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Alexander Innes - Jamaica journal, 1823-1824

This resource allows you to journey through space, time and text in early 19th century Jamaica, by combining:

  1. the Journal of Alexander Innes, describing his visit to Jamaica from December 1823 to February 1824 (below);
  2. James Robertson's 1804 mapping of Jamaica (right), with the locations that Innes visited highlighted in blue;
  3. a timeslider (lower right).

You can also read further information about Alexander Innes, about the journal and map sources, and about the resource.

Browse the journal

Hover mouse over specific days below to see the places visited on these days highlighted on the map.

Thursday 18th Dec 1823


These 24 hours commenced with strong breezes and cloudy weather. At 6 P.M. saw the Island. At 4 A.M. Morant Point bore N N E. distant two leagues, it is a large promontory on the east side of the Island. At 10 A M. took a Pilot on board off Port Royal. At 1 P.M. brought up in the Narrows. At 3 PM. I went up to Kingstown in a Canoe with the Captain.
Distance per log 82 miles
Last by observation 18 0' - 30"
Longt by acct 76 - 45
Latt of Cullen Banffshire 57 43
Latt of Jamaica 18
Diff of Lattitude 39 -43"
Longitude of Cullen Banffshire 2 51"
Longitude of Jamaica 76 -45"
Diff of Longitude 73 - 5 4"

Friday 19th December 1823


I returned to the Ship at 11 o.Clock this day.At 2 PM. we got under weigh at 3 we dropt Anchor here. I visited every part of the Town Yesterday Kingston is the Capital of Jamaica, it is situated on the North side of Port Royal Bay. The principal streets are wide, but the houses only one story high many of them have handsome verandahs. It is a place of immense trade. Ships from all most every part of the world come here. I was sadly annoyed by moschettoes last night.

30 Duke Street Kingston Saturday 20th Dec


I took up my quarters here to day.I found Mr Christy a fine genteel young man, also his Partner Mr Taylor. They are the first Merchants in this City. I cannot as yet say how I shall like the Country.



30 Duke Street Sunday 21st Dec 1823


I rose early this morning and took a long walk into the interior. I never saw a more delightful Country in my life. I have been cautioned against walking so much. I am told that a European is almost sure of catching Fever by going out even before the sun gets up, until he become seasoned to the climate.

Monday Duke Street 22nd Dec 1823


I drove last night round Up Park Camp, it is delightfully situated, but considered extremely unhealthy. I am told the Water about the Camp is excessively bad. This circumstance together with its low situation is thought to be the cause of the great mortality that takes place amongst the Soldiery. The impenetrable Leoganie mountains surround the Camp they are covered to the top with Copse Wood. I visited the spot where so many of the brave 92nd are buried.

Tuesday Duke Street 23rd Dec 1823


I confined myself the greater part of this day to the house. In the Evening I went to the Camp and saw the 50th Regt. Reviewed by Sir John Kean, in my way home I drove round the Race Course. This Town reminds me very much of many of the Towns I saw in Spain. I was particularly struck with the squalid sickly look of the European settlers. The Negroes are a handsome race of people in their persons they are generally tall and slender, they have a most becoming gait. I was very much astonished when I landed at seeing them carry every thing on their heads. I had occasion to employ a Negro Boy to go a message for me, as a reward I gave him sixpence, he put it on the top of his head and scampered off. I have frequently seen the Females carrying an empty bottle on their head.

Duke Street Wednesday 24th Dec 1823


I was at a very pleasant party last night at a Mr Joceline’s I enjoyed myself very much. The West Indians are exceedingly hospitable, indeed if it was not for the intolerable heat, I should like the Country. Every thing in this City is exceedingly high in value. The first night I landed here I was obliged to go to an Inn (not having delivered my letters of introduction) I paid 6/8 for my Bed and the same sum the following morning for my Breakfast. Mr Taylor has given me the use of his Horse & Gig. I drove as usual this evening round the Camp and the Race Course. I can not describe how annoying the Moschettoes are: I can get no sleep from them my legs are dreadfully swollen from their stings. I can not forbear scratching. The Moschetoe is an Insect of the fly kind. Instead of a mouth, it has a sharp pointed probo cis, or a sort of small hard and hollow beak with which it pierces the skin, and sucks the blood of animals, and especially the human kind of which it seems most greedy. I can speak on this subject from sad experience.

Duke Street Thursday 25th Dec 1823


This being Christmas Day we had a large party at Dinner. The subject of general conversation was the disturbed state of the Island, and the disposition to insurrection the Slaves in many parts of the Island have exhibited. It was the decided opinion of all present that something of a very serious nature is in contemplation amongst the Blacks. This Town at present has a very warlike appearance. The Militia being all called out, they parade the Streets every hour. I can not say that they have much the gait or look of Soldiers, but they may be very useful. Martial Law is declared. I am informed that I shall have to put on a Red Coat myself. From my being an officer in the British Army they can not make me serve here under the rank of Captain, but as there is no pay whatever attached to the service, if I can I will decline it.

Farm Penn Friday 26th December 1823


I left Kingston this morning at 9 o.Clock. I had a most unruly Horse in the Gig so much so that neither the Black Boy nor myself could manage him until we blind folded him. The road was delightful and the country every where teeming with beautiful scenery. This Farm or Penn, as it is called here belongs to Lord Carrington, but it is at present rented by Mr McInnes and Messers Christie and Taylor. The stock of Cattle and Sheep they have got here is immense. Shortly after my arrival I rode to Clifton the Country seat of Mr John Shand when he resides in the Island, it is a superb place built entirely in the English style, the pleasure grounds round the house are very extensive, but sadly kept, this may be accounted for the house being untenanted.

