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had come upon me while I was making the abuff speach, and now I found myself in a sityouation which Dellixy
for Bids me to describe. Suffis to say, that I now discovered what basins was made for—that for inany, many hours, I lay in a hagony of exostion, dead to all intense and porpuses, the rain pattering in my face, the salers tramplink over my body—the panes of purgatory going on inside.” The steward comes to tell Charles Jeames his master's very ill. “ Master be hanged !" says the sufferer, turning round' more miserable than ever : “I woodnt' have moved that day for twenty thousand masters-no, not for the Empror of Russia or the Pop of Room."* Then again in his unfinished story of Caroline, Mr. Thackeray gives us a rough afternoon on board a Margate steam-boat, with Mrs. Carrickfergus very unwell indeed, and the poodle sick, and Saladin as bad, and the French maid, like all French maids, outrageously ill.t The last particular is iterated in “ Vanity Fair,” which shows us one or two French femmes de chambre who began to be dreadfully ill by the time the boat had passed Greenwich;"-nor must we forget, in the same Novel without a Hero, the picture of Jos Sedley, “ traveller as he was, passing the night direfully sick in his carriage [on board the Batavier steam-boat], where his courier tended him with brandy-and-water and every luxury.”! But jam satis of this subject
- lest, indeed, the reader's satiety should be USQUE AD NAUSEAM– marinam.
CAYENNE: A PENAL COLONY.
A GREAT amount of very proper wrath is now being expended upon the atrocities committed in the Neapolitan prisons, and the two civilised nations par excellence are agreed that it is high time for such a sad state of things to end. That men should be incarcerated for political offences, and pine away in foetid dungeons, is bad enough; but we fancy even the Vicaria or St. Elmo is preferable to the slow death which is the certain lot of every man who is sent in exile to Cayenne. People have found it convenient, however, to forget the terrible revelations which Louis Blanc made on this subject a few years back, and very few among us bestow a thought on the victims of Napoleonic despotism, although we cannot find language sufficiently strong to execrate the barbarities of a Bomba. In the following pages, then, we purpose showing what transportation to Cayenne really is, and will abstain from all comment, as we fancy our readers will be perfectly competent to form their own opinion.
Nearly the entire South American territory displays the contrast of a most luxuriant nature and an utterly incompetent population; but this contrast is nowhere so distinctly traceable as in the French colony of Guyana. At a spot where nature produces an astounding quantity of useful productions—where gold-bearing rivers flow through forests which display more than three hundred varieties of trees—where the ground * Thackeray's Miscellanies, vol. ii. † A Shabby Genteel Story, ch, vii.
# Vanity Fair, ch. lxii.
laughs with a harvest if tickled with a spade--where, lastly, the vicinity of the sea and an abundance of navigable rivers offer the advantages of facile transport—we find there the deepest human wretchedness. Since Europeans have set foot in this glorious land, nothing has prospered save barbarity, misfortune, and despair; and since a Napoleon has selected it as the martyrdom of men expelled from civil society, the name of Cayenne has become a household word for all that is horrible and degrading to humanity. A picture of French Guyana cannot but bear a gloomy character; and though the background may combine all the charms and all the splendour of the tropics, the foreground is occupied by pining figures with despair imprinted on their brows, over whom the angel of death ever hovers with his menacing glaive.
The frontiers of that portion of Guyana possessed by the French are bounded on the north by the sea, on the west by the Maroni river; and the dispute which has been carried on with the Brazilians about their frontier is not yet settled. The littoral, which comprises about 650 kilometres, is very flat, and composed of soft slime. The anchorage is generally good, but the only safe roads are at the mouth of the Cayenne river. Among the islands situated off the coast, the largest and most considerable, as the seat of the capital, is Cayenne. It is 50 kilometres in circumference, is rather low, with slightly rising coast, and the soil is remarkably fertile. There are also eleven other islands, the healthiest of them being the Ile du Diable, which is about three miles in length.
We read that the office of the missionary in Cayenne is exclusively confined to labours of Christian and apostolic love. Of St. Georges, on the Oyapuk, Father Byot writes: “ Few Europeans ever spend a month here without being attacked by fever ; the natives alone resist the climate. The settlement was founded in 1853 with a few blacks. The next July one hundred and eighty white convicts arrived, but the climate committed such ravages among them, that by December almost one-half had perished. Despondency and despair took possession of the survivors. Many willingly died of starvation; two hanged themselves on trees, under circumstances that revealed the utmost desperation; a third drowned himself. All the rest found themselves in an indescribable state of excitement or wretchedness. The number of white men daily grows smaller; those who are not lying in the hospital drag themselves about with difficulty, and are in truth all ill. They feel convinced that they will have sunk into the grave before the end of the year, and such, indeed, is the opinion of the physicians.” Father Byot himself, after four months' residence at St. Georges, was no longer among the living; his successor, Father Dabbadie, was compelled to quit the place in a month, but died of the fever two years later. Of 160 European convicts, 120 died at St. Georges within the year. At Ste. Marie, in May, 1856, of 1150 persons, 130 were ill, and the missionaries sent to offer them spiritual aid died in rapid succession. At Montagne d'Argent, at the mouth of the Oyapuk, the annual mortality amounts to forty per cent.
