Page images

from the fea, and accumulated from all points, till the force of the victorious current, always violent at firft, condenfes, and impels them down in deluges. The irregularity of the feafons, or failure of them in May, I apprehend, is to be ascribed to an unusual feebleness and short duration of the Norths in particular years, as well as to the uncommon vigour and permanency of the fea breeze in those years; by which means the vapours are not fuffered to accumulate, but are continually driven on, in one direct track, without oppofition, and therefore do not fall upon the island. For fome time preceding the rainy feafon, its approach is announced by feveral prognoftics. Corufcations of lightning are feen towards night in all parts of the horizon, though not a cloud then perceptible: at other times, thunder-clouds are obferved to continue hovering near the coafts, or over the mountains; and the fcintillations of a faint lightning playing around their edges very beautifully, in a thoufand different figures and directions, during almoft the whole night. As the feafon draws nearer, a black bank of vapours is beheld, for feveral days, rifing a few degrees above the fouthern horizon. The fea breeze at this time is light and fluttering. In a few days time the rain comes on, ufhered in with strong gufts of wind, and hollow thunder at intervals. Nothing can be more awful and majestic than the flow and folemn advance of thefe gloomy vapours, which darken the air, and obfcure the fun for feveral days. The thunder is foon filenced; and then the rain, after fpending its fury in cataracts (for I cannot call them fhowers), drops foftly down in a kind of drizzle during the remainder of the feafon. The rain goes off generally as it came in with fome thunder; after which, the regular wind, whether breeze or north, fets in with a fteady current. The air, thus purified and restored to its elafticity, is then inexpreflibly agreeable; the fun refumes his accustomed fplendour; and all nature feems enlivened.'

He then heightens the colouring. When the fun is retired, the clouds foon move away, and fhortly difappear below the horizon, or wafte into the atmosphere. The beautiful azure canopy then opens to view, ftudded with innumerable twinkling orbs: the moon-light nights are particularly fine, the clearness of ather affisting her luftre, and conflituting her the parent of a fecond day; which though less dazzling to the eye, is, from its greater coolrefs and placidity, more grateful to the mind, and foothing to the fpirits, than the fplendid irradiations of the fovereign luminary. In the moon's abfence, her function is not ill fupplied by the brightnefs of the milky way, (which in this part of the world is tranfcendently beautiful,) and by that glorious planet Venus, which appears here like a little moon, and glitters with fo refulgent a beam, as to caft a fhade from trees, buildings, and other objects; fo that the nights are very feldom fo obfcure as to puzzle a traveller.

No object of nature, I think, can be more pleafing and pictu refque, than the appearance of the heavens about fun-fet, at the clofe of almost every day; when that majestic orb feems perched for a while on the fummit of a mountain: its circumference is dilated by the interpofing vapour; and here, detained in view by the refraction of rays, it looks as if refting fome moments from its career, and in fufpence before its departure: on a fudden it vanishes, leaving a trail of fplendour aloft, which streaks the clouds, according to their


different pofitions and diftances, with the moft lovely and variegated tints that the happiest fancy can imagine. I have often wished, upon thefe occafions, for fome capital painter, to copy from fo perfect and elegant an original. Scenes of this kind are fo frequently exhibited here, that they cease to attract the admiration of the inhabitants in general; for novelties are apt to ftrike the eye much more than the most beautiful objects conftantly feen. Yet Mr. James Dawkins, well known for his tafte and endowments, after having vifited the moft celebrated countries of the Eaft, used to declare, that he thought this island one of the lovelieft fpots he had ever beheld. Nor do I think him partial to his natale folum in this teftimony of approbation; for the gentlemen of this island are not accused of entertaining fuch prejudices; and other travelled connoiffeurs have concurred in the like opinion.'

Having now opened a moft delectable profpect, to tempt the honeft, but friendless adventurer, to fet off for the Weft Indies; he proceeds to enumerate the bleffings which Providence has fo unfparingly bestowed upon the many islands in the neighbourhood of Jamaica. And here he takes occafion to introduce an inftance of that wonderful impulfe in the turtle, which fo obviously governs the whole animal creation; and to fhew, from their vaft abundance, what plenty of delicious food they afford the inhabitants of the Caymanas, three fmall islands lying 30 or 40 leagues from the weft end of Jamaica.

