulsion was not achieved; some denominational
colleges closed for financial reasons, so that training declined when it
should have expanded; lastly, the practical education recommended
was little developed in the general system of elementary schools. The
turn of the century was accompanied by grave economic distress, and
funds did not exist for the thorough-going and realistic reform of
education proposed by the Lumb Report. More ambitious schemes for
sections of the education system have appeared in the half century
since the Report; the basic education for all children has still not
The Enchanted Garden
G. R. COULTHARD
JAMAICANS are not always aware of the kind of image of this
country that is held outside the English speaking world, and these
impressions of a Mexican writer of great talent and perspicacity are
of considerable interest, although they are almost now fifty years old.
Before looking into Vasconcelos' account of the "Enchanted
Garden", as he calls this island, it is essential to say a few words about
Vasconcelos' views and attitudes indeed about his cultural theories
which he consistently applies throughout his work. Vasconcelos,
regarded as a philosopher in Mexico, considered that Iberian civiliza-
tion, that Is the civilization of Spain, of Portugal and its somewhat
modified reproduction in Latin American, was superior to what he
persistently called Anglo-Saxon culture, namely the culture and civiliza-
tion of the United States and England. He thought that the cultural
achievements of the Anglo-Saxons in their colonies were, at best, non-
existent, at worst, pernicious. The Spaniards, on the other hand, had
endowed their colonies with an artistic and humanistic tradition which,
though debased and disfigured in many places, was still alive and could
become the basis of a truly great world culture in the future.
Iberian or Spanish civilization, particularly in its Latin American
form, he saw as open to all the peoples and races of the world, whereas
the Anglo-Saxons, he felt, tried to maintain their civilization closed
and exclusive to the white race. For Vasconcelos, the future of the
world there were no nuclear weapons when he was writing lay in
the fusion of all the races of the world into what he called, coining a
phrase which has subsequently had wide acceptance throughout Latin
America, the "Cosmic Race". He thought the beginnings of this trend
towards the Cosmic Race were already visible in Latin America.
The technological triumphs of the Anglo-Saxons to which they
owed a temporary superiority were, according to Vasconcelos, helping
the trend by making communication between peoples easier. Now such
views are obviously very controversial, particularly in the oversimplified
form in which I have been obliged to present them. They are stated in
a highly emotional excellent prose style and they were taken up
throughout the length and breadth of Latin America because they
constituted Just the kind of cultural defence that the Latin Americans
needed in the face of the predominance of the United States.
Vasconcelos was violently and, indeed, aggressively anti-American,
All quotations are taken from the chapter "El jardin encantado" in "La torment,
segunda part del Ulises Criollo, Mexico, 1948, pages 415-425.
although his anti-Americanism was not of the usual run-of-the-mill
Communist brand to which we are so accustomed today. It was based
on a conception that the values of the two civilizations of the American
continent the Latin American and the Anglo-Saxon, were antithetical,
indeed, antagonistic. He felt that the North Americans wanted to
break the Hispanic or Spanish spirit of Latin America in order to impose
their own way of life. In fact, Vasconcelos was a nationalist and in-
deed a super-nationalist, since he believed in Bolivar's ideal of a United
States of Latin American with a basically Spanish or Hispanic culture.
Despite his dream of a cosmic race, however, perhaps paradoxically,
Vasconcelos was a racialist in the sense that he believed that certain
races were endowed with superior powers. His views were based on
historical and cultural considerations which cannot be examined now.
He did not, for example, hold much brief for the American Indians. He
attributes the cruelty of the Mexicans to the Aztec element in them
and writing of the Inca temple of Pachacamac In Peru, he exclaims:
"What did those stupid Incas know of the things of the spirit a
mechanical sheep-like people, bending their heads before the Inca? I
In order to become acceptable, the Indian, according to Vasconcelos,
must be Hispanisized in his values and in his way of life. Likewise he
held a poor opinion of the Negro people of Africa, considering that they
had little of their own to offer the world, unless in combination with
some superior culture. It is in the light then of this preamble that we
must view Vasconcelos' impressions of Jamaica in 1917. Many of his
impressions may appear mistaken. Some may be out of date, although
his evocations of Jamaica of nearly fifty years ago are very vivid and
picturesque. On the other hand he observed some aspects of Jamaican
life with remarkable penetration. Incidentally, Vasconcelos spoke per-
His first impressions of Kingston were that from an architectural
point of view it was inferior to other Caribbean capitals. Kingston, he
writes, should have been Spanish for a longer time so as to acquire
the luxury of the square with arcades and fortresses like San Juan,
Puerto Rico, or Havana; palaces and walls like Cartagena or a cathedral
like Santo Domingo. This architectural poverty is due to the inferior
nature of British colonialism. Another aspect of the inferiority of
British colonialism is what he calls the distance which separates the
classes. "The Negro," Vasconcelos writes, "in Jamaica does not joke
with the white man as he does in Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean.
Indeed, he hardly ever sees the white man, who lives far away from
the city in a colony of modern houses. It was a misfortune for Jamaica
to have fallen into British hands," he continues, "for if it had remained
Spanish it would be a nation like Cuba, Santo Domingo or Mexico. It
became English and was turned into a trading post, a factory without
character, culture or self respect."
The average Jamaican may react strongly to this. He will consider
the unhappy history of Cuba as a Spanish colony in the 19th century,
torn by constant civil war, or its life as an independent republic
culminating with the dictatorship of Fidel Castro. Or he will think of
the chaos and turmoil of Santo Domingo, the bloodstained dictatorship
of Trujillo; all this compared with the tranquil if somewhat slow march
of Jamaica towards Independence and nationhood.
However, Vasconcelos would reply that a true nation is born out
of strife, bloodshed and sacrifice and that an arranged independence
does not make for a nation. "Commerce", Vasconcelos observed, "is
lodged in vulgar modern buildings, few ships call in the port, there is
no cosmopolitanism, only employees of foreign companies, soldiers of
the empire and a Negro fellahin which laughs, enjoys the sun and
eats the wonderful tropical fruit which the Anglo -Saxon despises."
Vasconcelos lunched in what he described as a charming hotel by
the sea, which obviously must have been the Myrtle Bank, and after-
wards visited Hope Gardens where he was so delighted with the refined
and civilized jungle that he overstayed his time and when he got back
to Kingston his boat had sailed; which is where our story really starts,
for he had to stay several days in Jamaica before he could pick up
another ship going to New York.
In the evening he started to wander about the streets of downtown
Kingston and found his way into what he describes as a sailor's
paradise, a bar where girls, sailors and British soldiers were dancing
and generally disporting themselves. "The girls were black, the
customers white," he writes and reflects on prejudices against the mix-
ing of white and black, but, he says, "the very white English boys seem
to be enjoying themselves in a completely relaxed manner." If he
himself harboured any such prejudices these were rapidly dispelled
when a young black girl asked him to dance. "In all her person, he
writes, "there was a smooth rhythm as in the coloured girls of Cuba;
a Caribbean rhythm which contrasts so strongly with the angular,
harsh movements of the coloured people of the United States." He
found the girl attractive and gentle. "I touched her handsome black
body. There was a soul in that beautiful body, however much racial
prejudice may deny it and one had to love it or leave it alone." The
girl remained with him during the rest of his stay in Jamaica and it
was through this humble contact that Vasconcelos got his vision of
Jamaica, a vision that few foreign writers have obtained. It is notice-
able that either by design or chance, I suspect by design, that he
sought no contact with officialdom or the upper classes. His anony-
mous girl friend helped him to buy the usual tourist trinkets, beads and
objects decorated with sea shells; in a certain inn he drank what he
describes as a ginger cocktail, an alcohol made from this root with
powdered cinnamon and cloves. Could it have been ginger-beer? In
any case Vasconcelos describes it as unforgettable.
He spent much of his time driving round the suburbs of Kingston
in a horse-drawn coach. The climate of the island, particularly at
night, he found delightful. "There are climates in which just to sit
still is pure delight. The atmosphere is an unending caress. Such Is
the climate of Jamaica."
At the time of Vasconcelos' stay in Jamaica, in 1917, there was a
traffic of cane workers between Jamaica and Cuba. Small boats of
around fifty tons transported the Jamaican workers to Santiago de Cuba
in the most primitive and filthy conditions. The fare for deck
passengers was around two dollars a head. Through the good graces
of his "African Venus," Jose Vasconcelos was able to get a passage on
one of these boats for an insignificant sum. He was to travel in the
A great traveller, indeed his autobiography from which these
extracts are taken is called the "Creole Ullyses," he talked much of his
travels to the people in whose house he was staying in Kingston. The
lady of the house told him she had never travelled and would have
liked to have gone to the United States. "But you know, you have
been there, they don't like Negroes very much in the United States,
so to avoid unpleasantness I stayed at home in Jamaica."
This remark touched off Vasconcelos' explosive anti-Americanism
and he exclaims, "It is a cruel situation that the Anglo-Saxons have
created for the coloured race. First they dragged them out of Africa
to sell them like animals, and once in America they seem to want to
exterminate them like they did with the Indians and yet as far as I
could see there is a great delicacy of soul in the coloured race. (The
Spanish phrase "flnura de alma" sounds better). "There is a sense of
compassion" he says "which perhaps is not so common in the world
So he embarked on the sloop amid a great unfurling of sails, shout-
ing of sailors and passengers. He and a young coloured girl who con-
sidered herself very superior to the deck passengers were to share the
Captain's cabin with the Captain. The rest of the passengers were
herded together on the deck, packed tightly together so they could
hardly move, others were in the hold.
Looking down from the bridge on this tightly packed mass of
humanity his cabin-companion, who was going to Cuba to get married,
pointed out a black woman giving suck to her baby. "Look at that,
isn't it ugly, that is why I would never marry a black man. I don't
want a baby like that." This remark Vasconcelos merely records with-
The next day was a Sunday, although Vasconcelos says they pro-
bably would not have realized it if the deck passengers had not turned
out washed and in clean clothes.
"They got together under an awning in the back of the boat and
began to sing," what he describes as "Presbyterian hymns. After the
service they spent the rest of the morning discussing biblical subjects."
They spoke intelligently and with the fervour of sincere believers, not
with the passion of theologians. "Moved by this scene of simple Ja-
maican cane-cutters, seriously discussing religious matters in a tiny,
precarious sailing-boat in the middle of the Caribbean sea Vasconcelos
exclaims: "These men earned their bread by the sweat of their brows,
and how they had to sweat for a miserable pittance! They were humble
and were possessed of a divine certitude and, no doubt, in their filthy
hold .were closer to God than us in the Captain's cabin, or to so many
who travel first class on trans-Atlantic liners. We who had never
worked with our hands were the swine of the soul, the humble Negroes,
That night the sea became so rough that Vasconcelos thought the
ship was going to sink. Fortunately this did not happen and he reached
Santiago de Cuba, very sea-sick, but otherwise unharmed.
The interest of Vasconcelos' impressions of Jamaica lies to some ex-
tent in his unusual point of view. An intellectual and writer, who created
a new system of education in Mexico after the revolution, and a spiritual
leader of Latin America, he saw Jamaica from the most humble level.
He seems to have stayed deliberately with the small people during his
whole stay. He was also clearly interested in Jamaica as an example
of a Negro country. He, in fact, never once uses the word Jamaican -
"jamaiquino" for the people of Jamaica but always the word "negro-los
negros." Even the mulatto he dismisses somewhat summarily, perhaps
mistakenly. "The dark skinned mulatto is common, but he has no
recognized position. As in the United States the mulatto draws towards
the Negro as anything else is denied him by custom."
His impressions are significant as they reflect the feelings of many
Latin Americans towards British colonialism, particularly in the West
Indies. It must be realized that even today the English-speaking terri-
tories of South and Central America are something of a mystery to
most Latin Americans. They are very exotic from a Latin American
point of view. They speak some form of English, until very recently
they were still colonies. They used to fly the British flag. Even today
it is difficult to persuade many Latin Americans that countries like
Jamaica and Trinidad are not still basically British colonies. Most of
them fail to understand the function of the Commonwealth and seem
to think it is a perpetuation of the British Empire with a different name.
The Latin American tends to look with suspicion and some distaste
on the legacy of British colonialism. There may have been violence
and bloodshed in their own history, but out of this came striking,
dramatic national heroes and a strong, passionate national feeling.
"And where is British colonial art?" they ask. Where are those wonder-
ful churches and public buildings such as one finds in many parts of
Mexico, Peru and Ecuador? The British were only interested in com-
merce and exploitation. We must not forget, of course, that he is talk-
ing of Jamaica of fifty years ago. The feeling then, that British
colonialism implanted a narrowly practical and utilitarian outlook,
without any spiritual preoccupation, is a widely held attitude in Latin
America, which amounts almost to prejudice.
Vasconcelos' impressions of Jamaica are profoundly influenced by
this attitude which he systematized and indeed applies in his theory of
history as an explanation of the apparent cultural defeat of Hispanic
civilization. He thought however that the battle was far from lost and
that after the age of the Anglo-Saxon with his technology would come
the age of the cosmic race, of the fusion of all the races of the world
in a great harmony of peoples. This sounds terribly idealistic, parti-
cularly today, but it is not a bad ideal and is capable of having a very
wide appeal which is why, inspite of his emotionalism, frequent
exaggerations and illogicalities Vasconcelos is still in Latin America one
of the most important spiritual leaders.
