Letter #23

This letter has no cover and is dated only at the end. It seems safe, however, to assume that it was all written in Demerara on Tuesday 16 December 1834 after English’s return from Berbice on the previous Saturday. 

Here are interesting references to former slaves regarding their hours of work and the attitude of the Church. The Emancipation Act provided that the former slaves, now called apprentices, worked for between 40 and 45 hours per week unpaid, but they received wages for any further hours. As recently as 1827, an Anglican rector in Barbados had been found guilty by magistrates for ‘inculcating doctrines of equality’ among slaves, and was only pardoned through the intervention of Bishop Coleridge. What English describes here appears to be calling marriage banns at a service open to all.

Another short and sweet letter my dear Kate, but I must not lose the opportunity which a vessel sailing for England offers just to let you know that I am perfectly well, a little adrift from being unsettled without any fixed station. Still I am as happy as I can be away from you all, the absence becoming more wearisome as the period of it increases. However, the constant employment that I have experienced has certainly added much in passing the time quickly and as agreeably as circumstances will admit of, and the excursions Sir C Smith has thrown in my way to these Colonies contributes largely to my enjoyment and lessening the misery of transportation from home, but I have no time to waste, all my morning has been occupied in writing on matters connected with the disposal of the Saw Mill. To the journal then. About the 2nd Inst I started my last letter by a Merchant ship. On that day, Sir C & self breakfasted & dined with his old friend Mr Albony, meeting in the evening a gay party which passed in quadrilles. Two young persons that were of the throng so reminded me of Kate & Cary from their being about the same age that I could think of no other subject but home. One was a Miss Benjeman, sister to Mr Albony, the other Miss Liot, a niece of the Master’s. I was comparatively happy, and after a pleasant evening forgot all care & a host of Mosquittos in a glorious sunrise. Wed 3rd breakfasted at our friend’s again. I had by this time found out Sir C’s plan to leave me to arrange the Berbice affair but not to remain as the Genie of this station as he took an opportunity of saying ‘English, I shall write to Sir Comical & prevent his interfering as you are not to be under his command, being on a special duty, therefore may move as you please. If you would like to take Trinidad on you way back, do so. You may have it as a station if you like.’ However, I left this undecided as it is more easy to get there going by Barbados where all my baggage is left. ‘I shall leave you to arrange the Berbice business.’ Consequently he embarked on board the Dee about 3 P.M., and about 4 on the evening of the same day was out of sight and your lord – I can’t add Master now – left in British Guiana to take care of himself. However, Sir C had introduced me to so many of his friends that I have done exceedingly well after his departure. I dined with the 86th Regt, the County of Down, Major Steward & Capt Halliday, the latter, formerly a Woolwich Cadet, I liked much. Their band is a perfect treat, but the dinner the very worst arranged I ever sat down to, bad in every way. I left them early & returned to the colony house on Mr Ford’s horse. On the 4th, Pilgarlick, as Charley used to call all solitary souls, had his dejeuné chez lui. A Major Staples by appointment drove me to inspect one of Mr Albony’s Estates, and the process by steam Engine of making Rum & sugar, both of which I witnessed to perfection and was exceedingly amused by this machinery. Labor has been reduced from 50 Negroes to 20 & 22 laborers per diem & producing more sugar at the Mill. Thus in Demerara & Berbice, where steam engines are generally used, the necessity of a large portion of slaves, or rather now denominated apprentice labor, will be gradually decreasing. This, with the introduction of such work already adopted, and which the Negro of the well disposed order undertakes gladly after the legal hours of work, are performed, & by which task he earns several shilling, will soon introduce a habit of industry, and, in my humble opinion, crush all the planters’ fears that the sugar cane can no longer be cultivated by the Negro when the six years of Apprenticeship are passed over. I have no doubt in my own mind, if over zealous thick winded Governors and noisy Planters will allow things to find their level, & the land to work that all will go straight and population increase to such an extent that the ground in cultivation will in a few years be considerably extended. By the bye, Blacky is doing his best, for at church I think six or eight couples were called. Some of their names made me commit myself in a good grin, between Quasha and Judy – what think you of that, Miss Skylark? Your name taken in vain – between Profit & Fanny & Andrew and Diana. My letter will be late if I thus digress. This was the 4th, I think, when I dined at Mr Albony’s, as I did the day following. In fact this family did their utmost to prevent my feeling alone. 6th I dined at Col Goodman’s, a small family party. The following day he sent his carriage and gave me a seat at Church, where the service is well performed & congregation most respectable. I saw the Govr & son there but not to speak to. Dined with a Mr Price, brother of Capt Price RN with whom John is acquainted. 8 dined again with Mr Albony & in the morning walked with Capt Harpur, just joined from Barbados as Brigade Major, & Mr Ford, to see a collection of Birds & some of the Buck Indians for whose accommodation Govt have erected a house in the suburbs. 9th Breakfasted with Harpur & Ford, called at Govt House, Embarked for Berbice. I must now gallop. After a bad night, all of which I will describe in my letter to Katey next thursday as I hear a vessel leaves this. Arrived at Berbice on the night of the 10 and returned here saturday night about the middle thereof. After selling the Mill & completing my business satisfactorily, I have now to remain here until a chance may offer for Trinidad or Barbados. Yesterday the Mail boat came in & I had the delight of receiving all your letters up to the 5th Novr when you do not appear to know that I am away from St Lucia. I have just time to give you all my blessing & to add that I will write more fully in the course of a week to Miss Kate & Parker whose turn it is I believe. God bless you all, regards to Uncle Hawker, Mrs, Mrs OB & MOB & love to you all

Your afft

right well 16th Decr 1834