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spplied, by the English, to a cluster of small islands, rocks and reefs of sand, which stretch in a north-westerly direction for the space of nearly three hundred leagues from the northern coast of Hispaniola to the Bahama strait opposite the Florida fhore. *
Such of the above islands as are worth cultivation now belong to GREAT-BRITAIN, Spain, FRANCE, HOLLAND aad DENMARK.
The BRITISH claim
The Bahama islands,
The SPANIARDS claim
Part of St. Domingo,
The FRENCH claim
St. Bartholomew, Defeada,
The Dutch claim
Curassou, or Curacoa,
The Danes claim
St. Thomas and St. John's.
The climate in all the West-India islands is nearly the same, al. lowing for those accidental differences which the feveral situations and qualities of the lands themselves produce. As they lie within the tropics, and the sun goes quite over their heads, passing beyond them to the north, and never returning farther from any of them than about thirty degrees to the south, they would be continually
subjected to an extreme and intolerable heat, if the trade winds, rifing gradually as the sun gathers strength, did not blow in upon them from the sea, and refresh the air in such a manner, as to enable them to attend their concerns even under the meridian fun. On the other hand, as the night advances, a breeze begins to be perceived, which blows smartly from the land, as it were from the center, towards the sea, to all points of the compass at once.
By the same remarkable Providence in the disposing of things it is, that when the sun has made a great progress towards the tropic of Cancer, and becomes in a manner vertical, he draws after bim such a vaft body of clouds, which fhield them from his direct beams, and diffolving into rain, cool the air and refresh the country, thirsty with the long drought, which commonly prevails from the beginning of January to the latter end of May,
The rains in the Wett-Indies are like floods of water poured from the clouds with a prodigious impetuosity; the rivers suddenly rife ; new rivers and lakes are formed, and in a short time all the low country is under water. * Ilence it is, that the rivers which have their source within the tropics, swell and overflow their banks at a certain season; but so mistaken were the ancients in their idea of the torrid zone, that they imagined it to be dried and scorched up with a continual and fervent heat, and to be for that reason uninhabitable ; when, in reality, some of the largest rivers of the world have their course within its limits, and the moisture is one of the greatest inconveniencies of the climate in several places.
The rains make the only distinction of seafons in the West-Indies ; the trees are green the whole year round; they have no cold, no frosts, no fnows, and but rarely some hail; the storms of hail are, however, very violent when they happen, and the hailstones very great and heavy. Whether it be owing to this moisture, which alone does pot seem to be a suficient cause, or to a greater quantity of a sulphureous acid, which predominates in the air of this country, metals of all kinds that are subject to the action of such causes rust and canker in a very short time; and this cause, perhaps, as much as the heat itself, contributes to make the climate of the West-Indies unfriendly and unpleasant to an European constitution,
It is in the rainy se afon, principally in the month of August, more şarely in July and September, that they are aflaulted by hurricanes,
It afci's Journey across the IPhmus of Darien.
the most terrible calamity to which they are fubject, as well as the people in the East-Indies, from the climate; this destroys, at a stroke, the labours of many years, and proftrates the most exalted hopes of the planter, and at the moment when he thinks himself out of danger. It is a sudden and violent storm of wind, rain, thunder aad lightning, attended with a furious swelling of the feas, and sometimes with an earthquake; in Nort, with every circumstance which the clements can assemble that is terrible and destructive. First, they see a prelude to the ensuing havoc, whole fields of sugar-canes whirled into the air, and scattered over the face of the country. The strongest trees of the forest are torn up by the roots, and drivea about like stubble; their windmills are swept away in a moment ; their utensils, the fixtures, the ponderous copper boilers, and stills of several hundred weight, are wrenched from the ground and battered to pieces; their houses are no protection; the roofs are torn off at one blaft ; whilft the rain, wbich in an hour raises the water éve feet, rushes in uson them with an irresistible violence.
The grand staple commodity of the West-Indies is sugar ; this commodity was not at all known to the Greeks and Romans, though it was made in China in very early times, from whence was derived the first koowledge of it; but the Portuguele were the first who cultivated it in America, and brought it into request, as one of the materials of a very universal luxury in Europe. It is not determined, whether the cane, from which this substance is taken, be a native of America, or brought thither to their colony of Brasil by the Portuguese, from India and the coait of Africa; but, however that niay be, in the beginning they made the most, as they still do the best, sugars which come to market in this part of the world. The juice within the sugar cane is the most lively, excellent, and the least cloying fweet in nature, which, fucked raw, has proved ex. temely nutritive and wholesome. From the molasies rum is distilled, and from the scummings of the sugar a meaner fpirit is procured. The tops of the canes, and the leaves which grow upon the joints, make very good provender for their cattle, and the refuse of the cane, after grinding, serves for fire, so that no part of this excellent plant is without its use.
They compute that, when things are well managed, the rum and molasses pay the charges of the plantation, and the sugars are clear gain. However, a man cannot begin a sugar plantation of any con
sequence, not to mention the purchase of the land, which is very high, under a capital of at least five thousand pounds.
The negroes in the plantations are subfifted at a very easy rate this is generally by allotting to each family of them a small portion of land, and allowing them two days in the week, Saturday and Sunday, to cultivate it; some are subsisted in this manner, but others find their negroes a certain portion of Guinea or Indian corn, and to fome a falt herring, or a small portion of bacon or falt pork, a day. All the rest of the charge congíts in a cap, a fhirt, a pair of breeches, and a blanket, and the profit of their labour yields ten or twelve pounds annually. The price of men negroes, upon their first arrival, is from thirty to fifty pounds, women and grown boys less: but such negro families as are acquainted with the business of the islands generally bring above forty pounds upon an average one with another; and there are instances of a single negro man, expert in the business, bringing one hundred and fifty guineas; and the wealth of a planter is generally computed from the number of flaves be poffeßles.
HIS island, the largest of the Antilles, and the most valuable, lies between 17o and 19° north latitude, and between 76 and 79° wel longitude, is near one hundred and eighty miles in length, and about fixty in breadth; it approaches in its figure to an oval. The windward paffage right before it hath the island of Cuba on the west, and Hispaniola on the east, and is about twenty leagues in breadth.
This island was discovered by Admiral Christopher Columbus in his fecond voyage, who landed upon it May 5, 1494, and was so much charmed with it, as always to prefer it to the rest of the iflands; in consequence of which, his son chose it for his dukedom. It was settled by Juran d'Esquivel, A. D. 1509, who built the town, which, from the place of his birth, he called Seville, and eleven leagues farther to the east stood Melilla. Oriston was on the south side of the iland, scated on what is now called the Blue Fields river. All these are gone to decay, but St. Jago, now Spanish-Town, is still the capital. The Spaniards held this country one hundred and fixty years, and in their time the principal commodity was cacoa : they had an immenfe stock of horses, afles, and mules, and prodigious quantities of cattle. The English landed here under Penn and Venables, May 11, 1654, and quickly reduced the island. Cacoa was also their principal commodity till the old trees decayed, and the new ones did not thrive ; and then the planters from Barbadoes introduced fugar canes, which hath been the great ftaple ever since. VOL. IV. Hh