A Comparison between the AFRICAN SLAVES in the WEST INDIES, and the CELTIC SLAVE, or SCALLAG, in some of the HEBRIDES.
From Travels in the Western Hebrides, by the Rev. JOHN LANE BUCHANAN.
[Continued from page 125.]
1st. With regard to the respective conditions of their life in general, it is in neither case of their own chusing. The African is bereft of his freedom, and sold into slavery by fraud and violence. The Hebre∣dian Slave is, indeed, neither trapanned into slavery by guile, nor compelled by physical compulsion; but he is drawn into it by a moral necessity equally in∣vincible, Page 269by a train of circumstances which are be∣yond his power to controul, and which leave him no option, but either to serve some master as a Scallag, or to protract a miserable existence for some time in the forest, and near the uninhabited sea shores, where he may pick up some shell fish, to perish at last, with his wife, perhaps, and little ones, with cold and hunger.
2dly. With regard to labour. The Negro ge∣nerally works only from six o'clock in the morning to six in the evening; and out of that time he has two complete hours for rest and refreshment. The Scallag is at work from four o'clock in the morning to eight, nine, and sometimes ten at night.
3dly. With regard to respite from labour. The Negro is allowed two days in the week for himself— so is the Scallag: but the precepts of Religion allow the Scallag only one of these days to labour for his own maintenance.
4thly. With regard to food. The Negro has a plentiful allowance of such common fare as is sufficient for his support; besides his little spot of land which he cultivates for himself on Saturday and Sunday, as well as in the evenings, after he has finished his mas∣ter's work. The Scallag, when at hard labour for his master, is fed twice a day with water-gruel, or brochan, as it is called; or kail, or coleworts, with the addition of a barley cake or potatoes; and all this without salt. But, for his family, and for him∣self on Sundays, or when he is unable to work through bodily indisposition, he has no other means of sub∣sistence than what he can raise for himself, by the labour of one day out of seven, from a scanty por∣tion of cold and moorish soil—barley, potatoes, cole∣worts, and perhaps a milch cow, or a couple of ewes, for giving milk to his infants; though if often hap∣pens, that he is obliged to kill these household gods, as it were, to prevent his family from starving. At certain seasons he has fish in abundance, but this he Page 270is, for the most part, obliged to eat without bread, and often without salt. The Negro, if he be tole∣rably industrious, can afford on Saturdays and other holidays, with pepper-pot, a pig, or a turkey, and a cann of grog; nay, Negroes have been known to clear, besides many comforts for their own family, twenty, thirty, even forty pounds a year; so that there is a fair probability that a Negro may, be ena∣bled to gain the price of his liberty. But, of relief from bondage and woe the Scallag has not a single ray of hope, on this side the grave.
5thly. With regard to lodging and cloathing. The Negro is comfortably lodged, in a warm climate. The Scallag is very poorly cloathed, and still more wretchedly lodged, in a cold one. And as the Ne∣gro is provided by his master with bedding and body clothes, so he is also furnished by him with the implements of husbandry. The Scallag, with sticks and sods, rears his own miserable hut, procures for him∣self a few rags, either by what little flax or wool he can raise, or by the refuse or coarser part of these furnished by his master, and provides his own work∣ing tools, as the spade, &c.
6thly. With regard to usage or treatment. The Slave is driven on to labour by stripes: so also is the Scallag; who is ever, on some occasions, formally tied up, as well as the Negro, to a stake, and scourged on the bare back. The owner of the Slave, it may be farther observed, has a strong interest in his welfare; for if he should become sick or infirm, the master must maintain him; or if he should die, the master must supply his place at a considerable expence. There is no such restraint on the peevish humours or angry passions of a Hebredian laird or tacksman. The Scallag, under infirmity, disease, and old age, is set adrift on the wide world, and begs his bread from door to door, and from island to island. Nor is it necessary in order to supply the place of a Scallag, to be at any expence: for the frequent failure of Page 271settlments affords but too many recruits to the wretch∣ed otder of Scallags.
7thly. As there is nothing so natural as the love of liberty, and an aversion to restraint and oppression, the Scallag, as well as the Negro, sometimes attempts emancipation, by fleeing to the uninhabited parts of the country: though such attemps are not so of∣ten made by the Scallags after they are enured to slavery, as when they feel themselves on the verge of sinking into that dreadful and deserted condition of existence.
The only asylum for the distressed in the Long Island is the King's Forest; where several are shel∣tered with their families and cattle for the summer season; where they live in caves and dens of the earth; and subsist, without fire, on milk, the roots of the earth, and shell fish. But in the winter sea∣son, cold and famine drive them back again to seek for subsistence and shelter under the same tyranny that had driven them to the forest. The Blue or other mountains afford the means of life to runaway-negroes (if they can escape the search of their mas∣ters), both summer and winter.
In the West Indies, no planter or captain of a vessel is allowed by the law of the Colonies, to kidnap, con∣ceal, or keep any runaway slave, or by any means to detain him from his master. Here also the compari∣son holds between the Slave and the Scallag. There is not a takcsman who will take or retain in his ser∣vice, or on his land, either the Scallag or subte∣nant of another master, without a written certificate from that master, that the Scallag or subtenant has a good character; and also, if he be otherwise satisfied as to the character of the poor man, that his master is willing to part with him. For as the Colonists by their laws, so the Tacksmen of the Hebrides, by their country regulations, have entered into a firm compact, that no one shall harbour the subtenant or Scallag of another, who does not produce a proof Page 272of his humble and unlimited obedience to his former master. And it is evident from reason, were it not proved by experience, that certificates are most with∣held when they are most wanted. For no landlord who is known to be cruel to his people will ever give them certificates, because in that case they would all leave the tyrant, and seek for milder treat∣ment under some less severe master.