From a reading of the passages devoted to Jamaica in his auto-
biography one gets the impression that the Jamaican experience was
vital and lasting and one could reasonably wonder whether this brief
period spent living with the small people of Kingston did not help
him to strengthen his feeling of the desirability of a cosmic race,
definitely confirmed by his subsequent experience in that great racial
melting pot of the world Brazil.
The Practice Of Education
G. D. BISHOP
THIS decade is characterized by the granting of political independ-
ence to millions of people in numerous territories. The fruits of this
independence will be determined, to a very large extent, by the educa-
tional systems of these new nations. Von Humboldt rightly stated over
150 years ago that "what you would put into the State, you must first
put Into the school". In our own life-time we have seen education
blatantly and flagrantly exploited by dictators to further their own
selfish alms, and we are familiar with Its use by rulers as a weapon
in ideological warfare. It was Lenin who stated that "an Illiterate
person is outside the sphere of politics. The first thing he must be
taught is the alphabet." "Only the nation which has solved in actual
practice the problem of educating perfect men will then solve also the
problem of the perfect State" (Fichte, address to the German Nation,
1807). It will not be enough merely to expand enormously and quickly
the existing systems of education; even more important, this great
spread in education must be on the right lines.
We live In a fateful period of history; and our future hangs on the
choice our school-children will make. H. G. Wells said that civilisation
was a race between education and catastrophe. We have just missed
catastrophe by the skin of our teeth; but the race Is still on, and if we
do not make a new world the horrors will come again. And the new
world will only come from enlightened practice in the schools. The
school is one of the chief means to which society must look for all sub-
stantial social progress for the school has the opportunity to sift out
those elements in the culture pattern which are less worthy to be per-
petuated, to eliminate the dead wood and the perverse.
There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action. It was
Shakespeare who said that "Ignorance is the curse of God. Knowledge
the wing wherewith we fly to heaven." It Is the teacher's responsibility
to provide that knowledge, especially in this age of gape and gloat, of
false standards and distorted views, In this age when, though the
scientific and technical achievements of man are almost Godlike he
yet lives the moral and social life of the caveman.
One cannot be wise without some basis of knowledge but one may
easily acquire knowledge and yet remain devoid of wisdom. The
importance of knowledge lies not In itself but in our use of it, in our
active mastery of it; in short, it lies in wisdom. As A. N. Whitehead
so wisely asserted, a merely well-informed man Is the most useless
bore on God's earth. One needs not several pieces of an ornamental
cloth of culture but a suit of solid depth.
The old method of education was one of imposition and even of
violence and rightly referred to as "the scourge which teaches children."
Dr. L. W. Bone speaks for the enlightened methods of today when he
says: "Cast into the limbo of forgotten things such maxims as children
should be seen and not heard; keep still and do as I say; keep in line.
Encourage your charges to express their thoughts and hopes and fears.
Let them do things on their own, even to getting out of line (so that
they can escape regimentation and assert their individualism). I often
wonder what societal disservice we perpetrate by holding up to dis-
pleasure the black circle of dirt under the fingernail. No "nice" boy
should have dirty nails we say to Tom, and wonder why he shows a
reluctance to soil his hands in later life." 1
And teaching consisted little more than the 'jug and mug' technique.
The teacher, like the jug, merely poured facts into the child, the mug
(speaking metaphorically!). Education is not an affair of "telling"
or "pouring in"; it is an active constructive process-training faculties,
not filling empty spaces. True education is teaching the mind to dig
deeper into the reasons behind outward appearances, to recognize truth,
beauty and goodness, to distinguish between what is merely gaudy,
sensational and cheaply emotional and what is really worthwhile.
Rabindranath Tagore caught the essence of these unenlightened
methods in his criticism that "we rob the child of his earth to teach
him geography, we rob the child of his language to teach him grammar".
Unfortunately these unenlightened methods persist with us today.
In history, instead of wasting time on Henry the Eighth and the
names of his six or eight wives, should we not rather begin with the
local history of Jamaica or Trinidad or St. Lucia, then move on to the
larger region the British Caribbean and only then the history in
outline of perhaps the last two centuries of Europe and the Americas.
And instead of getting bogged down in the details is it not more
important to give children a sense of the sweep of history so that they
can appreciate its significance in the modern world. History should
help us to see ourselves and how we fit into the greater framework of
In English, instead of wasting long hours on Mr. Verity's analysis
of Sir Toby Belch and his reference to some obscure points in
Elizabethen pageantry, should not children rather concentrate on the
understanding and appreciation of literature, and especially their own
literature? As Dr. Bone warns us: "The elegance of the Shakespearian
sonnet, its delicate imagery and its sonorous pleasures is ersatz in the
Caribbean, a counterfeit coin palmed off on an unsuspecting child who
does not realise its spurious worth until much later."
Only by giving our pupils a true appreciation of Science will they
come to realise that Science is our tool, not our master. In many
schools we kid ourselves that this is what we are doing. Far from it.
Children learn that the sun is 93 million miles away, that light from a
1 Dr. L. W. Bone: Speech delivered at Conference of Caribbean Union of Teachers,
Georgetown, British Guiana, 16th August, 1962.
nebula may take 100,000 years to reach us, that a hydrogen atom is
one tenmillionth of a cm. in diameter, that there are more than 100,000
known compounds of carbon, that plutonium is obtained by bombarding
U 238 with slow neutrons. Facts, facts, facts which are learnt by rote
for regurgitation in an examination. Students spend long hours balanc-
ing chemical equations without the vaguest notion of the mechanisms
underlying how or why the reactions occur. This is our "steam-shovel"
method of cramming in schools. Textbooks abound with assertion after
assertion of conclusions made by someone else. Worse still, these con-
clusions are usually a century behind the advancing front of knowledge.
The position regarding laboratory work is even more scandalous.
Often laboratory work is non-existent; where laboratory work is done
it is often nothing more than mere verification of what the teacher or
textbook said should happen. How on earth can a student practice any
scientific virtue at all if his laboratory work consists of merely repeat-
ing what he already knew would or should happen, if he is told
in advance what he is supposed to 'discover' and conclude? Having
studied the circulatory system of the frog from a textbook he will then
dissect a frog to "see if its circulatory system is right." In this
degenerate laboratory work, in this cookbookery of a ritual of recipes,
the aim is not to do an honest experiment but to get the "right" answer.
A course in Sherlock Holmes will prove far more effective in developing
a scientific habit of mind that is, the habit of making unbiassed
judgments than the pseudo-science that masquerades in our schools.
The teaching of mathematics in the schools is often as unsatis-
factory as the mis-teaching of science elaborated above. Children
waste years on sums where two taps fill a tank whilst a third tap
empties it: the children then have to measure the stupidity of some
idiot who turns on all three taps at once.
We must guard against the danger of formal education becoming
abstract and bookish, isolated from life, remote and dead, nothing but
a "dung-hill of inert ideas." For successful education there must
always be a certain freshness in the knowledge dealt with. As A. N.
Whitehead so aptly remarked: "Knowledge does not keep any better
We must also guard against becoming so pre-occupied with subjects
that we fall to appreciate that there is only one subject matter for
education, and that is Life in all its manifestations. A. N. Whitehead
warns us that we "may not divide the seamless cost of learning."
A school should not be a combination of subjects of study, but of
In place of the traditional passive "listening school," with the
teacher as pivot, Dewey and the pragmatists would substitute an active,
social, industrialized "working school" with the child as pivot. Instead
of a fixed programme, there must be an "emerging curriculum,"
practical and closely related to life, adapted to the child's age and
providing for all activities, physical, mental, moral and aesthetic. The
child should develop by his own creative activities. For passive
obedience and submissiveness they would substitute responsibility,
social interest, initiative, independence, activity.
Most of the anomalies in the educational systems of 'colonial'
territories have arisen from the fact that what has been found suitable
in the 'mother' country has been adopted lock, stock and barrel. But
education is not an exportable commodity. Education changes not only
with years; it is as sensitive to place as it is to time. It bears a different
meaning in different countries and is never quite the same thing in a
rural area as in a crowded Industrialised one, in a highly civilized
country as in an under-developed one. Grave mistakes can and are
being made by interpreting education in the same way in highly
advanced countries which have had educational systems stretching back
through the centuries and in territories where a significant portion of
the people are still illiterate. What is good educational procedure in
one society need not necessarily perform a similar function in a different
society. Educational practices must be adapted to new demands and
new circumstances, to the kind of society we want to build. The great
problem facing educationists in the Caribbean is that they have to
build their educational systems while the way of life of society is still
undergoing vast changes, to build when the specifications are ever
changing. The new nations of the Caribbean need to develop to the
full their geographic, economic and industrial resources if they are to
compete in world markets. Has the time not come when the present-
day undue concentration on the "grammar" type of education should
be replaced by greater emphasis on "technical" education? There is
still a resistance to technical education. It is opposed on the ground
that being socially Inferior, technical education should form no part
of a liberal education; others criticise it as "vocational" and a capital-
istic device for exploiting children for the benefit of employers. These
attitudes are, as Dewey has pointed out, "relics of a political theory of
the permanent division of human beings into those capable of a life
of reason and those capable only of desire and work." Fortunately,
these old prejudices are losing their icy grip and we are able to build
an educational system more appropriate to this century of change and
challenge. As Whitehead emphasises: "the antithesis between a
technical and a liberal education is fallacious. There can be no adequate
technical education which is not liberal, and no liberal education which
is not technical. There must be a fusion of spirit which will make both
culture and vocation a service in the life of both individual and society.
No one should ever have to choose between an education without a
vocation and a vocation without an education."
Today, when man's scientific and technical achievements are almost
Godlike, it is even more important for teachers and schools to build the
spiritual foundations deep, deep enough to carry the heavy super-
structure of industrialisation. Imagine for a moment the 50,000 years
of recorded human history compressed into the life-span of a man of
fifty, i.e. one year of the man's life is equivalent to a thousand years
of history. Then, it was only ten years ago that Man left his cave;
five years ago that writing was discovered;
two years ago that Our Lord was born;
six months ago printing was discovered;
ten days ago electricity;
yesterday morning the first aeroplane flew;
last night the radio was discovered;
television this morning;
one minute ago jets broke the Sound Barrier; and
two seconds ago nuclear power offered us the
choice of undreamt riches or annihilation.
In our life-time we have seen science wreak havoc and slaughter and
devastation on a phenomenal scale. But these ills are not the fault
of science. They are the fault of men and women who have been unable
to control their own inventions, who have perverted the results of
science to their own diabolical ends. It Is man, not science, that is
confronted with the choice between good and evil.
It is little wonder that Man feels hectic and bafflea and frightened
and defeatist and that Science has become his Sacred Cow. The
momentum of Einstein's theory of Relativity is carried over into other
fields and everything possible is now regarded as relative morals are
relative, the meanings of words are relative, and even truth is relative.
But what people forget Is that Einstein did not do away with the
Absolute. (Incidentally the fact that Einstein failed the entrance
examination to the Polytechnic School should make us realise that
examinations are not all that many would have us believe them to be.
Paul Ehrlich, who discovered salvarsan, the cure for syphillis at his
606th attempt, only passed his final examination as a doctor through
the grace of the examiners). There is a danger, too, of our losing our
heads in this giddy, changing and challenging world, of getting the
ridiculous idea that speed is the criterion or that numbers will answer
any final question and so of letting the machine become our master.
In this world of rapid change and increasing mystery, when the figures
of the cinema and the cartoon strip are more real than the figures of
the Gospel, it is all the more important that children should be taught
conviction about what is right and what is wrong, about the more
important and the less important in life.
Far too many schools today, despite all their talk about training of
character, about development of creativity and of aesthetic apprecia-
tion, about the education of the emotions and the inculcation of spiritual
values, still worship before all else the great god Facts. Any educational
system or method that fails to instil effective ideals must be a failure.
As the Norwood Report has stated "education from Its nature must be
ultimately concerned with values which are independent of time and
Nothing on earth is purposeless; nor is education. Our sense of
purpose in education is greatly weakened by uncertainty about the
ultimate grounds of those values which we think we believe, and by the
multiplicity of our aims. "The most serious weakness in education,"
writes Professor Jeffreys, "is uncertainty about its aims. A glance over
history reminds us that the most vital and effective systems of educa-
tion have envisaged their objectives quite definitely, in terms of personal
qualities and social situations. Spartan, Feudal, Jesuit, Nazi, Com-
munist educations have had this in common, they knew what they
wanted to do and believed. By contrast education in liberal democracies
is distressingly nebulous In its aims". In building the edifice of educa-
tion the builders must have a definite aim, not just place brick upon
brick without really knowing why, or if there is some why and wherefore
it is summed up in such vague and misty abstractions as "individuality"
or "citizenship." But is education for citizenship enough? One can
be a good citizen without being a good man; a man may move rightly
in the social orbit without revolving rightly on his own axis.
In today's world of atomic power, when geographic barriers have
been destroyed and even national boundaries begin to become a little
absurd, we must turn away from the trivial task of 'doling out' informa-
tion to the crucially important task of creating dynamic societies in
which children may learn progressively the art of living creative and
happy lives as members of a free democratic society. This demands
only the best among our men and women as teachers.
