FROM THE YEAR 1788, TO THE YEAR 1806.
Arrival of Governor Brooke. New measures. Reform in the slave laws. Expedition planned against the Cape of Good Hope. Capture of nine Dutch East-Indiamen. Succours sent from St. Helena to the Cape. Governor Brooke proceeds to England; and leaves the government in charge of Lieutenant-Governor Robson. Arrival of Governor Patton. Conclusion.
GOVERNOR CORNEILLE having requested permission to resign, Robert Brooke, Esq. was appointed his successor. Mr. Brooke had been in the Company's service at Bengal, where his military talents and conduct, and his inflexible integrity, had been frequently and importantly called into action, and this claim on their individual esteem, was further increased by his enterprising and patriotic exertions for the benefit of his native country.
At the same period, Major Robson, formerly a Captain on the Madras establishment, was. appointed Lieutenant-Governor; he arrived in the ship Chesterfield, on the 11th of May, 1788, and the following day Governor Brooke landed from the Francis. Although Mr. Brooke was sworn in as Governor before his departure from England, he only acted as Lieutenant-Governor till Mr. Corneille left the island (about a month after), when the new commission of government was opened, appointing Robert Brooke, Esq. Governor, Major Francis Robson Lieutenant-Governor, and Matthew Bazett and William Wrangham, Esqrs. members of Council.
To whatever causes the late mutiny in the garrison might be traced, it certainly did not proceed from want of frequent and severe corporeal punishment. Governor Brooke, desirous of rousing that sense of shame which had been extinguished by a repeated application of the lash, allowed stripes, in lesser offences, to be commuted for labour; but so deeply depraved were some of the delinquents, that they refused the alternative, and preferred flogging, to which by custom they had become familiarized. A reformation, however, of such mental degradation was not despaired of by the Governor. They were separated from their comrades under the designation of the miscreants' mess, the worst provisions were allotted to them, and the many deprivations and marks of odium that they thus incurred, soon placed them in a contemptible and mortifying light in the eyes of their brother-soldiers. This circumstance produced greater effect than the lashes that had formerly been inflicted. Their earnest entreaty to be relieved from so irksome a situation was, after much apparent difficulty, complied with; and from that period there has never been occasion to renew the establishment of a miscreants' mess. By the labour obtained in this manner, tracts of waste ground, offensive to the eye, and receptacles of filth, were converted into a handsome parade for the soldiers, and into gardens, highly ornamental to the town, and beneficial to the hospital. But more solid advantages than the acquisition of gardens or parades were gained by the decency and order that became manifest in the garrison, the improved appearance of which was observed by every passing stranger who had an opportunity of contrasting it with its former state. Light-infantry manuvres and sham-fights formed a source of recreation and military instruction both to officers and privates, with which until then they had been unacquainted. Recruits to keep the garrison strength had formerly been procured with difficulty, as none were enlisted, except those sent out immediately from England; but numbers of discharged soldiers, returning from India, perfectly restored to health on the passage to St. Helena, now offered with alacrity to renew their time of service. Thus an accession of above nine hundred men was, at different times, obtained during this government; which, with the recruits received from England, enabled the Governor to forward drafts to India, amounting, at different periods, to the number of twelve hundred and ten men, all of them disciplined soldiers, prepared for a hot country by a seasoning in the medium climate of St. Helena. The military establishment at St. Helena had been on a very confined scale from the first settlement of the island. At the commencement of Mr. Brooke's government, it consisted of four companies of infantry and one of artillery; and as the transfer of officers from one Company's settlement to another is not admitted, the promotion of those at St. Helena was, of course, very slow. The Governor, in his correspondence with the Honourable Court of Directors, urged the propriety of increasing the strength of the garrison; and, in the year 1796, it was augmented to a battalion of infantry and a strong corps of artillery. An unprecedented promotion was the necessary consequence; and those who entered the service with no higher expectations than of obtaining a Captain's commission, now beheld the rank of a field-officer within their reach, and new spirits and animation were diffused throughout the garrison.
The errors in the system of defence, noticed in the third chapter, had not escaped the observation of either Governor Lambert or Major Rennell; but nothing to remedy the evil had been effected until Governor Brooke determined to apply those principles for the security of the island which had so successfully distinguished his military career in a part of India where the face of the country was, in some respects, similar to St. Helena. In this view, positions were chosen on the heights, and at different passes and defiles; the field-pieces and mortars were removed from improper situations to Posts where they could be brought to act with more effect. But as these measures were novel, doubts were entertained in the island respecting their propriety; and their further prosecution was ordered by the Court of Directors to be suspended until General Sir Archibald Campbell, who was then expected on his return from India, should inspect, and report his opinion, both on the works which had already been constructed, and on those in contemplation. On his arrival, he minutely surveyed what had been done; and, upon the occasion of a general alarm, which happened during his stay, he had an opportunity of observing the dispositions made to repel an expected attack: the change of system received his decided approbation, as it did afterwards that of Marquis Cornwallis. But Sir Archibald lamented that a too rigid regard to economy had considerably cramped the plans of the Governor.
