John Knox House and the legacies of slavery

Guest Blog by: R. J. Morris[1]

John Knox House 1843‘John Knox House’ stands in the lower part of Edinburgh’s High Street near to the old town-gate, the Netherbow. It is picturesque in the true meaning of the word. Tourists and citizens often stand across the street with their cameras. As a result of an unlikely alliance between the Free Church of Scotland and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, this sixteenth-century merchant’s house survived attempts to demolish it in the 1840s. Despite lack of evidence, it was widely believed that Knox, founder of Protestant Scotland, had spent his final years in the house. For many it was holy ground. None the less, the survival of the house was to be both threatened and assisted by a complex web of the legacies of slavery.

The Free Church of Scotland resulting from the Disruption of the Kirk in 1843 was no ordinary dissenting church. The ambition was to replace the Church of Scotland as the national church, independent of the state. Christ was the head of the church not the Pope nor the Sovereign. Such an ambition required huge amounts of money for churches, manses and schools. Fund raising involved a trip to North America where large sums were raised including a substantial amount from the slave states of the southern USA where the Presbyterian Church was strong.

At this point Frederick Douglass arrived on the scene. A skilled and forceful campaigner, he formed an alliance with a variety of radical and anti-slavery groups in Scotland and promptly challenged the Free Church with the slogan ‘send back the money’.[2] Meetings were held, doggerel verse was printed, and children shouted slogans in the street. Douglass knew how to hit the Scots; how could those who had experienced the Highland clearances support slavery; did they know teaching black people to read the Bible was a crime in the slave states?

The Free Church leadership was clearly uncomfortable. Motions in the General Assembly were remitted to committee and deferred for future consideration. The Free Church was supremely confident of its own virtue but insecure regarding its future and hence often regarded critics of the Free Church as dangerous enemies of the true faith. Many concluded that the anti-slavery movement was the work of Satan.

It was time to hit back. Henry Clarke Wright and George Thompson, the British anti-slavery campaigners, had given lectures in Rose Street Chapel, belonging to the rival Secession Church. The Free Church defenders claimed that the Rose Street Missionary Society had accepted £500 from the owners of the Goshen Estate in Jamaica, owners who had just ‘pocketed their share of the TWENTY MILLIONS – ‘the price of blood’– with which Great Britain purchased the freedom of the whole slaves of the West Indies.[3]  They received over £7,000 in compensation for 428 enslaved people. Andrew Fyfe, Secretary of the Rose Street Missionary Society replied, no money went to Rose Street, they just sent the preacher. Still, Rose Street had given its pulpit to those who attacked the Free Church. This was not forgotten.

The 1820 Return of the enslaved people living on Alexander Aikman's Birnam Wood Estate in Jamaica.The Independent Church in Argyle Square was another target. The initial claim was that the Rev. John Aikman had built the church with money inherited from his slave owning father. In fact, it turned out that father was ‘a respectable tradesman’ from Bo’ness just west of Edinburgh on the Forth. It was brother Alexander, King’s printer in Jamaica who owned enslaved people. He indeed got £6,940 for 354 enslaved people under the 1833 emancipation act. Some of these people were employed in his printing works. Brother William was a bookseller who had two enslaved people, Harry and Neddy, employed as domestic servants. John, who had one enslaved person employed as a stable boy, inherited William’s wealth. On William’s death, these three were all granted their freedom and John returned to Edinburgh.[4] The Free Church was satisfied that even if John’s direct involvement with slaveholding had been small, he had ‘made his money by trading with slaveholders’ and thus money had gone ‘from the foul hands of the slaver-dealer’ to finance the building of Argyle Square Chapel. Insult was added when Edinburgh Corporation decided to give the freedom of the city to George Thompson, seasoned radical agitator, anti-slavery campaigner and, for the Free Church, worst of all, a Sabbath breaker.

Frederick Douglass and James Buffum looked on.[5] It was a violent and bitter contest for public virtue fought with all the weapons of civil society, the public meeting, the celebrity visitors, reports and editorials in the newspapers, pamphlets and letters to the newspapers.[6]  Scotland had a sustained and complex relationship with the Atlantic slave economies, often involving the trading activities of people like William Aikman as much as direct ownership. It was inevitable that political campaigns around slavery issues would be tense as there were few groups, political, religious or social who did not have some experience or history of gain. The Disruption meant that a key and dynamic group in Scotland failed to participate with any clarity but saw the primary issues as the need to defend their church and faith. The moral and religious claims of the Free Church were not negotiable.