The grammar school tradition assumed that teachers were born
and not made; the elementary tradition that teachers should be trained
but not educated. From this has arisen the erroneous belief that any-
one who has a university degree automatically has the ability to teach
and so requires no training in the techniques of teaching; that some-
one who is a fool will be able to teach in the primary school so long
as he or she is shown a few tricks of the trade. Education is the build-
ing of the human personality. Only men and women with a sense of
dedication, vocation and purpose, only men and women fitted by tem-
perament, character, Intelligence and aptitude, are worthy of being
society's ambassadors to the kingdom of childhood. As soon as one
mind begins to touch another, we are handling dynamite. What is
essential is teachers of above average ability and mental vision, teachers
with minds open to new ideas, minds that are critical, curious and ever-
growing: (people who cling to sterile ideas, are like hens sitting on hard
boiled eggs!) The unscholarly teacher has at her command only the
driest bones of information to rattle before her pupils. Too often has
it been true of the teacher that he has lived in a little world. The
school is for pupils the threshold of the great wide world; the teacher's
world has often not extended far enough.
There must be no room in the profession for teachers who are
nothing more than callous routineers, lazy and indifferent time-servers,
cynical slobs and hardfaced bitches, persons who suppose that a degree
or diploma is a guarantee of exemption from hard work rather than an
obligation to sweat and sacrifice for the benefit of those less fortunate
Education demands teachers who are not mere instructors bartering
their knowledge like tradesmen, but craftsmen with a vocation to help
young people grow up; teachers whose expanding horizons reach out
to the vision of greatness; teachers who are able to humanise man and
to spiritualise him by teaching him loyalty to what is highest, to per-
meate him with those ideals and virtues which have led mankind from
the cave to the cathedral; teachers able to inspire human beings who
will know not only how to split atoms but how to use their powers for
good. That is education not getting an '0' or 'A' level by cramming,
often without understanding.
Only a nation's best should dare to undertake a task of such far-
reaching Importance as the shaping and maturing of each rising
generation, far and away any nation's most valuable asset. Remem-
ber, no system of education can rise above the level of the teachers
who serve it.
The Growth of Villages In Jamaica
and British Guiana
I. THE FREE VILLAGE SYSTEM IN JAMAICA
(EDITOR'S NOTE: We are reprinting two essays which have appeared
in the Quarterly previously in separate issues, one of which has
been out of print for some years, but which has been in demand
by students and teachers of the post-emancipation period of
West Indian History. The first of these essays by Hugh Paget
originally appeared in the Jamaica Historical Review, Volume 1
No. 1 and subsequently in Caribbean Quarterly", Volume I No. 4.
The second essay is by Rawle Farley and appeared in "Caribbean
Quarterly", Volume 3 No. 2).
LORD OLIVIER, in his masterly study, Jamaica the Blessed Island,
"The twenty-seven years between 'Emancipation' (1838) and
the 'Jamaica Rebellion' (1865) form a single continuous period
in the development of the Jamaican people. That period trans-
formed an amorphous aggregate of 320,000 negro slaves, reputed
to be irreclaimable savages, into the organic and self-respecting
citizenry of a British community. There exists no professed
history giving a connected and understanding account of that
remarkable social and economic phenomenon, unparalleled so far
as it goes in human story".
I shall endeavour, in the present article, to make some contribution
towards a more complete understanding of the nature and significance
of the events and trends in the history of the earlier and more important
years of this period.
The significance of the year 1838 in the history of the Jamaican
people cannot be exaggerated. Before that date there were certainly
large numbers of people in Jamaica (the population was, in fact, over
370,000) but they did not, in any true sense, constitute a society or a
community. On the one hand there were the colonists; on the other
hand there were the slaves. Each constituted an entirely distinct
social group separated not so much by race as by the rigid economic
structure of an artificial society. Neither was a normally balanced
social group, for each had been uprooted from its normal environment
and had lost in the process the traditional social sanctions and the
spiritual basis of social life. In between these two groups there had
grown up, it is true, an aggregate of free coloured people which had
for a long period been steadily increasing in numbers and importance
but they were only just beginning to play that fuller part in the life of
the country which had been made possible by the "Act to remove all
disabilities of Persons of Free Condition" passed in the year 1830, and
they were still a people apart both from the white and the negro
elements In the population.
Sir Lionel Smith, Governor of Jamaica, in his speech to the Council
and the Assembly in October, 1838, called the complete emancipation
of the slaves "the most important event in the annals of Colonial
history". This statement, which is as true today as it was over a century
ago, shows clearly enough that the Colonial authorities fully appreciated
the significance of emancipation, a fact which makes it seem all the
stranger that more was not done to ensure the complete success of the
measure. It Is easy to be wise after the event, but any intelligent
person in Jamaica at that time could have anticipated most at least
of the problems arising out of the transformation of the vast majority
of the population from a condition of slavery on the estates to that of
a landless proletariat. The extreme unwisdom of such a policy, in the
first place, should have been self-evident; for a people who have for
generations derived their livelihood from the soil can hardly be divorced
from it by a stroke of the pen without disastrous results. This was not,
of course, precisely the intention, nor in fact actually the case in every
instance but the Important fact remains that the foundations of a
society based upon estate slavery were overthrown in a moment and
that little or no attempt was made by the authorities to erect in its
place a properly designed and well founded social structure. This
anomaly becomes more readily understandable when it is remembered
that Emancipation was conceived In England and was forced upon the
Assembly of Jamaica by Parliament and that the members of the House
of Assembly upon whom rested the responsibility for creating a stable
and progressive free Society in Jamaica were, almost to a man, opposed
to the idea of Emancipation and were determined both from prejudice
and from a mistaken idea of their own interests, to wreck the policy
which had been imposed upon them by the force of public opinion in
Exactly a century ago, on 7th June, 1845, the Rev. William Knibb,
who played an important part in the life of Jamaica in the years
immediately following Emancipation, openly accused the Assembly of
this obstructive policy at a meeting held at Norwich. "Immediately on
the possession of that freedom to which I have referred" declared Knibb.
"there were laws passed which were intended to act in all their force
(and the declaration that they were thus intended to act was publicly
made) upon the then free Inhabitants of Jamaica. These laws were-
first, the ejectment act; secondly, the trespass act. By the first the
whole population, or any portion of it, could be ejected at a week's
notice from the homes in which they had been born and in which they
had vegetated while slaves; by the other, the police of the country was
empowered to catch hold of and to imprison any individual who was
found in his former home, after he had received notice of ejectment.
This was done with the avowed purpose of compelling the labourer to
work for whatever wages they chose to give, and to perform as much
work as they required."
Every generalisation is made at some sacrifice of truth but the
planters In Jamaica of that day are, with some notable exceptions,
proved guilty by the evidence of history of that of which Knibb accused
It had not been anticipated that emancipation would involve a
general exodus of the former slaves from the estates. Joseph Sturge
and Thomas Harvey during their tour of the West Indies in 1837 (with
a view to studying the apprenticeship system established in 1834 pre-
paratory to complete emancipation which followed in 1838), visited
various estates in Jamaica Including Farm in the parish of St. Catherine.
So Impressed were they with what they saw that they recorded their
opinion that "so far from complete emancipation being injurious to
such estates as these, the people when free, will be too unwilling to
leave their cottages and gardens, and fruit trees, the heirlooms handed
down to them from their ancestors, to be likely to forsake the estates".
"In a state of freedom" they wrote elsewhere, "it may be anticipated,
that the condition and resources of an agricultural labourer, working
for regular wages, will be, as they are in England, superior to those of
the petty agriculturist cultivating his little plot of land with the labour
of his own hands; and it Is evident, therefore, that the negroes will
generally prefer working on the estates. Their strong attachment to
the place of their birth, to their houses, gardens, to the graves of their
parents and kindred, exceeding what has been recorded of any other
people, is another circumstance, which favours their continuance as
labourers, on the estates to which they are now respectively attached.
"To such views as these, is opposed the fact that the negroes will
be tempted, by the abundance and fertility of the waste lands, to become
small settlers, and independent cultivators. We do not think such an
alarm reasonable, and we deprecate any attempt to evade the difficulty,
by lessening the free agency of the labouring population. It would be
possible to deprive freedom of its substance and value, by restrictive
laws, devised with subtlety and executed with violence".
Planters who sought to drive the people from the estates resorted
to two principal expedients-ejectment and the imposition of high rents.
The Emancipation Act provided that the negroes who occupied cottages
and grounds on the estates should keep them for three months after
freedom. Unfortunately it was not made clear that this occupation was
to be rent free. A decision was given by the Attorney General of Ja-
maica against this point of view and this decision was in turn reversed
by the Attorney and Solicitor General of Great Britain. This confusion
of opinion led to chaos.
An illuminating account of these ejectments is given by Mr. Charles
Darling (later Governor of Jamaica) to the then Governor, Sir Lionel
Smith, in a letter dated 13th May, 1839. "Notices to quit were", he
writes, "served In great numbers very soon after the 1st August, and
long before the publication of the opinion of the Attorney and Solicitor
General of England". ... Of the effect which these notices produced
upon the minds of the peasantry ..... a striking instance will be
afforded by the following statement:-
"On taking possession of Weybridge estate In September last,
I visited the 'negro village', and in conversation with one of the
more Intelligent labourers, I asked why he had allowed his house
to fall into such bad repair, and what was the cause of the
Irregular attendance of the field labourers at work? He told me
immediately that they did not care to do anything to their
houses as they were uncertain whether they would be allowed to
retain them or not, and that they felt 'quite unsettled'. Upon
inquiring what had occasioned this uncertainty, he immediately
produced his notice to quit, and I then, for the first time, learnt
that not only every householder on the property had been served
with one, but that the practice had been In many other instances
adopted in the district".
A vivid picture of the state of affairs in Jamaica at that time may
be gained from the reports of the stipendiary magistrates who were
appointed throughout the Island to safeguard the Interests of the
apprentices and of the fully emancipated people.
One of these magistrates, Mahon, writes from Vere in April, 1839,
pointing out that "Every estate in the parish is doing well, which I
entirely attribute to the planters doing away with the abominable
system of ejecting the labourers".
Some of the planters charged their former slaves excessive rents,
even resorting to the astonishing expedient of charging rent to every
member in a family, a system which, John Gurley reports in June, 1839,
had "been the means of many estates being almost deserted" in the
Nassau mountains of St. Elizabeth.
John Dillon writes from Dry Harbour in the parish of St. Ann in
"Where rents are not charged, cultivation has best succeeded;
where rents are charged, wages are higher, and labour less con-
tinuous besides the host of evil feelings It engenders. The man
paying rent will be desirous of equalizing his position with his
neighbour who does not, and he effects his object by demanding
higher wages: in plain figures the account stands thus:
"The average sum hitherto recovered for houses and grounds
is 3s. 4d. a week; the man paying rent demands and receives
2s. 6d. a day, or 12s. 6d. a week; he who does not pay, works for
Is. 8d. a day, or at the rate of 9s. 4d. a week, leaving a balance
in favour of rent of only 2d. per week and yet for this vision, this
two-penny farthing delusion, some properties have been
W. J. Marlton, writing from St. Mary's in April, 1839, takes a more
"In general the labouring population earn with ease sufficient
money to pay their rent and supply their wants. Would the
employers repair the cottages, the peasantry would have no
reason to complain".
It would in fact have been very easy for the planters to have retain-
ed the labourers on the estates if they had wished to do so. It has
already been observed that the people were very strongly attached to
the houses and grounds which had been their homes, in many cases
for generations. There were also hospitals on the estates and other
advantages which were not to be found elsewhere and the fact was that
the proprietors of good estates had no difficulty at all in retaining the
people upon them.
It was, on the other hand, the definite policy of the majority of the
planters to drive the people from the estates in the belief that cheap
labour would be more readily obtainable on their own terms from a
This was stated baldly enough by a meeting of the freeholders,
proprietors and managers of the properties in the parish of Trelawny
held in February 1839; "It is the opinion of this Committee that the
people never will be brought to a state of continuous labour while they
are allowed to possess the large tracts of land now cultivated by them
for provisions, which renders them perfectly independent of their
Edmund Lyon reports from Trelawny in July, 1839:-
"Many proprietors have advertised for sale the mountain
lands heretofore cultivated as provision grounds by their
labourers, from an assumption that their produce, by rendering
the people independent of estates' labour for sustenance, has a
tendency to prevent that regularity of labour they deem necessary
for sugar culture; this in conjunction with the irritation pro-
duced on some properties by the indiscriminate service of notices
to quit, has induced a very large portion of the best class of
agricultural labourers in this parish to become purchasers of
land, thus producing an effect the very reverse of that con-
templated by their masters, in rendering them more independent
of daily hire than before."
Exactly the same process was observed in August of that year by
Fishbourne, the Stipendiary Magistrate at Buff Bay, in the present
parish of Portland:-
"Planters are unwilling to permit families to reside on their
plantations, the females of which refuse to devote themselves to
agricultural labour. The object is to increase the number of
contract field labourers: the effect I have reason to believe will
be the reverse-for many respectable people are now availing
themselves of opportunities of purchasing or leasing small pieces
of land where they are preparing to place their wives and child-
ren and where they also will retire when they can quit the estates,
without sacrificing the provisions now in the ground."
