West Indian Fables by James Anthony Froude Explained by J. J. Thomas
by J. J. (John Jacob) Thomas
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J.J. Thomas




Preface by J.J. Thomas


Introduction: 27-33 Voyage out: 34-41 Barbados: 41-44 St. Vincent: 44-48 Grenada: 48-50


Trinidad: 53-55 Reform in Trinidad: 55-80 Negro Felicity in the West Indies: 81-110


Social Revolution: 113-174 West Indian Confederation: 175-200 The Negro as a Worker: 201-206 Religion for Negroes: 207-230


Historical Summary or Resume: 233-261, end



[5] Last year had well advanced towards its middle—in fact it was already April, 1888—before Mr. Froude's book of travels in the West Indies became known and generally accessible to readers in those Colonies.

My perusal of it in Grenada about the period above mentioned disclosed, thinly draped with rhetorical flowers, the dark outlines of a scheme to thwart political aspiration in the Antilles. That project is sought to be realized by deterring the home authorities from granting an elective local legislature, however restricted in character, to any of the Colonies not yet enjoying such an advantage. An argument based on the composition of the inhabitants of those Colonies is confidently relied upon to confirm the inexorable mood of Downing Street.

[6] Over-large and ever-increasing,—so runs the argument,—the African element in the population of the West Indies is, from its past history and its actual tendencies, a standing menace to the continuance of civilization and religion. An immediate catastrophe, social, political, and moral, would most assuredly be brought about by the granting of full elective rights to dependencies thus inhabited. Enlightened statesmanship should at once perceive the immense benefit that would ultimately result from such refusal of the franchise. The cardinal recommendation of that refusal is that it would avert definitively the political domination of the Blacks, which must inevitably be the outcome of any concession of the modicum of right so earnestly desired. The exclusion of the Negro vote being inexpedient, if not impossible, the exercise of electoral powers by the Blacks must lead to their returning candidates of their own race to the local legislatures, and that, too, in numbers preponderating according to the majority of the Negro electors. The Negro legislators thus supreme in the councils of the Colonies would straightway proceed to pass vindictive and retaliatory laws against their white fellow- [7] colonists. For it is only fifty years since the White man and the Black man stood in the reciprocal relations of master and slave. Whilst those relations subsisted, the white masters inflicted, and the black slaves had to endure, the hideous atrocities that are inseparable from the system of slavery. Since Emancipation, the enormous strides made in self-advancement by the ex-slaves have only had the effect of provoking a resentful uneasiness in the bosoms of the ex-masters. The former bondsmen, on their side, and like their brethren of Hayti, are eaten up with implacable, blood-thirsty rancour against their former lords and owners. The annals of Hayti form quite a cabinet of political and social object lessons which, in the eyes of British statesmen, should be invaluable in showing the true method of dealing with Ethiopic subjects of the Crown. The Negro race in Hayti, in order to obtain and to guard what it calls its freedom, has outraged every humane instinct and falsified every benevolent hope. The slave-owners there had not been a whit more cruel than slave-owners in the other islands. But, in spite of this, how ferocious, how sanguinary, [8] how relentless against them has the vengeance of the Blacks been in their hour of mastery! A century has passed away since then, and, notwithstanding that, the hatred of Whites still rankles in their souls, and is cherished and yielded to as a national creed and guide of conduct. Colonial administrators of the mighty British Empire, the lesson which History has taught and yet continues to teach you in Hayti as to the best mode of dealing with your Ethiopic colonists lies patent, blood-stained and terrible before you, and should be taken definitively to heart. But if you are willing that Civilization and Religion—in short, all the highest developments of individual and social life—should at once be swept away by a desolating vandalism of African birth; if you do not recoil from the blood-guiltiness that would stain your consciences through the massacre of our fellow-countrymen in the West Indies, on account of their race, complexion and enlightenment; finally, if you desire those modern Hesperides to revert into primeval jungle, horrent lairs wherein the Blacks, who, but a short while before, had been ostensibly civilized, shall be revellers, as high-priests and [9] devotees, in orgies of devil-worship, cannibalism, and obeah—dare to give the franchise to those West Indian Colonies, and then rue the consequences of your infatuation!...

Alas, if the foregoing summary of the ghastly imaginings of Mr. Froude were true, in what a fool's paradise had the wisest and best amongst us been living, moving, and having our being! Up to the date of the suggestion by him as above of the alleged facts and possibilities of West Indian life, we had believed (even granting the correctness of his gloomy account of the past and present positions of the two races) that to no well-thinking West Indian White, whose ancestors may have, innocently or culpably, participated in the gains as well as the guilt of slavery, would the remembrance of its palmy days be otherwise than one of regret. We Negroes, on the other hand, after a lapse of time extending over nearly two generations, could be indebted only to precarious tradition or scarcely accessible documents for any knowledge we might chance upon of the sufferings endured in these Islands of the West by those of our race who have gone before us. Death, with undiscriminating hand, had gathered [10] in the human harvest of masters and slaves alike, according to or out of the normal laws of nature; while Time had been letting down on the stage of our existence drop-scene after drop-scene of years, to the number of something like fifty, which had been curtaining off the tragic incidents of the past from the peaceful activities of the present. Being thus circumstanced, thought we, what rational elements of mutual hatred should now continue to exist in the bosoms of the two races?

With regard to the perpetual reference to Hayti, because of our oneness with its inhabitants in origin and complexion, as a criterion for the exact forecast of our future conduct under given circumstances, this appeared to us, looking at actual facts, perversity gone wild in the manufacture of analogies. The founders of the Black Republic, we had all along understood, were not in any sense whatever equipped, as Mr. Froude assures us they were, when starting on their self-governing career, with the civil and intellectual advantages that had been transplanted from Europe. On the contrary, we had been taught to regard them as most unfortunate in the circumstances under which [11] they so gloriously conquered their merited freedom. We saw them free, but perfectly illiterate barbarians, impotent to use the intellectual resources of which their valour had made them possessors, in the shape of books on the spirit and technical details of a highly developed national existence. We had learnt also, until this new interpreter of history had contradicted the accepted record, that the continued failure of Hayti to realize the dreams of Toussaint was due to the fatal want of confidence subsisting between the fairer and darker sections of the inhabitants, which had its sinister and disastrous origin in the action of the Mulattoes in attempting to secure freedom for themselves, in conjunction with the Whites, at the sacrifice of their darker-hued kinsmen. Finally, it had been explained to us that the remembrance of this abnormal treason had been underlying and perniciously influencing the whole course of Haytian national history. All this established knowledge we are called upon to throw overboard, and accept the baseless assertions of this conjuror-up of inconceivable fables! He calls upon us to believe that, in spite of being free, educated, progressive, and at peace with [12] all men, we West Indian Blacks, were we ever to become constitutionally dominant in our native islands, would emulate in savagery our Haytian fellow-Blacks who, at the time of retaliating upon their actual masters, were tortured slaves, bleeding and rendered desperate under the oppressors' lash—and all this simply and merely because of the sameness of our ancestry and the colour of our skin! One would have thought that Liberia would have been a fitter standard of comparison in respect of a coloured population starting a national life, really and truly equipped with the requisites and essentials of civilized existence. But such a reference would have been fatal to Mr. Froude's object: the annals of Liberia being a persistent refutation of the old pro-slavery prophecies which our author so feelingly rehearses.

Let us revert, however, to Grenada and the newly-published "Bow of Ulysses," which had come into my hands in April, 1888.

It seemed to me, on reading that book, and deducing therefrom the foregoing essential summary, that a critic would have little more to do, in order to effectually exorcise this negrophobic political hobgoblin, than to appeal to [13] impartial history, as well as to common sense, in its application to human nature in general, and to the actual facts of West Indian life in particular.

History, as against the hard and fast White-master and Black-slave theory so recklessly invented and confidently built upon by Mr. Froude, would show incontestably—(a) that for upwards of two hundred years before the Negro Emancipation, in 1838, there had never existed in one of those then British Colonies, which had been originally discovered and settled for Spain by the great Columbus or by his successors, the Conquistadores, any prohibition whatsoever, on the ground of race or colour, against the owning of slaves by any free person possessing the necessary means, and desirous of doing so; (b) that, as a consequence of this non-restriction, and from causes notoriously historical, numbers of blacks, half-breeds, and other non-Europeans, besides such of them as had become possessed of their "property" by inheritance, availed themselves of this virtual license, and in course of time constituted a very considerable proportion of the slave-holding section of those communities; (c) that these [14] dusky plantation-owners enjoyed and used in every possible sense the identical rights and privileges which were enjoyed and used by their pure-blooded Caucasian brother-slaveowners. The above statements are attested by written documents, oral tradition, and, better still perhaps, by the living presence in those islands of numerous lineal representatives of those once opulent and flourishing non-European planter-families.

