Page images

with some of the applicants (for, like sailors and others, they like to skulk' occasionally), they are readily indulged with a dose of medicine and a day or two to rest. Few days, indeed, pass on any estate but some solicit and obtain this indulgence.

Pregnant women and people advanced in life are employed with the young people at light work. For three months before lying in, and two months after, a woman does no work whatever. When the child is about a couple of months old she takes it out to the field. All the 'pickeninny mummas' go to the same work, and the children are put down together in some shade near the field : one half of the mothers go to work, and the others sit with the children, nursing and doing needle work for themselves, and changing with the others every two hours or so. If it should rain they go home; or if a child should be fretful or apparently unwell, they either take it home or to the hospital. When a child is weaned, its mother carries it to the nursery in the morning, where it is attended to during the day, and she calls at night to take it home to her own house.

Breakfast, as has already been stated, is carried out to the field about nine o'clock. The driver or head man sits down by himself; the others form into little groups, according to their intimacies and attachments; and although each has his own dish (except that a man and his wife have but one for both), it is not uncommon for the whole group to mess together, and finish first one dish and then

another. After breakfast they have generally, and in wet weather (the only time perhaps that it is of any use) always, an allowance of rum given them. Some drink it off immediately-others club and make up a bottle, which they take in turn and carry home to use or sell as they think proper.

In very wet weather they do not go out to work at all; or if, after they are gone to the field, the day turns out very bad, they are called in. At twelve o'clock at noon the shell is blown, and they disperse to enjoy two hours of rest, or to employ the time at their own concerns---mending their fences or hogsties, fishing, bathing, washing, carrying home fire-wood, cane-tops, or hog-meat, &c. A few roasted plantains, with a little fish, is all they seem to care about eating in the middle of the day; breakfast and supper being their chief meals. At half-past one o'clock the shell is blown again, and they re-assemble in the field at two.

The plantations have been very happily termed sugar gardens, and the general labour performed by the negroes may be compared to the cleaning and weeding of gardens in this country. The hardest work on them, as already noticed, is the turning up of a small portion of the field every year to be replanted. This is most commonly done by jobbing negroes, who become so much accustomed to this description of labour, that they will sometimes grumble at being sent to what is considered lighter work.

As to the overworking of the negroes, how is the belief of it to be reconciled with the well known fact, that they sit up amusing themselves for nearly one half of the night, and take only six hours of sleep? Let the man in this country accustomed to hard labour, say, if he finds six hours of sleep sufficient to restore exhausted nature? or if, when the toils of the day are over, he finds any enjoyment equal to repose ? The negroes perform willingly and cheerfully their regular and accustomed quantity of work, but any attempt of an overseer to exact more is determinedly resisted and resented, and, as I have already had occasion to notice, the sure consequence is, that every thing on the estate goes wrong

Plantation Hospitals and Nurseries.

BESIDES the regular physician who visits the hospital two or three times a week, or oftener if there is occasion, and examines all the patients individually, there is on every estate an 'hospital doctor' and a sick nurse; the former is an intelligent man (most commonly of colour), who, acting for

years under the directions of the white doctor, acquires a sufficient knowledge of the common complaints of the negroes, to be capable of administering some simple medicines in cases of slight indisposition; in more serious cases, the physician, if not present, is sent for immediately, and must give prompt attendance, or his office is soon filled by some other person : the interest of the proprietor and character of the overseer, are too deeply concerned, even putting humanity out of the question, to excuse any degree of negligence on the part of the medical attendant. But it would be doing injustice to the gentlemen of the faculty merely to say that they are not negligent in their attendance on the negroes: some of them, as in other countries, are more zealous than others in the discharge of their duties, both to whites and blacks; but it is rare to see them wanting in a proper feeling for, and interest in their patients ;, and I have myself witnessed many instances where a medical gentleman has paid all the


attention to a sick negro that he could have done to his master, sitting up with him for nights, or, if he left him to take a few hours' sleep, it was with injunctions to the attendants to call him up immediately, if any change should take place. It is almost unnecessary to add, that every

article in the shape of medicine (including port and madeira wine, &c.) likely to be useful, is always afforded. In short, no expense or trouble is spared.

One of the best disposed and most trustworthy women on the estate, is sick nurse, to attend the hospital; her duty is, to keep the hospital, and the sick in it, clean, and to cook such victuals for the patients as may be prescribed. I may also notice, that besides the attendance of the medical practitioner, the hospital doctor, and sick nurse, a negro dangerously ill is always allowed the presence of some of his own family.

In every hospital there are of course separate apartments for the men and the women; and generally an apartment where delinquents are confined in the stocks.

THE NURSERIES are neat buildings on a ground floor, with platforms for the children to sleep upon, and a spacious yard enclosed as a play ground. They are under the superintendance of the best nurses, and however able the parents may be to provide for them, they are supported by the master with the food best adapted for their age, such as oatmeal, rice, and a pot of good soup for the whole once a day.

« PreviousContinue »