GUYANA UNDER SIEGE
Indian Indentured Immigration to Guyana
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Brief exposure of the deplorable
condition of the Hill Coolies,
"Under the colour of a Bill for protecting the Indian labourers, it is proposed to legalize the importation of them into the colonies." ****** "Hundreds of thousands of poor helpless women and children are now to be abandoned to want, that the growth of sugar in the West Indies may not languish."
It is in vain to shut our eyes to the calamities which impend on India. It was in this manner that the Slave-trade crept in, under the shadow of Parliamentary regulation; a race was then begun between abuses and legislation, in which legislation was always found to be in the rear. AND SO IT WILL BE WITH THE COOLEY TRADE. We must tread the same circle; and, after years of the most poignant misery, come to the same result, that in the case of the new, as of the old, trade, THE ONLY PATH OF SAFETY LIES IN ABSOLUTE PROHIBITION." Friend of India, Calcutta, 3rd Aug., 1839.
AND DARTON, GRACECHURCH STREET. BALL, ARNOLD AND CO., 31, PATERNOSTER
ROW; HATCHARD AND SON, 187, PICCADILLY; AND AT THE OFFICE OF THE BRITISH
AND FOREIGN ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY, 27, NEW BROAD STREET.
ABOUT THIS WORK
This pamphlet was drafted by the British Foreign and Anti-Slavery Society in response to Lord John Russell's announcement that his cabinet was considering that the ban on the import of Indian laborers to Mauritius be lifted. In an attempt to dissuade this action, the pamphlet describes John Scoble's account about the abuses directed towards Indians uncovered during his trip to the West Indies for the Central Emancipation Committee. The pamphlet, written in February 1840, also attempted to display the Mauritian planter's circumvention of Crown directives concerning the importation of slaves and Indian laborers. Although Russell met with a delegation of the abolitionists, he confirmed that the government would proceed with its intention of reopening the exportation of Indian laborers. With a few exceptions, the exportation of indentured Indian labour to various British colonies lasted until January 1, 1920, when the last indentured Indians in Fiji were released from their contracts. Transportation of indentured Indians to Guyana (then British Guiana) ended in 1917.
The pamphlet was originally printed by Johnston and Barrett, Printers, 13 Mark Lane, London.
A BRIEF EXPOSURE, &c.
In sending the following statement to the press, my single object was to fill up the hiatus left in the papers recently presented to the House of Commons respecting the Hill Coolies in British Guiana, in return to an address moved by Mr. WILLIAM GLADSTONE on the 18th of February last. It appeared to me desirable that the country should know that a large fund of information respecting the general treatment of the Coolies in that colony existed besides the very partial, and, I have no hesitation in saying, because I am personally familiar with the facts, most unfair representations made to the Home Government on the whole subject.
Before I visited Guiana in the early part of the year, 1839, the system of concealment was adopted with admirable success: when, however, concealment was no longer possible, palliation and apology were resorted to; and to me, were it not a source of deep sorrow that the exposure of the hardships and sufferings of the wretched Coolies were treated with lightness, and that an attempt was made thereby to impose on the British public, it would be infinitely amusing to observe the attempts of Governor Light, to account for his own ignorance of the facts brought to light, the studied silence of his magistracy, and the conduct of the parties implicated in the guilty transactions to which reference is made. The ridiculous attempt of his Excellency to fasten unworthy motives on me, in the part I felt it to be my duty to take in the affair. I pass by as unworthy of observation. However much it may please the planters, it cannot injure me.
It was not my intention to have added my name to the statement, now given to the public - not judging it to be necessary; but having submitted it to the perusal of some friends after it was in type, they suggested the propriety of my doing so, and this must be my apology for the form in which it appears.
1.ORIGIN OF THE COOLIE SLAVE TRADE:
On the 4th January 1836, JOHN GLADSTONE, ESQ., addressed a letter to Messrs. GILLANDERS, ARBUTHNOT & Co., of Calcutta, in which he says: "You will probably be aware that we are very particularly situated with our negro apprentices in the West Indies, and that it is matter of doubt and uncertainty, how far they may be induced to continue their services on the plantations after their apprenticeship expires in 1840.