Strangely and significantly no-one mentioned the major inputs of compensation to the Free Church leadership, although this must have been known at least to the parliamentarians involved. The Marquis of Breadalbane shared £6,630 for the 379 enslaved people of the Hope Estate in Jamaica; Francis Brown Douglas, advocate, received almost £3,700 for one estate in St Vincent and a share of the compensation for a second.

John Knox House modernThe legacies of slavery fed a growing intra-protestant sectarian bitterness. The alliance to save John Knox House was threatened and only stuck back together by the skilled diplomacy of Daniel Wilson, the young secretary of the Antiquaries.

Scotland’s links with slavery and the slave economies are increasingly acknowledged.[7] Jamaica Street is quietly hidden in the New Town of Edinburgh. The ‘stooshie’[8] around John Knox House was a reminder of how diverse and diffuse were the links with slavery and how threatening such links could be to social cohesion in situations already divided by sectarianism, party politics and social class. Memories of slavery were not just a threat to Scotland’s sense of virtue but a barrier to social co-operation. Both dimensions account for the ‘silences’ that obscure this history.[9]

[1] We are very grateful to R. J. Morris for this blog. He is Emeritus Professor of Economic and Social History, University of Edinburgh. He was also a member of the Advisory Panel of phase 1 of the LBS project.

[2] Iain Whyte,  Send Back the Money! The Free Church of Scotland and American Slavery (Edinburgh 2012).

[3] The Witness, 9 May 1846.

[4]  Letter from M. and Jas. Aikman, The Witness, 9 May 1846.

[5]  The Witness, 10 June 1846.

[6]  It was claimed that the pamphlet, The Free Church and her Accusers on the matter of American Slavery: being a letter to Mr. George Thompson regarding his recent appearances in this City, signed a Free Churchman (Edinburgh, 1846), [NLS 3.2744(5)] sold over 6,000 copies in the first weeks of June 1846. The Witness, 12 May 1846.

[7] James Robertson, Joseph Knight (London, 2004) is a novel but gives an idea of Scotland’s complex relationship with slavery. Paxton House in the Borders, almost totally financed by the slave economy, has developed thoughtful links with the High Commissioner for Grenada, Berwickshire News, 8 December 2014.

[8] There is no decent English equivalent of this Scots word but you can work it out from the context.

[9] John Knox House has re-invented itself as the ‘Story Telling Centre’, a project active in the re-making of Scottish culture as an open and creative environment which the historical John Knox might have regarded with astonishment.

Conferences at Wellesley College and Yale

By: Nick Draper

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in two conferences in the US, Slavery, Compensation, Reparations at Wellesley (24th October) and Visualising Slavery & British Culture in the Eighteenth Century at Yale (7th-8th November).

The Wellesley event was organised through the Africana Studies department and was primarily student-led, incorporating sessions with small groups of Selwyn Cudjoe’s undergraduates as well as the formal presentations of the public conference itself. I spoke alongside Eric Graham of Edinburgh and Will Pettigrew of Kent in linked papers on British slavery, while Kwadwo Osei-Nyame of SOAS and John Torpey of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at CUNY presented contrasting points of view on reparations for the African diaspora and for African-Americans. The resulting free-for-all was chaired by Louis Lee Sing, the immediately past Mayor of Port of Spain, Trinidad: he brought home the difference in quality and inclusiveness made by a chairman with political skills, in contrast to the customary performance of this role by the most senior academic at hand. Clearly the campaign for reparations for slavery has a long history in all four continents, since the era of slavery itself, but the political salience of the issue has fluctuated and its geographic centre has shifted over time. The sense I took away both from Wellesley and from a couple of truly off-hand comments at Yale was that in the US, where the reparations discussion was centred in the 1990s and early 2000s, the issue has become much less salient in the past decade, despite the continuing efforts of campaigners. By contrast, the CARICOM initiative has brought reparations for slavery formally onto the table for the first time in Europe and to an extent in West Africa, posing a challenge currently not only to European governments but also to the pre-existing reparations movements in the diaspora in Europe.

