PoWI Archives - POS Gazette Oct 23, 1846

Sources | Our Archives | Internet Links


Port of Spain Gazette, Friday, October 23, 1846, p.2

We insert the communication signed "EXPERTO CREDE," on the subject of Madeira Immigration, but whilst we give the writer every credit for the humane motives by which he is actuated, and regret as deeply as himself the fate of the considerable number of Madeira Immigrants by the Senator who have found an early grave in a country where they no doubt looked forward to materially improve their condition in life, we cannot concur with him in calling on the local Government at once, and in toto, to abandon this brand of Immigration in consequence of the unsuccessful results of one solitary experiment, and in the teeth too, of the fact that Madeira Immigration is succeeding elsewhere - in a Colony which is not one bit more healthy - one iota less subject to "Fever and Malaria" than Trinidad.

As regards the immigration of Europeans to these Colonies with a view to their employment in agricultural labor, we have more than once expressed our opinion on the subject - that their constitutions could not stand the necessary exposure to our tropical sun, and that the results of any experiment of this kind, however carefully watched over, must end in total and lamentable failure; - but as regards the natives of Madeira and the Canary Isles, the case appears to us widely different. Their swarthy complexion indicates an African origin, however remote; and they have not been reared amid the European change of seasons, or accustomed to have the relaxing effect of a summer‚s heat, counteracted by the hard frosts of a bracing winter. To them, the mere change of temperature can have little or no enervating effect, and all the danger to be apprehended would appear to be the change from a remarkably dry climate to a very moist one - from an Island where the air has been rendered of the very purest by the long and thorough cultivation and exposure of the soil in every direction, to another where cultivation is yet, comparatively speaking, in its infancy and where virgin forests and rich morasses are only opened up at that penalty which nature, in our tropical clime, seems invariably to attach to the invasion of her choicest treasures.

Thus, from theory alone should we feel inclined to argue on this matter; and whilst theory would appear opposed to fact, as regards Trinidad, in the solitary instance of the Immigrants by the Senator, fact has, in British Guiana, borne out the deduction of theory in every particular. There too, at the outset, Portuguese immigration was derided and denounced as impracticable, there too, probably, individual instances occurred like that of the Senator, which would have seemed to shut out all hope of a general successful result; and yet this immigration, unchecked by Government, receiving little or no support from the Planters, has triumphed over every obstacle, and the number of Madeirans in British Guiana exceeds 12,000 souls; and - until very lately indeed - this immigration has been carried on through the agency of Madeiran Immigrants themselves. The son has sent to Madeira for his father and mother - the brother for his sisters and brethren. Surely these people, with their experience acquired on the spot would not have sent for their relatives if they had not felt assured their condition in life would be bettered by the change. This immigration has now been going on for several years, and each year increasing in the ratio of numerical progression, and yet we have never heard a word about the mortality of the Portuguese in British Guiana.

But we are free to confess - whilst arguing that an Immigration which has succeeded so well in British Guiana ought - pari passu - to succeed in Trinidad - that we by no means contend there may not be adventitious circumstances which may have made success in the one colony much easier of attainment than it can possibly prove to the other. The origin and progress of Madeiran Immigrants in British Guiana we believe to be briefly as follows: A number of Madeiran Laborers were imported into that Colony under contracts to the Planters. Of these many died. The survivors, after completing their contract, took to huckstering - in which they displayed much skill and natural talent and soon acquired the means of setting up small shops. The most industrious, from small shops rose to large ones; and at this moment one-third at least of the retail trade in Georgetown, and some part too of the wholesale. is carried on by Portuguese. These people became the Agents of the Planters for the introduction of their countrymen, and took care to send for such as were best suited to the purpose - as had been brought up and inured from the childhood to agricultural labor. When these Immigrants arrived they were duly cautioned what to do, and what to avoid, and when they were taken with the usual "seasoning" fever, they had the houses of their friends in Georgetown to resort to (and change of air in many localities, as regards fever of this kind, is worth all the doctor‚s prescriptions that ever were compounded) they were, in short, among their friends, their "own people" - and they soon got over the attack, and became accustomed to the climate.

Of the immigrants by the Senator from the very first we heard bad account. They did not appear to have been selected from the agricultural portion of the Madeira population, but to have been the mere sweeping of the lanes and crossings. Their extremely filthy habits were alone sufficient to prognosticate their fate in a country where health depends so much on personal cleanliness. In many cases it was impossible by threats or entreaties to induce them to take the medicines prescribed by the Doctor, - and such as the climate seemed inclined to spare and pass over, without exacting the usual "tribut de pays," actually starved themselves into sickness, by hoarding up the whole of their earnings and eating every apology for food that came in their way, instead of laying out a portion of their money in such wholesome sustenance as could alone enable them to perform that fair portion of labor for which they were receiving wages.

