Jamaica, West Indies
From Classic Encyclopedia 1911
JAMAICA, the largest island in the British West Indies. It lies about 80 m. S. of the eastern extremity of Cuba, between 1 7° 43' and 18° 32' N. and 76° 10' and 78° 20' W., is 44 M. long, 50 m. in extreme breadth, and has an area of 4207 sq. m. The coast-line has the form of a turtle, the mountain ridges representing the back. A mountainous backbone runs through the island from E. to W., throwing off a number of subsidiary ridges, mostly in a north-westerly or south-easterly direction. In the east this range is more distinctly marked, forming the Blue Mountains, with cloud-capped peaks and numerous bifurcating branches. They trend W. by N., and are crossed by five passes at altitudes varying from 3000 to 4000 ft. They culminate in Blue Mountain Peak (7360 ft.), after which the heights gradually decrease until the range is merged into the hills of the western plateau. Two-thirds of the island are occupied by this limestone plateau, a region of great beauty broken by innumerable hills, valleys and sink-holes, and covered with luxuriant vegetation. The uplands usually terminate in steep slopes or bluffs, separated from the sea, in most cases, by a strip of level land. On the south coast, especially, the plains are often large, the Liguanea plain, on which Kingston stands, having an area of 200 sq. m. Upwards of a hundred rivers and streams find their way to the sea, besides the numerous tributaries which issue from every ravine in the mountains. These streams for the most part are not navigable, and in times of flood they become devastating torrents. In the parish of Portland, the Rio Grande receives all the smaller tributaries from the west. In St Thomas in the east the main range is drained by the Plantain Garden river, the tributaries of which form deep ravines and narrow gorges. The valley of the Plantain Garden expands into a picturesque and fertile plain. The Black river. flows through a level country, and is navigable by small craf about 30 m. The Salt river and the Cabaritta, also in the,. south, are navigable by barges. Other rivers of the south are the Rio Cobre (on which are irrigation works for the sugar and' fruit plantations), the Yallahs and the Rio Minho; in the north are the Martha Brae, the White river, the Great Spanish river, and the Rio Grande. Vestiges of intermittent volcanic action occur, and there are several medicinal springs. Jamaica has 16 harbours, the chief of which are Port Morant, Kingston, Old Harbour, Montego Bay, Falmouth, St Ann's Bay, Port Maria and Port Antonio.
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The greater part of Jamaica is covered by Tertiary deposits, but in the Blue Mountain and some of the other ranges the older rocks rise to the surface. The foundation of the island is formed by a series of stratified shales and conglomerates, with tuffs and other volcanic rocks and occasional bands of marine limestone. The limestones contain Upper Cretaceous fossils, and the whole series has been strongly folded. Upon this foundation rests unconformably a series of marls and limestones of Eocene and early Oligocene age. Some of the limestones are made of Foraminifera, together with Radiolaria, and indicate a subsidence to abyssal depths. Nevertheless, the higher peaks of the island still remained above the sea. Towards the middle of the Oligocene period, mountain folding took place on an extensive scale, and the island was raised far above its present level and was probably connected with the rest of the Greater Antilles and perhaps with the mainland also. At the same time plutonic rocks of various kinds were intruded into the deposits already formed, and in some cases produced considerable metamorphism. During the Miocene and Pliocene periods the island again sank, but never to the depths which it reached in the Eocene period. The deposits formed were shallow-water conglomerates, marls and limestones, with mollusca, brachiopoda, corals, &c. Finally, a series of successive elevations of small amount, less than 500 ft. in the aggregate, raised the island to its present level. The terraces which mark the successive stages in this elevation are well shown in Montego Bay and elsewhere. The remarkable depressions of the Cockpit country and the closed basin of the Hector river are similar in origin to swallow-holes, and were formed by the solution of a limestone layer resting upon insoluble rocks. The island produces a great variety of marbles, porphyrites, granite and ochres. Traces of gold have been found associated with some of the oxidized copper ores (blue and green carbonates) in the Clarendon mines. Copper ores are widely diffused but are very expensive to work; as are the lead and cobalt which are also found. Manganese iron ores and a form of arsenic occur.