Raza Mount Saturday 27th Dec 1823


At 3 o.Clock P.M. I reached this place. I left Lord Carrington’s Farm at Gun fire (4 A.M.) I reached Saint Jago de la Vega, commonly called Spanish Town at 7 a.m. It is built on the left bank of the Rio Cobra river in a pleasant valley 16 miles from Kingston, and tho inferior in point of size was once the Capital of Jamaica, it is still the seat of Government and the place where the Courts of Justice are held. Raza Mount is without any exceptions the most romantic place I have seen. The house is built in the Cottage style and has its site half way up a mountain. The sublime grandeur of the lofty Blue Mountains whose aspiring summits seems to invade the regions of eether, towers in majestic grandeur over the mountain the Cottage is built on. Luxuriant scenery every where catches the eye of the traveller. The cooling breeze from the sea have in some measure cooled the sultriness of the day before I reached the foot of the mountain; as it is impossible for any Vehicle to ascend Mr McInnes sent down a horse for me; the view from the house is of great extent you see nearly the whole Parish of St Thomas in the Vale. The air here is cool so much so that Mr McInnes informs me that he burns fires at night. I have been highly amused with the Negroes since the Christmas Days commenced, they dance the whole day, the only musick they have is a Drum which is beat by one of themselves, the various attitudes they put their bodies into when they dance is truly laughable, all of them I have as yet seen, seem harmless creatures. On my way here I stopt for an hour at Bybrook a very fine Sugar Plantation belonging to the late Mr Ross. I am informed the place is extremely unhealthy, in consequence of the great body of stagnate water that surrounds the Estate.

Raza Mount Sunday 28th Dec 1823


I took a long ride to day with my worthy host through the Parish. The more I see of Jamaica the more I like it. The European Settlers that I have met with are in general sensible intelligent men, I have not felt very well this day, but I am resolved not to give way to fear or melancholy.

Palmer Hut Monday 29th Dec 1823


I arrived here from Raza Mount along with Mr McInnes at 9 o.Clock P.M. In the evening there was a large party to Dinner, amongst the number a Doctor Ewart from Greenock a very genteel young man I am to accompany him tomorrow to Rose Hall. Mr McInnes is Attorney for all these properties, he is very genteel in his manners and appearance, far superior to any of the other Planters I have met with, he is highly respected and has accumulated a very large fortune. I often recommend him to go home to Scotland, but he says the cold there in winter would kill him, he has been 30 years in Jamaica

Palmer Hut Tuesday 30th Dec 1823


I left this at 5 o.Clock A.M. with Doctor Ewart we reached Bybrook at 7 a.m. where we breakfasted then proceeded to Rose Hall distant from Bybrook nine miles where we had an early dinner or what is called in the Country, second breakfast. After resting for some time we mounted our horses and rode to the mountains, called at several Plantations and then returned here to Dinner. Mr McInnes left us in the morning for Kingston, he has brought us a full account of the revolt amongst the Slaves in the Parish of St James’s. I strongly suspect it is not all over. They have taken it into their heads that the King (over the Water as they call George the 4th) has made them free; but that Buckra as they term White Men wont grant them their liberty. From what I have seen of them, they would be the most wretched creatures on the face of the earth if they were emancipated; they are indolent and lazy, in the extreme. It is very remarkable, that for so many years past that the Europeans have been toiling to make the Savages of different parts of the world, conform to their manner of living, that they have not as yet been able to prevail upon one of them to do so, not even with the assistance of the Christian religion. The Moschettoes continue to annoy me dreadfully. I can not rest at night.

Palmer Hut Wednesday 31st Dec 1823


I rode to day over several Sugar Plantations I don’t see any thing abstruse in the process of carrying on the field operations of a Sugar Estate. I leave this tomorrow for Belmont I shall remain there one night then proceed to Colbecks in the Parish of Saint Dorothy’s.

Belmont Thursday 1st Jan 1824


I parted with my good friend Mr McInnes this morning after Breakfast, he supplied me with a Negro and Mules. At noon I reached Cherry Vale, after resting until the Island Breeze set in which it general does about 2 P.M. I proposed coming away, but the Overseer Mr Paterson would not hear of it until after Dinner. I got an excellent repast from him, and in the evening he accompanied me half way here the road we took was thro’ a fine country, but the worst I ever travelled. I was nearly having been tumbled over a precipice the Mule I rode came down head foremost. On my arrival here Mr McCattie the Overseer welcomed me in the kindest manner he is a relation of Mr McInnes, and was aware of my visit. He had a party of Friends with him.

Friday Belmont 2nd Jan 1824


I am so very ill to day that I am not able to leave my Bed. I went to a Ball last night and overheated myself dancing.

Tuesday Belmont 6th Jan 1824


This is the first day I have been able to leave my Bed since Friday. Dr Moore who attended me is clearly of opinion, that I had an attack of the Fever of the Country, it is wonderful that any constitution could have stood the quantity of Calomel he gave me. I feel almost quite well, but greatly debilitated.

Wednesday Belmont 7th Jan 1824


This day having been cool, and no sun, I rode to the Estate of Fullerswood and called upon a Mr Darby who was very attentive to me during my sickness. I visited his Plantation and returned here in the evening. I propose if I am able starting tomorrow for Colbecks Estate in the Parish of St Dorothy’s. I shall ever remember Mr McCattie with gratitude, he is a man of remarkable for his politeness and affability, and from whom I received many distinguished marks of kind attention during my sickness.

Colbecks Thursday 8th Jan 1824


I arrived here about an hour ago. The Overseer Mr Spenser seems a good sort of Fellow. I brought him a letter from Mr McInnes who is Attorney for the Property, desiring him to give me every information as to the culture of the Cane, and the process of making sugar. I am to remain here for some months to learn the Planting business from what I have already seen, I think I could conduct the Field operations already.

Colbecks Friday 9th Jan 1824


I like this place very much every thing is done to make me comfortable. There are only Three White people on the Estate, Mr Spenser Mr Mitchell and myself. The heat is overpowering and the Moschettoes and other Vermin are troublesome beyond all conception.

Colbecks Saturday 10th Jan 1824


I went to day to the Sugar works belonging to the Estate, they are situated about a mile from the house, and consist of a Mill for bruising the Canes, a Boiling House with a Curing House attached, and a Still House. Masons, Mill Wrights, and Copper smiths, are busy repairing the Works. Harvest will commence in four or five days.