Common sense, here stepping in, must, from the above data, deduce some such conclusions as the following. First that, on the hypothesis that the slaves who were freed in 1838—full fifty years ago—were all on an average fifteen years old, those vengeful ex-slaves of to-day will be all men of sixty-five years of age; and, allowing for the delay in getting the franchise, somewhat further advanced towards the human life-term of threescore and ten years. Again, in order to organize and carry out any scheme of legislative and social retaliation of the kind set forth in the "Bow of Ulysses," there must be (which unquestionably there is not) a considerable, well-educated, and very influential number surviving of those who had actually [15] been in bondage. Moreover, the vengeance of these people (also assuming the foregoing nonexistent condition) would have, in case of opportunity, to wreak itself far more largely and vigorously upon members of their own race than upon Whites, seeing that the increase of the Blacks, as correctly represented in the "Bow of Ulysses," is just as rapid as the diminution of the White population. And therefore, Mr. Froude's "Danger-to-the-Whites" cry in support of his anti-reform manifesto would not appear, after all, to be quite so justifiable as he possibly thinks.

Feeling keenly that something in the shape of the foregoing programme might be successfully worked up for a public defence of the maligned people, I disregarded the bodily and mental obstacles that have beset and clouded my career during the last twelve years, and cheerfully undertook the task, stimulated thereto by what I thought weighty considerations. I saw that no representative of Her Majesty's Ethiopic West Indian subjects cared to come forward to perform this work in the more permanent shape that I felt to be not only desirable but essential for our self-vindication. [16] I also realized the fact that the "Bow of Ulysses" was not likely to have the same ephemeral existence and effect as the newspaper and other periodical discussions of its contents, which had poured from the press in Great Britain, the United States, and very notably, of course, in all the English Colonies of the Western Hemisphere. In the West Indian papers the best writers of our race had written masterly refutations, but it was clear how difficult the task would be in future to procure and refer to them whenever occasion should require. Such productions, however, fully satisfied those qualified men of our people, because they were legitimately convinced (even as I myself am convinced) that the political destinies of the people of colour could not run one tittle of risk from anything that it pleased Mr. Froude to write or say on the subject. But, meditating further on the question, the reflection forced itself upon me that, beyond the mere political personages in the circle more directly addressed by Mr. Froude's volume, there were individuals whose influence or possible sympathy we could not afford to disregard, or to esteem lightly. So I deemed it right and a patriotic duty to attempt [17] the enterprise myself, in obedience to the above stated motives.

At this point I must pause to express on behalf of the entire coloured population of the West Indies our most heartfelt acknowledgments to Mr. C. Salmon for the luminous and effective vindication of us, in his volume on "West Indian Confederation," against Mr. Froude's libels. The service thus rendered by Mr. Salmon possesses a double significance and value in my estimation. In the first place, as being the work of a European of high position, quite independent of us (who testifies concerning Negroes, not through having gazed at them from balconies, decks of steamers, or the seats of moving carriages, but from actual and long personal intercourse with them, which the internal evidence of his book plainly proves to have been as sympathetic as it was familiar), and, secondly, as the work of an individual entirely outside of our race, it has been gratefully accepted by myself as an incentive to self-help, on the same more formal and permanent lines, in a matter so important to the status which we can justly claim as a progressive, law-abiding, and self-respecting section of Her Majesty's liege subjects.

[18] It behoves me now to say a few words respecting this book as a mere literary production.

Alexander Pope, who, next to Shakespeare and perhaps Butler, was the most copious contributor to the current stock of English maxims, says:

"True ease in writing comes from Art, not Chance, As those move easiest who have learnt to dance."

A whole dozen years of bodily sickness and mental tribulation have not been conducive to that regularity of practice in composition which alone can ensure the "true ease" spoken of by the poet; and therefore is it that my style leaves so much to be desired, and exhibits, perhaps, still, more to be pardoned. Happily, a quarrel such as ours with the author of "The English in the West Indies" cannot be finally or even approximately settled on the score of superior literary competency, whether of aggressor or defender. I feel free to ignore whatever verdict might be grounded on a consideration so purely artificial. There ought to be enough, if not in these pages, at any rate in whatever else I have heretofore published, that should prove me not so hopelessly stupid and wanting in [19] self-respect, as would be implied by my undertaking a contest in artistic phrase-weaving with one who, even among the foremost of his literary countrymen, is confessedly a master in that craft. The judges to whom I do submit our case are those Englishmen and others whose conscience blends with their judgment, and who determine such questions as this on their essential rightness which has claim to the first and decisive consideration. For much that is irregular in the arrangement and sequence of the subject-matter, some blame fairly attaches to our assailant. The erratic manner in which lie launches his injurious statements against the hapless Blacks, even in the course of passages which no more led up to them than to any other section of mankind, is a very notable feature of his anti-Negro production. As he frequently repeats, very often with cynical aggravations, his charges and sinister prophecies against the sable objects of his aversion, I could see no other course open to me than to take him up on the points whereto I demurred, exactly how, when, and where I found them.

My purpose could not be attained up without direct mention of, or reference to, certain public [20] employes in the Colonies whose official conduct has often been the subject of criticism in the public press of the West Indies. Though fully aware that such criticism has on many occasions been much more severe than my own strictures, yet, it being possible that some special responsibility may attach to what I here reproduce in a more permanent shape, I most cheerfully accept, in the interests of public justice, any consequence which may result.

A remark or two concerning the publication of this rejoinder. It has been hinted to me that the issue of it has been too long delayed to secure for it any attention in England, owing to the fact that the West Indies are but little known, and of less interest, to the generality of English readers. Whilst admitting, as in duty bound, the possible correctness of this forecast, and regretting the oft-recurring hindrances which occasioned such frequent and, sometimes, long suspension of my labour; and noting, too, the additional delay caused through my unacquaintance with English publishing usages, I must, notwithstanding, plead guilty to a lurking hope that some small fraction of Mr. Froude's readers will yet be found, [21] whose interest in the West Indies will be temporarily revived on behalf of this essay, owing to its direct bearing on Mr. Froude and his statements relative to these Islands, contained in his recent book of travels in them. This I am led to hope will be more particularly the case when it is borne in mind that the rejoinder has been attempted by a member of that very same race which he has, with such eloquent recklessness of all moral considerations, held up to public contempt and disfavour. In short, I can scarcely permit myself to believe it possible that concern regarding a popular author, on his being questioned by an adverse critic of however restricted powers, can be so utterly dead within a twelvemonth as to be incapable of rekindling. Mr. Froude's "Oceana," which had been published long before its author voyaged to the West Indies, in order to treat the Queen's subjects there in the same more than questionable fashion as that in which he had treated those of the Southern Hemisphere, had what was in the main a formal rejoinder to its misrepresentations published only three months ago in this city. I venture to believe that no serious work in defence of an [22] important cause or community can lose much, if anything, of its intrinsic value through some delay in its issue; especially when written in the vindication of Truth, whose eternal principles are beyond and above the influence of time and its changes.

At any rate, this attempt to answer some of Mr. Froude's main allegations against the people of the West Indies cannot fail to be of grave importance and lively interest to the inhabitants of those Colonies. In this opinion I am happy in being able to record the full concurrence of a numerous and influential body of my fellow-West Indians, men of various races, but united in detestation of falsehood and injustice.


LONDON, June, 1889.


[27] Like the ancient hero, one of whose warlike equipments furnishes the complementary title of his book, the author of "The English in the West Indies; or, The Bow of Ulysses," sallied forth from his home to study, if not cities, at least men (especially black men), and their manners in the British Antilles.

James Anthony Froude is, beyond any doubt whatever, a very considerable figure in modern English literature. It has, however, for some time ceased to be a question whether his acceptability, to the extent which it reaches, has not been due rather to the verbal attractiveness than to the intrinsic value and trustworthiness of his opinions and teachings. In fact, so far as a judgment can be formed from examined specimens of his writings, it appears that our [28] author is the bond-slave of his own phrases. To secure an artistic perfection of style, he disregards all obstacles, not only those presented by the requirements of verity, but such as spring from any other kind of consideration whatsoever. The doubt may safely be entertained whether, among modern British men of letters, there be one of equal capability who, in the interest of the happiness of his sentences, so cynically sacrifices what is due not only to himself as a public instructor, but also to that public whom he professes to instruct. Yet, as the too evident plaything of an over-permeable moral constitution, he might set up some plea in explanation of his ethical vagaries. He might urge, for instance, that the high culture of which his books are all so redolent has utterly failed to imbue him with the nil admirari sentiment, which Horace commends as the sole specific for making men happy and keeping them so. For, as a matter of fact, and with special reference to the work we have undertaken to discuss, Mr. Froude, though cynical in his general utterances regarding Negroes-of the male sex, be it noted-is, in the main, all extravagance and self-abandonment whenever he [29] brings an object of his arbitrary likes or dislikes under discussion. At such times he is no observer, much less worshipper, of proportion in his delineations. Thorough-paced, scarcely controllable, his enthusiasm for or against admits no degree in its expression, save and except the superlative. Hence Mr. Froude's statement of facts or description of phenomena, whenever his feelings are enlisted either way, must be taken with the proverbial "grain of salt" by all when enjoying the luxury of perusing his books. So complete is his self-identification with the sect or individual for the time being engrossing his sympathy, that even their personal antipathies are made his own; and the hostile language, often exaggerated and unjust, in which those antipathies find vent, secures in his more chastened mode of utterance an exact reproduction none the less injurious because divested of grossness.

