Plantation Visit

James’ sketch of a windmill in Antigua

Walks about S.t John’s

Taking our way thro’ a lane, on each side of which were many separate houses belonging to whites and blacks, when we reached the top, we had a fine view of a fine level country with hills in the background, and partly cultivated, partly not & intersected with numerous & excellent roads. At this point also, we found ourselves at the foot of the eminence, on which the works were built. By a tolerable road, we wound round it, at every moment remarking on the smooth verdant grass – the straggling sheep & wandering goats, & ox – claiming, how like this is to our country. At last without much fatigue, we reached the level on which were the houses & works.

Visit to the plantation in Antigua

I can compare them in their appearance with nothing but a farmstead in Scotland, only baring that we saw no haystacks or ploughs. The attorneys house, large & comfortable might represent the Master’s dwelling, while all around, in the form of a square were houses applied to different purpose – offices, dwellings for the house servants & store-rooms. At a very short distance from these was the crushing house, rising in the shape of a cone, and in the crop season, having wings at the top moved by the wind, in short a wind-mill.

At present these wings were taken off and were lying on the ground. Entering in the interior we saw several blacks engaged in making some repairs. They were very civil to us – pointed out the iron rollers which crushed the cane, & pointed out also the pipes which conveyed the juice from the crush house to the boiling houses, which were some depth below. These boiling houses, which were very large, and were furnished with immensely high chimney, thro’ which at the busy season, clouds of black smoke issue into the air. Having satisfied our curiosity, and paid our fee for information, we had a long chat with the negroes. They shewed much shrewdness in their remarks, & many traits of original thinking. One of them, the principal spokesman, knowing by our uniform that we belonged to the Packet, anxiously inquired, if we had brought them any good news – alluding of course to the Emancipation Bill – and they all seemed much disappointed that the matter was not yet finally settled, and that the period of their freedom was not yet so near as they had fondly imagined. From what I could gather from their conversations, their ideas of the blessed state they are about to enter upon are quite Utopian – but more on this subject anon when we reach the end of this week.

After leaving the man and the works, we took a view our attention was directed to the prospect around us. It was indeed beautiful. The town, the Harbours the varied scenery, extensive & diversified, all & each came successively in for a share of our admiration. Now it was, that we could accurately note the size of the Town which appeared to be four or five times larger than I had at first supposed. At least the area over which it was spread would answer to this account tho’ perhaps the number of houses might not be so great – for many of them had vacant pieces of ground around them planted with trees. In my opinion this is the prettiest view you can have of a West Indian town – to look down upon it from a height, and not continuous succession of houses but apparently separated by lofty and ever verdant trees.

Negroe Huts &.c

Our next object was to pay a visit to the negroe huts, which lay on the slope of the eminence on which we were. They were here all built of stone substantial – their roofs thatched with the Palmetto straw. All the houses were shut up & the windows closed [which] disappointed & still exciting our curiosity to see their interior of one. At last we fell in with a very dark old black, who very politely at our request opened the door of his dwelling to us. It was divided into two parts, the kitchen & bedroom. In the former was one chair, and a large well made wooden sofa, or bench with a back to it – a good table – sufficient crockery – & in short every thing wanted to contribute to the old mans comfort. I was much pleased with the air of smugness and neatness, which reigned throughout. I was told that the huts were built by the negroes themselves, but that the Materials were furnished by the Masters. Behind most of them was a small plot of ground, which they cultivated for their own at leisure hours.

Leave Antigua

The distance we had walked to day would be accounted as nothing to brag of at home, but the whole case is changed when you are pacing it along under a broiling sun, and many would make it their boast that they could walk so far. We were now weary – thirsty – and wet thro’ with perspiration – so that the very first proposal to set out on our return met with not a single differential voice. Our rout back was by a different way than that by which we had come, viz. down the slope, & thro’ the fields, till we got into the main road leading to the Town. If the country was felt to be oppressive – still it was comparative luxury to the close streets. Thro’ we hastened on with speed, hardly looking to the right or left – and the only deviation I made was that we passed many decent & well stored shops, in which were blacks and mulattoes.

Tho’ we had been so long away, the Mail was not ready for us – and we had to wait another half hour. At 5.30 P.M. we left the shore to return on board, and after a long & severe pull, we came alongside, just before the approach of a heavy squall, which would have drenched us completely.

As usual we made immediate preparations for departure – weighed anchor – set & sail for Montserrat with a light favourable breeze. The distance being only thirty two [miles] or thereabouts, we shortened sail during the night, not wishing to arrive before next morning.

Read on …