The climate is one of the island's chief attractions. Near the coast it is warm and humid, but that of the uplands is delightfully mild and equable. At Kingston the temperature ranges from 70.7° to 87.8° F., and this is generally the average of all the low-lying coast land. At Cinchona, 4907 ft. above the sea, it varies from 57.5° to 68.5°. The vapours from the rivers and the ocean produce in the upper regions clouds saturated with moisture which induce vegetation belonging to a colder climate. During the rainy seasons there is such an accumulation of these vapours as to cause a general coolness and occasion sudden heavy showers, and sometimes destructive floods. The rainy seasons, in May and October, last for about three weeks, although, as a rule no month is quite without rain. The fall varies greatly; while the annual average for the island is 66.3 in., at Kingston it is 32.6 in., at Cinchona r05.5 in., and at some places in the north-east it exceeds Zoo in. The climate of the Santa Cruz Mountains is extremely favourable to sufferers from tubercular and rheumatic diseases. Excepting near morasses and lagoons, the island is very healthy, and yellow fever, once prevalent, now rarely occurs. In the early part of the 19th century, hurricanes often devastated Jamaica, but now, though they pass to the N.E. and S.W. with comparative frequency, they rarely strike the island itself.
The flora is remarkable, showing types from North, Central, and South America, with a few European forms, besides the common plants found everywhere in the tropics. Of flowering plants there are 2180 distinct species, and of ferns 450 species, several of both being indigenous. The largeness of these numbers may be to some extent accounted for by differences of altitude, temperature and humidity. There are many beautiful flowers, such as the aloe, the yucca, the datura the mountain pride and the Victoria regia; and the cactus tribe is well represented. The Sensitive Plant grows in pastures, and orchids in the woods. There are forest trees fit for every purpose; including the ballata, rosewood, satinwood, mahogany, lignum vitae, lancewood and ebony. The logwood and fustic are exported for dyeing. There are also the Jamaica cedar, and the silk cotton tree (Ceiba Bombax). Pimento (peculiar to Jamaica) is indigenous, and furnishes the allspice. The bamboo, coffee and cocoa are well known. Several species of palm abound, - the macaw, the fan palm, screw palm, and palmetto royal. There are plantations of coco-nut palm. The other noticeable trees and plants are the mango, the breadfruit tree, the papaw, the lacebark tree, and the guava. The Palma Christi, from which castor oil is made, is a very abundant annual. English vegetables grow in the hills, and the plains produce plantains, cocoa, yams, cassava, ochra, beans, pease, ginger and arrowroot. Maize and guinea-corn are cultivated, and the guinea-grass, accidentally introduced in 1750, is very valuable for horses and cattle, - so much so that pen-keeping or cattle farming is a highly profitable occupation. Among the principal fruits are the orange, shaddock, lime, grape or cluster fruit, pine-apple, mango, banana, grapes, melons, avocado pear, breadfruit, and tamarind.
There are fourteen sorts of lampyridae or fireflies, besides the elateridae or lantern beetles. There are no venomous serpents, but numerous harmless snakes and lizards exist. The landcrab is considered a table delicacy, and the land-turtle also is eaten. The scorpion and centipede, though poisonous, are not very dangerous. Ants, sandflies and mosquitoes swarm in the lowlands. There are twenty different song-birds, and forty-three varieties of birds are presumed to be peculiar to the island. The sea and the rivers swarm with fish. Turtles abound, and the seal, the manatee and the crocodile are sometimes found. The coral reefs, with their varied polyps and anemones, the numerous alcyonarians and diverse coral-dwelling animals are readily accessible to the student, and the island is also celebrated for the number of species of its land-shells.
The population of the island was estimated in 1905 at 806,690. Jamaica is rich in traces of its former Arawak inhabitants. Aboriginal petaloid celts and other implements, flattened skulls and vessels are common, and images are sometimes found in the large limestone caverns of the island. The present inhabitants, of whom only 2% are white, include Maroons, the descendants of the slaves of the Spaniards who fled into the interior when the island was captured by the British; descendants of imported African slaves; mixed race of British and African blood; coolies from India; a few Chinese, and the British officials and white settlers. The Maroons live by themselves and are few in number, while the half-castes enter into trade and sometimes into the professions. The number of white inhabitants other than British is very small. A negro peasant population is encouraged, with a view to its being a support to the industries of the island; but, in many cases a field negro will not work for his employer more than four days a week. He may till his own plot of ground on one of the other days or not, as the spirit moves him, but four days' work a week will keep him easily. He has little or no care for the future. He has probably squatted on someone's land, and has no rent to pay. Clothes he need hardly buy, fuel he needs only for cooking, and food is ready to his hand for the picking. Unfortunately a widespread indulgence in predial larceny is a great hindrance to agriculture as well as to moral progress. But that habits of thrift are being inculcated is shown by the steady increase in the accounts in the government savings banks. That gross superstition is still preva] ent is shown by the cases of obeah or witchcraft that come before the courts from time to time. Another indication of the status of the negro may be found in the fact that more than 60% of the births are illegitimate, a percentage that shows an unfortunate tendency to increase rather than diminish.
