Letter #24

Courts martial were frequent occurrences; they were conducted by officers as prescribed by military law. Most of the offences tried were desertion or crimes against property. Flogging was a common punishment; it was not abolished in the Army until 1881. 

Barbados did not have a lighthouse until 1852. It was built for the Great Exhibition in 1851, dismantled, and then rebuilt at South Point. 

A benedick is a married man, after the character in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. It occurs again in letter 118.

                                                        Barbados 4th Jany 1835

You will again I fear find fault that my letter is hurried, and that the younger branches of my Wickham party are without dispatches, but for two days up to the mess hour yesterday I have been on a Gen Court Martial. The packet sails today at 2 oclock, therefore with the exception of yourself my dear Kate, I shall not have it in my power to write to anyone today. Last week I prepared a reply to John’s agreeable letter, who seems enraptured at his reception at your Casa and with all your attentions. The children he appears delighted with. But you must be content to have description of my proceedings. Your last letters were exceedingly reviving; I recd them the morning I landed here, Saturday 27 Decr and was in ecstasy. I believe you had accounts of my return to Demerara from Berbice up to the 15th or 16th, the latter day I dined with the Chief Justice Wray, married to a sister of the late Capt Pitts RE, an agreeable person just returned from England. The party was large and ended the evening with quadrilles, for the ladies dance in these colonies without regard to heat or other inconveniences. Sir Car Comical & his Lady were there & all the bigwigs – verily I believe this all ‘Portsmouth News’, but have been moving about so much of late that my journal is a little discomposed. From the above date until Sunday the 21st nothing occurred of interest. I was getting very sick of Demerara but receiving great civility from all those I was introduced to with the exception of the Govr. Well, on Sunday 27th* I embarked after dining with Mr Albony, getting all my nicknacks, Bird skins, Bows Arrows &c packed by that exceedingly good creature Mr Albony about 9 oclock, & put to sea, squalls came on, and we returned without my being aware of it, & anchored off Camp House, in fact I was so fatigued that I had turned in. The following morning we made sail again & bid adieu to the muddy river and that shore of Esequibo, on my part regretting not. I certainly would rather have felt that the chances were in favour of my again seeing some of the friendly persons who so handsomely entertained me, but off we went in the good schooner Barbados, Capt Harris, 50 tons, with a foul wind. For several days we were in truth kicked about off Tobago, thus a week was passed, Xmas day included. At last we made Barbados and a rusty look it had for they have been without rain here for months. Some little break on board to the monotony was caused by our catching a few Dolphin, King Fish & Bonitoes. On landing here I found matter in much the same routine as usual. Sir L Smith’s lady with their family had arrived, the 74th Regt landed from quarantine, one wing having departed for Grenada or St Vincent and the other to remain here. The 65 embark for St Vincent’s on Wednesday & Capt Ramsay with his steamer bring part of the 25th Regt from Demerara, so go on the changes. The latter Regt are to return to England, they are relieve at their present quarter by the 69th. All this is very little moment to you but will bring out the Army list. I enclose Sir Lionel’s invite to dinner. The party consisted of about 36 & was of course rather a bore – all gentlemen in full costume, however we all got to bed by ten. On the 31st they gave a Ball which was well attended, and I have now a card for Tuesday evening, which probably I shall attend if the evening is fine. It is absolutely necessary to join in these parties to keep one’s mind alive to something more than the heat and other disagreeables in this outlandish climate & portion of His Majesty’s Colonies. About Wednesday Sir C Smith, with whom I dine today, has some intention of marooning, he told me, at the other side of the Island & wishes me to accompany him to fix some points or decide something respecting the site for a Lighthouse, several vessels and one very lately – a Brig worth many thousands – having been lost on the Cobler Rocks. The Admiral Sir G Cockburn in the President having arrived this day week, he has interested himself in this very necessary improvement & it is to be hope that one will be constructed. I would gladly be off this trip and proceed to my destination the old quarter St Lucia, for I am heartily sick of a roving life, & I might say of Barbados, for without you all its society has no charms, and as to climate one seems as good as another. About the middle of next week I hope to get away & occupy my comfortable cottage again, however it will not be for a very long period. Probably I shall be away again before your reply to this can reach me. Officers are demanded, and when they reach this country I am to have the choice of Trinidad or other vacant Island. Home would be the Island of my choice but the chances are I am affraid against me for some time. The two vacancies will give me a greater chance shd a Brevet be granted, but that is not very likely to take place. We must live in hope my dear Kate. It is a great blessing that this climate does not disagree with me, & by getting the tour over we shall cease to worry our heads for some years after returning to England