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At Last
by Charles Kingsley
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Meanwhile—and hereby hangs a tale—I was interested, not merely in the Armadillo, but in the excellent taste with which it, and everything else, was cooked in a little open shed over a few stones and firesticks. And complimenting my host thereon, I found that he had, there in the primeval forest, an admirable French cook, to whom I begged to be introduced at once. Poor fellow! A little lithe Parisian, not thirty years old, he had got thither by a wild road. Cook to some good bourgeois family in Paris, he had fallen in love with his master's daughter, and she with him. And when their love was hopeless, and discovered, the two young foolish things, not having—as is too common in France—the fear of God before their eyes, could think of no better resource than to shut themselves up with a pan of lighted charcoal, and so go they knew not-whither. The poor girl went—and was found dead. But the boy recovered; and was punished with twenty years of Cayenne; and here he was now, on a sort of ticket-of-leave, cooking for his livelihood. I talked a while with him, cheered him with some compliments about the Parisians, and so forth, dear to the Frenchman's heart—what else was there to say?—and so left him, not without the fancy that, if he had had but such an education as the middle classes in Paris have not, there were the makings of a man in that keen eye, large jaw, sharp chin. 'The very fellow,' said some one, 'to have been a first-rate Zouave.' Well: perhaps he was a better man, even as he was, than as a Zouave.

And so we rode away again, and through Valencia, and through San Josef, weary and happy, back to Port of Spain.

I would gladly, had I been able, have gone farther due westward into the forests which hide the river Oropuche, that I might have visited the scene of a certain two years' Idyll, which was enacted in them some forty years and more ago.

In 1827 cacao fell to so low a price (two dollars per cwt.) that it was no longer worth cultivating; and the head of the F—- family, leaving his slaves to live at ease on his estates, retreated, with a household of twelve persons, to a small property of his own, which was buried in the primeval forests of Oropuche. With them went his second son, Monsignor F—-, then and afterwards cure of San Josef, who died shortly before my visit to the island. I always heard him spoken of as a gentleman and a scholar, a saintly and cultivated priest of the old French School, respected and beloved by men of all denominations. His church of San Josef, though still unfinished, had been taxed, as well as all the Roman Catholic churches of the island, to build the Roman Catholic Cathedral at Port of Spain; and he, refusing to obey an order which he considered unjust, threw up his cure, and retreated with the rest of the family to the palm-leaf ajoupas in the forest.

M. F—- chose three of his finest Negroes as companions. Melchior was to go out every day to shoot wild pigeons, coming every morning to ask how many were needed, so as not to squander powder and shot. The number ordered were always punctually brought in, besides sometimes a wild turkey—Pajui—or other fine birds. Alejos, who is now a cacao proprietor, and owner of a house in Arima, was chosen to go out every day, except Sundays, with the dogs; and scarcely ever failed to bring in a lapp or quenco. Aristobal was chosen for the fishing, and brought in good loads of river fish, some sixteen pounds weight: and thus the little party of cultivated gentlemen and ladies were able to live, though in poverty, yet sumptuously.

The Bishop had given Monsignor F—- permission to perform service on any of his father's estates. So a little chapel was built; the family and servants attended every Sunday, and many days in the week; and the country folk from great distances found their way through the woods to hear Mass in the palm-thatched sanctuary of 'El Riposo.'

So did that happy family live 'the gentle life' for some two years; till cacao rose again in price, the tax on the churches was taken off, and the F—-s returned again to the world: but not to civilisation and Christianity. Those they had carried with them into the wilderness; and those they brought back with them unstained.



CHAPTER XIV: THE 'EDUCATION QUESTION' IN TRINIDAD



When I arrived in Trinidad, the little island was somewhat excited about changes in the system of education, which ended in a compromise like that at home, though starting from almost the opposite point.

Among the many good deeds which Lord Harris did for the colony was the establishment throughout it of secular elementary ward schools, helped by Government grants, on a system which had, I think, but two defects. First, that attendance was not compulsory; and next, that it was too advanced for the state of society in the island.

In an ideal system, secular and religious education ought, I believe, to be strictly separate, and given, as far as possible, by different classes of men. The first is the business of scientific men and their pupils; the second, of the clergy and their pupils: and the less either invades the domain of the other, the better for the community. But, like all ideals, it requires not only first- rate workmen, but first-rate material to work on; an intelligent and high-minded populace, who can and will think for themselves upon religious questions; and who have, moreover, a thirst for truth and knowledge of every kind. With such a populace, secular and religious education can be safely parted. But can they be safely parted in the case of a populace either degraded or still savage; given up to the 'lusts of the flesh'; with no desire for improvement, and ignorant of that 'moral ideal,' without the influence of which, as my friend Professor Huxley well says, there can be no true education? It is well if such a people can be made to submit to one system of education. Is it wise to try to burden them with two at once? But if one system is to give way to the other, which is the more important: to teach them the elements of reading, writing, and arithmetic; or the elements of duty and morals? And how these latter can be taught without religion is a problem as yet unsolved.

So argued some of the Protestant and the whole of the Roman Catholic clergy of Trinidad, and withdrew their support from the Government schools, to such an extent that at least three-fourths of the children, I understand, went to no school at all.

The Roman Catholic clergy had, certainly, much to urge on their own behalf. The great majority of the coloured population of the island, besides a large proportion of the white, belonged to their creed. Their influence was the chief (I had almost said the only) civilising and Christianising influence at work on the lower orders of their own coloured people. They knew, none so well, how much the Negro required, not merely to be instructed, but to be reclaimed from gross and ruinous vices. It was not a question in Port of Spain, any more than it is in Martinique, of whether the Negroes should be able to read and write, but of whether they should exist on the earth at all for a few generations longer. I say this openly and deliberately; and clergymen and police magistrates know but too well what I mean. The priesthood were, and are, doing their best to save the Negro; and they naturally wished to do their work, on behalf of society and of the colony, in their own way; and to subordinate all teaching to that of religion, which includes, with them, morality and decency. They therefore opposed the Government schools; because they tended, it was thought, to withdraw the Negro from his priest's influence.

I am not likely, I presume, to be suspected of any leaning toward Romanism. But I think a Roman Catholic priest would have a right to a fair and respectful hearing, if he said:—

'You have set these people free, without letting them go through that intermediate stage of feudalism, by which, and by which alone, the white races of Europe were educated into true freedom. I do not blame you. You could do no otherwise. But will you hinder their passing through that process of religious education under a priesthood, by which, and by which alone, the white races of Europe were educated up to something like obedience, virtue, and purity?

'These last, you know, we teach in the interest of the State, as well as of the Negro: and if we should ask the State for aid, in order that we may teach them, over and above a little reading and writing—which will not be taught save by us, for we only shall be listened to—are we asking too much, or anything which the State will not be wise in granting us? We can have no temptation to abuse our power for political purposes. It would not suit us—to put the matter on its lowest ground—to become demagogues. For our congregations include persons of every rank and occupation; and therefore it is our interest, as much as that of the British Government, that all classes should be loyal, peaceable, and wealthy.

'As for our peculiar creed, with its vivid appeals to the senses: is it not a question whether the utterly unimaginative and illogical Negro can be taught the facts of Christianity, or indeed any religion at all, save through his senses? Is it not a question whether we do not, on the whole, give him a juster and clearer notion of the very truths which you hold in common with us, than an average Protestant missionary does?

'Your Church of England'—it must be understood that the relations between the Anglican and the Romish clergy in Trinidad are, as far as I have seen, friendly and tolerant—' does good work among its coloured members. But it does so by speaking, as we speak, with authority. It, too, finds it prudent to keep up in its services somewhat at least of that dignity, even pomp, which is as necessary for the Negro as it was for the half-savage European of the early Middle Age, if he is to be raised above his mere natural dread of spells, witches, and other harmful powers, to somewhat of admiration and reverence.

'As for the merely dogmatic teaching of the Dissenters: we do not believe that the mere Negro really comprehends one of those propositions, whether true or false, Catholic or Calvinist, which have been elaborated by the intellect and the emotions of races who have gone through a training unknown to the Negro. With all respect for those who disseminate such books, we think that the Negro can no more conceive the true meaning of an average Dissenting Hymn-book, than a Sclavonian of the German Marches a thousand years ago could have conceived the meaning of St. Augustine's Confessions. For what we see is this—that when the personal influence of the white missionary is withdrawn, and the Negro left to perpetuate his sect on democratic principles, his creed merely feeds his inordinate natural vanity with the notion that everybody who differs from him is going to hell, while he is going to heaven whatever his morals may be.'

If a Roman Catholic priest should say all this, he would at least have a right, I believe, to a respectful hearing.

