Sunday 25th August – when I got up on deck this morning, we were pretty close to Dominique or Dominica. Martinique was still in sight, the distance between these two islands being only about 35 miles. In consequence of being rather late in turning out, I of course [saw] nothing of the appearances presented by the island in approaching it. That part of it now before me, & which is not far from the Town, called Roseau, is remarkably bold & mountainous, more so than I have yet seen this voyage – at least so close to the sea shore. We remained knocking about with variable & light winds, till near 10 A.M. when a fresh breeze springing up, we were enabled to come to an anchor not far from the Town. In half an hour afterwards the Master, passengers and self were on our way to the shore with the Mail. The weather was oppressively hot, and I anticipated little pleasure from our trip – nor were my fears vain. Our first annoyance was to find an abominable pebbly beach, with a considerable surf, where we were obliged to land – in doing which we got a little ducking and struck our legs & shins rather too hard to be altogether. Then the moment we touched the ground, it felt so hot that we walked rather trippingly like a Spanish maiden, and what was worse we saw no appearance of a shade. Before us were several houses in a state of complete ruin. These had been burned down in 1805, and have never been rebuilt, such is the poverty of the people. Those with some other finished & inhabited houses, fronted the beach. Ascending from thence up a little lane, we got into the main street, if I may so call, at the end of which is the market place – passing which we entered upon a wide street with straggling or self contained houses. In one of these, of a good size and comfortable appearance, we deposited our Mail bags – and next according to orders called upon the Governor Sir C. M. Stromberg, to make the Captn’s excuse of ill health, for not waiting upon him in person. It was no difficult matter to find his abode. Striking off from the Post Masters house, on the right hand, we ascended a gentle acclivity - & when we arrived at the top, there stood the plain, large & commodious house of the Governor – not exactly suitable to my ideas, but resembling that of a respectable private gentleman. No sentinel kept guard at the gate, for his excellency liked not unnecessary parade – but his secretary coming to the door, we were called in. In a few minutes we were joined by Sir C – whom we found to be a free & frank spoken personage, without stuffiness or hauteur – very inquisitive about news, and if we may judge from some expressions he let fall, thoroughly disgusted with his present situation. He seemed much disappointed that our Commander was prevented by indisposition from coming on shore – for Sir C. & he had been shipmates on board the Minotaur, more than twenty years before and had not seen each other since they had lasted [sic] parted from the vessel.
In half an hour we departed much delighted with the affability of the Governor and not knowing what better to do, took a stroll to see the Town. This occupied but a very short time. It is of very small extent – and miserable in external appearance. The houses are built some of wood, & some of stone – but the quarter part of stone. I don’t think that Roseau is so good as the Town of S.t Lucia. The streets as I have found always to be the case, in places originally built by the French, were exceedingly well paved – but alas there grew up between the stones plenty of grass – which tho’ it looked green & pretty said but little for the extent of the population or trade. I have said already that we passed the Market place on our way to the Post Office. It formed a small square, with trees growing round the borders, leaving the centre bare, with the exception of a very small enclosed space, in which was a pole, where many a black head has been exposed to the public gaze, in terorem against all murdeier [sic] of their Masters – depredators or rebels. As we passed, the whole area was filled with a numerous assemblage of black men and women, endeavouring to dispose of their articles. All was bustle & alertness – for their time was short, as it is a rule of the Island to allow nothing to be sold during the hours of divine service, and after the bell has begun to toll, Those who sell any thing are amerced in a heavy fine. So you may easily conceive, that when we were in the market, the clack and bustle was at its height – for it wanted only a few minutes to the prescribed time. I have been in many markets in the West Indies, but that of Dominique beat all that ever came under my notice for noise. It was enough to stun us and we at one period [were] compelled to shift our ears & get away as quickly as possible. Oh the calls – the wrangling – the shoutings - the denials – the point blank giving of a lie, & the squally hearty & loud return of the compliment – with which the various modulation of screaming at the bent of their voice, of crying and of laughing – all made such a discordant compound, that no human being could analyse.