This was the crux of the whole matter. As a general rule the
people would have preferred to continue to live in their old villages on
the estates and to cultivate their old provision grounds. If, however
they were ejected or were subject to ejectment at notice so short that
they were in danger of losing each crop that they planted, and had, in
addition, to pay high rents, they had perforce to leave the estates and
to make new homes for themselves where their tenure was sufficiently
secure for them to plant crops with a reasonable assurance of reaping
them, to build good houses and to make other improvements which they
need not be afraid of losing through the caprices of irresponsible land-
lords. Thus only could a man make a home for his family consistent
with his self respect; by that means alone could he obtain that measure
of independence which could give him some bargaining power in the
matter of wages. This was clearly seen by H. Daly who wrote from
St. Andrew In July, 1839; "To escape this state of dependency many of
the late apprentices are purchasing or renting lands in the vicinity of
their former masters' estates," and by Thomas Abbott who observed in
August, 1840, that the small settler's acre or half-acre in Westmoreland,
although not being sufficient to support him completely, "may enable
him to procure higher wages than if he were living at sufferance on
The Rev. William Knibb, the Baptist missionary to whom reference
has already been made in this article, saw clearly enough before the
slaves were completely emancipated that settlement on their own land
was the only course open to the people evicted from the estates. On
19th July, 1838, he told a meeting of 2,500 Jamaican apprentices at
Falmouth, that, "if they (the planters) are blind to their own interests,
and drive you from their properties, there is plenty of crown land in
Jamaica, and you can resort to that in case of extremity." These then
were the causes of that remarkable social revolution which took place
in Jamaica in the years immediately following the emancipation of the
slaves. As early as 1839 in the Report of the Commission of Quit-Rent
Inquiry, it is observed that "the recent change in the social and political
state of the Colony has brought with it one very important consequence
-a minute sub-division of landed property," and this process continued
at a great pace during the next few years. At the end of that period
the population, which had hitherto been grouped artificially on a purely
economic basis on the sugar estates, had for the most part settled them-
selves on a social basis in the districts, villages and on their own
scattered individual freeholds where, so far as the availability of land
permitted, they chose to live. The present social structure of Jamaica
does in fact date from that period: the people had taken the first and
most important step towards becoming a real community. This settle-
ment on the land was for the most part, haphazard and unplanned. It
was determined primarily by the availability of land in the area con-
cerned. In some places sugar estates which had fallen into ruin
through the decline of the sugar industry were cut up and sold to the
people. In others only back land, far from roads and often rocky and
unfruitful, could be got and there the people made their grounds and
built their houses. A report written by the Stipendiary Magistrate
Ewart, from Morant Bay in October, 1840, gives an account of the pro-
cess in St. Thomas which may be regarded as being typical of condi-
tions in most parts of the Island-"The progress of the rural popula-
tion in establishing themselves as small freeholders has been rapid and
unceasing. Within a few miles of Morant Bay, three extensive villages
have been established on sugar plantations that have been thrown out
of cultivation for many years. These freeholds vary in extent, from
one to ten acres, and the cottages, amounting to upwards of 300, are
neat and comfortable and surrounded by gardens and provisions
grounds. Independent of these villages there are many other small
freeholds scattered over this district."
Wherever possible the people settled together in villages or towns.
A remarkably clear account of the process of establishing such a settle-
ment and of the reasons for which the people did so is given by Hall
Pringle, writing from Clarendon in June, 1839:-
"On the borders of Clarendon and Manchester, a town is
springing up at Porus, by the unaided energy and industry of
the negro settlers, of whom there is now, as near as I can guess,
1,500 including the females and children. Within an area of two
miles, several proprietors are selling land for the purpose. The
most extensive sales have been made by Mr. Andrew Drummond.
This gentleman, since August last year, purchased 700 acres for
500 L. currency; the whole of this, except about 20 reserved
acres, he has sold in lots averaging 15 to 25 acres each. What
he purchased for 500 L. he has sold for 2,000 L. It appears that
the purchasers from Mr. Drummond only acted as agents, and
amongst them and the entire body of the settlers, there is now
only three who hold so much as five acres each, and the
generality of these freeholds contain no more than from one and
one-half acres to two acres. I have visited this village several
times, and conversed with the settlers, and also with some
respectable individuals who reside in the immediate vicinity of
Porus, and I learn that the conduct of these newcomers has been
irreproachable and that their Industry has been surprising. The
quality of the land is so bad, and freeholds so small, which these
persons have purchased that it is almost an impossibility that
they can reap any produce from them, and this the settlers know
well; I was informed by them they only wished for homes where
they could not be troubled, and that they might have the liberty
of working where they might choose for their livelihood."
As Pringle clearly saw, the average land holding acquired in this
way, although giving its owner some measure of independence was too
small to make him entirely self-supporting. He adds that "there are
three very fine sugar estates in the immediate neighbourhood, on the
Clarendon side, but none of these settlers have yet taken employment
on them, and the locality of the village will certainly enhance the value
of these sugar estates, as well as the other properties in the neighbour-
It is little short of tragic that the Government of Jamaica at that
period missed its opportunity of carrying out a definite policy of settle-
ment of the many emancipated people upon good land near to the
estates and other centres where regular employment might be obtained.
Had such a policy been initiated the people would have benefitted and
the estates would have been supplied with sufficient regular labour and
the whole community would have prospered accordingly. It may be
said that Government Land Settlement Schemes are a modern concep-
tion and that this criticism is therefore unjustified, but those who
governed Jamaica a century ago, cannot plead ignorance before the
bar of history, for just such a plan as this was put clearly before the
Governor, Sir Charles Metcalfe, by the Honourable D. Robertson, Custos
of St. Elizabeth, in a remarkable letted dated 21st September, 1840:-
"The labouring population of this parish", writes the Custos,
"formerly attached to properties, have In many instances left
and established themselves as small freeholders on very poor
unproductive savanna lands, too distant from the large estates
to enable them to labour thereon to advantage; they will con-
sequently at no distant period have to desert these freeholds,
and return to the estates, or resort to situations more productive
and central for obtaining labour. I would, therefore, with every
deference take the liberty of suggesting the very great utility and
advantage that would result to the labouring population generally
were Government to purchase lands for erecting new interior
townships in healthy and productive situations, where they
would, by being in the vicinity of large estates, be certain of
procuring continuous labour; the town or villages to be erected
on a regular plan, each cottage to have a lot of land attached,
sufficient by proper cultivation, to assist in the maintenance of
a family, for which the tenant would pay a stipulated rent to
Government. The villages to be situated at such distances from
each other as to prevent the labourers disputing about labour
on the adjoining estates; each township to have at once erected
a school-house and chapel in the centre of the village, where an
island curate would have to perform divine worship at least once
every fortnight or oftener, if the villages are not so situated as to
permit his service at both every sabbath day; this plan would
afford greater facility for the education of the children than at
present exists, and would tend very much to the moral improve-
ment of the adults as well as the children. Were this course
adopted It would at once put a stop to the impositions that have
been so extensively practised on the labouring population in
many parts of the island by designing individuals, who have
purchased at a low rate large tracts of land, and resold the same
in small lots to the peasantry at a shamefully exhorbitant profit.
the lands being at the same time very poor and unproductive,
and so situated as to prevent the labourers from being able to
procure sufficient employment to support their families, thus
exposing them to indigence and poverty instead of comfort,
happiness, and affluence, which would be consequent on the plan
I have taken the liberty of suggesting."
Not only does this letter outline a constructive policy of land
settlement; it contains a whole programme of social and economic
rehabilitation for the people which demonstrates the fact that amongst
the landowners of Jamaica of that day were to be found some at least
with foresight and with a highly developed sense of social responsi-
ability although these qualities were not very much in evidence amongst
the Island's legislators.
Fortunately for Jamaica there was one group of men in the Island
who not only realized to the full that there was an imperative need for
something constructive to be done to meet the situation but who were
ready and willing to do it themselves: these men were the missionaries
of the evangelical churches.
We have already seen that the Baptist missionary, William Knibb,
in a public meeting at Falmouth in July, 1838, had warned the people
of the possibility of their being driven from the estates and had advised
them, in that eventuality, to settle upon the crown lands. He had gone
on to tell them: "I have had an offer of a loan of 10,000 from a friend
in England; and if it be necessary, that sum shall be appropriated
towards the purchase of lands on which you may locate yourselves if
your present employers force you to quit the properties on which you
now live." John Howard Hinton, the biographer of Knibb, makes the
following comment upon this speech:-
"The reader will observe in his speech the idea of providing
a refuge for labourers who might be expelled from the estate
cottages, by purchasing land on which they might erect
tenements for themselves. The idea was a felicitous one. It
was an effectual remedy for the evil contemplated. It was also
as magnificent as it was felicitous ... It was a scheme for deliver-
ing people from bondage. Its vastness might well have caused
It to be deemed impracticable; conceived, however, with so much
sagacity and foresight, it gradually ripened into an active
element. It was the germ of what subsequently became so
notorious and so successful under the name of the Free Village
Knibb was not in fact the initiator of this system. That honour is
probably due to another Baptist missionary, James Murcell Phillipo,
who established the first "Free Village" in the hills above Spanish Town
and named it Sligoville after the Marquis of Sligo, then Governor of
Jamaica. Dr. Underhill gives the following account of the place after
visiting it in 1861:-
"A visit to this township was most interesting, it being the
first of those numerous settlements of the enfranchised slaves
which sprang into existence immediately after emancipation....
It comprises about fifty acres of land: twenty-five acres were
purchased in the commencement of 1835, by Mr. Phillippo, as
peculiarly eligible for village settlement, on account of the good
roads about it, and its proximity to Kingston and Spanish Town...
In June (1838), two months before entire freedom was proclaim-
ed, the first lot of land was purchased by Henry Lunan, formerly
a slave and headman on an adjoining plantation. I record his
name to mark with special emphasis this commencement of a
new era, not only of liberty, but of an independent peasantry in
the Island of Jamaica."
In St. Ann's parish, the Rev. John Clark devoted himself to this
work. "In this endeavour", writes the Rev. George Henderson, in his
book, Goodness and Mercy, "he was supported by Mr. Sturge, and
probably by other kindred spirits in England. Mr. Sturge lent the sum
of 400 for land purchase and with this amount Mount Abyla was
bought, divided into village lots, and sold out, and some one hundred
families were settled in a village now named Sturge Town, where a
Church was formed and a day school established in 1840. Then, in
succession followed the settlement of the villages of Clarksonville,
Wllberforce and Buxton, whose names commemorate the friends of the
race who laboured so long, and sacrificed so much, in their efforts to
bring liberty to our land. In addition to these, lands were bought and
homesteads settled at Bethany, and at Salem on the same seashore;
and subsequently the villages of Happy Valley, Philadelphia and
Harmony were founded, some two miles from Brown's Town.
"In these places comfortable cottages of two or three rooms
with the necessary outbuildings, were erected by the purchasers,
and for the most part were solidly built of native lumber and
Spanish wall, shingled and floored; and many still stand (1931)
as the homes of descendants."
Others who were prominent in this invaluable work were the Baptist
missionaries, Thomas Burchell (who founded Bethel Town and Mount
Carey), Messrs. Dendy, Dexter, Abbott, Taylor and Reid, and the Rev.
George Blyth, of the Scottish Missionary Society.
If the House of Assembly was indifferent to, or even antagonistic
towards the settlement of the emancipated people upon the land in
Jamaica, this was certainly not true of those responsible for the
administration of the Colonies in Great Britain or their representatives
in Jamaica, the Governors of the Colony.
Attempts were made as soon as the Emancipation Act had been
passed to get the Assembly to deal constructively with some of the
problems arising out of that measure but unfortunately with little or
no effect. At the same time reports were constantly being called for
which exhibit the concern with the welfare and progress of the people
in Jamaica which was felt by the British Government.
The settlement of the people on the land was regarded with favour.
Sir Charles Metcalfe, Governor of Jamaica, wrote on 16th October, 1839,
to the Marquis of Normanby, Secretary of State for the Colonies:-
"In some instances labourers have purchased small lots of
land and thus become proprietors. I should be glad if this were
a general practice. It would put an end to the cause of irrita-
tion which may continue to exist while they hold their houses
and grounds on an uncertain tenure; it would not necessarily
throw them out of the labouring class, their properties not being
sufficiently large to exempt them entirely from the necessity of
seeking other means of support."
Lord John Russell, who succeeded Lord Normanby as Secretary of
State for the Colonies in 1839, asks Metcalfe in a despatch dated 10th
December, 1839, for "any information which you may be able to obtain
respecting the acquisition by the negroes of freehold property, and of
In his reply of 9th June, 1840, Metcalfe informs him that "there is
no record that shews these acquisitions by negroes alone," but that
"the additional number of freeholders with electoral rights acquired
since 1st August, 1838, was 934.