about a separation. The Extravagance of Demerara is frightful and I have expended all I sold my ponies for, consequently must remount myself before I go down, still I consider that my economy has been praiseworthy, & today I have counted my wardrobe that went the expedition under John Wiltshire’s care – only one towel absent from muster. Who would have supposed I had been a benedict so many years? I have not drawn any money since I left St Lucia so my accounts rest as I reported 75£, but must before long. Still it will give you all the Dividend of Jany and I am in great hopes your mind will remain perfectly easy on the money affairs as I think all will gradually wind up satisfactorily, & the expenses we have been at were almost beyond our controul. Our Catisfield friends you must stick by, do not let any little trifling or immaginary omission have other than a momentary effect. Nothing should offend me, I would laugh off everything like apparent neglect. Life is too short and you with your dear girls and Miss Parker have resources innumerable to occupy your time without giving such as heartburnings a thought. Capt Ramsay has just called, but he is so agreeable I cannot even think it an interruption. I am rather pleased at going for a time back to St Lucia. After leaving it I regretted having so few sketches of its scenery. How are my delightful nieces of Roche Court? they had better be out of the way when I come home or the kiss will go round. Had I time I would send some matter or other to make them laugh. When I again get into my own chair I will. Ginger & hot pickles shall be sent by the first chance. The Tamarinds were not sent – I found out when I came here. The season is now coming and Mrs Hawker nor Auntie OB are not forgotten. The next Parrot or Macaw will be a blue and yellow one, they are superb. Take care not to give your vegetables, particularly parsley, it will kill him outright. The collection of birds I have made will delight you all, I only want a good opportunity to send them home now. I have just time to read your last letter over. We expect another packet in every hour. You are all mistaken about Demerara climate – it’s not so bad & all the people look healthy. Nor is that of St Lucia to those who take common care & occupy themselves. Admiral Sir G Cockburn brought Sir Charles Schombergh, Capt RPR, Govr of Dominica here for his health, he could not stand, having been ill many months, & he died thursday last. The whole Garrison, Govr &c turned out on friday to bury him a 7 in the morning. It was a fine night and service very impressive. You recollect meeting him at the Fourbelles. It gives me infinite pleasure to find you enter into the little society afforded around Wickham. It is I regret a dull place but has its advantages. Shells! did you say Kit & Cary? – I’m getting lots for you my dear girls, but not very rare ones are to be had. [word illegible] some organic remains I am picking up. One oclock – my eyes! At two the bag closes, luckily my paper is nearly done for. How are they at Catisfield? – regards to them all. Tell my excellent Uncle to write & tell him I have had some experience in the last 3 months about the Apprenticed laborers and that all will go well. Those who have the offer, the best characters only, have the advantage – will work at task – after their daily labor is over and gain 2 livres & 3 before night. A livre in Demerara is equal to 1s8. If well governed all will go on well for our generation. What may happen as they gain power is another question. White labourer must be introduced for easy work in order to counteract the physical power of the Black population. This may be done after a time & make the Proprietor independent of slave labor. Depend upon it, West India property will gradually increase in value even if they do not export so much sugar. The labor will diminish two thirds by introducing steam. One of Mr Albony Estates which I went over with an Engine 16 horse power working only 5 days – I think that is the number specified by Law – gave 4 Hogheads per Diem & the no of slaves reduced at the Mills from 55 per day to 20 & 22. Do you like this sort of gossip? If you do then here goes another tale from the two neighbouring Estates under one proprietor: 1600 hogheads were exported in one year, this mind you in Demerara where the cultivation is carried on in a magnificent stile compared with other Colonies, where the grinding the cane is performed by wind or water, both at times scarce. The next Estate to Mr Albony’s had two Engines 16 horse power, each making on the average 7 Hogheads pr diem, but you must understand that Rum was distilling at the same. The quality of the sugar is far superior to what you purchase. So much for the sweets. The cultivation of Cotton also is going on, but not to the Extent as formerly. At Berbice they have large tracts in Coffee. I regret you did not see Mj Holmes. We get all the papers generally of a later date than letters. All your letters are most acceptable – all is interesting to me. We have very hot weather here at present. Write to Mr Crawford I beg. How is Miss P? – regards to her & tell her the stars are undoubtedly brighter than in Europe at times. The 47 are not gone to Demerara. Regard to Fred & Augustus. I cannot write by this Mail. How is Jane? Remember to all Your affet Fred E

Sir G Cockburn it is expected will go home, Capt Ramsay says.

Kiss my small fry lovingly for me & thank them for their nice letters.

Black silk Hand for neck are what I require most – they are such a price here.

*This should be Sunday 21st, otherwise the account doesn’t make sense.     

Sir Lionel Smith’s invitation has not survived.