The capital, Kingston, stands on the south-east coast, and near it is the town of Port Royal. Spanish Town (pop. 5019), the former capital, is in the parish of St Catherine, Middlesex, 114 m. by rail west of Kingston. Since the removal of the seat of government to Kingston, the town has gradually sunk in importance. In the cathedral many of the governors of the island are buried. A marble statue of Rodney commemorates his victory over the count de Grasse off Dominica in 1782. Montego Bay (pop. 4803), on the north-west coast, is the second town on the island, and is also a favourite bathing resort. Port Antonio (1784) lies between two secure harbours on the north-east, and owes its prosperity mainly to the development of the trade in fruit, for which it is the chief place of shipment.
Agricultural enterprise falls into two classes - planting and pen-keeping, i.e. the breeding of horses, mules, cattle and sheep. The chief products are bananas, oranges, coffee, sugar, rum, logwood, cocoa, pimento, ginger, coco-nuts, limes, nutmegs, pineapples, tobacco, grape-fruit and mangoes. There is a board of agriculture, with an experimental station at Hope; there is also an agricultural society with 26 branches throughout the colony. Beekeeping is a growing industry, especially among the peasants. The land as a rule is divided into small holdings, the vast majority consisting of five acres and less. The manufactures are few. In addition to the sugar and coffee estates and cigar factories, there are tanneries, distilleries, breweries, electric light and gas works, ironfoundries. potteries and factories for the production of coconut oil, essential oils, ice, matches and mineral waters. There is an important establishment at Spanish Town for the production of logwood extract. The exports, more than half of which go to the United States, mostly comprise fruit, sugar and rum. The United States also contributes the majority of the imports. More than half the revenue of the colony is derived from import duties, the remainder is furnished by excise, stamps and licences. With the exception of that of the parish boards, there is no direct taxation.
In 1900 an Imperial Direct West India Line of steamers was started by Elder, Dempster & Co., to encourage the fruit trade with England; it had a subsidy of £40,000, contributed jointly by the Imperial and Jamaican governments. Two steamers go round the island once a week, calling at the principal ports, the circuit occupying about 120 hours. A number of sailing "droghers" also ply from port to port. Jamaica has a number of good roads and bridle paths; the main roads, controlled by the public works department, encircle the island, with several branches from north to south. The parochial roads are maintained by the parish boards. A railway traverses the island from Kingston in the south-east to Montego Bay in the north-west, and also branches to Port Antonio and to Ewarton. Jamaica is included in the Postal Union and in the Imperial penny post, and there is a weekly mail service to and from England by the Royal Mail Line, but mails are also carried by other companies. The island is connected by cable with the United States via Cuba, and with Halifax, Nova Scotia via Bermuda.
There is a government savings bank at Kingston with branches throughout the island, and there are also branches of the Colonial Bank of London and the Bank of Nova Scotia. The coins in circulation are British gold and silver, but not bronze, instead of which local nickel is used. United States gold passes as currency. English weights and measures are used.
Administration, &c. - The island is divided into three counties, Surrey in the east, Middlesex in the centre, and Cornwall in the west, and each of these is subdivided into five parishes. The parish is the unit of local government, and has jurisdiction over roads, markets, sanitation, poor relief and waterworks. The management is vested in a parish board, the members of which are elected. The chairman or custos is appointed by the governor. The island is administered by a governor, who bears the old Spanish title of captain-general, assisted by a legislative council of five ex officio members, not more than ten nominated members, and fourteen members elected on a limited suffrage. There is also a privy council of three ex officio and not more than eight nominated members. There is an Imperial garrison of about 2000 officers and men, with headquarters at Newcastle, consisting of Royal Engineers, Royal Artillery, infantry and four companies of the West India Regiment. There is a naval station at Port Royal, and the entrance to its harbour is strongly fortified. In addition there is a militia of infantry and artillery, about Boo strong.