Colbecks Sunday 11th Jan 1824


This Estate consists of 5,000 acres and is romantically situated in a valley. There are 300 Negroes on the Property, who are quiet well disposed people. On the Breeding Farm there are about 600 cattle of different ages and sex, all of a particular good kind, tho inferior in point of size to the English Cattle, they are of a much more handsome shape, they are all wild and run in the woods. For the use of the White people employed on the Property, there are 98 Sheep & 56 Hogs, and Geese, Ducks, Turkeys and all kinds of Fowls in great abundance. The only drink allowed on the Estate is Rum, of that we have as much as we like. I ride to day a considerable distance into the interior of the Island. It is intersected with a ridge of steep hills tumbled by the frequent earthquakes in a stupendous manner upon one another. These hills tho containing no soil on their surface, are covered with a great variety of beautiful trees flourishing in perpetual spring. They are nourished by the rains which often fall, or the mists which continually brood on the mountains. From the rocks issue a vast number of small rivers of pure wholesome water which tumble down in Cataracts, and together with the stupendous height of the mountains, and the bright verdure of the trees through which they flow, form a most delightful landscape. On each side of the great chain of mountains are ridges of lower ones which diminish as they remove from it. On these Coffee grows in great plenty. The Vallies or plains between these are level beyond what is ordinary in most other Countries and the soil is prodigiously fertile.
The Island is divided into three Counties vizt Middlesex, Surrey, & Cornwall, each County contains several Parishes. The principal Rivers are the Rio Cobra, and the Padra, but neither are navigable except for small Barges. The Mountains and the greater part of the Island are covered with many kinds of Trees; such as Lignumvitae, Cedar, Mahogany &c &c always appear. In the Vallies are the sugar canes and such a variety of Fruit Trees as to make the Country look like Paradise. But to balance this there are Alligators in the Rivers, Guianaes and Galliwasps in the Fens and Marshes; and Snakes and other noxious animals in the mountains. The year is distinguished into two Seasons the wet & dry: but I am informed the rains are not so frequent as formerly, which is supposed to be owning to the cutting down of the woods. About 9 o.Clock in the morning it is intolerably hot, it would be impossible for a European to exist if the easterly breeze did not set in to cool the air. Sometimes the nights are pretty cool, and there are great dews which are considered unwholesome especially to new comers. I am certain that the third part of this Island is not Inhabited. The Plantations are all along the coasts. Here and there are Savannas, or large plains where the original Natives used to grow their Corn. Hurricanes and Earthquakes in days of old were by no means rare in the Island, but neither has occurred from many years. The general produce of the Island is Sugar, Rum, Molasses, Ginger, Cotton, Indigo, Pimenta, Cocoa, Coffee, and Logwood, and several kinds of Medicinal drugs. It has some Tobacco, but not considered good, it is only used by the Negroes, who seem very fond of it.

Colbecks Monday 12th Jan 1824


I have a communication from Mr McInnes this morning, informing me that he has received a letter from the Governor’s Secretary desiring him to give in the names of the young men employed on his different Properties for the purpose of their being enrolled to serve as Militia men, he solicited and obtained for me a Troop in the Light Horse as they are called here, he is Colonel of the Rgt.

Colbecks Tuesday 13th Jan 1824


I got up very early this morning and rode a long way into the woods. I passed two very suspicious looking Maroons they were lurking in a jungle I dont think they observed me until I passed them. I dined at Nelson Plantation, and returned here at 7 o.Clock PM. It was a lovely evening. The early part of the day had been dark and showery, but in the afternoon it cheered up, and tho’ sullen clouds still hung overhead yet there was a broad tract of golden sky in the west from which the setting sun gleamed thro’ the dripping leaves and lit up all nature into a melancholy smile. The beauty and variety of colours the clouds assume at Sun Setting, no Painter could represent: the Forest I was in today contains a great variety of trees, the Wild Cinnamon, whose bark is so useful in medicine, the Manchineel whose fruit though uncommonly delightful to the eye contains one of the worst poisons. The Mahogany is in great abundance all over this Estate, the Cabbage Tree which when dry is incorruptible and hardly yields to any kind of Tool, there are also excellent Cedars. The Palma Tree affording fine oil, and the Soap Tree whose berries answer the purpose of Soap, the Mangrove, Olive Bark, Fustic and Redwood. The Indigo Plant is very rare I have seen it; formerly it was much cultivated.

Colbecks Wednesday 14th Jan 1824


Harvest commenced this day. The Slaves are all employed cutting Canes, they remind me of a Band of Reapers in Scotland. I am not yet sufficiently acquainted with the Planting Business as to be able to give an account of the Process.
I was shocked to day beyond measure at the inhuman, cruel manner Mr Spenser directed a poor old Female Slave to be punished who is large in the Family way. The Negroes upon the Property are very quiet, but still they have a great share of the propensities of savage nature (Idleness & Profligacy.) There is no doubt that the Island is at present in a very agitated state. Superstition is marshalling its ranks, prompt for vengeance; and sounding its Call through all the dense ranks of ignorance. Such conduct as Mr Spenser’s this morning is enough to rouse the spirit of revenge in any people. Much has been said by Mr Wilberforce and others in the British Senate on Slavery. I am clearly of opinion if Emancipation were granted then that they would become the most miserable creatures on earth. Respecting slavery in the abstract there can not be two opinions, but to invest people with the full privileges of freedom, before they are qualified for the experience, and enjoyment of those privileges, is no better than turning loose a herd of wild beasts to ravage a Country, and then devour one another. A moral cause must be created, in order to be able to abolish the Physical cause of labour; and a motive must be shewn which induces the English rustic to labour, to bear upon the Negro; when the Negro peasant will work regularly like the White peasant then he ought to be free. I am of opinion that much manual labour might be saved in this Country if the Plough was introduced in place of the Spade, the majority of the Planters here are Scotchmen, and too much wedded to prejudice and old customs.