Nay, more. If he were to say, 'You are afraid of our having too much to do with the education of the Negro, because we use the Confessional as an instrument of education. Now how far the Confessional is needful, or useful, or prudent, in a highly civilised and generally virtuous community, may be an open matter. But in spite of all your English dislike of it, hear our side of the question, as far as Negroes and races in a similar condition are concerned. Do you know why and how the Confessional arose? Have you looked, for instance, into the old middle-age Penitentials? If so, you must be aware that it arose in an age of coarseness, which seems now inconceivable; in those barbarous times when the lower classes of Europe, slaves or serfs, especially in remote country districts, lived lives little better than those of the monkeys in the forest, and committed habitually the most fearful crimes, without any clear notion that they were doing wrong: while the upper classes, to judge from the literature which they have left, were so coarse, and often so profligate, in spite of nobler instincts and a higher sense of duty, that the purest and justest spirits among them had again and again to flee from their own class into the cloister or the hermit's cell.

'In those days, it was found necessary to ask Christian people perpetually—Have you been doing this, or that? For if you have, you are not only unfit to be called a Christian; you are unfit to be called a decent human being. And this, because there was every reason to suppose that they had been doing it; and that they would not tell of themselves, if they could possibly avoid it. So the Confessional arose, as a necessary element for educating savages into common morality and decency. And for the same reasons we employ it among the Negroes of Trinidad. Have no fears lest we should corrupt the minds of the young. They see and hear more harm daily than we could ever teach them, were we so devilishly minded. There is vice now, rampant and notorious, in Port of Spain, which eludes even our Confessional. Let us alone to do our best. God knows we are trying to do it, according to our light.'

If any Roman Catholic clergyman in Port of Spain spoke thus to me— and I have been spoken to in words not unlike these—I could only answer, 'God's blessing on you, and all your efforts, whether I agree with you in detail or not.'

The Roman Catholic inhabitants of the island are to the Protestant as about 2.5 to 1. {288} The whole of the more educated portion of them, as far as I could ascertain, are willing to entrust the education of their children to the clergy. The Archbishop of Trinidad, Monsignor Gonin, who has jurisdiction also in St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, and Tobago, is a man not only of great energy and devotion, but of cultivation and knowledge of the world; having, I was told, attained distinction as a barrister elsewhere before he took Holy Orders. A group of clergy is working under him—among them a personal friend of mine—able and ready to do their best to mend a state of things in which most of the children in the island, born nominal Roman Catholics, but the majority illegitimate, were growing up not only in ignorance, but in heathendom and brutality. Meanwhile, the clergy were in want of funds. There were no funds at all, indeed, which would enable them to set up in remote forest districts a religious school side by side with the secular ward school; and the colony could not well be asked for Government grants to two sets of schools at once. In face of these circumstances, the late Governor thought fit to take action on the very able and interesting report of Mr. J. P. Keenan, one of the chiefs of inspection of the Irish National Board of Education, who had been sent out as special commissioner to inquire into the state of education in the island; to modify Lord Harris's plan, however excellent in itself; and to pass an Ordinance by which Government aid was extended to private elementary schools, of whatever denomination, provided they had duly certificated teachers; were accessible to all children of the neighbourhood without distinction of religion or race; and 'offered solid guarantees for abstinence from proselytism and intolerance, by subjecting their rules and course of teaching to the Board of Education, and empowering that Board at any moment to cancel the certificate of the teacher.' In the wards in which such schools were founded, and proved to be working satisfactorily, the secular ward schools were to be discontinued. But the Government reserved to itself the power of reopening a secular school in the ward, in case the private school turned out a failure.

Such is a short sketch of an Ordinance which seems, to me at least, a rational and fair compromise, identical, mutatis mutandis, with that embodied in Mr. Forster's new Education Act; and the only one by which the lower orders of Trinidad were likely to get any education whatever. It was received, of course, with applause by the Roman Catholics, and by a great number of the Protestants of the colony. But, as was to be expected, it met with strong expressions of dissent from some of the Protestant gentry and clergy; especially from one gentleman, who attacked the new scheme with an acuteness and humour which made even those who differed from him regret that such remarkable talents had no wider sphere than a little island of forty-five miles by sixty. An accession of power to the Roman Catholic clergy was, of course, dreaded; and all the more because it was known that the scheme met with the approval of the Archbishop; that it was, indeed, a compromise with the requests made in a petition which that prelate had lately sent in to the Governor; a petition which seems to me most rational and temperate. It was argued, too, that though the existing Act—that of 1851—had more or less failed, it might still succeed if Lord Harris's plan was fully carried out, and the choice of the ward schoolmaster, the selection of ward school-books, and the direction of the course of instruction, were vested in local committees. The simple answer was, that eighteen years had elapsed, and the colony had done nothing in that direction; that the great majority of children in the island did not go to school at all, while those who did attended most irregularly, and learnt little or nothing; {290} that the secular system of education had not attracted, as it was hoped, the children of the Hindoo immigrants, of whom scarcely one was to be found in a ward school; that the ward schoolmasters were generally inefficient, and the Central Board of Education inactive; that there was no rigorous local supervision, and no local interest felt in the schools; that there were fewer children in the ward schools in 1868 than there had been in 1863, in spite of the rapid increase of population: and all this for the simple reason which the Archbishop had pointed out—the want of religious instruction. As was to be expected, the good people of the island, being most of them religious people also, felt no enthusiasm about schools where little was likely to be taught beyond the three royal R's.

I believe they were wrong. Any teaching which involves moral discipline is better than mere anarchy and idleness. But they had a right to their opinion; and a right too, being the great majority of the islanders, to have that opinion respected by the Governor. Even now, it will be but too likely, I think, that the establishment and superintendence of schools in remote districts will devolve—as it did in Europe during the Middle Age—entirely on the different clergies, simply by default of laymen of sufficient zeal for the welfare of the coloured people. Be that as it may, the Ordinance has become Law; and I have faith enough in the loyalty of the good folk of Trinidad to believe that they will do their best to make it work.

If, indeed, the present Ordinance does not work, it is difficult to conceive any that will. It seems exactly fitted for the needs of Trinidad. I do not say that it is fitted for the needs of any and every country. In Ireland, for instance, such a system would be, in my opinion, simply retrograde. The Irishman, to his honour, has passed, centuries since, beyond the stage at which he requires to be educated by a priesthood in the primary laws of religion and morality. His morality is—on certain important points—superior to that of almost any people. What he needs is to be trained to loyalty and order; to be brought more in contact with the secular science and civilisation of the rest of Europe: and that must be done by a secular, and not by an ecclesiastical system of education.

The higher education, in Trinidad, seems in a more satisfactory state than the elementary. The young ladies, many of them, go 'home'—i.e. to England or France—for their schooling; and some of the young men to Oxford, Cambridge, London, or Edinburgh. The Gilchrist Trust of the University of London has lately offered annually a Scholarship of 100 pounds a year for three years, to lads from the West India colonies, the examinations for it to be held in Jamaica, Barbadoes, Trinidad, and Demerara; and in Trinidad itself two Exhibitions of 150 pounds a year each, tenable for three years, are attainable by lads of the Queen's Collegiate School, to help them toward their studies at a British University.

The Collegiate School received aid from the State to the amount of 3000 pounds per annum—less by the students' fees; and was open to all denominations. But in it, again, the secular system would not work. The great majority of Roman Catholic lads were educated at St. Mary's College, which received no State aid at all. 417 Catholic pupils at the former school, as against 111 at the latter, were—as Mr. Keenan says—'a poor expression of confidence or favour on the part of the colonists.' The Roman Catholic religion was the creed of the great majority of the islanders, and especially of the wealthier and better educated of the coloured families. Justice seemed to demand that if State aid were given, it should be given to all creeds alike; and prudence certainly demanded that the respectable young men of Trinidad should not be arrayed in two alien camps, in which the differences of creed were intensified by those of race, and—in one camp at least—by a sense of something very like injustice on the part of a Protestant, and, it must always be remembered, originally conquering, Government. To give the lads as much as possible the same interests, the same views; to make them all alike feel that they were growing up, not merely English subjects, but English men, was one of the most important social problems in Trinidad. And the simplest way of solving it was, to educate them as much as possible side by side in the same school, on terms of perfect equality.

The late Governor, therefore, with the advice and consent of his Council, determined to develop the Queen's Collegiate School into a new Royal College, which was to be open to all creeds and races without distinction: but upon such terms as will, it is hoped, secure the willing attendance of Roman Catholic scholars. {291} Not only it, but schools duly affiliated to it, are to receive Government aid; and four Exhibitions of 150 pounds a year each, instead of two, are granted to young men going home to a British University. The College was inaugurated—I am sorry to say after I had left the island—in June 1870, by the Governor, in the presence of (to quote the Port of Spain Gazette) the Council, consisting of—

The Honourable the Chief Judge Needham. J. Scott Bushe (Colonial Secretary). Charles W. Warner, C.B. E. J. Eagles. F. Warner. Dr. L. A. A. Verteuil. Henry Court. M. Maxwell Philip. His Honour Mr. Justice Fitzgerald. Andre Bernard, Esq.