Of this special phase of self-manifestation a typical instance is afforded at page 164, under the heading of "Dominica," in a passage which at once embraces and accentuates the whole spirit and method of the work. To a eulogium of the professional skill and successful [30] agricultural enterprise of Dr. Nichol, a medical officer of that Colony, with whom he became acquainted for the first time during his short stay there, our author travels out of his way to tack on a gratuitous and pointless sneer at the educational competency of all the elected members of the island legislature, among whom, he tells us, the worthy doctor had often tried in vain to obtain a place. His want of success, our author informs his readers, was brought about through Dr. Nichol "being the only man in the Colony of superior attainments." Persons acquainted with the stormy politics of that lovely little island do not require to be informed that the bitterest animosity had for years been raging between Dr. Nichol and some of the elected members-a fact which our author chose characteristically to regard as justifying an onslaught by himself on the whole of that section of which the foes of his new friend formed a prominent part.

Swayed by the above specified motives, our author also manages to see much that is, and always has been, invisible to mortal eye, and to fail to hear what is audible to and remarked upon by every other observer.

[31] Thus we find him (p. 56) describing the Grenada Carenage as being surrounded by forest trees, causing its waters to present a violet tint; whilst every one familiar with that locality knows that there are no forest trees within two miles of the object which they are so ingeniously made to colour. Again, and aptly illustrating the influence of his prejudices on his sense of hearing, we will notice somewhat more in detail the following assertion respecting the speech of the gentry of Barbados:—

"The language of the Anglo-Barbadians was pure English, the voices without the smallest transatlantic intonation."

Now it so happens that no Barbadian born and bred, be he gentle or simple, can, on opening his lips, avoid the fate of Peter of Galilee when skulking from the peril of a detected nationality: "Thy speech bewrayeth thee!" It would, however, be prudent on this point to take the evidence of other Englishmen, whose testimony is above suspicion, seeing that they were free from the moral disturbance that affected Mr. Froude's auditory powers. G. J. Chester, in his "Transatlantic Sketches" (page 95), deposes as follows—

[32] "But worse, far worse than the colour, both of men and women, is their voice and accent. Well may Coleridge enumerate among the pains of the West Indies, 'the yawny-drawny way in which men converse.' The soft, whining drawl is simply intolerable. Resemble the worst Northern States woman's accent it may in some degree, but it has not a grain of its vigour. A man tells you, 'if you can speer it, to send a beerer with a bottle of bare,' and the clergyman excruciates you by praying in church, 'Speer us, good Lord.' The English pronunciation of A and E is in most words transposed. Barbados has a considerable number of provincialisms of dialect. Some of these, as the constant use of 'Mistress' for 'Mrs.,' are interesting as archaisms, or words in use in the early days of the Colony, and which have never died out of use. Others are Yankeeisms or vulgarisms; others, again, such as the expression 'turning cuffums,' i.e. summersets, from cuffums, a species of fish, seem to be of local origin."

In a note hereto appended, the author gives a list of English words of peculiar use and acceptation in Barbados.

[33] To the same effect writes Anthony Trollope:

"But if the black people differ from their brethren of the other islands, so certainly do the white people. One soon learns to know—a Bim. That is the name in which they themselves delight, and therefore, though there is a sound of slang about it, I give it here. One certainly soon learns to know a Bim. The most peculiar distinction is in his voice. There is always a nasal twang about it, but quite distinct from the nasality of a Yankee. The Yankee's word rings sharp through his nose; not so that of the first-class Bim. There is a soft drawl about it, and the sound is seldom completely formed. The effect on the ear is the same as that on the hand when a man gives you his to shake, and instead of shaking yours, holds his own still, &c., &c." ("The West Indies," p. 207).

From the above and scores of other authoritative testimonies which might have been cited to the direct contrary of our traveller's tale under this head, we can plainly perceive that Mr. Froude's love is not only blind, but adder-deaf as well. We shall now contemplate him under circumstances where his feelings are quite other than those of a partisan.


[34] That Mr. Froude, despite his professions to the contrary, did not go out on his explorations unhampered by prejudices, seems clear enough from the following quotation:—

"There was a small black boy among us, evidently of pure blood, for his hair was wool and his colour black as ink. His parents must have been well-to-do, for the boy had been to Europe to be educated. The officers on board and some of the ladies played with him as they would play with a monkey. He had little more sense than a monkey, perhaps less, and the gestures of him grinning behind gratings and perching out his long thin arms between the bars were curiously suggestive of the original from whom we are told now that all of us came. The worst of it was that, being lifted above his own people, he had been taught to despise them. He was spoilt as a black and could not be made into a white, and this I found afterwards was the invariable and dangerous consequence whenever a superior negro contrived to raise himself. He might do well enough himself, but his family feel their blood as degradation. His [35] children will not marry among their own people, and not only will no white girl marry a negro, but hardly any dowry can be large enough to tempt a West Indian white to make a wife of a black lady. This is one of the most sinister features in the present state of social life there."

We may safely assume that the playing of "the officers on board and some of the ladies" with the boy, "as they would play with a monkey," is evidently a suggestion of Mr. Froude's own soul, as well as the resemblance to the simian tribe which he makes out from the frolics of the lad. Verily, it requires an eye rendered more than microscopic by prejudice to discern the difference between the gambols of juveniles of any colour under similar conditions. It is true that it might just be the difference between the friskings of white lambs and the friskings of lambs that are not white. That any black pupil should be taught to despise his own people through being lifted above them by education, seems a reckless statement, and far from patriotic withal; inasmuch as the education referred to here was European, and the place from which it was obtained presumably England. At all events, [36] the difference among educated black men in deportment towards their unenlightened fellow-blacks, can be proved to have nothing of that cynicism which often marks the bearing of Englishmen in an analogous case with regard to their less favoured countrymen. The statement that a black person can be "spoilt" for such by education, whilst he cannot be made white, is one of the silly conceits which the worship of the skin engenders in ill-conditioned minds. No sympathy should be wasted on the negro sufferer from mortification at not being able to "change his skin." The Ethiopian of whatever shade of colour who is not satisfied with being such was never intended to be more than a mere living figure. Mr. Froude further confidently states that whilst a superior Negro "might do well himself," yet "his family feel their blood as a degradation." If there be some who so feel, they are indeed very much to be pitied; but their sentiments are not entitled to the serious importance with which our critic has invested them. But is it at all conceivable that a people whose sanity has never in any way been questioned would strain every nerve to secure for their offspring a [37] distinction the consequence of which to themselves would be a feeling of their own abasement? The poor Irish peasant who toils and starves to secure for his eldest son admission into the Catholic priesthood, has a far other feeling than one of humiliation when contemplating that son eventually as the spiritual director of a congregation and parish. Similarly, the laudable ambition which, in the case of a humble Scotch matron, is expressed in the wish and exertion to see her Jamie or Geordie "wag his pow in the pou'pit," produces, when realized, salutary effects in the whole family connection. These effects, which Mr. Froude would doubtless allow and commend in their case, he finds it creditable to ignore the very possibility of in the experience of people whose cuticle is not white. It is, however, but bare justice to say that, as Negroes are by no means deficient in self-love and the tenderness of natural affection, such gratifying fulfilment of a family's hopes exerts an elevating and, in many cases, an ennobling influence on every one connected with the fortunate household. Nor, from the eminently sympathetic nature of the African race, are the near friends of a family [38] unbenefited in a similar way. This is true, and distinctively human; but, naturally, no apologist of Negro depreciation would admit the reasonableness of applying to the affairs of Negroes the principles of common equity, or even of common sense. To sum up practically our argument on this head, we shall suppose West Indians to be called upon to imagine that the less distinguished relations respectively of, say, the late Solicitor-General of Trinidad and the present Chief Justice of Barbados could be otherwise than legitimately elated at the conspicuous position won by a member of their own household.

Mr. Froude further ventures to declare, in this connection, that the children of educated coloured folk "will not marry among their own people." Will he tell us, then, whom the daughters marry, or if they ever do marry at all, since he asserts, with regard to West Indian Whites, that "hardly any dowry can be large enough to tempt them to make a wife of a black lady"? Our author evidently does not feel or care that the suggestion he here induces is a hideous slander against a large body of respectable people of whose affairs he is absolutely ignorant. Full [39] of the "go" imparted to his talk by a consciousness of absolute license with regard to Negroes, our dignified narrator makes the parenthetical assertion that no white girl (in the West Indies) will "marry a Negro." But has he been informed that cases upon cases have occurred in those Colonies, and in very high "Anglo-West Indian" families too, where the social degradation of being married to Negroes has been avoided by the alternative of forming base private connections even with menials of that race?

The marrying of a black wife, on the other hand, by a West Indian White was an event of frequent occurrence at a period in regard to which our historian seems to be culpably uninformed. In slavery days, when all planters, black and white alike, were fused in a common solidarity of interests, the skin-distinction which Mr. Froude so strenuously advocates, and would fain risk so much to promote, did not, so far as matrimony was concerned, exist in the degree that it now does. Self-interest often dictated such unions, especially on the part of in-coming Whites desiring to strengthen their position and to increase their influence in [40] the land of their adoption by means of advantageous Creole marriages. Love, too, sheer uncalculating love, impelled not a few Whites to enter the hymeneal state with the dusky captivators of their affections. When rich, the white planter not seldom paid for such gratification of his laudable impulse by accepting exclusion from "Society"—and when poor, he incurred almost invariably his dismissal from employment. Of course, in all cases of the sort the dispensers of such penalties were actuated by high motives which, nevertheless, did not stand in the way of their meeting, in the households of the persons thus obnoxious to punishment, the same or even a lower class of Ethiopic damsels, under the title of "housekeeper," on whom they lavished a very plethora of caresses. Perhaps it may be wrong so to hint it, but, judging from indications in his own book, our author himself would have been liable in those days to enthralment by the piquant charms that proved irresistible to so many of his brother-Europeans. It is almost superfluous to repeat that the skin-discriminating policy induced as regards the coloured subjects of the Queen since the [41] abolition of slavery did not, and could not, operate when coloured and white stood on the same high level as slave-owners and ruling potentates in the Colonies. Of course, when the administrative power passed entirely into the hands of British officials, their colonial compatriots coalesced with them, and found no loss in being in the good books of the dominant personages.