Colbecks Thursday 15th Jan 1824


The Bruising Mill having stopt in consequence of the extreme drought, I went this day into Clarendon on a shooting excursion. I breakfasted at Fullerswood, then proceeded on to Beaumont a Property belonging to Mr Elliotte situated at the foot of the Blue Mountains these mountains are prodigiously high and perfectly inaccessible. The scenery I had in view to day was delightful; in every direction the eye wandered over richly cultivated vallies; with streams of water running through them. Orchards of Shaddocks and Oranges, Negro-Huts embowered in Plantain leaves, mountains and little hills romantically mixed, and variegated with verdant coppices of shrubs and trees. Beaumont is situated on a Hill which Mr Elliote has named Arcadia. Mr E. has taken it into his head that he has a Poetical vein, and fancies his Property resembles ancient Arcadia, celebrated of old for its Poets, and famous for its mountains. Mr Elliote’s neighbours seem to entertain the same notion respecting the situation of their properties, but being chiefly Scotchmen of the lower orders, none of them that I have met seem to be overburthened with ancient historical knowledge. They are all very much alarmed at the revolt that has broken out amongst the Slaves, but I do not think from what I have observed that they have any cause, however swaggering, and impudent some of them are amongst themselves. Yet bring them into the presence of a white person, and they hang their heads down like bulrushes, and blink their eyes like owls in the sunshine, they are the greatest cowards I have ever seen, particularly the Africans. They are much more so than those born in the Country. The African Slaves are exceedingly ugly, I have seen some of the sable Creole Lasses whose features are very handsome, it is astonishing how fond they are of dress.

Colbecks Friday 16th Jan 1824


At 3.o.Clock this morning we commenced again to make Sugar, the Canes are in a wretched state greatly tainted in consequence of the great drought.

Colbecks Saturday 17th Jan 1824


Nothing particular occurred to day but the common routine of Sugar making. I saw to day a very extraordinary animal in the woods. The natives call it the wild cat. It lives in hollow trees during the day; at night it ranges about in quest of food, and often visits the Negro’s Huts. It feeds chiefly on Fouls, Birds, and small Quadrupeds. The Slaves ascribe to it an uncommon sagacity asserting that in order to approach fowls unsuspected, it imitates their voice. The Island abounds with many different kinds of Birds. Parrots of various colours in the woods, they are very timid, the Negroes catch them when young, and train them to speak very plain. There are large birds here of the Eagle kind very tame, they live on Carrion, and are found to be of great benefit for the health of the Island, all sorts of filth they pick up. Any one found shooting any of these Birds, by the Laws of the Island are liable to a fine of £5. The following is a short account of the process of Sugar making. When crop time commences, every one on the Plantation is employed man woman and child. The full grown Slaves are divided into Three Gangs, denominated the 1st or great gang, the 2nd or middle gang, and the 3rd or small gang, work of the gangs are under the command of a Driver who sees that they do their work, when the Canes are considered ripe the 1st and 2nd gangs commence cutting; this they do with Bill Hooks. The leaves of the Cane and the tops are left on the field for the Cattle, and it is astonishing in how short a time they get fat on them. When the Canes are brought into the Yard which is close to the Mill a proportion of female Slaves and boys are employed in feeding the Mill which goes by water, the Canes are put in between three large cylinders which bruise them, the refuse comes out below. It is carried by Children a short distance from the Mill where it is spread out to dry, it is afterwards used for fire to the Coppers. The Liquor is conveyed in a wooden trough from the Mill to the Boiling House, where it is received into two large coppers each containing 300 gallons in the Coppers the Liquor is tempered with Lime. It is then drawn off into smaller coppers where it is boiled, during the time of boiling it is constantly skimmed by four Slaves. From the scummings molasses and rum is made. After the Sugar is considered sufficiently boiled it is thrown from the grand coppers into Coolers where it is allowed to remain until it cools to 98 or blood heat, it is then carried to the Curing House and put into hogsheads which are placed on Beams of wood so arranged that the Molasses run into a Cistern. The most difficult part of Sugar making is to know the proportion of Lime to give the Liquor, also when the Sugar is sufficiently boiled, a knowledge of Chymistry is indispensably necessary. The method of Tempering Sugar varies on different Estates scarcely two overseers follow the same plan, it is astonishing to me how many of them succeed. I have met with many who can hardly sign their name far less have a knowledge of Chymistry. The plan followed by Mr Spenser who is a good Chymist is by taking a quart bottle of liquor and ascertaining what weight of temper is required then calculating what weight the coppers require which contain 300 Gallons. The way of ascertaining when the Sugar is boiled is by attending to the second copper to see that the liquor clarifies, and then to see that it grainalizes in the third copper.

Colbecks Sunday 18th Jan 1824


Mr Spenser the Overseer was dismissed to day by order of Mr McInnes, and a Mr Simpson has been appointed in his place. I regret Mr Spenser having left us, he is an intelligent gentleman like man. His cruelty to the Slaves was very reprehensible, and I believe the cause of his losing his situation. Mr Simpson is from Orkney he is a vulgar looking fellow. A young man of the name of Fulster an Irishman has come to be Bookeeper.
I had a long conversation to day with several Negroes respecting their notions of religion, they seem to have no idea at all of an hereafter, they pointed to the clouds, and told that there was a good old man there that would be kind to them if they died not tief as they pronounce thief it is much to be regretted that schools are not established in the Island, none of them can either read or write. The Drivers keep an account of the Field work by cutting strange kind of figures on a piece of wood.

Colbecks Monday 19th Jan 1824


Mr Simpson our new Overseer commenced his career by flogging six old Slaves under my charge. Poor creatures they called to me to assist and protect them. I had a serious row with Simpson and frightened him by threatening to report him to Mr McInnes. He is ashamed of his conduct and has promised me that he will never again interfere with my people. We commenced to distil rum today.

Colbecks Tuesday 20th Jan 1824


I have been exceedingly ill the whole of this day. The Negroes under my superintendency have all been to see me poor creatures. They have brought me such quantities of fruit that ten men could not consume. Lenity and kindness has a most wonderful effect upon them.

Colbecks Wednesday 21st Jan 1824


The Fever has encreased to such a degree that I am not able to leave my bed. My head is dreadfully painful. The Surgeon is sent for.

Colbecks Sunday 1st Feb 1824


For the last eleven days I have not been able to leave my room. The fever continued with unabated violence until the 29th. Dr Moore on that day gave me up, and left me in charge of four Slaves; so certain was he of my dissolution that he ordered my Coffin, I have no recollection of any thing that happened since the evening of the 21st I can not describe how uncomfortable I have been since the 30th I am so reduced by bleeding and medicine that I can not turn myself in bed. The heat overpowered me. Killing time with me at present is rather a different matter. I have no one to speak to, but little Sampson my black servant. The idea that time exists only in remembrance, may serve to account for the apparent inconsistency we use to express our sense of its passage. People often and I at present complain of the slow passage of time. When our heads or our hearts are busy, we know nothing of time it does not exist for us, but as soon as we pause to reflect on that which is gone, we seem to have lived long because we look back through a long series of events. Time is so fleeting and so uncertain, that even when we are reflecting upon it, it has vanished.