The last five of these gentlemen being, I believe, Roman Catholics. Most of the Board of Education were also present; the Principal and Masters of the Collegiate School, the Superiors and Reverend Professors of St. Mary's College, the Clergy of the Church of England in the island; the leading professional men and merchants, etc., and especially a large number of the Roman Catholic gentry of the island; 'MM. Ambard, O'Connor, Giuseppi, Laney, Farfan, Gillineau, Rat, Pantin, Leotaud, Besson, Fraser, Paull, Hobson, Garcia, Dr. Padron,' etc. I quote their names from the Gazette, in the order in which they occur. Many of them I have not the honour of knowing: but judging of those whom I do not know by those whom I do, I should say that their presence at the inauguration was a solid proof that the foundation of the new College was a just and politic measure, opening, as the Gazette well says, a great future to the youth of all creeds in the colony.

The late Governor's speech on the occasion I shall print entire. It will explain the circumstances of the case far better than I can do; and it may possibly meet with interest and approval from those who like to hear sound sense spoken, even in a small colony.

'We are met here to-day to inaugurate the Royal College, an institution in which the benefits of a sound education, I trust, will be secured to Protestants and Roman Catholics alike, without the slightest compromise of their respective principles.

'The Queen's Collegiate School, of which this College is, in some sort, an out-growth and development, was founded with the same object: but, successful as it has been in other respects, it cannot be said to have altogether attained this.

'St. Mary's College was founded by private enterprise with a different view, and to meet the wants of those who objected to the Collegiate School.

'It has long been felt the existence of two Colleges—one, the smaller, almost entirely supported by the State; the other, the larger, wholly without State aid—was objectionable; and that the whole question of secondary education presented a most difficult problem.

'Some saw its solution in the withdrawal of all State aid from higher education; others in the establishment by the State of two distinct Denominational Colleges.

'I have elsewhere explained the reason why I consider both these suggestions faulty, and their probable effect bad; the one being certain to check and discourage superior education altogether, the other likely to substitute inefficient for efficient teaching, and small exclusive schools for a wide national institution.

'I knew that, whilst insuperable objections existed to a combined education in all subjects, that objection had its limits: that in America and in Germany I had seen Protestants and Catholics learning side by side; that in Mauritius, a College numbering 700 pupils, partly Protestants, partly Roman Catholics, existed; and that similar establishments were not uncommon elsewhere.

'I therefore determined to endeavour to effect the establishment of a College where combined study might be carried on in those branches of education with respect to which no objection to such a course was felt, and to support with Government aid, and bring under Government supervision, those establishments where those branches in which a separate education was deemed necessary were taught.

'I had, when last at home, some anxious conferences with the highest ecclesiastical authority of the Roman Catholic Church in England on the subject, and came to a complete understanding with him in respect to it. That distinguished prelate, himself a man of the highest University eminence, is not one to be indifferent to the interests of learning. His position, his known opinions, afford a guarantee that nothing sanctioned by him could, even by the most scrupulous, be considered in the least degree inconsistent with the interests of his Church or his religion.

'He expressed a strong preference for a totally separate education: but candidly admitted the objections to such a course in a small and not very wealthy island, and drew a wide distinction between combination for all purposes, and for some only.

'There were certain courses of instruction in which combined instruction could not possibly be given consistently with due regard to the faith of the pupils; there were others where it was difficult to decide whether it could or could not properly be given; there were others again where it might be certainly given without objection.

'On this understanding the plan carried into effect is based: but the Legislature have gone far beyond what was then agreed; and whilst Archbishop Manning would have assented to an arrangement which would have excluded certain branches only of education from the common course, the law, as now in force, allows exemption from attendance on all, provided competent instruction is given to the pupils in the same branches elsewhere; till, in fact, all that remains obligatory is attendance at examinations, and at the course of instruction in one or more of four given branches of education, if it should so happen that no adequate teaching in that particular branch is given in the pupil's own school.

'A scheme more liberal—a bond more elastic—could hardly have been devised, capable of effecting, if desired, the closest union— capable of being stretched to almost any degree of slight connection; and even if some Catholics would still prefer a wholly separate system, they must, if candid men, admit that the Protestant population here have a right to demand that they should not be called on to surrender, in order to satisfy a mere preference, the great advantages they derive from a united College under State control, with its efficient staff and national character.

'If religious difficulties are met, and conscientious scruples are not wounded, a sacrifice of preferences must often be made. Private wishes must often yield to the public good.

'In the first instance, all the boys of the former Collegiate School have become students of the College; but probably a school of a similar character, but affiliated to the College, will shortly be formed, in which a large number of those boys will be included.

'That the headship of the College should be entrusted to the Principal of the Queen's Collegiate School will, I am sure, be universally felt to be only a just tribute to the zeal, efficiency, and success with which he has hitherto laboured in his office, whilst, in addition to these qualifications, he possesses the no less important one for the post he is about to fill, of a mind singularly impartial, just, liberal, and candid.

'I hope that the other Professors of the College may be taken from affiliated schools indiscriminately, the lectures being given as may be most convenient, and as may be arranged by the College Council.

'It is intended by the College Council that the fees charged for attendance at the Royal College should be much lower than those heretofore charged at the Queen's Collegiate School. I do not believe that the mere financial loss will be great, whilst I believe a good education will, by this means, be placed within the reach of many who cannot now afford it.

'I hope—but I express only my own personal wish, not that of the Council, which, as yet, has pronounced no opinion—that some of the changes introduced in most states of modern education will be made here, and that especial attention will be given to the teaching of some of the Eastern languages.

'It is almost impossible to overrate the importance of this both to the Government and the community;—to the Government, as enabling it to avail itself of the services of honest, competent, and trustworthy interpreters; and to the general community, as relieving both employer and employed from the necessity of depending on the interpretation of men not always very competent, nor always very scrupulous, whose mistakes or errors, whether wilful or accidental, may often effect much injustice, and on whose fidelity life may not unfrequently depend.

'I thank the members of the College Council for having accepted a task which will, at first, involve much delicate tact, forbearance, caution, and firmness, and the exercise of talents I know them to possess, and which I am confident will be freely bestowed in working out the success of the institution committed to their care.

'I thank the Principal and his staff for their past exertions, and I count with confidence on their future labours.

'I thank the parents who, by their presence, have manifested their interest in our undertaking, and their wishes for its success, and I especially thank the ladies who have been drawn within these walls by graver attractions than those which generally bring us together at this building.

'I rejoice to see here the Superior of St. Mary's College, and the goodly array of those under his charge, and I do so for many reasons.

'I rejoice, because being not as yet affiliated or in any way officially connected with the Royal College, their presence is a spontaneous evidence of their goodwill and kindly feeling, and of the spirit in which they have been disposed to meet the efforts made to consult their feelings in the arrangements of this institution; a spirit yet further evinced by the fact that the Superior has informed me that he is about voluntarily to alter the course of study pursued in St. Mary's College, so as more nearly to assimilate it to that pursued here.

'I rejoice, because in their presence I hail a sign that the affiliation which is, I believe, desired by the great body of the Roman Catholic community in this island, and to which it has been shown no insuperable religious obstacle exists, will take place at no more distant day than is necessary to secure the approval, the naturally requisite approval, of ecclesiastical authority elsewhere.

'I rejoice at their presence, because it enables me before this company to express my high sense of the courage and liberality which have maintained their College for years past without any aid whatever from the State, and, in spite of manifold obstacles and discouragements, have caused it to increase in numbers and efficiency.

'I rejoice at their presence, because I desire to see the youth of Trinidad of every race, without indifference to their respective creeds, brought together on all possible occasions, whether for recreation or for work; because I wish to see them engaged in friendly rivalry in their studies now, as they will hereafter be in the world, which I desire to see them enter, not as strangers to each other, but as friends and fellow-citizens.

'I rejoice, because their presence enables me to take a personal farewell of so many of those who will in the next generation be the planters, the merchants, the official and professional men of Trinidad. By the time that you are men all the petty jealousies, all the mean resentments of this our day, will have faded into the oblivion which is their proper bourn. But the work now accomplished will not, I trust, so fade. They will melt and perish as the snow of the north would before our tropical sun: but the College will, I trust, remain as the rock on which the snow rests, and which remains uninjured by the heat, unmoved by the passing storm. May it endure and strengthen as it passes from the first feeble beginnings of this its infancy to a vigorous youth and maturity. You will sometimes in days to come recall the inauguration of your College, and perhaps not forget that its founder prayed you to bear in mind the truth that you will find, even now, the truest satisfaction in the strict discharge of duty; that he urged you to form high and unselfish aims—to seek noble and worthy objects; and as you enter on the world and all its tossing sea of jealousies, strife, division and distrust, to heed the lesson which an Apostle, whose words we all alike revere, has taught us, "If ye bite and devour one another, take ye heed that ye be not consumed one of another."

'Here, we hope, a point of union has been found which may last through life, and that whilst every man cherishes a love for his own peculiar School, all alike will have an interest in their common College, all alike be proud of a national institution, jealous of its honour, and eager to advance its welfare.