This, to us, is a subject of great moment and deep interest in the colonies of Demerara and Jamaica. We are, therefore, most desirous to obtain and introduce labourers from other quarters, and particularly from climates similar in their nature." After giving a most glowing account of the colony -- the lightness of the labour required, and the repose enjoyed by the people - their "schools on each estate for the education of children; and the instruction of their parents in the knowledge of their religious duties" - (there are no schools on Vreed-en-Hoop, or Vriedestein!!) he sums up all by observing, "it may be fairly said they pass their time agreeably and happily." Full of fears, however, for the future, he adds, "It is of great importance to us to endeavor to provide a portion of other labourers, whom we might use as a set-off, and, when the time for it comes, make us, as far as possible, independent of our negro population." He then gives an order for 100 Coolies - "young, active, able-bodied people," to be bound to labour "for a period not less than five years, or more than seven years," the wages not to "exceed four dollars per month," to provide themselves! To which communication Messrs. GILLANDERS & Co., gave the following "encouraging" reply, on the 6th June, 1836; "within the last two years, upwards of 2000 natives have been sent from this to the Mauritius, by several parties here, under contracts of engagements for five years. The contracts, we believe, are all of a similar nature; and we enclose a copy of one, under which we have sent 700 or 800 men to the Mauritius; and we are not aware that any greater difficulty would present itself in sending men to the West Indies, the Natives being perfectly ignorant of the place they agree to go to, or the length of the voyage they are undertaking." They then go on to state that the men selected for Mauritius, have "hardly any ideas beyond those of supplying the wants of nature;" and, therefore, we suppose, more likely to become the dupes of the cunning knaves who would entrap them into engagements, of the nature of which, they would be entirely ignorant. The "Dhangurs," they add, in a subsequent part of their letter, "are always spoken of as more akin to the monkey than the man. They have no religion, no education, and, in their present state, no wants, beyond eating, drinking and sleeping; and to procure which, they are willing to labour." Fit subjects, truly, to be made slaves, and to cultivate the estates of JOHN GLADSTONE, ESQ., in Demerara! Now what reply was made to the proposition of GILLANDERS AND Co.?
Did the wealthy planter express his indignation that the Indian labourers were to be spirited away from their native land, under the idea that they were going to the "Company's Rabustie," to be engaged in gardening?" Did he express his disgust that his agents should select such ignorant and wretched creatures as the Dhangurs to practice deceit upon? No! On the 10th March, 1837, he and his friend, JOHN MOSS, Esq., of Liverpool, gave Messrs. GILLANDERS & Co. to understand, that in the following May, they intended to forward the good ship "Hesperus to take Coolies to Demerara," to the number of 150, and that should they have children to take with them, fifteen or twenty may be sent in addition. "In Demerara," Mr. GLADSTONE adds, "the females are employed in the field as well as the men; and if the female Coolies will engage to work there, a larger proportion may be sent, say two women to three men, or, if desired, equal numbers; but if they will not engage to work there, then the proportion sent to the Isle of France, of one female to nine or ten men, for cooking and washing, is enough!" It is enough to give these quotations to show the origin of the Coolie slave-trade: and all we need add, is, that "ANDREW COLVILLE, Esq., ("a near connexion of Lord AUCKLAND'S") and Messrs. DAVIDSONS, BARKLEY & Co. of London," joined their friend Mr. GLADSTONE in a similar commission to Messrs. GILLANDERS & Co.
2. PROCEEDINGS OF THE GOVERNMENT.
It became necessary, in consequence of the state of the law in British Guiana, which restricted contracts for labour to three years duration, that Mr. GLADSTONE and his friends should be accommodated with an Order in Council to sanction their contracts for a period of five years, commencing on the arrival of the Coolies in Demerara. This was complaisantly granted them by LORD GLENELG, with the concurrence of Sir JOHN HOBHOUSE, and, of course the whole of her Majesty's then ministry. Under date of the 20th May, 1837, Mr. GLADSTONE writes GILLANDERS & Co. "I have now made the necessary arrangements with the colonial department, and an Order in Council corresponding with them will be immediately published." He then increases the order for Coolies from 150 to 200, (stating the tonnage of the "Hesperus" to be 334,) but he adds, "If that number should be considered too many, do not reduce it under 150," and remember, "one-third for the Messrs. MOSS, two-thirds for me." The Order in Council was of the most objectionable kind. It gave a carte blanche to every villain in British Guiana, and every scoundrel in India to kidnap and inveigle into contracts for labour for five years, in a distant part of the world, the ignorant and inoffensive Hindoo!
