صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

by the end of the year 1820, no chapels were built; and I believe St. Thomas in the East, was the only parish that had a consecrated one by the beginning of the year 1821. Since that time the parishes of Clarendon, St. Mary, St. Anne, (and, I believe, Westmoreland, and Trelawny,) have regular chapels also. The curates of the parishes of St. Andrew, Port-Royal, * Portland, St. James, St. Elizabeth, St. George and Hanover, preach now and then in houses or coffee stores, imperfectly fitted up for divine service, or assist the rectors in their churches. The remaining parishes of Kingston, St. David, St. Catherine, St. Thomas in the Vale, Manchester, St. John, Vere, and St. Dorothy, have neither chapels nor curates.

With respect to the rectors and curates attending on Sunday evenings, for the purpose of instruction, it is not done, except in a few churches in the towns where the regular service is performed, for the Negroes do not (most of them cannot) attend; and as to the estates being visited by them on week days, it has never been done; for the proviso in the act alluded to above, (viz. that the consent of proprietors or managers must first be obtained,) has had the effect of a general veto.+ It is impossible that

[blocks in formation]

the Negroes should be converted, or even catechised and instructed, in this state of things; and should the Sunday-markets and Sunday labour be abolished, and a chapel built in every parish, with a conscientious curate to officiate, there would not be clergymen enough; for the parishes are very large, and the bulk of the population too distant to attend either the church or chapel.

The parishes of Clarendon, St. Anne, St. Elizabeth, St. James, St. Thomas in the East, St. Mary, and Trelawny, are each thirty miles or more in length, and some of them twenty wide; several others are nearly as large, and the smallest parishes, fourteen or fifteen miles long. The church, therefore, if built in the centre, would be from eight to fourteen miles distant from some of the properties; but many of the churches are near the boundaries, and even where there is a chapel, some of the estates are ten or twelve miles from both the one and the other, which is a greater distance than a Christian Englishman would like to go, who has nothing else to do on the Sabbath day, and has been taught from his childhood to consider it an imperative duty to attend public worship; how then can a poor heathenish and uninstructed Negro be expected to go even one half that distance, especially when it is taken

G

into consideration, that necessity, as well as his overseer, obliges him to labour some part of most Sundays, in his ground, to supply his craving bodily wants?

If it be seriously intended to give the Negroes religious instruction, the market-day must be changed, and the Sunday labour of all kinds prohibited, as I before observed, and then additional chapels must be built. In the large parishes I have been mentioning, (having a population of more than 20,000, some of them nearly 30,000 each,) three or four chapels, besides the church, would scarcely be sufficient, for the Negroes are much divided; and there ought to be a chapel capable of holding 600 or 700, at least, to every 3000 or 4000 persons; and so situated that none of the Negroes should have more than four or five miles to walk. dependent of this, there should be some catechists to assist the curates in their attendance on the different estates, so that every gang of Slaves might be catechised once every fortnight or three weeks; for the mere reading of prayers and preaching to them, especially such dry moral lectures as are too commonly read, even if they could often attend, would be quite insufficient, as I know by experience, for they are (ninety-nine out of a hundred of them) ignorant of the very first principles of religion: they

In

are mere babes in knowledge and understanding, and must therefore be catechised again and again, before the regular service of the church would be very beneficial in bringing them out of their gross darkness into the marvellous light of the Gospel.

This plan, if followed, would certainly be attended with considerable expense, much greater than the sugar planters could (at the present low prices) afford: it would be necessary therefore that the British government should defray all the costs and charges of the extra curates and catechists; and which, from the manner that His Majesty's ministers have already come forward in this and other important measures connected with the West Indies, I should not hesitate to say they would do, if the subject were ably and prudently brought forward and supported in the proper place.

[ocr errors]

But even then, I fear, there would be many obstacles thrown in the way of moral and religious instruction by the planters themselves; for certain it is, that a great part of them, so far from encouraging the Negroes to attend places of worship, are averse to all instruction, and more particularly to one of the most important modes of conveying it, viz. to the attendance of clergymen or others on the estates, for the purpose of catechising and lec

turing. How is it else that the churches are nearly empty, when thousands of Slaves are so near, that they might, notwithstanding their Sunday labour, now and then attend? I know one parish, in particular, where the rector (one of the same persons who was prevented officiating as he wished when curate) is very punctual in opening his church for morning-service, and would be also in the afternoon, could he get any to attend; but though his church is surrounded with twenty or thirty fine estates, on which are 4000 or 5000 Slaves, within three or four miles, (most of them less than half that distance), yet it is nearly empty, seldom having more in it than eight or ten white people, and as many Negroes.

One of the objections of the resident proprietors and planters to instruction on estates, is, that it interferes with the management, and that time, and consequently labour, would be. lost to the owner; but their principal objection, I sincerely believe and am well assured, is, that the Slaves, being instructed, would be less attentive to labour, less inclined to obey their overseers and other deputies, and would be more anxious and more easily enabled to throw off the yoke of Slavery altogether.

That these ideas are very erroneous, and fears, vain and nugatory, could, I conceive, be

« السابقةمتابعة »