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lev's mantle descended by some fortunate wilder mountains of St. John ; the little anachronism on Danes and Africans Danish garrison, taken by surprise, was alike, and enwrapped them in a double soon cut to pieces, and the island lay at fold of jollity as they took possession of the mercy of the negroes, who having their new isle of Eden in its dark-purple never experienced any themselves now sphere of sea.
showed none. Every house was burnt, Sixty years have passed, and half every estate ravaged, every white man Danish half Dutch — for the persevering fied or perished; and through all the Hollanders had returned to their first bloodstained catalogue which enumerates love, but this time under the unassuming earth's wrong avenged by wrong, infaguise of a trading Brandenburg company i mous oppression, and mad retaliation, - St. Thomas uneventfully carries on its few pages are redder than these. For little trade with its wealthier neighbours, six months the insurgents held out besides affording a convenient shelter in against the forces sent against them from its harbour to storm-driven ships, and a St. Thomas, till at last, after many vicis. place of refit to the damaged victims of situdes of savage warfare, French assisthe West Indian cyclones. This avowed- tance, invoked from the neighbouring isly: perhaps, too, not a little business lands by the panic-stricken Danes, turned was done, though less openly, in the the scale in the favour of European skill ; wrecking, smuggling, privateering, and the Africans were reduced not to subbuccaneering lines ; for besides the prin- mission but to suicide, and four hundred cipal harbour there is many a deep calm self-slain corpses were found by the viccreek and quiet cove in the island where torious whites on one spot alone. And a cargo could be landed, a bargain struck, in truth those, happily the greater numor a sloop equipped without any need of ber, of the vanquished who thus opened incurring the troublesome enquiries of for themselves with their own hands that “ whence and whither," where fags and only sure gate of freedom, death, did titles might pass unquestioned, and mu- wisely and well; their less fortunate tual profit hoodwink the Argus eyes of prisoner-comrades did not pass that gate any over-prying official. And if French- till after tortures that few writers now men, Spaniards, or even English, suffered would dare so much as to describe. by these little transactions, were they Eastern Governments, Mahometan canot at liberty to go and do likewise on liphs and sultans, have been accused, and their own account? It was the good old not altogether unjustly, of frequent and West Indian usage, and international law wanton cruelty ; but no Arab, Turk, or had not yet found a passage to the Carib-leven Persian but would have shrunk bean archipelago. Such were the occu-back aghast from the cold blooded, torpations of merchants and traders ; mean- ment-devising atrocity of the triumphant while other colonists busied themselves Dutch and Danish slaveowners. The with less venturesome pursuits on land, awful hurricane that a few weeks later and the scanty soil of St. Thomas was devastated the island of St. Thomas cajoled, by dint of care and hard labour, could not with all its rain-torrents wash into yielding a modicum of sugar, thoughout the red stains of those hideous exsurpassed in this respect by its sister is-jecutions. land called of St. John. A narrow arm Thirty years more passed unrecorded of sea, so narrow that an Enfield rifle for good or evil alike ; till in 1764 the would easily select and reach its victim Royal Edict of Copenhagen that renacross the rippling strait, divides ordered the harbour of St. Thomas a free unites the fronting coasts. Each at this i port inaugurated a new era — that of time owned a dense slave-population, re-i commerce, merchandise, and prosperity. garded by the comparatively small caste Followed the struggle of the New of colonists and planters much as the Is-i World, then awaking, province after raelites of old were by their Egyptian province, into self-consciousness and intaskmasters, and ruled over by a penal: dependent life ; and the Danish island, code of more than Pharaonic atrocity. neutral, central, and marked out by NaBut in 1773 the sight of their own in- ture herself as the one haven of refuge creasing numbers quickened the long- for the countless sails that speckle these stiled exasperation of the Africans into tornado-swept seas, reaped directly and a hope of revenge, and a revolt was con- indirectly a full and ever-increasing share certed between the bondsmen of either of the golden harvest that was being island. Ineffective in St. Thomas, it planted the while on other lands in the broke out with deadly result among the blood is the labourers. The resort of
countless cruisers, half privateer, half / frangipane, aloe, cactus, and every thornv pirate ; the mart of men who, under colc and prickly thing “for which we may our of serving national interests, ad. thank Adam.” And thus matters have, vanced their own ; the favourite exchange in the main, gone their course up to the for shoddy supply contracts; the char- present day. tered meet for unscrupulous speculators Shall we add how, in 1867, the Ameri. in dubious prizes and blockade-runnings, can eagle cast a longing eye on this seaSt. Thomas soon acquired a new import- girt morsel ? and how the majesty of ance; and with it a character that, how- Denmark, not less eager for I forget how ever disguised or modified by more or- many millions of dollars, dangled the derly times, and the necessity of cloak-tempting bait before the republican bird, ing illegal gains under forms of law, has till it was thought to be a bargain be. never wholly left the place.