3. THE DISCOVERY.
The Order in Council was issued the 12th of July, 1837; but it was not until the 3rd of January, 1838, that the public in this country became aware of its existence, when it was denounced in the British Emancipator as giving birth to a new slave- trade. In May, intelligence was received through the medium of the Calcutta papers of the most painful nature, detailing the infamous conduct of the "Chokedars who were put on guard over the Coolies, shipped for Demerara on board the Hesperus." One man died "in consequence of his having been kept below;" and "the Coolies," it is added, were made to pay by the Chokedars, for the privilege of coming on deck! The same papers state that "the agent for shipping these poor unfortunate people has stated that he is authorized to ship TEN THOUSAND!"
Private letters also corroborated the fact, that the Coolies "had to be forced on board" the Hesperus - that "the hatches were bolted down," and that one man died from suffocation." It is stated also in the same communication that the Whitby found difficulty in inducing the natives to go, and that force was required to accomplish the object." These statements are made on the authority of the Rev. Mr. BOAZ, a Missionary in Calcutta. It was subsequently discovered that the trade of kidnapping Coolies had been extensively carried on, and that prison depôts had been established in the villages near Calcutta for the security of the wretched creatures, where they were most infamously treated, and guarded with the utmost jealousy and care, to prevent their escape, until the Mauritian and Demerara slavers were ready for their reception! A full account of the discovery of the kidnappers, their modes of procuring Coolie labourers, and their places of retreat was inserted in the Asiatic Journal of Calcutta, 5th of July, 1838, copied from the authenticated report of Sergeant FLOYD to the magistrates. It further appears, that through the exertions of a Mr. DIAS, a magistrate, twenty of the kidnappers were punished, and one hundred and twenty-five Coolies released from their grasp, who were described as "highly delighted" with their deliverance; and "as each group left the office, they gave three or four hearty cheers, and showered down blessings on the magistrate's head." Ought not the agents who employed these execrable kidnappers to have been punished? They most righteously deserved to have been placed by the side of the villains they employed.
4. ARRIVAL OF THE COOLIES IN BRITISH GUIANA.
According to the official account, the number of Coolies shipped from Calcutta, per Hesperus, was 155 men, five women, and ten children, in all 170 persons for Messrs. GLADSTONE and MOSS; per Whitby, they were shipped, 250 men, seven women, and ten children, in all 267 persons, to the care of JAMES MATTHEWS, Esq., attorney to ANDREW COLVILLE, Esq., and JOHN CAMERON, Esq., agent to Messrs. GILLANDERS & Co., of Calcutta. The Coolies consigned to Mr. CAMERON, were disposed of to Messrs. DAVIDSONS, BARKLEY & Co., and to JAMES BLAIR, Esq. The mortality on board the Hesperus, during her voyage, was fourteen, of which number two are represented to have been drowned (suicides?) The mortality on board the Whitby, amounted to four. There were consequently landed from both vessels 419 Coolies, which were distributed in the following manner, viz.:-
In all 407 persons, according to the official returns of the special magistrates, printed by order of the House of Commons, 21st of February, 1840, No. 77, pp. 51, 52. This will show a difference in the numbers landed and located upon the estates, of twelve Coolies, the cause of which cannot be gathered from the papers. It is of importance, that this point should be cleared up.
5. CONDITION OF THE COOLIES AFTER ARRIVAL.
On the 30th of August, 1838, GOVERNOR LIGHT, having just made the tour of the colony, writes to LORD GLENELG , as follows: - "From the reports I have received, and from my personal observation, the Coolies appear satisfied with their position, and have not disappointed their employers." In another dispatch, dated the 19th of November, 1838, his Excellency states, that "the general good health of the emigrants from India, is equal to that of any other labourer in this colony," the Creole Negro, of course not excepted; and in this view the assistant Colonial Secretary, Mr. WOLSELEY, concurs, for he appends to his general report on the state of the immigrants, "The Coolies have acclimatized well, and have suffered no disadvantage by emigrating to this colony." At a still later period, the 11th of January, 1839, Governor LIGHT, in a dispatch to LORD GLENELG, observes, "If my information be correct, the Hill Coolies were accustomed to a marshy soil, to very low wages, and precarious scanty food, and though on limited wages, in comparison with the free labourer, yet are as carefully protected from oppression, and their complaints redressed as speedily, as those of other labourers!" He adds, "the Coolies on Mr. GLADSTONE'S property, are a fine healthy body of men; they are beginning to marry or co-habit with the negresses, and take pride in their dress; the few words of English they know, added to signs common to all, prove that `Sahib' was good to them."