In conclusion of our remarks upon the above extracts, it may be stated that the blending of the races is not a burning question. "It can keep," as Mr. Bright wittily said with regard to a subject of similar urgency. Time and Nature might safely be left uninterfered with to work out whatever social development of this kind is in store for the world and its inhabitants.


[41] Our distinguished voyager visited many of the British West Indies, landing first at Barbados, his social experience whereof is set forth in a very agreeable account. Our immediate business, however, is not with what West Indian hospitality, especially among the well-to-do classes, can and does accomplish for [42] the entertainment of visitors, and particularly visitors so eminent as Mr. Froude. We are concerned with what Mr. Froude has to say concerning our dusky brethren and sisters in those Colonies. We have, thus, much pleasure in being able at the outset to extract the following favourable verdict of his respecting them—premising, at the same time, that the balcony from which Mr. Froude surveyed the teeming multitude in Bridgetown was that of a grand hotel at which he had, on invitation, partaken of the refreshing beverage mentioned in the citation:—

"Cocktail over, and walking in the heat of the sun being a thing not to be thought of, I sat for two hours in the balcony, watching the people, who were as thick as bees in swarming time. Nine-tenths of them were pure black. You rarely saw a white face, but still less would you see a discontented one, imperturbable good humour and self-satisfaction being written on the features of every one. The women struck me especially. They were smartly dressed in white calico, scrupulously clean, and tricked out with ribands and feathers; but their figures were so good, and they carried themselves so [43] well and gracefully, that although they might make themselves absurd, they could not look vulgar. Like the Greek and Etruscan women, they are trained from childhood to carry weights on their heads. They are thus perfectly upright, and plant their feet firmly and naturally on the ground. They might serve for sculptors' models, and are well aware of it."

Regarding the other sex, Mr. Froude says:—

"The men were active enough, driving carts, wheeling barrows, and selling flying-fish," &c.

He also speaks with candour of the entire absence of drunkenness and quarrelling and the agreeable prevalence of good humour and light-heartedness among them. Some critic might, on reading the above extract from our author's account of the men, be tempted to ask—"But what is the meaning of that little word 'enough' occurring therein?" We should be disposed to hazard a suggestion that Mr. Froude, being fair-minded and loyal to truth, as far as is compatible with his sympathy for his hapless "Anglo-West Indians," could not give an entirely ungrudging testimony in favour of the possible, nay probable, voters by whose suffrages the supremacy of the Dark [44] Parliament will be ensured, and the relapse into obeahism, devil-worship, and children-eating be inaugurated. Nevertheless, Si sic omnia dixisset—if he had said all things thus! Yes, if Mr. Froude had, throughout his volume, spoken in this strain, his occasional want of patience and fairness with regard to our male kindred might have found condonation in his even more than chivalrous appreciation of our womankind. But it has been otherwise. So we are forced to try conclusions with him in the arena of his own selection—unreflecting spokesman that he is of British colonialism, which, we grieve to learn through Mr. Froude's pages, has, like the Bourbon family, not only forgotten nothing, but, unfortunately for its own peace, learnt nothing also.


[44] The following are the words in which our traveller embodies the main motive and purpose of his voyage:—

"My own chief desire was to see the human inhabitants, to learn what they were doing, how they were living, and what they were thinking about...."

[45] But, alas, with the mercurialism of temperament in which he has thought proper to indulge when only Negroes and Europeans not of "Anglo-West Indian" tendencies were concerned, he jauntily threw to the winds all the scruples and cautious minuteness which were essential to the proper execution of his project. At Barbados, as we have seen, he satisfies himself with sitting aloft, at a balcony-window, to contemplate the movements of the sable throng below, of whose character, moral and political, he nevertheless professes to have become a trustworthy delineator. From the above-quoted account of his impressions of the external traits and deportment of the Ethiopic folk thus superficially gazed at, our author passes on to an analysis of their mental and moral idiosyncrasies, and other intimate matters, which the very silence of the book as to his method of ascertaining them is a sufficient proof that his knowledge in their regard has not been acquired directly and at first hand. Nor need we say that the generally adverse cast of his verdicts on what he had been at no pains to study for himself points to the "hostileness" of the witnesses whose [46] testimony alone has formed the basis of his conclusions. Throughout Mr. Froude's tour in the British Colonies his intercourse was exclusively with "Anglo-West Indians," whose aversion to the Blacks he has himself, perhaps they would think indiscreetly, placed on record. In no instance do we find that he condescended to visit the abode of any Negro, whether it was the mansion of a gentleman or the hut of a peasant of that race. The whole tenor of the book indicates his rigid adherence to this one-sided course, and suggests also that, as a traveller, Mr. Froude considers maligning on hearsay to be just as convenient as reporting facts elicited by personal investigation. Proceed we, however, to strengthen our statement regarding his definitive abandonment, and that without any apparent reason, of the plan he had professedly laid down for himself at starting, and failing which no trustworthy data could have been obtained concerning the character and disposition of the people about whom he undertakes to thoroughly enlighten his readers. Speaking of St. Vincent, where he arrived immediately after leaving Barbados, our author says:—

[47] "I did not land, for the time was short, and as a beautiful picture the island was best seen from the deck. The characteristics of the people are the same in all the Antilles, and could be studied elsewhere."

Now, it is a fact, patent and notorious, that "the characteristics of the people are" not "the same in all the Antilles." A man of Mr. Froude's attainments, whose studies have made him familiar with ethnological facts, must be aware that difference of local surroundings and influences does, in the course of time, inevitably create difference of characteristic and deportment. Hence there is in nearly every Colony a marked dissimilarity of native qualities amongst the Negro inhabitants, arising not only from the causes above indicated, but largely also from the great diversity of their African ancestry. We might as well be told that because the nations of Europe are generally white and descended from Japhet, they could be studied one by the light derived from acquaintance with another. We venture to declare that, unless a common education from youth has been shared by them, the Hamitic inhabitants of one island have very little in common with [48] those of another, beyond the dusky skin and woolly hair. In speech, character, and deportment, a coloured native of Trinidad differs as much from one of Barbados as a North American black does from either, in all the above respects.


[48] In Grenada, the next island he arrived at, our traveller's procedure with regard to the inhabitants was very similar. There he landed in the afternoon, drove three or four miles inland to dine at the house of a "gentleman who was a passing resident," returned in the dark to his ship, and started for Trinidad. In the course of this journey back, however, as he sped along in the carriage, Mr. Froude found opportunity to look into the people's houses along the way, where, he tells us, he "could see and was astonished to observe signs of comfort, and even signs of taste—armchairs, sofas, side-boards with cut-glass upon them, engravings and coloured prints upon the walls." As a result of this nocturnal examination, a vol d'oiseau, he has written paragraph upon paragraph about the people's character [49] and prospects in the island of Grenada. To read the patronizing terms in which our historian-traveller has seen fit to comment on Grenada and its people, one would believe that his account is of some half-civilized, out-of-the-way region under British sway, and inhabited chiefly by a horde of semi-barbarian ignoramuses of African descent. If the world had not by this time thoroughly assessed the intrinsic value of Mr. Froude's utterances, one who knows Grenada might have felt inclined to resent his causeless depreciation of the intellectual capacity of its inhabitants; but considering the estimate which has been pretty generally formed of his historical judgment, Mr. Froude may be dismissed, as regards Grenada and its people, with a certain degree of scepticism. Such scepticism, though lost upon himself, is unquestionably needful to protect his readers from the hallucination which the author's singular contempt for accuracy is but too liable to induce.

Those who know Grenada and its affairs are perfectly familiar with the fact that all of its chief intellectual business, whether official (even in the highest degree, such as temporary [50] administration of the government), legal, commercial, municipal, educational, or journalistic, has been for years upon years carried on by men of colour. And what, as a consequence of this fact, has the world ever heard in disparagement of Grenada throughout this long series of years? Assuredly not a syllable. On the contrary, she has been the theme of praise, not only for the admirable foresight with which she avoided the sugar crisis, so disastrous to her sister islands, but also for the pluck and persistence shown in sustaining herself through an agricultural emergency brought about by commercial reverses, whereby the steady march of her sons in self-advancement was only checked for a time, but never definitively arrested. In fine, as regards every branch of civilized employment pursued there, the good people of Grenada hold their own so well and worthily that any show of patronage, even from a source more entitled to confidence, would simply be a piece of obtrusive kindness, not acceptable to any, seeing that it is required by none.


