The New York Times, July 13, 1859, p. 2:|
THE WINDWARD ISLANDS--NO. XIII.Effects of Emancipation in the Island of Grenada.
From Our Own Correspondent.
St. George, Grenada, April, 1859.
The appearance of this town, the capital of the Island of Grenada, is even more picturesque and more dilapidated than that of St. Vincent. St. George is built upon two sides of a hill, one facing the ocean and the other the Carrenage--a magnificent harbor, where fifteen hundred ships could ride at anchor.
The streets of the town are overgrown with weeds; the houses look as though something much less formidable than a hurricane would level them to the ground; and there is the evidence, everywhere, of former splendor, and of money lavished, thoughlessly lavished I should say, under the mistaken impression that these islands would one day form part of a great West Indian Empire.
Whenever I visit a West India city, I am not so much surprised at its present condition, as at the traces it bears of the exaggerated and visionary hopes which must have filled the minds of its early inhabitants. Present depression is only a comparative depression, and is a natural consequence of the fictitious value formerly placed upon property. The streets of a West India city give an unfavorable impression, because the drones of all the island are congregated there. But after the country districts have been visited, this impression wears off, and the impartial spectator begins to entertain serious doubts as to whether the island was more prosperous under the old régime, when all its wealth and all its resources were in the hands of a few landed proprietors, than it is now, when intelligence is more general, and when wealth is more equally divided among a large population.
If, here and there in Grenada, you come across an abandoned estate, or if the houses of its ancient aristocracy have fallen into ruin because capital has left the island, there is some compensation in the fact that the humble dwellings of the peasantry have exceedingly multiplied and that villages have risen into existence with marvelous rapidity.
The decline of Grenada is no new thing; it dates back long anterior to Emancipation. In 1779 the slaves of the island were rated at 35,000; and, from that period down to the day of abolition, this number continued to diminish. In 1827 the number of slaves amounted to 24,442, and in 1837 the number for whom compensation was paid by the Imperial Government was only 23,641.
Thus, too, in 1776, the exports greatly exceeded what they ever since attained. They amounted in that year to nearly 24,000,000 pounds of sugar, 800 gallons of rum, 500,000 pounds of cocoa, 100,000 pounds of cotton, 28,000 pounds of indigo, besides smaller articles--all of which together were worth, at the port of shipping, at least three millions of dollars. In 1831, immediately before emancipation, the export of sugar had decreased to nineteen millions of pounds, and the value of all exports combined was a little more than one million of dollars.
This deterioration can be attributed to no other than these evils, which, as I have shown in former letters, existed then throughout the entire West Indies. Nine estates out of every ten were overburdened with debts, created partly by the expenses of the Slave system and partly by the extravagance, mismanagement and absenteeism of proprietors. But let us pass from this to the condition of the Island and its inhabitants in later times.
Of the number of slaves for whom compensation was paid to the Grenada proprietors by the British Government, I find that 14,716 (males and females) constituted at that time the agricultural force of the island. The total population of Grenada is now 33,000--an increase of three or four thousand over the population of 1827. Accustomed as I have lately been to the stale outcry of "want of labor," I am somewhat surprised to learn from the Grenada Blue-Books of 1857 that there were then nearly 14,000 creoles (of whom the great majority were men) engaged in agriculture. This fact alone contradicts the idea of any wholesale desertion from the estates, and it needs not that I should show in the present case--what I have all along maintained--that the abandonment of West India properties was more the fault of the masters than of the servants.
In this island the majority of emancipated field laborers continued to pursue their agricultural calling, and if some have engaged in trade or have emigrated to other islands, the only wonder is that more have not done so when wages are so low as from five shillings to two-and-sixpence sterling per week.
But it must not be supposed that of the 14,000 Grenadian creoles at present engaged in agriculture, all are in a subservient position. Only 6,000 are actually on the estates, and the remainder, preferring a greater independence than would be there allowed them, have rented cottages or are living in their own houses, and may be seen traveling along the roads every morning to their daily work.
That the material condition of the creole population has improved since emancipation is as manifest in this island as it is in all others that I have visited. The small proprietors, of whom there were none prior to 1830, now number over 2,000, and are greatly on the increase; nearly 7,000 persons are living in villages built since emancipation, and there are 4,573 persons in Grenada who pay direct taxes. In the whole island there were, last year, only sixty paupers, and these were all aged or sick.
