The New York Times, August 3, 1860:|
THE LEEWARD ISLANDS.Results of Emancipation in Antigua.
From Our Own Correspondent.
St. John, Antigua, March, 1860.
Antigua has been, and still is, in some respects, one of the favored islands of the British West India group. Though small in size, she has often taken a lead in questions of political and social reform that larger, more populous, and more wealthy islands have found it advantageous to follow.
Antigua hastened, in advance of all other colonies, to emancipate her slaves. She refused to believe in the virtues of an apprenticeship, or in the doctrine that her bondsmen needed a purgatory to prepare them for freedom. If they were to be liberated, why not at once, and escape the vexation, the heart-burnings, and the suspense of a wretched ordeal?
In 1834 Antigua became a perfectly free colony. Her rulers were wise in their generation. They foresaw that with the substitution of free labor for slave labor, much had to be learnt and much to be unlearnt; that the success of the new system could only be determined by time and experience; and that an early start in the race was a point to be gained--not to be neglected.
And so it undoubtably was. Antigua has never had any cause to regret the independent course that she then thought proper to pursue. In spite of an insignificant area--a soil by no means superlatively rich, and a climate too liable to drouth to make the cultivation of sugar a business of extravagant profit--Antigua has managed to retain a prominent position among West Indian colonies. She suffered severely from an earthquake in 1843, but that calamity, terrible as it was, neither checked her industry nor affected her permanent prosperity.
There is no island in the West Indies so boutifully supplied with safe harbors as Antigua. Those most generally in use are Falmouth, English Harbor, where the mail steamers stop and men-of-war find shelter during the hurricane months; Parham, on the north coast, and the principal seaport of St. John. The capital, called also St. John, is the best-looking and best-regulated city of its size in the British West Indies. Its Board of Health is always actively at work. the streets are clean and macadamised; the houses are neat, well built, and of a more modern style than the generality of West Indian domiciles; and it is only in the suburban outskirts--the "St. Giles" of the minute metropolis--that a ragged architecture offends the eye...
The whole island is only 55 miles in circumference, and its revenue, about £35,000 sterling, is derived from a population that scarcely exceeds that figure. Of this revenue some £10,000 are directly appropriated to religious, educational and charitable purposes. Among them the schools receive £1,000, the established church £860, the board of health £1,700, the hospital £1,350, and the public library £120. The Island Government has kept up a strong militia force ever since the regular troops were withdrawn eight years ago. It also supports a fire brigade, the only institution of its kind, I believe, in the British West Indies...
The Island of Antigua embraces some 70,000 superficial acres, of which about 58,000 are owned by large proprietors. Sugar, excepting a small quantity of arrowroot grown by settlers, is the only article of export, and the estates average in size 320 acres. Very few exceed a thousand acres.
In a geological and agricultural point of view, the northern and southern divisions of Antigua offer a striking contrast. The former, comprising the parishes of St. John, St. George, and St. Peter, is a low, level country, admirably adapted to the cultivation of the cane; and, excepting the towns, villages, and Government lands, the entire section is in the hands of large proprietors. The southern division, comprising the parishes of St. Mary, St. Paul and St. Phillip, is mountainous. Sugar plantations cover three-fourths of this section, and the remaining fourth, about 9,000 acres, is checkered with negro settlements.
The hills, which trend along the southern coast, seduce the laborers from the estates, and are, in other respects, a barrier to the extension of cane cultivation, which, in Barbados does not exist; but even the level lands of Antigua have not that garden-like appearance which makes Barbados a very Eden among the West India Islands. Not that so many acres of cane in one yields less than an equal number of acres in the other--I have seen cane pieces in Antigua yielding three and for hogsheads to the acre--but the cultivation of the chief staple is less general, and lacks that superb finish which is characteristic of Barbados, and is an undoubted evidence of the superabundance of creole labor that she alone, of all the British Antilles, has been able to command.
Judged by a commercial or a moral standard, Antigua as a free colony is considerably in advance of Antigua as a slave colony. The island, since abolition, has yielded a single crop of 20,000 hogsheads--the largest on record, and one which, under the most favorable circumstances, it would be difficult ot surpass. Antigua, however, suffers so greatly and so frequently from want of rain that her crop varies more than that of any other island. It has fallen, from this cause alone, to 8,000, 7,000 and even 6,000 hogsheads; and it is therefore necessary to take an average, in order to estimate correctly the value of Antigonian industry and productiveness.
For ten years preceding emancipation--the period of the island's greatest prosperity under Slavery--its average annual exportation was 12,500 hogsheads, with a field force of 18,320 laborers, one-third of whom must be held to have been non-effective. From 1840 to 1850 the annual average was 13,000 hogsheads, and from 1850 to 1860 it rises to 13,500 hogsheads of a decidedly superior weight, with a field force of 6,000 laborers...
The improved condition of the peasantry is never doubted or questioned in the island itself, and it is well shown by the nature and extent of the imports during late years...
From 1822 to 1832 the average annual value of goods imported by Antigua was £130,000 sterling, of which about £50,000 value came from the United Kingdom and £40,000 from the United States. In 1858 the island imported to the value of £266,364 sterling, of which £114,631 value came from the United Kingdom and £106,586 from the United States. The American imports were principally articles of food, suited to the wants of a thriving native population...
