National Geographic : 1922 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE apply to British subjects beyond the British Isles. There are some small parish dues which the land-owners pay, but they are insignificant. Nowhere in the world, I venture to think, are the taxes lighter than in the islands. Under these circumstances, with the government as it is and the control where it is, we are not likely to see a change. The people one meets there as a visitor are agreeable ladies and gentlemen, of cultivation and refinement. They keep abreast of the times, but they are content with what they have. Trollope, who visited the islands in 1858, was not very gracious to them, but one thing he said of them has much truth in it: "To live and die would seem to be enough for them; to live and die as their fathers and mothers did before them, in the same houses, using the same furniture, nurtured on the same food, and enjoying the same immunity from the dangers of excitement." The beauty of the island scenery and its unique character need but a word. The prevailing background in every land scape is the green Bermudian cedar, or juniper tree, and dotted in this general background are the white houses of the cities and the country. The beautiful roads add to the daz zling white of the picture. They are made of coral rock, which packs and cements itself. Mark Twain said that, after thinking over what it reminded him of, he hit upon exactly the right descrip tion of its color and effect when he called it icing on a cake. The roads are not wide enough and the curves are too sudden for automobiles. The chief objection to them is their slip ping character after the frequent rains. Horses frequently fall on a down grade. The cities, Hamilton and St. George, are not large, and the population is well distributed through the islands. In most countries the population of I,ooo to a square mile is thought to be fairly con centrated, and that we have here. In the early days the colonists lived in houses built of cedar. Now they live in houses built of coral rock. It is usually cut on the premises. As Howell says: "What will be said to you when you tell that in the Summer Islands one has but to saw a hole in his back yard and take out a house of creamy sandstone and set it up and go to living in it?" There are two things in the islands that determine much of social economy: One is the presence of this building ma terial, which can be sawed out with a hand-saw and after some exposure is ready for use (see illustration, page 8), and the other is the total absence of wells. It is necessary to get all drinking water from the clouds, and that, as a measure of health, requires that every roof from which the water is to be derived should be kept clean by whitewash. The palace of the rich man and the hovel of the poor man are equally white, equally substantial looking, and equally clean; and this circumstance furnishes singular superficial evidence of the fairly equal distribution of wealth and comfort in this little community. LESSONS IN THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS From the happiness that seems to pre vail, from the philosophic contentment with which the people of these islands look out upon the rest of the world, we may derive many lessons with respect to our pursuit of happiness, which the Dec laration of Independence postulates as one of our rights. Notwithstanding the close business re lations between the United States and the people of Bermuda, they are English in their traditions, their descent, and their sympathies. They were the center of the blockade-running during the Civil War, and their prominent people made a great deal of money out of that industry; and while in the result they lost much of what they had gained, their attitude of mind continues to be one of attachment toward the Mother Country. It fits into all their traditions, and, as I have indicated, tra ditions with them are as binding as steel. The suggestion, therefore, that has been made by some of our public men, that we might buy the West Indian pos sessions of Great Britain, including Ber muda, in part settlement of the war debt which Great Britain owes us, has been made without knowing at all the temper and feeling of Bermudians in respect to such a severance. Great Britain would not think of giv ing up the islands, and the Bermudians would not think of being given up.