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"MADEIRA IMMIGRATION"

Port of Spain Gazette, Friday, May 1, 1846, p. 3

Madeira Immigration (From the Demerara Royal Gazette)

The last two or three vessels that have arrived in our river with immigrants from the island of Madeira, were all, we have reason to know, chartered by the same parties, Portuguese Shopkeepers, or rather, perhaps, from their opulence and the extent of their commercial transactions, we ought to designate them, Portuguese merchants domiciled in Guiana. These ventures have been very profitable to the one or two persons, who have had the enterprise to embark in them; and there can be no doubt, that should the trade continue, and be conducted with as much success as hitherto, rapid and immense fortunes will be made in it by the lucky few.

Some of our readers, who hear, that these immigrants pay for their own passages to the colony, but who also hear on the other hand, that the poorer classes of Portuguese in Madeira exist in the most destitute and impoverished conditions, each family finding it, perhaps, impossible to lay by a dollar from one year's end to the other, are naturally puzzled to reconcile the two contradictory facts of heavy disbursement by the same parties on account of passages to enable them to traverse the Atlantic, and of their severe pecuniary suffering in Madeira, from want, it may be, of half a bit. How can the two things stand together, one may ask? We will shew, - for much confusion prevails in the minds of many on the subject, - how the two do co exist.

Let us take the case of the barque David Luckie, that came in the day before yesterday with upwards of 200 people, and trace the probable history of her freight from the time they are about to be put on board to the time they are landed here and settled comfortably on estates, each person working for his guilder or half dollar a day. A familiar explanation of this case will make the whole matter clear for every other case of the same kind resembles the present.

