Jamaica (Indian Xaimaca, island of springs), one of the Greater Antilles, and the largest and richest of the British West India islands, in the Caribbean sea, 89 m. S. of Cuba, 118 W. S. W. of Hayti, and 570 N. by E. of the isthmus of Panama, between lat. 17° 45' and 18° 30' N, and Ion. 76° 12' and 78° 30' W. Its maximum length, from Morant Point E. to South Negril W., is 145 m.; and its maximum breadth, from Riobueno N. to Portland Point S., 53 m. It has an area of 4,250 sq. m., or with the Caicos and Turks islands (annexed to Jamaica by act of parliament in 1873), 4,473 sq. m. The population in 1871 was 506,154, of whom 13,101 were white, 101,346 colored, and 391,707 black, the last being mostly liberated slaves and their descendants. Some thousands of coolies have been imported from Calcutta. The coast is deeply indented in many parts, especially at the eastern end, forming from 50 to 60 bays and creeks, which afford more or less shelter to shipping, and about 30 harbors. The principal ports are Kingston (the largest), at the head of a fine and narrow bay, defended by two forts, but the entrance to which is considerably narrowed by sand banks; Morant, on a bay of the same name, also a good port, but having a still narrower channel than Kingston, and being exposed to the S. and W. winds, here sometimes very violent; Port Royal, on the extremity of a tongue of land bordering Kingston bay, with a naval arsenal and hospital, and being the station for British ships of war; Black River and Savana-la-Mar, on Bluefields bay, all of which are on the S. coast; and Montego bay, Falmouth, St. Ann, Port Maria, and Annotto bay, and Port Antonio, on the N. coast.
All the ports here mentioned are free. S. E.' of Jamaica are the Morant keys, and due S., at a distance of some 40 m., are other keys, and Pedro bank, little inferior in length and area, and parallel to the island. - Although the surface is extremely irregular, only the E. portion of the island can be called mountainous. Three small ridges of mountains from a common knot in the west trend divergently eastward to about the middle of the island, beyond which point the middle ridge alone extends to the extreme east, rising to an average elevation of 6,000 ft., and ramifying to such an extent as to cover almost the whole of this end, being collectively designated as the Blue mountains; the culminating point attains a height of nearly 8,000 ft. The middle range is remarkable for the edge-like form of its crest, rarely exceeding three to four yards in width, and the sections of country it separates present very different aspects. That to the north, with a surface gradually rising from the coast, is intersected by low hills clothed with pimento groves, and beautiful valleys watered by numberless streams; while to the south the mountains in many places reach down to the very coast in frowning and inaccessible cliffs, by which shipping is more thoroughly sheltered here than in the ports on the N. coast.
The valleys, though numerous, are of inconsiderable extent, and occupy little more than one tenth of the area of the island. The largest is the plain of Liguanea, 30 m. long by 5 m. wide, extending on the S. side from a few miles E. of Kingston to some distance W. of Old Harbor. Other plains are those of Vere and Mile Gully on the same side, mostly devoted to pasture grounds. To the north and east are the fertile plains of Thomas in the Vale and the Vale of Bath, both covered with sugar plantations. In the west are the plains of Savana-la-Mar, Pedro, and others, chiefly swampy; but those of the northwest are dry and fertile, and bordered by low hills clothed with a luxuriant forest vegetation. Large caverns occur in various localities. The chief rivers are the Black and the Minho, both on the S. side; the former is navigable by small flat-bottomed craft and canoes some 30 m. from its mouth. Numerous other streams descend from the mountains to the sea on all sides, many of which form fine cascades; and not a few are utilized for irrigation and to furnish motive power for a large number of mills. - Limestone, containing numerous shells, is the predominant geological formation of the island, although quartz, rock spar, and micaceous schist occur in several directions.
There are records of the Spaniards having in early times worked silver and copper mines; but mining is at present entirely neglected, although lead is known to exist in large quantities, with perhaps some, iron and antimony ores. - The climate in the low regions is essentially tropical, the average temperature being 72° F., and the maximum 100°; but the sea breeze (called " the doctor ") during the day, and the land breeze at night, temper to a considerable degree the excessive heat. In the elevated districts the thermometer ranges from 45° to 70°, and the atmosphere is mild and agreeable. In few parts of the world does so slight an elevation produce so great a modifying effect upon the heat as in Jamaica; at about 2,500 ft. above the sea, the fevers, dysenteries, and other maladies which usually prevail along the coast are unknown. The rainy seasons, comprising the months of April, May, September, October, and November, are usually preceded by the cessation of the day and night breezes, when the atmosphere becomes oppressive, and almost insupportable for Europeans. Heavy rain falls every day during these seasons, and is often accompanied by terrific thunder and lightning, and violent gusts of wind from the north.