The only mode hitherto practised of announcing the approach of ships to the island was by firing guns, after which all further particulars were transmitted by men who had to run a distance of, perhaps, seven or eight miles. In place of this dilatory and inconvenient channel of communication, a code of signals was substituted; which, though riot very comprehensive, yet, it is needless to say, was an improvement of the utmost importance.
The scheme of conducting water from the Plantation-House to Ladder-Hill was considered wild and chimerical, until, by the perseverance of the Governor, a stream was carried thither in an open drain, and was of material use in forwarding works there. By a similar operation, a current of water was conveyed from the springs between Halley's Mount and Diana's Peak to Long Wood, and proved the means of preserving a large stock of the Company's cattle during a very severe drought.
The dangers attending the tremendous surfs which dash against the shores of St. Helena were much aggravated by the want of a safe landing-place in rough weather; and as there was but one crane, much delay and inconvenience were experienced by the ships. To obviate these evils, Governor Brooke projected a plan for prolonging the wharf to a jutting rock, where he had observed that the fishermen could often land when the common landing-place at the stairs was impracticable. This plan he accomplished after some difficulty; and thus an additional crane and landing-place were obtained, which can almost at all times be approached with safety, not a life having been lost there since their construction; though, prior to that period, serious accidents were frequent.
As the introduction of the British system of jurisprudence was not intended to extend further than the nature of existing circumstances on the island should admit, the relative situations of master and slave were consequently not affected. But as no special laws had been framed for the protection of slaves, too much power certainly remained in the hands of their proprietors; and though it might not be abused by humane masters, which in justice must be allowed was the character of the greater part, yet the records sufficiently evince that all did not come under that description. Incidents of unwarrantable severity, or improper treatment, received immediate redress from the Governor, and the aggressors were fined in a manner that had not hitherto been customary. But as it is better to prevent evils, than to be necessitated to apply a remedy, it was judged eligible to limit the authority of the master, and extend that of the magistrate; and a code of laws was accordingly drawn out for the government and protection of slaves, which was submitted to the consideration of the Honourable Court of Directors. Though the Court did not approve of the system in all its parts, yet they established a set of laws nearly similar to those proposed by Governor Brooke. By this code a master is allowed to punish his slave with twelve lashes; but if he conceives the fault to call for more severe correction, a magistrate must be appealed to, who, with the concurrence of the Governor, awards such chastisement as may appear expedient. If a master exceeds his powers, he is liable to a prosecution by his slave before the justices; and, on the other hand, a frivolous or unfounded complaint, on the part of the slave, incurs a punishment at the discretion of the magistrates. By this code also the further importation of slaves was interdicted.
The Governor's exertions to promote the natural resources of the island, and the encouragement he afforded to industry and private improvement, were attended with great success. Several tracts of waste land were fenced in, and rendered valuable; and the advantages resulting from the conveyance of water in the channels he had cut for that purpose, excited and directed the attention of individuals to the same object. Within the first two years of his government, the stock of black cattle augmented from two thousand two hundred and two, to two thousand five hundred and four; of sheep, from two thousand three hundred, to two thousand three hundred and eighty-eight; and the amount of sales to the ships, of cattle, sheep, hogs, fowls, vegetables, and fruits, from four thousand five hundred and twenty-four pounds three shillings and seven pence, to six thousand six hundred and seventy-two pounds six shillings and eight pence. The extension of the potatoe plantations, which also took place in his government, has been the means of affording the most ample supplies of that article to the ships; and the prospect of increasing wealth, which stimulated the exertions of the planters, occasioned the erection of several comfortable and handsome dwellings.
The situation of St. Helena suggested to the Governor the plan of forming an establishment connected with the South Whale-fishery. He proposed that there should be a depot on the island, where the ships employed in the fishery should bring their cargoes, and unload them there, which would relieve them from the necessity of returning so frequently to Europe. The cargoes thus deposited were to be carried home in the ships employed to bring out the annual supplies.
