Port Royal

Arrive at Port Royal

Sunday 14th – at day light we bore towards Jamaica with a fine sea breeze and about half past one P.M. came to our anchorage in front of Port Royal. I have nothing to observe in addition to what I have already said respecting the appearances. The weather was rather squally, so that we did not receive so much pleasure from sailing along Jamaica as we would otherwise have done. To our surprise we found H.M. Packet Reindeer[2] Dickens, laying at anchor, when we had expected to find that she had left this place for England a week or fortnight ago. As usual we were visited by a great number of boats, some for news some for merchandise in the shape of potatoes cheese &.c Shortly after we came to anchor a large sailing boat came off for the Mail, and the weather being squally, this saved us the trouble & disagreeableness of going to Kingston. About half past two the Commander went on board the Magnificent along with M.r Mercer our passenger, of whom I shall say a few words.

[Senhor Mercer our Passenger]

M.r Samuel Mercer was apparently a very young man, and lieutenant in the Royal Navy. He had served his time as middy on the coast of Africa, being engaged in coast surveying and suppressing the slave trade. When he first came on board, none of us liked him on account of his stiffness, pride and unsociability. He gave the benefit (if benefit it can be called) of his company and conversation almost exclusively to the Magnates of the ship – I mean the Commander and passengers – and as we are perhaps too ready to judge harshly and uncharitably, we let him down as a proud insignificant puppy. And indeed I must confess that his rations of subordination & rank were a great deal too high for the meridian of our vessel – a mistake into which too many young men invested with a good deal of consequence & authority for the first time are but too liable to fall. Soon after our passengers left us at Barbadoes, as we had foreseen, his manner underwent a change. Finding that we would not condescend to court his society, he descended from his dignity and really, when he liked, he could make himself very pleasant. His a-haughty bearing and proud taciturnity were exchanged for affability and talkativeness. He condescended to teach me a-chess, and for what little I know of the game, I confess my obligations to him. When we became more intimate together, I endeavoured to sound the well of his understanding, and found that it required but a few fathoms to reach the bottom. On the common & general topics he was lamentably ignorant. Of history and deep literature he knew nothing – but he was very well qualified for common place and chit-chat. He has come out to join the Blossom Capt.n Owen, [3] who is one of the Saints. M.r Mercer was not very pleased to be told that in Harbour the flag for divine service is flying every morning, while all the rest of the squadron have none – and that he would [be] designated a Tar-blossom – a nickname given to the officers of the Blossom, who are represented as the flowers of a newly discovered tree or plant. All the officers on board are extremely pious, but I am much afraid that self interest has induced several to put on the cloak of hypocrisy as favour is shown only to those who are Saints. If M.r Mercer ever takes it upon him to act the part of a pious mummer, either the change if sincere was be most remarkable, or he must have followed the prevailing fashion of the day. From reasons to which I shall have occasion to allude to afterwards, the Blossom, does not stand very high in the good opinion of the inhabitants of Port Royal at least.

M.r Robert Hyde

Speaking of M.r Mercer, I am naturally induced to mention another passenger who left us here. His name was M.r Robert Hyde a young man a native of the County of Tyrone in Ireland. We took him on board at S.t Vincent as a steerage passenger, altho’ his appearance & language would lead you to think that he would belong to the Cabin. After we had been several days with him, he told us some part of his history. About 3 months ago he left Dublin in the George & Thomas bound for Barbadoes. [4] They had a most favourable passage and would have reached Barbadoes in 18 or 20 days, but the stupid & ignorant Captain overshot his port and made S.t Lucie, which obliged him to beat back again to Barbadoes, which occupied him 7 days. Upon their arrival, they were put into Quarantine, for 21 days, as the small [pox] had broken out during the passage. It had been the object of M.r Hyde to proceed on to Jamaica but he could not immediately find a conveyance, and not knowing a single person in Barbadoes, he went to S.t Vincent, where he had some acquaintance. At S.t Vincent he lived five weeks by which time his stock of monies was a low ebb and before coming with us, he saw our Commander – stated his circumstances and was allowed to come with us on the most favourable terms. He appeared to us to be a very well informed young man, and accustomed to respectable society. Coming from the North of Ireland, he was inveterate against those of the South, and believed that there was noting too horrible which they would not perpetrate. Apart from this prejudice he reasoned and judged well – in connection with it he saw every thing distorted and thro’ a false medium. He brought out several letters of introduction to Jamaica, and one was to Earl Belmore the Governor from his son. M.r Hyde had no particular appointment in view, but was ready to fulfil the duties of any lucrative post in his Excellency’s gift, to which he might be competent. He left us with our best wishes.