The annual rainfall is about 50 inches, though the average is becoming gradually less as the work of felling the forests advances. Yellow fever, smallpox, cholera, and typhus fever are particularly fatal on the coasts, and in the low grounds generally, the first returning every year. Hurricanes, in the summer months, between the rainy seasons, are of frequent occurrence, and commonly of great violence. Notwithstanding the absence of volcanoes, although there are some signs of their former existence, Jamaica has been visited several times by tremendous earthquakes, one of which, in 1692, extended over the whole island, rending the surface and swallowing up large numbers of people, and engulfing many of the houses of Port Royal with their inmates to a depth of 50 ft. in the sea. The buildings, still standing as they had sunk, were visible in clear weather as late as 1835. The town of Savana-la-Mar was also completely destroyed in 1780 by a hurricane, which swept most of the houses with their occupants into the sea. - The soil is not so fertile as that of most of the other West India islands.
In the north a chalky marl is the prevailing character; while to the west and south the so-called Jamaica brick mould predominates, analogous to the warm yellow mould of Cuba, so favorable to the production of the sugar cane. Wherever this soil exists sugar plantations abound, but both labor and manure are essential to their productiveness. Next in importance to sugar culture is that of pimento, to which extensive tracts are devoted; the coffee yield is on the increase; cacao, arrowroot, indigo, ginger, and turmeric are likewise cultivated, but the last only in small quantities by the negroes for their own use. Maize yields abundant harvests twice and even thrice a year in all parts of the island; and Guinea corn is grown in several districts. Yams, cassava, batatas or sweet potatoes, and other articles designated as " ground fruit," are plentiful. In the higher districts grow cala-vances (a species of pea used by the negroes), and several species of European garden vegetables. The fruits include nearly all the tropical varieties, especially the plantain, which forms an important element of food for the colored classes. Of European fruits, the orange, lime, lemon, and vine were introduced by the Spaniards; but only the last thrives here.
Repeated attempts to introduce cotton culture have proved unsuccessful, owing in part to the uncertainty of the seasons, but chiefly to the scarcity and the enhanced price of labor, which two circumstances render abortive all undertakings requiring the immediate application of a large number of hands. The cinchona tree, acclimated of late years, is now cultivated with much profit; and the same may be said of cinnamon. Among the most precious forest productions are the breadfruit tree, mahogany, cedar, ironwood, greenheart, and other cabinet woods; the principal palms are the cabbage palm and the cocoanut tree; the lignumvitae or guaiacum abounds; the cotton tree attains immense proportions, and is used for making canoes; the bamboo grows wild and is cultivated; fustic, Brazil wood, logwood, and some kindred species are likewise plentiful. Guinea grass here grows with great luxuriance, and most of the grazing farms are covered with it. Numerous herds of cattle and droves of mules are reared; the latter and oxen are exclusively devoted to labor on the farms, for the horses, resembling the other hardy breeds of the West Indies, are mostly kept for saddle and harness use. Sheep and swine are numerous; and the various barnyard fowls and pigeons are very common.
Of the many wild animals which once peopled the Jamaica forests, the agouti and some species of monkey alone remain, with one or two varieties of rats, which are extremely numerous in every part of the island, and destructive of the sugar cane. There are several kinds of lizards, the largest of which, the iguana, is commonly eaten by the lower classes. Alligators abound in every stream. The land crab, here very common, coming down in myriads from the mountains to the seacoast in the autumn months, is esteemed as a delicacy. The wild birds include ringdoves, parrots, and others of brilliant plumage; and the rice bird visits the island every year in pro-, digious numbers. - The chief industries are agriculture and the manufacture of rum, cotton fabrics, candles, and other commodities. The chief trade of the island is with England. The staples of export are sugar, rum, coffee, spices, and dyestuffs. The total value of the imports in 1871 amounted to $6,655,000, and that of the exports to $6,245,000. The sugar exported in 1870 was 30,747 hogsheads, valued at $2,461,-040; rum, 260 puncheons, $1,182,790; coffee, 7,671,564 lbs., $1,189,950; pimento, 5,243,-109 lbs., $145,420. Next in order of importance among the exports stand ginger, rice, cotton manufactures, cocoanuts, cacao, and beeswax.