The inftinct which directs the turtle to find these islands, and to make this annual vifitation with so much regularity, is truly wonderful. The greater part of them emigrate from the gulph of Honduras, at the distance of 150 leagues; and, without the aid of chart or compass, perform this tedious navigation with an accuracy fuperior to the beft efforts of human kill; infomuch that it is affirmed, that veffels, which have lost their latitude in hazy weather, have fteered entirely by the noise which thefe creatures make in swimming, to attain the Caymana ifles. The females are faid to lay no less than 900 eggs; which circumftance, if true, may account for the conftant amazing multiplication of their fpecies in thefe feas. When the feafon for hatching is paft, they withdraw to the fhores of Cuba, and other large inlands in the neighbourhood; where they recruit, and in about the fpace of a month acquire that delicious fat for which they are in fo much efteem. In these annual peregrinations across the ocean, they refémble the herring fhoals: which, by an equal providential agency, are guided every year to the European feas, and become the exhauft lefs fource of profit to the British empire. The shore of the Caymanas being very low and fandy, is perfectly well adapted to receive and hatch their eggs; and the rich fubmarine paftures around the larger islands afford a fufficient plenty of nourishing herbage, to repair the wafte which they neceffarily have undergone. Thus the inhabitants of all these islands are, by the gracious difpenfation of the Almighty, benefited in their turn; fo that, when the fruits of the earth are def cient, an ample fuftenance may still be drawn from this never-failing refource of turtle, or their eggs, conducted annually as it were into their very hands.'


Where is the independent fpirit who would not wish to take up his refidence in the hofpitable ifland of the Grand Cayman, removed from every idea of tyranny, and under the government of Nature's gentleft laws; as pictured by our Author?- The Grand Cayman is the only one of the three islands conftantly inhabited. The land is fo low, that, four or five leagues off, it cannot be feen from a fhip's quarterdeck; but is generally known by the trees upon it, which are lofty, and appears at that diftance like a grove of mafts emerging out of the ocean. This ifland is about one mile and a half in length, and about one mile in breadth. It has no harbour for veffels of burthen: but the anchorage on its S. W. coaft is moderately good. On the other, or N. E. fide, it is fortified with reefs of rocks, between which and the fhore, in fmooth water, the inhabitants have their craals for keeping turtle. The prefent race of inhabitants are said to be defcendants from the English Buccaniers: and in all amount to about 160, white men, women, and children. Although the island is an appenage of Jamaica, and fo understood by the law of 1711, which enacts," that no perfon fhall deftroy any turtle eggs upon any ifland or quays belonging to Jamaica;" the people upon it have never been an object of the legislature of that colony: they have a chief, or governor of their own choofing, and regulations of their own framing; they have fome juftices of the peace among them, appointed by commiffion from the governor of jamaica; and live very happily, without fcarcely any form of civil government. Their poverty and fmallnefs of number fecure them effectually from thofe animofities that disturb the peace of larger focieties; yet they are not without a fenfe of decorum in their manner of living. Their tranquillity depends much on a due prefervation of good order. Their governor and magiftrates decide any matter of controversy arifing among them, without appeal. Their fingle men and women, who intend cohabiting together, for the most part, take a voyage to Ja maica, which is only a fhort and agreeable tour on the water, get themselves married with the proper folemnity, difpofe of their turtle, and then return home to their friends. No part of the world perhaps, is more healthful than this fpot: the air, coming to them over a large tract of fea, is extremely pure; the long lives and vigour of the inhabitants are certain proofs of its falubrity. The element that furrounds them affords the greateft abundance of fish and turtle, the latter efteemed the most wholesome of all Weft-India food, and beft agreeing with the climate. The foil, toward the middle range of the island is very fertile, producing corn and vegetables in plenty; fo that the inhabitants are able to breed hogs and poultry more than fufficient for their own use.'

Our Author glances at the advantages which England at prefent obtains from her trade with Jamaica; and like a faithful patriot dwells upon the improvable value of that island to the mother country, if her real intereft was attended to abroad, and affifted at home; and moft of the arguments he advances to fupport his poftulatum, carry conviction with them. After many elaborate calculations, and plans of improvement, he exclaims;

• What

What a field is here opened to difplay the comforts and bleffings of life, which this commerce diftributes among fo many thousands of industrious fubjects in the mother-country! What multitudes participate the fuftenance and conveniences derived from it, who, without it, would either ceafe from existence, or not exist to any useful purpofe! If we fhould carry our ideas further, and imagine double the number of acres to be occupied in the island, and equally cultivated, it would then yield a profit of full two millions and a half yearly to our mother-country; a grand profpect this of future maturity, which offers a large fphere for the exercife of patriotifm! To establish wholefome laws; to help and promote induftry, commerce, and trade; to adminifter impartial juftice; to reclaim uncultivated lands, and make them profitable; is to ftrengthen a ftate, more than it can be by conquefts; it is, in fhort, to acquire new countries and a new community of useful fubjects, without making any one perfon miferable, or fhedding one drop of human blood. The prefent fituation and circumftances of Jamaica afford opportunities of strengthening and improving it, by various means (fome whereof I have prefumed to fuggeft,) and that, not only without making any one miferable, but by beftowing real happinefs; by adopting the fentiments of a mild and free government; by relieving from indigence and oppreffion, and inviting ftrangers to a comfortable means of fubfilence for themfelves and their pofterity; there is no doubt, but if this island was well inhabited, and its lands fufficiently cultivated, it could not fail to reward the most liberal attention bestowed upon it, by becoming infinitely more valuable to Great Britain than it is at prefent.'