Colbecks Monday 2nd Feb 1824


I am greatly better to day but excessively weak. I am going when able to visit Mr McInnes at Raza Mount for a change of air.

Raza Mount Thursday 5th Feb 1824


I arrived here to day from Colbecks. Mr McInnes is most attentive to me, I dont feel the least fatigued after my journey.

Raza Mount Friday 6th Feb 1824


I went to day and visited several Sugar Plantations. I am now considered to have a tolerable good knowledge of Sugar making from the interest I have got in the Island. I expect immediately to get a charge.

Raza Mount Saturday 7th Feb 1824


I have been amazed since I came here at the multitude of Bats. They are of an enormouse size. One of the slaves stand with a horse-whip every evening to drive these troublesome visitors away who enter without currency the sitting room, and flap out the lights. However they are found of use in warm climates they are a great enemy to that most disagreeable insect the Bug, and they destroy musquitoes, and ants and other destructive little beings in warm climates.

Colbecks Sunday 8th Feb 1824


I returned here to day from Raza Mount. I feel a good deal fatigued, a party of Young men dined here to day one of them a Mr Green was taken ill after Dinner and was obliged to leave us, he has newly come to the Island.

Colbecks Monday 9th Feb 1824


This climate is treacherous beyond description, a man may go perfectly well to bed and before morning may be in the land of forgetfulness. The young man Mr Green who dined with us yesterday is dead and buried. Very few cases Dr Moore informs me, ever came under his care, that stood the Fever so long as I did, in almost every case if the Patient does no recover in 3 days death most commonly takes place on the 4th or 5th . The Indian and Guinea Corn harvest being finished, we commence again to day to make Sugar.

Colbecks Tuesday 10th Feb 1824


I am now completely master of the process of making Sugar. I attended the Still House to day for the purpose of learning distillation. If I am as fortunate in it as I have been in making Sugar I shall soon get a situation. No kind of European corn grows here, there is Maize or Indian Corn, and Guinea Corn, and Pease of various kinds, but none of them resembling ours. There are a great variety of roots such as Yams, Plantains, Cocoa and Sweet Potatoes. Fruit is here in great abundance, vizt Citrons, Seville and China oranges, common and sweet Lemons, Limes, Shadocks, Pomegrantes, Mamees, Soursops, Papas, Pine Apples, &c &c.

Colbecks Wednesday 11th Feb 1824


I went to day into the Parish of Saint Marys for the purpose of seeing a few families of the aboriginal Caribs. They have scarcely any intercourse with the rest of the population and all I learned about them was, that they usually lived to a great age. They are gradually decreasing from a continued system of intermarrying within a very narrow circle. On my way home this evening, I can not describe how much I was struck with the beauty of the Fire Flies. As I gazed, the air burst into atoms of green fire, before my face, and in an instant they were gone: I turned round and saw all the woods upon the mountains illuminated with ten thousand flaming torches moving in every direction, now rising now falling, vanishing here, re-appearing there, converging to a globe, and dispersing in spangles. No man can conceive from dry description alone, the magical beauty of these creatures so far from their effects having been exaggerated by travellers. I can say that I never read an account which in the least prepared me for the reality. There are two sorts, the small fly which flies in and out in the air; and a kind of beetle, which keeps more to the woods, like our glow worm. The road to Saint Marys lies across two very high mountains, which are feathered from the clouds to the base with evergreen foliage. The clouds within the Tropics are infallibly attracted by the woody eminences, and contribute greatly to the wildness of the scene; I have seen them so dense as to bury the mountains in darkness; at other times they float transparently like a silken veil. But beautiful as these Sierras (as the natives term the mountains) look it is woe to the man who ventures on foot to penetrate their recesses where wood-slaves and Snakes love to dwell. The natives tell direful stories about the poison of the first and the tenacity of the second. I never met with any person who has known an instance of the Wood Slave fixing itself upon a human being. The Animal is a broad and flat-headed Lizard and of a dull grey color. The Negroes have a particular aversion to them from a notion that contact with them will produce leprosy. I may say with propriety that I have been in a complete Thaw since I came within the Tropics. To day I verily steamed from my hair, eye brows, nose and chin continuously. The big round drops coursed one another down my cheeks, and projected themselves on my trousers in graceful precipitation, my corporeal system seemed about to dissolve.

