JAMAICA

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JAMAICA ; one of the West India islands, belonging to Great Britain, and the most considerable and valuable of her possessions in that quarter. It is of an oval form, about 150 miles in length, and, on a medium, about 40 miles in breadth ; lying 30 leagues west of St. Domingo. A lofty range of mountains, called the Blue mountains, runs through the whole island from east to west, dividing it into two parts, and rising in some of its most elevated peaks to 7431 feet above the level of the sea. On the north and south sides of these mountains, the aspect of the country is extremely different. On the north side of the island, the land rises from the shore into hills, which are more remarkable for beauty than boldness, being all of gentle acclivity, and commonly separated from each other by spacious vales and romantic inequalities. Every valley has its rivulet, and every hill its cascade. On the southern side of the island, the scenery is of a different nature, consisting of the stupendous ridges of the Blue mountains, of abrupt precipices and inaccessible cliffs, approaching the shore. The soil of Jamaica is in some places deep and fertile ; but, on the whole, Edwards pronounces it to be an unfruitful and laborious country, compared with those which have been generally regarded as fertile. He calculates the island to contain 4,080,000 acres, of which not mote than about 2,000,000 have been granted to individuals by patent from the crown. The island is well watered. There are about 100 rivers, which take their rise in the mountains, and run, commonly with great rapidity, to the sea on both sides of the island. None of them are navigable, except for boats. Black river is the deepest, and has the greatest current. There are springs, both sulphureous and chalyb^ eate, in different parts of the country The climate of Jamaica on the plains is hot, the average heat from June to November inclusive, being 80° Fahr., and, in the colder season, from 70 to 80. On the higher grounds, the heat is less. The year, as in all tropical countries, may be divided between the wet and dry seasons. Sugar, indigo, cotton and coffee are the most important natural productions of Jamaica. Maize, or Indian, and Guinea corn, and rice, are also cultivated. The breadfruit tree, with several other useful plants, has been introduced by the exertions of sir Joseph Banks. The island also abounds with different kinds of grass, of excellent quality. The several kinds of kitchen garden produce, namely, those edible roots and pulse which are in use throughout 'Europe, thrive well in the mountainous parts. There are also excellent vegetables of native growth. The other indigenous productions are plantains, bananas, yams of several varieties, calalue (a species of spinage), eddoes, cassavi and sweet potatoes. Fruits are found in equal perfection and variety, and no country affords so magnificent a dessert. The mountains are also covered with extensive woods, containing excellent timbers, some of which are of prodigious growth and solidity ; while others, as the well known mahogany, are well adapted for cabinet work. The indigenous quadrupeds of the island were the agouti, the pecare or Mexican hog, the armadillo, the opossum, the raccoon, the muskrat, the alco, and the monkey. The agouti perhaps remains, and the raccoon was numerous in the time of sir Hans Sloane. The other animals are extirpated. Of the lizard, there are many varieties. The woods and marshes abound in great variety of wild fowl, some of exquisite flavor. Parrots are still found in the groves ; but the flamingo is nowhere to be seen. The limit of the miasmata and pestilential atmosphere, in this zone, is supposed to be at an elevation of about 1300 feet above the sea. At that height, the air is perfectly salubrious. The high district, called Pedro plains, on the southwest coast of Jamaica,is said,by Bryan Edwards, to vie with any spot on the surface of the globe, in the mildness of its temperature and the purity of its air. At the estate of Cold Spring, 4200 feet above the level of the sea, he thought the climate the most delightful he had ever experienced ; the thermometer seldom falls below 55°, or exceeds 70° ; acJ; many English fruits, as the apple, peach, strawberry, &£C., flourish there in perfection. Jamaica is situated near the limitsof the great volcanic region of South America, and it is, in consequence, Iiabio to earthquakes. June 7,1802, at midday an earthquake destroyed the town of Port Royal. The convulsion lasted about three minutes, when the town sunk several fathoms under water. The walls of the buildings may still be seen in calm weather. The heavy buildings throughout the island were thrown dowTn, shattered mountains ruined many settlements, general sickness ensued, order and industry were at an end, and a mischievous confusion prevailed until the terror subsided; 3000 lives were lost by this visitation. Smart shocks are felt almost every year; in 1802, and again in 1816, they were more violent than usual. Hurricanes are more frequent, and, in many cases, more terrible and destructive than earthquakes. A succession of hurricanes desolated this and some of the neighboring islands for seven years, beginning in 1780, with the exception only of 1782 and 1783. The first, in 1780, was much the most destructive. The amount of property destroyed exceeded 2,000,000 pounds sterling. The grazing farms have lately increased much, and horned cattle are abundant. They feed on Guinea grass, which was introduced by means of seeds brought and dropped by birds, in the middle of the last century. The oxen are chiefly from the Spanish breed, small, but hardy. The sheep are said to have been originally African. The swine are smaller than those of Europe, and have short pointed ears. The pork is said to be much whiter and sweeter than that of Great Britain. The wild hog abounds in the remote woods. The chase of the wild boar is a favorite diversion of the Creole whites. The Creole horses are small, but active. The English and North American horses do not so well . endure the climate. The mules do the heavy work of the plantations, and are capable of enduring twice as much fatigue as a horse. The latter is seldom used as a beast of burden. The carts and wagons are drawrn by oxen. The rats are very numerous and destructive, particularly to the sugar cane ; in some years, whole fields of this plant are as completely destroyed by them as if a blight had alighted on them. Eight or ten hogsheads of sugar are supposed to be annually lost in this way out of every hundred. 