The Court declined any active co-operation in the execution of this proposal, but willingly consented to grant to any individual who chose to embark in the trade, whatever advantages the island could supply. The subject has, in consequence, been under the contemplation of some respectable merchants; and it is only the expense which must be incurred in constructing the necessary buildings that has as yet suspended the execution of the project. It is common, however, for the vessels employed in the whale-fishery to touch at the island for refreshment and health; and, of late, when all the other ports in these latitudes have been closed against them, the number of these visitors has, of course, much increased. The attentions which they received from Governor Brooke induced the principal merchants employed in this trade to present him with a handsome piece of plate, in testimony of their respect.
The Honourable Court of Directors, as a mark of their approbation of Governor Brooke's conduct and services, were pleased to increase his salary to one thousand pounds per annum, and conferred on him a commission of Lieutenant-Colonel, and afterwards of Colonel, with the pay annexed to that rank.
In the month of May, 1795, his Majesty's ship Sceptre arrived at the island, as a convoy for the homeward-bound fleet, and brought intelligence that Holland had been overrun by the armies of France, and that the Dutch would inevitably be compelled to join in the war against England. A project instantly occurred to the zealous and active mind of the Governor, of making an effort to secure the Cape of Good Hope before this information should reach that colony. It was understood that barracks had been prepared there for the reception of some British troops, as a reinforcement to the garrison; a circumstance that would have given plausibility to the measure of taking a force thither upon the plea that an immediate attack was to be apprehended from the French. The Governor had good information respecting the state of the colony and the disposition of part of its garrison. He had long been in the habits of correspondence with Colonel Gordon (the Commandant of the troops), a man whose principles were suspected by the republican party as being too favourable to the British interest; and Mr. Pringle, who had recently arrived from the Cape, where he had resided as Company's agent, was enabled to afford several essential points of intelligence. This gentleman concurred with the Governor that the project was practicable; and Captain Essington, of the Sceptre, being decidedly of the same opinion, agreed to co-operate in the undertaking. The proposal was then laid before the Council, and was immediately followed by their assent. Three hundred picked men were in consequence embarked on board the Sceptre, and the Company's ships the General Goddard, Manship, and a small fast-sailing vessel called the Orpheus, which were lightened of part of their cargoes, and strengthened by additional men. A corps of volunteer seamen were also selected from the other ships, and placed under the command of Captain Price, of the Lord Hawkesbury, so that with the marines and seamen from the Sceptre, a force of about six hundred men was collected to act on shore. This little armament, the military part of which was headed by Governor Brooke, and the naval commanded by Captain Essington, weighed anchor, on the 1st of June, in the hope of gaining possession, by stratagem, of the castle at the Cape of Good Hope, and holding it till a reinforcement should arrive; but on the following morning they fell in with the Swallow packet from the Cape, and an hour or two after the Arniston store-ship, from England, made her appearance. By this, intelligence was received that the expedition was anticipated by a force sent out under Sir George Elphinstone and General Craig. It was understood, however, that a valuable homeward-bound fleet, of near twenty sail, was on the eve of departure from the Cape when the Swallow sailed; and the offensive operations at St. Helena became directed to this object. The Sceptre and the rest of the squadron having returned to their anchorage, Captain Essington made a request to the Governor that some of the Company's ships might be put under his orders, to assist him in intercepting the expected fleet, as the Sceptre alone might be inadequate to effect it. The Manship, the General Goddard, and the Swallow, were therefore placed under his command, together with the troops that had been previously embarked on those ships for the expedition; a company of artillery was also ordered to remain on board the Sceptre, and the squadron weighed anchor and stood to windward on the 3rd of June, whilst the utmost exertions were used for preparing the Asia, Lord Hawkesbury, Essex, Airly Castle, and Busbridge, to join them. On this occasion, not only every spare warehouse, but even the church, was filled with goods unladen from the ships, that they might in all points be rendered efficient for the service they were intended to perform. Independent of the serious responsibility which the Governor thus incurred, his proceedings were in opposition to the formal protests of all the commanders of the Company's ships employed on the occasion. But his own security had no weight in the balance against the cause of his country and his employers, and he resolutely persisted in the undertaking, which in its consequences involved the annihilation of the Dutch East-India Company.
