Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]


10. The state of agriculture in the British Virgin Islands is, as it seems ever to have been, of the most unrefined and profitless description that it is possible to conceive, while there are valleys of high natural fertility, and slopes on the adjacent hills, where such implements could be most profitably employed. I think I am right in saying that at this moment there is neither to be found a plough or horse hoe within this Government. The rude and inefficient implement handed down to the negro by his slave progenitors is still regarded as the "summum bonum" on the sugar estate, and when to this primeval tillage is added the almost entire disregard of the fructifying influences of manure, it is scarcely a subject for astonishment, that the crop of a favourable season should not exceed some 125 hogsheads of sugar. Were I to carry my observations into the manufactory, or point to the ill-used and sadly galled animals which contribute their questionable strength in the process of grinding the canes, the same conviction follows, that some new stimulus is necessary to awaken the planters of Tortola from the lethargy in which they have so long indulged. For much of the carelessness perhaps the métairie system, as it here exists, is answerable. I know of only one planter who by payment of money for service retains in his own hands any power of controlling the issue of his enterprise as a farmer. With this exception, the rule is for the associated labourers to cultivate almost when and how they please, certainly without any systematic and salutary direction, and to wait patiently for the day of settlement, when they receive their quota, generally one half of the crop, the planter placing his works and stocks at their entire disposal for the purpose of its manufacture. Neither does the remuneration which the labourer thus receives for his services appear to me to be adequate to the advantages enjoyed by the people in islands where a money payment is the rule and the share system an exception, nor does the proprietor receive anything like an equivalent for the capital embarked. Still it is perhaps beyond the limited means of either the absentee or resident proprietors to offer our people anything better at present, or sensibly to improve their own position; but the spare time of the steady and industrious negro is not unprofitably. spent in labour for the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company at Saint Thomas; while the planter rather depends upon the produce of his flocks and herds than on the particular industry which furnishes his title and designation.

11. The remarks which I have here made do not seem to be so justly applicable to minor branches of agricultural industry. The patches of garden culture, where almost every description of tropical vegetable may be seen in tolerable luxuriance, even at the highest points of our lofty hills, prove satisfactorily that wherever the negro has by the absolute purchase of land obtained an interest in its productiveness that productiveness is in fair process of development. He has become as it were a part of the soil on which he stands. There is a mutual dependence, and the result is all that may be fairly expected at this early date.

12. Unhappily, however, the growth of a peasant proprietary is very much retarded by the circumstances of the country. Much of the land is in the hands of receivers of the court of chancery, and this has attached a suspicion in the mind of the negro to land not in reality so encumbered. He is naturally cautious in his bargains; and although he may be tempted by very advantageous terms as to payment, he seems reluctant to engage in the purchase of any property to which his title cannot be proved to be beyond question. Hence there exist immense tracts of land overrun with bush, utterly useless to the proprietor, utterly unprofitable to the State, but containing resources of the highest value to both, with no obligation to cultivate, and with many impediments beyond disinclination in the way of sale to the labourer. The proprietor may indeed boast of his extended demesne (sometimes several thousands of acres), and yet live in a condition of very doubtful prosperity, constantly hoping for better days, but putting forth for the most part none of his energies for their attainment. I regret to add, that I see little hope of improvement in the cultivation of land in this colony until absolute pressure by the Legislature may for ever break up the system which so unhappily weighs upon it. Meantime, the proximity of Saint Thomas, with its never failing market, offers ample encouragement to small cultivators, to our charcoal burners (a great inducement for the clearing of land), as well as to our fishermen, so that, although there is undoubtedly much room for improvement, no industrious man need ever want the means of existence in the Virgin Islands.