The average church attendance throughout the island was, in 1857, over 8,000, against 7,000 before emancipation; but the school attendance is comparatively small, being only 1,600. Education among the creoles of Grenada has been, up to this time, at a very low ebb, for it has been looked upon with jealousy and distrust. But a Board of Education is now in existence, and great progress in popular education may be anticipated. Criminal statistics for 1857 show that only eighteen persons during the year were convicted of felony, six of theft, and two of other offenses. Misdemeanors are not enumerated.
The superficial area of Grenada is about 80,000 acres, and the quantity now in crop and pasture goes to show that, if the island exports less than it did in other days, cultivation has not proportionately diminished. The inference is that the inhabitants are not less industrious, but raise more of the minor articles of export and of home consumption than they did under the Slavery régime. Thus, in 1857 there were 6,372 acres in cane, 84 in coffee, 1,790 in cocoa, 266 in cotton, 7,262 in provisions, 975 in other cultivation, and 5,284 in pasture,--making a total of 43,800 cultivated acres, or an increase of 3,800 over the previous year.
I have no means of ascertaining the number of acres under cultivation before emancipation; but though the number of acres in cane was probably double what it is now, yet, the general cultivation, I do not hesitate to say, was not nearly so large or so complete as that which the Island now presents.
Such an inference, I think, can be drawn from a comparison, if such be instituted, between Grenadian exports now and what they were immediately prior to emancipation. While, in 1831, Grenada exported double the amount of sugar that she did in 1857, the value of all her exports in the former year was only £218,352, against £180,000, their value in the latter year, and this, in spite of the very material decline in the prices of sugar. In 1832, two years prior to emancipation, the value of Grenadian exports was £153,175, considerably less than it is now.
The fact is that sugar is the only article of export in which the island can be said to have declined. I do not for a moment deny the importance or significance of that decline, but it should be remembered that in minor articles, such as cocoa, the island is producing double now what it produced twenty-five years ago.
The imports of Grenada also show that its colored population are not in a worse condition than they were at any period in their past history. In 1857 the imports, of which over one-third were provisions from the United States, amounted to £109,000 against £78,000, £73,000 and £77,000 during the years immediately preceding emancipation.
Grenada has taken the lead of St. Vincent in the importation of coolie laborers, but want of capital is the great drawback to a proper development of the scheme. Up to the present time only three or four hundred immigrants have been introduced into the Island, and it cannot be expected that any tangible benefits should be experience by the colony from so small a supply.
The Grenadian laws regarding immigration are very liberal to the coolie. Every estate must have clean and good-sized lodging houses for immigrants, with separate apartments for every man and wife. There must be a medical practitioner on each estate, whose duty it is to attend the coolie free of charge, and see that he is provided when sick with proper nourishment. Wages are paid in cash every month, and the employer is not permitted to deduct anything from the sum due without the full and free consent of the coolie. Any one who knows the coolie character will readily believe that he would sooner part with his ten fingers and ten toes than as many cents of the amount that of right belongs to him.
I have not heard of any case in Grenada to which the West India encumbered Estates act has been applied. But the day will come when estates now lying idle and mortgaged beyond their value will be relieved from their heavy incubus of debt and be restored, perhaps, to their former prosperity.
W. G. S.
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Carib Indians inhabited Grenada when COLUMBUS discovered the island in 1498, but it remained uncolonized for more than a century.
The French settled Grenada in the 17th century, established sugar estates, and imported large numbers of African slaves.
Britain took the island in 1762 and vigorously expanded sugar production. In the 19th century, cacao eventually surpassed sugar as the main export crop; in the 20th century, nutmeg became the leading export.
In 1967, Britain gave Grenada autonomy over its internal affairs. Full independence was attained in 1974 making Grenada one of the smallest independent countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Grenada was seized by a Marxist military council on 19 October 1983. Six days later the island was invaded by US forces and those of six other Caribbean nations, which quickly captured the ringleaders and their hundreds of Cuban advisers. Free elections were reinstituted the following year and have continued since that time.
Hurricane Ivan struck Grenada in September of 2004 causing severe damage.
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