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THE DEATH OF A NEGRO CHIEF.
A residence for some years in the West Indies gave me opportunities of witnessing several incidents which may serve to display the lights and shades of the characters who inhabit that land of slaves and bachelors. In the West Indies you meet with men of all characters, of every rank, calling, and profession--from the noble who has been called to fill an honourable station, and at the same time mend his broken fortune, down to the cobbler, who, dreaming of riches, has left his native country with his awls in his pocket, crosses the sea, places himself on a stool, turns up his shirt sleeves, whistles, looks upwards, and dreams of riches still. The inhabitants of the island in which I spent most of my time were, however, so diversified, that you could not look for a general character, except that they were all birds of passage—all sojourners for the season of the golden shower. Few thought of remaining there for life-for so soon as each had picked up his portion of the shower, he forsook his temporary roost, and sought again the land of his birth. They were a heterogeneous mixture of all nations, who had emigrated from their country under an infinite variety of circumstances. Every one had brought with him a stock of the habits, prejudices, as well as virtues of his nation, besides those which were peculiar to the individual, to which he'adhered with pertinacity. Any one, therefore, who has a turn for the study of human manners ---who possesses as much of the suaviter in modo as to bend himself to their humours, may make himself agreeable, gain their esteem, and need be at little loss to find amusement. The intercourse in such a society is not onlike one of those entertainments called a pic nic, where every one brings such provisions as he chooses, and when you sit down on the green sward where the delicious tit bits from every one's bag are displayed before you; like the ass between two trusses of hay, you scarcely know where to set your teeth first. There are not a few in Britain who have formed the notion that there is nothing in the west but slaves and sugar planters. But these islands, which lie scattered up and down the ocean like gems, are as fertile of interest and local association as the most celebrated corners of Brj. tain, which have had a halo cast around them by the pen of the novelist. The silken woof of many heartstirring tales, and the nucleus of many interesting little dramas, are to be found there. Vice has its panishment and virtue its reward there, as in Britain. It is a field of discovery for the novelist, where he may gain 'as much renown as Columbus.
Pancras was a negro of the Foolah tribe, who had been transported to the West Indies about the age of fifteen. He had thus a very vivid recollection of the condition which he enjoyed in Africa, and the relative situation in which he stood to other Africans. On
NO. XXXIII. --VOL. III.
every occasion he assumed a superiority over his countrymen. His acquaintances, men and women of his own tribe, said he was related to one of the African chiefs, and had been taken prisoner in one of their petty wars with a bordering tribe. Having been sold to an African slave merchant, who transferred him to a slave ship, in which he was conveyed across the Atlantic, he was purchased by a planter in the island of Grenada, who had obtained the character of being kind and indulgent to his slaves, and for several years he enjoyed no small share of his master's confidence, and a peace and security which he never knew in Africa, where war was a common employment. He had a native acuteness about him which might have passed as the effe of superior intelligence and deep reflection; and in every thing he did there was a ray of dignity shone through his rude manners, which, contrasted with others of his own nation, marked at once the difference between him and the ordinary negro, and that he belonged to a higher grade in African society. Being mostly about his master's person, he soon contracted a shade of his manners, and received a polish which made him in some degree serve as a substitute for better company. His master did not treat him as an equal, but only as an upper servant worthy of confidence. Yet there seems to be something in the negro character which approaches the disposition of certain wild animals-let them be ever so tame or well polished, there is always danger lest they return to their savage propensities, when the prey is set before them. The conduct of Pancras, when a fitting opportunity presented itself, verified this remark.
The liberals of France wished to carry their follies and absurdities to the most distant and hidden corners of the earth. The emissaries of these ephemeral rulers found their way into the island of Grenada, and having made a stolen debarkation in a hidden creek at an un. frequented part of the coast, they furnished the negroes with a small store of arms and ammunition, and urged them to turn their savage hands against their masters. They were led to believe that when they had cut their masters' throats they would be exempted from labour, enjoy unbounded liberty, and be protected by the French. No sooner were these weapons placed in their hands, than the negroes commenced the work of des. truction, and this beautiful island became the scene of a warfare which, though confined to a narrow space, was characterised by the most bloody and revolting actions that have ever been recorded. History would blush for the disgrace of human nature were she compelled to trace them minutely. Instead of the merry drum and the song of joy which were wont to be heard among the slaves in the evenings after labour, sullen distrust seized every bosom. The broad tropical sun rose in the morning from the bosom of the wide Atlantic, with his beams shorn of their glory by the smoking of woods and plantations.
