1st May 1836
One of the most interesting spectacles in Port Louis is the number of men of various races which may be met with in the streets. Convicts from India are banished here for life; of them at present there are about 800 who are employed in various public works. Before seeing these people I had no idea that the inhabitants of India were such noble looking men; their skin is extremely dark, and many of the older men had large moustachios & beards of a snow white colour; this, together with the fire of their expressions, gave to them an aspect quite imposing. The greater number have been banished for murder & the worst crimes; others for causes which can scarcely be considered as moral faults, such as for not obeying, from superstitious motives, the English Government & laws. I saw one man of high cast, who had been banished because he would not bear witness against his neighbour who had committed some offence; this poor man was also remarkable as being a confirmed opium eater, of which fact his emaciated body & strange drowsy expression bore witness. These convicts are generally quiet & well conducted; from their outward conduct, their cleanliness, & faithful observance of their strange religious enactments, it was impossible to look at these men with the same eyes as at our wretched convicts in New S. Wales.
Besides such prisoners, large numbers of free people are yearly imported from India; for the planters feared that the negroes, when emancipated, would not work: from these causes the Indian population is very considerable. With respect to the negroes, they appeared a very inferior race of men to those of Brazil, & as I believe, of the W. Indies: they come from Madagascar & the Zanzibar coast. The great act of emancipation caused no excitement amongst these people; it seems a general opinion that at first when free, nothing will tempt them to undergo much labor. I was however surprised to find how little the few people with whom I conversed seemed to care about the subject. Feeling confident in a resource in the countless population of India, the result of the emancipation was here much less regarded than in the West Indies
Posted by Arborfield at 08:38