'It is a common thing to hear the bitterness of religious discord here deplored. I for one, looking back on the history of past years, cannot think, as some seem to do, that it has increased. On the contrary, it seems to me that it has greatly diminished in violence when displayed, and that its displays are far less frequent. Such, I believe, will be more and more the case; and that whilst religious distinctions will remain the same, and conscientious convictions unaltered, social and party differences consequent on those distinctions and convictions will daily diminish; that all alike will more and more feel in how many things they can think and act together for the benefit of their common country, and of the community of which they all are members; how they can be glad together in her prosperity, and be sad together in the day of her distress; and work together at all times to promote her good. That this College is calculated to aid in a great degree in effecting this happy result, I for one cannot entertain the shadow of a doubt. "Esto perpetua!"'

'Esto perpetua.' But there remains, I believe, more yet to be done for education in the West Indies; and that is to carry out Mr. Keenan's scheme for a Central University for the whole of the West Indian Colonies, {297a} as a focus of higher education; and a focus, also, of cultivated public opinion, round which all that is shrewdest and noblest in the islands shall rally, and find strength in moral and intellectual union. I earnestly recommend all West Indians to ponder Mr. Keenan's weighty words on this matter; believing that, as they do so, even stronger reasons than he has given for establishing such an institution will suggest themselves to West Indian minds.

I am not aware, nor would the reader care much to know, what schools there may be in Port of Spain for Protestant young ladies. I can only say that, to judge from the young ladies themselves, the schools must be excellent. But one school in Port of Spain I am bound in honour, as a clergyman of the Church of England, not to pass by without earnest approval, namely, 'The Convent,' as it is usually called. It was established in 1836, under the patronage of the Roman Catholic Bishop, the Right Rev. Dr. Macdonnel, and was founded by the ladies of St. Joseph, a religious Sisterhood which originated in France a few years since, for the special purpose of diffusing instruction through the colonies. {297b} This institution, which Dr. De Verteuil says is 'unique in the West Indies,' besides keeping up two large girls' schools for poor children, gave in 1857 a higher education to 120 girls of the middle and upper classes, and the number has much increased since then. It is impossible to doubt that this Convent has been 'a blessing to the colony.' At the very time when, just after slavery was abolished, society throughout the island was in the greatest peril, these good ladies came to supply a want which, under the peculiar circumstances of Trinidad, could only have been supplied by the self-sacrifice of devoted women. The Convent has not only spread instruction and religion among the wealthier coloured class: but it has done more; it has been a centre of true civilisation, purity, virtue, where one was but too much needed; and has preserved, doubtless, hundreds of young creatures from serious harm; and that without interfering in any wise, I should think, with their duty to their parents. On the contrary, many a mother in Port of Spain must have found in the Convent a protection for her daughters, better than she herself could give, against influences to which she herself had been but too much exposed during the evil days of slavery; influences which are not yet, alas! extinct in Port of Spain. Creoles will understand my words; and will understand, too, why I, Protestant though I am, bid heartily God speed to the good ladies of St. Joseph.

To the Anglican clergy, meanwhile, whom I met in the West Indies, I am bound to offer my thanks, not for courtesies shown to me—that is a slight matter—but for the worthy fashion in which they seem to be upholding the honour of the good old Church in the colonies. In Port of Spain I heard and saw enough of their work to believe that they are in nowise less active—more active they cannot be—than if they were seaport clergymen in England. The services were performed thoroughly well; with a certain stateliness, which is not only allowable but necessary, in a colony where the majority of the congregation are coloured; but without the least foppery or extravagance. The very best sermon, perhaps, for matter and manner, which I ever heard preached to unlettered folk, was preached by a young clergyman—a West Indian born—in the Great Church of Port of Spain; and he had no lack of hearers, and those attentive ones. The Great Church was always a pleasant sight, with its crowded congregation of every hue, all well dressed, and with the universal West Indian look of comfort; and its noble span of roof overhead, all cut from island timber—another proof of what the wood-carver may effect in the island hereafter. Certainly distractions were frequent and troublesome, at least to a newcomer. A large centipede would come out and take a hurried turn round the Governor's seat; or a bat would settle in broad daylight in the curate's hood; or one had to turn away one's eyes lest they should behold—not vanity, but—the magnificent head of a Cabbage-palm just outside the opposite window, with the black vultures trying to sit on the footstalks in a high wind, and slipping down, and flopping up again, half the service through. But one soon got accustomed to the strange sights; though it was, to say the least, somewhat startling to find, on Christmas Day, the altar and pulpit decked with exquisite tropic flowers; and each doorway arched over with a single pair of coconut leaves, fifteen feet high.

The Christmas Day Communion, too, was one not easily to be forgotten. At least 250 persons, mostly coloured, many as black as jet, attended; and were, I must say for them, most devout in manner. Pleasant it was to see the large proportion of men among them, many young white men of the middle and upper class; and still more pleasant, too, to see that all hues and ranks knelt side by side without the least distinction. One trio touched me deeply. An old lady—I know not who she was—with the unmistakable long, delicate, once beautiful features of a high-bred West Indian of the 'Ancien Regime,' came and knelt reverently, feebly, sadly, between two old Negro women. One of them seemed her maid. Both of them might have been once her slaves. Here at least they were equals. True Equality—the consecration of humility, not the consecration of envy—first appeared on earth in the house of God, and at the altar of Christ: and I question much whether it will linger long in any spot on earth where that house and that altar are despised. It is easy to propose an equality without Christianity; as easy as to propose to kick down the ladder by which you have climbed, or to saw off the bough on which you sit. As easy; and as safe.

But I must not forget, while speaking of education in Trinidad, one truly 'educational' establishment which I visited at Tacarigua; namely, a Coolie Orphan Home, assisted by the State, but set up and kept up almost entirely by the zeal of one man—the Rev. —- Richards, brother of the excellent Rector of Trinity Church, Port of Spain. This good man, having no children of his own, has taken for his children the little brown immigrants, who, losing father and mother, are but too apt to be neglected by their own folk. At the foot of the mountains, beside a clear swift stream, amid scenery and vegetation which an European millionaire might envy, he has built a smart little quadrangle, with a long low house, on one side for the girls, on the other for the boys; a schoolroom, which was as well supplied with books, maps, and pictures as any average National School in England; and, adjoining the buildings, a garden where the boys are taught to work. A matron—who seemed thoroughly worthy of her post—conducts the whole; and comfort, cleanliness, and order were visible everywhere. A pleasant sight; but the pleasantest sight of all was to see the little bright-eyed brown darlings clustering round him who was indeed their father in God; who had delivered them from misery and loneliness, and—in the case of the girls—too probably vice likewise; and drawn them, by love, to civilisation and Christianity. The children, as fast as they grow up, are put out to domestic service, and the great majority of the boys at least turn out well. The girls, I was told, are curiously inferior to the boys in intellect and force of character; an inferiority which is certainly not to be found in Negroes, among whom the two sexes are more on a par, not only intellectually, but physically also, than among any race which I have seen. One instance, indeed, we saw of the success of the school. A young creature, brought up there, and well married near by, came in during our visit to show off her first baby to the matron and the children; as pretty a mother and babe as one could well see. Only we regretted that, in obedience to the supposed demands of civilisation, and of a rise in life, she had discarded the graceful and modest Hindoo dress of her ancestresses, for a French bonnet and all that accompanies it. The transfiguration added, one must charitably suppose, to her self-respect; if so, it must be condoned on moral grounds: but in an aesthetic view, she had made a great mistake.

In remembrance of our visit, a little brown child, some three or four years old, who had been christened that day, was named after me; and I was glad to have my name connected, even in so minute an item, with an institution which at all events delivers children from the fancy that they can, without being good or doing good, conciliate the upper powers by hanging garlands on a trident inside a hut, or putting red dust on a stump of wood outside it, while they stare in and mumble prayers to they know not what of gilded wood.