"According to the return of the Island Secretary's Office, the
number of conveyances of land under 20 acres entered between
the 1st August, 1838, and the 1st May, 1840, is 2,074. This num-
ber no doubt includes the greater part of the beforementioned
934, and may also include other new freeholds with electoral
rights, which have not been registered in the vestries; and which,
until they be so registered, are not operative in confirming those
The number of electors at the last election appears to have
been 2,199, to which even 934 would be a large relative addition;
but it is probable that the increase is much greater."
In his Despatch of 30th March, 1840, the Governor had given Lord
John Russell a most valuable analysis of the situation in Jamaica:-
"Were the labourer comfortably settled in a home from
which he could not be removed, or not at least without sufficient
notice," he writes, "there would, I am almost sure be a better
chance of obtaining willing labour from him.....
"I am happy to add that several gentlemen take this view of
the question; that some have sold land to negroes and thus given
them a settled abode; that others are beginning to perceive the
advantage of doing the same; and that this view is, I trust, gain-
ing ground. I shall do all I can to promote it from a conviction
that it will increase the happiness and content of the negro
population, and from a belief that it will also tend to the benefit
of the landlords.....
"It appears to me that the land which they purchase is
chiefly for the purpose of obtaining a secure home, that it is
generally too little in extent to be looked to as a permanent
source of subsistence and that they must calculate either on
obtaining additional means of comfort by going out to labour,
or on taking more land on lease for their own cultivation....
For my own part I rejoice at these settlements of the labourers:
their present happiness must be greatly increased, and I do not
see that the consequences must necessarily be injurious to the
landlords. I rather think that there is greater probability of
their proving beneficial."
On 1st August, 1840 (on the second anniversary of emancipation),
Metcalfe sent a circular despatch to the Stipendiary Magistrates and
Custodes of each parish in which he requested information upon:-
"The progress of the rural population in establishing them-
selves as small freeholders. The effect of small independent
freeholds on the supply of steady labour, whether conducive
thereunto or otherwise.
"The condition of the new interior towns and villages created
since the abolition of slavery, and their effect on the internal
retail commerce of the Colony" and "the state of education
among the children of the towns and rural district."
The numerous and often voluminous reports which were received
In response to this despatch provide one of the principal sources from
which our information about this highly Important phase in the social
development of Jamaica is derived. A fairly typical account is that of
the Stipendiary Magistrate, Pryce, who, in the course of a long report.
dated 10th September, 1840, from St. Thomas in the East, writes:-
"Several villages are settling by the peasantry in this district,
viz., at Delvey, Airymount, Navarino, Greenwood, Islington, and
Beldona, independent of the very great addition to the townships
of Port Morant, Rocky Point, Bath and Manchioneal where
hundreds of lots have been purchased in fee, In some instances
at the enchanced rate of 40 L. per acre, for lands previously
considered almost valueless.
"Their domiciles are being erected upon a much more spacious
and comfortable scale than those of former days. In short, the
manifest improvement in the people, in their social and domestic
comforts, and the independence of the peasantry generally, as
well as their dress and demeanour, form a most pleasant con-
trast to those of former days; they are constant in their religious
duties, and continue unremittingly their regard for educational
Sir Charles Metcalfe's Despatch to Lord John Russell of 14th
December, 1840, and its enclosure are of such outstanding importance
in a study of the subject with which we are concerned that they are
here reproduced in full:-
14th December, 1840."
The accompanying statement shows that a large increase has
taken place from 1838 to 1840 in the number of proprietors of
small freeholds in the several rural parishes of this island; the
increase consisting almost entirely of emancipated negroes.
"2. It appears that the number of such freeholders assessed
in 1838 was 2,014; and in 1840, 7,848. There was no assessment
in the intermediate year, owing to the suspension of ordinary
"3. The return received from Kingston does not exhibit any
increase, being a commercial city, in which land is expensive,
and occupied by dwelling houses, purchases, it may be presumed,
cannot be effected there to the same extent, or at the same
prices as in the rural districts."
I have, &c.,
C. T. METCALFE.
"The Right Honourable Lord John Russell,
&c., &c., &c."
The following table is enclosed with this Despatch:-
"Comparative Statement of Freeholders Assessed as holding
Freeholds under Forty Acres In 1838 and 1840.
Saint Catherine 48 80
Saint Mary 72 278
Saint Dorothy 86 140
Saint John 7 26
Saint Ann 178 598
Manchester 109 585
Vere 90 490
Clarendon .... 134 1,075
St. Thomas in the Vale 131 592
Portland 96 345
Saint George .... 111 228
St. Thomas in the East 70 249
Saint David .... 35 95
Saint Andrew 166 362
Port Royal 15 38
Trelawny 71 406
Saint James 94 382
Hanover 197 239
Westmoreland 258 795
Saint Elizabeth 146 918
Total 2,014 7,848
There is some discrepancy in the table but the general trend is
unmistakably that of an overwhelming increase in the number of small
freeholds throughout the Island. The percentage of this increase
(which is 290 for the Island as a whole on the basis of the totals given)
varies surprisingly in different parishes. The increase is as high as 700
per cent. In Clarendon and as low as 26 per cent. in Hanover: it is
impossible to go into a detailed analysis of the causes of this variation
within the limits of this article but it would provide a fruitful subject
for careful study from which it is reasonable to suppose that facts would
emerge having an important bearing upon conditions prevailing today
in the different parishes of the Island. It is sufficient for our purposes
to observe that the evidence makes It clear that the emancipated people,
throughout Jamaica, were planning their lives in accordance with what
they believed to be their own interests. It is evident, moreover, that
many, if not most of them, believed that these interests would best be
served by establishing themselves upon the land and that where there
were few settlements this arose from the fact that suitable land was
not available. A realistic statement of the process is contained in a
letter from the Stipendiary Magistrate, John Daughtrey, written from
St. Elizabeth in July, 1839:-
"Of the large body who have been induced to provide homes
of their own, if they discover it to be less to their interest to
cultivate a small patch of land than to work for hire, as in
general they certainly will, the neighboring estates where they
shall be best treated and best paid will ere long be again able
to obtain their services.
"In all these respects they will now be governed by their
own views of personal interest, the same as in any other class
of society. Nothing can permanently keep labour out of the
channels which yield most advantage and comfort to the
The Rev. William Knibb, in the address given in June, 1845, to which
I have before referred, summarised the progress in settlement on the
land which had already been made:-
"By the census taken during last year, I find that there were
full nineteen thousand persons, formerly slaves, who had pur-
chased land on which they were erecting their own cottages. In
St. James' parish there were 10 new free villages, with 11,020
houses; In Trelawny, the parish in which I live, there were 23
free villages, and 1,590 houses; in St. Mary's, 15 free villages,
with 632 houses; in St. Thomas in the Vale, 10 free villages with
A century ago the foundations of the structure of a free and
homogeneous Jamaican community had been securely laid.
II. THE RISE OF VILLAGE SETTLEMENTS IN BRITISH GUIANA
THE establishment of the village settlements of British Guiana
forms one of the most remarkable phases of the whole of Caribbean
economic development. It has been customary to regard the rise of
these freeholds in British Guiana as peculiarly related to the history
of that part of the Caribbean. This is, however, wholly to misunder-
stand the total history of British Caribbean historical change. The
economic history of British Guiana is not a separate aspect of Caribbean
history: it is part and parcel of the same history. British Guiana is no
more than the under-developed southern economic frontier of the
British Caribbean. When the British West Indian islands declined,
capital and labour shifted southward to the outer margins. The sugar
plantations of British Guiana were, in the main, capitalized by speculat-
ing West Indians. The superior fertility of British Guiana's coastal
virgin soil, the increased marginal efficiency of invested capital-despite
high initial drainage costs-and freedom of property from such natural
disasters as hurricanes were effectively responsible for this economic
shift. The movement, more marked after 1838, from the sugar planta-
tions to the unexploited village lands can be legitimately regarded as a
continuation of this pattern of economic change across the under-
So far, the rise of the village settlements is usually recorded as a
post-emancipation phenomenon. Considered as such, the exciting
story of the settlements becomes a mere record entirely drained of its
real historical colour. The roots of the village settlements are to be
found in the days of slavery. The forces which were fundamental to
the establishment of these settlements were, for the most part, the
same economic and social forces which led to the end of slavery as
such on August 1st, 1838.
The most decisive and continuous of these forces was the desire,
on the part of the slaves, for personal liberty and for land of their
own. This desire was responsible for the persistent pressure of the
slaves to destroy the system which deprived them of these rights.
Humanitarian influences made a powerful contribution, even though
there might be debate as to the degree of economic self-interest in-
volved. And finally, as Governor D'Urban reported in 1830, slavery as
an economic system was breaking to pieces in British Guiana. The
combination of these forces forced slave emancipation and so created
the conditions under which the establishment of the free villages of
British Guiana was accelerated.
Evidence of the desire for personal liberty and for land on the part
of the slave population of British Guiana Is quite clear and abundant.
Negro slave revolts, or threats of such revolts, were frequent. The fear
of such revolts and their consequences were real and found expression
in measures designed to prevent them, and in letters to the local
Governor and the Colonial Office. In 1763 and 1795 actual revolts took
place; the first was a serious rising In Berbice which met with the most
cruel suppression. In the second case, more than 100 "run-a-ways" led
by the driver of Plantations Rulmzigt and a house Negro, revolted, and
were joined by Negroes from Plantations Ruimzigt, Waller, Harlem, and
Rotterdam. In 1811, Governor Gordon was expressing his fear of Negro
insubordination and the peril of the white population which lay in the
disparity of numbers. In 1814, Governor Bentinck wrote in similar vein
to Earl Bathurst. "I am concerned", he said, "to acquaint Your Lord-
ship of the disposition of the Negroes on the west coast of this Colony
to revolt". Two months later, Bentinck reported that it came out in
evidence that the Negroes intended to "murder the whites and take
possession of the estates for their own benefit", which they therefore
were not to burn as formerly. In 1816, William Scott, in a memorial to
Bentinck, represented in "strongest possible light" the effect on Negroes'
minds not only of a change of masters, but of a change of system. In
the same year, owing to fears of the potential infection of the Barbados
slave revolt, British Caribbean Governors were circularised and directed
to take preventive measures against the spread of the revolt.
In 1817 an order of 6th July, 1814, was revived to prohibit Negro
night meetings and Negroes passing from one estate to another, or
travelling away from estates without written passes. Despite these
measures, in 1823 a major revolt broke out in Demerara, forcing
Governor DTrban to forbid the use of the word "freedom" in pro-
clamations. What D'Urban wrote sl significant; "It is true", he said,
"that the mischief had only time to explode within a certain district,
but it is equally certain that the feelings in which it had its origin
existed here and elsewhere from the Corentyne to the Pomeroon; they
are scarcely asleep yet and may be easily awakened". Gipps, an engineer,
anxious to resettle British Guiana slaves in free conditions, observed in
1828: "that a slave should have an aversion to labour from which he
received no benefit can I imagine require no depth of philosophy to
In 1833, the slaves had mobilised. The alternatives were clear-
overthrow of slavery as an economic system by bloodshed or by degree.
In 1833, humanitarian stubbornness, firmly marshalled by a great
character, James Stephens, was at its height. Stephens, two years
earlier, acidly attacked D'Urban's attempt to turn back the clock. "It
is doubtless desirable", he wrote, "that the slaves should be quiet and
contented. But it is not only desirable, but quite inevitable, that their
conditions should be so improved as gradually to qualify them for free-
dom . Therefore whatever is essential to that improvement must be
done". In 1833, the planter class in British Guiana, threatened by these
gathering forces, induced by diverse economic compulsions, frustrated
by humanitarian stubbornness, made an expedient volte face. They
accepted the inevitability of free labour and secured the Colonial Office
quid pro quo of the second highest compensation per head in the Carib-
bean for the losses of their property in human beings. Their acceptance
of these arrangements established the more favourable conditions for
the independent settlement of labour upon land of their own. The rise
of the village settlements was symbolic of the continuation of the revolt
against the plantation system by free labour, reinforced after 1838 by
the advantages denied them under slavery.
In British Guiana land space has always exceeded the existing
labour supply. Given such circumstances, labour usually seeks to
establish itself independently on a peasant proprietorship basis. When
labour is free, the choice can be carried out at the will of labour. When
labour is not free, as under slavery, the choice can be carried into effect
only by defying the prevailing legal restrictions. The first "village
settlements" of British Guiana were established during slavery under
this condition. The founders of these villages were the British Guiana
Bush Negroes or run-a-way slaves. They too were the first rice planters
of British Guiana and the rest of the Caribbean, and not, as the com-
mon misconception goes, the East Indians.
The run-a-way Negroes, according to a petition sent by some
colonists in 1811 to acting Governor Dalrymple of Berbice, formed
settlements in the uncultivated parts of the country. Expeditions were
being continuously despatched against these settlements. The recorded
reports of them indicate the great activity of these free Negroes. In
1811, Charles Edmonson, Commander of an Expedition undertaken on
the East Coast of Demerara Jointly by the Demerara and Berbice militia
against Bush Negroes reported as follows: "The quantity of rice the
Bush Negroes have just rising out of the ground is very considerable
independent of yams, tannias, plantains, tobacco, &c., and as it will be
three months before the rice is fit to gather in, I would recommend at
that period another expedition to be sent and destroy the same". He
continued: "It devolved on Major Brandt, and Mr. Avery to destroy
all the provisions that could be met with. This they did most effectual-
ly, fourteen houses filled with rice and several fields in cultivation being
by their exertions totally destroyed . .I take upon me to say from
these gentlemen's report that on a moderate calculation the quantity
of rice that has been destroyed by them (independent of ground pro-
visions) would have been equal to the support of seven hundred Negroes
for twelve months.