On the 30th day of January, 1839, Mr. Special Justice COLEMAN inspected the Coolies on plantation Vriedestein, the property of JOHN GLADSTONE, Esq.,; and gives a most favourable report of their condition. The labour required of them, only two-thirds of that expected from the late apprentices; and that "always of the lightest work going on." Their allowances, as per contract. To be sure, their houses were "not in good repair," but that is a matter of little importance in a colony where the climate is so "genial!" and where Governor LIGHT firmly believed they had "more means of enjoyment than in their own country." Vreed-en-Hoop, another property of Mr. GLADSTONE'S, was visited by Mr. Special Justice DELAFONS, on the 20th February, 1839; who reports, that the Coolies were "cheerful and contented;" but, unlike their brethren on Vriedestein, they were compelled to perform the same description of labour as the negro gang, and had one and a-half-guilder stopped out of their wages monthly, to be paid on their completing their servitude, as per agreement. The deaths on Vriedestein, in eight months, two males; on the sick list ten: and on Vreed-en-Hoop, in nine months, four males; on the sick list four.
On the 31st January, 1839, Mr. Special Justice COLEMAN inspected the Coolies on Belle-Vue, the property of Mr. COLVILLE, and reports that they were "lodged in a large logie built purposely for them," and were not required, or expected, to perform more than "two-thirds of the tariff of labour for seven hours and a-half." He states the number of deaths in eight months, to have been nine males, and one female child; on the sick list twenty. Mr. Special Justice MURE reports, the Coolies on Anna Regina, belonging to the Messrs. MOSS, to be "very cheerful and contented," and that only one death had occurred in eight months. Mr. Special Justice ROSE reports, that the Coolies on Waterloo, the property of JAMES BLAIR, Esq., "are apparently quite satisfied," and that during a period of eight months, there had been four deaths, and fifteen were on the sick list. On plantation Highbury, belonging to Messrs. DAVIDSONS & Co., visited by Mr. Special Justice MACLEOD, on the 31st of January, 1839, he reports, the Coolies "cheerful and contented," and the number of deaths fifteen males, and two females, with from ten to fifteen on the sick list. It thus appears, that the morality during a period of rather more than eight months after arrival, on 419 Coolies had been thirty-eight, viz., thirty-five males and three females, and that seventy were usually on the sick list.
Up to this period, there was not a whisper to be heard in the colony of the ill-treatment of the Coolies, although it must have been known to the special justices of the various districts in which the Coolies were located, that they were frequently in the habit of running away from the estates, on the ground of alleged ill-treatment and anxiety to return to their native land. It was known, that a large number had fled from Belle-Vue, and were found on plantation Herstelling, on the opposite side of the river, where they declared that, in consequence of the severity of the treatment they had endured from their manager, Mr. YOUNG, who accompanied them from India, they would rather die than go back, and it was only when the promise was given that the individual complained of should be discharged, that they returned to the estate. It is known also, that many fled at different times from plantation Vreed-en-Hoop, and that two "Jummun and Pulton, who left on the 11th of October, 1838," were never afterwards discovered. The bodies of two strange men were discovered about that time at Mahaica dead, in the bush; no doubt they were the missing Coolies; and the female child, about ten years old, who was reported dead in Mr. Special Justice COLEMAN'S report, perished from the dreadful effects resulting from the forcible violation of her person. An account of these things, and much more, that might be mentioned, is carefully excluded from the reports; but we must not anticipate.
The real condition of the Coolies was brought to light, in consequence of a paragraph which appeared in the columns of the British Emancipator of the 9th Jan., 1839, which had reached the colony. JAMES MATTHEWS, Esq., after allowing three weeks to elapse to put his house in order, requested the Governor to appoint a commission of inquiry into the condition of the Coolies on Belle-Vue, with the view of proving that the statements in the Emancipator were false and scandalous. It was to have been a very snug affair, but Mr. SCOBLE, being at that time in the colony, and having been privately informed of the intended investigation, determined to be present at the proceedings. The evidence taken by the Commissioners, though of the most partial and limited nature, established the general accuracy of the report which had been made, and was the means of bringing to light the hidden horrors of the system which had been pursued on Belle-Vue. To detail the whole of the iniquities practiced on the wretched Coolies on that estate would fill a volume. It will be sufficient, to say that the general manager of the estate, Mr. RUSSELL, SHARLIEB, the manager of the Coolies, and Dr. NIMMO, a relation of Mr. GLADSTONE, the medical man of the estate, as well as of Vriedestein and Vreed-en-Hoop, were all indicted and convicted of brutal assaults, before the Inferior Criminal Court of British Guiana, and either fined or imprisoned! One incident however connected with the sick-house on Belle-Vue must not be omitted; it is taken from an account given by an eye-witness of the melancholy scene. "The spectacle," he writes, "presented to the observer, in the sick-house was heart-rending! The house itself was wretchedly filthy, the persons and the clothes of the patients were filthy also; the poor sufferers had no mats nor mattresses to lie on; a dirty blanket was laid under them and their clothes wrapped together formed a kind of a pillow.