Colbecks Thursday 12th Feb 1824


It has rained incessantly the whole of this day. Many of the Negros who were employed in the Fields are taken sick, they are by no means hardy or a healthy race they are indolent by nature, as their brethren in Africa. This natural indolence is justified in their eyes, and rendered inveterate by a climate and a soil which indispose the most industrious to labor, if you ask them why they don’t till and cultivate their Negroe grounds they will tell you, that the Yams and Plantains will grow abundantly for their eating, and new Rum is very cheap at the grog-shops. I can not help observing that the Planters ought to pay more attention to the clothing of their Slaves, than many of them do. Independently of its being an almost necessary preliminary to an improvement to the manners of a Negro, it is sometimes really cold in the mornings, and will be more so now that the wet Season has set in, and creatures of heat as these poor people are, they become exquisitely susceptible of a change of temperature which an Englishman scarcely perceives. Dr Moore assures me that the Negros suffer much from cold. A Planter in my humble opinion if really wished to do good, ought to have his Slaves properly clothed, the woman as women in every country under the Sun, ought to be decently clothed, which I am sorry to say is not the case in this Country. Until you have taught a man or a woman to respect themselves it is vain for you to attempt to teach them to respect any thing else: and observe that the question is not with Savages of the forest who only know themselves, and to whom ignorance of shame is as the clothing of innocence before the Fall; no these Slaves know that they are naked; they live in immediate contact with their masters whose manners they remark and they daily see the more favored of their own color decked out with finical extravagance. Many of them become shameless by the dire force of habit, but by no means all of them. I have frequently observed the Young girls in the fields turn away from the gaze of their sable lovers, and shroud their bosoms with crossed arms. Bad as this day has been I was obliged to ride to Belmont. I was entertained by my friend Mr McHattie in Capital style. The fruit we had after dinner which consisted of Pines and Oranges most ambrosial. I learned to day a method of eating Guava Jelly quite new to me. It was put into a glass, and pierced with a knife, then a glass or two of Madeira poured upon it. The Wine lubricates the Guava, and entirely takes away that mawkish sweetness that cloys the palate of every person but a West Indian. The wind was so fresh and the air so cool to day, that I might have forgotten, but for the beauty that was around me, that I was still within the Tropics. I saw an immense numbers of Monkies on one of the Mountains I crossed, I am told by Mr McHattie that the Monkies are very good livers and know a ripe Pine to a day
I had another run with Mr Simpson the Overseer to day. His cruelty to the Negros would shock the most unfeeling heart. No person resident in the West Indies however little conversant with the administration of justice in his native country, can fail to be struck with the system prevalent in the colonies. It is not easy to overate the importance of an enlightened and impartial judicature in any place but the peculiar circumstances of society in the West India Islands render its existence absolutely indispensable. In all communities where slavery is established, there ought to be good laws to protect the Slaves. As long as the Slave confides in the protection of a power of his master, he will labor in tranquillity; but if he finds that power prejudiced against him, it is nothing but an ordinary impulse of human nature, that he should strive to obtain by violence that which he suspects will be denied to his petition. Some people will argue, that the Blacks being our fellow-creatures, should enjoy all our privileges. Agreed, in the theory, but not in the practice. Who could behold one of them either in the Pulpit, or on the Bench in a court of Justice every one must shudder at the recital of the atrocities committed by the Blacks against the Whites in the Island of St Domingo. I can not but confess that I most firmly believe, they acted from a spirit of revenge for former ill treatment. Mr Simpson will therefore better keep in mind Lord Cranston’s motto, Gang Warily
I was a good deal surprised to day at seeing the manner the Negro women feed their Children. They actually stuff Children and Turkies in the same way by placing the victim on its back in their lap, inserting a lump of the food in the mouth, and them pressing it down with the thumb and forefingers, the Mothers follow this plan to excess, and there is no convincing them of the evil consequences though it is notorious that this inordinate repletion is a common cause of death amongst the Young in the Island. The Mercury to day was lower than I have seen it since I came to the Island, it was 79 of Fahrenheit.

Colbecks Friday 13th Feb 1824


I rode to day into Clarendon, and visited several Sugar Plantations, also a good many Plantain and Cocoa plantations. The plantain is one of the most characteristic productions of the Tropics. The tree that bears the Bread Fruit (originally brought from the Island of Otaheite) is a curious introduction, it is about the size of the horse-chestnut; its leaves are near a foot and a half long, in shape oblong resembling in almost every respect those of the Fig Tree, its fruit is not unlike the melon either in size or shape. I am sorry to say I witnessed to day the unchristian practice of excluding the corpses of Slaves and colored people from the ordinary burying grounds, and of shovelling them into unconsecrated earth in some out of the way place. Conceive the feelings of these poor creatures, who is forced by this detestable prejudice to deposit the bodied of their dead in a place which they know every European considers in the highest degree ignominious, and when very likely they have seen the Gibbet erected and the Pirate hanging. The Proprietors really ought to enclose the ground and take care that it be respected as the solemnity of the character demands. In my rambles to day I conversed with several negros on the different Plantations I passed, from what I heard, I have formed no exalted opinion of the Methodists. The Planters profess to be apprehensive of insurrection; nevertheless they admit Sectaries of every denomination into their estates; the Negros are a very curious and observant race, and after they have learnt that there is a God, the next thing they learn is, that their master does not worship in the same manner as themselves. They believe their worship is true, and therefore they must think their master’s false. While they remain on the brink of civilization, this will have but inconsiderable consequences, but the seeds are laid, & a beginning is affected; he perceives the ingredients of distinction more clearly, and gradually imbibes that spirit of separation which the religious schism is sure to generate. The secrets of every family are at their command. Parents and Children are watches on each other; each is on his guard against all, and all against each. In this manner these Sectaries possess an army of dependants already lodged in every house and fixed in the heart of every Plantation. Their dominion over these poor people is absolute, and the negros know that this formidable power rests entirely with their Ministers. That this power has been abused I am certain and that it will be abused in the most fearful way I am sure. That the Methodists have done good amongst the Negros I do not deny, but it is a shame to the Colonial Clergy that there was any field for their Services.

Colbecks Saturday 14th Feb 1824


A shocking and inhuman murder was committed last night at Old Habour, by an African man, who in a fight with one of his Country men so dreadfully wounded his Antagonist as to cause his immediate death. A Coroner’s inquiry is now holding over the body of the deceased which I hear is dreadfully mangled, both the men were the property of Mr McIntosh from Inverness. I was informed to day that within the past Year this Island employed Shipping to the amount of 151,850 tons the greater part British beside Colonial craft of 4523 tons. A circumstance of rather a Singular nature, came to light here last night; a Negro man named James had been missing for six days, he returned last night in the most wretched state I ever saw a human being. It seems he had fallen in love with a free black woman who lived fifteen miles from this; regardless every night he used to run unknown to any one on the Estate, regardless of all obstacle, and I believe with as much zeal and real love in his heart, as when Caled shouted to his Moslems, Fight, Fight! Paradise, Paradise and the Arabian youths as they spurred among the Roman spears, saw black eyed maidens leaning from the clouds to convey their spirits to the whitest bosoms in paradise, they scarcely experienced more ardour and enthusiasm than poor James did in going to woo his sable dearie. The night he went last to see her, he was informed by her Father, that he had sold her to a Planter on the north side of the Island. On hearing this James ran into the woods with the intention of starving himself to death, and had actually lived for the last six days without tasting any kind of food, he is quite unconsolable. Mr Simpson ordered him to be floged but I interceded for him, and he was pardoned. The rains in the West Indies are by no means so moderate as with us in Scotland the heaviest rains there are but dews, compared to the rains here; they are rather floods of water poured from the clouds with prodigious impetuosity, the rivers rise in a moment. Hence it is that the rivers which have their source within the Tropics swell and overflow their banks at certain seasons of the Year; but so mistaken was I in my ideas of the torrid Zone, that I imagined it to be dried and scorched up with a continued and fervent heat. The rains make the only distinction of seasons in the West Indies. A great quantity of sulphureous acid predominates in the air of this country, metals of all kinds that are subject to the action of such causes, rust and canker in a very short time: and this cause perhaps as much as the heat itself, contribute to make the climate of the West Indies unfriendly to a European constitution. It lightens here almost every night and the thunder is very terrible and roars with dreadful loudness. Mock suns and Haloes or red circles about the moon and sun are here common. They are very luminous and beautifully tinged with all the various colours of the rainbow.
I have been very much pained of late by the insects called here Giggars more properly Cirors. I could not conceive for some days past what was the matter with my feet, particularly the soles and heels. I employed this day an old Negro man to examine them, who with an instrument something like a sailors needle took out a vast number of Giggers. These insects get into any part of the body but chiefly the legs and feet, where they breed in great numbers, and shut themselves up in a bag. Many of the Negros are rendered quite lame by these insects they get into their toes and eat their flesh to the bone.
The Slaves still continue very sickly in consequence of the wet weather. It has often astonished me their fondness for glass beads and other gewgaws however the value we set upon a diamond is more capricious, than the value they set upon glass. The love of ornament seems to be an universal principle in human nature. The pleasure which it gives among us is principally by conferring distinction and gratifying vanity, an African is more pleased and distinguished by a button or a glass bead than any individual among us by a diamond.

