Page:A Picturesque Tour of the Island of Jamaica.djvu/14
To one point of the moral condition, also, of the white inhabitants of the island, the author is desirous of inviting attention, because the greatest portion of the prejudice existing with respect to the state of society in the island is drawn from that source: he alludes to the connexion formed between them and the black or coloured females. But in all societies we must take the greatest positive good with the least positive evil; and it can
community, it is to be expected that, even with kind treatment, all would be more inclined to work than to remain idle—more attentive to their duties than alive to their pleasures. It is, in fact, in contemplation of the condition of these runaway negroes, that the difficulty presents itself of forming from them a working population. The Healthshire Hills, in the parish of St. Catherine, are the favourite haunts of the runaways of that side of the island, who establish themselves there until their numbers attract the attention of the government, which is obliged to call for the aid of the military to dislodge them. Suppose the negro emancipated, what motive would he have for working? Of the surface of Jamaica, containing in all 2,724,265 acres, 1,914,809 acres are, according to Robertson’s survey, uncultivated, consisting chiefly of mountain land, the greater part unclaimed, and open to the occupation of the first settler. In a state of liberty, the negro wants little or no clothing; the work of a few hours will supply him with provisions for as many months; and with what more could labour furnish him? Unlike the peasant of Europe, who if he do not work must starve, he has only to betake himself to the woods, where, if no law gives the power of dislodging him, he will immediately find himself at ease, and look with perfect indifference on all beyond his hut and his plantain ground. In this point, Jamaica differs from some other islands, in which there are no provision grounds, in lieu of which the negroes are regularly paid a sum of money, with which they go to the market of imported provisions. The stoppage of that allowance would lay them under the necessity of working, as it would leave them without resource. To these remarks on the negro population the author has only to add, that during his residence in Jamaica, in the course of which he visited every parish in the island, remaining on many estates only for a single day (a time too short to admit of any change in a system of severity which an overseer might have adopted), on others for two months (a period throughout which deception could hardly be kept up), he confidently avers, that he never witnessed the infliction of a cruel or unmanly punishment.