In one room where there were raised boards for the accommodation of seven persons only, eleven were confined -- four of them lying on the floor. The squalid wretchedness of their appearance, their emaciated forms, and their intense sufferings from disease and sores, were enough to make the heart bleed! In the second room were found a worse class of patients. The scene in this chamber beggars description; out of the five confined there, two were dead, and one of the remaining three cannot long survive; should the others ultimately recover, it will be by a miracle -- their bones appeared ready to protrude through their skins! (these three died shortly after.) When the magistrate inquired by signs of the miserable creature who appeared to be near death, what food he was allowed -- he pulled out some hard brown biscuit from under his head, and exhibited it!! The Coolies confined in other apartments appeared in the same state as those confined in the first chamber; in one of them was a man whose limbs have become contracted by disease since he came to the estate. In fact, you may suppose, that it must have been misery in perfection to have drawn from Mr. WOLSELEY this observation:-- "I never saw such a dreadful scene of misery in my life as is now to be seen in the sick-house. I have been in a great many hospitals on various estates for the last twenty years; but I never saw such a melancholy scene!!
But lest it should be suspected that the description is overwrought, attention is called to the remarks of Sir M. MCTURK, one of the Commissioners appointed by the Court of Policy, to visit the estates on which the Coolies were placed, and to report thereon. In his place in the Court of Policy, he said, "He would now say that, before that inquiry, it had often been his lot to witness scenes of distress, of acute bodily suffering, and deep affliction; but such unalleviated wretchedness, such hopeless misery as he beheld in that hospital, never before had he seen, nor could he have imagined that it existed in this colony. The Coolies in it were not suffering merely from sores; they had mortified ulcers, their flesh rotting on their bones, their toes dropping off. Some of them were in a dangerous state from fever, and all were in the utmost despondency." And this appalling statement was corroborated by the Commissioners in their official report. On Belle-Vue, they say, "twenty have died from diseases contracted in the colony, and twenty-nine are now in a wretched state from ulcers, many of whom, in all probability, will die; and should they survive, they will (some of them) be rendered unfit to support themselves, from the loss of their toes, and part of their feet -- the sick-house presents a spectacle pitiable to behold. These poor people are in a state of great misery, and from whatever cause it may have sprung, the effects are so appalling, that humanity calls loudly for the interference of the executive." The consequence of this appeal was, after considerable opposition from Mr. MATTHEWS, the attorney of the estate, and Dr. NIMMO, the medical attendant, they were removed to the colonial hospital, and placed under the humane care, and skilful treatment of Dr. SMITH, the physician of the establishment.
It is to be regretted that Mr. COLVILLE, to whom the government imparted the information relative to the treatment of the Coolies on his estate, instead of expressing his warm indignation against the brutal system of oppression practised there by his agents, should have sought to extenuate, if not to justify, their criminal deeds. (Vide Par. Pap. No. 463, p.98) But that gentleman should be told that when his portion of the Coolies arrived in Demerara, there was no building prepared for their reception; that the sick-house was emptied of its patients, to make room for them; and that in four rooms in that sick-house, the whole eighty-two Coolies were thrust, men, women, and children, without regard to delicacy or decency, together; and kept in that loathsome den for nearly three months, before a shed could be erected for their shelter! And let that gentleman be told also, that the whip, the bamboo, and the dungeon, were constantly resorted to, to compel labour or to gratify revenge. And further, he should know that the schoolmaster BERKLEY, who first hinted the cruelties that were practiced on miserable Coolies, after having his stock wantonly killed, has been driven from the estate, without payment of the miserable sum due to him for salary; and is now the victim of a most bitter persecution on the part of every manager in the district! Happily, however, for the cause of humanity, and probably, for the interests of Mr. COLVILLE, the atrocious conduct of his agents has been partly made known; but who shall say that similar atrocities may not again be perpetrated? There are not always to be found in the colony, men who have the courage to expose and denounce the evils which exist. The last report of the special magistrate, dated 1st November, 1839, states the mortality to have been, up to that period, twenty-two males, besides the murdered girl!