13. On a review of the agricultural features of the Virgin Islands, particularly when taken in connexion with the present deficiency of available labour for extensive field operations, the conclusion which has been so much favoured by others of larger experience than myself is fully participated by me, namely, that they are far better


adapted for the raising of stock than, with the exception perhaps of that of cotton or coffee, any other industry whatever. The fine pastures of both guinea and running grass, reaching to the summits of the mountains, afford almost endless resources to the breeder of stock of all descriptions. The judicious selection of blood for the improvement of the present races seems to be all that is required to render the Virgin Islands capable of supplying a very large proportion of the annual deficiencies of stock throughout the Leeward Islands. The breed of ponies of from 12 to 13 hands high is distinguished for many excellent points. Endurance, and admirable feet to sustain the shocks inseparable from running amongst rugged hills, with light and active frames, mark these animals as particularly well fitted for crossing with larger horses. A slight increase in the size of the mares would infallibly lead to the establishment of mule breeding on a more satisfactory plan; and when I add that each of these animals at 3 years old will command from $100 to $130 in any of the Leeward Islands, and that the cost of rearing them is so small as to be scarcely appreciable (certainly not more than 50s. a head), the profits of this particular enterprise will be sufficiently apparent. Horned cattled too afford, by sale of fat animals and of butter and milk, an equally remunerative employment for small capital.

14. Of the 37,000 acres of land embraced in the British Virgin Islands, probably as many as one half are admirably suited for the production of cotton; indeed in former days this industry flourished to a considerable and profitable extent. The causes which have conAppendix A. tributed to its abandonment have been so clearly delineated by the late Mr. G. R. Porter


in his work "Tropical Agriculturist," Smith and Elder, 1833, p.p. 12 and 13, that it would be superfluous for me to remark upon them, except that my own observations and experiments in the growth of cotton entirely confirm what that lamented gentleman has so well advanced. I see no reason, beyond the question of labour supply, why the Virgin Islands should not produce, from cleared land, cotton of the finest descriptions, at the rate of at least one and a half bales of 300 pounds each per acre, and at a cost on the sea shore of about 2d. sterling per pound. The planter is always favoured with two and sometimes with three full pickings annually, and, once established, the cotton plant remains in full luxuriance for fully four or five years, a great advantage enjoyed over the planters in the States of America in this particular. An experiment has been made here by some gentlemen, associated at my suggestion for the purpose, which, notwithstanding the rather heavy cost of clearing the land from underwood, has fully satisfied my mind (if the former large exports of cotton required confirmation of this character) that what is perhaps beyond the capability of any other British settlements in the West Indies, the Islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and the adjacent quays, are capable of making, with a due supply of labour, an annual impression upon the Manchester Markets to the extent of 20,000 bales of the article under discussion. The importation of suitable gins, and careful selection of varieties, would probably lead to further experimental successes, which might ultimately attract capital and labour to give them full effect. The importance of this subject to the Virgin Islands is greatly enhanced by the fact that in them the industries of cotton planting and stock breeding may proceed simultaneously and without at all interfering with each other.

15. To conclude this branch of my Report, I may state that the Sea Island cotton, which has attained such celebrity in the English markets, is supposed, on tolerably good testimony, to have been found indigenous in the Island of Anguilla (some 70 miles hence), whence it passed, through intermediate culture in the Bahama Islands, into Georgia, where it now forms the staple export. Proof sufficient of the capability of the Caribbean Islands to compete with the "Sea Islands" of the southern States of America in its production, as far as quality is concerned, while varieties of probably equal or greater value, such as the "Siam" cotton, will not ripen in the latter islands, although in Tortola it will yield two crops annually.

Common Gaol and Crime.

16. Only two capital offences have marked the record of crime for 1857.

One, of the murder of his friend, while the perpetrator was under the combined influences of liquor, an ungovernable temper, and jealousy; the other one of rape. The other commitments have been for petty offences against the person and property.

17. The condition of the common gaol, I regret to say, continues to justify the report made for 1854 by the inspector of prisons. Lunatics, debtors, criminals, and minor offenders, as well as persons awaiting trial, are confined under the same roof, and the means of classification are of the most limited description.

The recommendations on this subject which have from time to time emanated from the Home Government as well as from the presiding officers have, in common with equally useful suggestions for improvement in other essentials, been met with the plea of

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

financial embarrassment. It is in some measure favourable to this continued disregard
of public improvement, that on the whole the people of the Virgin Islands have, of late
years, furnished but few objects for criminal prosecutions.

I append a report upon the state of crime for the year 1857 from Mr. Stipendiary Appendix B.
Justice and Queen's Counsel, Charles Lloyd.

