Wednesday 9th – fine weather – went on shore to day and strolled away, spying out what changes had taken place since we were here last – but could see none, everything remained unaltered therefore I can say nothing more in addition to what I have already mentioned.
Church at Belize
Thursday 10th May – very hot weather, went on shore with a small party for the purpose of taking a stroll. The Commander being anxious to see the church, his request was granted at once, and accompanied by the clergyman, he and all of us went into the interior. From the external view which shewed you a good size building of brick, decent and respectable in appearance, I should never have formed any idea of the inside at all like the truth. To my surprise and I may add to my great gratification, we were introduced to a place of the most elegant simplicity. There was no tawdry ornaments – no gilded ginger-bread work, the admiration only of the vulgar and sure evidence of bad taste – nothing unmeet for or out of character with the sacred nature of the edifice – but all was simple, and neat yet rich in the materials. In short I know not when I have been so much gratified with any Church – certainly not more so with the most splendid of Catholic worship. In particular the pulpit of solid and highly polished dark mahogany, to which you ascended by a handsome flight of steps of the same material – with the reading desk in the front, struck me as peculiarly fine. Then the altar at the one extremity and the gallery with organ at the other added to the effect of the whole. In short I was quite delighted and the more so, as the spectacle took me quite by surprise. The Clergyman, when I asked him to point out the portion of the church set apart for the separate accommodation of the Blacks and Whites, told me that here there was no distinction observed as in the West Indies, but that all united together in perfect equality to offer up their tribute of prayer and thanksgiving to their common Lord and Saviour. How pleasing is such a view to the Christian & Philanthropist and how merit is due to the Whites of Belize for throwing off the shackles which pride & prejudice had conspired to throw around them in respect to their coloured brethren.
Black free school at Belize
After the Reverend gentleman had finished pointing out to us the several parts of the church – the comfortable vestry containing the different registers & some fine plate, the gift both of the Blacks & Whites, we next proceeded to the opposite side of the road where stood the Black free school. This was not a separate building – but formed the end of a range of houses. When we entered the large school room, all the little black boys (being all standing) began patter-patter with their feet, which is the mode they have been taught to shew their respect on the entrance of strangers. What a pleasant sight was there! Upwards of 100 boys from 4 to 15 years were present – all of them clean as to their persons(for cleanliness is strictly enforced) but almost all barefooted & some having more or better clothes than others. As soon as the noise created by our arrival had ceased, the Master entered into an explanation of the mode which he adopted in teaching, which was the Lancastrian. To a question proposed by myself, he answered that he found it to succeed very well indeed and that under it the powers and abilities of the children were wonderfully brought forward – that he considered black boys to possess the same powers of docility and understanding as the White – that he experienced no difficulty in communicating the various branches of knowledge which he had undertaken to instruct them – especially as he was able to excite by emulation and avidly ardent application and an ambition to excel – but he added that he was of opinion that the influence of a hot climate had often operated considerably to induce indolence and a disinclination for mental as well as corporeal exertion. To shew us what progress had been made, he made several of the elder boys read – which they did very well – and I could not help remarking that in reading they had none of that negro accent which they invariably have in speaking – and their enunciation was as different as if the language of books & that of every day conversation had actually belonged to two distinct people. In spelling also they gave good proofs of their progress, as well as in grammar. I proposed, with the permission of the Master some questions, which they answered readily and with an understanding, in grammar and in arithmetic. In the latter branch indeed one or two of the upper class worked their questions much more quickly than two thirds of our home bred boys would have done, and in every instance their working was correct. The Master next submitted to our inspection specimens of writing which were very fair indeed – in large text – half text and small hand. At my request he was kind enough to give me the handwriting of four of his pupils and to state their age and how long they had been at school – and this I shall carefully keep.
