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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/503

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THE LABOR PROBLEM LN THE TROPICS.

Government in 1834 that four years later slavery would be entirely abolished throughout the British Empire, he foresaw at once that unless a new source of labor was thrown open a very short time would elapse before the cane fields would fall out of cultivation. He listened, not without some irritation, to the assurances of the agents of the Antislavery Society that as soon as the slaves were freed they would work with redoubled energy, and that the labor supply, instead of deteriorating, would, in fact, improve. The planters knew better, and began at once to arrange for the importation of contract labor. With the year 1834 began the period of apprenticeship for the slaves, prior to their complete emancipation four years later.

During this time, and before the imported labor sufficed for the needs of the plantations, several estates were ruined and fell out of cultivation because the apprenticed laborers would not work.

On October 11, 1838, the governor of the colony, Henry Light, Esquire, issued a proclamation to the freed slaves. The proclamation stated that the governor had learned with regret that the labor of the freed slaves was irregular; that their masters could not depend on them; that they worked one day and idled the next; that when they had earned enough to fill their bellies they lay down to sleep or idled away their time; that they left their tasks unfinished, and then expected to be paid in full for them.

In the meanwhile the planters imported labor from the West Indian Islands, Malta, Madeira, China, and Germany; and eventually the system of immigration from India was organized.

The system is under the control of the Indian Council in Calcutta on the one hand and the British Guiana Government and the Colonial Office on the other. In Georgetown, the capital of the colony, is the immigration department, under the management of the immigration agent general, who has under him a staff of inspectors, subagents, clerks, and interpreters, all of whom must speak at least one Indian dialect. In Calcutta resides the emigration agent general, also an official of the British Guiana Government, who has under him a staff of medical officers, recruiting agents, and clerks.

Each year the planters of British Guiana send in requisitions to the immigration department stating the number of immigrants required for the following year. These requisitions are examined by the agent general, and if, in his opinion, any estate demands more coolies than the extent of its cultivation justifies, the number is reduced. As soon as the full number is deeided on, the agent in Calcutta is informed, and the process of recruiting commences. The laborers are secured entirely by voluntary enlistment. The recruiting agents go about the country and explain the terms offered by the British Guiana planters, and those men and women who express their