Let us now take a glance at Vreed-en-Hoop, the property of Mr. GLADSTONE. We find, that in consequence of a communication made to the Governor that the Coolies on that estate were ill-treated, an inquiry was ordered into the circumstances. The result of the first inquiry is summed up by Mr. YOUNG, the Government Secretary, in a letter, addressed, by order of his Excellency, to JAMES STUART, Esq., the attorney to the property; and is as follows:--
Government Secretary's Office, 2nd May, 1839
. A report having reached the Governor that the Coolies of Vreed-en- Hoop had been flogged, and that two of them, in consequence of ill-treatment, had fled from the estate, and had since perished in the neighbourhood of Mahaica, his Excellency directed a court of inquiry, consisting of three stipendiary magistrates, to be assembled for the purpose of ascertaining the truth of the report. I am now directed to recapitulate to you the facts elicited by the investigation; to inform you of the ultimate measures which have been determined on; and to suggest to you such a course of proceeding, on your part, towards the individuals whose conduct is implicated in these transactions, as, in his Excellency's opinion, humanity towards the Coolies, and a due regard of the reputation of the colony at large, render just and necessary.
As you were yourself present at the court of inquiry, it is not, perhaps, necessary to set forth in detail the whole of the evidence, (of which, however, you may obtain a perusal at this office, should you desire it); in the margin will be found the names of the witnesses who speak to the facts which I am now to recapitulate.
"The Coolies were locked up in the sick-house; saw them the day after they were flogged; their backs were swollen; they were in the sick-house for two days after the flogging." -- Will. Clay.
"When they run away and are stubborn, they get two or three lickings; they are flogged with a cat-o'-nine-tails; they were tied with a rope round the post, and were licked on the bare back." -- Alexander.
"They appeared to me as severely punished as my matties were, during the apprenticeship; when flogged, they were flogged with a cat, the same as was formerly in use; they brought all from the sick house together, and took them to the negro-yard to be flogged; they were tied to a post." -- Rose.
"The Coolies were locked up in the sick house, and next morning they were flogged with a cat-o'-nine-tails; the manager was in the house, and they flogged the people under his house; they were tied to the post of the gallery of the manager's house; I cannot tell how many licks; he gave them enough. I saw blood. When they were flogged at manager's house, they rubbed salt pickle on their backs."-- Elizabeth Caesar.
"I think two of the Coolies were brought into the hospital to have their backs dressed; I rubbed them with camphor and high wines; the backs were bruised. The first time seven Coolies were locked up; the second, six Coolies."-- Betsey Ann, Sick Nurse.
"Their hands were tied behind their backs; they were beaten with a rope; ten times they lick them; heard them complain to manager; Mr. Jacobs lick Modun every day. When licked, they put the breast to the post with hands stretched out; some tie the hands before, some behind. Coolies run away because they are licked." -- Narrain.
His Excellency desires me to observe, that although some of the other witnesses, as well as those whose names are mentioned in the margin, in other parts of their evidence, give a description, perhaps, somewhat less revolting than that contained in the foregoing extracts, yet the fact of flogging and confinement having been inflicted is proved beyond all dispute.
The minutes of the court have been referred to Stipendiary Justice Coleman (who was not on the commission of inquiry) in a letter, of which I annex a copy, and you will perceive that he has been instructed to adjudicate upon the cases, or to refer them, for trial, before the Supreme Court of Criminal Justice, as may be most consistent with his own judgement, and the laws in force.
His Honour the Sheriff of Berbice, who is acquainted with the Hindostanee language, has been summoned from Berbice, in order to assist in interpreting the complaints of the Coolies, and for the purpose of conveying to them an explanation of the punishment which Captain Coleman is enabled, by law, to award against any one who shall, in future, at any time, commit similar outrages on their persons. His Excellency confidently expects your entire concurrence in the above measures, for the punishment of the wrongs these strangers have hiterto sustained; and, under this expectation, I am to suggest to you, that, although a legal tribunal can visit Mr. Sanderson and Mr. Jacobs (either or both, as the evidence may appear to the court to justify such a sentence) with punishment for what the Coolies of Vreed-en-Hoop have, hitherto, wrongly suffered, yet, that the most efficient protection, for the future, can best be afforded, by your dismissal of Messrs. Sanderson and Jacobs.