Public Buildings.

18. The foregoing observations on the common gaol meet with some confirmation from the present untenantable condition of four solitary cells. A device for increasing accommodation of this nature, by partitioning one of the larger wards, was carried out, with my sanction, during the past year; but this must be regarded as a merely temporary expedient, and I think that the building will shortly receive such additions and repairs as may take it out of the category in which tourists have been in the habit of placing West Indian houses of correction.

19. The other "public buildings," startling as such an appellation may be as applied to such edifices, are probably, however defective, in as good a state of repair as the colony can easily afford or the climate require.


20. The hopes held out by my predecessor in the administration of the government, on the diffusion of knowledge amongst the "rising generation," have, so far, met with very partial realization. The report which I annex, from the officiating Appendix C. minister, on the condition of the schools, discloses inefficiency on the part of some of the superintendents, and great irregularity in the attendance of the pupils. The gratuitous education proffered by the Church Establishment receives no preference over that which the Wesleyans supply for a very moderate remuneration to a large assembly of children. The extension of Church principles being confined to the immediate district surrounding the town of Road Harbour, it results that the chapels in the remote situations have fallen into decay, and little more than the name remains, as a record of past exertions, to attach the population to the Establishment.

21. The regularity and perseverance exhibited by the Wesleyan missionaries in the promulgation of their religious views have met, as might have been augured, the most complete success; and, unprovided as the Church seems to be here with the means of systematic instruction, and the spirit necessary for a successful result, it is a subject for regret that the more active hands of the Wesleyan preachers are not more liberally supplied with the means of educating the youthful population. No provision whatever is made by the Legislative Council for the diffusion of knowledge. I have a lively satisfaction, however, in appending a report from the Wesleyan missionaries, which sufficiently Appendix D. discloses the nature and effect of their unpretending exertions in the cause of education for the labouring classes.

Concluding Remarks.

22. Perhaps in no part of the British West Indian colonies is the evidence of the effect of the great measure of 1834 more striking than in the Virgin Islands. In none have the depreciation of "estates" on the one hand, and the improvement of the negro's physical condition on the other, presented stronger examples of the searching effects of the policy which dictated that measure. The old dominant race of West India planters, with their handsome hospitality, their regardlessness of the events of the morrow, their gambling, horse racing, and cockfighting, has vanished from the scene, and given place to a well-tempered thrift, and a stern anxiety for the future.


The representatives of that class indeed inherit to the full extent the open-handed liberality which distinguished their ancestors; but the fire burns without the necessary fuel, and, sad though it may be to contemplate the reduced condition of many most estimable circles, a lesson is engraven on the hills of Tortola, from which experiences cannot fail to flow, and to afford in future days a source of solid, if moderate, prosperity.

That the process of elevation of the youth of the decayed class will be rapid there is perhaps little hope, for the habit of waiting upon fortune, and the utter disinclination to adopt modest hard-working employment, which still clings to the race, are so stubbornly ingrained as to preclude for the present any such expectations. Still there becomes daily attached to idleness more odium, and to depravity more shame, and we are not wholly without examples of the silent working of better principles, of more selfdependence, more anxiety to mark out a career of usefulness.

23. If we turn to the more prosperous "lower" class, we find them for the most part engaged in not unprofitable pursuits; many in the possession of comfortable houses and


well-fed flocks and herds, well clothed, and with an air of independence, not unaccompanied by respectful demeanor, which certainly ought to delight the friends of emancipation. The events of 1853, which led to the almost entire destruction of the only town in the Virgin Islands, appear to be reflected upon with much regret; and, upon the whole, I know of no community of negroes in the West Indies more orderly in their general behaviour, or more likely to afford a favourable example of peasant proprietary, were the means placed nearer within reach. This picture, however, requires a little shading from the mischievous proximity, in some respects, of the island of Saint Thomas. This great outlet for unemployed labour, while it offers many temptations to the steady workman, is, I fear, productive, amongst the youth of our islands, of very lamentable results in a social point of view.

Depravity of every shade may there be freely indulged in, and certainly has so fearfully tinged the young of both sexes as to give rise to grave apprehensions.

