Page images

have transferred into their hands. Had this augmentation of value been the result of Dutch capital, labour, and understandfreely exercised under British gothose we have hinted at, might have slept vernment, objections of the nature of in silence.

A Voyage to the Demerary, containing a
Statistical Account of the Settlements there,
and of those on the Essequebo, the Bering,
bice, and other contiguous Rivers of Guy-
ana. By Henry Bolingbroke, Esq. of
Norwich, Deputy Vendue Master at Su-
rinam. 2to. pp. 400. Price London,
Phillips, 1807.

The consideration of the cost bestowed on these colonies, and their increased production in consequence of British im provements, naturally leads their British proprietors to desire, that, whenever peace arrives, they should be retained under our national protection. Hence arises a diffi culty: if they be given up to our present enemies, the parties who now hold them must either relinquish them, to a great disadvantage, if they desire to continue British subjects; or if they prefer the continuing with their possessions, they must transfer their allegiance to a foreign power, and they become aliens from their parent state. In proportion to their increased importance will be the reluctance of Britain to part with them, and the embarrassment of our negociators arising from the difficulty of fixing on an equivalent for them. This consideration, with others usual on such occasions, reduce the jargon of uti possidetis, statu quo, and other Latin barbarisms, to their true value.

WHAT is the characteristic of the British nation, at present?-Improvement. An almost restless desire of producing greater effects than have been accomplished by former generations. We have improved our native island; and very greatly and honourably, too. We have improved our colonies; and if year after year does not discover a progress, the public is dissatisfied, if not disappointed. We have carried this principle so far, that when the chance of war has given us a possession of our enemies' colonies, we have improved them, too; and we certainly restored the Dutch settlements to that power, at the peace of Amiens, in a condition incomparably superior that in which they were when they surrendered to us. Whether it was wise, in individuals, to engage such, considerable sums as they did, on the speculation of what the arrangements at a peace might be, we do not inquire; but it will We sincerely wish that the spirit of be admitted, by foreigners, at least, that pacification would allow the British gothe amelioration of the soil, and the aug-vernment to take its choice of the diffi mentation of the products of the colonies of Demerary, &c. at the expence of fifteen or twenty millions sterling, was a speculation that Britain, and Britain only, would have conceived, or undertaken, or could have accomplished.


We confess, that we have not seldom doubted the propriety of such speculations: and if, at the close of the present contest, these establishments should be returned to their former masters, we do not discover the advantage that will accrue to our nation from the labour, the judgment, and the expenditure of our fellow-subjects. It will be found, in that case, that we have shewn the Hollanders the way to make the most of their property. If they continue to follow the example we have set them, though it may be honourable to us to have overcome difficulties which they found insuperable; yet the honour will very barely compensate for the ingreased power of rivalship, that we shall

VOL. V. Lit. Pan. Feb. 1809.]

culties we have stated. Very far should we be from interposing obstacles to such a happy incident. But, in the meantime, we accept with pleasure every attempt fo inform us, not only on the actual condi tion of our distant possessions, but on their capabilities, and what may be hoped for from them, though at a distant day.

When a nation has many colonies, some will be more favoured than others; their real value will be greater; or the importance attached to them from circumstances, rather relative than intrinsic, will be more prominent. The writer before us asserts, that the colonies of Demerary, &c. have hitherto been greatly undervalued; and that neither the Batavian government nor the British, has duly appreciated them. He is entitled to considerable allowance, when he thus declares his opinion. He ought to esteem them more highly than others can, in propor tion to his better acquaintance with them, 2 H

if they deserve it; and it is perfectly na- | perty may be acquired in these colonies: tural that he should express that esteem by language in which others may suppose they discover traces of partiality.

