Port Royal, Jamaica

Tuesday 1st May – came to anchor at 11 A.M. at Port Royal – fine weather – At 12 Capt.went up to Kingston with our passengers. I remained on board all day – but at night went on shore to Port Royal, where I saw nothing new.

Wednesday 2nd – very squally with occasional deluges of rain. In the forenoon along with the Capt.and two passengers I visited the Dock and Hospital at Port Royal. Both are admirable and complete in their arrangements. In the former little is doing – but every thing nevertheless is kept in the nicest possible order, and any thing may be obtained or executed at the shortest notice. Indeed, I received very great pleasure from the inspection, and felt proud of my country, when I compared in my mind, the very different appearance and appurtenances of the foreign Dock Yards which I have seen. Of the Hospital I cannot speak in too highly in terms of praise. Tho’ not by far the largest it is the neatest & far best I have ever seen. You enter by an iron gate, on either side of which is a porter’s lodge. From it two gravelled narrow walks, diverging in opposite directions lead to the front of the Building. These walks border a large piece of ground, beautifully laid out and filled with plants and fragrant flowers, from which you inhale health as you pass. Having reached the Hospital, you pass under a large porch thro’ & thro’, and find a long corridor in front & at the back, where you can enjoy a delightful promenade in the hottest day. Having walked there for some time we ascended a broad flight of steps, and stopped in a wide airy piazza, which ran round the interior part of the building, where the patient[s] lie. This piazza is not altogether open, but is furnished with Venetian blinds, which admit a perfectly free circulation of air. The kernel as it were of the Hospital, containing the sick wards have regular built windows, admitting or excluding the air, when necessary. In short in every possible point of view, I consider Port Royal Hospital as a model for all similar institutions in warm climates, and believe that in such an establishment the chances of recovery are as a hundred to one to what they may be anywhere else. I take shame to myself for having neglected so long to visit it, and would rather have gone there than to the finest acting or most graceful dancing.

As soon as the rain had ceased, we returned on board, when we had lunch, and immediately after started for Kingston, the commander calling en passant on board the Blanche. [2] I did not observe any thing new in town – and in fact the whole place with its motley inhabitants is now becoming less and less strange to me & I go thither rather with the feeling of old acquaintanceship than with the expectation of observing things novel. The streets were perfect puddles, and I had often, in order save myself from going round about, to take springs and leaps which however easy to accomplish on a cold frosty day, were by no means pleasant in the eye of a tropical sun. I wonder much that this nuisance has not been removed – an Englishman would easily solve the question by saying, that the chief inhabitants being North countrymen, they acted only in so doing in accordance with their national principle of not being fashed. I hardly think this can be the true reason – but I must confess I know no other. I had too little time to enquire after M.Drummond, but from what I heard, I am inclined to believe that his circumstances are not improving, but on the contrary still retrograding.

Disagreeable situation on return from Kingston

At half past four we received the Mail at the Post Office, which was carried to M.G. B. Smith’s store, where I remained whilst the commander went in M.Smith’s Gig to see a review some short distance out of Town. A little after six he returned, and we left immediately for the ship. The prospect before us was most unpleasant. Darkness was fast approaching, threatening to hide from our view the various marks by which we steered for Port Royal – the distance was considerable – and the weather was very squally with every appearance of a deluge. We had however no alternative – we had received our Mail & must set sail next morning. For about a quarter of an hour after pushing off, we did very well. We had our sail up and a light breeze carried us along. At the end of that time a heavy squall overtook us, which obliged us to douse our sail and pull, whilst at the same moment the rain poured down in torrents, and gave us a thorough soaking. It was now dark, and the torrent of consequential drops was so precipitous, that earth and sky were confounded together. We pulled about at random in the direction which we supposed to be the right one. We had lost sight of all marks – and no friendly light shone or rather glimmered to guide us. Except when the vivid lightning shewed us for an instant the dark forms of the mountains, all was indistinctly beyond a yard or two around us. Meanwhile our men never ceased rowing and no suspicions arose in our minds but that we were making progress towards Port Royal. As the rain abated we discovered one or two lights ahead of us, which all of us at first considered to be those of P.Royal – but a little reflection led to a different conclusion, and upon comparing various circumstances we were convinced that we had actually pulled back to the place we had left about an hour ago. Our chagrin and disappointment were excessive, and with much grumbling we turned the boats head in the direction in which we imagined our vessel to be lying. With great difficulty, and often after being on the point of returning from the contrariety of opinions as to our real position, each man who pretended to know the passage, with equal positiveness asserting his own to be true, we at last made an old floating powder-magazine, with which we were all well acquainted. From this point we took our departure, and approached the old Duke after nearly three hours cruise in the boat, fagged & jaded, and as wet as if we had been dropped in the sea.


I shall now conclude this part of our voyage by giving some sma’ account of a passenger who left us here. His name was Levison, and as you may easily guess from thence he was of Jewish extraction. His person was rather under the ordinary standard, with the rather longish nose, which was the only mark of his tribe I observed. Indeed his manners were so different from my Jewish conceptions, and so little did his conversation & opinions lead me to guess his origin, that I was ignorant of it for some weeks. Above all he eat [sic] pork, which I had always considered the test of trial or shibboleth of the people of Israel. He has a considerable store in Kingston and talked rather largely of his ways & means. Yet there seemed to be an evident constraint laid upon him. An affectation of ease, politeness and good breeding shone thro’ all he did or said. He ostentatiously mentioned several Hotels & houses, which he visited to give us a notion of his status in society – and if you were very credulous, you would consider him a little great man, standing in the relation of a planet to the sun of fashion, and receiving in his proximity to it a reflected light and splendour. He appeared anxious not to be thought a Jew, and all his attempts at subverting the natural bent of his mind and origin only rendered him more ridiculous. And yet he was rather pleasant in his conversation – he had certainly seen and observed much for he was by no means destitute of acuteness or intelligence. He could talk passable in French, German, Spanish, Italian and English – I say passable because I was told by our other passengers that he spoke the continental languages very incorrectly, and for my own part I can say that he murdered the King’s English most barbarously. Instead of speaking plainly and using the most common and simple words, his sentences were exceedingly complex and his words far-fetched & uncommon in ordinary parlance, with this additional absurdity that they [were] almost all mispronounced or misapplied. In his own opinion he was a non-pareil. He used to tell me of his perfect knowledge of the languages, and advised me to attend particularly to him whilst he was conversing, as I should thence derive immeasurable advantage – ha! ha! ha! I certainly paid him great attention but not from the motive he recommended but because when I was dull a few minutes with him would set me up again.

Read on … Slavery in Jamaica