The coolie temples are curious places to those who have never before been face to face with real heathendom. Their mark is, generally, a long bamboo with a pennon atop, outside a low dark hut, with a broad flat verandah, or rather shed, outside the door. Under the latter, opposite each door, if I recollect rightly, is a stone or small stump, on which offerings are made of red dust and flowers. From it the worshippers can see the images within. The white man, stooping, enters the temple. The attendant priest, so far from forbidding him, seems highly honoured, especially if the visitor give him a shilling; and points out, in the darkness—for there is no light save through the low doors—three or four squatting abominations, usually gilded. Sometimes these have been carved in the island. Sometimes the poor folk have taken the trouble to bring them all the way from India on board ship. Hung beside them on the walls are little pictures, often very well executed in the miniature-like Hindoo style by native artists in the island. Large brass pots, which have some sacred meaning, stand about, and with them a curious trident-shaped stand, about four feet high, on the horns of which garlands of flowers are hung as offerings. The visitor is told that the male figures are Mahadeva, and the female Kali: we could hear of no other deities. I leave it to those who know Indian mythology better than I do, to interpret the meaning—or rather the past meaning, for I suspect it means very little now—of all this trumpery and nonsense, on which the poor folk seem to spend much money. It was impossible, of course, even if one had understood their language, to find out what notions they attached to it all; and all I could do, on looking at these heathen idol chapels, in the midst of a Christian and civilised land, was to ponder, in sadness and astonishment, over a puzzle as yet to me inexplicable; namely, how human beings first got into their heads the vagary of worshipping images. I fully allow the cleverness and apparent reasonableness of M. Comte's now famous theory of the development of religions. I blame no one for holding it. But I cannot agree with it. The more of a 'saine appreciation,' as M. Comte calls it, I bring to bear on the known facts; the more I 'let my thought play freely around them,' the more it is inconceivable to me, according to any laws of the human intellect which I have seen at work, that savage or half-savage folk should have invented idolatries. I do not believe that Fetishism is the parent of idolatry; but rather—as I have said elsewhere—that it is the dregs and remnants of idolatry. The idolatrous nations now, as always, are not the savage nations; but those who profess a very ancient and decaying civilisation. The Hebrew Scriptures uniformly represent the non- idolatrous and monotheistic peoples, from Abraham to Cyrus, as lower in what we now call the scale of civilisation, than the idolatrous and polytheistic peoples about them. May not the contrast between the Patriarchs and the Pharaohs, David and the Philistines, the Persians and the Babylonians, mark a law of history of wider application than we are wont to suspect? But if so, what was the parent of idolatry? For a natural genesis it must have had, whether it be a healthy and necessary development of the human mind—as some hold, not without weighty arguments on their side; or whether it be a diseased and merely fungoid growth, as I believe it to be. I cannot hold that it originated in Nature-worship, simply because I can find no evidence of such an origin. There is rather evidence, if the statements of the idolaters themselves are to be taken, that it originated in the worship of superior races by inferior races; possibly also in the worship of works of art which those races, dying out, had left behind them, and which the lower race, while unable to copy them, believed to be possessed of magical powers derived from a civilisation which they had lost. After a while the priesthood, which has usually, in all ages and countries, proclaimed itself the depository of a knowledge and a civilisation lost to the mass of the people, may have gained courage to imitate these old works of art, with proper improvements for the worse, and have persuaded the people that the new idols would do as well as the old ones. Would that some truly learned man would 'let his thoughts play freely' round this view of the mystery, and see what can be made out of it. But whatever is made out, on either view, it will still remain a mystery—to me at least, as much as to Isaiah of old- -how this utterly abnormal and astonishing animal called man first got into his foolish head that he could cut a thing out of wood or stone which would listen to him and answer his prayers. Yet so it is; so it has been for unnumbered ages. Man may be defined as a speaking animal, or a cooking animal. He is best, I fear, defined as an idolatrous animal; and so much the worse for him. But what if that very fact, diseased as it is, should be a sure proof that he is more than an animal?



CHAPTER XV: THE RACES—A LETTER



Dear —-, I have been to the races: not to bet, nor to see the horses run: not even to see the fair ladies on the Grand Stand, in all the newest fashions of Paris via New York: but to wander en mufti among the crowd outside, and behold the humours of men. And I must say that their humours were very good humours; far better, it seemed to me, than those of an English race-ground. Not that I have set foot on one for thirty years; but at railway stations, and elsewhere, one cannot help seeing what manner of folk, beside mere holiday folk, rich or poor, affect English races; or help pronouncing them, if physiognomy be any test of character, the most degraded beings, even some of those smart-dressed men who carry bags with their names on them, which our pseudo-civilisation has yet done itself the dishonour of producing. Now, of that class I saw absolutely none. I do not suppose that the brown fellows who hung about the horses, whether Barbadians or Trinidad men, were of very angelic morals: but they looked like heroes compared with the bloated hangdog roughs and quasi-grooms of English races. As for the sporting gentlemen, not having the honour to know them, I can only say that they looked like gentlemen, and that I wish, in all courtesy, that they had been more wisely employed.

But the Negro, or the coloured man of the lower class, was in his glory. He was smart, clean, shiny, happy, according to his light. He got up into trees, and clustered there, grinning from ear to ear. He bawled about island horses and Barbadian horses—for the Barbadians mustered strong, and a fight was expected, which, however, never came off; he sang songs, possibly some of them extempore, like that which amused one's childhood concerning a once notable event in a certain island—

'I went to da Place To see da horse-race, I see Mr. Barton A-wipin' ob his face.

'Run Allright, Run for your life; See Mr Barton A comin wid a knife.

'Oh, Mr Barton, I sarry for your loss; If you no believe me, I tie my head across.'

That is—go into mourning. But no one seemed inclined to tie their heads, across that day. The Coolies seemed as merry as the Negroes, even about the face of the Chinese there flickered, at times, a feeble ray of interest.

The coloured women wandered about, in showy prints, great crinolines, and gorgeous turbans. The Coolie women sat in groups on the glass—ah! Isle of the Blest, where people can sit on the grass in January—like live flower beds of the most splendid and yet harmonious hues. As for jewels, of gold as well as silver, there were many there, on arms, ankles, necks, and noses, which made white ladies fresh from England break the tenth commandment.

I wandered about, looking at the live flower beds, and giving passing glances into booths, which I longed to enter, and hear what sort of human speech might be going on therein but I was deterred, first by the thought that much of the speech might not be over edifying, and next by the smells, especially by that most hideous of all smells—new rum.

At last I came to a crowd, and in the midst of it, one of those great French merry-go-rounds turned by machinery, with pictures of languishing ladies round the central column. All the way from the Champs Elysees the huge piece of fool's tackle had lumbered and creaked hither across the sea to Martinique, and was now making the round of the islands, and a very profitable round, to judge from the number of its customers. The hobby-horses swarmed with Negresses and Hindoos of the lower order. The Negresses, I am sorry to say, forgot themselves, kicked up their legs, shouted to the bystanders, and were altogether incondite. The Hindoo women, though showing much more of their limbs than the Negresses, kept them gracefully together, drew their veils round their heads, and sat coyly, half frightened, half amused, to the delight of their papas, or husbands, who had in some cases to urge them to get up and ride, while they stood by, as on guard, with the long hardwood quarter staff in hand.

As I looked on, considered what a strange creature man is, and wondered what possible pleasure these women could derive from being whirled round till they were giddy and stupid, I saw an old gentleman seemingly absorbed in the very same reflection. He was dressed in dark blue, with a straw hat. He stood with his hands behind his back, his knees a little bent, and a sort of wise, half- sad, half-humorous smile upon his aquiline high-cheek-boned features. I took him for an old Scot; a canny, austere man—a man, too, who had known sorrow, and profited thereby; and I drew near to him. But as he turned his head deliberately round to me, I beheld to my astonishment the unmistakable features of a Chinese. He and I looked each other full in the face, without a word; and I fancied that we understood each other about the merry-go-round, and many things besides. And then we both walked off different ways, as having seen enough, and more than enough. Was he, after all, an honest man and true? Or had he, like Ah Sin, in Mr. Bret Harte's delectable ballad, with 'the smile that was child-like and bland'—

'In his sleeves, which were large, Twenty-four packs of cards, And—On his nails, which were taper, What's common in tapers—that's wax'?

I know not; for the Chinese visage is unfathomable. But I incline to this day to the more charitable judgment; for the man's face haunted me, and haunts me still; and I am weak enough to believe that I should know the man and like him, if I met him in another planet, a thousand years hence.

Then I walked back under the blazing sun across the Savanna, over the sensitive plants and the mole-crickets' nests, while the great locusts whirred up before me at every step; toward the archway between the bamboo-clumps, and the red sentry shining like a spark of fire beneath its deep shadow; and found on my way a dying racehorse, with a group of coloured men round him, whom I advised in vain to do the one thing needful—put a blanket over him to keep off the sun, for the poor thing had fallen from sunstroke; so I left them to jabber and do nothing: asking myself—Is the human race, in the matter of amusements, as civilised as it was—say three thousand years ago? People have, certainly—quite of late years—given up going to see cocks fight, or heretics burnt: but that is mainly because the heretics just now make the laws—in favour of themselves and the cocks. But are our amusements to be compared with those of the old Greeks, with the one exception of liking to hear really good music? Yet that fruit of civilisation is barely twenty years old; and we owe its introduction, be it always remembered, to the Germans. French civilisation signifies practically, certainly in the New World, little save ballet-girls, billiard-tables, and thin boots: English civilisation, little save horse-racing and cricket. The latter sport is certainly blameless; nay, in the West Indies, laudable and even heroic, when played, as on the Savanna here, under a noonday sun which feels hot enough to cook a mutton-chop. But with all respect for cricket, one cannot help looking back at the old games of Greece, and questioning whether man has advanced much in the art of amusing himself rationally and wholesomely.

I had reason to ask the same question that evening, as we sat in the cool verandah, watching the fireflies flicker about the tree-tops, and listening to the weary din of the tom-toms which came from all sides of the Savanna save our own, drowning the screeching and snoring of the toads, and even, at times, the screams of an European band, which was playing a 'combination tune,' near the Grand Stand, half a mile off.

To the music of tom-tom and chac-chac, the coloured folk would dance perpetually till ten o'clock, after which time the rites of Mylitta are silenced by the policeman, for the sake of quiet folk in bed. They are but too apt, however, to break out again with fresh din about one in the morning, under the excuse—'Dis am not last night, Policeman. Dis am 'nother day.'