In 1818, Bentick, in an address to the Court of Policy, gave informa-
tion of the existence of "encampments" of Bush and run-a-way Negroes
on the East Coast of Demerara. A great extent of that coast had beep
abandoned and the Bush Negroes occupied the old plantation walks
and provision grounds.
But, even during slavery, unfree labour on plantations was given
experience of peasant farming which was not without value after 1838
when they joined in the establishment of village freeholds. The Negro
slave came to be granted provision land which he farmed and from
which he could derive his own food. Primarily economic self-interest
and commonsense compelled the plantation owner to grant this con-
cession-by feeding his slave, he prevented too rapid a deterioration of
his property. On Crown Estates in Berbice, the granting of provision
to slaves was the direct result of the appointment of a Commission in
1811 to manage and superintend Crown Estates in Berbice, at the
instance of the Treasury. William Wilberfore was one of the several
persons consulted before the Commission was appointed. The reforma-
tive measures which the Commission was to institute were largely
inspired by economic considerations, to wit, the alarming mortality of
the slaves on Crown Estates in Berbice. It is difficult to disentangle
humanitarian considerations, if any. The Commission laid down that
the first attention of its agents was to take care that sufficient food
was provided for the slaves. The Commission was convinced that the
foundations of all improvements in the condition of the slaves was to
be found in "the sufficiency and even the liberality of the allowance
of food provided for them", and they urged their agent to secure as
early as possible on different estates "an ample succession of such
articles of provision as may most advantageously be cultivated".
Drought also led to the grant of provision grounds to the slaves.
For Instance, in 1817, drought was decimating both cattle and slave
property and this forced attention on cultivating plantation walks.
In 1824, as a direct consequence of the recent "alarming events" in
Demerara, the Secretary of State was led to press for information on
the introduction of task work for slaves. The result of this was to
increase the cultivation of provision grounds by unfree plantation
labour. The remainder of the working day, Governor Beard pointed
out in 1824, "an industrious and well disposed Negro will devote to the
cultivation of his provision grounds, corn and rice fields of which he
sells where and to whom he pleases, and appropriates the money to his
own purposes". On the largest estates the treatment of the slaves in
this respect was comparatively enlightened and he was virtually a free-
holder. On the estate of Wolfert Katz, one of the largest plantation
owners in Berbice, the Negro was allowed off every fourth Saturday (in
addition to his off-task work time) and he used his free time to cultivate
the portion of land allotted to every Negro on the estate. On this they
grew yams, cassava, corn, all of which they sold or disposed of as they
pleased. Some reared successfully feathered stock, namely turkeys,
ducks, guinea birds, and fowls.
Where a bush or uncultivated piece of land was contiguous to the
estate they resided on, some would clear away a space which they
planted in rice, and in the space of three months one Negro had reaped
one hundred bushels which he sold at two bitts each, making 50 guilders
In three months by that article alone.
The act of 1833 is intimately related to these preceding develop-
ments. It did not create the village settlements, but It established the
conditions under which village freeholds might be easily acquired.
Labour organised after 1838 increased its bargaining power and so was
able through increased wages to extend its acquisition of village free-
holds. The experience which unfree labour had gained on the pro-
vision grounds prior to 1838 found full outlet. The act was, therefore,
important in that one of its major results was to accelerate the develop-
ment of the village settlements. A Frenchman, Milliroux, noted:
"Freedom did in three years what slavery had not been able to accom-
plish in three centuries; it laid in many parts of this Colony (British
Guiana) the foundation of a large number of villages wholly independent
of the old plantations".
Millroux makes the following comment on the Act itself. "Nothing",
he wrote, "is so dry and heartless as that mean Act". However this
might be, the Act to the villagers of British Guiana is the landmark
of economic freedom. It puts into their hands a precious heritage won
at great cost by their preceding generations. On the morrow of their
freedom, the planters then, who, like the Bourbons, never learnt their
historical lessons, began to organise against this new-won freedom.
The villagers, with the memory of the grim struggle still fresh in their
minds, forcefully struck back. Twenty years later, the boot was on the
other foot. Such is the irony of history.
In an open economy, where land space exceeds available labour
supply, labour will choose to hold land as freehold property rather than
continue as a wage-earning class totally dependent on wages obtained
in exchange for services to property-owners. This law is not fulfilled
if labour is forced to give service by coercive and legalised measures
under conditions over which labour has no control. In British Guiana
land space has always exceeded the available labour supply. After 1838
this condition influenced the planters to concentrate on cultivation and
production and to put themselves into a monopsomistic position with
regard to the labour market. Before 1838, this condition was partially
responsible for the development of the Bush Negro settlements, and
in it the expansion of the village foudatlons after freedom finds its
At the dawn of the new era of free labour the planters, particularly
the opponents of Negro freedom, observing this relationship between
land space and labour supply, feared that free labour in a British
Guiana of "boundless forests" would scatter into the interior and adopt
the wandering life of the native aboriginal Indians. This consequence
they expected as a natural reaction against the long years of restraint
and retrogression. On the whole their fears proved unfounded.
Instead free labour settled on the coast and immediately began to
make spectacular purchases of large village settlements. Milliroux
writes "Thus in 1840 the freed slaves, those so-called outlaws, set them-
selves peacefully to purchase land in parts of the Colony nearest to
large cultivations. Sedentary and industrious habits could be acquired
even in the bosom of slavery. Twenty-five to fifty heads of families
united and put their savings together. The sum reached ten, thirty,
and nearly eighty thousand dollars . they paid the whole or a large
part of the price in cash and became proprietors of a property which
they worked in shares or which they sub-divided into distinct lots.
Planter fears sprang from their own self-interest also. The virtual
disappearance of free labour would rob them of labour supply so
necessary for the maintenance of high cost fixed plantation capital and
for the continuance of production to meet these costs and recurrent
expenditure. Planter indebtedness was great and interruption of labour
supply, the most vital factor, meant industrial and personal collapse.
If these terms are taken into account planter fears were to some extent
fulfilled. Labour did not disappear but founded village settlements on
the river banks in locations that were not immediately accessible as
sources of labour for any coastal sugar plantations. Numerous riparian
village settlements were founded. Schomburgk in his travels noted a
large number of village settlements on the Berbice River. On the
Demerara River beyond Borselen Islands, Schomburgk found that the
old plantations had disappeared. Their place was taken by large settle-
ments of Negroes and other coloured free labour, who, after emancipa-
tion, had combined to buy an abandoned estate or an area of Crown
land, "parcelled it out' and so called a regular Negro Colony into
existence". These villages existed at mere subsistence levels of cultiva-
tion. Only so much was cultivated as the villagers and their families
required for their support.
However, beyond the junction of the Turabarroo Creek on the right
bank of the Demerara and the Kuliserabo, the number of such village
settlements decreased, except for occasional clearings of a few acres
serving as cattle pastures for Negro-owned cattle and the cultivation of
vegetables for their household-and the timber-getters who also owned
cattle. In 1846, Governor Barkly in a tour of Berbice made a note of
the rise of a large number of settlements on the Berbice River.
Not all the river bank settlements were purchased. A very large
number of them were founded by squatters. This was particularly so
on the Demerara River. "One of the chief complaints of the Colonists",
Schomburgk wrote, "is the so-called squatting, that is, the arbitrary
occupation by Negroes of uncultivated private or Crown lands".
Squatting quite defeated the objects of early immigration. In British
Guiana, according to Schomburgk, the Demerara was the main head-
quarters of the squatters. The squatters carried on an extensive timber
trade. Laws Intended to put down vagrancy and squatting failed to
suppress either. The squatters roughly hewed felled trees into timber.
The demand for this timber came from Georgetown: the timber supplied
was used for constructive purposes as well as for firewood required in
the household. The immediate environments of the city did not possess
forests and firewood formed an important article of trade carried on
exclusively by the Negroes. Schomburgk himself landed at one of these
establishments with a sawmill, driven by steam as well as by water
power. The owner of the whole establishment was a Negro.
It was, however, on the flat, rich, alluvial coastal lands of British
Guiana that the majority of village settlements were founded. These
settlements spread right from the Orinoco along the coast to the wide-
mouthed Corentyn River. As early as 1842, Henry Bargly, who claimed
to be well-acquainted with British Guiana and had extensive connec-
tions with it as a merchant, mortgagee and part proprietor of two sugar
estates and two coffee plantations in Berbice pointed out to a Select
Committee on the West Indies that at Herstelling Estate Negroes could
retire into the bush, but there was not much danger of this. The
Negroes, he thought, although they could have supported themselves,
had acquired "too many wants and too luxurious habits to live in the
Six years later, Matthew James Higgins gave similar testimony
before the Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee Planting, 1847-1848.
Higgins was the owner of an estate in Demerara since 1841, and held
additional vested interest in sugar plantations in Grenada and was a
resident in the British Caribbean when apprenticeship ended. According
to his evidence, abandoned estates might have encouraged squatting,
but planters did not suffer much from squatting in Guiana. Free labour
settled mainly on the coast. "The Negroes" he said, "have bought a
great many lands . it is only the front strip which is cultivated; all
the villagers are in that front strip of land, and they do not go away
into the interior".
Early Dutch capitalists who had invested in the interior found to
their cost that, owing to the shallow soils of the interior river banks,
the marginal efficiency of capital invested there fell far below that of
similar investment on the rich coastal areas, even after taking into
account the enormous overhead costs of drainage and irrigation of a
plain that is below sea level. Except for forestry activities based on
the urban demand for firewood and timber for construction activity
these shallow soils, which had caused many a cautious Dutch merchant
to lose his money, hardly attracted village settlers into the interior.
The villagers settled mainly on the abandoned estate lands of the
coast; consequent on failure in the interior, the Dutch shifted their
estates and plantation development to the coastal belt. The succeeding
British investor aggressively extended this development. Their
flourishing cotton and coffee plantations, extending along the whole
coast, boomed, then slumped and failed completely, and the expansion
of the succeeding sugar plantations was restricted. The abandoned
lands marked their failure. Upon them developed the new and pros-
perous village activities. They were effectively occupied by free
labourers intensely desirous to join the ranks of the landowning section
of the population.
The land hunger of the new peasantry was enormous: their in-
dustry in the development of the land acquired was equally great.
Governor Light recorded that labourers buying land a year after free-
dom and erecting cottages paid at the rate of 15 an acre for the land
and 3 sterling for the expense of the title: the cottage cost them
between 40 and 50. In 1841, Magistrate Wolseley made a tour of the
village settlements of Demerara and Berbice. Light commented thus to
Russell. "Mr. Wolseley's report" he wrote, "exhibits a very satisfactory
picture of the general state of these countries, and is especially gratify-
ing as showing the highly creditable and useful manner in which those
labourers who have become independent agricultural freeholders are
conducting themselves in the new station which their industry has
Wolseley's table below showed the purchase of freehold property, up
to 1841, by the ex-slaves and former apprenticed labourers referred to
in his report on Demerara:-
Name Location or Designation Sterling Value
E. B. Demerara: s. d.
Foreman of Pin. Providence-62 acres up river-no name 38 3 10
Craig Village-estimated at 200 Joes-200 acs. @ 10J. 305 11 1
Supply and the Brickery-81-3 rood lots av. $30 a rood 1,518 15 0
West Bank Demerara River:
At Toevlught-Lots .... 183 6 8
La Retraite-Lots 427 15 61
La Retraite-Lots .... 110 0 0
Middlesex-an entire estate ........ 2,291 13 4
Bon Sejour-an entire estate 418 13 4
La Resource-part 76 7 9
Patientia-part ... ... ..... ... .... 1,693 5 3
Free and Easy Village-part of Pin. Milmount .... 114 11 8
Harmony and Strick-en-Heuvel Settlements .... 305 11 1
Canal No. 1 :
Sans Souci-Lots .... .... 550 3 4
SStudley Park-Lots called Freetown .... 336 2 3
West Sea Coast:
Den Amstel-Lots ... .... 1,604 3 4
Vrees-en-Hoop-Lots 541 13 4
Good Hope-Lots 100 0 0
The Ruby-Lots .... 320 16 8
Sterling 10,934 13 5J
Up to 1842, there were, in Demerara, 2,943 freehold properties con-
taining 3,017 families and 14,127 persons. Joint stock companies of
Negroes purchased numerous estates and converted them into villages.
In Berbice, out of a population of 20,000, 15,000 belonged to the class
which had gained freedom on 1st August, 1838. On that date, not one
of them possessed an inch of land. Yet only four years later, 1,223
families, comprising 4,646 individuals-"the great part of the free
popualtion" were proprietors in different localities of seven thousand
acres . .which had cost them more than one hundred thousand
dollars, and on which they had erected at their expense 1,184 cottages.
Martin records that up to the end of 1848 no less than 446 estates
had thus been acquired, "on which 10,541 houses were built and occupied
by 44,443 persons, or an average of four to each dwelling".