24. Probably no more painful example of the baneful effects of long association with the scenes of the coaling wharves at St. Thomas can be found than the utter disrespect and disregard with which their own parents are habitually treated by these young people. On all sides I meet with complaints on this sad subject. The aged are thus left without the support they so much require, and have such a right to expect; and many a comfortable home has been made desolate by the destructive influences prevailing at this great emporium of the West Indies. The remedy can only be found in more solid inducements to remain at home, in the influx of capital to develope our mineral and other resources, and by the extension of better principles through the medium of the schoolmaster. The selection, therefore, of St. Thomas, as a rendezvous for the mail steamers, in preference to a much more convenient and healthy harbour within this Government, has, in my opinion, entailed social consequences on the population of the British Virgin Islands which no commercial advantages from its proximity can in any degree counterbalance. But this is a subject scarcely belonging to a report of this character, although it appears impossible to pass over a circumstance which exercises beyond a doubt so much influence on the social condition of this colony.

I have, &c.

His Excellency Governor Hamilton,

(Signed) T. PRICE,

President administering the Government of the British Virgin Islands.


The cultivation of cotton, which was carried on to a considerable extent in former years in our West India colonies, has of late been almost entirely abandoned there, because the prices in this article in the markets of Europe have fallen so low as to be no longer remunerative, and plantations, which once maintained their proprietors in affluence, would not, if similarly managed, now repay current expenses of their cultivation.


How are we to account for this reduction in prices? Not certainly from any falling-off in the demand, which is so far from being diminished that from year to year it has been advancing after a steady and important rate of progression. Nor yet can this fall in the money value of cotton be ascribed to the discovery of any new source of supply from countries where its cultivation is conducted at a diminished cost, since the principal importations are obtained from a country, the southern parts of the United States of America, where, although land is cheap, daily labour is uniformly dear, and the climate is assuredly not more favourable than is that of the West Indies to the perfection of the plant. The high prices of former times occasioned a great degree of carelessness on the part of the planters, who for that reason were not in a situation to meet the depression of prices occasioned by the increasing supplies raised in the United States. But to what cause are we to attribute the constant augmentation of growth in that country, in the face of a reduction in prices which has driven the West Indian cultivator from the market, unless it be to a greater degree of productiveness in the varieties cultivated, joined probably to greater agricultural knowledge? If there be any foundation for this opinion, the same course is obviously and equally open to the planters in our own Western Colonies, several of which are known to be admirably fitted by nature for this branch of husbandry.

It is allowed to be a difficult task, and one which has rarely been attended with success, to attempt the re-establishment in any country of pursuits that have once been laid aside as unprofitable; but in the present state of the West India Colonies the necessity for some effort of this nature seems to be urgent, and it is hoped that the circumstance here pointed out may show at least the possibility of attaining to better success than formerly, provided careful and judicious modes of cultivation be adopted.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

The cases of riot at Thatch Island are included in the present return, as the parties were convicted in 1857, although the offences were committed in 1856. The details have been already reported, and it is only necessary to observe that the transaction was serious only as being committed on a remote cay, and if unpunished might have proved of vicious example.

It may be fairly considered that convictions were not so numerous as in past years. Those at the general court, except the rape, were not of an atrocious character, and those by justices of the peace were generally for offences of a very trifling nature.


15th March 1858.



No. 1. St. George's School, Road Town.

Stipendiary Justice.

Mistress.-Jane Pickering.

Salary.-$24 per quarter, allowed by Lord Bishop from Christian Faith Society. House room allowed by public.

Schoolroom.-A few repairs needed.

Scholars.-42 (boys 20, girls 22). Daily average attendance, about 29.

State of School.-Not efficient. Causes thereof, several; chiefly the following; viz., inefficiency of mistress; irregularity in daily and hourly attendance of the children; difficulties in the way of carrying out proper discipline in school, by either mistress or officiating minister; the lax state of filial obedience; the negligence of parents, or those who stand in their stead; children being employed for portions of the day and week at home; facilities afforded by numerous other schools for receiving children who from dislike or other causes leave one school for another,


« ZurückWeiter »