We are always favourable to notes taken on the spot; to observations made with the subject under the immediate inspection of the observer. The present volume is composed from letters written by the author while resident in the colony, and though this occasionally produces an irregularity in the language, yet it also adds a force which is far from injurious. There is a philosophical spirit of disquisition in some parts of the work, which is less commendable. A loose state of morals never was, and never can be truly advantageous to any community: and however use may conceal the evils of licentiousness from those accustomed to behold it, yet they are evils, notwithstanding. Their nature is not changed, although it may be overlooked. Providence has connected cause and effect together, by indissoluble bands, and if any treat the absence of morals as no injury to the commonwealth, they assume a false principle, and must be mistaken. We could have been glad if this volume had given no occasion to similar remarks. But, as we find much to commend in it, we shall take advantage of what affords us the opportunity; with out fastidiously urging further censure.

Mr. B. assures us, that our old West

India islands are worn out; and that the people of Barbadoes sent to the Demerary


many vessels for cargoes of earth, with which they manured their lands." This traffic would have been carried on to a considerable extent, but the bottoms of the vessels were infested by the worms.

The seasons in these settlements are two

wet and two dry, in the year: the former commences in December, and continues January and February; also June, July, and August: the latter occupies the intervening months.

Mr. B. speaks favourably of the climate of the West Indies; but the fatal effects of indulgence in new rum, expressively and justly called "kill devil," he states very forcibly. We believe that intemperance slays its ten thousands; but that the climate, and the seasoning does not slay its thousands, will require accumulated evidence to persuade


Even our author's own experience, (p. 89,) militates against his opinion. Pro

but the manner of enjoying it, is very confined. The means of intellectual gratification are rare; those of the senses are in plenty. Property, however, by the change of sovereignty, at the last peace, was sunk to half its cost; and at that price was offered in vain. The losses sustained by the colony in consequence of returned bills, and other mercantile misfortunes attendant on the renewal of the war, are stated by Mr. B. at £1,135,000; and this, notwithstanding some alleviation was obtained from an order of the king in council. Mr. B. states the following particulars of this injury:

Damages on bills returned............ £ 250,000 Expences of law suits, noting, protesting, postage, interest,


10,000 Captures made by the British.. 1,000,000 £1,260,000

Recovered by order of the king and council..........



This diminution of capital, could not but produce severe sufferings in a colony only rising into importance. This was perhaps inevitable. However, it did not alienate the minds of the Dutch planters: nor blind them to the advantages they had The enterprise of capturing these districts derived from British spirit and capital. was far enough from being of the most arduous description; and when it is known, that the British fleet was waited for; and that many ships laden with goods accompanied the assailants, we cannot rank the atchievement among the most-brilliant, though it may deserve a place, if our author be correct, among the most beiteficial.

Stabroek is the capital of the colony ; and if the reader desires to know what

kind of a capital it is, Mr. B. will de

scribe it to him.

Stabrook was to me quite a new sight. I recollected no English town which bore the least resemblance. It stands on the flat strand, and canals, where black and tawny inclose the main street: while wooden children were plunging about like didappers, houses, with colonnaded porticoes and balco nies shaded by a projecting roof, are orderly arranged between spacious intervals in three parallel lines. They, are seldom above two

the c

story high they stand on low brick foundations, and are roofed with a red wood, which I took for mahogany. No where the glitter of a glass casement; Venetian blinds, or jealousees as they are called by the inhabitants, close every window; and the rooms project in all directions to catch the luxury of a thorough draft of air, so that the groundplan of a dwelling is mostly in the shape of a cross. There are no trees in the streets as in Holland; the town would have been pleasanter with this imitation of the old country; but casks and bales lie about, as if every road was a wharf, and numerous warehouses are intermingled with the dwellings. Even the public buildings are of wood. Blacks clad only with a blue pantaloon, or with a mere towel of checking supported by a string about the loins, come to perform every office. Here and there a white man in a muslin shirt, and gingham trowsers is seen smoking his segar, and giving directions from under an umbrella to his sable messengers; or is led about in a phaeton drawn by ponies to superintend the shipping of his goods. A noonday sultriness and silence prevail: every motion is performed with such tranquillity for fear of kicking up a dust, that one would suppose the very labourers at work in a church during service.