tween them ; only when it came to paySoon after the American war, the revo- ment, the greenbacks were not forth. lutionary shock that upset so many Euro- coming, and one more repudiation of pean thrones made itself felt through agreement was noted in Jonathan's actheir far-off dependencies in the Carib- count book? Or shall we chronicle the bean Sea ; and St. Thomas came in hurricanes of 1819, 1833, 1867, and 1871 ; among the rest for a share in the vicissi- or depict the terrors of the earthquake tudes of which Denmark had so large plus sea-wave that, on the third of the and so disastrous a part. For a short above-assigned dates, made such a mark time in 1801, and again in 1807, England upon the imaginations of the inhabitants held with a careless grasp a post the com- of St. Thomas ? Enough; the stars and mercial value of which she might have the stripes have not yet supplanted the easily estimated from the flourishing con-Dannebrog on the fort heights, and, exdition in which she found it ; but blind cept a headless palm or two, few traces of in 1815, as on so many other occasions, a cyclone outlast a twelvemonth ; at any to her own best interests, she a third rate, none appear in view as we exchange time abandoned it, as she had first done the glossy blackness of Heaven and the when it was a mere barren rock a hun-Challenger best know how many thoudred and fifty years before ; and the sand fathoms of the pure Atlantic depths white cross “Dannebrog" again floated outside for the muddy green of shallow over fort and harbour.
waters and an uncleanly harbour. From that date to the present, the an- “Charlotte-Amalia” is, so old Danish nals of St. Thomas are made up of ex- maps inform us, the name of the town ; port, import, commissions, smuggling, and perhaps the gods still call it so ; only, bill-broking, discounting, pilfering, and like the old knight's song in Alice's the ordinary vicissitudes of credit-com- “ Wonderland,” or “ Looking-glass" merce conducted on the unstable basis I am not sure which, neither of those auof New-World speculation. Meanwhile, thentic narratives forming part of my the emancipation of slaves, tardily wrung travelling library, the more's the pity from, rather than conceded by, their Dan-(it is called quite differently among morish masters in 1848, gave the finishing tals, in whose vocabulary it has approstroke to the already declining sugar cul- priated to itself the apostolic-sounding tivation of the island ; for what human designation of the entire island. But, being, however black, would, if his own whatever its name, the town looks pretty free choice were given him, remain to enough from the prow of the steamer as toil at the lowest possible wages on the we pass between the lighthouse on our estates of a planter, while a single day's right and the two-gun fort on our left, work among the shipping in the harbour and make for our anchorage ; though an might bring him higher gains than a officer of the Elbe — sociable and chatty, whole week of spade and hoe? Negroes as most of the R.M.S.P. Company's offiare not far-sighted, but have ordinarily a cers are - informs me as I gaze upon remarkably acute vision for what lies im- it, that it shows still prettier when seen mediately before their ugly flat noses. from the stern of the boat. I can readily So the canes, which nothing but high- believe him ; for the same glance that pressure slave-labour could ever possibly tells me in the first half-minute whatever have made a paying crop of in this uncon- there is to like in the town of St. Thomas, genial soil, disappeared as if by enchant- tells me also what there is not. ment, to be replaced with as magical al Part on, part between three buttresscelerity — for the cycle of tropical vege- I like pyramidical spurs which run down tation is a swift one — by scrubby bush, seaward almost to the water's edge from