[53] Mr. Froude, crossing the ninety miles of the Caribbean Sea lying between Grenada and Trinidad, lands next morning in Port of Spain, the chief city of that "splendid colony," as Governor Irving, its worst ruler, truly calls it in his farewell message to the Legislature. Regarding Port of Spain in particular, Mr. Froude is positively exuberant in the display of the peculiar qualities that distinguish him, and which we have already admitted. Ecstatic praise and groundless detraction go hand in hand, bewildering to any one not possessed of the key to the mystery of the art of blowing hot and cold, which Mr. Froude so startlingly exemplifies. As it is our purpose to make what he says concerning this Colony the crucial test of his veracity as a writer of travels, [54] and also of the value of his judgments respecting men and things, we shall first invite the reader's attention to the following extracts, with our discussion thereof:—

"On landing we found ourselves in a large foreign-looking town, Port of Spain having been built by French and Spaniards according to their national tendencies, and especially with a view to the temperature, which is that of a forcing house, and rarely falls below 80 deg.. The streets are broad, and are planted with trees for shade, each house where room permits having a garden of its own, with palms and mangoes and coffee-plants and creepers. Of sanitary arrangements there seemed to be none. There is abundance of rain, and the gutters which run down by the footway are flushed almost every day. But they are all open. Dirt of every kind lies about freely, to be washed into them or left to putrify as fate shall direct" (p. 64).

Lower down, on the same page, our author, luxuriating in his contempt for exactitude when the character of other folk only is at stake, continues:—"The town has between thirty and forty thousand people living in it, and the [55] rain and Johnny crows between them keep off pestilence." On page 65 we have the following astounding statement with respect to one of the trees in the garden in front of the house in which Mr. Froude was sojourning:—"At the gate stood as sentinel a cabbage palm a hundred feet high."

The above quotations, in which we have elected to be content with indicating by typographical differences the points on which attention should be mostly directed, will suffice, with any one knowing Trinidad, as examples of Mr. Froude's trustworthiness. But as these are only on matters of mere detail, involving no question of principle, they are dismissed without any further comment. It must not be so, however, with the following remarkable deliverances which occur on page 67 of his too picturesque work:—"The commonplace intrudes upon the imaginative. At moments one can fancy that the world is an enchanted place after all, but then comes generally an absurd awakening. On the first night of my arrival, before we went to bed, there came an invitation to me to attend a political meeting which was to be held in a few days on the Savannah.

[56] "Trinidad is a purely Crown colony, and has escaped hitherto the introduction of the election virus. The newspapers and certain busy gentlemen in Port of Spain had discovered that they were living under a 'degrading tyranny,' and they demanded a constitution. They did not complain that their affairs had been ill-managed. On the contrary, they insisted that they were the most prosperous of the West Indian colonies, and alone had a surplus in their treasury. If this was so, it seemed to me that they had better let well alone. The population, all told, was but 170,000, less by thirty thousand than that of Barbados. They were a mixed and motley assemblage of all races and colours, busy each with their own affairs, and never hitherto troubling themselves about politics. But it had pleased the Home Government to set up the beginning of a constitution again in Jamaica; no one knew why, but so it was; and Trinidad did not choose to be behindhand. The official appointments were valuable, and had been hitherto given away by the Crown. The local popularities very naturally wished to have them for themselves. This was the [57] reality in the thing, so far as there was a reality. It was dressed up in the phrases borrowed from the great English masters of the art, about privileges of manhood, moral dignity, the elevating influence of the suffrage, &c., intended for home consumption among the believers in the orthodox radical faith."

The passages which we have signalized in the above quotation, and which occur with more elaboration and heedless assurance on a later page, will produce a feeling of wonder at the hardihood of him who not only conceived, but penned and dared to publish them as well, against the gentlemen whom we all know to be foremost in the political agitation at which Mr. Froude so flippantly sneers. An emphatic denial may be opposed to his pretence that "they did not complain that their affairs had been ill-managed." Why, the very gist and kernel of the whole agitation, set forth in print through long years of iteration, has been the scandalous mismanagement of the affairs of the Colony—especially under the baleful administration of Governor Irving. The Augean Stable, miscalled by him "The Public Works Department," and whose officials he coolly [58] fastened upon the financial vitals of that long-suffering Colony, baffled even the resolute will of a Des Voeux to cleanse it. Poor Sir Sanford Freeling attempted the cleansing, but foundered ignominiously almost as soon as he embarked on that Herculean enterprise. Sir A. E. Havelock, who came after, must be mentioned by the historian of Trinidad merely as an incarnate accident in the succession of Governors to whom the destinies of that maltreated Colony have been successively intrusted since the departure of Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon. The present Governor of Trinidad, Sir William Robinson, is a man of spirit and intelligence, keenly alive to the grave responsibilities resting on him as a ruler of men and moulder of men's destinies. Has he, with all his energy, his public spirit and indisputable devotion to the furtherance of the Colony's interests, been able to grapple successfully with the giant evil? Has he effectually gained the ear of our masters in Downing Street regarding the inefficiency and wastefulness of Governor Irving's pet department? We presume that his success has been but very partial, for otherwise it is difficult to conceive the motive for [59] retaining the army of officials radiating from that office, with the chief under whose supervision so many architectural and other scandals have for so long been the order of the day. The Public Works Department is costly enough to have been a warning to the whole of the West Indies. It is true that the lavish squandering of the people's money by that department has been appreciably checked since the advent of the present head of the Government. The papers no longer team with accounts, nor is even the humblest aesthetic sense, offended now, as formerly, with views of unsightly, useless and flimsy erections, the cost of which, on an average, was five times more than that of good and reputable structures.

This, however, has been entirely due to the personal influence of the Governor. Sir William Robinson, not being the tool, as Sir Henry Irving owned that he was, of the Director of Public Works, could not be expected to be his accomplice or screener in the cynical waste of the public funds. Here, then, is the personal rectitude of a ruler operating as a safeguard to the people's interests; and we gladly confess our entire agreement with [60] Mr. Froude on the subject of the essential qualifications of a Crown Governor. Mr. Froude contends, and we heartily coincide with him, that a ruler of high training and noble purposes would, as the embodiment of the administrative authority, be the very best provision for the government of Colonies constituted as ours are. But he has also pointed out, and that in no equivocal terms, that the above are far from having been indispensable qualifications for the patronage of Downing Street. He has shown that the Colonial Office is, more often than otherwise, swayed in the appointment of Colonial Governors by considerations among which the special fitness of the man appointed holds but a secondary place. On this point we have much gratification in giving Mr. Froude's own words (p. 91):—"Among the public servants of Great Britain there are persons always to be found fit and willing for posts of honour and difficulty if a sincere effort be made to find them. Alas! in times past we have sent persons to rule our Baratarias to whom Sancho Panza was a sage—troublesome members of Parliament, younger brothers of powerful families, impecunious peers; favourites, [61] with backstairs influence, for whom a provision was to be found; colonial clerks bred in the office who had been obsequious and useful!" Now then, applying these facts to the political history of Trinidad, with which we are more particularly concerned at present, what do we find? We find that in the person of Sir A. H. Gordon (1867-1870) that Colony at length chanced upon a ruler both competent and eager to advance her interests, not only materially, but in the nobler respects that give dignity to the existence of a community. Of course, he was opposed—ably, strenuously, violently, virulently—but the metal of which the man was composed was only fused into greater firmness by being subjected to such fiery tests. On leaving Trinidad, this eminent ruler left as legacies to the Colony he had loved and worked for so heartily, laws that placed the persons and belongings of the inhabitants beyond the reach of wanton aggression; the means by which honest and laborious industry could, through agriculture, benefit both itself and the general revenue. He also left an educational system that opened (to even the humblest) a free pathway to knowledge, to [62] distinction, and, if the objects of its beneficence were worthy of the boon, to serviceableness to their native country. Above all, he left peace among the jarring interests which, under the badge of Englishman and of Creole, under the badge of Catholic and under the badge of Protestant, and so many other forms of sectional divergence, had too long distracted Trinidad. This he had effected, not by constituting himself a partisan of either section, but by inquiring with statesmanlike appreciation, and allowing the legitimate claims of each to a certain scope of influence in the furtherance of the Colony's welfare. Hence the bitter rivalry of jarring interests was transformed into harmonious co-operation on all sides, in advancing the common good of the common country.

