Jamaica viewed with all the ports, harbours, and their several soundings, towns, and settlements thereunto belonging together, with the nature of it's climate, fruitfulnesse of the soile, and its suitableness to English complexions. With several other collateral observations and reflexions upon the island.
Hickeringill, Edmund, 1631-1708.

Secondly. The nature of the Soil.

2. THe fertility of the Soil of this Island may best be examined and appear by it's Productions,

  • Wild and purely natu∣ral; or,
  • Improved and artifi∣cial.

Page  10

First then. Of the purely natural, or wild Pro∣ductions of this Island.

1. With which, the Soil is so pre∣gnant and fertile, that Nature hath stor'd it in no niggardly nor novercal benevolence, with Oranges, Lymes, (or bastard Lemmons,) Guavars, Pomegranates, a kind of Pepper, that tastes like Cloves, and very Aromatick (known by the name of Iamaica-Pep∣per) with innumerable kinds of seve∣ral Fruits that have scarcely found a name in English with which the Woods are so universally crouded, that they are likewise incomparably stockt with abundance of Wild Hoggs, fat and large, that cannot but thrive well upon so bountiful Commons, as falls from the trees in a very liberal contribution; yet their Ordinary is not so free, but that it sometimes costs Page  11them their lives; Their fat backs be∣traying their throats, to the no small advantage of the Hunters, and the whole Island.

Nor are the Woods a more plenti∣ful Nursery for the Hoggs then the Sa∣vana's are for the Beeves and wild Cat∣tel; in some of which one thousand would graze in a drove, till the too greedy and repented eagernesse of fel∣ling them by Gun shot, frighted them to the shelter of the Woods and Mountains; from whence now they dare scarcely peep, except secur'd with the covert of the night, (their now usual feeding-time in the Savana's,) and now but in smaller numbers.

An inconvenience wisely prevented by the Spaniard (that lately inhabited, and first stockt the Island) who alwaies on horse-back singled out the Beast he intended to kill, (if so wild as not to come to his Pen, amongst his tamer fellows) and with a sharp Iron in form of an half-moon, fastened to a staffe, Page  12hough'd him on both his hin-leggs; afterwards dispatching him at his lei∣sure.

With which two singular advanta∣ges, for the raising and encrease of stock, (either of Swine in the Woods, or Beeves in the Savana's or Plains,) is happy in Iamaica above any other Island or Settlement; (whether upon the Continent or Islands of America) at this day peopled by any English Co∣lony and Plantation; and will soon flourish above any other, if it want no due encouragement for the preser∣vation and defence of the Planters.

Every ship that comes from the Wind ward Islands of Barbadoes, Mevis, St. Christophers, &c. being crouded a∣bove convenience with all sorts of people.

For besides that the Soil yields not to any of the Chariby Islands in the plentifull produce of Sugar-Canes, Tabacco, Cotton, Maiz or Indian Corn, Potatoes, Yawmes, and the Page  13like American Provisions: it hath three, or four singular and extraordi∣nary Advantages to enrich the Planter.

First:

1. By the speedy raising a stock of Cattel, though from a very mean prin∣ciple, and beginnings: a notable Po∣licy in the thriving Spaniard upon Hispaniola, and especially, on Cuba, which is better peopled;) and 'tis this: Near some convenient place, in the Wood, that is best stored with all sorts of fruit-bearing Trees, as Orange-trees, a sort of Cabbage-trees, rag'd with berries, &c. they build two or three little Houses, or more; by them called a Crawle, and in these, they first inclose these tame Hogs, with which they begin their stock, and there feed them; that after (being let out) they will come to the haunt, at the sound of a Horn; But if they be out of hear∣ing, Page  14(they many times suspending all care of them for a week together) they goe out with three or four Dogs, that hunt them in; the whole Herd make∣ing homewards so soon as ever the Dogs do Bay them; unto which disci∣pline, if any of the Hogs be not con∣formable, his refractoriness cost's him his life; his keeper (for example sake) scarcely indemnifying him for the first fault.