The Lord Hawkesbury, in the attempt to weather the island, split her sails, and was forced to return to port: the Essex also sprung her fore-top-mast; but the Busbridge soon effected a junction with the commodore. On the 10th of June, one of the expected fleet, called the Hughley, fell in with the squadron, and was sent into the Roads, accompanied by the Swallow, which ship immediately returned back to her station with a number of additional seamen to reinforce the fleet. A great deal of blowing weather, however, occasioned a separation of the Manship and Busbridge; and the General Goddard and Swallow were in consequence the only ships left with the Sceptre. From these three ships, On the afternoon of the 14th of June, were descried seven sail on the weather bow, steering down before the wind. The Goddard's signal was made to keep her wind, while the Sceptre and Swallow stood athwart the course of the fleet in sight, through which the Goddard passed about one A. M., and was fired at, without returning a shot. At day-break the following morning, the fleet was still on the starboard bow of the Sceptre and Swallow, and at seven A. M. displayed Dutch colours, whilst their commodore fired a gun to leeward. This was repeated by the Sceptre, and Captain Essington supposed it would be followed by their heaving to, but in this he was mistaken, nor was it even effected by three shots fired a-head of the van ship. A signal was therefore made to the Goddard to bring the chace down to the Sceptre. The Goddard almost instantaneously appeared under a cloud of canvas, and was laid along side the Dutch commodore, who, from her imposing appearance, and high state of discipline, concluded her to be nothing less than a frigate, and in consequence submitted to Captain Money's directions to bear down; but by this time the Dutch Captains had given their crews such intoxicating draughts of spirituous liquors that they became ripe for repelling force by force, and several shots were fired between the masts, of the Sceptre, as well as at the boats, which were sent with boarding parties. A few rounds, however, from the Sceptre showed the inefficacy of resistance, and the Asia and Busbridge at the same time heaving in sight, the seven Dutch ships were taken possession of without the loss of a single life, and came to anchor in St. Helena Roads on the night of the 17th of June. As a means for securing the remainder of the Dutch fleet, Governor Brooke lost no time in dispatching the Echo, a fast sailing ship, for England, with such intelligence as might enable the Admiralty to adopt measures for their interception; and he had afterwards the satisfaction of hearing that his information had produced the desired effect. The Sceptre, with her convoy and the prizes, sailed for England on the 1st of July, and on the following day another Dutch ship was secured in the Roads.
Soon after these occurrences his Majesty's ship Sphynx arrived with dispatches from Admiral Sir George Elphinstone and General Craig. Affairs at the Cape were not at that time in a promising state. The attempt to obtain possession of the colony by negociation was unsuccessful, and our little army there was inadequate to effect it by force. By these dispatches, therefore, the General represented to Governor Brooke that no augmentation could be "so inconsiderable as not to be acceptable;" he also stated, that "he had not a single gun, nor an artillery-man with him," and requested that a couple of six-pounders and a howitzer, with ammunition, might be forwarded. The necessity was likewise urged for a supply of specie. Not a moment was lost in putting on board the Arniston nine pieces of field ordnance, a complete company of artillery, and three of infantry, amounting in the whole to three hundred and ninety-three men, all trained to fieldpiece practice, with ten thousand pounds in cash, and a supply of ammunition and salt provisions.
Governor Brooke on this occasion had the high honour of being noticed by the approbation of his Sovereign, contained in a letter from the Right Honourable Henry Dundas, of which the following is a copy:
"Horse-Guards, 30th Oct. 1795.
"I have received, and laid before the King, your letters of the 13 of July and 12 of September last, with their enclosures; and it is with peculiar satisfaction that I obey his Majesty's commands in communicating to you, by opportunity of the Dart packet, his Majesty's perfect approbation of the zeal and alacrity you have manifested on every occurrence interesting to this country, in the course of the present war, and particularly of your judicious and spirited proceedings since you received the intelligence of the invasion of the United Provinces by the enemy.
"The measures taken by you for securing the Dutch East-Indiamen which touched at St. Helena, and the intelligence you have transmitted respecting the remainder of those ships, merit great commendation; and your exertions in forwarding to Admiral Sir George Keith Elphinstone and General Craig at the Cape, the succours of money, men, ordnance, and stores, at a time when a speedy supply of those articles was become so essentially necessary, will, I trust, be attended with the most beneficial consequences to the interest of this kingdom, and of the East-India Company; and I cannot indulge in this pleasing expectation, without feeling that it has been so materially improved by your unremitting vigilance and care to promote that important service.
"I have, &c.
(Signed) "HENRY DUNDAS."
"To Governor BROOKE."
The Honourable Court of Directors also, fully aware of the importance of Governor Brooke's services, were pleased to signify their approbation in their General Letter to St. Helena, dated 5th January, 1796, of which the following are, extracts:
"We feel infinite satisfaction at the perusal of the proceedings referred to in this paragraph. The zeal and alacrity with which the intended expedition to the Cape was planned, and in part carried into execution, deserve our warmest commendation, and your records do not furnish (to our recollection), since the island has been in the Company's possession, an instance where this little settlement has been so eminently useful."