Honey to the value of over $30,000 was exported in 1870 to the United States and England. The number of vessels entered at all the ports of the island in 1870 was 509 (of which 353 were British), of 213,283 tons; the number of vessels cleared in the same year was 580 (386 being British), of 215,759 tons.-Ja-maica is divided into three counties: Surrey on the east, Cornwall on the west, and Middlesex, occupying the central and by far the largest portion. The capital is now Kingston, having replaced as such the neighboring Spanish Town, with which it is connected by rail. The government is administered by a captain general appointed by the crown, and the legislative power is vested in a house of assembly composed of 47 members. The revenue of the island in 1871 amounted to $2,175,000, and the expenditures to $2,110,000. The cost of the colony to the mother country in 1867-'8 was $724,750, an expense which, however, appears to diminish from year to year. The cost of the military station in 1872-3 amounted to $339,355, the number of troops being usually 2,000, exclusive of the insular militia, which latter is at present not very numerous.
The public debt of the island in 1871 was $388,000. Education has ever been a subject of interest in Jamaica, and the number of public schools is increased almost every year, the expenditure for this object falling little short of $100,000 annually. The number of churches is approximately as follows: Church of England, 95; Wesleyan Methodist, 80; United Methodist free church, 18; Jamaica Baptist union, 60; Jamaica Wesleyan Methodist association, 12; London mission society, 17; Moravian mission, 15; Roman Catholic, 8; United Presbyterian, 30; American mission, 5; Jewish, 1. The number of Episcopalians is about 40,000; Wesleyans, 35,000; Jamaica Baptists, 30,000; the other sects being much inferior in numbers. - Jamaica was discovered on May 3, 1494, by. Columbus, who named it St. Jago or Santiago, in honor of the patron saint of Spain. The first Spanish settlement was made by Juan de Esquibal in 1509; but the colony was captured Jan. 29, 1597, by an English squadron under Sir Anthony Shirley. After having been regained by. the Spaniards, it was again wrested from them by the English under Admiral Penn and Gen. Venables, May 3, 1655; since which time it has belonged to England. The island was placed in 1661 under a governor and a council of 12 appointed by the crown; and Spain, by the treaty of Madrid, July 18, 1670, recognized the right of Great Britain to Jamaica. Four years later the population was augmented by the advent of 1,200 colonists from Surinam. In 1728 the constitution of Jamaica was passed.
In 1745 a conspiracy of 900 slaves for the total destruction of the white inhabitants was discovered in time to prevent slaughter, and the conspirators were punished with much severity. A tribe of the Maroons (fugitive slaves), having been permitted to establish themselves in the northern part, rose in revolt in 1795, but were finally brought under subjection in the following year. In 1807 the slave trade was abolished, and the act for the emancipation of slaves was passed in 1833. After the latter event, the blacks, who had formerly been provided with lodgings and a piece of ground rent free, were compelled to pay rent, the enhanced rate of which as well as the means used for its collection caused great dissatisfaction among the African population, who now grew inattentive and unwilling to cultivate the land of the proprietors. Revolts were of frequent occurrence; and it is estimated that no fewer than 653 sugar and 456 coffee estates were abandoned and the works entirely suspended from 1833 to 1841. Affairs continued in this disturbed and unsettled state till October, 1865, when a general uprising of the natives occurred, in which the most fearful atrocities were perpetrated. The rebellion was suppressed with much bloodshed.
A wealthy mulatto and Baptist preacher named Gordon was tried by court martial for complicity in the revolution, and promptly executed; and numbers were taken in flight, summarily tried and hanged, or shot by the pursuing troops. Governor Eyre was recalled, Dec. 11; and a commission was appointed to inquire into the cause of the disturbance. A charge of murder was brought by an association against the ex-governor and two military officers who had been stationed under him at the time of the outbreak; but the bill of indictment was immediately thrown out by the grand jury. - See " History of Jamaica, from its Discovery to the Present Time," by W. J. Gardner (London, 1873).
Jamaica, a town of Queens co., New York, on Jamaica bay, an inlet on the S. side of Long Island, including the village and county seat of the same name, on the South Side and Long Island railroads, about 10 m. E. of Brooklyn city hall; pop. of the town in 1870, 7,745; of the village,'3,791. The village was incorporated in 1814. It is lighted with gas, has a fire department, and is the residence of many persons doing business in New York. It contains a large town hall, several hotels, two academies, four weekly newspapers (one German), and six churches.