Thus, too, in confirmation of the largely extended trade of Antigua, it appears that during the ten years preceding Emancipation the average number of vessels entering the annually the different island ports was 340, and the tonnage was 30,000; while in 1858 the number of vessels entering was 668, and the tonnage 42,534. Of these vessels, 78 of 12,988 tons were American, though only twenty--five with cargoes and fifteen in ballast--cleared for ports in the United States. I have already explained the cause of this difference. The proprietors of estates, under mortgage to parties in Great Britain, are not free to sell their crops to whomever they please. They are obliged to dispose of them to their English creditors; and hence the principal staple seldom finds its way to the American market.
The cost of agricultural labor in Antigua is possibly higher than in Barbados, but less than it is in Trinidad, and infinitely below that of slave countries. The following return from a very well managed estate was given me by a friend, and is an interesting illustration of the low rate at which canes can be reaped and sugar manufactured in the island under consideration:
Cost of Mr. ------'s sugar for the week ending Feb. 25, 1860.
Cutting 315 loads of canes, at 2d..............................................
Carting 315 do., at one dog,
(six "dogs" in Antigua are about equal to eight cents)....
Loading 315 do., at two for 1 dog.............................................
Grinding 315 do., viz.:
Feeder, two cane carriers, one Megass do., one fuller.....
Mill-bed cleaner, at 6d. per day.................................................
Boiling-house, viz.: one at 1s., four at 10d..................................
Copper Hole, viz.: one at 1s., three at 10d..................................
Potting 11¾ hhds. sugar..........................................................
Premium on 11¾ hhds. at 1d....................................................
Cost per Hogshead--£0 16s 4d.
Quantity per Hogshead--1,350 gallons; 27 loads of canes.
...The field laborers... earn, on an average, twenty cents a day, during a year of 250 working days. Estimating the crop at twenty-five million pounds, each laborer, costing $50 per annum, will be found to produce 4,166 pounds, which fixes the cost of agricultural labor in Antigua at 1 1/5 cents for each pound of sugar manufactured--a figure, it is needless to add, greatly below the cost of labor in the slave countries.
...At the time of emancipation the number of scholars attending Sunday and other schools was 1,886. In 1857 there were 36 day schools in operation, and 3,529 scholars receiving instruction. In 1858 there wree 52 day schools an 6,418 scholars. The population of Antigua between the ages of 5 and 15 is estimated at 8,000...
In 1846 there were in the Island 67 villages, containing 3,187 houses and 9,033 inhabitants. All these villages were founded and all these houses built since emancipation. In 1858, after another lapse of twelve years, 2,000 additional houses had been built, and the number of village residents had risen to 15,644. At the same period there were only 299 paupers in the Island... The number of illegitimate births averages 53 per cent. In some other islands it exceeds 100 per cent.
The progress made by the people of Antigua since emancipation would certainly justify an extension of their very limited franchise. Members of Assembly must have an income of at least £66 13s. 4d. from real property, or of £200 from any occupation or business. To vote, a resident of Antigua must be a proprietor of ten acres in fee simple; of five acres, with buildings, equal in value to £111; or of one acre, with buildings, of the value of £222. The occupant of a tenancy renting for £88 17s. 10d. is also qualified. A town voter must hold property of the value of £13 6s. 8d., or pay rent to the amount of £26 13s. 4d. This high qualification excludes the middle classes from the polls.
The Legislature is composed entirely of planters, or of those whom the planters choose to put there. In some districts of Antigua the influence of one larger proprietor is sufficient to elect two members of Assembly. The application of the vast machinery of the British Constitution and its inseparable Church Establishment to each of the lesser West India colonies is susceptible of the reductio ad absurdum. The machinery is so imposing, and occupies so much space, that popular liberty in a small community is squeezed into the narrowest possible compass.
W. G. S.
The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1860 was equivalent to $22.88 in 2007.
See also: Barbados News - Martinique News|
Guadeloupe News - Dominica News
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Antigua and Barbuda: The Siboney were the first to inhabit the islands of Antigua and Barbuda in 2400 B.C., but Arawak and Carib Indians populated the islands when Columbus landed on his second voyage in 1493.
Early settlements by the Spanish and French were succeeded by the English who formed a colony in 1667.
Slavery, established to run the sugar plantations on Antigua, was abolished in 1834.
The islands became an independent state within the British Commonwealth of Nations in 1981.
...Tourism continues to dominate the economy, accounting for more than half of GDP. Weak tourist arrival numbers since early 2000 have slowed the economy, however, and pressed the government into a tight fiscal corner.
The dual-island nation's agricultural production is focused on the domestic market and constrained by a limited water supply and a labor shortage stemming from the lure of higher wages in tourism and construction. Manufacturing comprises enclave-type assembly for export with major products being bedding, handicrafts, and electronic components.
Prospects for economic growth in the medium term will continue to depend on income growth in the industrialized world, especially in the US, which accounts for slightly more than one-third of tourist arrivals.
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Area of Antigua & Barbuda:
443 sq km
2.5 times the size of Washington, DC
Population of Antigua & Barbuda:
July 2007 estimate
Languages of Antigua & Barbuda:
English official, local dialects
Antigua & Barbuda Capital:
Saint John's Antigua
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The U.S. embassy in Antigua closed on June 30, 1994. Antigua and Barbuda are now under the consular jurisdiction of the U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados.
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