Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 20, 1887
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4. “Barbados, our earliest tropical Colony,” by the Hon. J. W. Fortescue.


This paper began by dealing with the history of the Island, its discovery by the Portuguese, who gave it its name; the first visit of Englishmen in 1605; its first settlement twenty years later by an English merchant; its transfer to Lord Willoughby, of Parham, by the original patentee; the proclamation of King Charles II. by that nobleman, in 1650; his suppression by the Parliament through Sir George Ayscue, and the re-establishment of the Parliament's authority; the utilization of the island for the Jamaica expedition, in 1655; and de Ruyter's attempted capture thereof ten years later.

After a brief description of the climate, with its temperature varying from 80° to 93°, and a rainfall of 55 to 57 inches; of the successive hurricanes, from 1675 to 1831; and of the geological formation, partly volcanic and partly coralline, if the usual accounts are to be accepted, the paper passed on to an account of the population.

The inhabitants are 180,000 in number, the area of the Island being 166 square miles. Of these 50 per cent, are African negroes, 40 ½ per. cent. coloured, and 9 ½ per cent, pure whites. The negroes, albeit the merriest of men, are insolent, idle, thriftless, stupid, and sensual. The coloured people are unstable and divided, with the vices of both races. The whites are either hopelessly degraded—the “mean whites”—or degenerate and feeble, mentally and physically.

The paper dealt next with the Constitution, framed on the English model, but not responsible though representative, and the consequences thereof, as shown in Barbados in 1876, and in Jamaica in 1867. The cultivation of sugar was briefly touched on, and the backwardness of Barbados in regard to machinery, with its causes and consequences, shortly explained. The paper closed with a glance at the future: reviewed the political incapacity of the blacks, as illustrated by Hayti; the necessity for the maintenance of white supremacy; and the danger of prematurely entrusting the blacks with self-government, as threatened by the speeches of demagogues and humanitarians, and by the prevailing commercial depression.

Sir James Hector pointed out with reference to the sugar industry, that the success of the beet and sorghum sugar grown in temperate climates, though partly due to the manner in which they have been artificially fostered by a protective policy, was largely owing to the immensely improved mechanical and chemical appliances employed. Whenever the same chemical skill and capital was brought into operation on the tropical sugar production, the advantage of the natural difference in the richness of the saccharine element would certainly re-assert itself.

The President thanked Mr. Fortescue in the name of the Society for his lucid and interesting paper. He (the President) had also had experience, viz., in the Sandwich Islands, of the mistake of giving representative institutions to the lower races, and of the even greater evil of allowing members of

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the lower races to rule over white men. Representative government was now on its trial, and being strained almost to breaking point in the most highly civilized nations. For the lower races it is an absurdity. If given to the people of India, it could only be expected to prove their curse.