The Colonial Office, knowing little and caring less about that noble jewel in the British Crown, sent out as successor to so brilliant and successful an administrator—whom? One Sir James Robert Longden, a gentleman without initiative, without courage, and, above all, with a slavish adherence to red-tape and a clerk-like dread of compromising his berth. Having served for a long series of years in subordinate posts in [63] minor dependencies, the habit of being impressed and influenced by colonial magnates grew and gathered strength within him. Such a ruler, of course, the serpents that had only been "scotched, but not killed," by the stern procedures of Governor Gordon, could wind round, beguile, and finally cause to fall. Measure after measure of his predecessor which he could in any way neutralize in the interests of the colonial clique, was rendered of none effect. In fact, he was subservient to the wishes of those who had all long objected to those measures, but had not dared even to hint their objections to the beneficent autocrat who had willed and given them effect for the general welfare. After Governor Longden came Sir Henry Turner Irving, a personage who brought to Trinidad a reputation for all the vulgar colonial prejudices which, discreditable enough in ordinary folk, are, in the Governor of a mixed community, nothing less than calamitous. More than amply did he justify the evil reports with which rumour had heralded his coming. Abler, more astute, more daring than Sir James Longden, who was, on the whole, only a constitutionally timid man, Governor Irving threw [64] himself heart and soul into the arms of the Sugar Interest, by whom he had been helped into his high office, and whose belief he evidently shared, that sugar-growers alone should be possessors of the lands of the West Indies. It would be wearisome to detail the methods by which every act of Sir Arthur Gordon's to benefit the whole population was cynically and systematically undone by this his native-hating successor. In short, the policy of reaction which Sir James Longden began, found in Governor Irving not only a consistent promoter, but, as it were, a sinister incarnation. It is true that he could not, at the bidding and on the advice of his planter-friends, shut up the Crown Lands of the Colony against purchasers of limited means, because they happened to be mostly natives of colour, but he could annul the provision by which every Warden in the rural districts, on the receipt of the statutory fees, had to supply a Government title on the spot to every one who purchased any acreage of Crown Lands. Every intending purchaser, therefore, whether living at Toco, Guayaguayare, Monos, or Icacos, the four extreme points of the Island of Trinidad, was compelled to go to Port of [65] Spain, forty or fifty miles distant, through an almost roadless country, to compete at the Sub-Intendant's auction sales, with every probability of being outbid in the end, and having his long-deposited money returned to him after all his pains. Lieutenant-Governor Des Voeux told the Legislature of Trinidad that the monstrous Excise imposts of the Colony were an incentive to smuggling, and he thought that the duties, licenses, &c., should be lowered in the interest of good and equitable government. Sir Henry Turner Irving, however, besides raising the duties on spirituous liquors, also enacted that every distillery, however small, must pay a salary to a Government official stationed within it to supervise the manufacture of the spirits. This, of course, was the death-blow to all the minor competition which had so long been disturbing the peace of mind of the mighty possessors of the great distilleries. Ahab was thus made glad with the vineyard of Naboth.

In the matter of official appointments, too, Governor Irving was consistent in his ostentatious hostility to Creoles in general, and to coloured Creoles in particular. Of the fifty-six appointments which that model Governor [66] made in 1876, only seven happened to be natives and coloured, out of a population in which the latter element is so preponderant as to excite the fears of Mr. Froude. In educational matters, though he could not with any show of sense or decency re-enact the rule which excluded students of illegitimate birth from the advantages of the Royal College, he could, nevertheless, pander to the prejudices of himself and his friends by raising the standard of proficiency while reducing the limit of the age for free admission to that institution—boys of African descent having shown an irrepressible persistency in carrying off prizes.

Every one acquainted with Trinidad politics knows very well the ineffably low dodges and subterfuges under which the Arima Railway was prevented from having its terminus in the centre of that town. The public was promised a saving of Eight Thousand Pounds by their high-minded Governor for a diversion of the line "by only a few yards" from the originally projected terminus. In the end it was found out not only that the terminus of the railway was nearly a whole mile outside of the town of Arima, but also that Twenty [67] Thousand Pounds "Miscellaneous" had to be paid up by the good folk of Trinidad, in addition to gulping down their disappointment at saving no Eight Thousand Pounds, and having to find by bitter experience, especially in rainy weather, that their Governor's few yards were just his characteristic way of putting down yards which he well knew were to be counted by hundreds. Then, again, we have the so-called San Fernando Waterworks, an abortion, a scandal for which there is no excuse, as the head of the Public Works Department went his own way despite the experience of those who knew better than he, and the protests of those who would have had to pay. Seventeen Thousand Pounds represent the amount of debt with which Governor Irving's pet department has saddled the town of San Fernando for water, which half the inhabitants cannot get, and which few of the half who do get it dare venture to drink. Summa fastigia rerum secuti sumus. If in the works that were so prominent before the public gaze these enormous abuses could flourish, defiant of protest and opposition, what shall we think of the nooks and corners of that same squandering department, which of [68] course must have been mere gnats in the eyes of a Governor who had swallowed so many monstrous camels! The Governor was callous. Trinidad was a battening ground for his friends; but she had in her bosom men who were her friends, and the struggle began, constitutionally of course, which, under the leadership of the Mayor of San Fernando, has continued up to now, culminating at last in the Reform movement which Mr. Froude decries, and which his pupil, Mr. S. H. Gatty, is, from what has appeared in the Trinidad papers, doing his "level best" to render abortive.

Sir Sanford Freeling, by the will and pleasure of Downing Street, was the next successor, after Governor Irving, to the chief ruler-ship of Trinidad. Incredible as it may sound, he was a yet more disadvantageous bargain for the Colony's L4000 a year. A better man in many respects than his predecessor, he was in many more a much worse Governor. The personal affability of a man can be known only to those who come into actual contact with him—the public measures of a ruler over a community touches it, mediately or immediately, throughout all its sections. The bad boldness of [69] Governor Irving achieved much that the people, especially in the outlying districts, could see and appreciate. For example, he erected Rest-houses all over the remoter and more sparsely peopled quarters of the Colony, after the manner of such provisions in Oriental lands. The population who came in contact with these conveniences, and to whom access to them—for a consideration—had never been denied, saw with their own eyes tangible evidence of the Governor's activity, and inferred therefrom a solicitude on his part for the public welfare. Had they, however, been given a notion of the bill which had had to be paid for those frail, though welcome hostelries, they would have stood aghast at the imbecility, or, if not logically that, the something very much worse, through which five times the actual worth of these buildings had been extracted from the Treasury. Sir Sanford Freeling, on the other hand, while being no screener of jobbery and peculation, had not the strength of mind whereof jobbers and peculators do stand in dread. In evidence of that poor ruler's infirmity of purpose, we would only cite the double fact that, whereas in 1883 he was the first to enter a practical protest against the housing [70] of the diseased and destitute in the then newly finished, but most leaky, House of Refuge on the St. Clair Lands, by having the poor saturated inmates carried off in his presence to the Colonial Hospital, yet His Excellency was the very man who, in the very next year, 1884, not only sanctioned the shooting down of Indian immigrants at their festival, but actually directed the use of buck-shot for that purpose! Evidently, if these two foregoing statements are true, Mr. Froude must join us in thinking that a man whose mind could be warped by external influences from the softest commiseration for the sufferings of his kind, one year, into being the cold-blooded deviser of the readiest method for slaughtering unarmed holiday-makers, the very next year, is not the kind of ruler whom he and we so cordially desiderate. We have already mentioned above how ignominious Governor Freeling's failure was in attempting to meddle with the colossal abuses of the Public Works Department.

Sir Arthur Elibank Havelock next had the privilege of enjoying the paradisaic sojourn at Queen's House, St. Ann's, as well as the four thousand pounds a year attached to the [71] right of occupying that princely residence. Save as a dandy, however, and the harrier of subordinate officials, the writer of the annals of Trinidad may well pass him by. So then it may be seen what, by mere freaks of Chance—the ruling deity at Downing Street—the administrative experience of Trinidad had been from the departure of that true king in Israel,—Sir Arthur Gordon, up to the visit of Mr. Froude. First, a slave to red-tape, procrastination, and the caprices of pretentious colonialists; next, a daring schemer, confident of the support of the then dominant Sugar Interest, and regarding and treating the resources of the Island as free booty for his friends, sycophants, and favourites; then, an old woman, garbed in male attire, having an infirmity of purpose only too prone to be blown about by every wind of doctrine, alternating helplessly between tenderness and truculence, the charity of a Fry and the tragic atrocity of Medea. After this dismal ruler, Trinidad, by the grace of the Colonial Office, was subjected to the manipulation of an unctuous dandy. This successor of Gordon, of Elliot, and of Cairns, durst not oppose high-placed official malfeasants, but [72] was inexorable with regard to minor delinquents. In the above retrospect we have purposely omitted mentioning such transient rulers as Mr. Rennie, Sir G. W. Des Voeux, and last, but by no means least, Sir F. Barlee, a high-minded Governor, whom death so suddenly and inscrutably snatched away from the good work he had loyally begun. Every one of the above temporary administrators was a right good man for a post in which brain power and moral back-bone are essential qualifications. But the Fates so willed it that Trinidad should never enjoy the permanent governance of either. In view of the above facts; in view also of the lessons taught the inhabitants of Trinidad so frequently, so cruelly, what wonder is there that, failing of faith in a probability, which stands one against four, of their getting another worthy ruler when Governor Robinson shall have left them, they should seek to make hay while the sun shines, by providing against the contingency of such Governors as they know from bitter experience that Downing Street would place over their destinies, should the considerations detailed by Mr. Froude or any other equally [73] unworthy counsellor supervene? That the leading minds of Trinidad should believe in an elective legislature is a logical consequence of the teachings of the past, when the Colony was under the manipulation of the sort of Governors above mentioned as immediately succeeding Sir Arthur Gordon.