50,000 rats have been caught on some properties in a single year, but no sensible diminution of their number takes place. The negroes eat them dressed in molasses. The legislature of Jamaica is composed of the gov house of assembly containing 43 members, who are elected by the freeholders. The most important articles of export produced in the island are sugar, rum, molasses, coifee, cocoa, cotton, indigo, pimento and ginger. Population of Jamaica at different periods : Years. Whites. Free People of Color. Slaves. 1658 . . . 4,500 .... .... 1,400 1787 . . 30,000 .... 10,000. . .250,000 The slaves amounted in 1812, to 319,912 ; in 1817, to 346,150 ; in 1826, 331,119. This decrease is owing chiefly to the manumission of the slaves. The free people were supposed, in 1812, to amount to 40,000; but it is probable that the whites alone exceed that number at present, that the free people of color are as many more, and that the whole population exceeds 400,000. The capital is St. Jago de la Vega, or Spanish Town (7000 inhabitants). Kingston is the principal place in the island (35,000 inhabitants). Lon. 76° 45'W.; lat. 18° 12'N. Historical Sketch.Jamaica was discovered by Columbus, May 3, 1494, in his second expedition to the new world. In June, 1503, being on his return from Veragua to Hispaniola, he was driven by tempestuous weather upon this island, where he remained upwards of 12 months, having lost his vessels, and suffered every variety of hardship. After his death, his son Diego, as hereditary viceroy of the countries discovered by his father, sent out, in 1509, to Jamaica, Juan de Esquivel, who conciliated the natives by his kindness ; and the island prospered under his administration. His successors, however, appear to have adopted the cruel policy of other governors of that period. So entire was the extermination of the Indians at Jamaica, that of a population of 60,000 persons living at the discovery of Columbus, not a single descendant was alive little more than a century and a half afterwards. In 1596, an English party took the capital, and delivered it up to pillage. Forty years afterwards, it was again invaded by a force from the Windward islands, and the town of St. Jago de la Vega was plundered. Jamaica was finally conquered by the English during the administration of Oliver Cromwell. The whole number of whites at this time did not exceed 1500, and the number of negroes was about the same. The Spanish inhabitants, rendered desperate by oppression, made a manly resistance, and for a long time the English were harassed by their vindictive incursions. Cromwell encouraged emigration, sand persons were engaged by Henry Cromwell in Ireland, and a considerable number embarked from Scotland for this purpose ; and, in the hands of governor D'Oyley, the government was administered with energy. In May, 1658, an attempt was made by the Spaniards to recover the island; but the force which landed for this purpose was repulsed. About this time, the settlement became the resort of the buccaneers, who spent their immense gains in characteristic extravagance, and enriched the inhabitants. After the restoration of Charles II, Jamaica became a place of refuge for many republicans who had distinguished themselves in the civil contest. One of the first measures of the monarch was to, continue D'Oyley in office, and authorize the election of a council and assembly of representatives by the people. This, which was the first establishment of a regular civil government, the island having been previously governed by martial law, took place in 1661. Afterwards, controversies arose between the assembly and the crown, which unsettled the affairs of Jamaica for a space of fifty years. At length, in 1728, a compromise was effected. The assembly consented to settle on the crown a standing revenue of £8000 per annum, on certain conditions, of which the following are the principal:1. That the quit rents arising within the island should form part of the rt venue ,2. that the body of their laws should receive the royal assent; and, 3. that all such laws and statutes of England, as had been esteemed laws in the island, should continue such. The most important event in the recent history of Jamaica, is the final overthrow and exile of that formidable band of fugitive negroes, who, under the name of Maroons, had formed an independent and hostile community in the island, for the greater part of a century On the conquest of the island from the Spaniards, a multitude of African slaves lied to the mountains, beyond the reach of the invaders, and maintained themselves in these fastnesses in spite of all their efforts. Their numbers were continually increased by the accession of deserting slaves, and a harassing conflict was kept up with the whites, in which the latter were the principal sufferers. In J 738, an accommodation was effected, and a species of independence guarantied to these hardy outlaws; but at length, in 1795, hostilities broke out again. The activity and skill of the Maroons rendered them an overmatch for the great force brought against them. In this state of things, the British resorted to the use of bloodhounds, 100 of which were imported from Cuba, and, under the direction of experienced huntsmen, were let loose upon the mountaineers, to seize and tear the unhappy fugitives. Thus hunted down like wild beasts, and hemmed in by a force too powerful to be overcome, they had no alternative but submission. The expulsion of this brave and unhappy race was determined upon, and finally carried into effect. About 600 were transported to the cold and bleak shores of Nova Scotia, where many of them perished miserably. (See Long's Hist of Jamaica (3 vols., 1774); Edwards's Hist of the W. Indies (1809); Roughley's Jamaica Planter's Guide (1820).