Thus two or three Spanish slaves, (for a native Spaniard scorns the Em∣ploy) will look to six or seven hun∣dred Hogs, and provide them meat, not putting their Masters to a penny charge.

Which course may as effectually be managed upon Iamaica, in any part of the Island; unparallel'd by any other English settlement in the more VVind∣ward Islands.

For a stock of Sheep, Cows, Horses, Goats, and the like, there is excellent Pasture in the Savana's; some of them, Page  15fourty, some fifty miles in circumfe∣rence, wherein the grasse springs fresh and green all the year long.

The Earth never recalling her lent sap (as she does mock the Europeans) by giving and taking again, every Moneth being an April; The Trees and Plants being never disrobed of their Phary-liveries, but wear their best clothes every day; in which prodiga∣lity they are licenc'd and born out, by their indulgent Parents, the Sun and the Earth; These Regions being their Darlings, and (to use Sir Walter Raw∣leigh's stile (The Paradise of the world.

In so much as here is plenty of food to relieve the Planters Cattel through∣out the year, needing no winter-hoard; The providence of the Ant being uselesse here.

2. Another singular benefit to the Planter, is the large numbers of wild Horses, well shap'd and very servicea∣ble, being all bred of the Spanish Gen∣nets, one of these tam'd and well ma∣nag'd Page  16may be bought for three pounds sterl which would yield six thousand pounds of Sugar at the Barbadoes: of which special advantage, in easing the charge of making Sugars, needs no di∣spute.

3. Thirdly, the said Savana's are common to every man that will make use of them; For as they are good for little else: The woody ground produ∣cing the best Provisions for a family, as Corn, Potatoes, Plantanes, Cassauder, Sugar Canes, &c. so seating your self upon the skirt of a Savana, bordering upon a Wood, you may with conve∣nience enjoy the benefit of both.

Again, as you may stock these Plains without limit; so you may have fifty Acres, per head, for your self and ser∣vants, freely assign'd and made over to you, in any place you best like to make your choice; so that the seat, you pitch upon, be not first taken up by a∣nother; whereas in St. Kits, Barbadoes, &c. you cannot turn a Horse out but Page  17he presently trespasseth upon his Neighbour, if not upon your own Canes: the most barren Rocks (even in the Scotland of Barbadoes) owning a Proprietor, and the whole Island pe∣stered with a super-numerary glut of Inhabitants; too small a Hive for such a swarm of people.

Lastly, I shall conclude the transcen∣dency of this Isle, by the abundant plenty of choice Timber trees and Wood for the Dyer's use, as Fustick, Brasiletta, Ebonies, and a kind of Log∣wood; (but not so effectual as that which grows in the Bay of Campeachee) together with choice of medicinal Drugs, as China Roots, Gum Guaic. Lignum vit-Trees, Cassia, &c. And thus much of the wild and purely na∣tural productions of this happy Soil.

Reddit ubi venerem tellus inarata quotannis:
The Virgin-earth's not barren here,
But will unoccupy'd, Fruit, bear.
Page  18

2. General. Second, Of the improv'd Productions of the Isle.

IN the next place, the fruits of Iamai∣ca that are produc'd by the im∣provement of Art, will most metho∣dically present themselves to be con∣sidered; wherein I shall purposely o∣mit to give the Reader any account of those usual Houshold Provisions, of Cassawder, Corn, Potatoes, &c. nor of those Merchantable Commo∣dities of Cotton, Indico, Tobacco, Sugar, &c. common to it with the rest of the English Plantations; But presuming the Reader's acquaintance with those Fruits and Merchandize so vulgarly known; I shall only treat of those that are more rare and not to Page  19be found in any other of the English Colonies in America.