In 1852, the labouringg classes" of British Guiana numbered 70,000.
Of them, Landowner wrote: "They present the singular spectacle to be
witnessed in no other part of the world, and of which history affords
no parallel, of a people just emerged from slavery, now enjoying
property in houses and lands, for which they have paid no less than
a million of money". He based his calculation on the official number
of villages and hamlets throughout the Colony. This amounted to
11,152. "Taking the average", he argued, "of each freehold to be 25
and the cost of erecting each cottage at 60 . .a low estimate, the
total value will be found . to fall but little short of 1,000,000,
sterling". The immigrants and the white inhabitants owned "but a
trifling portion of this description of property". The assumption, in
his view, was reasonable that 10,000 of these village freeholds belonged
to the native Negro population.
1. Co. 111/123 D'Urban to Goderick: 7th December, 1832-"the existing system of
slavery.... can scarcely exist much longer....if not changed, it will, at no distant
period, in all human probability, break to pieces."
Cf. Co. 111/125 L. Van Rossum to Goderick 4th August, 1832: "I entertain fear
that the Negroes will emancipate themselves if they find that nothing is done for
them at home.... When I add to this the ferment amongst the Negroes our
situation is dreadful." (Reform or Emancipation)-quoted Brougham in Parlia-
ment-which of the two was of the greatest moment, "he would not take upon
himself to decide." Blood was "threatening us." The Planters were demanding
an indemnification for the relinquishing of their property.
2. Co. 111/73. Van Batenburgh Duke of Portland-30th November, 1799.
3. Timerhi-Vol. 8-1894-pp. 323-327-Wm. Parkinson, owner of Pin. Grove Mahaica
to Gardiner Green Boston-Demy-28th July, 1795.
4. Co. 111/78-Gordon to Liverpool, Berbice--Ist November, 1811.
5. Co. 111/81-Bentinck to Bathurst, Berbice-22nd February, 1814.
6. ibid-29th April, 1814.
7. Co. 111/82-Scott to Bentinck, Berbice-9th July, 1816.
8. ibid. Bentinck to Bathurst, Berbice-27th August, 1816, Encl.
9. Co. 111/86-Fiscal Bennett to Bentinck-20th June, 1817, Encl.
10. Beard to Bathurst-25th August, 1823.
11. Co. 111/99-D'Urban to Bathurst, Berbice-28th May, 1823.
12. Co. 111/106-Beard to Murray, Berbice-20th July, 1828. End.
13. Co. Ill/l8--Stephens to Goderick-27th May, 1831.
Vide also-Co. 111/116 D'Urban to Goderick-lst August, 1831.
Enclosure-Circular to Magistrates-25th July, 1831.
(secret and confidential instructions to watch closely the behaviour of slaves in
each district and to report at once. D'Urban was a vicious opponent of Negro
14. Co. 111/78-Petition to Dalrymple from colonists of Berbice, (undated).
15. Co. 111/78-Extract from Minutes of the Court of Policy of Demerara and
Essiquibo-18th January, 1810.
17. Co. 111/88-Bentinck to Bathurst, Berbice-23rd May, 1818.
Enclosure-Minutes of Court of Policy-6th April, 1818.
18. Co. 111/78-Wharton to Peel-23rd July, 1811, End.
19. Co. 111/78-Commissioners to Duncan Macalester-27th August, 1811.
20. Co. 111/90-John Ross to McCannon and Blair-27th May, 1817.
21. Co. 111/97-Beard to Bathurst. Berbice-16th January, 1824.
22. Co. 111/103-Mos. Moody to R. Wilmot Horton--15th May, 1826, EncL
23. Milliroux-"Demerara: the transition from slavery to Liberty" Paris 1843 Translated
by Rev. John Robert Sturge McFarlane, London 1877-p. 34.
24. ibid-p. 13.
25. ibid-p. 33.
26. ibid-pp. 33-34.
27. Schomburgk-"Travels in British Guiana-1840-1844.
(Translated by L. E. Roth)-Vol. 2--Georgetown, 1922-p. 389.
29. ibid-p. 395.
30. The reports made for-1845, (Transmitted with the Blue Books for-1845, London
1846)-Light to Gladstone, 31st March, 1846-p. 43.
31. Schomburgk-op. cit.-p.m. 395-396.
32. P. P. XIII-1842-p. 182.
33. P. P.-1847-1848-XXIII-Part 2-Select Committee on Sugar and Coffee Planting-
minutes of evidence-Fourth Report-p. 115.
34. Timehri-Vol. XI-New Series 1897-"Ruin"--by James Rodway-p.p. 73-74.
35. P. P. XXXIV-1840--Light to Russel-12th November, 1839-p. 10.
36. Co. 111/182-Light to Russel-16th July, 1841.
38. Henry Dalton-"The History of British Guiana" Vol. 2, 1855-London-p. 6.
40. Milliroux-op. cit.-p. 35.
41. R. M. Martin-"The British Colonies-their history, extent, condition, and resources
"Vol. 3-London 1851-p. 175.
42. "Landowner"-"Demerara after fifteen years of freedom"-London 1853-p. 63.
43. ibid-p. 63.
SOME THOUGHTS ON ADULT EDUCATION
H. L. WYNTER
ADULT Education is an over-used term. In fact, not one day
passes but someone somewhere is discussing it. For the West Indies,
however, it is by no means over-used in any respect.
Young countries have, above all, the problem of accommodating
themselves to ideas which were conceived and developed in older
countries. Not only have the new countries got to accommodate them-
selves to these new ideas but they have to do this so successfully
that they can follow them, and at the same time develop new ideas
to suit their particular needs.
The fact that many of these new countries achieve their national
identity not through decades of military struggle against metropoll-
tan countries a struggle which unifies a people but through the post-
war international abhorrence of colonialism, means that inevitably
there is a gap in every society between those called upon to lead and
the many who have to follow. The lack of a plentiful supply of trained
men, the lack of an indigenous culture, the lack of physical resources,
tend to minimise the unifying effect of a growing national identity
Consequently, in such societies there is need for a vigorous, dynamic
courageous and objective campaign to reduce the gap between the
small educated class and the larger, sometimes articulate, but gen-
erally uneducated group.
This is where adult education by its very nature has a vital role.
And yet if we are not careful, it is possible in adult education for us
to carry out the biblical injunction "that to him that hath shall be
given," for it is much easier to follow the British practice of organising
classes for those who already have education (because in effect these
are the persons who demand the classes) than it is to organise pro-
grammes which would reach the majority of the population.
It seems therefore that for any adult education programme to be
effective it has to be a programme which would mobilise all the
forces in the society. In other words, it must be one in which Gov-
ernment, private organizations, university, schools and others will
play a prominent part in a coordinated programme.
In Dominica such a programme has been launched and the
University's Resident Tutor has been able to cooperate fully and to
give inspiration to the campaign. It is gratifying to record also the
keen interest of the Government of Antigua in Adult Education and
at this point to make it clear that any adult education programme
has to be drawn up in the light of the needs of a particular territory.
In other words, the fact that a certain programme has great success
in Dominica will not mean that it will have similar success in St. Kitts
or in Nevis. For while generally the problem is roughly the same in
adult education In most of the Caribbean territories, each island has
its particular attributes and assets which modify the approach to
solving the problem.
It Is fairly true to say that the most pressing need in the area
is that of development. And development on all fronts. As one writer
has said, the-older communities of Europe had the advantage of time
on their side when they became nations. Consequently they were able
to tackle one problem after the other when they came up. In the
case of the new countries in this century, new discoveries and the
world's conscience has identified the problems as existing at the same
time. Thus for example the West Indies have to solve the problem of
economic development at the same time as the problem of social in-
equalities, racial prejudices, colour prejudices and over-population.
Democracy--or rather the British pattern of two-party democracy
while helping with the popularization of the problems, and while
accepted in the area as a "good principle" is in itself a problem to
be solved. The keenness of a periodical two party appeal to the elec-
torate means that very often short-term solutions to problems- are
tried when only long-term unpopular actions can solve problems
which for centuries had proved intractable to the colonial power. It
is not insignificant that in a number of the new countries in the
African Continent constitutional means have been sought to prevent
democratic discussion from impeding economic and other development.
Indeed some countries have adopted undemocratic measures in order
to protect their new democracies-a paradox in logic and theory,
but at least a solution to a very difficult problem.
In terms of practical politics, democracy must be defined as a
means whereby the people of the country can unmistakably indicate
by which group of men and in which way they wish their country to
be governed. For the people to understand fully the nature of their
problems, for them to appreciate that solutions may not be easy, and
that in many cases their efforts and their government's efforts will
only help to solve the problems for their grand-children, for them
to begin thinking in terms of decades instead of in months and
weeks, Adult Education programmes must be prepared to provide the
information, the enlightenment and the understanding.
That is why although one welcomes the University's decision at
the Antigua Conference that the Extra-Mural Department should
aim on the one hand at teaching on the curriculum of the Colleges
of Arts and Science, we were even more delighted at the decision to
intensify lectures and programmes on community development,
public administration, social welfare, political education, citizenship,
trade unionism, international affairs, and so on.
The University with its resources of talent cannot ignore the
problems of fundamental education-literacy, communication, atti-
tude to community, leadership training, youth work and so on. At the
same time it cannot arrogate unto itself responsibility In this very
important field of Government activity. Partnership is therefore of
the greatest necessity, and the signs throughout the area point to
an encouraging, challenging period of partnership between Govern-
ments and the University in Adult Education.
Today I recapture the islands'
Bright beaches: blue mist from the ocean
Rolling into the fishermen's houses.
By those shores I was born: sound of the sea
Came in at my window, life lived and breathed in me then
With the strength of that turbulent soil.
Since then I have travelled: moved far from the beaches:
Sojourned in stoniest cities, walking the lands of the north
In sharp slanting sleet and the hail;
Crossed countless saltless savannahs and come
To this house in the forest where the shadows oppress me
And the only water is rain and the tepid taste of the river.
We who were born of the ocean can never seek solace
In rivers: their flowing runs on like our longing;
Reproves us our lack of endeavour and purpose;
Shows that our striving will founder on that.
We resent them this wisdom, their freedarn: passing us
Toiling, waiting and watching their cunning declension down to the sea.
But today I would join you, travelling river;
Borne down the years on your patientest flowing,
Past pains that would wreck us, sorrows arrest us,
Hatred that washes us up on the flats;
And moving on through the plains that receive us,
Processioned in tumult, come to the sea.
Bright waves splash up from the rocks to refresh us
Blue sea-shells shift in their wake
And there is the thatch of the the fishermen's houses, the path
Made of pebbles; and look:
Small urchins combing the beaches,
Look up from their traps and address us:
A starfish lies in its pool.
The fishermen, hawking the surf on this side
Of the reef, stands up in his boat
And haloos us: they remember me just as I left them.
And gulls, white sails 'slanted seaward,
Fly into the limitless morning before them.
Night falls and the vision is ended.
The drone of the groaners Is ended.
Frogs croak and fireflies shimmer like stars
And shadows crossing the stars
As I turn down the slope from the murmuring river:
An old dreamer, remembering summer.
Hill, C. S., West Indian Migrants and the London Churches, Lend.,
Oxford University Press, 1963, pp. 102, 8/6.
IT MAY be recalled that, during the last U.S. Presidential election,
considerable heat was generated by the issue of the late J. F. Kennedy's
religious persuasion. Some of those who keenly supported Richard
Nixon did so--not because of their fervent Republican party allegi-
ance, but because of their deep-seated fear of the possible Roman
Catholic occupant of the White House. And, needless to say, such
Nixon supporters were frequently well-educated people of no funda-
mentalist religious inclination. I am not here primarily concerned
with the fact that J. F. Kennedy was eventually elected, or that
the worst fears of the non-Roman Catholic Republicans were never
realized in the lifetime of the young Democrat President. What I
am interested in here Is and this alone makes the introduction of
this matter at all relevant -the promoting of the purely religious
reflections. First is, the secondary importance of the purely religious
aspect of an important and highly complex human situation: second
is, the real contribution of organized Christianity to the problem of-
in this particular case- the development of the West Indian migrant
in the UX.
Let me then turn to the first reflection. The Rev. Clifford S. Hill
has made a good, and thought-provoking, contribution to Sociology
by his small book. It is quite clear that his effort needs to be supple-
mented in 1964 by (a) a considerable extension of research into a
developing problem in the U.K., beyond London; and (b) deeper
research into the many sides of the problem. (Doubtless this would
call for a number of collaborators with the time and the techniques
to analyse other British centres of West Indians' settlement). How-
ever, ainy such supplementing of Mr. Hill's pioneer efforts would not
seem to this reviewer to be likely to dispose of his basic contentions.
Mr. Hill is an Intelligent Congregational minister who is as fully aware
as anyone of what I call "the secondary importance of the purely
religious aspect". He points out that 69% of the West Indian migrants
used to attend Church In their Caribbean homelands (pp. 5 6): a
"major cause of the many migrants' lapse of faith" is the empty
churches they find in the England they had once admired from afar.