"It would be injustice to withhold from Governor Brooke the praise so justly due to him for the promptitude which he manifested in planning, and carrying into execution, the intended expedition. In our review of his conduct throughout this arduous service, we find it equally deserving our approbation in the alacrity he first manifested in heading the detachment in person; the zeal he afterwards evinced in furnishing supplies to Sir George Keith Elphinstone and General Craig far exceeding their expectations. These active, zealous, and meritorious exertions in our Governor in forwarding the public service, demand our warmest thanks."
As so considerable a part of the St. Helena troops was spared to assist in the reduction of the Cape, a more than ordinary degree of alertness was necessarily required from the remainder of the garrison, particularly as they had to guard about three hundred prisoners (including Malays), taken out of the Dutch ships, for whom there was no proper place of confinement. The militia, however, cheerfully bore a share in the fatigue; and between seventy and eighty of the prisoners, who were found to be Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes, and were desirous of changing masters, enlisted in the Company's service. The Malays also considered their capture by the English as a release from slavery; and readily agreed to take an oath of fidelity, and enter the British service. They were accordingly incorporated into two companies, and trained to artillery practice. They proved extremely useful; and, during the two years which they remained on the island, were no less conspicuous for their discipline than for their peaceable conduct. But this may certainly be attributed to the peculiar manner in which they were treated. No European was suffered to strike or chastise them on any pretence whatever; and they were punished by no other authority than the sentence of a court martial, composed of Malay officers. If the author's information be correct, they were afterwards sent from Bencoolen to Ceylon, and a Malay regiment engrafted on the two companies. Those measures, together with a further acquisition of recruits, and the return of the detachment from the Cape, augmented the force of the garrison to a number far exceeding its strength at any former period.
The many services rendered by Governor Brooke to the Company and the nation, impressed upon Marquis Wellesley, the then Governor-General of India, so lively a sense of his merits, that he could not forbear manifesting his sentiments by a distinguished mark of his approbation; and the Honourable Henry Wellesley was commissioned by his noble brother to present a sword to Colonel Brooke; which was accordingly done on the 11th of November, 1799, at the head of the garrison at St. Helena.
After fifteen years of anxious toil, a severe illness obliged Governor Brooke to return to Europe; and upon the 16th of March, 1800, he left the island, very sincerely and generally regretted. Upon his departure, the government devolved on Lieutenant-Governor Robson, who filled the chair until the arrival, in March, the following year, of Colonel Patton.
Colonel Patton had been formerly on the Bengal establishment, where he filled the situation of Military Secretary successively under General Smith, Governor Cartier, and Governor Hastings.
Among the essential improvements of Governor Patton is to be included the establishment of telegraphs, of a very simple and cheap construction, invented by himself: the advantages and security obtained by such a system are incalculable. To the ordnance department much of his attention has been directed; the nature of the country at once points out the importance of rendering the guns on the heights completely effective, which was accomplished by some material alterations in the construction of their carriages. These alterations now afford the means of firing hot and cold shot, at any required degree of depression, with a facility and accuracy that has astonished every military character who has lately witnessed the St. Helena artillery practice. Four men are enabled to work a two-and-thirty pounder with almost twice the expedition and precision that could be formerly effected by seven, and a greater disposable force is consequently acquired. With this means of defence every spot is now supplied where a man can possibly effect a landing and ascend the heights; and the interior defensive measures that have been adopted are much approved by the highest professional characters who have had opportunities of inspecting them.
It has very lately been discovered that the volcanic production, called Terra Puzzolana, abounds at St. Helena, particularly about James's Valley, and the adjacent parts of the sea coast. This substance, it is understood, derives its name from a place in Italy, where it was found in abundance, from the same cause which has produced it at St. Helena. Its properties are, to form, in conjunction with lime, a cement remarkably retentive of water; in contact with which it acquires the solidity of rock. A discovery so important has enabled Governor Patton to construct aqueducts in a permanent manner, and to exhibit certain and economical means of rendering the most important advantages to the island. And should his services in his present situation be extended beyond the period necessary for accomplishing plans of greater moment, it is not impossible but that Governor Roberts's idea of fertilizing Prosperous Bay Plain may be realized. The reservoirs which he has proposed, and in part carried into execution, for the supply of water to dry situations On the island, might be constructed, at a very small expense; and nothing is more wanted than such advantages for the general improvement and fertilization.
The Governor has also endeavoured to promote the propagation of wood. For this purpose, instead of having recourse to penalties, which have hitherto been employed with little effect, he has procured from the Court of Directors a regulation entitling each proprietor to a renewal of his lease, on the terms of his existing tenure, provided he has reared to a certain height a specified number of trees. These trees he may raise upon any part of his ground, and the number to be so cultivated is to be in proportion to the extent of the land which he occupies.