Mr. Sanderson, as the resident manager, either did know, or ought to have known of these transactions; under the most charitable supposition, his ignorance must be esteemed highly culpable.
Of Mr. Jacobs' unfitness to retain any authority over the Coolies of Vreed-en-Hoop, there cannot be a doubt; and it is reported that, pending the investigation, he brutally assaulted one of them, and that he is, at this moment, on his trial, before Stipendiary Magistrate Mure, for the offence. It has also been reported to the Governor, that the wages due to the Coolies, are paid to the interpreter Jacobs, on their behalf, a practice which his Excellency considers may have been a source of discontent. I have, &c.,
To this communication, the attorney sent a scornful reply, and refused to accede to his Excellency's request. The investigation, however, led to the trial and conviction of JACOBS for assault on the persons of five Coolies, and the sentence of the court, was a fine of £20 sterling, and one month's imprisonment in George-town Jail. Subsequently to this, JACOBS was again tried for another assault on a Coolie, and fined 30 shillings by the Court. A third assault was proved against him, and a fine of forty shillings inflicted. These convictions were deemed sufficient by those who originated the proceedings, and to establish the fact, that as part of the regular discipline of the estate, the wretched Coolies were most cruelly whipped and injured. But this was only part of the system: JACOBS was also proved to have mulcted the Coolies of their money, which the wretched creatures paid to him instead of a threatened beating. A list of thirty-one cases is given in the report of the Commissioners, who were thus robbed of their hard earned money to the extent of 28½ dollars at various times. The amount of punishment inflicted on the Coolies first and last, must have been enormous, and yet because there was no legal evidence to prove that SANDERSON, the general manager of the estate, had personally directed the flogging, either in the house or in the field, he was retained in his situation.
To suppose that for twelve months, these things could have occurred under his own eye, and he not know it, must be to disqualify him for the situation he holds, and ought of itself to have been a sufficient reason for his immediate dismissal from office. But he is too good a manager, in the colonial sense of the term, to be lost, so he still represents his wealthy master on plantation Vreed- en-Hoop. And now what does Mr. GLADSTONE do, when put in possession of the documents, forwarded to him by the government, containing the melancholy details referred to? Why, like Mr. COLVILLE, he has not one word of commiseration to expend on the Coolies; but a great deal of indignation against Messrs. SCOBLE and ANSTIE, to whom reference no doubt is made, in the following passage: -- "The people continued cheerful and contented; but evil disposed persons have recently gone among them, and have endeavoured to create a bad and dissatisfied feeling, in which they have partially succeeded, as it is at present too generally the case in England, where similar effects are produced by the Chartists and others, among the lower classes."-- (Vide letter dated 3rd August, 1839.) Perhaps, as the letter which contains this paragraph, was addressed to the Marquess of NORMANBY, and to his noble colleague in office, Lord JOHN RUSSELL; so that Mr. SCOBLE, and his friend, Mr. ANSTIE, find themselves in grand company indeed, and, of course, will thank Mr. GLADSTONE for the honour done them!
The number reported dead on Vreed-en-Hoop, on the 1st of November, 1839, was nine, and two absent, who, no doubt, perished in the bush at Mahaica, eleven in all; and thirteen were then on the sick list. The general treatment of the Coolies on Vriedestein, has been the same as on Vreed-en-Hoop, and the mortality greater, in proportion to the number settled there, viz.: eight males, to the 1st of November, 1839, when there were five on the sick list. The original number placed the two estates, the latter end of May, 1838, was 104, and the mortality has been nineteen in a period of eighteen months, in addition to the fourteen who perished on the voyage from Calcutta, and who formed part of the original number of 170 shipped on the joint account of Messrs. GLADSTONE and MOSS.