Well: but is the nightly tom-tom dance so much more absurd than the nightly ball, which is now considered an integral element of white civilisation? A few centuries hence may not both of them be looked back on as equally sheer barbarisms?

These tom-tom dances are not easily seen. The only glance I ever had of them was from the steep slope of once beautiful Belmont. 'Sitting on a hill apart,' my host and I were discoursing, not 'of fate, free-will, free-knowledge absolute,' but of a question almost as mysterious—the doings of the Parasol-ants who marched up and down their trackways past us, and whether these doings were guided by an intellect differing from ours, only in degree, but not in kind. A hundred yards below we espied a dance in a negro garden; a few couples, mostly of women, pousetting to each other with violent and ungainly stampings, to the music of tom-tom and chac-chac, if music it can be called. Some power over the emotions it must have; for the Negroes are said to be gradually maddened by it; and white people have told me that its very monotony, if listened to long, is strangely exciting, like the monotony of a bagpipe drone, or of a drum. What more went on at the dance we could not see; and if we had tried, we should probably not have been allowed to see. The Negro is chary of admitting white men to his amusements; and no wonder. If a London ballroom were suddenly invaded by Phoebus, Ares, and Hermes, such as Homer drew them, they would probably be unwelcome guests; at least in the eyes of the gentlemen. The latter would, I suspect, thoroughly sympathise with the Negro in the old story, intelligible enough to those who know what is the favourite food of a West Indian chicken.

'Well, John, so they gave a dignity ball on the estate last night?'

'Yes, massa, very nice ball. Plenty of pretty ladies, massa.'

'Why did you not ask me, John? I like to look at pretty ladies as well as you.'

'Ah, massa: when cockroach give a ball, him no ask da fowls.'

Great and worthy exertions are made, every London Season, for the conversion of the Negro and the Heathen, and the abolition of their barbarous customs and dances. It is to be hoped that the Negro and the Heathen will some day show their gratitude to us, by sending missionaries hither to convert the London Season itself, dances and all; and assist it to take the beam out of its own eye, in return for having taken the mote out of theirs.



CHAPTER XVI: A PROVISION GROUND



The 'provision grounds' of the Negroes were very interesting. I had longed to behold, alive and growing, fruits and plants which I had heard so often named, and seen so often figured, that I had expected to recognise many of them at first sight; and found, in nine cases out of ten, that I could not. Again, I had longed to gather some hints as to the possibility of carrying out in the West Indian islands that system of 'Petite Culture'—of small spade farming— which I have long regarded, with Mr. John Stuart Mill and others, as not only the ideal form of agriculture, but perhaps the basis of any ideal rustic civilisation. And what scanty and imperfect facts I could collect I set down here.

It was a pleasant sensation to have, day after day, old names translated for me into new facts. Pleasant, at least to me: not so pleasant, I fear, to my kind companions, whose courtesy I taxed to the uttermost by stopping to look over every fence, and ask, 'What is that? And that?' Let the reader who has a taste for the beautiful as well as the useful in horticulture, do the same, and look in fancy over the hedge of the nearest provision ground.

There are orange-trees laden with fruit: who knows not them? and that awkward-boughed tree, with huge green fruit, and deeply-cut leaves a foot or more across—leaves so grand that, as one of our party often suggested, their form ought to be introduced into architectural ornamentation, and to take the place of the Greek acanthus, which they surpass in beauty—that is, of course, a Bread- fruit tree.

That round-headed tree, with dark rich Portugal laurel foliage, arranged in stars at the end of each twig, is the Mango, always a beautiful object, whether in orchard or in open park. In the West Indies, as far as I have seen, the Mango has not yet reached the huge size of its ancestors in Hindostan. There—to judge, at least, from photographs—the Mango must be indeed the queen of trees; growing to the size of the largest English oak, and keeping always the round oak-like form. Rich in resplendent foliage, and still more rich in fruit, the tree easily became encircled with an atmosphere of myth in the fancy of the imaginative Hindoo.

That tree with upright branches, and large, dark, glossy leaves tiled upwards along them, is the Mammee Sapota, {311a} beautiful likewise. And what is the next, like an evergreen peach, shedding from the under side of every leaf a golden light—call it not shade? A Star-apple; {311b} and that young thing which you may often see grown into a great timber-tree, with leaves like a Spanish chestnut, is the Avocado, {311c} or, as some call it, alligator, pear. This with the glossy leaves, somewhat like the Mammee Sapota, is a Sapodilla, {311d} and that with leaves like a great myrtle, and bright flesh-coloured fruit, a Malacca-apple, or perhaps a Rose- apple. {311e} Its neighbour, with large leaves, gray and rough underneath, flowers as big as your two hands, with greenish petals and a purple eye, followed by fat scaly yellow apples, is the Sweet- sop; {311f} and that privet-like bush with little flowers and green berries a Guava, {311g} of which you may eat if you will, as you may of the rest.

The truth, however, must be told. These West Indian fruits are, most of them, still so little improved by careful culture and selection of kinds, that not one of them (as far as we have tried them) is to be compared with an average strawberry, plum, or pear.

But how beautiful they are all and each, after their kinds! What a joy for a man to stand at his door and simply look at them growing, leafing, blossoming, fruiting, without pause, through the perpetual summer, in his little garden of the Hesperides, where, as in those of the Phoenicians of old, 'pear grows ripe on pear, and fig on fig,' for ever and for ever!

Now look at the vegetables. At the Bananas and Plantains first of all. A stranger's eye would not distinguish them. The practical difference between them is, that the Plaintain {311h} bears large fruits which require cooking; the Banana {312a} smaller and sweeter fruits, which are eaten raw. As for the plant on which they grow, no mere words can picture the simple grandeur and grace of a form which startles me whenever I look steadily at it. For however common it is—none commoner here—it is so unlike aught else, so perfect in itself, that, like a palm, it might well have become, in early ages, an object of worship.

And who knows that it has not? Who knows that there have not been races who looked on it as the Red Indians looked on Mondamin, the maize-plant; as a gift of a god—perhaps the incarnation of a god? Who knows? Whence did the ancestors of that plant come? What was its wild stock like ages ago? It is wild nowhere now on earth. It stands alone and unique in the vegetable kingdom, with distant cousins, but no brother kinds. It has been cultivated so long that though it flowers and fruits, it seldom or never seeds, and is propagated entirely by cuttings. The only spot, as far as I am aware, in which it seeds regularly and plentifully, is the remote, and till of late barbarous Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. {312b}

There it regularly springs up in the second growth, after the forest is cleared, and bears fruits full of seed as close together as they can be pressed. How did the plant get there? Was it once cultivated there by a race superior to the now utterly savage islanders, and at an epoch so remote that it had not yet lost the power of seeding? Are the Andamans its original home? or rather, was its original home that great southern continent of which the Andamans are perhaps a remnant? Does not this fact, as well as the broader fact that different varieties of the Plantain and Banana girdle the earth round at the Tropics, and have girdled it as long as records go back, hint at a time when there was a tropic continent or archipelago round the whole equator, and at a civilisation and a horticulture to which those of old Egypt are upstarts of yesterday? There are those who never can look at the Banana without a feeling of awe, as at a token of holy ancient the race of man may be, and how little we know of his history.

Most beautiful it is. The lush fat green stem; the crown of huge leaves, falling over in curves like those of human limbs; and below, the whorls of green or golden fruit, with the purple heart of flowers dangling below them; and all so full of life, that this splendid object is the product of a few months. I am told that if you cut the stem off at certain seasons, you may see the young leaf- -remember that it is an endogen, and grows from within, like a palm, or a lily, or a grass—actually move upward from within and grow before your eyes; and that each stem of Plantain will bear from thirty to sixty pounds of rich food during the year of its short life.

But, beside the grand Plantains and Bananas, there are other interesting plants, whose names you have often heard. The tall plant with stem unbranched, but knotty and zigzag, and leaves atop like hemp, but of a cold purplish tinge, is the famous Cassava, {313a} or Manioc, the old food of the Indians, poisonous till its juice is squeezed out in a curious spiral grass basket. The young Laburnums (as they seem), with purple flowers, are Pigeon-peas, {313b} right good to eat. The creeping vines, like our Tamus, or Black Bryony, are Yams, {313c}—best of all roots.

The branching broad-leaved canes, with strange white flowers, is Arrowroot. {313d} The tall mallow-like shrub, with large pale yellowish-white flowers, Cotton. The huge grass with beads on it {313e} is covered with the Job's tears, which are precious in children's eyes, and will be used as beads for necklaces. The castor-oil plants, and the maize—that last always beautiful—are of course well known. The arrow leaves, three feet long, on stalks three feet high, like gigantic Arums, are Tanias, {313f} whose roots are excellent. The plot of creeping convolvulus-like plants, with purple flowers, is the Sweet, or true, Potato. {313g}

And we must not overlook the French Physic-nut, {313h} with its hemp like leaves, and a little bunch of red coral in the midst, with which the Negro loves to adorn his garden, and uses it also as medicine; or the Indian Shot, {313i} which may be seen planted out now in summer gardens in England. The Negro grows it, not for its pretty crimson flowers, but because its hard seed put into a bladder furnishes him with that detestable musical instrument the chac-chac, wherewith he accompanies nightly that equally detestable instrument the tom-tom.

