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قراءة كتاب The Continental Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 1, July, 1863 Devoted to Literature and National Policy

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‏اللغة: English
The Continental Monthly,  Vol. 4,  No. 1, July, 1863
Devoted to Literature and National Policy

The Continental Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 1, July, 1863 Devoted to Literature and National Policy

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 3

slavery'—using those very words—by an immense importation of foreign laborers, it would be impossible to bring them to reasonable terms.

Now the condition of the South is like that of Jamaica, not like that of the smaller islands. Were the Southern negroes emancipated, and should they desert the plantations in a body, it is not likely that they would starve. They could at least support themselves as well as the white sandhillers, and probably better, considering their previous habits of work. Besides, as in Jamaica, there would of course be many small proprietors, who would be ruined by emancipation or before it, and from whom the negroes could easily procure the few acres apiece that would be required by the wants of their rude existence. Jamaica, then, is far nearer a parallel to the South than most of the smaller islands, and for this reason an inquiry into the true workings of emancipation there is of prime interest and importance.

The writer is very far indeed from pretending to have carried through such an inquiry. His personal acquaintance extends to but seven of the twenty-two parishes of the island, and he is intimately acquainted with not more than three of those seven. He has but a meagre knowledge of statistical facts, bearing on the workings of emancipation in the island, and indeed the statistics themselves, as Mr. Sewell complains, are very meagre and very hard to get. Still the writer has been able to gather some facts which will speak for themselves, and he claims for his personal impressions on points concerning which he cannot give particular facts the degree of confidence deserved by one who has resided five years and a half in a rural district, who has lived familiarly conversant with negroes and with whites of all classes, who has heard all sides of the question from valued personal friends, and who neither carried to Jamaica nor brought away from it any peculiar disposition to an apotheosis of the negro character.

There is, however, an excess of candor affected by some writers on this question, which is neither honorable to them nor wholesome to their readers. They would have us believe that they began their inquiries entirely undecided whether slavery or freedom is the normal condition of the African race, and that their conclusions, whatever they are, have been purely deduced from the facts that they have gathered. The writer lays claim to no such comprehensive indifference. He would as soon think of suspending his faith in Christ until he could resolve all the difficulties of the first of Genesis, as of suspending his moral judgment respecting the system which makes one man the brute instrument of another's gain, till he knew just how the statistics of sugar and coffee stand. Woe unto us if the fundamental principles which govern human relations have themselves no better foundation than the fluctuating figures of blue-books!

But if freedom is better than slavery, she will be sure to vindicate her superiority in due time, and is little beholden to overzealous friends who cannot be content meanwhile that present facts shall tell their own story, whatever it be. There is much, very much, in the present condition of Jamaica, to cause an honest man to think twice before setting it down as testifying favorably for emancipation, or before dismissing it as not testifying unfavorably against it.

And first, all rose-colored accounts of the Jamaica negro may be summarily dismissed. He is not a proficient in industry, economy, intelligence, morality, or religion, but, though rising, is yet far down on the scale in all these respects. Nor is it true that all his peculiar vices are to be referred to slavery. The sensuality, avarice, cunning, and litigiousness of the Creole[1] negro correspond exactly with Du Chaillu's and Livingstone's descriptions of the native African.[2] But on the other hand, the accounts of these travellers bear witness to a freshness and independence of spirit in the native African, which has been crushed out of the enslaved negro. Several missionaries have gone from Jamaica to Africa, and they speak with delight of the manliness and vigor of character which they find among the blacks there, as contrasted with the abjectness of those who have been oppressed by slavery and infected with its sly and cringing vices. Although the faults of the negro, except this servile abjectness, may not have been created by slavery, yet slavery and heathenism are so identical in character and tendency that there is scarcely a heathen vice, and, as we have found of late to our sorrow, scarcely a heathen cruelty, which slavery would not create if it did not exist, and of course scarcely one already existing which it does not foster and intensify. The unsocial selfishness of the emancipated black man, his untrustworthiness and want of confidence in others, are traits that his race may have brought with it from Africa, but they have been nourished by slavery, until it seems almost impossible to eradicate them. I am happy to say, however, that the young people who have been subjected to the best influences, exhibit already the virtues of public spirit and faithfulness to a very gratifying degree. The trouble is that they are a minority of the whole. And until the character of the negroes can be so elevated as to bring them to put some confidence in one another, they may improve in individual industry, as they manifestly are improving, but the benefits resulting from combined action can be enjoyed only in a very limited measure. Even now two black men can hardly own so much as a small sugar mill in common. They are almost sure to quarrel over the division of the profits. The consequence is, that, whereas they might have neighborhood mills and sugar works of the best quality at much less expense, now, where the small settlers raise the cane, each man must have his little mill and boilers to himself, at all the extra cost of money and labor that it occasions. And so of savings banks and associations for procuring medical aid, and a thousand other objects of public utility, without which a people must remain in the rudest state. Fortunately, however, the negro is strongly disposed to worship, and the church, that society out of which a thousand other societies have sprung, has a strong hold upon him. Under the shelter of that, many other beneficent associations will doubtless grow up.

But if rose-colored accounts of the freed negro are to be dismissed unceremoniously, on the other hand, the malignant representations which Mr. Carlyle seems to find such a relish in believing deserve to be branded as both false and wicked. His mythical negro, up to the ears in 'pumpkin,' working half an hour a day, and not to be tempted by love or money to work more, would have been, during my whole residence in the island, as great a curiosity to me as an ornithorhynchus. Doubtless something approaching to the phenomenon can be found; for a young Scotchman, a friend of mine, who was appointed to take the census of a secluded district, came to me after visiting it, and gave me an account of the people he had found in the bush, answering pretty nearly to Mr. Carlyle's description. But though he had been in the island from a boy, he spoke of it with something of the surprise attending a new discovery. I should state, however, that my residence was in a district mostly occupied by small freeholders, and containing but few estates. In planting districts the number of worthless, idle negroes is much larger. I have been assured that the negroes of the parish of Vere are peculiarly so. The men, I have been told, do scarcely any