About twenty-five years prior to Colonel Patton's government, the blackberry plant was introduced on the island. This production, so useful in other countries when placed in hedgerows, has, however, produced consequences at St. Helena as unexpected as they are alarming., The climate and soil of this island are so congenial to the growth of the blackberry, that it has overspread large tracts of the best pasture lands; its devastations are annually multiplying, and the subject has excited so much apprehension, that the Honourable Court of Directors have strongly recommended its extirpation. The grand jury, at the quarter sessions, in July, 1806, represented the evil as requiring the immediate attention of Government: every exertion from individuals had proved inadequate to this purpose, as the necessary labours for their husbandry and farms required the full employment of all their hands. The Governor therefore proposed, that a part of the garrison should be allotted to this special duty, commencing where the evil was most prevalent, to be regularly relieved, and the undertaking prosecuted until it was subdued; Mr. Porteous, as Superintendent of Improvements, being intrusted with the direction, under the instructions of a committee. A specific pay to the men, and a gratuity to the superintendent, to be paid by the proprietors of the land; who were afterwards to be bound to keep their possessions clear from this destructive plant.
The operation had begun with a part of the Company's land, and some progress was made, when attention became necessary to the defences of the island, which interrupted the undertaking; but it will be resumed as soon as a working party for this purpose can be spared, and it promises ultimate success, under the vigilance and perseverance of so active a superintendent. At present this seems to be the only possible mode of overcoming this evil; especially since the working hands of the island have been so much diminished. What the admission of Chinamen or Lascars might accomplish, in case the Company adopted that expedient, can only be conjectured.
Whilst these objects have been forwarded by the personal exertions and superintendence of the Governor, in a manner which has excited the surprise of both islanders and strangers, other points of importance have not escaped his attention. The establishment of proper checks, in different departments, has been followed with due effects, and approved of by the Honourable Court of Directors. Most of the Company's buildings in James's Valley were formerly roofed with a layer of mud spread upon boards, a species of covering which required a large quantity of solid timber for its support, was liable to continual decay, and the layer of mud continually out of repair, and harbouring rats and other vermin. To remedy so defective and expensive a system, the staves of the empty flour and meat casks, which had heretofore been used as fuel, are now converted into shingles; in a roof composed of these materials, very little wood is required for its frame, and its durability is known to exceed the period of a century.
Governor Patton's endeavours to improve the morals of the black inhabitants have been noticed in the introductory chapter; but the author cannot forbear again adverting to a subject of so much importance. The experience of about four years now affords acknowledged proof of the efficacy of the laudable exertions; the happy consequences, therefore, which may be expected to result from a steady perseverance in the system, are obvious, and cannot be too seriously pressed upon the attention of succeeding Governors. To render this more certain, the Company's subscription has been increased to fifty pounds, and the privilege of recommending slaves requires that the proprietor should contribute to a certain specified amount. It is most devoutly to be hoped that the praise-worthy spirit which induced the inhabitants to assist in maintaining the fund appropriated for annual rewards to meritorious slaves, may not be repressed, and the progress of so promising an institution defeated.
The nature of the author's situation on the St. Helena establishment, and his unwillingness to press on the feelings of Colonel Patton. induce him to withhold a more circumstantial detail on these subjects. It will be sufficient, therefore, to observe, that, during the whole time he has presided on the island, he has evinced a most active solicitude in discharging the various duties of his station. Candour and justice must acknowledge his unceasing mental and personal exertions, rendered valuable and meritorious by their character and importance, by his extensive information and liberal endowments, and by a happy ardour of mind that takes an interest in every thing which bears relation to the service and welfare of the public.
Having thus brought this historical sketch to a close, the author cannot refrain from adverting to some points nearly connected with the subject of the preceding pages.
It is painful to observe that this island has been always disturbed by factions; and that the best Governors have been the most obnoxious to their attacks. Mr. Roberts, the happy effects of whose exertions are felt to this day, was so cruelly persecuted by insidious misrepresentations, circulated at home, that he appears to have resigned his situation in disgust. The spirit of insubordination at the island must, among other causes, be attributed, in no small degree, to a general want of principle; which, in its turn, seems to have been chiefly owing to the conduct and character of the clergy. Many of the chaplains, as has been already seen, have been notoriously profligate and turbulent; and it is worthy of remark, that at those periods when the people have been most dissolute, they were under the care of pastors most unworthy of their profession. It is not surprising that such men should be even actively hostile to government; and the consequences of this disunion may be imagined. On the other hand, the advantages which a just Governor may derive from the assistance of a virtuous clergyman may be seen from the effects of the friendship between Governor Roberts and the Reverend Mr. Tomlinson. The circumstances alluded to only enforce the necessity of peculiar care in the selection of chaplains for the island.
