Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

morance, or absorded in painful uncertainty. Straggling vessels of our disastrous fleet continue to arrive; and from these we catch with eagerness every report, but still without acquir. ing any thing satisfactory. Some separated one day; some another; and some another: but with respect to the actual state of the convoy all is still enveloped in doubt and incertitude. “ Unhappily the finest season is passing away—and before the whole army can have arrived, and be brought into action, the rainy period will be fast approaching; but, as many of the men already here are in a sickly state, we hope the delay may prove beneficial to them, by affording them an opportunity of recovering from the ills of the voyage, and of their long confinement on board, before they enter upon the fatigues of the campaign. • The captains of the Guineamen often relieve their ships' company from the duty of the boat, by training some of their black cargo to the use of the oar.—Indeed so useful do many of the negroes become, during the passage, and the time they are detained on board, that their assistance is of much service in working the vessel. We occasionally see the master of a slave ship rowed ashore by four of his naked Africans, who appear as dexterous in the management of the boat, as if they had been for years accustomed to it. “Often we observe the captains parading the streets, accompanied by parties of their prime slaves—apparently with the intention of exhibiting them to the eye of the public, in sound state and good condition. This contributes, at the same time, to the health and amusement of these poor beings, who seem delighted at feeling their feet on shore, and, in due obedience to their captain, dance and frolic as they go along, either in real, or in well dissembled contentment and happiness. ‘We have an encampment of negroes formed near to Bridge Town, upon a spot called Constitution-hill. They are a fine body of men, who have been enlisted from the revolted French islands, or brought away on the evacuation of them by our troops. They are active and expert, and are training into a formidable corps to assist in our intended expeditions. About sixteen hundred of them bear arms; besides whom there are twelve hundred to be employed as pioneers. They have all the vivacity and levity of the French character about them; and it, occasionally, affords us amusement to observe the Barbadoes negroes regard them with evident amazement, gaping with wonder at their volatility and alertness. John Bull differs not more widely from a Parisian petit-maitre than many of the Barbadoes slaves from the sable fops of this sprightly corps. “Among the novelties which meet the eye of an European upon his arrival at Barbadoes, or probably in any of the West Indian islands, is the practice of carrying the children across the hip, instead of seating them upon the arm. The lower class of women in Barbadoes have adopted this custom, from the example of the negroes, among whom it seems to be the universal mode of nursing; and, perhaps, it would admit of argument, whether this method be not preferable to the European custom of carrying them upon the arm. Seated upon the hip, the infant soon learns to cling, and in a great measure to support itself; but, placed upon the arm, it must always remain a helpless or dead weight upon the mother, being without the power of assisting itself, or relieving its position. Further, it is so conveniently placed when upon the hip, that the mother can support it with much greater facility, for by only putting the arm behind it, the child can lie back, or rest and change its posture in various ways: thus the weight becomes less fatiguing to the mother, and perhaps less injurious to the infant; for at this tender age the long bones of the thigh, not being firmly ossified, are liable to yield, and a degree of deformity may be induced, from their being made to bear the whole weight of the body, at long and frequent periods, upon so marrow a seat as the arm. “Trivial as this subject might appear to some, it is worthy the serious consideration of British mothers and nurses. A deformed negro is a very rare object, and this may probably be attributed, in a great measure, to the manner of nursing them in their infancy; for, besides the better mode of carrying them, they have the further advantage of being allowed to crawl about Vol. I. 3 M