Without, therefore, taking the extreme view of the case contended for by our correspondent, we consider there is that in the fate of the Madeira immigrants by the Senator, which, at any rate, "should give us a pause" - should induce the Government to set about devising some other plan for the location of Immigrants of this description than that hitherto pursued. What appears to us as most required is a nucleus - a healthy and otherwise advantageous spot, in which the first few hundred of these immigrants should be located to which the subsequent arrivals would naturally flock, and where they would profit by the local experience of their predecessors - avoid much that is baneful, and be willing, on the advice of persons in whom they had confidence, to take those necessary sanitary precautions which all immigrants, no matter from what quarter of the globe, should adopt in establishing themselves in a climate which cannot but differ in some respects from that to which they have hitherto been accustomed. As regards the general interests of the colony, the result will be the same. If 500 of these people were located in the healthy valley of Santa Cruz picking cocoa, or growing provisions for the supply of the laborers of the Sugar Planters, it would be just as advantageous to the interests of the Agricultural body as a whole. if these people were scattered, to their own manifest discomfort and discouragement, over fifty sugar plantations from Bande l‚Est to Cedros. Our wealth lies in our available labor for agriculture; and it matters little in which quarter any given portion of it is grouped, or to what particular branch that portion is applied.

To The Editor of the Port of Spain Gazette

"It's no fish we're buying, it's men's lives." - Antiquary

Sir, - I have read with pleasure, in your publication of Tuesday last, the 14th, the communication addressed to His Excellency the Governor by "A Looker On".

With the general tenor of the observations by this intelligent writer, I feel disposed on the whole cordially to agree. There is one portion, however, of his letter which I think calls for remark, and I, therefore, venture to crave a brief space in your valuable columns in order to endeavour, to the best of my ability, to disabuse the public mind of what I conceive to be a grievous error, especially when inculcated by one whose opinions must carry with them the weight due to the advocacy of so (a)cute an observer, and so able a writer as the one in question.

The paragraph I allude to, is the concluding one of the letter which touches on Immigration.

The fact that Immigration (the "Emigration" of "A Looker On," I presume to be misprint) "is the chief panacea for our evils," I assume as granted. It is, indeed, a fact, which, to the unprejudiced mind can admit no controversy; it is as patent as the sun at noon day. The system on which that immigration should be carried on, and the source from whence the necessary supplies should be obtained, are, I apprehend, the only points in the question on which any difference of opinion can exist. With the former, it is not my object now to deal, although I cannot avoid recording my assent to the opinion which the "Looker On" expresses as to the fatal error at present in practice relative to the unequal proportion between the sexes observed in the importation of the Coolies - an error, as he truly observes, "the evils of which have not yet been realised fully"; and, of which, the baneful effects, I am well assured, will ere long display themselves in an amount which it is appalling to contemplate.

I much fear that the painful scene which was exhibited at the last Criminal Sessions in which a Coolie played so degrading a part, will, unless the present system be immediately and totally altered, be but the prelude to many a similar shocking and disgusting exhibition; but enough of this. The source from whence immigration may be best obtained, is the point on which I find myself at issue with "A Looker On", who, I am satisfied, does not speak from personal experience, when he calls upon His Excellency "to loose (sic) no time in appointing an agent at Madeira to overlook and encourage it from there." Rather would I on the other hand, in the sacred name of humanity, implore His Lordship to lose no time in exerting to the utmost his official authority and powerful influence to stay the further importation of a single individual from that island to add to the number of these unfortunate beings who have, hitherto, come from their own - it may be poor, but certainly healthy - country but to lay their bones in the savannahs and grave yards of Trinidad!

Let no one call this an exaggeration. On the month of May last 219 individuals, men, women, and children, arrived in this island from Madeira in the Barque "Senator"; scarcely five months have elapsed since they landed on these shores, a fine, ruddy, sturdy-looking set of people; the men hale and strong: the women neat and comely: the children rosy-cheeked and blooming with health. Alas! where and what are they now! go and count the numbers that now remain, and, verily, you will find that which will an awful tale unfold - a sad and dismal group! Go and scan the wan and careworn features, the sunken cheeks, the hollow eyes and wasted forms of those few on whom malaria and fever have not yet done their fatal work, and you will behold a sight which must move the sternest heart!

It is not now my purpose to enquire into the many causes which I conceive combine to render these people unfitted for this climate, and above all, for agricultural pursuits under its influence - suffice it for me to declare my conviction, from what I have seen and heard,

"Teræque ipse miserima vidi"

that they are so. In the sacred name of humanity then, I repeat, let no further efforts be made to entice them to emigrate to an Island where past experience has taught us that they will find, instead of health and happiness, sickness and misery; instead of a happy home, a foreign grave!

I trust, Sir, you will excuse the length to which these remarks have unwantedly extended. It is a subject on which I feel strongly, and, therefore, may have expressed myself in strong language; nothing, however, had been farther from my intention than to give offence to any one in the observations I have felt myself impelled, by a sense of duty, to offer for your acceptance on this subject.

With reference to the communication which drew them from me, I can only say that unless I am much deceived in the tone of mind which the general spirit of the sentiment emanating from "A Looker On" appears to indicate, all in favor, as that writer now is, of Immigration from Madeira, I am satisfied that the cause of these poor deluded creatures would find in him a not less willing and certainly an infinitely more able, advocate than (he ) ventures to address you, had he only possessed with him an opportunity of signing himself.

Your obedient servant,


23rd October, 1846

Sources | Our Archives | Internet Links