Habits of industry

Paid just five rupees monthly, enterprising indentured Indians at Plantation Highbury still managed to accumulate significant savings by the end of 1840, through thrift, extra work, and early livestock investments. Under their five-year contracts, the some 400-recruits introduced to six assigned estates in British Guiana (B.G.) each received the equivalent sum of two and a half dollars provided they toiled daily, and were not sick or absent.

“These people are a money-getting, and many of them money-saving people: the manager has in his possession upwards of 1 000 dollars belonging to about twenty of them, he exhibited a list of their names to me, and I saw that one man had saved and deposited with the manager 100 dollars, and another over 80 dollars,” Stipendiary Magistrate, Charles Henry Strutt glowingly reported to B.G.’s Governor, Henry Light. Light had ordered a full tour of Berbice’s estates, worried about the August 1, 1838-labour impact with the end of apprenticeship, formalising the full abolition of slavery in captured Africans and their descendants.

He reviewed “a very fair display of industry in the rearing of pigs and poultry” and “the cultivation of vegetables” at nearby Plantation Waterloo, where “savings are frequently placed in the manager’s custody, and the deposits of one individual have amounted to as much as 30 dollars.” When sick the bound servants received “hospital diet and their usual rations, but no wages.”….

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