Colbecks Sunday 15th Feb 1824


I received a letter this day from my Mother informing me that I am appointed to the 94th Regt I must pack up and be off as fast as I can. The information contained in my Mother’s has by no means pleased me I would prefer remaining here.

Spanish Town Monday 16th Feb 1824


I left Colbecks early this morning and after a pleasant journey I reached this Town. My reason for coming here was partly curiosity and partly to see The Duke of Manchester the Governor. By the Laws of the Island no one can leave it without permission from the Governor.
It appears from a general history of the West India Islands wrote by Alexander Watts Esq that Jamaica was discovered by Columbus in 1494, and that the Court of Spain granted the whole Island to him. Don Diego his son was the first Governor of it with the title of Duke de la Vega, Spanish Town being formerly called St Jago de la Vega and founded by him, and which became the capital of the Island.

Colbecks Tuesday 17th Feb 1824


I returned here today with Mr Simpson. A very serious accident very nearly happened to us. The Horse we drove in the Gig had never been in harness before, the rain came down in torrents I was in the act of putting up an umbrella when the animal took fright we stuck to the Gig until the Horse fell into a Ditch and broke it to pieces. The rain & wind still continued with unabated violence and compelled us to take shelter at a Plantation belonging to a Mr Fraser from Inverness who entertained us in true West India style. I ate Turtle Soup to day in perfection.

Colbecks Wednesday 18th Feb 1824


I employed myself the whole of this day in paying farewell visits to my friends. I dined at Fullerswood with a large party.

Colbecks Thursday 19th Feb 1824


Mr McInnes arrived here today he wishes me to be off as soon as possible. He has engaged a passage for me in the Kingston Brig. She sails from Kingston Harbour on the 25th Inst. I have got my things arranged for my departure.

Colbecks Friday 20th Feb 1824


I drove to day in Mr McInnes Chaise to Old Harbour we had second breakfast with Mr McIntosh, and returned here to dinner. We had a large party at Dinner of Gentlemen from the counties of Aberdeen & Banff. The Yellow Fever is raging dreadfully amongst the 91st Regt at Spanish Town they have lost since Christmas upwards of 150 men. I have got every thing finally settled for my departure. I leave tomorrow.

Carrington Penn Saturday 21st F


I left Colbecks at 11 o.Clock this day along with Mr McInnes, we dined at Cherry Garden with a Mr Smith from Huntly, and drove on here in the evening. I have had a bad toothache the whole day. Mr McInnes has made me a present of a fine Blood Hound, of the real Porto Rico breed. It is astonishing what an aversion these animals have to the Slaves. During the Maroon War they were used for hunting the Maroons. I remember when I was at Raza Mount for change of air after my Fever, that Mr McInnes sent one of the Negro boys into my room early one morning to waken me. The Dog flew at him and would positively torn him to pieces if I had not started up and rescued him. They are by no means common in the Island. They are ferocious and dangerous to those they are not acquainted with, but to their masters they are exceedingly attached and faithful. One night about a week ago, I returned from Belmont rather late I was never more surprised in my life than on entering my room to find a huge Negro man standing in the middle of the room with a drawn cutlass in his hand, and the Dog fixed in his leg which he had lacerated in a dreadful manner. I did not release him from the Dog’s hold, until I loaded my Carabine, I then questioned the fellow who he was, and for what purpose he came there, all that I got out of him was, that he had lost his way, and seeing a light in my room he came to ask the road. I ought to have detained him but I did not. I am certain he came for no good intention coming armed. I found the following morning a Bow and Arrows and a few dead birds. Every one thought he must have been a wild Maroon. Mr Simpson traced by the blood from his leg into a thick jungle in the centre of the Forest. These Maroons who are nothing but run away Negroes are a great enemy to the Slaves, they come at night from their caves and dens in the Forest and mountains and rob the poor Slaves of their Poultry, Yams and Plantains. They are so expert with their Bows that they will shoot the swiftest flying Bird upon wing, they subsist entirely by stealing and what they chance to kill in hunting.

Carrington Sunday 22nd Feb 1824


I rode this forenoon to Clifton Mr Shand’s seat and afterwards to Spanish Town and returned here to Dinner. I leave this in the course of an hour for Kingston. I called when in Spanish Town on Mr Shand’s Wife she has given me jewels for her Daughters in Scotland worth upwards of £300.

30 Duke Street Kingston Monday 23rd [1824]


I arrived here late last night I waited on Major General Sir John Kean to day but found he was on an excursion to the Blue Mountains with the Duke of Manchester. I afterwards went and reported myself to the Adjutant General. I have been to see the vessel she is a fine Brig Commanded by Lt Binney of the Navy. Mr Binney was formerly on this station as Flag Lieut to Admiral Douglas at Port Royal. My sea stock all arrived to day. I shall sleep on Board tomorrow night. The Yellow Fever is raging here at present. We take a great quantity of specie with us: the Captain is so frightened for the Fever that he will not wait for a convoy although Capt Leith of the Ballett Sloop of War will be ready to escort us in four or five days.

