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Ports of the World: Grenada

01 Aug

Carib Indians inhabited Grenada when Columbus discovered the island in 1498, but it remained uncolonized for more than a century. The French settled Grenada in the 17th century, established sugar estates, and imported large numbers of African slaves. Britain took the island in 1762 and vigorously expanded sugar production. In the 19th century, cacao eventually surpassed sugar as the main export crop; in the 20th century, nutmeg became the leading export.

Colonies and India, December 12, 1886
London, United Kingdom

GRENADA RUM.

The manufacturers of rum in Grenada are loud in their complaints as to the death-blow which is being dealt at their means of sub- sistence by the importation of rum from Martinique, St. Vincent, Trinidad, and other places. It appears that the evil is one which ought not to exist, and calls for prompt legislative action. At present, rum manufactured out of Grenada is admitted into that Colony at a rate similar to the local Excise duty. This is considered unfair, and it is suggested to the Government either to reduce the Excise duty from 5s. to 4s., or to increase the import duty from 5s. to 6s. The importers of rum urge that they are driven to seek the article out of the Colony because they are able to procure a spirit of higher proof, and at less cost than that which can be supplied locally.

Colonies and India, June 18, 1892
London, United Kingdom

We sailed from Trinidad on February 20, at at 8 p.m. on the following day were safely anchored in the Carenage of Georgetown, the picturesque chief town of Grenada. Going on deck shortly after sunrise on the following morning, the land-locked harbour presented an enchanted scene. It is surrounded by an amphitheatre of hills of the most varied forms, clothed with the richest vegetation from their summits down to the water’s edge. We landed at 7 a.m. and drove up to Government House. After breakfast we started on horseback for the Grand Etang. The bridle path ascends rapidly, in a distance of less than seven miles, to a height of some 2,000 feet. Having scaled the topmost ridge the view extends to the eastward over the broad waters of the Atlantic and to the westward over the Caribbean Sea.

In the foreground lies the Grand Etang, a lake some thirteen acres in extent, filling an ancient crater. Throughout the ascent, the scenery is exquisitely beautiful. The mountains are broken into lofty peaks and deep valleys, affording at every turn some new, yet always charming, view. The vegetation includes all the trees and flowers of the tropics. Grenada is fortunate in being less dependent on a single product than most of the islands of the West Indies. They surface of the island is too mountainous for the successfulo plantation of sugar, and the chief product is cocoa, the exports of which are nearly a quarter a million a year in value, the quantity shipped having doubled in the last ten years. Many valuable spices are extensively cultivated. A trade in fruit is being opened up with the United States. The aggregate exports have advanced from 181,000 lb. in 1886 to 266,000 lb. in 1890.

Cocoa grows most luxuriantly in the West Indies up to an elevation of 2,00 feet. It needs a deep soil. A planter who contemplates growing cocoa must begin by clearing the forest, an operation which should be undertaken a year before planting is attempted. As soon as the forest is cleared, bananas should be planted 12 to 15 feet apart, and a nursery formed in which the cocoa can be raised from seed. At the end of the second year, during the rainy season, teh cocoa should be planted out, in the porportion of about 300 trees to the acre. In three years, in favourable localities, the plants begin to bear. In five years, the trees are in full bearing, when the produce will average 900 lbs. to the acres. A good tree should yield some three pounds of cocoa. The price, according to the latest New York quotations, was 12 cents per pound, which would give 108 dollars to the acre. Nutmet is becoming a source of great profit to many islands in the West Indies. This is specially the case in Grenada. For many years the nutmeg tree has been grown; it is only recently that its cultivation has received serious atteniton. To start a nutmeg plantation the ground must be cleared, at a cost of 6l. per acre. Saman trees should then be planted, 45 feet apart. Meanwhile the nutmeg seeds should be carefully reared in the nursery. In about two years the seedlings should be planted out. Unless the locality is very favourable, ten years must elapse before the trees begin to be productive. A large number will be of the male sex; and as the proportion of male to female trees should not exceed one in thirty, the planter will have to cut down the trees freely as soon as their sex is declared. Mr. Whitfield Smith, the able superintendent of the Botanical Gardens at Grenada, has strong hopes that this difficulty may be overcome by budding. It is reckoned that a nutmeg tree should yield an annual profit to the planter of about ten shillings per tree. On the heights above Georgetown, extensive stone forts, from which the last soldier has long since been withdrawn, form an important feature. These forts were mostly erected during the period of the French occupation. As we strolled along the grass-grown battlements it was difficulit to realise that it should ever have been thought worth while to expend blood and treasure on a barren contest for remote islands, which could bring so little profit or glory to a great European Power. Our trade with the West Indies depends to a small extent only, and now less than ever, on their nominal subjection to the British Crown.

At Grenada we found the Governor, Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson, busily engaged in an effort to settle the labourers on the Crown lands of the Windward Islands, the object in view being to give to those Colonies the advantage of numbering among their population a large proportion of small proprietors having a stake in the prosperity of the islands. In pursuance of this policy, allotments of Crown lands are in course of being sold to labourers at moderate prices. In time the number of small proprietors will become considerable. It will be obvious that this generous policy must be carried out with care and discretion. Living under a tropical sky, and settled pon a productive soil, the natural disposition of the labourers, if left to themselves, will be to grow only provisions, such as cassave, yams, plantains, and bananas, and to neglect the cultivation of cocoa and other economical plants.

Dwelling in remote valleys, away from the influences of civilisation, the risk is great that they may, instead of improving, deteriorate both morally and materially. To meet this difficulty it was at one time in contemplation that the Government should a form model plantations, directing the cultivation and preparation of economical products for the market. The labourers were to be paid at fixed prices for the production, and to receive the profits in addition, after deducting cost of supervision and manufacture and a low rent for the land. It has not as yet been found practicable to carry out this scheme. Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson has now made a proposal for an experimental clearing in the Richmond Valley, in the Island of St. Vincent. It is estimaetd to involve an expenditure of 5,000l. on which a return of 5 per cent may be looked for. I hope that this proposal, when placed before the public, may prove sufficiently attractive, both from a philanthropic and a prudential point of view, to attract subscriptions to the limited amount required.

Leaving Grenada at 8 P.M. on February 23, at daybreak on the 24th St. Vincent was near at hand on the starboard bow, presenting a noble mass of mountains rising to a height of 4,000 feet. The Administrator, Captain Maling, paid an early call on board.

We discussed the recent troubles among the black population. Discontent had been caused by the proposal to cease to maintain in each island a separate Chief Justice, of necessity comparatively poorly paid and only partially employed. The Government were desirous of appointment law officers at higher salaries, who should undertake to act for a group of islands. The plan was unpopular in those islands which would have been deprived of a resident official while called upon to contribute to the salary of an officer resident elsewhere.

The black population have been complaining, and not without reason, of the low scale to which their wages have been reduced. The men now barely earn a shilling per day, adn the women somewhat less. In the depression which had lately fallen on the sugar industry, reductions of wages were accepted as irritable. In the more cheering position which has now been reached, the negroes consider that their pay should be more liberal. We passed through large gatherings of people in Kingstown and the outskirts. They bore no marks of squalor or of discontent. Whenever we addressed them they were most friendly. Weighing anchor shortly after midnight, at dawn on February 26, we were off the famous Pitons of St. Lucia.
Sources: Geographicus
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