Inducements to the Colored People of the United States to Emigrate to British Guiana
COLORED PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES
TO EMIGRATE TO BRITISH GUIANA,
Compiled from Statements and Documents furnished by Mr. Edward Carbery,
Agent of the "Immigration Society of British Guiana," and
a Proprietor in that Colony.
BY A FRIEND TO THE COLORED PEOPLE.
PRINTED FOR DISTRIBUTION.
KIDDER AND WRIGHT, CONGRESS STREET.
I. SITUATION, EXTENT, GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURES, CLIMATE, SOIL ANDPRODUCTIONS OF BRITISH GUIANA.
Guiana is a vast tract of territory situated on the north-east coastof South America, between the mouths of those celebrated rivers, theOronoco and the Amazons.
British Guiana includes a portion of this coast, extending some twohundred miles from east to west, bounded on the east by the riverCorentyn which separates it from Dutch Guiana, or Surinam, and on thewest by the Morocco creek, or the tract of country adjacent to it,belonging to the republic of Venezuela. British Guiana extends inlandfrom the coast some two hundred miles, in a southerly direction, to achain of high mountains, by which it is bounded on the south, and whichseparates it from Brazil. It thus includes an area of upwards of fortythousand square miles, being about equal in extent to the State of New York.
The whole country slopes gradually down from the mountains to the sea.The back country is hilly and much diversified in surface; the landalong the sea-coast is flat, level, and extremely fertile. The colonyis watered by three large rivers, the Essequebo, the Demarara, and theBerbice. These rivers descend from the mountains, and run parallelto each other at nearly equal distances. They are navigable for manymiles, and together with numerous smaller rivers and creeks, they notonly afford great facilities for internal navigation, but also forirrigating the land, a thing of great importance in that climate.
British Guiana never suffers from those violent storms and hurricaneswith which other tropical regions are visited. Along the whole coast,vessels can ride at anchor in perfect safety, at all seasons of theyear. The whole shore is a bed of deep soft mud, and can be approachedby vessels without danger.
The latitude of the coast, along which the settlements are situated, isabout seven degrees, north. The longitude of Georgetown, the capital,is about fifty-seven degrees west from Greenwich. Its direction fromthe city of New York is considerably east of south. The distance isabout two thousand miles, or twenty days' sail, very nearly the samedistance as New Orleans.
Situated under the tropic, Guiana enjoys a perpetual summer. Thethermometer generally ranges from 78į to 84į. The trade winds, whichblow constantly from the coast, render the climate comfortable andsalubrious. The year is divided into four seasons, two rainy and twodry. The short rainy season usually commences about December, and lastsfour weeks: the long rainy season begins in June, and lasts till themiddle of[Pg 5] August. But as regards these seasons there is a good dealof variation. In the rainy season, the rain falls violently during theforenoon, but the afternoons are clear and pleasant. During the dryseason occasional showers occur.
The only portion of this fertile country which has yet been settled andcultivated, is a narrow strip extending along the coast, and a littledistance up the mouths of the principal rivers, together with someislands at the entrance of the Essequebo. The plantations are generallyabout half a mile wide, fronting on the sea, and extending back two,three, four or five miles. This series of adjoining plantations formsthe only cultivated part of the country, which thus resembles a longstring of villages half a mile apart.
The soil of the plantations, which is very deep and rich, is divided bycanals into separate fields. The same fields are cultivated in constantsuccession, and no manure is ever used. The canals not only serve todrain and irrigate the land, but also to convey the canes, when cut,to the sugar-house. Sugar and coffee are principally cultivated. Thereare a few cotton plantations, and some devoted to the cultivation ofthe plantain, which, with a rich variety of other vegetables, such asthe sweet potato, the banana, yams, the casava, &c., furnish a largepart of the food of the inhabitants. There are also large cattle farms.Cattle are abundant, and beef is cheap.
The uncultivated tracts abound with a vast variety of useful plants andtrees. Many of the trees furnish excellent timber. There are in thecolony several steam mills employed in the manufacture of lumber.
II. FORM OF GOVERNMENT, ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE, CIVIL DIVISIONS,POPULATION, SOCIAL EQUALITY.
British Guiana is a colony, conquered some forty years since from theDutch, belonging to Great Britain. It is what is called a crown colony,and all its laws are made, or revised in England.
The governor, whose authority is very extensive, is appointed by theBritish queen. He is assisted in his administration by a councilof nine persons, called the Court of Policy, four of whom are highexecutive officers appointed by the Crown. The other five are chosen bythe inhabitants. No law made by the Court of Policy can remain in forceunless it be approved in England by the queen in council.
Justice is administered by a Supreme Court consisting of three Judges,who are always lawyers of high standing, sent out from Great Britain.In the criminal trials which come before this court, the judges areassisted by three assessors, who answer to our jurymen, being personschosen by lot from among the inhabitants,—who have an equal vote withthe judges. No prisoner can be found guilty, except by at least fourvotes out of the six.