a liigh knife-ridge of reddish brown cathedral, even a Turkish residence in bush-sprinkled hills, there stand, crowd-Upper Egypt, each tells in its outline, ed together, about fifteen hundred white and yet more in its details, something walled, red-roofed, green-shuttered hous- either of the architectural traditions pecues, one rather bigger, another smaller, liar to the race that erected it, or of pruthan its neighbour ; but all without dent adaptation to a new climate ; or, it more method or order in their juxtaposi- may be, of both. · Hence, in looking on tion than that observable in a chance buildings like these, we at once perceive human crowd, each house having appar- that their architects, whether Portuguese, ently jostled itself into the midst, and Turks, or English, had fully determined occupied the first piece of ground on to make the country they came to govern which it could secure a footing, selfishly į or to colonize their own home in the regardless of any other consideration. fullest sense of the word ; nor yet, while The next object of each appears to have modifying, to renounce altogether the been which should display the greatest hereditary and almost typical peculiarities number of windows. A Danish Pitt of their original nationality. St. Thomas, might from the taxation of those aper on the contrary, is in its general charactures alone clear off half the national ter neither Danish nor Dutch nor anydebt of Denmark, whatever its amount. thing else ; it is an aggregation of lodg. Every window presents instead of glass ers and lodging-houses, nothing more ; - a substance rarely employed here in English, Scotch, Spanish, French, Italthe form of panes, and indeed superfluous ian, American, architects, inhabitants in so mild a climate – Venetian jalousies the only object they have had, one and of the conventional green, besides a pair ! all, in settling here, has been that of of stout wooden shutters, to be closed making as much money as they could and barred at the first threat of a hurri- from the business of the place, and then cane, not else. For of nightly thieves, being off as quick as possible. The stay house-breakers, and villanous “centre in the isiand is a mere temporary makebits” there is little fear, partly owing to shift, a commercial arrangement, and the efficiency of the Danish town-police, their dwellings are naturally enough in partly to the character of the islanders accordance with their scheme of life. themselves, of whom more hereafter. As Pleasanter objects to look at are the to the houses themselves, a few — very little cottage-houses where mulatto, or, few — of them are solidly built ; red as they prefer being called, “coloured," brick picked out with plaster, of which families make their nests. Brightlast-named material, eked out with lath painted wooden boxes, green or blue, all. and rubble, far the greater number wholly made up to outward appearance of doors, consist; some are even mere wooden windows, and galleries, but well sheltered barracks, spacious, ugly, and insecure to from the brooding heat by projecting see. Wood or otherwise, almost all these roofs, wide verandahs, and flowering dwellings prove on a near inspection to tropical trees, planted wherever the rocky be trumpery run-up constructions, with soil will allow a root to hold, they harthin walls baking in the blazing sun, monize well with the climate, and give shallow, unprotective roof-eaves, and the correct indication of a comparatively setmajority without a verandah of any sort. tled population for their inhabitants. Only here and there some more preten- These last are chiefly clerks, artisans, tious mansion — the large, ungainly ed- skilled workmen, and the like, some born ifice recently erected as Government in the island itself, others natives of TorHouse, for instance — has pushed out - tola, Antigua, Barbadoes, Porto Rico,. Heaven save the mark ! - a cast-iron bal- and the like. Their number is more than cony, as ugly as any that ever figured at double that of the European-born coloHammersmith or on the Brompton Road. nists. A gay, active, and improvident Worse yet are the churches ; the so- set, they at least know how to live ; the called English, i.e. Colono-Episcopalian, West Indian archipelago is their home ; being of ante-Puginian Gothic, hideous they have no other ; they are part and enough in any latitude, absolutely mon- parcel of the island; to its conditions strous in this; the Dutch Reformed, or they suit the circumstances of their exPresbyterian, is the heaviest plaster istence, and make the best of climate and Doric ; the Moravian Chapel a large everything else. Cross-breeds and the shapeless barn; and the Danish, or Lu-Europeans together amount to a third or theran Church, a simple nondescript. so of the entire population of St. Thomas ;
An East Indian bungalow, a Brazilian l but the two castes do not socially coa.