upon their hands and feet, in perfect freedom, unrestrained by ligatures, or tight garments. “Although I have observed the mode of carrying children upon the hip to be the common method of nursing among the slaves, yet, when they have to carry them to a great distance, they neither place them upon the hip, nor the arm, but upon the back; and I have, frequently, been surprized to observe by what slight support they secure them in this situation. A mere pocket handkerchief tied carelessly round the mother, often forms all their seat and all their safety ‘A few evenings ago I had the afflicting opportunity of witmessing a scene of cruelty, which strongly exemplified the abject and wretchedly humiliating condition to which human beings are subjected in a life of slavery. I happened to be waiting upon the quay for the Lord Sheffield's boat, in order to return on board, when two men, apparently white creoles, came up, and seized a negro who was standing by me, accusing him of having run away from his master. The poor black assured them that he had no master,--—that he belonged to Mrs. —, that he was well known in the town, and that they must certainly have mistaken his person; and, upon these grounds, urged the impropriety of their taking him to prison. But regardless of his remonstrances and of their own error, they tied him with a heavy cord, fastened his hands, and forced him towards the place of confinement! Curiosity led me to follow them. The poor man still pleaded his innocence, and the mistake they had committed, begging and praying to be allowed to refer them to his mistress, or to another family in the town, to identify his person. Heedless of his protestations and entreaties they still dragged him on, and from his only expressing a reluctance at being thus unjustly hurried to a prison, one of these hardened wretches struck him a violent blow on the head, with a large stick, calling out to the other, in broad Barbadoes accent, “Laa-am him, cut him down.” “A little before they reached the prison they had to pass a door-way where there happened to be a strong light, by means of which one of these cruel instruments of the law of force in

stantly recognized the poor ill-treated slave, and finding that they were actually guilty of the mistake which the negro had stated, he called out to his savage comrade, who had struck the helpless black upon the head, “Daa-am him, I know the fellow, we must let him go,” upon which they both with horrid imprecations, ordered him to stand without stirring while they should untie him; and, upon his only moving his arm to expedite the loosening of the cord, they swore that if he dared “to stir, or look savage,” they would “cut him down,” or put him “directly into prison.” Such was the compensation dealt him for the unjust and cruel treatment he had already received. The wretches not only dragged the poor unoffending slave to a prison, in defiance of his solemn assurances of their having mistaken his person, and without allowing him an appeal to any one who knew him, but, because he ventured to say that they were committing an error, had the inhumanity to strike him with a force sufficient to have fractured his skull, and to threaten him with the further severity of death, or a dungeon, should he dare to express only a look of displeasure. “What must have been the feelings of this injured man, who, after being abused and mal-treated, was further put in fear of his life, should he only permit nature to assume her seat on his brow, should the cruelty, pain, and injustice he had suffered, only cause a mark of disapprobation to appear upon his countenance? But Nature, however proscribed, was not to be restrained by such command ' While the power of memory remains to me I can never—never forget the indignant, but hopeless expression of injury which overspread the features of this poor slave, as he retired —He felt aggrieved, and . . . . . . . . . . . . . was conscious that he had no remedy, no

[ocr errors][merged small]

“I Now take up my pen to you after making a visit to the senate house, and being present at a sitting of the general assembly of the island. The proceedings were conducted according to the routine of the house of commons, which the assembly regards as its model. The representatives like ours are returned from the provinces, two, not indeed from each county, but from each parish; and, there being 11 parishes in the island, the assembly consequently consists of 22 members. “As in our house so in theirs, the person who presides is denominated—“the speaker”—the hearer had perhaps been more correct, as he happens to be the only person who is precluded from speaking in the debate, and is appointed for the express purpose of hearing all others, who through him address their arguments to the house. “Among the members we recognized several of the gentlemen whom we had seen in our excursion into the country. It did not happen to be a sitting of great interest to strangers, there being but little before the house for discussion, and consequently few debates. Reading and passing a militia act, and some other bills, constituted nearly the whole business of the meeting. One part of the proceedings, however, we thought to be strictly in the -------- order of the day. It was excessively warm; and we were sadly parching with thirst, when two persons suddenly appeared with a large bowl, and a two quart glass filled with punch and sangaree. These were presented to “Mr. Speaker,” who, after dipping deep into the bowl, passed it among the members: nor was the audience forgotten, for we were most gratefully taught that the hospitality, so universal in the island, lies even in the senate. The glass was handed up to us, and we found that it was correctly in order for strangers to join in this part of the debate. It came at a moment peculiarly opportune, and we drank deeply and cordially to our friends, and the house of assembly.

“What hurry, confusion, and solicitude a packet has at length arrived From the 9th of December to the 16th of March have we been separated from you without hearing one word of our friends, or scarcely of our country. How shall I convey to you any just idea of the scene this day has produced by the impatient multitude crowding in anxious eagerness to obtain letters, to see the papers, and to hear the news!

‘Early in the morning a signal appeared at the fort, implying that a vessel was in sight. Soon afterwards, this was

« ZurückWeiter »