Previous to 1870 the Church of England was established in Jamaica, but in that year a disestablishmeAt act was passed which provided for gradual disendowment. It is still the most numerous body, and is presided over by the bishop of Jamaica, who is also archbishop of the West Indies. The Baptists, y..yr.
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i o`a' O R Wesleyans, Presbyterians, Moravians and Roman Catholics are all represented; there is a Jewish synagogue at Kingston, and the Salvation Army has a branch on the island. The Church of England maintains many schools, a theological college, a deaconesses' home and an orphanage. The Baptists have a theological college; and the Roman Catholics support a training college for teachers, two industrial schools and two orphanages. Elementary education is in private hands, but fostered, since 1867, by government grants; it is free but not compulsory, although the governor has the right to compel the attendance of all children from 6 to 14 years of age in such towns and districts as he may designate. The teachers in these schools are for the most part trained in the government-aided training colleges of the various denominations. For higher education there are the University College and high school at Hope near Kingston, Potsdam School in St Elizabeth, the Mico School and Wolmer's Free School in Kingston, founded (for boys and girls) in 1729, the Montego Bay secondary school, and numerous other endowed and selfsupporting establishments. The Cambridge Local Examinations have been held regularly since 1882.
Jamaica was discovered by Columbus on the 3rd of May 1494. Though he called it Santiago, it has always been known by its Indian name Jaymaca, "the island of springs," modernized in form and pronunciation into Jamaica. Excepting that in 1505 Columbus once put in for shelter, the island remained unvisited until 1509, when Diego, the discoverer's son, sent Don Juan d'Esquivel to take possession, and thenceforward it passed under Spanish rule. Sant' Iago de la Vega, or Spanish Town, which remained the capital of the island until 1872, was founded in 1523. Sir Anthony Shirley, a British admiral, attacked the island in 1596, and plundered and burned the capital, but did not follow up his victory. Upon his retirement the Spaniards restored their capital and were unmolested until 1635, when the island was again raided by the British under Colonel Jackson. The period of the Spanish occupation is mainly memorable for the annihilation of the gentle and peaceful Arawak Indian inhabitants; Don Pedro d'Esquivel was one of their cruellest oppressors. The whole island was divided among eight noble Spanish families, who discouraged immigration to such an extent that when Jamaica was taken by the British the white and slave population together did not exceed 3000. Under the vigorous foreign policy of Cromwell an attempt was made to crush the Spanish power in the West Indies, and an expedition under Admirals Penn and Venables succeeded in capturing and holding Jamaica in 1655. The Spanish were entirely expelled in 1658. Their slaves then took to the mountains, and down to the end of the 18th century the disaffection of these Maroons, as they were called, caused constant trouble. Jamaica continued to be governed by military authority until 1661, when Colonel D'Oyley was appointed captain-general and governorin-chief with an executive council, and a constitution was introduced resembling that of England. He was succeeded in the next year by Lord Windsor, under whom a legislative council was established. Jamaica soon became the chief resort of the buccaneers, who not infrequently united the characters of merchant or planter with that of pirate or privateer. By the Treaty of Madrid, 1670, the British title to the island was recognized, and the buccaneers were suppressed. The Royal African Company was formed in 1672 with a monopoly of the slave trade, and from this time Jamaica was one of the greatest slave marts in the world. The sugar-industry was introduced about this period, the first pot of sugar being sent to London in 1673. An attempt was made in 1678 to saddle the island with a yearly tribute to the Crown and to restrict the free legislature. The privileges of the legislative assembly, however, were restored in 1682; but not till 46 years later was the question of revenue settled by a compromise by which Jamaica undertook to settle £8000 (an amount afterwards commuted to £(l000) per annum on the Crown, provided that English statute laws were made binding in Jamaica.
During these years of political struggle the colony was thrice afflicted by nature. A great earthquake occurred in 1692, when the chief part of the town of Port Royal, built on a shelving bank of sand, slipped into the sea. Two dreadful hurricanes devastated the island in 1712 and 1722, the second of which did so much damage that the seat of commerce had to be transferred from Port Royal to Kingston.