Our attention was next directed to the small fry of the school – the little pickaninnies with curly pows of coal black hue, & pearly teeth fully displayed by the ready grin of pleased childhood – with their home books in their hands & feet taught to keep a certain position marked out by a line of chalk. There they stood with wonderment expressed on their faces, and eagerness to attract the eyes & gain the applause of the buckra man. Silence being commanded – the monitor read aloud a few words, and was immediately followed by the whole line, each having his finger pointing out the words as they were pronounced. The words were then spelt by the leader & re-echoed by the band – and in this way the attention of all was kept alive, and their progress facilitated. We bestowed our modicum of well merited praise on the little fellows, and were next conducted to an adjoining large room, where the black girls are instructed after a similar plan – but as they had been already dismissed before our arrival, I can only believe that the proof [of] their progress and attainments would have been equally satisfactory as that of the boys. Gratified as we had been, by every thing we saw, we returned out thanks to the Master M.r McDonald (who by the bye was not many years ago a large timber merchant in Greenock) for his politeness and attention, and we left the school, receiving from the boys the same marks of respect with which our entrance had been greeted. Now, my dear Jacob, I cannot but say that I conceive this to be the best plan to be pursued previous to the emancipation of slaves – Let them be first enlightened, and the evils we dread from their ignorance will be averted – their freedom will then be a blessing to themselves and to society & their status in the civil, religious & moral world will be nearly if not entirely on a par with that of their White brethren. Education then is the slow but sure means of benefiting the blacks & on this foundation firm as the everlasting hills may be safely raised a glorious superstructure of morality and religion.
Barracks of the Black troops at Belize
Taking leave of the worthy clergyman we wended our way in search of other objects of instructive amusement. Notwithstanding the oppressive heat of the sun, we determined to visit the barracks of the black troops, which lay at some distance from the town. Our walk thither was any thing but pleasant. Without shelter of any sort against the solar rays, and walking on a road of soft mud dried & pulverised to an impalpable powder, we were well content when we reached the green plain on which the barracks are erected. Taking the liberty of strangers, we entered the quarters of the men, and could discover no difference from the neatness, comfort, and cleanliness of our own regular soldiery. The men were with few exceptions all fine built fellows, with a martial air, very different from the crouching, awestruck demeanours of abject slaves. I noticed particularly the great variety of their countenances – their different modes of lattoring – the shapes of their heads & bodies – and might have imagined that they were composed of many different races of men. They in fact belonged to various African tribes – and had such in their own country filled different stations. Some had been warriors – some slaves – & some chiefs. They had been sold into slavery to be carried to Havannah but had fortunately been retaken by our cruisers & carried into Sierra Leone to form part of the free colony there – and had from thence been allowed to volunteer into our West India regiments. I have often heard these regiments spoken of, and always in the highest terms of praise, being compared to our Seapoys in the East Indies, who again are said to be equal under English Officers to the best description of European troops.
After a day thus spent in walking about we were heartily glad of the repose which we found on Shipboard, and for my part it was three days ere I had recovered from the effects of the fatigue I then underwent.
Friday 11th May – at 7 A.M. left Belize – foul wind fine weather. At 1 P.M. the Pilot left us and we tried the northern passage.
Saturday 12th – fine weather – tacked several times, but could not weather the northern triangles.
Sunday 13th – fine weather – foul wind – saw Northern Triangles but could not weather them. Tacked to S & E.d
Monday 14th – squally with rain in the forenoon – fine weather in the afternoon – foul wind.
Tuesday 15th – fine weather – foul wind – in sight of Bonaca. At 7 tacked to N & W.d
Wednesday 16th – fine weather – foul wind.
Thursday 17th – fine weather, light and foul wins – saw Cozumel to leeward but far off.
Friday 18th – light and favourable wind during the day – fresh in the afternoon – fine weather.
Saturday 19th – fresh and favourable breeze – fine weather.
Sunday 20th – caught some of our old friends the red fish & a shark. Very cloudy weather with heavy rain at night – very light wind inclinable to calm.
Monday 21st – nearly a clam all day – light and favourable breeze – fine weather but very hot.
Tuesday 22nd May – very light and favourable breeze – caught 26 dolphins – fine weather.
Wednesday 23rd – very light and favourable breezes – fine, but very hot weather.
Thursday 24th – d.o wind and weather.
Friday 25th – fine weather. Moderate and favourable breeze.