The colony is divided into three counties, Demarara, Berbice andEssequebo. Each of these counties is again divided into parishes, andthe parishes are subdivided into judicial districts, each under thesuperintendence of a Stipendiary Magistrate, appointed and paid bythe Crown. These stipendiary magistrates are persons of education andcharacter, sent out from Great Britain, and who, having no interestor connections in the colony, and being frequently removed from onedistrict to another, may be expected to be[Pg 7] impartial, and not likelyto be warped in their judgment by personal considerations. Thesemagistrates are under the sole control of the Governor, by whom theycan be suspended from office. They have exclusive jurisdiction, as willpresently appear, of all controversies, as to contracts and labor,arising between employers and laborers. The whole population of thethree counties may be estimated at one hundred thousand, of whom six oreight thousand are white, and all the remainder, colored. The Englishlanguage is now spoken by all, and is the only language used in the colony.
Those distinctions which prevail to so great a degree in the UnitedStates, between the free colored and the white population, and whichrender the position of the colored man in the United States somortifying and uncomfortable, are wholly unknown in British Guiana.In this respect all are equal: colonial offices and dignities areheld without distinction by white and colored. Colored men areindiscriminately drawn to sit as assessors on the bench of the SupremeCourt. The colored classes in British Guiana are wealthy, influential,and highly respectable. Many of them are magistrates, proprietors,merchants with large establishments, and managers of estates receivingliberal salaries. The collector of customs at one of the principalports, is a person of color, and many others hold public stations. Itis evident from these facts that color is no obstacle to advancement ordistinction. It is difficult and almost impossible for a citizen of theUnited States, educated in the midst of distinctions and prejudices,to realize the state of things so entirely different which prevails inBritish Guiana.
III. SPECIAL LAWS FOR THE PROTECTION OF LABORERS AND EMIGRANTS.
The greater part of the laboring population of British Guiana wereformerly slaves. They have been lately set free by the justice andbounty of the British government, which is very jealous of theirrights, and which has enacted many special laws for their protection.
A leading measure of this kind is, the appointment of the StipendiaryMagistrates above described. These stipendiary magistrates haveexclusive jurisdiction over all controversies between employers andlaborers touching wages and contracts. It is provided by the fourthchapter of the Orders in Council of Sept. 7th, 1838, which arethe supreme law in British Guiana, that any laborer, on complaintpreferred, and proof made before any stipendiary magistrate, thathis employer has not paid his wages, or delivered him the articlesagreed upon between them as a part of his wages, or that the articlesdelivered were not of the quality or quantity agreed upon, or thatthrough the negligence of the master the contract has not been properlyperformed, or that the laborer has been ill used,—upon complaintpreferred for any of these reasons, and proof made, the stipendiarymagistrate may, by summary process, order the payment of the wages,the delivering of the stipulated articles, or compensation to be madefor any negligence or ill usage on the part of the employer; and ifthe order be not complied with, the magistrate has power to issuehis warrant for the seizure and sale of the goods of the employer,or so much as may be necessary; or if no goods are to be found,the magistrate may commit the employer to prison for any time notexceeding[Pg 9] one month, unless compensation be sooner made; and themagistrate may dissolve the contract if he see fit.
To prevent contracts being made with emigrants, disadvantageous to themor unfair in any respect, previous to their arrival in the colony,it is provided in the same Orders in Council, chapter third, that nocontract of service made out of the colony shall be of any force oreffect in it; that no contract of labor shall remain in force for morethan four weeks, unless it be reduced to writing; and that no writtencontract of service shall be binding, unless signed by the name or markof the persons contracting in the presence of a stipendiary magistrate;nor unless the magistrate shall certify that it was made voluntarily,and with a full understanding of its meaning and effect; nor can anywritten contract of service remain in force for more than one year.
It is evident from these statements with what careful safeguardsagainst fraud and oppression the benevolence of British law hassurrounded the laborer and the emigrant.
There is an Emigration Agent in British Guiana, who is a stipendiarymagistrate, and whose duty it is to furnish emigrants, arriving in thecolony, with every information, and to prevent any imposition frombeing practiced upon them. It will appear, from an examination of theabove provisions, that all those colored persons from the United Stateswho may emigrate to Guiana, will go out perfectly free and unshackled.On their arrival in the colony, they will be perfectly their ownmasters, at full liberty to choose any kind of employment which thecolony offers; and should they be dissatisfied, or disappointed, noobstacle will exist to their return.
IV. TAXES, MILITARY DUTY, RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION, EDUCATION.
The revenue of British Guiana is chiefly derived from a tax on theproduce raised in the colony, and duties levied on the imposts. Parishtaxes are unknown, and the laborer is exempt from every species oftaxation, unless his income amount to five hundred dollars. The militialaws were abrogated, and the colonial militia disbanded soon afterthe emancipation took place, so that the poor man is not compelled tocontribute any portion of his time to the public service.
There are Episcopalian, Presbyterian and Catholic church establishmentssupported at an expense to the colony of upwards of $113,000 per annum,as will appear by reference to the Royal Gazette of May 7th, 1839,published in Georgetown, containing an official estimate of the taxesto be raised for that year. There are beside numerous Methodist andother dissenting religious teachers, supported in part by charitablesocieties in England, and in part by voluntary contributions in thecolony. The laboring population of Georgetown and its vicinity haveerected several handsome chapels at their own expense.
There are numerous Sunday, infant and day schools, for the gratuitousdiffusion of knowledge and moral education among the people. On mostof the principal estates a school-house is erected, and a teacherprovided, where the children of the laborers are entitled to receiveinstruction free of expense. Great attention is paid throughout thecolony to the education