1. The first that I shall mention is the Cacoa. Walks, which are not few in this Island, some of them contain∣ing ten or twelve Acres of Ground, some more, some lesse: The Trees are about the bignesse of our largest Plum-trees in England, orderly set, like our Orchards, at the distance of 6, or 7. foot from each other; which Interstitiums are carefully weeded, and cleared from the Grasse, that the Ca∣coa Trees may without a Rival en∣gross the Sap and substance of the Soil, which is chosen the most fertile that can be got, and naturally skreen'd and shaded from the piercing rayes of the Sun; Nor indeed can any ground be better employ'd; the Spaniard, (who best understands the value of them) reckoning every one of his Cacoa trees to be worth him a piece of Eight per an. after it begins to bear, which is usually about seven yeares Page  20after it's first planting; in which time they are once or twice transplanted for the first two yeares, & especially in their Infancy must be protected from the scorching Sun by the favourable interposition of some shady Trees; and therefore the Plantane-Walks are usu∣ally made choice of, for such Nurse∣ries.

Of the Fruit or Nuts of these Trees is made the so fam'd Chocoletta, whose virtues are hyperboliz'd upon every post in London: though we must con∣fesse it of excellent nourishment.

The Spaniard victualling for a long and wildernesse Journey, with no o∣ther Refreshment, then Cakes made of the Kernels of those Cacoa Nuts; which he dissolves in water for his meat and drink.

The Composition of these Cacoa Cakes or Chocoletta is now so vulgar, that I will not disparage my Reader by doubting his acquaintance in so known a Recipe, a very Crambe in other Authors.

Page  21

Yet will it not be impertinent to render a most exact description of the Nuts, then is hitherto extant, either in the English or Spanish writings, that have as yet come to my hands. Herrera and Acosta report this fruit to be less then an Almond; whereas Doctour Hernandez, or rather, Anthonius Rec∣chius in Hist. Plant. in Amer. excuss. Romae, 1651. describes it to be bigger then a Musk-million. Hernandez was imployed by the King of Spain, to give an account of the Physical rari∣ties and Plants of America, and to that purpose dispatched thither by the said Catholick King, and is therefore more creditable and authentick then Herre∣ra or Acosta: though indeed he does somewhat hyperbolize when he e∣quals this Fruit with the largenesse of a Musk-million; for the husk or cod is no bigger then the largest Pears in England; growing immediately out of the bole or body of the Tree, and stock of the branches, admitting not Page  22so much as the intermedium or usher∣age of a twig, sprouting from the bot∣tome to the top, twice especially eve∣ry year, viz. in the moneths of Ianua∣ry and May, the chief moneths for the Harvest of them.

The outward crust, or put aminous husk, being broken, appears full of little kernels, or nuts, each of them inveloped in a slimy substance and film, of a phlegmatick complexion, but of a most relishing taste: under which is another shell, which when bak'd in the Sun, resembles the colour and sub∣stance of a Chesnut; but the kernel is of a Chesnut-hue both within and without, and of this is made the Cho∣coletta Cakes; full of an oily substance, not unlike that of the oil of Almonds per expressionem: and of this meanest Labourer in Iamaica compounds his Morning draughts, wherein though he fares like a Gallant, yet his follow∣ing Musick upon the Hoe-boy (where∣in he practiseth to keep his hand in Page  23use, and sometimes till his heart akes) doth more melodiously affect his masters eares then his own, and seems more harmoniously consonant to his Canvas-Drawers, which are also the sometimes ornament of the Petti∣coat-Sex (through the rigour of their Masters unmanumitted;) so that here likewise the women, (though not with that complacency) sometimes wear the Breeches.

In the Bay of Honduras, the Coast of Carthagena, and also in most places of Nova Hispaniola: two of these lit∣tle Cacoa Nuts (or Kernels) pass cur∣rant for one farthing, with which (as good sterling) they truck in the Markets.

2. The Coco Nuts, which grow on a smooth and slender Tree, whose wast (in circumference) equals that of a man's; but it's stature doubles his height.

Upon the top of whose Bulk, the Nuts in small clusters doe germinatePage  24immediately from the Tree, at the footing of the branches.

The Nuts (with the Husk on) is of a Pyramtdal form and may vte dimen∣sions with the greatest Logger-head.