The market (I mean the articles brought for sale) was really excellent. Plenty of fruit and most excellent vegetables, with other things, which the industry or ingenuity of the negroes had enabled them to exhibit.
As soon as the bell commenced its solemn tones, the crowd began rapidly to disperse and in very short time a few only were left, who preferred remaining idle & chatting to attending any place of public worship. Of course they dared not dispose of any thing. Most of those who had gone, I have no doubt went to Church or Meeting – for they were clean and dressed in their best. As soon as service was over, the Market was again a scene of bustle & clamour.
Here a very serious question might be started, and various opinion on it might be expressed. Is it right or proper to allow markets to be held on a Sunday or not? Some will hold that it is since they make it out to be a matter of necessity and urge it home upon you, that there is no interference with the hours of worship & that those slaves so inclined may attend. Others again, & self among the number, highly reprobate the practice altogether, as an open violation of an express commandment to keep the Sabbath holy – a commandment the violation of which no plea of such a nature as is in the present instance advanced, can justify. Besides let us consider, that even if those engaged in buying or selling should go to church, how very probable it is that their thoughts will be preoccupied & wander far from the consideration of their Redeemer’s love for them, or the moral and Christian duties, which the Preacher is endeavouring to inculcate, to far other and more worldly considerations such as the hope of making a good thing of their fruits & vegetables after church – or the pleasing contemplation of their morning’s successful traffic – or perchance the distracting idea, that they are likely to go home to the country without their object.
I hope and trust that under the new order of things about to be established under the superintendence of Government, that the Sabbath will not be thus desecrated, but devoted entirely to the true design of its institution.
Having stopped so long at the market, let us step into some house, where we can find shelter from the scorching sun, and something to moisten our parched lips. Here you boy, can you tell us where there is a Hotel - no answer, for he did not understand the term – a Inn then – still no answer, for all the names we used seemed equally unintelligible. At last, can you tell us, where we get something to drink – some wine or brandy. Oh yes massa replied he with alacrity, for we had touched the right chord – of yes masse, me shew you – dis away, leading towards a shop thro’ which we passed, up stairs into a very decent and comfortable apartment. Brandy & lemonade were severally called for and brought – and there we sat for near an hour, inhaling the cooling breeze at the open window, and pitying those, who were standing or walking in the eye of the sun. When we thought it time to proceed for the Mail, we sallied forth to melt & faint – to puff and pant, in the direction of the Post Master’s. There we had to remain for a quarter of ah hour, nor murmured we at the delay – for altho’ short was the distance we had traversed, we were again [glad] to seat ourselves and take our rest. As soon as the Mail was ready, we gladly turned our steps towards the beach, and from thence went immediately on board, with a firm resolution to visit the town of Roseau no more that day. I was never more sensible of the comfort & coolness of our old Duke than on this day – which I think to my feelings has felt the hottest I have yet experienced.
All hands were busy on board in hoisting in the water casks, which were filled by blacks from a small river quite close to us. Water with us is an object of the first necessity & importance – and in this island it is that the Packets generally water.
We came on board at half past one P.M. and [did] not again visit the shore. I had abundance of time to contemplate the features of the country before us.
The town of Roseau is situated in a small indentation. Immediately behind it, and all around, are hills or rather mountains of very considerable height. To your right extremity, as you face the Town, is something that look like a rocky Island – but is in reality a point on high land, on which is a flag staff. It is called Scott’s head. To your left is a line of mountains high & abrupt - & covered with wood.
The chief production of Dominique is coffee, and indeed nothing could be more lovely than the extensive coffee plantations on the dexter side & behind the town. In comparison a large sugar plantation right opposite our anchorage sinks into insignificance. The beautiful colour of the coffee plant & the mode in which the fields are divided – quite enchanted me. We were told that if no hurricane or gale occurred for three or four weeks, the quantity of coffee would be astonishingly great.
At 5 P.M. we finished watering – and the poor blacks (who spoke French and English) were glad of the end of their labours. At 7 P.M. we weighed anchor; & set all sail for Guadeloupe. The wind however was exceedingly light and we made but little way during the night.