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Jamaican Christian Missions and the Great Slave Rebellion of 1831–2

  • K. R. M. Short (a1)

Late in 1831 a number of Jamaican slaves began a movement of passive resistance in which all work on the island was to be ended on 25 December. By the time that the subsequent chain of events had been played out, perhaps as many as a thousand slaves had died, although the official figures listed 207 killed during the ensuing insurrection and 312 executed in the aftermath. The white colonials immediately turned against the Baptist and Wesleyan missionaries, accusing them of fomenting the rebellion. As a result of this violent and-missionary reaction six Baptist missionaries were jailed, a Wesleyan was tarred, five Wesleyan chapels and ten Baptist chapels were destroyed, while the latter had another four chapels suffering partial destruction.

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page 57 note 1 Reference has been made within the text to Colonial Office Papers in the Public Record Office, London. They are identified as CO with the relevant file number appended. All documents of the Wesleyan and Baptist Missionary Societies are filed separately and in date sequence.

page 58 note 1 Hamburger, J., James Mill and the Art of Revolution, New Haven 1963, vii, 111.

page 58 note 2 Murray, D. J., The West Indies and the Development of Colonial Government, Oxford 1965, 194.

page 59 note 1 Burchell, W. F., Memoir of Thomas Burchell (1849), 237–42.

page 59 note 2 Ibid., 244–8.

page 60 note 1 Buxton, C., Memoir of Sir T. F. Buxton (1849), 306; Burchell, op. cit., 405. Phillippo pointed out (his health was poor as well) that Burchell was so afraid of public platforms that he turned pale and trembled.

page 60 note 2 Ivimey, J., The Utter Extinction of Slavery (1832), 63. John Dyer wrote to the Deputies, 4 October 1832, asking for the £200 immediately. The treasurer did not have the cash and was not able to make arrangements for the sale of consuls until 15 November (Dissenting Deputies, Letter Book, 276 in the Guildhall Library of the City of London). Goderich was considered by D. J. Murray as ‘incompetent’: ‘apparently he did not raise the subject of the Government's slavery policy in the Cabinet for two years after assuming office—not indeed till December 1832’ (op. cit., 189).

page 61 note 1 House of Commons, Reports of Commission on Slavery, XX (1831–2), 243317.

page 61 note 2 Baptist Magazine (1832), 418 ff.; Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine (1832), 676 ff.

page 61 note 3 Baptist Magazine (1833), 2 ff.; 55–66.

page 62 note 1 Ibid., 111, 126, 176 f, 240 f. J. L. Ragatz (in The Fall of the Planter Class in the British Caribbean, 1763–1833 (1928), 446) suggests that the government did not hesitate to suppress the Colonial Church Union since it constituted a potential white revolutionary movement. Henry Bleby (Death Struggles of Slavery, 1853, 300) named eleven magistrates in the parish of St. Anne who were dismissed from office as a result of their part in the insurrection and its aftermath.

page 62 note 2 CO, 137/187.

page 63 note 1 Ibid., 147, 116, 176 f.

page 63 note 2 General Body of Dissenting Ministers, Minutes, 25 April 1833, 271–8 in Dr. Williams's Library, London.

page 63 note 3 Pritchard, G., Memoir of William Newman, D.D. (1837), 390.

page 64 note 1 Baptist Magazine (1833), 280, 300, 372.

page 64 note 2 Phillippo, MS. Memoir, 170. The fourteen years is a reference to an earlier draft of the bill which was subsequently lowered before passage. This memoir, in the Archives of the Baptist Missionary Society, preserves some Fascinating insights into this period.

page 64 note 5 Baptist Magazine (1833), 343–8.

page 65 note 1 Ibid., 431 443, f., 453, 473, 615, 618; Pritchard, G., Memoir of Joseph Ivimey (1835), 286 ff. The items of the foundation stone were later recovered and are on display in the Visitors' Lounge of the Baptist Church House.

page 66 note 1 Goderich did not go willingly in this shuffle within the government and Howick subsequently followed him out of the department. See Mathieson, W. L., British Slavery and Its Abolition, 1823–1838 (1926), 229; Hinton, J. H., Memoir of William Knibb (1847), 180 f. Hinton also records Eustace Carey's opinion of Knibb's speaking: ‘His manner was not graceful … nor were his words tastefully selected, or always even accurately combined’ (166 f). There was, however, no disputing his ability at debate or his general effectiveness.

page 66 note 2 CO, 137/195. 24 October 1834. Dyer recommends Alexander Oppenheim to a Stipendiary Magistracy under the Apprenticeship Act. He was a local newspaper editor who supported emancipation. The communications of the Deputies (CO, 137/195) are dated 5 and 13 November 1832.

page 68 note 1 CO, 137/190.

page 69 note 1 Letter dated 23 May 1834 (CO, 137/195). It was not until 1838 that the right of dissenters to perform marriages was confirmed by law. In the above instance the reference was to particular provisions in the Anti-Slavery Act which Stephen authored.

page 69 note 2 Baptist Magazine (1834), 223; Dissenting Deputies, Letter Booh, 321 (dated 27 June 1833); Minutes, vii, 179 (26 June 1833).

page 70 note 1 Patriot (13 August 1834); Baptist Magazine (1834), Supplement, 315–18. On 20 June (CO, 137/195) Dyer sent the proposed advertisement to the Colonial Office for approval. The notice set forth the government's obligations regarding the matching funds.

page 71 note 1 The Rippengille designed medal represented a freed slave and his family. The model for the slave was a Robert Smith who had been an inquirer of Phillippo's at Spanishtown and was later baptised by Ivimey at Eagle St. It is a most fascinating story which is partially retold in E. B. Underhill's Memoir of the Rev. J. M. Phillippo (1881), 107 f.

page 72 note 1 Much of the difficulty that the societies found in dealing with the Colonial Office can be explained by D.J. Murray's (The West Inthes, 214) characterisation of the Stanley administration: ‘Papers accumulated, many dispatches remained unanswered, over others there was prolonged delay; colonial affairs were left to drift with only spasmodic attempts at holding to a course’.

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