This brings us to the motives, the sordid motives, which Mr. Froude, oblivious of the responsibility of his high literary status, has permitted himself gratuitously, and we may add scandalously, to impute to the heads of the Reform movement in Trinidad. It was perfectly competent that our author should decline, as he did decline, to have anything to do, even as a spectator, at a meeting with the object of which he had no sympathy. But our opinion is equally decided that Mr. Froude has transgressed the bounds of decent political antagonism, nay, even of common sense, when he presumes to state that it was not for any other object than the large salaries of the Crown appointments, which they covet for themselves, that the Reform leaders are contending. This is not criticism: it is slander. To make culpatory statements against others, [74] without ability to prove them, is, to say the least, hazardous; but to make accusations to formulate which the accuser is forced, not only to ignore facts, but actually to deny them, is, to our mind, nothing short of rank defamation.

Mr. Froude is not likely to impress the world (of the West Indies, at any rate) with the transparently silly, if not intentionally malicious, ravings which he has indulged in on the subject of Trinidad and its politics. Here are some of the things which this "champion of Anglo-West Indians" attempts to force down the throats of his readers. He would have us believe that Mr. Francis Damian, the Mayor of Port of Spain, and one of the wealthiest of the native inhabitants of Trinidad, a man who has retired from an honourable and lucrative legal practice, and devotes his time, his talents, and his money to the service of his native country; that Mr. Robert Guppy, the venerable and venerated Mayor of San Fernando, with his weight of years and his sufficing competence, and with his long record of self-denying services to the public; that Mr. George Goodwille, one of the most successful merchants in the Colonies; that Mr. Conrad [75] F. Stollmeyer, a gentleman retired, in the evening of his days, on his well-earned ample means, are open to the above sordid accusation. In short, that those and such-like individuals who, on account of their private resources and mental capabilities, as well as the public influence resulting therefrom, are, by the sheer logic of circumstances, forced to be at the head of public movements, are actuated by a craving for the few hundred pounds a year for which there is such a scramble at Downing Street among the future official grandees of the West Indies! But granting that this allegation of Mr. Froude's was not as baseless as we have shown it to be, and that the leaders of the Reform agitation were impelled by the desire which our author seeks to discredit them with, what then? Have they who have borne the heat and the burden of the day in making the Colonies what they are no right to the enjoyment of the fruits of their labours? The local knowledge, the confidence and respect of the population, which such men enjoy, and can wield for good or evil in the community, are these matters of small account in the efficient government of the Colony? Our author, in [76] specifying the immunities of his ideal Governor, who is also ours, recommends, amongst other things, that His Excellency should be allowed to choose his own advisers. By this Mr. Froude certainly does not mean that the advisers so chosen must be all pure-blooded Englishmen who have rushed from the destitution of home to batten on the cheaply obtained flesh-pots of the Colonies.

At any rate, whatever political fate Mr. Froude may desire for the Colonies in general, and for Trinidad in particular, it is nevertheless unquestionable that he and the scheme that he may have for our future governance, in this year of grace 1888, have both come into view entirely out of season. The spirit of the times has rendered impossible any further toleration of the arrogance which is based on historical self-glorification. The gentlemen of Trinidad, who are struggling for political enfranchisement, are not likely to heed, except as a matter for indignant contempt, the obtrusion by our author of his opinion that "they had best let well alone." On his own showing, the persons appointed to supreme authority in the Colonies are, more usually than not, entirely unfit for [77] holding any responsible position whatever over their fellows. Now, can it be doubted that less care, less scruple, less consideration, would be exercised in the choice of the satellites appointed to revolve, in these far-off latitudes, around the central luminaries? Have we not found, are we not still finding every day, that the brain-dizziness—Xenophon calls it kephalalgeia+—induced by sudden promotion has transformed the abject suppliants at the Downing Street backstairs into the arrogant defiers of the opinions, and violators of the rights, of the populations whose subjection to the British Crown alone could have rendered possible the elevation of such folk and their impunity in malfeasance? The cup of loyal forbearance reached the overflowing point since the trickstering days of Governor Irving, and it is useless now to believe in the possibility of a return of the leading minds of Trinidad to a tame acquiescence as regards the probabilities of their government according to the Crown system. Mr. Froude's own remarks point out definitely enough that a community so governed is absolutely at the mercy, for good or for evil, of the man who happens to be invested with [78] the supreme authority. He has also shown that in our case that supreme authority is very often disastrously entrusted. Yet has he nothing but sneers for the efforts of those who strive to be emancipated from liability to such subjection. Mr. Froude's deftly-worded sarcasms about "degrading tyranny," "the dignity of manhood," &c., are powerless to alter the facts. Crown Colony Government—denying, as it does to even the wisest and most interested in a community cursed with it all participation in the conduct of their own affairs, while investing irresponsible and uninterested "birds of passage" (as our author aptly describes them) with the right of making ducks and drakes of the resources wrung from the inhabitants—is a degrading tyranny, which the sneers of Mr. Froude cannot make otherwise. The dignity of manhood, on the other hand, we are forced to admit, runs scanty chance of recognition by any being, however masculine his name, who could perpetrate such a literary and moral scandal as "The Bow of Ulysses." Yet the dignity of manhood stands venerable there, and whilst the world lasts shall gain for its possessors the right of record on the roll of [79] those whom the worthy of the world delight to honour.

All of a piece, as regards veracity and prudence, is the further allegation of Mr. Froude's, to the effect that there was never any agitation for Reform in Trinidad before that which he passes under review. It is, however, a melancholy fact, which we are ashamed to state, that Mr. Froude has written characteristically here also, either through crass ignorance or through deliberate malice. Any respectable, well-informed inhabitant of Trinidad, who happened not to be an official "bird of passage," might, on our author's honest inquiry, have informed him that Trinidad is the land of chronic agitation for Reform. Mr. Froude might also have been informed that, even forty-five years ago, that is in 1843, an elective constitution, with all the electoral districts duly marked out, was formulated and transmitted by the leading inhabitants of Trinidad to the then Secretary of State for the Colonies. He might also have learnt that on every occasion that any of the shady Governors, whom he has so well depicted, manifested any excess of his undesirable qualities, there has been a movement [80] among the educated people in behalf of changing their country's political condition.

We close this part of our review by reiterating our conviction that, come what will, the Crown Colony system, as at present managed, is doomed. Britain may, in deference to the alleged wishes of her impalpable "Anglo-West Indians"—whose existence rests on the authority of Mr. Froude alone—deny to Trinidad and other Colonies even the small modicum prayed for of autonomy, but in doing so the Mother Country will have to sternly revise her present methods of selecting and appointing Governors. As to the subordinate lot, they will have to be worth their salt when there is at the head of the Government a man who is truly deserving of his.


53. +It is not clear from the original text exactly where the brief chapter "Trinidad" ends and where the longer one entitled "Reform in Trinidad" begins. (The copy indicates that the "Trinidad" chapter ends at page 54, but the relevant page contains no subheading.) I have, therefore, chosen to fuse the two chapters since they form a logical unit.

77. +Since there is little Greek in this work, I have simply transliterated it.


[81] We come now to the ingenious and novel fashion in which Mr. Froude carries out his investigations among the black population, and to his dogmatic conclusions concerning them. He says:—

"In Trinidad, as everywhere else, my own chief desire was to see the human inhabitants, to learn what they were doing, how they were living, and what they were thinking about, and this could best be done by drives about the town and neighbourhood."

"Drives about the town and neighbourhood," indeed! To learn and be able to depict with faithful accuracy what people "were doing, how they were living, and what they were thinking about"—all this being best done (domestic circumstances, nay, soul-workings and all!) through fleeting glimpses of shifting [82] panoramas of intelligent human beings! What a bright notion! We have here the suggestion of a capacity too superhuman to be accepted on trust, especially when, as in this case, it is by implication self-arrogated. The modesty of this thaumaturgic traveller in confining the execution of his detailed scrutiny of a whole community to the moderate progression of some conventional vehicle, drawn by some conventional quadruped or the other, does injustice to powers which, if possessed at all, might have compassed the same achievement in the swifter transit of an express train, or, better still perhaps, from the empyrean elevation of a balloon! Yet is Mr. Froude confident that data professed to be thus collected would easily pass muster with the readers of his book! A confidence of this kind is abnormal, and illustrates, we think most fully, all the special characteristics of the man. With his passion for repeating, our author tells us in continuation of a strange rhapsody on Negro felicity:—

"Once more, the earth does not contain any peasantry so well off, so well-cared for, so happy, so sleek and contented, as the sons [83] and daughters of the emancipated slaves in the English West Indian Islands."


"Under the rule of England, in these islands, the two millions of these brothers-in-law of ours are the most perfectly contented specimens of the human race to be found upon the planet.... If happiness be the satisfaction of every conscious desire, theirs is a condition that admits of no improvement: were they independent, they might quarrel among themselves, and the weaker become the bondsmen of the stronger; under the beneficent despotism of the English Government, which knows no difference of colour and permits no oppression, they can sleep, lounge, and laugh away their lives as they please, fearing no danger," &c.

Now, then, let us examine for a while this roseate picture of Arcadian blissfulness said to be enjoyed by British West Indian Negroes in general, and by the Negroes of Trinidad in particular. "No distinction of colour" under the British rule, and, better still, absolute protection of the weaker against the stronger! This latter consummation especially, [84] Mr. Froude tells us, has been happily secured "under the beneficent despotism" of the Crown Colony system. However, let the above vague hyperboles be submitted to the test of practical experience, and the abstract government analysed in its concrete relations with the people.

