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as collateral grievances the unequal taxation of the coloured people and their deprivation of political rights.
The area of England and Wales contains 57,812 square miles. This gives nearly 347 persons to each square mile. Jamaica, with a population of about 441,000, contains 6400 square miles, or less than 69 persons to each square mile. Belgium, with an area of 11,313 square miles, supports 4,900,000 inhabitants, or 423 persons
mile. France has 178 inhabitants to each square mile. Consequently, while in France each person has only a little more than three acres, in Belgium not quite one acre and a half, and in England much less than two acres, in Jamaica there are nearly ten acres for each inhabitant. It is useless to depreciate this advantage by alleging the absence of any manufacturing industry. The soil of Jamaica is so fertile, its produce at different altitudes so various, its cultivation, if not universally yet in the main so easy, that it is impossible, on the admission of these premises, to accept Mr. Underhill's proposition. Jamaica produces not only sugar and coffee, the former of which is partly a species of manufacture requiring the application of capital, but it produces also yams, bananas, ginger, pimento, cinnamon, oranges, lemons, figs, and pomegranates. It yields also iron-wood, brazilletto, mahogany, and other valuable kinds of timber. Whatever, then, be the poverty of the people inhabiting such a colony, or whatever the occasional state of its trade, it is evident that something else than over-density of population is the cause of its depression.
From the information which Mr. Eyre collected on referring Mr. Underhill's letter to the custodes of the different parishes, to the clergy and to the magistracy, it does not appear that as a rule the people throughout the island are suffering from any want of food or of clothing. That the absence of the latter may be oftener noted than is desirable, or consistent with our ideas of decorum, may be attributed to customs long familiar to the negro, but not confined to the negro race alone. The negro is fond of finery, but he reserves it for his highdays and holidays. He will wear good clothes, and his wife fine silk or muslin dresses on Sundays and great occasions (unless when he has a special reason for doing otherwise, as we shall notice hereafter); but at other times he contents himself with the very slightest quantity of dress. The majority of the witnesses cited by Governor Eyre not only do not admit the existence of unusual poverty, but they ascribe such poverty as does exist to the follies or vices of the supposed sufferers. On these and the collateral points we proceed to quote the evidence collected by the Governor.
We will begin with the evidence of Mr. Hosack, Custos of the parish of St. George's. This gentleman denies the existence of a general distress among the coloured population, though he admits the likelihood that partial distress must arise from a continuance of the existing drought. He proceeds to say that the extreme poverty of which Mr. Underhill complains is, in nine cases out of ten, the result of sheer idleness, and a growing dislike to steady industry, and a consequent preference of a dishonest mode of living, with the risks of occasional imprisonment, to one of honest labour with the remote certainty of independence, .... It is notorious,' he continues, "that a labourer, by working one day in a week, can, owing to the high productiveness of the land, keep himself in ground provisions all through the year; he therefore cannot starve unless he returns to primeval barbarism.' So far from agreeing with Mr. Underhill that the labouring population is too large for the work to be done, Mr. Hosack contends that it is not sufficiently numerous at the centres of industry; and he denies that the class of small coloured proprietors pays any more in the way of taxation than the other classes. The Bishop of Kingston gives, in the main, similar testimony. While he questions the expediency of continuing the ad valorem duty of 12 per cent, on cotton goods at a time when the American civil war had raised the price of the staple, he recognizes this as a general and not a special grievance. He distinctly rebuts, from his own observation, the assertion that the negro population are generally less well dressed on the Sundays than heretofore; and he says emphatically, ‘Local and temporary distress, and a state of comparative poverty (though not by any means of discomfort or actual want as the ordinary condition) must prevail among a people satisfied, as many are, to remain in a semi-barbarous state, taking no thought for the morrow, and satisfied with such food as their own grounds (or their neighbours') can supply, or with such things as grow of themselves.' • If Devonshire,' he says, “were in Jamaica, the apple orchards would hardly continue to exist. The people—not all, but not a few—would steal the fruit before it was ready for the ciderpress, cook it in some simple way, live on it as long as it lasted, and refuse to work for wages till they wanted money to buy food. The testimony of Archdeacon Stewart is similar. He says, 'I have no reason to consider the labouring class poorer than they were three or four years ago. As a body, I think them better off than the peasantry of most other countries. In refutation of their imputed destitution and raggedness, the Archdeacon describes a missionary meeting which he had recently attended, where, in many instances, the very expensive attire of
the negro women and girls, with their crinolines, ribbons, and artificial flowers, attracted the attention of the Europeans present. He agrees with Mr. Hosack that remunerative labour can be obtained for those who seek it, and that those who own grounds of their own can obtain more than competence. The Rector of Spanish Town confirms this statement. He affirms that though there is a great demand for labour, the negro will not work more than three or four days a week, and that when by task-work he could earn Is. 6d. a day, he will rarely earn more than one shilling a day, and often less. Many other clergymen write to the same effect. According to their observation, Jabourers are generally inadequate to the demand, though they admit that the demand is—as it might be expected to be—variable, and dependent on the exigencies of seasons and cultivation. At the same time, they insist that this variability does not affect the question of the labourer's condition, as he can easily buy or rent land, the produce of which will amply support him during the period that he is not working for wages. Chief Justice Bryan Edwards, whose name and position give the greatest weight to his testimony, says, “Those that do work might with ease do more, whilst multitudes, idle from their youth up, are apparently without the ordinary incentives to industry, the necessity, namely, of providing for the passing day, which a sterner climate would enforce, or the more praiseworthy motive of desiring to advance themselves in life.'