When the sound of war and carnage was heard, Pancras was among the earliest to leave his indulgent master to join the gang. He was chosen one of their leaders, and deeply concerned himself in many of the diabolical transactions which characterised the negro warfare. Of almost gigantic height, and strong muscular powers, with aspect fitted at once to command his own nation and strike terror to the souls of Europeans, he was therefore well adapted for acting the part for which he had been selected. He stood six feet and a half high, his shoulders were large and broad, his chest round and roomy. The statuary would have found fault in his extremities only, for his feet were large and flat, and his heels projected nearly as far backwards as his feet did forwards. He seldom wore any other covering upon him than a small piece of cloth girt abont his middle, and a hat on his head; every muscle, therefore, upon his legs and arms, and over his back, could be distinctly traced. With a block of black marble instead of white, and Pancras for a model, the statuary who could correct any little break of nature might have realised the idea of the antediluvians, or the fabled Patagonians. It cannot be said that in the expression of countenance he differed much from others of his na. tion. A conical head, high cheek bones, lips which projected much farther than his nose, and a nose the lower part of which extended from side to side of his face, and the upper end sinking below his forehead, are the common characteristics of the African countenance. Pancras's smile was exceedingly rare, but when he parted his lips to express a smile, he showed a set of large regular teeth almost transparent with whiteness. His eyes were larger than any of his nation I had ever seen; and as the white part was contrasted with the jet black countenance, they flared upon you like lights suddenly displayed in darkness; and when roused into anger, you could perceive the whole savage soul of the negro flash across you like lightning. Pancras was tatooed over the back, shoulders, and breast, with a due regard to the station he had been designed to fill in Africa. This consists in certain marks being made with an instrument during infancy, and which remain through life as indelible as the marks, made upon the bark of a tree, and serves the purposes of a badge of nobility far before a star or a ribbon, for neither age nor dishonour can take it away. It had been predicted by an old negro, who was in high repute for his skill as an obi man, or wizard, that Pancras would one day be king of the island, and rule after the fashion of his brethren in Africa. This old pretender to pettifogging necromancy had obtained such ascendency over his countrymen that they believed his mummeries to be infallible, put implicit faith in his obscure responses, and dreaded his power. The qualities of his person, which were of high repute among the Africans» for they say they love to look on something that fills de yey,--and they obi man's prediction, no doubt influenced the negroes to choose Pancras as their leader. But besides these favourable qualities he was possessed of others which were of much more real use to those who put themselves under his command. By close and attentive observance he had gathered many useful lessons from the Europeans. It was necessary for the security of all the colonies to train every white to the exercise of a soldier. Pancras, attended their parades, and though he appeared stupid or uninterested, he took most accurate note of the exercise and evolutions of the militia.
His master often took it as an agreeable amusement to see the negro perform with his own sword or his fusil the whole exercise, with an ease and readiness that vould have put the greater part of the colonial corps to shame. But while he was giving the black the word of command in mere jest, he did not foresee that his adroitness would be turned with such terrible effect against that very militia whom he pretended to mimic.
By a strange mixture of generosity with savage brutality, Pancras had, in the midst of all the bloody and revolting transactions which he either acted or abetted, never thought ef turning his hand against his master. On the contrary, it was known that he had protected the planter's property from the ravages of his associates, while all around him was laid waste by the destroyer's hand; and when his neighbours' houses were nightly laid in ashes, his master's enjoyed perfect safety. The planter had a beautiful daughter lately arrived from England, where she had received her education; and as Pancras had several times spoken of her to his companions in terms of enthusiasm, they stole her from her father's house, and took her to the care of the chief, which was situated in the woods. They presented her to Pancras as the most acceptable offering they could make, but on the instant he returned with the maiden to her father's door unhurt, and retreated without waiting for thanks. So short was her captivity, that her father would never have known had she not related the story. We shall not stop to analyse the secret springs of this contradictory conduct in the same individual, nor trace the progress of the negro chief through his wild career, which was known to be deeply stained with blood.
When the insurrection of the slaves was quelled, and all the hopes of the negroes fled with the discomfiture of the French, they betook themselves to the woods to avoid the vengeance of the law. Many of them were caught, and suffered the punishment which they merited for the blood they had shed, and which was intended to strike terror upon those who refused to lay down their weapons, or might be plotting a new revolt. Pancras saw many of his companions suffer, and had the boldness to rescue some of them from the trees, where they were suspended alive; but he had always the dexterity to elude pursuit. The recesses of the forest, and the caverns on the sequestered sea-shore afforded many dark and hidden retreats, where, with the help of a little plunder, and a shot from his gun, he might procure what was necessary for temporary sustenauce. For several months he was never heard of or seen, and it was believed he had perished-some thought in a skirmish, and others that he died of hunger, or had committed suicide. Every imaginable death was assigned to Pancras, and his name became a spell to frighten the children of his own nation.
At the time the island of Trinidada was ceded to Britain by Spain, inducements offered themselves to the enterprising British planters of neighbouring islands to form settlements there. The soil of the island is exceedingly fertile, and at that time the greater part of it was covered with natural forests. The sugar planter consequently had ample choice for fixing himself in a situation which possessed most natural advantages. Pancras's master was amongst the number of those who desired to commence a new estate in the newly acquired British terrtory. He was, influenced to this by à spirit of enterprise, as well as by a desire