Even on La Mère island, which is regarded as one of the healthiest spots on the Guyana coast, the climate demands numerous victims. The mission lost in three years eleven clergymen, nearly all in the prime of life.
* Lettres écrites de la Guyane Française par des pères de la Compagnie de Jésus à des pères de la même Compagnie en France, 1852-57.
The peculiarity of the climate of Guyana consists in a perfectly regular heat, and great dampness, which together produce this terrible desolation among European settlers. According to the meteorological observations made in the hospital of Cayenne by Professor Dove, the mean annual temperature is 20° 88' Reaumur. The warmest month is October, the coolest January, though the only difference between them is one degree Reaumur. At a short distance from the coast the variations become more considerable, as at Ste. Marie and St. Augustin, and though the cold north-eastern winds prevailing there during the rainy season produce nervous and rheumatic affections, the greater change is generally more healthy than the regular damp hot air of the coast; and it may be with some probability assumed that a far more sanitary climate would be found further inland on the mountain plateaux. No attempt, however, has yet been made to carry the settlements so far. The prevailing wind at Cayenne is the north-east trade, which, from June to November, turns more to the east. South and westerly winds are extremely rare, and calms are also exceptional. With reference to the rainfall, Professor Dove writes: "That the relative humidity must be unusual is proved by the fact that it is impossible to make an electrical experiment here, and the amount of rain is shown by Admiral Roussin's letter of February 28, 1820, in which he informs us that on the island of Cayenne, from the 1st to the 24th of January, 151 inches of rain fell, and that he himself caught 104 inches in a cask he placed in the centre of the courtyard for ten hours. If remarkable change of temperature and humidity are especially dangerous in certain diseases, the climate of Cayenne supplies the proof that an uninterrupted damp heat has the seeds of mortality in it for constitutions accustomed to variations of temperature, and the most powerful must soon succumb. Transportation to such places is converted of itself into life punishment.”
With such unfavourable climatic conditions the colony can never hope to become flourishing, even if the administration were conducted with greater care. Hence we cannot feel surprised that the condition of the colony has not improved during late years
, in which the French government had recourse to new measures. These consist, as all our readers well know, in the deportation of ordinary criminals, and specially of persons politically compromised, to Guyana. The decrees of December 8, 1851, and March 5, 1852, which condemned all members of secret societies, and those engaged in the December émeutes, to transportation to Algeria or Guyana, was followed, on March 27, 1852, by another decree, by which Cayenne was indicated as the sojourn of convicts and galley-slaves, and the details of the arrangement of the penal colony were settled. Among other things, we read in it that the convicts should be employed in agricultural works, wood felling, and other useful occupation; that, after the expiration of two years, they should be permitted to work for the free colonists, and even be permitted to obtain concessions of land on their own account, which would become definitive at the end of ten years' occupancy. So soon as a convict secured a concession, his family would be permitted to follow him to the colony. If he were only compelled to eight years' penal servitude, he would be obliged to remain there other eight years after his time was up; but if his punishment exceeded eight years, he must never quit the colony
again. As early as May 31 the first vessel left Brest with 298 common criminals and 3 political convicts, and was followed in the same year by five other vessels.. By the beginning of 1857, at least 7000 convicts had been landed at Cayenne. We have no official reports of the number sent out in the following years, but we know that, owing to the precautionary measures taken in 1858, and especially during the ministry of General l'Espinasse, it increased so greatly that we may fairly estimate the number of men transported to Cayenne at 10,000.
At the outset all these wretched beings were landed on the Ile Royale, the largest of the Iles du Salut, in order to be eventually removed to the establishments on the other islands and the mainland. This island is about a thousand metres in length, and consists of two small hillocks, connected by a narrow isthmus. On one of these is a fortified barrack for 140 soldiers ; on the other are the buildings intended for the convicts --wooden huts, each containing forty prison cells, magazines, hospitals, workshops, chapels, &c., calculated for about 1500 prisoners. These buildings are principally the work of the convicts themselves, and they were also employed in cutting down the forests on the island, making roads and wells, planting gardens, &c.