By the time I had unpacked, washed, and dressed, dinner was ready, namely at five.

A dinner at Stabroek is a sort of mercantile medley of the imitable parts of the manners of remote nations. There was soup to begin with, as in France, and salted ling to begin with as in Holland: there was an English huge joint of beef and a couple of Moscovy ducks: there was an Italian desert of Bologna sausages and sallad, anchovies and olives: there was fruit of all kinds, pine-apples, guavas, oranges, shaddocks and avoiras. Wine was taken during the repast, and porter between the courses, for a bonne bouche.

At dusk, spermaceti candles were lighted, and placed within large cones of glass, to prevent the wind from blowing them aside. Segars were offered to us at the whist table, and most of the party smoaked, and drank coffee. A hammock, protected by a gauze curtain against the mosquitoes, was allotted me to sleep in, until beds could be put up.

assemble to sell their truck, such as fruit, vegetables, fowls, eggs, and where the hucksters expose for sale articles of European manufacture (much in the same manner as the pedlars do in England) in addition to salt beef, pork, and fish, bread, cheese, pipes, tobacco, and other articles, in small quantities, to enable the negroes to supply themselves agreeably to the length of their purses. Hucksters are free women of color, who purchase their commodities of merchants at two or three months credit, and retail them out in the manner described. Many of them are, indeed, wealthy, and possess ten, fifteen, and twenty negroes, all of whom they employ in this traffic. It is by no means an uncommon thing for negroes in this line to be tra velling about the country for several weeks together, sometimes with an attendant, having trunks of goods to a considerable amount, say two hundred pounds, and when a good opportunity offers, they remit to their mistresses what money they have taken. It is really surprizing what a large sum is thus returned by these people going from one es tate to another. The permission of the manager on every plantation is always necessary, before the huckster ventures to the negro houses, where the bargains are made. Those that have not money barter their fowls, pigs, segars, for what they stand in need of. The hucksters are provided with such an assortment as to be able to supply the negro with a coarse check, or the manager with a fine cambric, for his shirts. Coloured women of all descriptions are extravagantly fond of dress: but those resident in the country, not having such an opportunity as the Stabroek ladies of seeing every thing new as it arrives, feel a lively sensation of joy and pleasure at the sight of a huckster, and anticipate the pleasure of tumbling over the contents of her trunk; and if it contains any new articles of fashion, their hearts beat high with wishes to obtain them. If a joe or a dollar be still remaining, it is sure to go: should their purse be empty, they make no hesitation in asking for credit / such is the general cha acter and conduct of coloured women.

The market is copiously supplied with butchers' meat, but at a most extravagant rate: mutton 3s. veal 2s. 6d. beef 2s. id. The household establishment I found to pork 10d. per pound. With fish, the town consist of eight male and two female negro- is not so well provided as the country, no servants; a strange disproportion. The house fish-monger has ever yet engaged in the busiwas spacious, airy, and open, with perviousness upon a scale sufficiently extensive to shutters, to admit everywhere a free circula-supply the population. The utmost endeation of air. vour yet made is that of some negroes, who hire themselves of their masters, at so much a day or month, and go a little beyond there-mouth of the river in canoes, returning by one or two o'clock and selling what they may have caught. A very glutinous fish, called a There is a market-place where the negroes paukama, which is esteemed a dainty, is

Mr. B. gives a very favourable account of the negroes in several parts of his work. We shall offer some of his marks.

taken in a curious manner. It finds a principal part of its sustenance in hollow trees, logs of wood, and in the skeletons of old ships, which from laying in mud by the water side, soon decay. These they visit for food during flood tide, but at ebb are left in the cavities of the wood, out of which the negroes draw them by a hook fastened to he end of a stick.

massa, you sabbe talk me country," was the exclamation. I had now an opportunity of proving Mungo Park's correctness, and desired Peter to turn the question I had put to him into English, which he did, with several others, and from their agreeing with the translation, he convinced me that the travels in Africa deserved credit and confidence. However, to prove further, I told Peter what I was reading, when he replied with energy," Massa, me been see that white man in me country, in de town where me live, he been come dere one night for sleep, one blacksmith countryman fer me been with him, me been give him rice for he supper, and soon, soon, in the morning he been go towards the Moor's country." From the earnest manner in which this artless tale was delivered, I was convinced that Peter had seen Mungo Park; the name of the village, and the reception he met with, agreed so exactly with what was narrated, that there could be no doubt of it.

