Nor are the English ideas on the climate more erroneous than the general belief in the wealth of the West Indies. " West Indian," at home, seems synonymous with millionaire, and suggests to many, visions of bloated slave-owning planters, eking out a splendid existence on what is left of their livers. Alas ! how far from the truth. We will not go so far as to say that the West Indies are played out; on the contrary, there is no doubt a large fund of vitality still left in these colonies, but their present prosperity from one point of view is no more to be compared to what it was, than the West Indian planter of to-day is the equal of the slave owner of fifty years ago.
The emancipation of the slaves was the death-blow to the prosperity and wealth of the higher classes, and although wonderful improvements in hundreds of ways has resulted from the removal of that great blot on the colonies, the West Indies have never recovered from the blow, thereby dealt at their commerce. It will be seen on looking over old colonial statistics that the exports of sugar from nearly every island were almost double what they are at present. Immediately after the declaration of freedom, the profits on the sugar industry began to decrease, and during the last half century every colony capable of producing anything else has slowly and by degrees replaced the sugar cultivation by some other industry which pays better. Take Grenada, for example; in 1790 the colony produced over 9000 tons of sugar, worth on an average £40
a ton; besides nearly 7000 puncheons of rum. These two items alone produced a gross sum of nearly £400,000, whereas last year Grenada exported no rum at all and only 80 tons of sugar. All round the island may be seen abandoned sugar estates, slowly returning to bush and forest; their works and buildings, which must have cost thousands to erect, now standing roofless and denuded of everything which might be turned into money. Most of these plantations, fifty years ago, yielded crops of three and four hundred hogsheads of sugar each, giving their owners incomes something like eight and ten thousand a year.
Happily for Grenada and most of the colonies, large tracts of land are still lying uncleared, and gradually other industries and crops are being raised to replace the fallen sugar-cane, and most of the colonies are coming to the surface once more. Bad indeed is the outlook for colonies such as Barbados, Antigua and St. Kitts, where sugar is the only thing that can be produced. Anxious eyes are constantly turned from these islands to the Home Government to see what will be done to protect them and their struggling industry against the overwhelming competition of the beet.
Grenada is far ahead in prosperity of most of her sister colonies, owing to the cocoa plantations now established nearly all over the island. The soil and face of the colony seem especially adapted to this cultivation, and as prices are up and returns high, all is smiles and contentment.
Ideas, at home, on cocoa are generally very mixed, as most writers on the subject use various terms, such as cocoa, cacao, cocoa-nut, cocoa-palm, &c. The cocoa or chocolate is also often confused with the cocoa-nut palm. The latter, which produces the cocoa-nuts of commerce, is a palm growing to a height of fifty or sixty feet with graceful pendant spathes, and bearing its fruit in grape-like bunches issuing from the crown of the palm. The cocoa, on the contrary, is a tree with wide-spreading branches and attains the size of a full grown apple-tree. The leaves resemble those of the chestnut, and when young are of a beautiful fleshy pink colour. The cocoa-trees are planted in rows fifteen feet apart, and when full grown form a beautifully clean cultivation; the branches of each row interlacing with the next, form endless cool shady avenues, and carpet the ground with fallen leaves. The fruit grows in large red, yellow and green pods, ribbed something like a melon and sprouting from the trunk and branches of the tree. When ripe, these pods are picked, cut open, and the beans found inside thrown into boxes and allowed to " sweat" or ferment for five or six days; the beans are then taken out and spread out in drawers and mats, and after six or seven days' drying in the sun, are bagged and shipped to Europe. These cocoa beans or nibs are then ground and manufactured into chocolate.
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