[From the first part of a two-part review in The Times on Trollope's account of his travels in the Americas. This part concerns the British Caribbean islands only and attempts to answer the questions: "Negroes, coolies, and planters; what is the position of each, and what are the rights of each?" The extract is focused mainly on the situation of the plantation owners, who in general receive considerably more attention and sympathy from both Trollope and Dallas. Dallas's parents had owned plantations on the tiny Caribbean island of Carriacou. - Graham Law]

The West Indies

Decorated initial F

ew persons in England have realized to themselves what a planter is and what prodigious business he undertakes. He is a farmer, a manufacturer, and a distiller all in one. He has to run all the risks incident to each of these branches of business, and to be conversant with all their details. First of all he has to grow his crop of canes, which require the most unremitting attention through a long series of months, the crops taking 14 months before they reach maturity. When the crop is ready he is not in the position of the wheat-grower, who sends his corn to the miller, or of the cotton-grower, who disposes of his bales to the manufacturer of calico. He must himself turn manufacturer, and that, too, in a branch of business which requires ample and complicated machinery. He must have his boiling-houses and his trash-houses, his water-power and his steam-power, his vacuum pans and his filtering bags. He must not only make sugar, he must make rum. There is no division of labour. The planter is involved in an accumulation of trades which makes him peculiarly sensitive to the fluctuations of the labour-market and the sliding of rival tariffs. In the old times he did well enough. Sometimes he made an enormous fortune, almost always he managed to live very comfortably. Within the last quarter of a century, however, he has had to face a series of difficulties which well deserve our consideration. First of all came emancipation, in which he was suddenly deprived of his slaves, the compensation which he got for their freedom being as nothing when compared with the actual value of their services. Emancipation played havock with the labour-market, as we have seen, and the planter was in the greatest straits, when free trade came into vogue, and abolished the protection which had hitherto been allowed to free-grown sugar. Emancipation was effected in the palmy days of protection, and it was some satisfaction to the planter that if he could not have slaves he would not be asked to enter into a neck and neck competition with other planters who had slaves. It may be, indeed, doubted whether we should ever have seen emancipation if free trade had been carried first. There are persons bold enough to maintain that free labour will always hold its own against slave labour, and surpass it; but be this the fact or not, it will be admitted that the position of the planters when free trade came was a most cruel one. It was just at the moment when they were in the greatest extremities for the want of free labour, when the negroes were in the most perfect enjoyment of their idleness, when the Coolies had not yet come to replace them and to incite their rivalry, when the labour-market was in the lowest depth of disorganization and there was not a sign of recovery, that the abolition of protection came to prostrate the planters utterly. An immense number fell before the storm. Nothing could save them, and for a time it seemed, as if there were very little chance even for their successors, who obtained the encumbered properties for a song, and began to work without debt and with abundance of capital. As a last resort the idea of Coolie immigration was started - the only means capable of deferring the final catastrophe. Trinidad has been saved in this way, so has Guiana, and just as Jamaica, Grenada, and some other islands are bestirring themselves in the same direction up rises the Anti-Slavery Society to declare that the labour of the black man must be protected, and that the Hindoo is grossly injured when he is asked to emigrate and to bind himself for five years. . . . [I 4c-d]

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[Dallas, Eneas Sweetland]. "The West Indies," The Times (Parts I & II; 6 & 18 January 1860): 4b-f & 12a-d. [Review of Anthony Trollope, The West Indies and the Spanish Main, London: Chapman & Hall, 1859.]

Created 5 February 2024