A negro, in the enjoyment of social happiness, having his wife and children, a garden, his goats, pigs, and feathered stock to attend to, feels a degree of interest in the estate, which would scarcely be expected from an emigrated African. By being transported to a new soil, and a more civilized country, these people become more humanized, more enlightened; their minds undergo a new formation, and they are enabled to distinguish the good treatment they receive here, from the arbitrary and unrelenting mandates of the petty kings and princes in their own country, where they are subject to be butchered like a parcel of swine. Better, sure, are the Africans under the West India planters, protected as they are by the colonial laws, transplanted into a settlement, where their industry and talents will make them useful members of the community, than abandoned to the cruel and rude tyranny of an uncivilized master in their own country. The severe methods of coercion, formerly used by the West Indian planters, are traditional among the Africans, and resulted from employing negro task-masters: I proportion as white overseers have become numerous, has the treatinent improved. During my residence in Demerary, I made it a regular question of inquiry among plantation-negroes, whom I was constantly in the habit of seeing and conversing with at remote places, as my chief occupation con sisted in travelling, whether they preferred their own country to this; and I hereby make a solemn asseveration, which will remain upon record, that of several hundreds of negroes, to whom I have put the question at different periods, they have all given the preference to their present situations. I will B's. description of the Indians. venture to assert, that, in case of asking all the negroes round in the colonies, there will be found ninety contents out of every hundred to whom the question should be put.

This recollection of our adventurous countrynan will not, we hope, be deemed misplaced in the Panorama. Had we been in the boat, this negro should have received some favour, for his kindness to Mungo Park. Could enough be done for those black women who relieved him when in the deepest distress, should they have been transported to any British settle

I discovered in a singular manner that one of the sailor negroes attached to our establishment, and who had been in Demerary about two years, had seen Mungo Park, in his travels in the interior of Africa. I was going down to Essequebo in the schooner, and, as was my custom, I had put three or four books into my portmanteau: Mungo Park's Travels was among the number. In looking over the vocabulary of the Mandingo tongue, I called Peter, a negro of that nation, and asked him a question in his own language. "Kie!

[ocr errors]

ment ?

Our author gives the most gratifying account of the benevolence and charity of this colony. A destitute widow and two children were sent home, by a subscription of £500. An artilleryman who had lost his arm in the service, received £240. Some Spanish prisoners who were naked were clothed at the expense of £100. All these very voluntary acts of compas


We shall next avail ourselves of Mr.

The Carribbees are the most numerous and warlike of the native tribes of Guyana. During peace they have no sovereigns or magistrates; but during war a chief is elected, who Their weapons are leads them to battle. bows and arrows, and large clubs made of iron wood: they, also use poisoned shafts, which are discharged through a reed by the force of the lungs. They are seldom at war with other tribes, but against the Spaniards they carry on an almost constant hostility. Their houses are situated near each other, so that the blowing of a shell, which is their usual signal, will in a very short time assemble many hundreds of the inhabitants.


[ocr errors]

and magnifi

cence. The riches of the nation are exhausted on this occasion, and all their ingenuity displayed. The neighbouring people are invited to partake of the feast, and to be witnesses of the solemnity. At this time, all who have died since the last solemn feast of that kind, are taken out of their graves. Those who have been interred at the greatest distance from the villages are diligently sought for, and brought to this great rendezvous of carcases. It is not difficult to conceive the horror of this general disinterment, &c. I know not which ought to strike us most, the horror of so shocking a sight, or the tender piety and affection of these poor people towards their departed friends; for nothing deserves our adıniration more, than that eager diligence and attention with which they discharge this melancholy duty of their tenderness, &c.