The David Luckie was chartered, we are informed from the owners, by a Portuguese trader, or at most one or two, resident in this city not far from Water-street, for let us suppose, fifteen hundred dollars, and that must be about the mark, - to take up freight and passengers to be conveyed from Madeira to Demerara. Probably one half that sum was paid down on the conclusion of the bargain, and the other half was agreed to be paid on the arrival of the vessel in our river. One or two of the Portuguese, well fortified with abundance of good clothes, and of better dollars, proceed to Madeira, for the two objects, which are very easily combined, of laying in a stock of wine and merchandise on their own account, to be sold at a profit in Demerara, and of prevailing on their countrymen and countrywomen to do as they have done, leave their hard work and scanty subsistence at home, and go to a new land, Terra Nouva, where they will soon cease, if they like, to be hard-working people, and will become ladies and gentlemen living at their ease, and on their own private revenues. The inhabitants of the new land are repre(s)ented as a very peaceable, inoffensive, easy, people, with more money than brains or energy, and far inferior in every physical respect to the brave and powerful Portuguese nation. An oriental description is given of the inexhaustible fertility of the soil, of the illimitable extent of the country, where a man may occupy a tract of land as large as the neighboring island of San Marco for nothing, and of the numerous gold and silver mines which must abound everywhere, to supply the quantities of money that is ever in circulation. The islanders listen and look. Hope enters through his ears, but arguments come in through their gazing eyes. The old ones see neighbour Antonio, or Manoel, who five or six years ago ran away from his country in a strange-looking schooner, no one could tell whither, returned a gentleman and a man of wealth. They see him now in command of a vessel, for the time at least, his own, - though he assures them it belongs to him, buying wines, treating with the first merchants in Funchal, caressed, as amico mio by those who once never greeted him, except as - "dog! out of my way!" - and enjoying evident marks of high consideration; but when they last knew him, he was a rough-headed, uncombed reprobate, working in Signore Poquito's vineyard from morning to night, or when the moon favored, till midnight, or digging potatoes, or tending cattle up in the mountains, or swinging, with a rope two hundred fathoms long fastened round his middle, between heaven and sea, from stupendous rocks, beetling over tempestuous waves, and scraping for cochineal, for the wages of two stivers a day, and the gratuity of a loaf of brown bread, and as much sour wine as he could drink, in the evening. The old ones, therefore, surrender their opinions and their future course of conduct to friend Antonio or Manoel, as to a man of mark and of superior mind, with as much facility as the seniors of the House of Commons and the Cabinet yield up the cherished habits and prejudices of a life time to Sir R. Peel, on Maynooth, Catholic Colleges, Free Trade or on any other new political experiment. Thus does the imitative principle, combined with the friendly and social feeling, lead away, much more rapidly than reason or calculation, the steadiest and the soberest, as well as the giddiest and the lightest of mankind, into unaccustomed paths and daring enterprises. The old ones make up their mind to emigrate, - to do as Manoel or Antonio has done with a result so becoming; - and as to the young ones, where they are never ripe for change and adventure. As many, then, as the barque can hold consent to go to the new country; they have not much to leave behind them; therefore, there is no difficulty in the mere act of going. But the question is, how are they to pay for their own and their families' passages; Manoel or Antonio asks thirty petacas, thirty dollars a head, and one third that for children; but, por amor de Dios! they have not got thirty coppers. Misericordia! How emigrate then? The difficulty is soon smoothed away; first of all says Manoel or Antonio, give me your engagement to pay me your thirty dollars each, on arriving in Demerara: of course it is no affair of mine when you get to Demerara, whether you pay me, or any one else pays me for you. Some one who can write is called with pen and paper, and the engagements are made out. The parties lose no time in getting on board. The victualling department is very simple, the stores consisting principally of casks of water, salt fish, and onions, on which the whole company manage to subsist, without exposing themselves to the terrors of indigestion and its concomitant diseases, from the simple diet they observe. In three weeks the vessel comes in sight of the trees, rising apparently from the water, which give the first indication to the Mariner that he is approaching the coast of British Guiana. A pilot is taken off board at the Light Ship, at the bar of the river, and in an hour or two the vessel rides at anchor in the river off the wharves of Water-street. Then it is that these immigrants begin in truth to pay for themselves. They are all ready to work, - to do anything to make money. Agents for estates in want of laborers are only too happy to obtain an addition to the effective strength of their gangs. Accordingly the bargain is soon struck with twenty or thirty of these people, in each instance, to settle on some particular property, where constant work at the usual wages will be secured to them; the conditions of the bargain being, that the agent is to pay Manoel or Antonio the thirty dollars a head, and to deduct, by way of repayment to the estate, two dollars and a half a month from each person's wages for a year. To complete the agreement with the immigrants a contract for a twelve month is made before a Stipendiary Magistrate between the proprietor or attorney of the estate and each Portuguese, who thus, at the end of that period, has paid for his own passage to British Guiana, and probably, by his savings, laid by a small sum for himself besides. The arrangement is, it should be observed, satisfactory to all parties,, and is an incumbrance to none; the charterer of the vessel makes a fine profit, the proprietor is in the end re-imbursed, and, in a year's time, the immigrant finds himself a richer man than he would have been had he remained for a long life-time in his native land. Nor is the emigration hurtful to Madeira. It takes off the surplus of the population, and is the means, when each immigrant transport arrives, of circulating large sums among the traders of the island by the purchases of wines, candles, provisions, and brood-cloths, which the charterers take care to lay in, as well as the passengers.


The barque Palmyra twenty-five days from Madeira, arrived yesterday afternoon in the river with more immigrants. The number of people on board was 244. They were composed of 78 men 72 women, and 94 children. From this it would appear at first sight, that among this conjugal race, every one has brought his wife with him, except only 6 disconsolate bachelors. Butlers and footmen, advertising for situations in the English papers, often ungallantly describe themselves, by way of recommendation, as being without “incumbrances,” - meaning families. Emigrants to this colony ought to understand, that, if they be poor, wives and children, instead of adding to their “incumbrances,” will tend to enrich them, and instead of detracting from their daily comforts will, in “well regulated families,” add materially to them.


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