But this fact Is far too much taken at face-value in many places,
and certainly, this reviewer believes, the whole matter of Church-
attendance in this context is not just a matter of the confrontation
of believing West Indians with indifferentist English people. Mr. Hill's
emphasis on a "major cause of lapse of faith" may be perfectly
correct. But might there not be here a fundamental misunderstand-
ing on the part of both West Indians and even Englishmen as to the
significance of religion? For, like the U.S., the West Indies have
enjoyed a comparatively short known history. Over a far longer
period in England, religious practice and belief have greatly mellowed,
and integrated so curiously with non-religious factors, as to produce
a phenomenon almost unrecognizable to many visitors from newer
areas which have, of course, their own complexities. Let me illus-
trate this by reference to a historic situation. When France collapsed
In 1940 before the Nazi invasion, and Britain was left alone to carry
on the war with Germany and Italy, Church-attendance was, in a
fearful emergency, on the whole practically unaffected in England.
But in this, perhaps "their finest hour", the subtle inter-twining of
the religious with the moral to develop the fibre and purpose of a
nation is surely undeniable. The English, if I rightly understand my
fellow-countrymen, are quite unlikely to improve their attendance at
Church in the lesser emergency of receiving West Indian migrants, or
anybody else. Furthermore, two other phenomena not un-related to
the foregoing should be made clear to the West Indian migrant. First
of all, In England even the religious neutral not only has his rights
as a British subject, but also he is surely rightly, not debarred from
holding high office in the land. Secondly, a degree of liberalism in
religious belief and a certain detachment-and this is pointed out
here as a fact rather than as an arguing point-have a long history
and well-established position in England. There can be little evidence
of this liberalism and detachment in the West Indies, where conver-
sion has long been considered by some to be more important than
education, and the religious missionary has helped a situation de-
velop less marked by education and sophistication than is the West-
ern European from which he came out. At the same time, churches
episcopally governed-Roman or Anglican-increase misunderstanding
and strain by imposing a high sacramental theory upon migrants who
frequently see sexual relationships in a light different perforce from
the English. A Jamaican's irregular union, for instance, which has
not the European status of marriage, and which debars him from
communion at an English altar, derives from West Indian traditions
-of themselves different from but no more evil originally than
English traditions. On pg. 36 of this book, we read of the disgusting
behaviour of vicious English workmen who once destroyed in his
presence a West Indian's Bible. Yet, one believes, it is the total
English environment I have sought to describe which certainly and
permanently will affect, far more than isolated hostile actions, the
faith and general comfort of West Indians in the U.K.
In the complex situations to which we have referred, and through
some of which Mr. Hill has well and carefully picked his way, let me
allude briefly to the educational aspect. It is neither relevant nor
necessary to discuss the content of the education of West Indians in
England, but some reference to those being formally educated is
proper in the present context. As children continue, some to be born
and others to grow older, and the second generation of West Indians
in England thus becomes obvious, the whole pattern of the immi-
grants' life and associations is never static but always developing. The
children's education in schools, for instance, affects and often per-
manently their religious outlook, and a great deal else besides in
their social and individual experience. Mr. Hlll refers also to two older
groups. He refers to the considerable practical problem, and the very
delicate matter, of adult education (pp. 67 68) for those of the first
generation, and their often poor literacy. He also alludes elsewhere
(pp. 32-34) to West Indians (a smallish group) holding office in
churches of major denominations-ie., Anglicans, Congregational,
Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic in the London
area: all things considered, the reference to this latter group augurs
well for this reason. These office-bearers, in a foreign and not easy
land, have surely had something more than religious enthusiasm
thus to be elevated in almost wholly 'white' churches. But this leads
to a further question which Mr. Hill could not, within his subject's
defined limits, fully discuss, but which other sociologists must face.
The illiterate adult at one extreme, and the very literate church
office-bearer who will presumably often be in, or near, the salaried
official or employer class at the other extreme, raise the question as
to precisely what occupations are followed by the tens of thousands
of West Indians between the two extremes now in England. This
question is closely bound up with the whole vital matter of the in-
tegration of native English on the one side with West Indian immi-
grant on the other. Integration is only a real thing where migrants
can occur in practically all social strata of English society: it cannot
exist where the migrants are predominantly, for any of a wide variety
of reasons, restricted to the bottom rungs of the English social ladder
and to the compatible religious sects. It is this "compatible religious
sects" problem that brings me to my second consideration "the
real contribution of organized Christianity to the problem of the
development of the West Indian migrant in the U.K."
Mr. Hill is hard on such compatible religious sects as the Pente-
costallsts: Malcolm Calley, in "God's People", a later publication of
the Institute of Race Relations, sees the Pentecostalists quite fav-
ourably. But it is difficult to see how these sectaries can in the long
run help the West Indians' total situation in England. Anti-intellec-
tuallst, narrow in outlook, opposed vehemently to the certainly not
wholly irreligious majority of people, they seem to be a far bigger
force for segregation of their adherents than for any genuine and
lasting integration in England. Here, just here, it is that organized
Christianity can make its best contribution. It is hard for even the
'most rabid 'white supremacist' to dodge continuously the reference
somewhere to "the brotherhood of man in the common Fatherhood
of God". And providentially, all the major religious denominations
with which this book deals have aimed, if sometimes in blundering
ways at translating that idea into practice. The faults have been both
English and West Indian, and in places where some have not looked
too closely. For instance, complete integration at too high speed may
represent a mistaken enthusiasm on the part of an English church.
Such integration, in demanding the complete absorption of the West
Indian minority into the English majority, may destroy something of
real value in and for the West Indian. Social adjustment, however,
cannot come automatically or just of itself (pg. 79), and the churches
cannot promote that adjustment by restricting themselves to matters
of narrow theological concern. Baptisms and weddings, for instance,
Mr. Hill well describes as "Bridgeheads" (pp. 50 ff.), and he makes
out an excellent case for drastic re-thinking by English Churches of
the social significance and implications of both for the West Indian
immigrants. Government departments and officials, however outgoing
and sympathetic they may be, represent an external authority whose
very impersonality repels sensitive people. The Churches' oppor-
tunity comes in this area of human relations uniquely and most im-
pressively at every level and in the widest possible area. Much
thought and cleverly organized effort are called for in the individual
church's approach, but the multiplicity of activities is no real substi-
tute for the many informal contacts between individuals in the best
possible circumstances the church can provide. Such contacts are the
chief producers of that atmosphere in which alone the richest and
most fruitful integration can grow and richly flourish.
0. K. BROWN.
Introduction 2: Stories by New Writers, Lond. Faber & Faber, 1964,
pp. 187, 21/-.
FOR THOSE interested in recent developments in short story
writing in English, this is a useful introduction. There is a great deal
of well written, if somewhat irrelevant 'psychological realism'; equally
well written, straightforward material like Shella MacLeod's One Day
and Tom Stoddart's The Story--a dispassionate account of the
cynicism behind Sunday rag journalism; and Angus Stewart's Brown
God in the Beginning: a mythepoeic account of childhood.
But from the point of view of readers of Caribbean Quarterly-
and also on its own account- Garth St. Omer's Syrop is what makes
Introduction 2 really worthwhile. St. Omer, a St. Lucian, contem-
porary of Derek Walcott, graduated from the University of the West
Indies in 1959. He is at present teaching in Ghana. Syrop must have
been written about 1957. I remember seeing it in typescript and being
quite excited about it. Over the years, the story-of poverty and fu-
tility in a small St. Lucian fishing village--kept haunting me; the
beauty and the terror of It. Too long for an anthology-type short
story, too short for a novel (it is about 50 pages long), it has only
now been published. It seems a pity, though, that it should be lost
in the kind of collection that Introduction 2 is; in a few years, who
will remember it? Let us hope that Mr. St. Omer will be at work now
on more stories so that we may again have Syrop in a more formidable
presentation, for It is, in my opinion, one of the finest bits of writing
in this genre to have come out of the West Indies' so far. Its delinea-
tion of poverty Is as accurate and even more pitiless than Orlando
Patterson's Children of Sisyphus (reviewed elsewhere in this issue),
and its climax--an illustration of Camus's absurd-is almost un-
bearable in the impersonality and compassion of its art.
My only regret is that it appears that in seeking a publisher,
St. Omer has had to remove (if my memory of the original type-
script is to be trusted) the marvellous mixture and flavour of French
creole speech and English narrative from the story, and provide in-
stead what amounts to a translation of the creole. The result is rather
like the folksy, unconvincing simplicity of the speech of Hemingway's
Spanish Civil War characters:
'Why Pappa? I have of two years smaller than sixteen.
One does not always have to wait to be sixteen for one to
become a man'
'I am glad this thing about having a child is going to
be over . '
From the publishers' point of view, this kind of compromise is no
doubt necessary for the sake of Intelligibility; but it must pose a
very real problem for the creole writer, especially a non-English
creole writer. I still hope that when Mr. St. Omer gives us his full
collection of stories, the 'original' Syrop will be included.
Patterson, H. Orlando, The Children of Sisyphus, Lend., 1964, pp.
MR. PATTERSON'S Children of Sisyphus falls somewhere between
being a novel and a sociological study. Perhaps it could be
described as novelized sociology. It could also come under the more
conventional classification of social realism, that is, a type of litera-
ture in which the author feels he has a duty to his society, in a par-
ticular socio-economic situation in its historical development. There
are also marked metaphysical overtones drawn largely from the
French existentialist novelist and essayist, Albert Camus, connected
with the basic absurdity of the human situation.
The background of most of his characters is the "Dungle", an
appalling slum area in western Kingston. Built on a garbage dump
it is inhabited by large numbers of people who live in sordid, filthy,
hopeless conditions. They are in fact human garbage, nobody wants
them, there is nothing for them to do, and there they stay and fedter
and rotj The formula of escape, for some are trying to escape, is two-
fold. Some try to break out by conventional means into less horrible
areas of Kingston society. For example, Dinah, the main female pro-
tagonist, first lives with a policeman, then tries to become a maid in
a middle-class suburb and ends up with the "Shepherd" of a revival-
ist group. Mary, the prostitute, dreams of her daughter, who has won
a scholarship to a secondary school, marrying a rich man and saving
her from the Dungle. Others, the Rastafarians, reject the sordid
reality they live in and dream of a return to Ethiopia, the African
paradise. All are frustrated. Dinah is torn to pieces by a fanatisized
religious mob; Mary is beaten by the police into a stated of idiocy and
her daughter is taken away from her, and the Rastafarians are left
on the appointed day, to wait in vain for the promised ship to take
them to Ethiopia.
The "garbage" symbolism is used significantly throughout the
book. It opens with the garbage carts driving to the Dungle where
the people are waiting eagerly to pick out of them what is still re-
motely edible. Dinah, at the end of the novel, is picked up by the
garbage collector, torn to pieces and bleeding to death. Although there
Is nothing new or original about this kind of symbolism, the image
Is quite appropriate.
As against the more conventional sufferers of economic and social
distress, the Rastafaris appear in a somewhat idealized light, at
least they have a sort of purpose. They reject with dignity the' society
which has rejected them, and have rationalized, or perhaps a better
word would be emotionalized, their rejection into something which is
at least imaginatively positive, and Mr. Patterson seems to have pene-
trated as few writers have, the ethos of the Rastafarians. "Every
wretched one of them is an architype of the clown-man, playing their
part of the comic stage so well they are no longer conscious of play-
ing", he makes the Rasta leader say, shortly before he hangs himself.
Does this novel have a message? Books of this kind very often do.
What the author does is to present a number of fairly typical Jamaican
situations from which the inevitable conclusion arises that Jamaican
society is very sick. There is the basic theme of human garbage, but
Mr. Patterson makes it quite clear that this condition is not confined
to the actual Dungle dwellers but extends throughout large areas of
working-class Kingston society. He exposes the hypocricy of the
religious revivalist groups, and self-seeking cynicism of the politicians,
the shallow, mean attitude of the middle class. It all adds up to a
very grim picture and one is tempted to ask oneself if things are
quite as bad as this, if the sordidness is not laid on a little thickly.
For if Mr. Patterson's facts are not true the book is meaningless as
it is essential a "t6moignage".
Horrors of the kind described certainly do not happen all the
time, but they happen with considerable regularity and are always
latent in the basic social situation of neglect and repression of a large
section of the society. The language of most of the characters is foul,
coarse and obscene, but it is true. The filth, squalor, overcrowding,
the constant verbal and physical brawling and violence are also true.
A walk around Moonlight City and a brief sojourn in several bars
in the Spanish Town road will confirm this, so there is no point in
being squeamish about Mr. Patterson's account, unless one deliber-
ately prefers to ignore the truth. One critic described the book as
not for the squeamish. It is precisely the squeamish and the smug
who should read it.
This is a type of novel which has appeared in many underdevel-
oped countries, where writers quite clearly feel that it is their un-
avoidable duty to present the unwelcome reality of their countries.
Similar books have poured out of the "Pavellas" of Rio de Janeiro, the
slums of Mexico city, the "barriadas" of Lima, the "huasipungos" of
squatter colonies of Ecuador all Dungles with slight changes of
setting. The obsession with Africa of the Rastafaris gives this book
a peculiar Jamaican flavour.
This is no great novel, but then there are very few great novels,
and in the future it will possess a largely historical interest, but like
a good newspaper article, it should be read, and read now.
G. R. COULTHARD.