The Yale conference was organised at the Yale Center for British Art by the YCBA and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance & Abolition, and marked the opening of the Figures of Empire: slavery and portraiture in 18th century Atlantic Britain exhibition at the YCBA, curated by two PhD candidates, Meredith Gamer and Esther Chadwick, together with Cyra Levenson of the YCBA. I was privileged to speak alongside Saidiya Hartman of Columbia and Roxann Wheeler of Ohio State in a panel on ‘Slavery and the Archive’. The conference was recorded and will, I understand, shortly be available in its entirety online, so I won’t try to summarise the content of the six panels and 18 presentations here. The two over-arching themes appeared to me to be: (1) the question of method, i.e. how can different types of history (cultural, political, economic, social, ‘institutional’) be deployed in combination rather than in competition to aid the recovery of the past in the context of slavery, and what role can the ‘imagined archive’ play in that process; and (2) the extent to which the structures of museums and universities themselves continue to reproduce the same power-relations that gave rise to slavery (it was contended) in the first place. This second issue is a difficult one: members of the audience pushed back on the implied conflation of expertise and elitism, but also sensed the force of the argument (and were perhaps cautious in responding to it publicly).

Both conferences underlined the resource base of the elite US universities but also the intensity of engagement by the undergraduate and postgraduate bodies in grasping the opportunities that such a resource base offers them. I’m grateful to the organisers of both for the chance to present on the LBS project to audiences we would not ordinarily reach. In combination, the two allowed me to meet academic and other professional colleagues (rather perversely, from Britain as well as from the US) who have already provided information and suggestions for the project and with whom in some cases there is the basis for fruitful formal and concrete collaboration in future.

Searching for the Dawkins Family’s Physical Legacies in Jamaica

By: James Dawkins

One of the key avenues of research currently being pursued by the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project is the physical footprints left behind by slave-owners. In the case of the Dawkins family one of the most conspicuous of these are the ruins of their former sugar estates. For them and other slave-owning dynasties, plantations and enslaved labour were critical sources of production which were harnessed for the manufacture of sugar and rum that was shipped and sold in Britain.[1] The revenue generated from the Dawkins’ Jamaican holdings became the family’s primary stream of revenue up until the abolition of slavery in 1833.[2] As part of my investigation into the physical legacies, I undertook 3 months of field research in Jamaica on the Dawkins family and their historical link with the island through slavery. This included visiting sugar work ruins on four of the estates that they possessed and a trip to St. Paul’s Anglican Church where the remains of three family members were reinterred after their estates were sold off in the early 1900s.

Between 1665 and 1833 the Dawkins family acquired a total of 17 plantations. The majority of these were located in the parish of Clarendon in Jamaica and covered over 25,000 acres of land.[3] Their seven most productive estates were Friendship, Old Plantation, Parnassus, Suttons, Windsor, Caymanas and Tredways; the latter two were situated in the adjoining parishes of St. Catherine and St. Thomas-in-the-Vale respectively. I am currently researching the acquisition, development, management, productivity and labour organisation across the family’s estates and so I have spent much of my time examining the crop accounts, financial indexes, maps, land surveys, and registers of enslaved peoples to help me understand the family’s activities in this respect. To get a better understanding of the scale and workings of these estates, I took a day-trip, arranged by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, to Caymanas, Parnassus, Suttons, and Friendship.Locations of the sugar estates visited

Great House Ruins, Caymanas Plantation, St. CatherineSetting off at 6am in the morning my first stop was at Caymanas which lies halfway between Kingston and Spanish Town. It is still used for the cultivation of sugar cane today and has been merged with several other estates to form one large plantation. Not much is left in terms of the sugar factory, living quarters or other outhouses such as stables, with the only ruin that I could see being the large set of steps in photo 1. A resident informed me that the staircase formed part of the main entrance to the overseer’s house which disintegrated after a severe storm many years ago. I have seen an old photo of this residence, which was taken in 1881, and the ruins match up with the original structure as shown in the old photo partially confirming the ruins as the site of the overseer’s house.

Steps Ruins, Parnassus Plantation, ClarendonThe next stop was Parnassus plantation which is located approximately 45 miles South West of Caymanas in the parish of Clarendon. The estate lies in the lower reaches of the district on the flood plain of the River Minho and is presently used for the cultivation of sugar cane.[4] A labourer I met said that after the abolition of slavery, the estate converted to banana farming and then resumed producing sugar cane. In terms of physical remnants, the only ruins that I encountered were a series of concrete steps surrounded by outlying rubble. These remains were situated on top of a hill about 30 metres above the surrounding cane fields. It is difficult to determine which part of the estate they belonged to, possibly the great house which is likely to have been strategically situated to provide the overseer/slave-owner with a clear view of the estate and the activities taking place on it. According to a colour map of the estate, composed by the surveyor James Craddock in 1758, Parnassus contained several mills which were reliant upon wind, water and animal power.[5] The plantation was connected another estate possessed by the Dawkins’ called Sandy Gully which I never visited as there were no reported ruins on there.