Loud complaints are made in St. Helena of the deficiency of labouring population, and the high price of labour. It is certainly true, that the deficiency complained of exists, and equally so that it does at present check the progress of cultivation, the improvement of the pasture lands, the propagation of trees, and the comfort and neatness of the farmers' dwellings. Attention, therefore, ought to be paid to this circumstance; the evil is pressing, and requires immediate relief.
It may possibly be said, that the evils arising from a dearth of hands has a tendency to correct itself; that the high price of wages acts as a bounty on the increase of population; and that labour will not long be wanting where it meets with such encouragement.
But this general principle will not apply to St. Helena. The natural increase of population is always slow, and, in the case before us, peculiarly so, because the stimulus supplied by high wages not only acts partially, but, even where it acts at all, acts, for the most part, at disadvantage. The slaves, who form the majority of the population, are exempt from its influence; whether they work for their masters, or are hired out to the planters, it is the masters alone who are benefited, in the one case by their labour, in the other by the price of their labour. It is not, therefore, likely that this class of inhabitants will be much roused by a motive which can hardly in any way affect them. The whites and free blacks, however, may be supposed completely open to its power; but in the case of the free blacks it acts indeed most feebly, in consequence of the promiscuous intercourse to which they are accustomed. The prospect of any adequate supply from this, source must be extremely remote. The introduction of new settlers would, then, as it seems, be the only method of supplying labour; and this would undoubtedly have taken place, without any compulsion, were not St. Helena, in this respect also, singularly situated. No strangers are allowed to enter, or settle in the island, without the permission of the East-India Company. This regulation is warranted by sound motives of policy, but, indispensable as it is, has tended to check those efforts which would naturally have been made to fill up the deficiencies of the population.
Besides these considerations, another circumstance should not be overlooked: though the promotion of the pasturage and cultivation of the island ought to be the first object, yet the general bias of Europeans who have become inhabitants, is, to employ their capital (however small it may be) in mercantile concerns. The reason of this is another peculiarity in the situation of St. Helena. Provisions are furnished from England and the East-Indies; and the quantity of them imported by the Government is regulated by the probable demand. Besides this stock, there are other supplies brought by the various vessels that touch there. Money, therefore, will always command provisions; and money itself is most readily obtained by mercantile pursuits. The profuse habits of those who have acquired fortunes in India are infallibly brought into exercise: as this is commonly the first land which they reach after a passage of three months, it is not a little curious to observe with what eagerness they seem to seize the opportunity to disburthen themselves of their wealth. The price of European articles is, on these occasions, raised to an exorbitant height. Even the most paltry shopkeeper does not fail to derive some profit from his goods; and fortunes are frequently made, which, in the scale of that island, may be called considerable. It is not, therefore, to be wondered at that a pursuit so tempting in its returns, and recommended as well by the comparative indolence which it allows as by the convivial habits which it encourages, should be preferred to the more laborious, but less lucrative, and less sociable, employment of husbandry.
From these remarks it follows that some steps should immediately be taken to ensure an increase of the number of labourers; and for this purpose it might, perhaps, be advisable to recur to a principle adopted in the Company's early orders of offering. encouragement for soldiers who have served their contracted time to become husbandmen. Many of them, if permitted to remain, would willingly become farmers' servants, at the wages of thirteen shillings per week, including the charge of maintenance, a rate that would not much exceed the expense incurred by the employment of slaves, as will be shown by the following calculation:
First cost of a slave, eighty pounds sterling.
|Calculating to have the labour of that slave for twenty-one years, and
interest of money at five per cent., we may take twelve years' purchase
as the price paid; which, on a division of eighty by twelve, is per ann. . . .
|Insurance of his life, and against casualties which may deprive his
master of his active services, at five per cent. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
|Value of his maintenance, clothes, and medical attendance, according
to the average calculation at St. Helena . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
|Total annual expense of a slave at St. Helena . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .||30||13||4|
|Labour of a discharged soldier, including expenses of maintenance,
at thirteen shillings per week . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
From this calculation it appears, that the expense of maintaining a European would exceed the annual charge of a slave by the sum of three pounds two shillings and eight pence. But it should be remembered, that this difference will be more than made up by the superior industry and vigour of the European. The labour of a free man being prompted more by hope than fear, is universally acknowledged to be more productive than the labour of a slave, whose principal incentive is the dread of punishment. It must, indeed, be allowed that this observation is not generally applicable to the free blacks of St. Helena. Its failure, however, in this case, is most easily explained, and serves only to afford an additional proof of the lamentable consequences which slavery entails on its victims. The greater number of the free blacks have been born and reared in slavery. The habits and dispositions, therefore, of slaves necessarily form a part of their character. Doubtless, there are many exceptions; but it is frequently remarked, that some of them, particularly females, are inclined to view the gift of freedom in scarcely any other light than as a licence to indulge in idleness and vice.