The outward rind or husk is of a fibrous, spongy substance, about an inch thick, warily guarding, with su∣perfluous charinesse, the inclosed shell, whose Negro-skull is not easily broke.

In some Countries (as in Guinee) the Natives, card out this Rind into a kind of course Tow, which serves them for Cordage, Cables, Okam, and Ropes to rigge their Ships; whose Hulls and Masts (as is reported) are shap'd out of the body of the Tree; and victualled, only with the Nuts, in whose content, is barrell'd up both Drink and Bread; a milky liquour running out, so soon as you give it vent: for which purpose nature hath trim'd it with three bung-holes at the top.

Thus one Tree sets up a Marriner,Page  25and an Orchard sets out a Fleet: and at the return of the Voyage, the Sea-men are contentedly paid off with this Fruit alone; which serves for money, meat and drink.

And indeed the milky juice is a most ambrosian Dainty, very Diuretick, and proper Pharmacy for Nephritick di∣stempers.

Of the shells (polished) are made ve∣ry handsome Drinking-cups, in which Office, they serve us for rarity here in Europe. But they make no such use of the Rind at Iamaica; the inner Bark of a kind of Fig-tree furnishing them (by the Negroes Art) with all sorts of Cor∣dage, usefull in a Plantation.

This tree parturiates every Moneth, and will have fifty or sixty Nuts at a burthen.

If you cut the Bark of the Tree or Fruit (whilest green) there issues forth a Nectar, like that of the wounded Vine; or the English Birtch-tree perforated in the spring, but of a far more aroma∣tick taste.

Page  26

I purposely omit to speak of other pleasant Fruits in the Countrey, that are either common with other Islands, or not transported into Europe: be∣cause I would not puzzle the Reader with hard names, nor Tantalize him with a Discourse of Dainties, that he is never like to tast in Europe; and those that goe thither, need no Tutor.

But the Cacoa and Coco Nuts are Merchantable Commodities, enhan∣ced for their singular use and de∣light.

I shall conclude with one rarity more, of which in Iamaica is too great a plenty; and that is the Alligator, or Indian Crocodile, an amphibious Creature, that (like an Otter) haunts both the land and water.

I have seen many of them upon Hispaniola, but never any in the Cha∣riby Islands, nor in the Wind-ward Settlements upon the Main.

It would be too long to tell what Page  27large feats are storied of this Beast; as that he will pull the Bulls into the wa∣ter, (catching them like a keen Ma∣stiffe by the cheek) when they come to drink, &c.

This is true, that they have an incomparable strength in the water, in which as their most friendly Ele∣ment, they do usually encounter the prey, especially, if the mastery, will re∣quire their utmost strength in the grap∣ple.

But though he winnes the field in the water, (with a Bull) yet he must share the Spoil on the shore; for he cannot (without the danger of drown∣ing) swallow his Booty, through an impediment in his throat. Some of them (I have seen) six or seven yards long, but their usual stretch, may bate the half; And indeed, though they are fierce and ravenous, yet at the approach of a man, whilest they lie basking upon the Sands, they betake themselves, (though with no great Page  28haste) into the water; yet is it not ve∣ry safe sleeping near the shoar where they haunt, lest they take you napping. Yet can they not prejudice a child that is but aware of them: For their mo∣tion is very slow; neither can they turn the head, but the whole bodie must wheel for company.

Dat Deus immiti cornua curta

There is as good Civet in the Cods of an old rammish Alligator, as in the Ginney Civet Cats.

I shall not mention here the plenty of all sorts of Fish, and wild Fowl, as Ginney Hens, Ducks, wild Pigeons, &c. because these Collections shall take notice onely of what is singular in this Island, without a Co partner, or any Parallel in any other Settle∣ments of our Countrey men.