In reviewing the foregoing facts, one cannot fail being struck, first, by the circumstance, that so much oppression, cruelty, and misery, should have escaped the attention of managers, attorneys, magistrates, and even the executive itself, for nearly twelve-months; and that it should have been left to a visitor to the colony, to expose successfully the horrid truths which are now submitted to public attention; secondly, that these things should have occurred on the estates of two men of princely wealth, who affirm that they gave their agents the most positive instructions -- that the Coolies entrusted to them should be treated with the greatest imaginable tenderness and care! Thirdly, that when the facts of the inhuman treatment of the Coolie labourers are brought to the knowledge of these gentlemen, they either affect to palliate or deny them, or to justify their agents; and to characterise those who have been providentially the means of dragging the offenders to justice, as among the most infamous men; and, fourthly, that they should have had the audacity to appeal to the Government of this country, to allow them, and others like them, to introduce, ad libitum, as many thousands of the natives of Hindostan, as will enable them effectually to coerce the labour of the negro freemen, and still further, to enrich themselves at the expense of the liberty and happiness of mankind!
On plantation Highbury, notwithstanding the favourable reports of the treatment of the Coolies there, the mortality has been very great, viz. seventeen males and one female, and twelve reported on the sick list, the 1st of November, 1839. From this estate, as well as those already mentioned, the Coolies have repeatedly run away. On one occasion, sometime in April or May last year, upwards of twenty of them cut their way, due east, for many miles through the bush, in the hope of reaching Bengal! When in the presence of those they know to be their friends, and really interested in their welfare, they give full vent to their feelings, and exhibit their real sentiments, and with tears and clasped hands, and in broken English, entreat to be sent back to their native country and to their kindred from whom they have been wantonly separated.
On plantation Anna Regina, the deaths have been two; and on plantation Waterloo, five are reported dead, and three on the sick list, on the 1st of November, 1839. Thus, then, it appears from official documents, that out of the 437 Coolies shipped at Calcutta, eighteen died on the voyage to Demerara; and that out of the 419 settled on the various estates referred to in May, 1838, sixty-four have died from various diseases, two have perished in the bush, and one has been murdered; making a total of sixty-seven deaths in eighteen months, being about one-sixth of the whole! It may be added that there is no legal provision made for the restoration of such of the Coolies as may survive the period of their Indentures to India!
6. MEASURES OF THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT:
In consequence of the facts brought to light in early part of the year 1838, as to the true character of the Order in Council of the 12th July, 1837, and the public indignation felt at the proceedings of the planters, in Mauritius and elsewhere, and their agents, and kidnappers in India, the Government declared its intention on the 20th July, of that year, to rescind the obnoxious Order in Council; and Sir John Hobhouse stated, in the course of last session of Parliament, that not only had Her Majesty's ministers put an end to the traffic in Coolies, but that the Governor-General of India had anticipated them, and had issued a prohibition against the further exportation of Hill Coolies. The humanity and justice of these measures were not less honourable to the Government than they were satisfactory to the public.
Notwithstanding the Order in Council of the 12th July, 1837, admitting the introduction into British Guiana of Hill Coolies, under indentures of five years, had been rescinded, the proprietary body in the early part of last year, obtained a vote by means of the financial representatives of the colony, seconded by the zealous exertions of the governor, of the enormous sum of £400,000 sterling, to be devoted exclusively to the increase of their stock of labourers; and, subsequently, passed an ordinance, similar to the Colonial Passengers' Bill, now under the consideration of the House of Commons, with the view of securing the concurrence of the Home Government, in their gigantic immigration scheme.
Their object was, not merely to draw labourers from the smaller West India colonies, and from Europe, but principally from Africa and Hindostan. Hence they had actually provided for the support of a resident agent in Calcutta, and for another on the western coast of Africa! This scheme was recommended to the acceptance of the Home Government, with all the zeal of a partizan by the executive; but it did not meet with the anticipated success. Lord NORMANBY, in a dispatch, dated 15th August, 1839, which did him honour, conveyed the intelligence to the colony, that her Majesty had been pleased to disallow the immigration ordinance, and, in reference to that part of it which proposed to import Africans and Hill Coolies, observes:-- “With regard to the introduction of labourers from India, more than enough has already passed to render her Majesty's government decidedly hostile to every such project, and the laws now in force in different presidencies would effectually prevent the execution of this part of the scheme. We are not less opposed to the plan of recruiting the negro population of the West India colonies from Africa. No precaution which has been, or which could be devised would prevent such a measure from giving a stimulus to the internal slave-trade on that continent, or from bringing discredit on the sincerity of the efforts made by this nation for the suppression of that system of guilt and misery." On what grounds then, we ask, does the government now propose to relax the prohibition on the export of Coolies in the case of Mauritius? Are the planters of that colony more worthy of the confidence than those of Guiana? Are they more honourable and humane? We assert not: then why the preference?
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