Agitat.n respect.g Emancipat.n of Slaves

Almost at every place we have visited a great deal of anxiety has been manifested as to the proceedings in Parliament respecting the emancipation of slaves. Of inquirers there are two classes whose motives for asking are widely different. The free man who is possessed of property in human flesh, and the slaves themselves, who seemed to have formed extravagant and erroneous notions of what we intend to do for them. In Jamaica the ferment of the public mind is greater than I have seen elsewhere. Meetings of the different Parishes are a-being held every day, and resolutions there unanimously passed strongly declarative of their determination to resist at the risk of their lives any decree of Parliament authorising the emancipation of slaves without providing an adequate compensation to their owners – and requesting, if extreme measures are likely to be resolved to, to be absolved from their allegiance to Great Britain as the mother country. The proceedings of these Meetings are published in the public prints and we see there that however dissimilar & clashing may be the interests and sentiments of the white and coloured population on other points, on this there are all most cordially united the coloured people bearing a greater antipathy to the blacks than even the whites do. If ever we should be unfortunate enough as to have a contest with our Colonies, where this great subject is at issue, it is more than probable nay it is certain that the barriers between the two really will be broken down – and both will join to defend their property, thus unjustly attempted to be wrested from them. The language of remonstrance, and the expression of resistance is very strong – nor is there declaration an idle boast. All the freemen here form a militia, each man having his own arms and ammunition in his possession. They are regularly trained, & of course – far exceed the military here in numbers.

Emancipation of Slaves

Such are the feelings of the Holders of slaves and now let us look to the slaves them selves. I should not wish to speak of the slaves in general, but only of such as I have seen myself. A frequent question was put “what news of the ‘form Bill,” and when they heard that we had brought out the news of the Majority in its favour – they said God bless-a you – ‘we will be free-a’ They have an idea that when they have got their freedom they will be perfectly happy, no fear of the lash, and never work except when they please. They will then be the equals of the Whites and entitled to hold their heads as high. In short they promise themselves an elysium in expectancy, which shall miserably deceive them in reality. I am for my part no advocate for slavery and I deeply regret that our Colonies have ever been cultivated by slaves, but I am persuaded that to grant unconditional and immediate emancipation, would instead of contributing to their happiness, would inflict an irreparable injury to their comfort and the public security. They are at present well fed, clothed, & attended to – if the Master neglects to do so the law compels him. When they are free, such is the natural indolence of their disposition, that they must either starve or do worse. Besides they [do not] consider the manifest injustice which is done to the Master. The slaves are his bona fide property – he himself of his fore-fathers vested their fortunes in such property with the sanction of the British Government and are they not then entitled to have their property secured to them or if taken from them, to receive an adequate compensation. Tis a pity that well meaning and philanthropic men should be led away by humane theories & sentimental feelings, which hides from their view the aggravated injury and injustice which must result to so many thousands. The Planters in the West Indies profess to be perfectly willing to sell their slaves and propose that those who are shocked that one man should exercise an absolute control over others, should give up a certain proportion of their fortunes to accomplish the desirable end they have in view.

I think that I perceive a very considerable difference in the behaviour of the blacks, since I was here last. I found them this time very saucy, indolent and impertinent, and if you spoke to them, giving you in return oaths and abusive language. No freeman in England would do so – but this behaviour on the part of the slaves sufficiently demonstrates their sentiments and expectations. If to be free implies such a privilege of insolence & abuse, this will be another so just reason for refusing the immediate emancipation without any previous moral change or culture. I shall however for the present leave the interesting question of emancipation with all pros and cons, and watch the events of time.

Monday 15th August – I staid on board all day, employed in writing and other duties – fine weather & moderate breeze.

Tuesday 16th – at day light we slipped from the buoy with a light breeze from the land, which soon ceasing gave place to a fresh and nearly favourable wind fro the sea. Fine weather.

Wednesday 17th – pleasant w.r Wind moderate and nearly favourable.

Thursday 18th – cloudy but pleasant w.r Fresh and favourable breeze, sometimes squally.

Friday 19th – pleasant weather. Fresh and favourable breeze.

Saturday 20th – fine weather all day, showery in the evening, light winds but favourable all day. Fresh and favourable in the afternoon. The land was in sight this morning, and at half past 9 P.M. we came to anchor off Carthagena.