But possibly amongst these Rarities some will expect I should (as the most welcome Newes) discover some Mines of Silver or Gold; as the most undoubted transcendency of a rich Land Page  29

Scilicet uxorem cum dote, fidemque & amicos,
Et Genus & formam, regina pecunia do∣nat.
Ac bene nummatum decorat suadela, Ve∣nusque.
This Auri sacra fames of the Lyrick, is usually the Grand Inquest; and without it other things seem to want their taste, or relish but unsavourly, e∣specially to such an Epicurean as that was that charm'd his senses with this Lullabie;
Forbear your Stoick Rules, go read
To bed-rid Age; for I'le not heed
Your peevish morals, till dull sense
Despairs to have concupi∣scence.
Page  30
No, (whilst my spirits are young & good,
Revelling in my frolick bloud)
Compar'd to me old Epicure,
Shall be a Puritan demure,
Each sense shall play the Para∣site,
To humour my coy Appetite,
Till I (bidding all joyes good∣night)
Prove the Nil ultra a of delight,
For virtues only that attend
A State not needy I commend;
For on your beggar-virtues I
Dote not (except integrity,)
Such as is Patience per force,
A virtue practis'd by my Horse.
When him to th' Manger I do tie
From meat, long'd for with leering eye.
Page  31
And let humility be gone,
When I have nought to be proud on.
Rather then such poor virtues have,
Some court rich vices, or a grave.
Such is some mens prophane Boulimy and insatiable Poludipsie after Gold, through the depravement of their canine and pical Appetites.
nec
Terret ambustus Phacthon avaras spes.

Hor.
Neither heat nor cold can baracade the entratls and womb of the earth from the Caesarean Section, and debauch'd midwifery of the gree∣dy Miners; which (as 'tis thought) would not in Iamaica, prove labour in vain; for some Melottoes and Negroes,Page  32(that were lately Slaves to the Spani∣ards in this Isle) tell us, that their Ma∣sters did certainly know of two Silver Mines; yet are they not hitherto found by the English; whose scrutiny there∣in is not very prying and exact, the which, though astured, were no po∣licy to divulge, till their numbers be encreased, and their foot hold se∣cured; Arguments, that perswaded the Spaniard to reclose and dam up a rich Silver Vein in a Mountain near the Sea, a few Leagues to the Norward of Cape St. Nicholas, at the west-end of Hi∣spantola: not daring to present such a temptation to the Princes of Europe, till his Mines in Petozo, Peru, and new Spain be worn out; that his spare hands then may not only extract, but secure the Oare; a prize, which if now expos'd to publick notice) would create him many an unwelcome Ri∣val, that would not be to seek of pre∣tences enough, to further his suit: since our mother Earth doth in∣differently Page  33prostrate her womb to the common embraces of any Ravisher, that hath Arms strong enough to se∣cure him, in the Rape; the only Pa∣tent that the Spaniard can show for his Indie-Mines.

Which himself very well knows, and is therefore very unwilling to di∣spute his Title, but where he can em∣pannell an Army, instead of a Iury to make good the Claime; the which he can hardly levie upon Hispaniola; it being so thinly peopled, that he can scarcely muster five hundred fighting men, (in the whole Island) though he should put forth a general Presse (en∣forc'd with the strictest Commission of Aray;) except only in the Town of St. Domingo; which is distant above one hundred and fifty miles from the forementioned Mine; and are not a∣ble with all their skill and strength to root out a few Buckaneers or Hunting French-men, that follow their Game, in despight of them, though they can∣not Page  34number three hundred at a gene∣ral Rendezvouse: and those dispersed at three hundred miles distance from one another, on the North and West sides of the Island; of whom peradven∣ture I may have hereafter more occa∣sion to discourse.

Therefore it is not much material, whether or no, Iamaica own any Sil∣ver Mines, though it be more then probable that time will discover some:

Quicquid sub terra est, in apricum pro∣feret aetas.

For if there were but strength of hands in Iamaica, they might procure money with lesse labour then digging: except the Spaniard will quietly suffer them to reap the Fruits of the Com∣mon Earth. For the propriety whereof he can shew no Bill of Sale but his Sword.

Thus much in General.