Cartibbees excel the other tribes in industry. give orders for every thing, which may enable The chief employments of the men are hunt-them to celebrate it with pomp ing and fishing. the women perform the in-door labours; they also cultivate plantains and cassava, upon as much ground as they choose, for there is no property in land among the Indians. Their hammocks are made with great labour: the cotton is spun with the hand, and in the process of weaving, the thread analogous to our shoot is passed under every other thread of the warp separately, as in darning, raising them one by one with the finger. When the weaving is finished, the hammock is dyed with red figures. Some part of the produce of their industry they barter for European articles. For this purpose they make canoes out of trees, hollowed by fire, some of which are seventy feet in length. Beside these, they exchange wax, gourds full of the balsam capivi, cotton hammocks, difFor these ferent kinds of wood, and staves. they get in return hooks, knives, hatchets, fire arms, combs, looking glasses, beads of glass and of coral.

This barter-trade in my opinion, could be greatly increased. By holding fairs at certain known seasons, and offering some hospitality to the savages, they could be induced to collect from remote places of the interior. They would bring many curious productions, and gradually acquire a variety of wants. The Spaniards have instituted such fairs at Buenos Ayres with the happiest effect. It is true, they fix on the grand festivals of their religion for the assemblage, and hold showy proces sions, in which the Indians delight to take a part, drest up with crowns of feathers. But games of agility and bodily exercises, shooting with the bow, distributing swimming-prizes, horse-races even, might be made to serve for the pretence of meeting. Fairs are the natural methods of distributing wares in countries insufficiently peopled to maintain stationary shops.

It is an undoubted fact, that the Carribbees have, in some instances, devoured their enemies slain in battle. Of all the natives of Guyana, this practice is peculiar to the Car


Cannibalism is the practice only of the most savage and ferocious nations, of those who have little sensibility of heart to render them capable of loving, and who are devoid of the amiable qualities of the mind, which are the objects of love. It should be observed also, that they only devour their enemies, and rather to satisfy their revenge, than their hunger; of all passions, revenge is the wost destructive of love......

Of all their instances of regard to their deceased friends, none is so striking as what they call the feast of the dead, or the feast of souls. The day for this ceremony is appointed in the council of their chiets, who

This strange festival is more or less in use among all the American savages bordering on the gulf of Mexico, on the Missisipi as on the Oronuoko, and is probably a remnant of Mexican superstition, A pompous reinterment is given to the dead; and games of all kinds are celebrated on the occasion, in the spirit of those which the ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated upon similiar occasions.

On another occasion, Mr. B. mentions
The arrival of forty canoes in New Am-

sterdam, full of Indians; they consisted of
upwards of four hundred, and had been
collected in different parts of the river by
their respective chiefs, to protect the towi
and assist the inhabitants to regain possession
of the fort. On their landing, they were
tains, the canoes were disencumbered of their
regularly ranged under their respective chief-
provisions, and hauled up above high water
mark. They were then conducted in separate
bodies to outhouses and other buildings, which
were lent them for quarters. It is needless to
ted by the inhabitants with every necessary,
say they were well received and accommoda-
which to their wild uncultivated taste was

The appearance of these naked warriors was indeed singular. I have before remarked, that the Indians are low in stature, stout, well made, with long black hair, and strings of beads round their ancles and wrists, the only covering in point of dress is a piece of blue India sallampores, except the captains or heads of a clan, who ate distinguished by an European suit of clothes, and the hereditary or acquired staff of office. Their bows were slung at their backs, accompanied with a quiver full of poisoned arrows, and another pointed at the end with steel hike javelins; in their hands they carried a club about two feet

2 H 3

« PreviousContinue »