Hayti. By Zephiniah Kingsley
Transcribed at the National Parks Service Kingsley Plantation by Emily Palmer on May 6, 2009 from
The Friend: a Religious and Literary Journal (1827-1906); Jul 21, 1838; 11, 42; APS Online
The editor of the Christian Statesman, in publishing the following letter, remarks, it “is from a very intelligent source, and will be interesting to all who desire the prosperity of that island.” On reading it, the query naturally arose,-if such things can be done in Hayti, why not equally practicable in South Carolina, Georgia, &c.?
HAYTI, June 30, 1837.
To the Editor of the Christian Statesman:
Sir,- Your being one of the principal members of the African Colonization Society, an institution purely philanthropic, and whose object apparently is to advance the depressed free people of colour to a higher grade in the scale of civilization; and as I am a planter in the south, deriving my entire subsistence from slave labour, but having a coloured family and children, motives of necessity and self-preservation have induced me to labour for a similar object to yours, in which I have been employed for some time past; therefore, as wisdom is most certainly attained from comparing the facts of my experiment, I thought that it would be interesting to you and to many of your readers, to be informed of the results of my colonization experiments made in the Island of Hayti, the convenient situation of which, and its nearness to the place where emigrants lived, induced me to give it a preference. A full account of these experiments follows, and their importance may excuse the length of this communication.
About eighteen months ago, I carried out my son, George Kingsley, a healthy coloured man of uncorrupted morals, about thirty years of age, tolerably well educated, of very industrious habits, and a native of Florida, together with six prime African men, my own slaves, liberated for that express purpose, to the northeast side of the island of Hayti, near Porte Plate, where we arrived in the month of October, 1836; and after the application to the local authorities, from whom I rented some good land near the sea, and thickly timbered with lofty woods, I set them to work cutting down trees, about the middle of November, and returned to home in Florida. My son wrote to us frequently, giving an account of his progress. Some of the fallen timber was dry enough to burn off in January, 1937, when it was cleared up and eight acres of corn planted, and as soon as circumstances would allow, sweet potatoes, yams, cassava, rice, beans, peas, plantains, oranges, and all sorts of fruit trees, were planted in succession. In the month of October, 1837, I again set off for Hayti, in a coppered brig of 150 tons, bought for the purpose, and in five days and a half, from St. Mary’s in Georgia, landed my sons, wife, and children, at Porte Plate, together with the wives and children of his servants, now working for him under an indenture of nine years; also two additional families of my slaves, all liberated for the express purpose of transportation to Hayti, where they were all to have as much good land in fee, as they could cultivate, say ten acres for each family, and all its proceeds, together with one-fourth part of the nett proceeds of their labour on my son’s farm, for themselves; also, victuals, clothes, medical attendance, &c., gratis, besides Saturdays and Sundays, as days of labour for themselves, or of rest, just at their option.
On my arrival at my son’s place, called Cabaret (twenty-seven miles east of Porte Plate) in November, 1837, as before stated, I found everything in the most flattering and prosperous condition. They had all enjoyed good health, were overflowing with the most delicious variety and abundance of fruits and provisions, and were overjoyed again at meeting their wives and children, whom they could introduce into good comfortable log houses, all nicely white-washed, and in the midst of a profuse abundance of good provisions, as they had generally cleared five or six acres of land each, which being very rich, and planted with every variety to eat or sell, they had become traders in rice, corn, potatoes, sugar cane, fowls, peas, beans, in short, everything to sell on their own account, and had already laid up thirty or forty dollars apiece. My son’s farm was upon a larger scale, and furnished with more commodious dwelling houses, also with store and out houses. In nine months he had made and houses three crops of corn, of twenty-five bushels to the acre, each, or one crop every three months. His high land rice, which was equal to any in Carolina, so ripe and heavy as some of it to be crouched or leaned down, and no bird had ever troubled it, nor any of his fields every been hoed, there being as yet no appearance of grass. His cotton was of an excellent staple; in seven months it had attained a height of thirteen feet; the stalks were ten inches in circumference, and had upwards of five hundred large boles on each stalk, (not a worm or red bug as yet to be seen.) His yams, cassava, and sweet potatoes, lately introduced from Taheita (formerly Otahetia) Island in the Pacific, was of peculiar excellence; it tasted like new flour, and grew to an ordinary size in one month. Those I eat at my son’s have been planted five weeks, and were as big as our full grown Florida potatoes. His sweet orange trees, budded upon wild stalks cut off (which everywhere abound) about six months before, had large tops, and the buds were swelling as if preparing to flower. My son reported that his people had all enjoyed excellent health, and had labored just as steadily as they had in Florida, and were well satisfied with their situation, and the advantageous exchange of circumstances they had made. They enjoyed the friendship of neighboring inhabitants, and the entire confidence of the Haytian government.