The adjoining St. Joseph island was at first set apart for political prisoners, but in January, 1855, owing to some disturbances, they were transferred to the Ile du Diable. Since then St. Joseph has been inhabited by some five hundred men condemned to hard labour, who are principally employed in digging out a large stratum of shell, which is converted into lime.
The political prisoners, or real " déportés” on the Ile du Diable, at first enjoyed greater liberty than the ordinary criminals. They were divided by companies of eight, in small huts, which they were permitted to fit up according to their own taste, cultivated the ground, and reared poultry and goats. But it was soon thought advisable to give them severer labour, and they have since been employed in erecting houses on the islands. That they are at times treated precisely like galley-slaves, forced to hard labour, flogged, tortured, and starved, is sufficiently known by the letters of some of them, who, in spite of all vigilance, escape from the Ile du Diable; principally, however, from the reports of the thirty-eight men who escaped a few years back on a raft to Dutch Guyana, and thence to the United States. The French government at that period had no further justification to offer than that severer measures had been rendered absolutely necessary by the exalted and peculiar character of the so-called politicals, who had only given the colony evidence of their sloth and uselessness.* In 1857 we find that 214 free persons and 1176 deported, were living together on these Iles du Salut.
Of the group of Ilots de Rémire, only La Mère and Le Père are inhabited. The former was the residence of the volunteers, that is, of those déportés who had already served their time in France, and, seduced by promises, consented to emigrate to Cayenne, in order to colonise the country. From 1852 to 1855 they waited here in vain for the promised allotments of land, and from the testimony of Père Ringot we find that the great portion had been rubbed out by despondency, despair, and
* “Aperçu Economique sur la Transportation à la Guyane Française,” in the Revue Coloniale, Nov.-Déc., 1857, Jan., 1858.
disease. After, by their help, a row of buildings had been erected, and some plantations of coffee-shrubs and cocoa-trees laid out; the remainder were removed, in 1855, to the new establishments on the river La Comté, near Cayenne, and their place on the island was taken by six hundred galley-slaves. The island was also used as a sanitarium, as it is considered the healthiest spot in Cayenne, and has for this purpose an hospital containing six hundred patients. Le Père was also inhabited for a time by a number of volunteers, but now there is only a pilot station
The oldest penal colony on the continent is Montagne d'Argent, a very irregularly formed peninsula at the mouth of the Oyapuk, and only connected with the mainland by an extensive morass. The buildings and plantations which formerly existed here were found to be almost deserted in 1852, when the establishment was again commenced : where fine crops of cotton, urucu, and coffee were once obtained, lianas and weeds of every description covered the ground. Negroes, soldiers, and white labourers were set at once to make the necessary arrangements, and up to 1855 four hundred and ninety-six convicts had been brought under shelter in a palisaded space at the highest point of the peninsula, while on the slopes a regular village was built. The administration also succeeded in forming new plantations of coffee, rice, bananas, manioc, urucu,
guava; but the situation proved so unhealthy, that, in spite of fresh cargoes of convicts sent out in 1857, only one hundred and forty-five prisoners were still alive. Since that period no more déportés have been sent there.
Nor were they more successful further up the Oyapuk, on whose left bank the penal colony of St. Georges was established in April, 1853. Surrounded by low, swampy, alluvial soil, and exposed to the overflow of the river, it is, in the truest sense of the term, the white man's grave. All new arrivals died within a few months, and, after several fruitless attempts, the government found themselves compelled to transfer the surviving Europeans to La Comté, leaving at St. Georges only a number of negro convicts sent up from the Antilles. They were principally emplayed in felling the mahogany trees, for which purpose a steam saw-mill was put up. Their number at the beginning of 1857 only amounted to one hundred and fifty-one. That the government could select such a pestilential spot for a penal colony supplies the clearest proof that they only regarded police security, but paid not the slightest attention to the life and health of the transported prisoners.
Since 1854, the great majority of the convicts have been taken to La Comté. In order to effect their purpose more speedily, portable huts were first employed, whose place has been gradually taken by definitive buildings. The river is connected with the Cayenne roads by the channel Tour de l'Ile, thus affording easy communication with the chief town of the colony, and is navigable for steamers of from 20 to 25-horse power for twelve leagues. Its banks gradually rise from the mouth to the interior, and hence are more exposed to the beneficent east wind, that is, the low coast; and some of the hills, indeed, suffer less than the others from the fever-laden exhalations of the morasses. After the absolutely necessary arrangements had been made by the volunteers from La Mère, the first transport of five hundred prisoners condemned to hard labour