lesce, and the aims and sentiments of the the law and police courts, and the rest, one have little. in common with those of are mere hired rooms, or slight constructhe other.
tions of the usual makeshift character ; Scattered round the outskirts of the they, too, are the work of the colonists town, and jotted, where one least expects and settlers ; not a farthing has been to find them, among the mango-trees and contributed by the Treasury of Copenguava-bushes of the open country, small hagen towards their construction. A wattled or boarded cabins, each hardly small, quaint, square fort, with battlebigger than a sentry-box, but by no ments and turrets, much like those out of means equally compact in its construc- which the St. Barbara of art or the imtion, give shelter to negro. families. Free prisoned princesses of fairy tales are men now, and ready enough to work, to wont to gaze, and which in fact now gain, and to squander too; unwilling serves as town gaol, is the only edifice only, partly owing to the hated and still contributed by Denmark herself to the fresh reminiscences of slavery, partly town and island. The walls of this toyfrom their own natural instability of char-castle are painted red, and the red Danish acter, to enter into long engagements or Aag flies from the small round keep; it to pledge their labour beforehand, these looks hot enough in the sun, and sugdarkies constitute about two-thirds of the gests the idea that the prisoners inside, inhabitants of the island. Their shirts now its only occupants, must be uncomand trousers are more or less of Euro-fortably hot too. But the prison, fort, pean cut; but, dress and language apart, and flag excepted, no other symbol of they differ in hardly any respect from Danish rule meets the gazer's eye as it their free brethren in Syria or Turkey. take ; in the panorama of the town from Mahometans there, they have here adapt the steamer anchorage about a quarter of ed Christianity, some one fashion, some a mile off. another, according to that patronized by Nor when we land on the negrotheir former masters ; but, Christian or crowded wharf do we find much to modMoslem, of dogma .for itself they have ify our first impressions in this respect. little care ; their creed is emotional only, There is, indeed, a carved Danish inand perhaps not much the worse for scription — the only one, so far as I have being so. Their huts, too, are the most been able to discover, in the entire genuinely tropical objects of West In- island - over the door of the staircase dian domestic architecture. I have seen that leads up to the Custom House the exact likenesses of them in Nubia rooms; and Danish names, to which no .and Yemen.
one in common use pays the slightest And the Danes ? Well; if St. Thomas attention, are roughly painted up at the be, so far as the European population is corners of several streets. Also you may concerned, a mere lodging-house, the occasionally meet a tall, light-complexDanes here act the part of the lodging- ioned individual, whose stiff carriage and house keepers, neither more nor less. ceremonious bearing proclaims him a Like the rest, they resign themselves to Danish official: or a blond, heavy-eyed, live in hired dwellings ; they collect cus- slightly, or very, as the case may be, intoms, and taxes, keep up a strict police toxicated, white-clothed soldier; there by land and harbour, levy fines on unli- are about sixty of them on the island. censed salesmen and market women, im- Poor fellows ! they have but a dull time of prison drunkards and vagrants, and — itin garrison ; and if they occasionally try well, that is pretty nearly all. In the to render it a little less tedious by commercial enterprise, the shipping in-“heavy-headed revel,” Hamlet himself terests, the trade and traffic of the island would hardly have included them in the they govern, they have next to no share ; severity of his comments on this nain planting and in agriculture no skill; in tional failing: they have excuse for it if the island and its tenants no interest; lever any one had. These things apart, nor do they care to take any measure for however, there is nothing visible to right creating such among others on their ac- or left to indicate that the island belongs, count. Indeed, there is not throughout and has for two centuries belonged, to the the whole of St. Thomas a single Danish Danes, rather than to the Americans, the school, nor in the solitary bookseller's Chinese, or the Khan of Crim Tartary. shop (which, by the way, is a Moravian, The universal language of communicanot a Danish establishment) of the town tion among the inhabitants, white, black, is a Danish grammar or dictionary to be or coloured, is English ; but such Eng. found. The public offices themselves, 'lish ! a compound of negro grammar, Yankee accent, and Creole drawl; to in particular, and