SLAVES IN JAMAICA REFUSE TO WORK FOR THEIR BRITISH SLAVE MASTERS.
27 December 1831 – a widespread slave strike occurred in the British administered island of Jamaica. A severe drought during the summer had brought increased hardship for the slave population which was compounded by the ruthlessness of the plantation owners, who insisted on their legal right to flog both men and women slaves. A decision was also taken by the Jamaican Assembly to cut the Christmas holiday from three days to two.
While the official Baptist Church preached a message of passivity and patience, the Native Baptist Church, led by deacon Samuel Sharpe, started to preach a message of resistance. He planned a general strike with his followers swearing on the Bible that they would not return to work after Christmas unless they were granted their freedom. They had even prepared an army to defend themselves but had made no plans to overthrow the British backed administration.
British and Jamaican newspapers expressed surprise that the rebels had not attempted a more violent assault on the white population and refused to accept that such an intelligently led strike could have been planned by the slaves themselves. The Morning Post explained that “throughout the accounts we do not find that the lives of the white inhabitants were at all an object of sacrifice. The destruction of property alone appears to have been the intention of the rebels, who’s minds, it is said, had been led astray by individuals possessing much more knowledge than negroes in general can be possessed of.”(1)
Nevertheless the British dealt with the threat to their authority ruthlessly. Mercenaries and militia killed 201 slaves during the military operations to crush the revolt, according to the official figures submitted by just some of the districts affected by the insurrection. Then, in the following months, at least 326 slaves were executed and hundreds more flogged so severely that many of them died from their injuries. The revolt leader Samuel Sharpe was hanged on 23 May 1832.
DEATH PENALTY FOR ANYONE FOUND WITH ARMS OR WEARING A UNIFORM
In a desperate attempt to crush the anti-British insurgency in Ireland, general Macready issued a proclamation that as from 27 December 1920 “death will be the penalty of those found in authorised possession of arms, ammunition and explosives, or wearing uniform without authority.”(2)
- The Morning Post, 21 February 1832, p4
- Quoted in “Cork City after the fire,” The Yorkshire Post, 14 December 1920, p7