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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The importations comprised Negroes of many dialects


In

viewing the effects of civilization upon a barbarous race, we are naturally led to confine our reflections to some of the instances in which the civilized race has carried its influence abroad to those beyond its pale, to the exclusion of those instances, from their infrequency of occurrence, in which the barbarous race, of its own accord or otherwise, has come within its circle. There are but two instances, in modern times, in which the latter has happened, and they are well worthy of our notice. The one is, the existence of the Gipsies, in the very heart of civilization; the other, that of the Africans in the various European settlements in the New World; and between these a short comparison may be instituted, although at the risk of it being deemed a digression.

The forcible introduction of barbarous men into the colonies of civilized nations, in spite of the cruelties which many of them have undergone, has greatly improved their condition--their moral and intellectual nature--at the expense of the melancholy fact of it being advanced as a reason of justification for that sad anomaly in the history of our times. The African, it is admitted, was forcibly brought under the influence of the refinement, religion, and morals of the whites, whether as a domestic under the same roof, a field labourer, in the immediate vicinity of the master, or in some other way under his direct control and example. Not only was he, as it were, forced to become what

he is, but his obedient, light-hearted, and imitative nature, even under many bodily sufferings, instinctively led him to enter immediately into the spirit of a new life, presenting to his barbarous imagination, so destitute of everything above the grossest of animal wants and propensities, those wonderfully incessant and complicated employments of a being, appearing to him as almost a god, when compared with his own savage and unsophisticated nature. The importations comprised Negroes of many dialects, which were distributed on arrival in every direction. A large proportion would live singly with the poorer classes of the colonists, as domestics; two or three would be the limited number with many others, and the remainder would be disposed of, in larger or smaller numbers, for the various services necessary in civilized life. Single domestics would be under the necessity of learning the language of the master; and, having none speaking their own dialect to commune with, or only occasionally meeting such, momentarily, they would soon forget it. When several of different dialects lived together, they would naturally follow the same course, to communicate with each other. All these circumstances, with the frequent changes of masters and companions, and the general influence which the whites exercised so supremely over them, have had the effect of almost erasing every trace of the language, customs, and superstitions of Africa, in parts of the United States of America, in little more than one generation. The same may especially be said of what pertains to the religious; for a race of men, in a state of nature, or but slightly civilized, depending for such instruction on the adjunct of a superior grade, in the person of a priest, would, on being deprived of such, soon lose recollection of what had been taught them. Such an instance as to language, and, I understand, to a great extent as to religion, is to be found in St. Domingo; French and Spanish being spoken in the parts of that island which belonged to these countries respectively. Still, such traces are to be found in Cuba; but, were importations of Africans into that island to cease, the same result would, in course of time, follow. From such causes as those stated, the Negroes in the United States have, to a very great extent, nay, as far as their advantages and opportunities have gone, altogether, acquired the ways of civilized life, and adopted the morals and religion of the white race; and their history compares favourably with that of a portion of the Gipsy race, which, being unique, and apparently incomprehensible, I will institute a short enquiry into some of the causes of it.


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