Custos Royes says, “It is no doubt true that the cultivation of our staples in large quantities only absorbs a portion of the labouring class; but whilst our importations of flour, cornmeal, and rice are so excessive, there is ample room for the employment of a large number of the people in the cultivation of provisions, than which no product is more remunerative, and land for this purpose is readily obtainable at rents, varying according to fertility and contiguity to a market, from 12s. to 24s. per acre. In the growth of coffee, ginger, arrowroot, starch, &c., &c., there is a field
many more ; in the manufacture of ropes, mats, baskets, common hats, scope for the industry of hundreds.'
We do not wish to fatigue our readers with a superfluity of evidence to disprove the hasty and inconsiderate assertion of Mr. Underhill, but we cannot resist the temptation of calling evidence even more valuable, because it was designed to be confirmatory of Mr. Underhill's complaints. In a letter which was addressed by the officers of the Jamaica Baptist Union, and which was intended to prove and explain the poverty of the negroes, occurs this striking admission : As long as the people
could obtain certain comforts without extraordinary labour, they sought after them, and were beginning to acquire a taste for them. But they cannot be obtained now without an amount of energy and labour foreign to their habits.'
Among the proofs cited of this growing poverty, that on which the Baptist Ministers most constantly and repeatedly dwell, is the deterioration or want of clothing and the consequent non-attendance of the negroes at chapel. This proof we take to be wholly inconclusive. In the first place we entirely doubt the truth of the assertion, though we have no doubt that it is made by the negroes and believed by the Baptist Ministers. We have seen that the Bishop of Kingston and others speak to the attendance, not of decently clothed but expensively clothed negroes at church. And we have shown that the occasional of habitual use of ragged clothes by these people is not inconsistent with the possession and periodical display of expensive attire. We believe the facts of the case to be these. Formerly the Baptist church was in a great degree supported by grants from the denomination in England. Some years ago
these grants ceased or were greatly curtailed, and the maintenance of the local preachers was thrown upon the colonial congregations. These contributed liberally during the lifetime of those exapprentices who had witnessed the labours of the Baptist Ministers in the cause of Emancipation. But in process of time a generation grew up which had no personal knowledge of these labours, and which was less susceptible of religious enthusiasm than the unemancipated generation had been. The contributions, which formerly had been given gratefully and generously, were now given more and more grudgingly. Poverty was pleaded as the excuse for an illiberality which nothing else could justify. But the negro's acuteness taught him that ostentation and indigence are incompatible, and that his plea of poverty would gain no belief, so long as he and his family continued to wear fine dresses on the Sundays. Therefore he ceased in many places to attend chapel regularly, and when interrogated by his minister, had his defence prepared, that he was too poor to buy proper clothes to go in. We do not wonder at the readiness with which the Baptist Ministers have received this answer, and the inferences which they have drawn from it. For they are on their defence before the world both as a religious and as a political party. They have claims on the negro for political services, zealously if not judiciously rendered. Their ministrations have always been performed in a manner intended to make them popular with the negro. No wonder that, when a system which possesses so many popular recommendations, ceases to be popular,
any explanation should be received rather than that the people, to whose tastes it was specially adapted, have become indifferent to it. The Jamaica negroes are becoming indifferent to the old Baptist denomination and to the white Baptist Ministers; the latter, therefore, cannot but believe that their waning attendance and diminished contributions are due entirely to poverty. This foregone conclusion colours all their evidence, and deprives it of much of that value which would otherwise belong to it.
Mr. Underhill gives us to understand that the causes of the Negro's poverty are high and unequal taxation; the denial of political rights, and the competition of Coolie labour.
First, with regard to the taxation : the main or only sensible taxation is that of customs duties. Unless a negro peasant possess a mule or a cart he pays no direct tax at all. He pays duties on imported provisions and on articles of dress. It is this last-named duty which has roused the indignation of Mr. Underhill and his friends. But this seems to us very unreasonable. The impost on cotton dresses is an ad valorem impost of 124 per cent. But, when we consider what is the ordinary price of cotton goods habitually sent out to the West Indies-varying as it does from 8d. to 1s. per yard (even at the present advanced rates), we cannot admit that this is an excessive price : certainly it is not enough to explain a general poverty among those able to earn average wages. When we compare the state of the English artizan or peasant, who has to make weekly payments not only for dress, but for coals, candles, wood, bread, potatoes, rent, and bedding, with that of the negro who has no coals to buy, whose wood grows everywhere for him, whose oil and wax may be furnished on his own holding, who can raise his own yams, potatoes, and avocado pears, and who has literally nothing to buy but cotton dresses; it does, indeed, seem the most extravagant absurdity to bewail this expense as a cause of poverty, or denounce the system of impost duties which makes it so high. It is hardly possible to suppose that any labourers can earn so little as not to be able to dress themselves decently—at least one day in the weekin cotton which costs less than 1s. the yard. And that they can --if only they will-earn enough to pay for their dress much more than they pay now, is clear from the existing proportions between work and wages and the possibility of their co-extension. Mr. Westmoreland says :—The field-people turn out to work at nine and retire at one o'clock, and for these four hours' labour they get 6d. to 9d. ; but nothing will induce them to do another task for the same additional pay.' And the Custos for Elizabeth aptly asks, 'How is it at this time—which is represented by Mr. Underhill as one of increasing distress—as large