Unquestionably the actual and direct interposition of the shielding authority above referred to, between man and man, is the immediate province of the MAGISTRACY. All other branches of the Government, having in themselves no coercive power, must, from the supreme executive downwards, in cases of irreconcilable clashing of interests, have ultimate recourse to the magisterial jurisdiction. Putting aside, then, whatever culpable remissness may have been manifested by magistrates in favour of powerful malfeasants, we would submit that the fact of stipendiary justices converting the tremendous, far-reaching powers which they wield into an engine of systematic oppression, ought to dim by many a shade the glowing lustre of Mr. Froude's encomiums. Facts, authentic and notorious, might be adduced in hundreds, especially with respect to [85] the Port of Spain and San Fernando magistracies (both of which, since the administration of Sir J. R. Longden, have been exclusively the prizes of briefless English barristers*), to prove that these gentry, far from being bulwarks to the weaker as against the stronger, have, in their own persons, been the direst scourges that the poor, particularly when coloured, have been afflicted by in aggravation of the difficulties of their lot. Only typical examples can here be given out of hundreds upon hundreds which might easily be cited and proved against the incumbents of the abovementioned chief stipendiary magistracies. One such example was a matter of everyday discussion at the time of Mr. Froude's visit. The inhabitants were even backed in their complaints by the Governor, who had, in response to their cry of distress, forwarded their prayer [86] to the home authorities for relief from the hard treatment which they alleged themselves to be suffering at the hands of the then magistrate. Our allusion here is to the chief town, Port of Spain, the magistracy of which embraces also the surrounding districts, containing a total population of between 60,000 and 70,000 souls. Mr. R. D. Mayne filled this responsible office during the latter years of Sir J. R. Longden's governorship. He was reputed, soon after his arrival, to have announced from the bench that in every case he would take the word of a constable in preference to the testimony of any one else. The Barbadian rowdies who then formed the major part of the constabulary of Trinidad, and whose bitter hatred of the older residents had been not only plainly expressed, but often brutally exemplified, rejoiced in the opportunity thus afforded for giving effect to their truculent sentiments. At that time the bulk of the immigrants from Barbados were habitual offenders whom the Government there had provided with a free passage to wherever they elected to betake themselves. The more intelligent of the men flocked to the Trinidad [87] police ranks, into which they were admitted generally without much inquiry into their antecedents. On this account they were shunned by the decent inhabitants, a course which they repaid with savage animosity. Perjuries the most atrocious and crushing, especially to the respectable poor, became the order of the day. Hundreds of innocent persons were committed to gaol and the infamy of convict servitude, without the possibility of escape from, or even mitigation of, their ignominious doom. A respectable woman (a native of Barbados, too, who in the time of the first immigration of the better sort of her compatriots had made Trinidad her home) was one of the first victims of this iniquitous state of affairs.

The class of people to which she belonged was noted as orderly, industrious and law-abiding, and, being so, it had identified itself entirely with the natives of the land of its adoption. This fact alone was sufficient to involve these immigrants in the same lot of persecution which their newly arrived countrymen had organized and were carrying out against the Trinidadians proper. It happened that, on the occasion to which we wish particularly [88] to refer, the woman in question was at home, engaged in her usual occupation of ironing for her honest livelihood. Suddenly she heard a heavy blow in the street before her door, and almost simultaneously a loud scream, which, on looking hastily out, she perceived to be the cry of a boy of some ten or twelve years of age, who had been violently struck with the fist by another youth of larger size and evidently his senior in age. The smaller fellow had laid fast hold of his antagonist by the collar, and would not let go, despite the blows which, to extricate himself and in retaliation of the puny buffets of his youthful detainer, he "showered thick as wintry rain."

The woman, seeing the posture of affairs, shouted to the combatants to desist, but to no purpose, rage and absorption in their wrathful occupation having deafened both to all external sounds. Seized with pity for the younger lad, who was getting so mercilessly the worst of it, the woman, hastily throwing a shawl over her shoulders, sprang into the street and rushed between the juvenile belligerents. Dexterously extricating the hand of the little fellow from the collar of his antagonist, she hurried the former [89] into her gateway, shouting out to him at the same time to fasten the door on the inside. This the little fellow did, and no doubt gladly, as this surcease from actual conflict, short though it was, must have afforded space for the natural instinct of self-preservation to reassert itself. Hereupon the elder of the two lads, like a tiger robbed of his prey, sprang furiously to the gate, and began to use frantic efforts to force an entrance. Perceiving this, the woman (who meanwhile had not been idle with earnest dissuasions and remonstrances, which had all proved futile) pulled the irate youngster back, and interposed her body between him and the gate, warding him off with her hands every time that he rushed forward to renew the assault. At length a Barbadian policeman hove in sight, and was hastily beckoned to by the poor ironer, who, by this time, had nearly come to the end of her strength. The uniformed "Bim" was soon on the spot; but, without asking or waiting to hear the cause of the disturbance, he shouted to the volunteer peacemaker, "I see you are fighting: you are my prisoner!" Saying this, he clutched the poor thunderstruck creature by the wrist, and there [90] and then set about hurrying her off towards the police station. It happened, however, that the whole affair had occurred in the sight of a gentleman of well-known integrity. He, seated at a window overlooking the street, had witnessed the whole squabble, from its beginning in words to its culmination in blows; so, seeing that the woman was most unjustly arrested, he went out and explained the circumstances to the guardian of order. But to no purpose; the poor creature was taken to the station, accompanied by the gentleman, who most properly volunteered that neighbourly turn. There she was charged with "obstructing the policeman in the lawful execution of his duty." She was let out on bail, and next day appeared to answer the charge.

Mr. Mayne, the magistrate, presided. The constable told his tale without any material deviation from the truth, probably confident, from previous experience, that his accusation was sufficient to secure a conviction. On the defendant's behalf, the gentleman referred to, who was well known to the magistrate himself, was called, and he related the facts as we have above given them. Even Mr. Mayne [91] could see no proof of the information, and this he confessed in the following qualified judgment:—

"You are indeed very lucky, my good woman, that the constable has failed to prove his case against you; otherwise you would have been sent to hard labour, as the ordinance provides, without the option of a fine. But as the case stands, you must pay a fine of L2"!!!

Comment on this worse than scandalous decision would be superfluous.

Another typical case, illustrative of the truth of Mr. Froude's boast of the eminent fair play, nay, even the stout protection, that Negroes, and generally, "the weaker," have been wont to receive from British magistrates, may be related.

An honest, hard-working couple, living in one of the outlying districts, cultivated a plot of ground, upon the produce of which they depended for their livelihood. After a time these worthy folk, on getting to their holding in the morning, used to find exasperating evidence of the plunder overnight of their marketable provisions. Determined to discover the depredator, they concealed themselves [92] in the garden late one night, and awaited the result. By that means they succeeded in capturing the thief, a female, who, not suspecting their presence, had entered the garden, dug out some of the provisions, and was about to make off with her booty. In spite of desperate resistance, she was taken to the police station and there duly charged with larceny. Meanwhile her son, on hearing of his mother's incarceration, hastened to find her in her cell, and, after briefly consulting with her, he decided on entering a countercharge of assault and battery against both her captors. Whether or not this bold proceeding was prompted by the knowledge that the dispensing of justice in the magistrate's court was a mere game of cross-purposes, a cynical disregard of common sense and elementary equity, we cannot say; but the ultimate result fully justified this abnormal hardihood of filial championship.

On the day of the trial, the magistrate heard the evidence on both sides, the case of larceny having been gone into first. For her defence, the accused confined herself to simple denials of the allegations against her, at the [93] same time entertaining the court with a lachrymose harangue about her rough treatment at the hands of the accusing parties. Finally, the decision of the magistrate was: that the prisoner be discharged, and the plundered goods restored to her; and, as to the countercharge, that the husband and wife be imprisoned, the former for three and the latter for two months, with hard labour! When we add that there was, at that time, no Governor or Chief Justice accessible to the poorer and less intelligent classes, as is now the case (Sir Henry T. Irving and Sir Joseph Needham having been respectively superseded by Sir William Robinson and Sir John Gorrie), one can imagine what scope there was for similar exhibitions of the protecting energy of British rule.

As we have already said, during Mr. Froude's sojourn in Trinidad the "sleek, happy, and contented" people, whose condition "admitted of no improvement," were yet groaning in bitter sorrow, nay, in absolute despair, under the crushing weight of such magisterial decisions as those which I have just recorded. Let me add two more [94] typical cases which occurred during Mr. Mayne's tenure of office in the island.

L. B. was a member of one of those brawling sisterhoods that frequently disturbed the peace of the town of Port of Spain. She had a "pal" or intimate chum familiarly known as "Lady," who staunchly stood by her in all the squabbles that occurred with their adversaries. One particular night, the police were called to a street in the east of the town, in consequence of an affray between some women of the sort referred to. Arriving on the spot, they found the fight already over, but a war of words was still proceeding among the late combatants, of whom the aforesaid "Lady" was one of the most conspicuous. A list was duly made out of the parties found so engaged, and it included the name of L. B., who happened not to be there, or even in Port of Spain at all, she having some days before gone into the country to spend a little time with some relatives. The inserting of her name was an inferential mistake on the part of the police, arising from the presence of "Lady" at the brawl, she being well known by them to be the inseparable ally of L. B. on such occasions.

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