The list of vegetables is already long: but there are a few more to be added to it. For there, in a corner, creep some plants of the Earth-nut, {314a} a little vetch which buries its pods in the earth. The owner will roast and eat their oily seeds. There is also a tall bunch of Ochro {314b}—a purple-stemmed mallow-flowered plant—whose mucilaginous seeds will thicken his soup. Up a tree, and round the house-eaves, scramble a large coarse Pumpkin, and a more delicate Granadilla, {314c} whose large yellow fruits hang ready to be plucked, and eaten principally for a few seeds of the shape and colour of young cockroaches. If he be a prudent man (especially if he lives in Jamaica), he will have a plant of the pretty Overlook pea, {314d} trailing aloft somewhere, to prevent his garden being 'overlooked,' i.e. bewitched by an evil eye, in case the Obeah- bottle which hangs from the Mango-tree, charged with toad and spider, dirty water, and so forth, has no terrors for his secret enemy. He will have a Libidibi {314e} tree, too, for astringent medicine; and his hedge will be composed, if he be a man of taste— as he often seems to be—of Hibiscus bushes, whose magnificent crimson flowers contrast with the bright yellow bunches of the common Cassia, and the scarlet flowers of the Jumby-bead bush, {314f} and blue and white and pink Convolvuluses. The sulphur and purple Neerembergia of our hothouses, which is here one mass of flower at Christmas, and the creeping Crab's-eye Vine, {314g} will scramble over the fence; while, as a finish to his little Paradise, he will have planted at each of its four corners an upright Dragon's-blood {314h} bush, whose violet and red leaves bedeck our dinner-tables in winter; and are here used, from their unlikeness to any other plant in the island, to mark boundaries.

I have not dared—for fear of prolixity—to make this catalogue as complete as I could have done. But it must be remembered that, over and above all this, every hedge and wood furnishes wild fruit more or less eatable; the high forests plenty of oily seeds, in which the tropic man delights; and woods, forests, and fields medicinal plants uncounted. 'There is more medicine in the bush, and better, than in all the shops in Port of Spain,' said a wise medical man to me; and to the Exhibition of 1862 Mr. M'Clintock alone contributed, from British Guiana, one hundred and forty species of barks used as medicine by the Indians. There is therefore no fear that the tropical small farmer should suffer, either from want, or from monotony of food; and equally small fear lest, when his children have eaten themselves sick—as they are likely to do if, like the Negro children, they are eating all day long—he should be unable to find something in the hedge which will set them all right again.

At the amount of food which a man can get off this little patch I dare not guess. Well says Humboldt, that an European lately arrived in the torrid zone is struck with nothing so much as the extreme smallness of the spots under cultivation round a cabin which contains a numerous family. The plantains alone ought, according to Humboldt, to give one hundred and thirty-three times as much food as the same space of ground sown with wheat, and forty-four times as much as if it grew potatoes. True, the plantain is by no means as nourishing as wheat: which reduces the actual difference between their value per acre to twenty-five to one. But under his plantains he can grow other vegetables. He has no winter, and therefore some crop or other is always coming forward. From whence it comes, that, as I just hinted, his wife and children seem to have always something to eat in their mouths, if it be only the berries and nuts which abound in every hedge and wood. Neither dare I guess at the profit which he might make, and I hope will some day make, out of his land, if he would cultivate somewhat more for exportation, and not merely for home consumption. If any one wishes to know more on this matter, let him consult the catalogue of contributions from British Guiana to the London Exhibition of 1862; especially the pages from lix. to lxviii. on the starch-producing plants of the West Indies.

Beyond the facts which I have given as to the plantain, I have no statistics of the amount of produce which is usually raised on a West Indian provision ground. Nor would any be of use; for a glance shows that the limit of production has not been nearly reached. Were the fork used instead of the hoe; were the weeds kept down; were the manure returned to the soil, instead of festering about everywhere in sun and rain: in a word, were even as much done for the land as an English labourer does for his garden; still more, if as much were done for it as for a suburban market-garden, the produce might be doubled or trebled, and that without exhausting the soil.

The West Indian peasant can, if he will, carry 'la petite Culture' to a perfection and a wealth which it has not yet attained even in China, Japan, and Hindostan, and make every rood of ground not merely maintain its man, but its civilised man. This, however, will require a skill and a thoughtfulness which the Negro does not as yet possess. If he ever had them, he lost them under slavery, from the brutalising effects of a rough and unscientific 'grande culture'; and it will need several generations of training ere he recovers them. Garden-tillage and spade-farming are not learnt in a day, especially when they depend—as they always must in temperate climates—for their main profit on some article which requires skilled labour to prepare it for the market—on flax, for instance, silk, wine, or fruits. An average English labourer, I fear, if put in possession of half a dozen acres of land, would fare as badly as the poor Chartists who, some twenty years ago, joined in Feargus O'Connor's land scheme, unless he knew half a dozen ways of eking out a livelihood which even our squatters around Windsor and the New Forest are, alas! forgetting, under the money-making and man- unmaking influences of the 'division of labour.' He is vanishing fast, the old bee-keeping, apple-growing, basket-making, copse- cutting, many-counselled Ulysses of our youth, as handy as a sailor: and we know too well what he leaves behind him; grandchildren better fed, better clothed, better taught than he, but his inferiors in intellect and in manhood, because—whatever they may be taught—they cannot be taught by schooling to use their fingers and their wits. I fear, therefore, that the average English labourer would not prosper here. He has not stamina enough for the hard work of the sugar plantation. He has not wit and handiness enough for the more delicate work of a little spade-farm: and he would sink, as the Negro seems inclined to sink, into a mere grower of food for himself; or take to drink—as too many of the white immigrants to certain West Indian colonies did thirty years ago—and burn the life out of himself with new rum. The Hindoo immigrant, on the other hand, has been trained by long ages to a somewhat scientific agriculture, and civilised into the want of many luxuries for which the Negro cares nothing; and it is to him that we must look, I think, for a 'petite culture' which will do justice to the inexhaustible wealth of the West Indian soil and climate.

As for the house, which is embowered in the little Paradise which I have been describing, I am sorry to say that it is, in general, the merest wooden hut on stilts; the front half altogether open and unwalled; the back half boarded up to form a single room, a passing glance into which will not make the stranger wish to enter, if he has any nose, or any dislike of vermin. The group at the door, meanwhile, will do anything but invite him to enter; and he will ride on, with something like a sigh at what man might be, and what he is.

Doubtless, there are great excuses for the inmates. A house in this climate is only needed for a sleeping or lounging place. The cooking is carried on between a few stones in the garden; the washing at the neighbouring brook. No store rooms are needed, where there is no winter, and everything grows fresh and fresh, save the salt-fish, which can be easily kept—and I understand usually is kept—underneath the bed. As for separate bedrooms for boys and girls, and all those decencies and moralities for which those who build model cottages strive, and with good cause—of such things none dream. But it is not so very long ago that the British Isles were not perfect in such matters; some think that they are not quite perfect yet. So we will take the beam out of our own eye, before we try to take the mote from the Negro's. The latter, however, no man can do. For the Negro, being a freeholder and the owner of his own cottage, must take the mote out of his own eye, having no landlord to build cottages for him; in the meanwhile, however, the less said about his lodging the better.

In the villages, however, in Maraval, for instance, you see houses of a far better stamp, belonging, I believe, to coloured people employed in trades; long and low wooden buildings with jalousies instead of windows—for no glass is needed here; divided into rooms, and smart with paint, which is not as pretty as the native wood. You catch sight as you pass of prints, usually devotional, on the walls, comfortable furniture, looking-glasses, and sideboards, and other pleasant signs that a civilisation of the middle classes is springing up; and springing, to judge from the number of new houses building everywhere, very rapidly, as befits a colony whose revenue has risen, since 1855, from 72,300 pounds to 240,000 pounds, beside the local taxation of the wards, some 30,000 pounds or 40,000 pounds more.

What will be the future of agriculture in the West Indian colonies I of course dare not guess. The profits of sugar-growing, in spite of all drawbacks, have been of late very great. They will be greater still under the improved methods of manufacture which will be employed now that the sugar duties have been at least rationally reformed by Mr. Lowe. And therefore, for some time to come, capital will naturally flow towards sugar-planting; and great sheets of the forest will be, too probably, ruthlessly and wastefully swept away to make room for canes. And yet one must ask, regretfully, are there no other cultures save that of cane which will yield a fair, even an ample, return, to men of small capital and energetic habits? What of the culture of bamboo for paper-fibre, of which I have spoken already? It has been, I understand, taken up successfully in Jamaica, to supply the United States' paper market. Why should it not be taken up in Trinidad? Why should not Plantain-meal {318a} be hereafter largely exported for the use of the English working classes? Why should not Trinidad, and other islands, export fruits- -preserved fruits especially? Surely such a trade might be profitable, if only a quarter as much care were taken in the West Indies as is taken in England to improve the varieties by selection and culture; and care taken also not to spoil the preserves, as now, for the English market, by swamping them with sugar or sling. Can nothing be done in growing the oil-producing seeds with which the Tropics abound, and for which a demand is rising in England, if it be only for use about machinery? Nothing, too, toward growing drugs for the home market? Nothing toward using the treasures of gutta- percha which are now wasting in the Balatas? Above all, can nothing be done to increase the yield of the cacao-farms, and the quality of Trinidad cacao?

