proprietor.' That this was from no invincible necessity, the uniform prosperity of numerous estates shows. But these estates are all conducted economically, while, on the other hand, reckless extravagance was the rule in the palmy days of the olden time, and has remained, even in humbler circumstances, an inborn trait of the Creole gentleman.
If this was so during the continuance of the slave trade, what could have been looked for when this means of obtaining labor was suddenly cut off? Sewell states the estimated supply of negroes from Africa necessary to make up the annual waste at ten thousand. When this ceased it was obvious that only such a complete revolution in the system of labor as should save the horrible waste of life could preserve the plantations from ruin and the island from depopulation. But though the waste of life was diminished, it still went on. Estate after estate had to be given up for want of hands, at the same time that a constant decrease in the price of sugar in London, amounting to fifty per cent between 1815 and 1835, made it less and less profitable to work the remaining ones, and thus the planters were going steadily to ruin and the negro population steadily to extinction, for almost a generation before emancipation. In a memorial of the planters to Parliament in 1831, three years before abolition, they declare that without Parliamentary aid they are doomed to hopeless ruin. Already, they say, hundreds of respectable persons had been reduced almost to beggary by the precarious condition of the planting interest. In this memorial they make no allusion to the anti-slavery agitations, which produced no serious effect in the colony till 1832. Indeed the West Indian interest had been a notorious mendicant of old, and as in time a large part of West Indian estates had come to be owned by the British aristocracy, this begging was not apt to be in vain. Could Creole thriftlessness have been abolished and the slave trade retained, the ruin of the estates might have been averted. But as human power was not adequate to the first, nor Christian conscience capable of the second, no course was left but to let planting prosperity go its own way to destruction, and endeavor at least to save the population of the island from extermination. This emancipation effected, and this was its work. If it hastened the ruin of an interest which not even Parliamentary subsidies and high protective duties could prop up without the horrors of the middle passage, its trespass was certainly a very venial one compared with its work of salvation. Undoubtedly the great transition from slavery to freedom might have been better managed had the planters, recognizing it as inevitable, concurred heartily in efforts to smoothe the passage. The emancipationists in Parliament had at first no thought of immediate or even of speedy abolition. They did not suppose it wise or humane. Their first efforts merely contemplated such ameliorations of the condition of the slaves as common decency and humanity would prompt. They brought the Imperial Government to propose to the slaveholding colonies the enactment of laws abolishing the flogging of females, mitigating punishments, allowing the slaves to testify in court in cases to which whites were parties, providing for their religious instruction, appointing guardians of their scanty rights, giving them one week day for themselves, and restricting arbitrary sales of slaves. Not one of the colonies would agree to a single one of these measures. That peculiar obstinacy which slaveholding dominion seems to engender, made them, as with us, bent on having all or nothing. All hopes of instituting a gradual preparation for freedom being thus defeated by the stubborn refusal of the slaveholders to concur, speedy emancipation became a necessity. But even yet the abolitionists had not learned that if slaves are to be set free from their masters, the more quickly they are put out of their hands the better. A muzzled wolf, appointed to keep sheep he would much rather eat, would make about as amiable a custodian as masters allowed to exercise a limited authority over bondmen whom they have hitherto always had at their own will, and know they are about to lose altogether. I think it is generally agreed that the few years of apprenticeship were more plague than profit to all parties, and made the alienation between proprietors and laborers still more complete. At the same time, as the hours of labor were limited to eight, and Saturday was secured to the apprentices for themselves, the negroes fell into a way of thinking that they could only work those eight hours anyhow, and must have an idle time on the Saturday; and this notion continued to foster indolence for a good while after they were their own masters. The short time, too, which the planters knew they should have them at their control, naturally stimulated them to make the most of them meanwhile. One gentleman in Metcalfe, for instance, laid out a thousand acres of coffee on a newly enlarged property, and gave orders to transfer a gang of negroes from an estate of his some twelve miles distant. The negroes cling like oysters to their birthplace, and they flatly refused to leave their grounds and their friends. The master summoned policemen, and had them cruelly flogged till they consented to go. Apprenticeship was abolished two years earlier than he had reckoned on, and the laborers thus forcibly transferred left him then in a body, and the thousand acres of coffee went to ruin. Had some Trollope chanced then to be travelling through that quarter, and been entertained by the disappointed proprietor with all the noble bounteousness which distinguished him, we can easily imagine how this fact would have figured in his book, as a proof of unconquerable negro laziness.
It was peculiarly unfortunate for Jamaica at this juncture, that the estates were mostly managed by attorneys and overseers for absentee landlords. Middlemen, it is said, ruined Ireland, and it is certain that they have helped mightily to ruin Jamaica. If attorneys had been ever so honest, how could they be efficient, when one attorney had very commonly the charge of four, six, ten, or even fourteen estates? If he paid a hasty visit to each one once in two years he did well. And as to overseers, how could honesty be expected when common morality was not permitted? It was a rule, having almost the force of law, that an overseer, if he married, was at once dismissed. Loose licentiousness and loose dishonesty are very apt to go hand in hand, and it is certain that they did in Jamaica. A saying still in use among the whites of the island illustrates the standard of integrity: 'Make me your executor, and I do not ask you to make me your heir.' No wonder that estates went down like a row of bricks, one after another, when they had such managers. Had Jamaica been occupied at the time of emancipation by a resident proprietary, it is not likely that even they could have so far overcome their despotic habits and contempt for the negro as to treat the laboring population with fairness, and what they value still more, with decent respect. But still less could it be expected of the overseers that they would exercise foresight and self-control enough to retain the good will of the blacks. They had all the feelings of slaveholders, aggravated by more direct contact with the slaves, while their interest only bound them to make the most out of the estates during their own term of employment, no matter if they took a course that would ruin them eventually. Besides, an overseer must have been often tempted to work on the fears of a proprietor, just after emancipation, to persuade him to sell the estate to him; and many a one would not hesitate to ruin the property to bring down its price to his own means,