It must be obvious that the proposed plan, like all general plans, must require various modifications and restrictions; and that its success must depend on the judgement with which it may be carried into execution. The privilege of a residence should be granted to none but men of good character, who, having served their contracted term, would quit the island; and to them only on condition of employing their labour, or their money, not in mercantile speculations, but in husbandry, or in trades, either connected with husbandry, or immediately contributing to the necessary wants of the inhabitants.
By this system, the militia of the island, who at present are volunteers, would receive an augmentation of disciplined men; and the Company could, in cases of necessity, command the service of soldiers without the burthen of paying them.
The introduction of Chinese labourers has been suggested by Governor Patton as a remedy for the evil under consideration, and the suggestion surely deserves regard. In case of its adoption, it might be proper to place these labourers at the disposal of Government, and to permit them, when their services may not be required for public works, to engage themselves, at fixed rates, in the employment of private individuals. Such an accession of labour would, among other advantages, relieve the garrison from much of that drudgery which at present interferes with their military duties; and by this means the cultivation of the island might be greatly increased.
As the roads are in general inaccessible to carts, particularly in the interior parts of the island, and in the vicinity of Sandy Bay, the produce of most of the farms in the country is carried on men's heads. The waste of human labour which this practice occasions would be obviated by the use of asses or mules. Of late the value of the former seems to have attracted some attention, and, within the last six years, the price of an ass has risen from five to twenty pounds sterling. It is a great advantage that these animals prefer the vegetable food which others do not eat; so that a further importation of them would not diminish the pasturage required for the more profitable stock of cattle.
The author is aware that the solicitude which he has expressed with regard to St. Helena may be represented as misplaced, and that the very possession of that island may be thought a point of inferior consequence by those who maintain that the Cape of Good Hope is exclusively worthy of the national attention. It is true, that the superior internal resources of the latter colony, its extent, and, above all, its position, so critically adapted for the annoyance or protection of our Eastern dominions, render it an object of such supreme importance, that it is probable no Minister will lightly consent to resign it to a foreign power. But in the present fluctuating state of the political world, to calculate on the certainty of our retaining that acquisition would be the height of absurdity: and, even admitting that we shall hold it for ever, it may still be clearly shown that the possession of the Cape is far from superseding the necessity of retaining St. Helena. It is well known that ships cannot always obtain a safe anchorage at the Cape, and it is needless to detail the melancholy accidents which have taken place on that coast. The whole history of St. Helena, on the other hand, furnishes but one instance of a wreck, and that on the day of its first discovery. The seas and winds at the Cape do not at all seasons allow ships to leave its harbours, and delays of several weeks have at times been the consequence; but, with the single exception noticed in the sixth chapter, no vessel has been known to have been weather-bound at St. Helena.
The probability of such dangers and inconveniences might sometimes render it hazardous for a valuable homeward-bound fleet to touch at the Cape, and, in such circumstances, a port like St. Helena under their lee would be of inestimable importance. The water there is as pure, and as wholesome, as at the Cape, and can be procured with equal facility and equal expedition. A fleet was very lately supplied there with more than two thousand tons of water in less than three days. Refreshments of other kinds are not, indeed, so abundant; yet the supply of these is always more than sufficient to recruit the sick, and to lay in a plentiful sea, store of excellent potatoes.
These considerations certainly tend to prove that St. Helena, as a rendezvous for East-India convoys, is preferable to the Cape. If, however, they should not be thought of sufficient weight to counterbalance the other acknowledged advantages of the latter place; if it should be determined that St. Helena shall no longer be a port of refreshment and rendezvous, the question of its retention and improvement is still a pressing one. To abandon the possession of it, or to retain it without an adequate defence, would be, in fact, to deliver into the hands of a vigilant and enterprising enemy a strong hold, situated in the very track of our wealthiest fleets, and incalculably important as a port either of retreat or annoyance. That the French are awake to its value, and prepared to avail themselves of any remissness on the part of its present possessors, is evident from the plans which they have repeatedly formed for its capture. The possession, then, of this island appears indispensable; and, admitting this necessity, it is equally clear that no expense should be thought too great for the maintenance of an adequate garrison. And the author will surely be forgiven from his natural feelings towards it, for indulging some degree of honest pride in the belief, and in the wish, that this little spot with congenial prosperity may continue to protect the commerce of the East-India Company, and, by participating in their success, be always regarded as an important and essential part of the British empire.