30 Duke Street Kingston Tuesday 24th Feb 1824


I was employed the fore part of this day in making calls. I shall go on Board immediately.


On Board The Kingston Brig


Kingston Harbour 4 o.Clock P.M.
I came on Board about five minutes ago with Capt Binney. I brought my trunks and Sea stock with me, and poor faithful Nero the blood hound. My sea stock consists of 6 Pigs, 3 Sheep, 1 Goat, 18 Fowls, 6 Geese, 6 Turtles, 3 Capons, 4 Guinea Fowls, and two Hogsheads of Guinea corn. I paid independent of my Sea stock 40 Guineas. The only Cabin Passenger besides myself is Lieut Col Fulton of the 92d Regt. Mr Scott a Planter is expected; there is a young man of the name of Sharp in the Steerage who has been a Lieut in the Columbian Service, poor creature he is in a miserable condition, having hardly as much clothes as covers him.

Off Port Royal


On Board the Kingston Wed 25th Feb 1824
Unmoored from the Harbour of Kingston at 11 o.Clock A.M. and dropt anchor here at 3 P.M. The only circumstance that occurred coming down was losing one of our Boats in the Narrows however it is expected that the Boat will be found. The Pilot who is a brown man seems a smart Sailor. The Captain and Col Fulton only came on board about an hour ago.

Thursday 26th Feb 1824


The wind is fair the sails bent
Jamaica! sultry land adieu
Weighed anchor this morning at 6.0 o.Clock tacked several times to the Southward and Northward under all sail. I can not as yet form an opinion of the Capt or of my fellow Passenger Col Fulton. The accommodation here is very superior indeed. I can not say now that I am on my way to Europe that I leave Jamaica with regret, it has its pleasures and its pains the first is ateing Guava Jelly and Turtle Soup. The second is perspiration and Musquitoes. I would be very unworthy if I was not grateful for the kind polite attention I received during my stay in the Island.

About this resource

This resource was created as part of a work placement at the Library undertaken by Matthew Lee. Matthew is a PhD student who is working on a collaborative project between the University of Aberdeen and the National Library of Scotland. His research focusses on Scots, including Alexander Innes, who travelled to the Caribbean and wrote about their interactions with slavery. Support for the project was provided by Chris Fleet, Map Curator at the Library, and Dr Ralph McLean, one of the Library’s Manuscripts Curators.

Workflow - 1: Transcribing the journal and creating a list of places visited

The first step to making the application was to create a transcript of the journal. A reliable transcription was available online on the Jamaica Family Search website. Using this transcript, it was possible to annotate the transcript in Recogito: an open-source platform for annotating texts and tagging them as places, etc. By going through Robertson’s map – both in hard copy and online – and modern maps, it was possible to add geographical coordinates to the places mentioned by Innes. Recogito allows users to export their annotations as a .CSV file, which can then be easily edited by spreadsheet software. In addition to the placename, and its latitude and longitude, we also recorded the date of Innnes' visit too (as free text and in YYYYMMDD format), and the degree of certainty of the location of the actual place under question (this is shown by different circle border lines on the map).

Editing a transcript of the Journal using Recogito
Editing a transcript of Innnes' Journal using Recogito.

Workflow - 2: Using QGIS to map and edit the places

We then imported the .CSV file into the desktop QGIS open-source GIS software, which created a dot distribution map of the places, using the latitude and longitude fields. By default, these were displayed on a modern map background layer (OpenStreetMap), but it was also possible to bring in the James Robertson map of 1804 as a background georeferenced XYZ layer. We experimented with the display of lines between the points, to indicate Robertson’s itinerary, but as this turned out to be quite complex, with him travelling extensively back and forth between a small number of places, we decided it was not particularly meaningful or easy to visualise, and so we chose to just display the point locations he visited. In some cases, the point locations did not align perfectly to the plantations on Robertson’s map, so these were manually edited to bring them into place. When complete, the dot distribution map was exported from QGIS as a GeoJSON file, which is the format we use in this online resource.

Editing the point locations using QGIS
Editing the point locations that Innes visited in Jamaica using QGIS.

Workflow - 3: Creating the resource

The Library already has extensive experience of OpenLayers, allowing a number of components and map layers to be re-used from elsewhere. (For further details of these, see the blog Using the Library’s open-source map viewers and the more detailed paper: C.Fleet, A web-mapping toolkit for Libraries, e-Perimetron 14(2) (2019), 59-76). We also used the Library’s GeoCart’2018 resource, which provides a set of basic OpenLayers viewers with guidance notes, and some of the same design templates as the Frederick Douglas map viewers. These use OpenLayers for the map interface, JQuery for some interactive features, and a MapTiler georeferenced mosaic in the map panel. For the date slider, we used the jQuery UI slider, adapting a date range slider example.

A central aim of the resource was to connect the journal, the map and the time slider together, and to allow the user to interact with each of these three components directly. The specific dates were used to connect the three components, so that, for example, when the journal was browsed in the left panel, the specific date of the section under the cursor would allow places visited on this date to highlight on the map and the date slider to move to the selected date. When places on the map were selected, or the date slider moved, functions were also written to link to the other two components - ie. the journal and places on the map at the selected date.

The resource has been made available on Github https://github.com/NationalLibraryOfScotland/InnesJamaicaJournal, for download and possible re-use.

Data download

We have made available the place records relating to where Alexander Innes visited within this website for onward re-use and download. The data is available in two forms:

Field  Description
ORDER  Sequential order following the Journal - ie. the order in which Innes visited the places
PLACE  The name of the visited place, often a particular sugar plantation estate
DATE_NUM  Numeric date - as YYYYMMDD
DATE_TXT  Written date - as Thu 18 December 1823
PLA_SPEC  Speculative place location - 'Yes' for less certain place locations
PLA_UNID  Unidentified place - 'Yes' for places we could not locate

Re-use

This metadata collection is free of known copyright restrictions.