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old age: is this a service without wages ? yet in addition to these the regular wages given them for their labour, the perquisites or additional advantages they derive from it are both numerous and important. They partake freely of the rich juice of the cane during the process of manufacture. They are aided with the master's waggons and cattle in carrying their provisions to market. Such of them as have horses, cattle, or asses, keep them at the master's expence. The numerous fruittrees on the estate, of little value to the master, are turned to advantage by his people; and it is chiefly with the canes and corn cultivated on his extensive fields, that they raise pigs and poultry, which they sell, as they do their surplus provisions and fruit, to procure other comforts.
It should never be forgotten that it is the cultivation of the cane, carried on by the skill and capital of the white people and the labour of the black, which principally brings wealth into these islands, sugar being the staple commodity or manufacture by which all classes there are supported. From this source the slaves are provided for by their masters: hence also they are enabled to obtain additional comforts and enjoyments from the means it affords them of disposing to advantage of their surplus provisions, pigs, and poultry, to the people in business, and to the coasting and English shipping. Abolish this great staple, and the source of wealth is in a great measure lost to the slaves as well as to their masters.
Assembly of strange Slaves at night.
The fourth charge which Mr. S. brings forward under this section is, that “slaves are punished for ‘ mere civil trespasses and trifling misdemeanors, 'or for actions in their nature quite innocent, with • a severity that is reserved in England for petty * larceny and other infamous crimes.' p. 302.
These offences, so unmercifully punished, are stated to be for drumming or dancing ; blowing of
horns ; assembling together for amusement in cer• tain numbers or at certain hours, demanding more 'than certain regulated rates of wages for their | labour as porters, boatmen, &c.' p. 303.
I never heard of such regulations in Jamaica, nor can I find them in the consolidated slave law of that island. On the contrary I find (sect. 36th), that slaves are to have their diversions, and that although the master or manager of a plantation who permits assemblies of strange slaves at night, drumming, dancing, and blowing military horns, is punishable, the slaves are not. It is almost superfluous to observe, that the object here is to prevent disorderly or seditious assemblies, not innocent amusement.
The colonists are further accused, however, of the heinous crime of preventirg ignorant fanatic slaves from preaching or teaching other slaves, as Anabaptists or otherwise, and the attending nightly or other private meetings, which the preamble to the law justly states, has been found productive of much injury to the slaves. In a note on this subject our author adds, · The meetings intended to
be restrained are those held for religious purposes; and the object was to check the missionaries, by subjecting the poor hearers, as well as
the preacher, to severe punishments.' p. 303. One would almost be led to suppose that the negroes were locked up in their houses at night, or that there was a police establishment in every village to keep each family inside its own door, in order to prevent them from holding meetings of any kind. The truth, however, is, that when the work of the day is over, they retire to their houses, about seven o'clock, (except those who in crop time are required at the boilinghouse,) and spend the evening visiting one another, or holding any kind of meetings they please, just as free from restraint or molestation as the inhabitants of any village in England, provided they make no riotous noise to disturb or alarm the country. In the part of Jamaica where I resided, the slaves on some of the plantations have a religious meeting among themselves every Saturday night or oftener. I have more than once listened in a calm night near enough to hear what was said at such meetings. There was no kind of connection in the discourse, but the sentiments, as far as I could collect them, were good ; and the singing, perhaps the most attractive part of the service to a rude people, was excellent.
Such meetings are never interrupted; but of the injurious consequences resulting from an unrestrained admission of fanatic preachers among an
ignorant population, some idea may be formed from the occurrence related in the following paragraph, which I copy from the Kingston Gazette :
• Montego Bay, June 11th, 1824. ‘A small degree of hubbub took place near this town on last Sunday morning, occasioned by the baptism of sundry negroes, according to the forms of the Baptist or Anabaptist persuasion. In consequence of information being given to the sitting magistrates that the negroes above alluded to had been at the chapel the whole of Saturday night, and were taken out at two o'clock on Sunday morning to the river to be baptized, they sent for the minister, Mr. Burchell, to whom they related what they had heard. He stated, that the negroes wished to have remained in the chapel during the night, but that he had prevented them. It was true he had taken them out to the river at three o'clock in the morning, but his motive for doing so was to prevent the confusion which he was apprehensive would arise, if it were done during the day. The magistrates, however, were of opinion, that his licence only permitted him to preach or baptize from sun-rise to sun-set, and therefore expected he would conform to it. It appeared that many of the negroes alluded to had been previously christened; that Mr. Burchell knew not to whom they belonged, or any thing about them. He was therefore restricted from baptizing any others, unless authorized to do so by the persons under whose care they may be. It was also made to appear, that some of the negroes of this persuasion had already become such proficients as to be able to set up as independent preachers. Mr. Burchell undertook that if he could find out who they were, or where they held their meetings, he would expel them from his congregation, and inform the magistrates of it;—so far may be probably very well. We had, however, a few weeks since occasion to remark on the variety of preachers that had in so very short time found their way into this parish, and expressed our fears that no benefit could arise from it; but, on the contrary, we deprecated most seriously the evil tendency which we apprehended from the dissemination of such conflicting doctrines.
The evil now begins to appear: persons, who have been for years christened according to the forms of the church of England, are now rendered uneasy in their minds, because Mr. Burchell tells them they are not christians, and cannot go to heaven, unless they undergo his form of baptism;-hundreds, therefore, who have been for years
satisfied are now dissatisfied. The result will therefore be a disarrangement of the intellects of many, one or two instances of which have already appeared. We therefore call the attention of the magistracy as well as the proprietors of negroes to the subject. It is one of much delicacy, but should, nevertheless, not be lost sight of.
But lest this, as coming from a colonist, may not satisfy Mr. Stephen that any
evil consequences could arise from permitting 'ignorant and superstitious or designing negroes' from making a trade of preaching to, and teaching other negroes, I am glad to be able to quote an authority on the subject not liable to the same objection :
Kingston, Jan. 16, 1823. NOTICE OF THE WESLEYAN MINISTERS,
'ASSEMBLED IN THEIR ANNUAL MEETING.
Resolved,- 1st. Whereas we, having learned that various persons, chiefly negroes, have been found about plantations and estates, calling themselves Methodist Teachers and Preachers, collecting slaves and others, under a pretence of teaching religion, performing marriage, and collecting money, without the knowledge or consent of proprietors, judge it to be of serious injury to the cause of true religion, and detrimental to the interest of the community.
• Resolved,-2d. That we feel it a duty we owe to our own character as ministers, and to the public at large, to make this open protestation against such irregularities, and to avow that we neither have, nor can have, according to the rules of our church, such
persons connected with our body, and, whatever they may call themselves, we know nothing of them.