those too, perhaps, who “arrange" is to “fix," " Sir” is “Sa’ar," make money out of or through him; but “ boat" is “ba'awt," and so on. The which is, as Carlyle might say, “ exhilarat. announcements of the shop fronts, the ling in the long run to no other created placards on the walls, the debile little being" - to none, at least, who have not newspapers (there are two published here, received the special training of those use. and the ferocious antagonism of their re- ful but unlovely classes. spective editors in print is, I trust, lim- Nor are the details of the town in other · ited to that medium, and does not repre- respects such as to bear with advantage sent their private and personal feeling), a close examination. The streets, the are English ; and, but for an occasional main one excepted, are mostly mere lanes, Spanish sentence, English is the only narrow, and crooked ; while many of language you hear in market, street, or .them — those, namely, which run from shop. I beg pardon : there are no the harbour inland - consist of Aights of “ shops” in St. Thomas, only “stores ; "stony stairs, which had Byron seen he just as every man here, dust-carters and would have blessed those of Malta by coal-heavers not excepted, is a “gentle comparison instead of cursing them. The man,” and every woman, including the pavement, too, absolutely wanting in not aged black Hebe who distributes rum a few places, is rough and full of holes and gin for two cents to her sailor custo- in others; and the drains — for sanitary mers, a “lady." The physical atmos- motives, say the townsmen ! —are all phere you breathe may be that of the open ; what the result is after a fortnight tropics; but the moral or non-moral, or so of hot, dry weather I leave to the public and private, is that of New York; imagination of those highly respectable as for the social, it has in it a corrective members of Parliamentary Committees dash of Spanish Creolism, in which lan- who lay yearly reports on corresponding guor supplies an opportune check on odorous topics before our British noses. vice, and nonchalance on dishonesty. I Gaslights exist, it is true, in the principal For the rest, as you walk down, that is, thoroughfares, but they are few and far west (for the ever-blowing east trade wind between ; while for the shiny nights of determines the “up” of the island), half the month the wandering moon bears along the main street on the narrow allu-alone the charge of public illumination ; vial level between the hill slope and the whence it follows that the clouds and the crescent harbour base, you might, but for municipality have too often to divide the the blazing sun and dazzling azure over- responsibility of outer darkness and its head, almost fancy yourself in a 'long-consequences, physical or moral. I have .shore quarter of Southampton or Wap- not myself had the good fortune of visitping. Ship chandleries, dry goods, ruming Copenhagen ; but I trust that the shops, slop shops, tobacco shops, sailors' Danes at home treat their capital better homes (such homes ! fleecing dens they than they do the principal town of their might more truly be called), coal wharves, West Indian possessions. timber yards – objects that no climate But the place, though it cannot be can beautify, no associations render other called lovely, is lively enough. Siestas, than mean and vulgar. The latitude is strange to say, in spite of the relaxing the latitude of the poet-sung tropics; but climate and the infectious proximity to the scene is a scene of the coarsest Eu- the Spanish colonies, are not the fashion rope. In vain you call to mind the metri. here, and from sunrise to sunset the main cai enchantments of Tennyson's “ Locks- street can show a medley of nationalities, ley Hall” or dreamy * Voyage," of to the full as varied as that which daily Byron's heated “ Island," of Coleridge's throng the wooden bridge of Galata, but magical “Fragment:" everything around with a much greater diversity of hue. dispels the conjured-up illusion. A Black, indeed, predominates among the drunken seaman and a filthy old hag are complexions, and white among the garsquabbling on one side of you: words ments ; but between these extremes of very English certainly, but not to be colour every shade of skin and dress found in Johnson's dictionary, issue from alike may be observed. Broad-brimmed the grog shop on the other : the vile fea- Panama hats distinguish in general the tures of a Creole crimp, arm in arm with better class of citizens ; commoner straw a mottled-faced dull-eyed Halifax skipper, shelters poorer heads. Sallow, parboiledmeet you in front: sight, hearing, smell, looking countenances with now and then all are of that peculiar description which an unhealthy flush, telling a tale of charms the sailor, the British specimen brandy overmuch in the daily allowance