For this latter industry, at least, I have hope. My friend—if he will allow me to call him so—Mr. John Law has shown what extraordinary returns may be obtained from improved cacao-growing; at least, so far to his own satisfaction that he is himself trying the experiment. He calculates {318b} that 200 acres, at a maximum outlay of about 11,000 dollars spread over six years, and diminishing from that time till the end of the tenth year, should give, for fifty years after that, a net income of 6800 dollars; and then 'the industrious planter may sit down,' as I heartily hope Mr. Law will do, 'and enjoy the fruits of his labour.'

Mr. Law is of opinion that, to give such a return, the cacao must be farmed in a very different way from the usual plan; that the trees must not be left shaded, as now, by Bois Immortelles, sixty to eighty feet high, during their whole life. The trees, he says with reason, impoverish the soil by their roots. The shade causes excess of moisture, chills, weakens and retards the plants; encourages parasitic moss and insects; and, moreover, is least useful in the very months in which the sun is hottest, viz. February, March, and April, which are just the months in which the Bois Immortelles shed their leaves. He believes that the cacao needs no shade after the third year; and that, till then, shade would be amply given by plantains and maize set between the trees, which would, in the very first year, repay the planter some 6500 dollars on his first outlay of some 8000. It is not for me to give an opinion upon the correctness of his estimates: but the past history of Trinidad shows so many failures of the cacao crop, that even a practically ignorant man may be excused for guessing that there is something wrong in the old Spanish system; and that with cacao, as with wheat and every other known crop, improved culture means improved produce and steadier profits.

As an advocate of 'petite culture,' I heartily hope that such may be the case. I have hinted in these volumes my belief that exclusive sugar cultivation, on the large scale, has been the bane of the West Indies.

I went out thither with a somewhat foregone conclusion in that direction. But it was at least founded on what I believed to be facts. And it was, certainly, verified by the fresh facts which I saw there. I returned with a belief stronger than ever, that exclusive sugar cultivation had put a premium on unskilled slave- labour, to the disadvantage of skilled white-labour; and to the disadvantage, also, of any attempt to educate and raise the Negro, whom it was not worth while to civilise, as long as he was needed merely as an instrument exerting brute strength. It seems to me, also, that to the exclusive cultivation of sugar is owing, more than to any other cause, that frightful decrease throughout the islands of the white population, of which most English people are, I believe, quite unaware. Do they know, for instance, that Barbadoes could in Cromwell's time send three thousand white volunteers, and St. Kitts and Nevis a thousand, to help in the gallant conquest of Jamaica? Do they know that in 1676 Barbadoes was reported to maintain, as against 80,000 black, 70,000 free whites; while in 1851 the island contained more than 120,000 Negroes and people of colour, as against only 15,824 whites? That St. Kitts held, even as late as 1761, 7000 whites; but in 1826—before emancipation—only 1600? Or that little Montserrat, which held, about 1648, 1000 white families, and had a militia of 360 effective men, held in 1787 only 1300 whites, in 1828 only 315, and in 1851 only 150?

It will be said that this ugly decrease in the white population is owing to the unfitness of the climate. I believe it to have been produced rather by the introduction of sugar cultivation, at which the white man cannot work. These early settlers had grants of ten acres apiece; at least in Barbadoes. They grew not only provisions enough for themselves, but tobacco, cotton, and indigo—products now all but obliterated out of the British islands. They made cotton hammocks, and sold them abroad as well as in the island. They might, had they been wisely educated to perceive and use the natural wealth around them, have made money out of many other wild products. But the profits of sugar-growing were so enormous, in spite of their uncertainty, that, during the greater part of the eighteenth century, their little freeholds were bought up, and converted into cane-pieces by their wealthier neighbours, who could afford to buy slaves and sugar-mills. They sought their fortunes in other lands: and so was exterminated a race of yeomen, who might have been at this day a source of strength and honour, not only to the colonies, but to England herself.

It may be that the extermination was not altogether undeserved; that they were not sufficiently educated or skilful to carry out that 'petite culture' which requires—as I have said already—not only intellect and practical education, but a hereditary and traditional experience, such as is possessed by the Belgians, the Piedmontese, and, above all, by the charming peasantry of Provence and Languedoc, the fathers (as far as Western Europe is concerned) of all our agriculture. It may be, too, that as the sugar cultivation increased, they were tempted more and more, in the old hard drinking days, by the special poison of the West Indies—new rum, to the destruction both of soul and body. Be that as it may, their extirpation helped to make inevitable the vicious system of large estates cultivated by slaves; a system which is judged by its own results; for it was ruinate before emancipation; and emancipation only gave the coup de grace. The 'Latifundia perdidere' the Antilles, as they did Italy of old. The vicious system brought its own Nemesis. The ruin of the West Indies at the end of the great French war was principally owing to that exclusive cultivation of the cane, which forced the planter to depend on a single article of produce, and left him embarrassed every time prices fell suddenly, or the canes failed from drought or hurricane. We all know what would be thought of an European farmer who thus staked his capital on one venture. 'He is a bad farmer,' says the proverb, 'who does not stand on four legs, and, if he can, on five.' If his wheat fails, he has his barley—if his barley, he has his sheep—if his sheep, he has his fatting oxen. The Provencal, the model farmer, can retreat on his almonds if his mulberries fail; on his olives, if his vines fail; on his maize, if his wheat fails. The West Indian might have had—the Cuban has—his tobacco; his indigo too; his coffee, or—as in Trinidad—his cacao and his arrowroot; and half a dozen crops more: indeed, had his intellect—and he had intellect in plenty—been diverted from the fatal fixed idea of making money as fast as possible by sugar, he might have ere now discovered in America, or imported from the East, plants for cultivation far more valuable than that Bread-fruit tree, of which such high hopes were once entertained, as a food for the Negro. As it was, his very green crops were neglected, till, in some islands at least, he could not feed his cattle and mules with certainty; while the sugar-cane, to which everything else had been sacrificed, proved sometimes, indeed, a valuable servant: but too often a tyrannous and capricious master.

But those days are past; and better ones have dawned, with better education, and a wider knowledge of the world and of science. What West Indians have to learn—some of them have learnt it already—is that if they can compete with other countries only by improved and more scientific cultivation and manufacture, as they themselves confess, then they can carry out the new methods only by more skilful labour. They therefore require now, as they never required before, to give the labouring classes a practical education; to quicken their intellect, and to teach them habits of self-dependent and originative action, which are—as in the case of the Prussian soldier, and of the English sailor and railway servant—perfectly compatible with strict discipline. Let them take warning from the English manufacturing system, which condemns a human intellect to waste itself in perpetually heading pins, or opening and shutting trap-doors, and punishes itself by producing a class of workpeople who alternate between reckless comfort and moody discontent. Let them be sure that they will help rather than injure the labour- market of the colony, by making the labourer also a small free- holding peasant. He will learn more in his own provision ground— properly tilled—than he will in the cane-piece: and he will take to the cane-piece and use for his employer the self-helpfulness which he has learnt in the provision ground. It is so in England. Our best agricultural day-labourers are, without exception, those who cultivate some scrap of ground, or follow some petty occupation, which prevents their depending entirely on wage-labour. And so I believe it will be in the West Indies. Let the land-policy of the late Governor be followed up. Let squatting be rigidly forbidden. Let no man hold possession of land without having earned, or inherited, money enough to purchase it, as a guarantee of his ability and respectability, or—as in the case of Coolies past their indenture's—as a commutation for rights which he has earned in likewise. But let the coloured man of every race be encouraged to become a landholder and a producer in his own small way. He will thus, not only by what he produces, but by what he consumes, add largely to the wealth of the colony; while his increased wants, and those of his children, till they too can purchase land, will draw him and his sons and daughters to the sugar-estates, as intelligent and helpful day-labourers.

So it may be: and I cannot but trust, from what I have seen of the temper of the gentlemen of Trinidad, that so it will be.



CHAPTER XVII (AND LAST): HOMEWARD BOUND



At last we were homeward bound. We had been seven weeks in the island. We had promised to be back in England, if possible, within the three months; and we had a certain pride in keeping our promise, not only for its own sake, but for the sake of the dear West Indies. We wished to show those at home how easy it was to get there; how easy to get home again. Moreover, though going to sea in the Shannon was not quite the same 'as going to sea in a sieve,' our stay-at-home friends were of the same mind as those of the dear little Jumblies, whom Mr. Lear has made immortal in his New Book of Nonsense; and we were bound to come back as soon as possible, and not 'in twenty years or more,' if we wished them to say—

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