It appears from the quantity of fugar imported into England from Jamaica, that the fpirit of planting has of late years much increased the number of fugar-works; it is neceffary therefore, that industry and economy fhould keep pace with that avidity for cane-planting. Cultivating the wafte for the breed of mules and cattle would undoubtedly yield to the private as well as public value of every eftate; we may venture to affert, from the information we have received, that in thofe two articles, the ifland might fave annually 50,000l. and if we combine every adfcititious circumftance arifing from a vigorous cultivation, what immenfe treasure pours in upon the expanded mind!

But if we believe our Author, we feem to want courage to catch at those many advantages, which commerce presents us with. He fixes this accufation particularly to a valuable discovery, from an experiment upon the Cactus or Indian-fig; we will give his own words in evidence to fupport the charge.

It is well known that thefe plants bear a fucculent fruit or berry at the extremity of their leaves, filled with a juice of a delicate red colour, and agreeable tafte. This juice is the natural food of the cochincal infect, which owes to it the value and property it poffeffes, as a dye in fome of our principal manufactures. The exuviæ and animal falts of the infect are, from the minuteness of its parts, infeparable from the effential principles of the dye; whence it follows, that


[ocr errors]

fuch an heterogeneous mixture muft neceffarily deftroy the brilliancy of colour inherent in the juice of this fruit; and that the juice itself, which alone contains the dying principle, muft, if unmixed and brought to confiftence, yield a true perfect colour, lively and brilliant, as we find it in its natural state.

Upon this hypothefis Mr. David Riz, an ingenious gentleman of Kington in this island, proceeded in feveral experiments, to obtain from the plant, artificially, what nature accomplished in the infect, and at length happily fucceeded by infpiffating the juice; but the means he used are not yet communicated to the public. Encouraged by this difcovery, he went to England with feventy-fix proceffes differently manufactured, to try which would answer beft as a fubflitute to the cochineal. After a great number of experiments, he found one procefs which communicated a crim fon colour to filk and wool, fuperior to that given by cochineal; trials of which were made before a number of the principal dyers in and about London, at the museum of the Royal Society, invited there for that purpofe. He alfo found two other proceffes, which promised, with very little alteration in their manufactory, to afford the colour-making dyes of fcarlet and purple. Upon a moderate calculation it was found, that his colour would go further than three times the quantity of cochineal, which he accounted for by remarking, that there is a great part of the infect, as its fkin, &c. which affords no dye, but that the whole of his procefs was genuine colour, with little or no impurity.'


Notwithstanding the advantages that might be derived to the nation from this gentleman's difcovery, he met upon the whole with very little encouragement to profecute his manufacture. It was faid, that our commerce with Spain would be hurt by it;" for this very reafon it ought to have been encouraged. I am a ftranger to the annual importation of cochineal from the Spaniards, but the quantity must certainly be very confiderable, as it is fo largely confumed in our fabrics, and medical compofitions; but whatever the quantity may be, it is evident that the procefs difcovered by Mr. Riz, gave promifes of rendering the importation of that article wholly unneceffary; and as his colour, weight for weight, was found to go further in dying fabrics, than thrice the quantity of cochineal, a great faving would be made by the dyers themselves, and their fabrics would be afforded at a cheaper rate, all which makes in favour of the national balance of trade. There is no doubt but the inventor, for a competent reward (of which he is well deferving,) would have published the fecret of his procefs; thoufands of acres now wafte in Jamaica, might be cultivated with this plant, with little trouble or expence; and a quantity obtained answerable to the home demand.'

Our Author endeavours to call forth an attention in the people of Jamaica to advance the intereft of their country, by pointing out the infinite use that may be made of their 200 rivers, which are permitted to glide idly through their island, many of them unknown, and all of them unregarded; he urges the experiment he recommends, by telling them, that the planters of Hifpaniola give fecundity to their land, by leading the rivers through their eftates from their furtheft fource, and


« PreviousContinue »