The only prominent event in the history of the island during the later years of the 18th century, was the threatened invasion by the French and Spanish in 1782, but Jamaica was saved by the victory of Rodney and Hood off Dominica. The last attempt at invasion was made in 1806, when the French were defeated by Admiral Duckworth. When the slave trade was abolished the island was at the zenith of its prosperity; sugar, coffee, cocoa, pimento, ginger and indigo were being produced in large quantities, and it was the depot of a very lucrative trade with the Spanish main. The anti-slavery agitation in Great Britain found its echo in the island, and in 1832 the negroes revolted, believing that emancipation had been granted. They killed a number of whites and destroyed a large amount of valuable property. Two years later the Emancipation Act was passed, and, subject to a short term of apprenticeship, the slaves were free. Emancipation left the planters in a pitiable condition financially. The British government awarded them conpensation at the rate of £19 per slave, the market value of slaves at the time being £35, but most of this compensation went into the hands of the planters' creditors. They were left with overworked estates, a poor market and a scarcity of labour. Nor was this the end of their misfortunes. During the slavery times the British government had protected the planter by imposing a heavy differential duty on foreign sugar; but on the introduction of free trade the price of sugar fell by one-half and reduced the profits of the already impoverished planter. Many estates, already heavily mortgaged, were abandoned, and the trade of the island was at a standstill. Differences between the executive, the legislature, and the home government, as to the means of retrenching the public expenditure, created much bitterness. Although some slight improvement marked the administration of Sir Charles Metcalfe and the earl of Elgin, when coolie immigration was introduced to supply the scarcity and irregularity of labour and the railway was opened, the improvement was not permanent. In 1865 Edward John Eyre became governor. Financial affairs were at their lowest ebb and the colonial treasury showed a deficit of £80,000. To meet this difficulty new taxes were imposed and discontent was rife among the negroes. Dr Underhill, the secretary of a Baptist organization known as the British Union, wrote to the colonial secretary in London, pointing out the state of affairs. This letter became public in Jamaica, and in the opinion of the governor added in no small measure to the popular excitement. On the 11th of October 1865 the negroes rose at Morant Bay and murdered the custos and most of the white inhabitants. The slight encounter which followed filled the island with terror, and there is no doubt that many excesses were committed on both sides. The assembly passed an act by which martial law was proclaimed, and the legislature passed an act abrogating the constitution.
The action of Governor Eyre, though generally approved throughout the West Indies, caused much controversy in England, and he was recalled. A prosecution was instituted against him, resulting in an elaborate exposition of martial law by Chief Justice Cockburn, but the jury threw out the bill and Eyre was discharged. He was succeeded in the government of Jamaica by Sir Henry Storks, and under the crown colony system of government the state of the island made slow but steady progress. In 1868 the first fruit shipment took place from Port Antonio, the immigration of coolies was revived, and cinchona planting was introduced. The method of government was changed in 1884, when a new constitution, slightly modified in 1895, was granted to the island.
In the afternoon of the 14th of January 1907 a terrible earthquake visited Kingston. Almost every building in the capital and in Port Royal, and many in St Andrews, were destroyed or seriously injured. The loss of life was variously estimated, but probably exceeded one thousand. Among those killed was Sir James Fergusson, 6th baronet (b. 1832). The principal shock was followed by many more of slighter intensity during the ensuing fortnight and later. On the r 7th of January assistance was brought by three American war-ships under Rear-Admiral Davis, who however withdrew them on the 19th, owing to a misunderstanding with the governor of the island, Sir Alexander Swettenham, on the subject of the landing of marines from the vessels with a view to preserving order. The incident caused considerable sensation, and led to Sir A. Swettenham's resignation in the following March, Sir Sydney Olivier, K.C.M.G., being appointed governor. Order was speedily restored; but the destructive effect of the earthquake was a severe check to the prosperity of the island.
See Bryan Edwards, History of the West Indies (London, 1809, and appendix, 1819); P. H. Gosse, Journal of a ,Naturalist in Jamaica (London, 1851) and Birds of Jamaica (1847); Jamaica Handbook (London, annual); Bacon and Aaron, New Jamaica (1890); W. P. Livingstone, Black Jamaica (London, 1900), F. Cundall, Bibliotheca Jamaicensis (Kingston, 1895), and Studies in Jamaica History (1900); W. J. Gardner, History of Jamaica (New York, 1909). For geology, see R. T. Hill, "The Geology and Physical Geography of Jamaica," Bull. Mus. Corn. Zool. Harvard, xxxiv. (1899).