I remained with my son all January, 1838, and assigned him in making improvement of different kinds, amongst which was a new two story house, and then left him to go to a Port au Prince, where I obtained a favorable answer from the president of Hayti, to his petition, asking for leave to hold and own in fee simple, the same tract of land upon which he then lived as a tenant, paying rent to the Haytian government, containing about thirty-five thousand acres, which was ordered to be surveyed to him, and valued, and not expected to exceed the sum of three thousand dollars, or about ten cents an acre. After obtaining this land in fee for my son, I returned to Florida in February, 1838.
As France has now consented to the independence of Hayti, to which it has formally relinquished all its claims, I will say a few words in answer to some objections that I have heard made by very prudent people, to the policy of encouraging the growth and civilization of the island of Hayti, which objections, I presume, originated in the fear of having a free coloured government and powerful people, so near to our own slaveholding states. If this evil of situation, arising from a natural cause, could be obviated, it certainly would be prudent to remove it. But as Hayti enjoys so many permanent natural advantages over any equal portion of our neighboring continent, either as it relates to climate, soil, or situation, moreover its great extent and extraordinary fertility render it capable of supporting a large population, of at least fourteen millions of people, which, independently of all our efforts to the contrary, will fill up by natural increase in a few years, would it not be our best policy to cultivate a friendly understanding with this formidable people, improve their moral habits, and advance their civilization as fast as lays in our power? Hayti was formerly the commercial emporium of the western world; it supplied both hemispheres with sugar and coffee; it is now recovering fast from a state of anarchy and destitution brought on by the French revolution. Its government stands on a very respectable footing, and it only requires capital and education, to become a country of great commercial importance, and able to supply the whole consumption of the United States with sugar and coffee. The European nations are now taking advantage of this state of things, and are cultivating a friendly commercial intercourse with Hayti. Is it not to our best policy to profit by the natural advantages which we have over them, arising from circumstances peculiar to our situation, and encourage as far as far as possible the industrious and most respectable part of our free cloured population, especially the agricultural part, to emigrate to that country, now mostly vacant, which is within a week’s sail of our own coast? The natural prejudice of those emigrants towards the country of their birth would greatly tend to promote a reciprocal national attachment, and would produce harmony and good will by an assimilation of manners, customs, and language, tending to strengthen the chain of commercial relations much to our advantage.
Finally, sir, I have to observe that if any coloured people of the above description should apply to you for further information regarding Hayti, you may assure them of a good reception at George Kingsley’s establishment near Porte Plate, where they will find a plenty of good land to cultivate, which they may either rent or buy under the most liberal terms; and that six months’ labour as agriculturalists will render them entirely independent of all future want of provision. You may also assure them of Hayti’s being comparatively a much healthier country than any of our seaboard countries south of New York.
I remain, very respectively,
Your most obedient,
Z. Kingsley, a Florida planter.
Did You Know?
The planter's house at Kingsley Plantation, a unit of the Timucuan Preserve, is the oldest plantation house still standing in Florida. More...