British West Indies
As I noted in the previous article, the British colonies in the Caribbean failed to become settler societies, unlike the plantation societies on the North American mainland, primarily because the tropical climate and diseases were too unhealthy for Whites.
The failure of White settlement was not due to lack of trying:
“The peculiar transience of British society in the Caribbean can be attributed in part to demographic failure. The white population was not sustained by natural increase, unlike the mainland colonies where the white population was doubling every twenty-five years after 1700. Deaths exceeded births in the Caribbean. The migration of a little under half a million Europeans to the British Caribbean was “roughly comparable” to that of British North America before the American Revolution. Yet there were fewer than fifty thousand whites in the British Caribbean, compared to two million in North America, in 1776.
The demographic failure of white society in the islands was linked to high mortality rates: “The low life expectancy of white men in the tropics goes far to explain the large numbers of absentee proprietors” and the small size of the white population. Jamaica was “considered the most unhealthy [place] … in the world.” Over one-third of white immigrants died within three years of arriving in the Caribbean. A posting in the islands consequently occasioned sudden rises in the military sick lists and even mutinies in the armies in Britain. Being stationed in Jamaica became a form of punishment. The danger of sudden death was a constant topic of conversation among passengers on a voyage to the West Indies in 1775. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur wrote of West Indians who at the age of thirty were “loaded with the infirmities of old age” and losing the “abilities of enjoying the comforts of life at a time when we northern men just begin to taste the fruits of our labor and prudence.” The grim prospect of a premature death was a powerful deterrent to living in the Caribbean.”
Note: The above excerpt comes from Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy’s An Empire Divided: The American Revolution in the British Caribbean.