Waterwheel House, Suttons Suttons Plantation, ClarendonUpon leaving Parnassus I headed north to Suttons which lies just west of Chapelton and around 2 miles North East of the Lucky Valley plantation once owned by Edward Long.[6] The River Minho runs along the boundary of the estate and a large aqueduct was built to transport the water from the river down to the large wheel that no longer exists at the sugar factory which is situated roughly 300 metres from the river. The crop accounts at the Jamaica Archives show Suttons to be the second most productive sugar estate possessed by the Dawkins’ with an average output of 211 hogsheads of sugar and 89 puncheons of rum per annum between 1763 and 1800.[7] The most productive was Old Plantation which produced an average of 244 hogsheads and 95 puncheons per year.[8] Sutton’s boiling house still exists along with three concrete chassis which held the large copper pans that were used to heat the juice extracted from the sugar cane. Rays of sunlight shone through the canopy of banana and cocoa trees which were growing throughout the ruins along with the vines which have embedded themselves amongst the cracks and crevices of the walls. I walked around the perimeter of the sugar works which took about 15 minutes marvelling at the extensive area it covered and its great height. This experience in particular has encourage me to consider the extent to which the architecture, productive capacity, labour organisation and management of Caribbean sugar factories acted as a blue print for the factories that were established during Britain’s industrialisation.[9]

Holding Tank, Friendship Plantation, ClarendonThe final estate that I visited was Friendship. This is estate is roughly 8.5 miles north-west of Suttons and 7 miles west of Trout Hall, another estate possessed by the Dawkins’, which has become prominent for its oranges. Similarly to Caymanas and Parnassus, the ruins at Friendship are few and far between. Much of the estate is now overgrown with all sorts of vegetation and the only remaining ruins that I managed to locate were an unmarked grave and a rectangular structure which looked like a holding tank. There is an old dam approximately 2 miles uphill from the estate which originally fed water into an aqueduct that transported it downhill to the mills at the estate, as shown in Richard Craddock’s 1758 plan of the Friendship estate.[10]

St. Paul's Anglican Church, Chapelton, ClarendonAn entry for the slave-owner James Dawkins (1722-1757) in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that he, his father, Henry (d.1744), and mother, Elizabeth (nee Pennant) (d.1757), were initially buried at a family estate called Old Plantation and that their remains were moved and reinterred at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Chapelton in 1922 when the estate was sold off.[11] I was interested to know whether or not the graves were still there and stopped off at the church to see if I could find them. It was locked up when I arrived and just as I was about to turn back I spotted the caretaker, Mr Abner Watson, who kindly allowed me to enter the burial grounds to search for the graves. Unable to find them after a meticulous scan I was ready to leave when Mr Watson said that there were a few people buried inside the church. Kindly agreeing to give me entry, he unlocked the door, walked up the central aisle and pulled back the long dusty brown carpet that ran the full length of the aisle revealing the graves of Henry, Elizabeth and James Dawkins. I was surprised to see them there and later realised that their conspicuous position was symbolic of their social prominence in Clarendon. The church is said to have been constructed in 1666 as a chapel-of-ease, making it more convenient for the local planters to worship as opposed to travelling down to the main parish church at Vere which was some distance away.[12] Several individuals of high social standing, who died in the early 1700s and could have been other slave-owners, are buried directly beside the exterior walls of the church.The Grave of James Dawkins, St. Paul's Anglican Church, Chapelton, Clarendon

This was a revealing trip that brought some of the physical legacies left behind by the Dawkins family to life. The intactness of the plantation ruins, particularly those at Suttons, are tangible evidence of the large scale sugar production which took place across Jamaica during the period of slavery and the extensive labour force needed to operationalise estates of this size. Moreover, the tombstones and their conspicuous location inside the church are an example of the self-commemorative monuments erected by slave-owning families who wanted to be remembered within their respective communities.

I had a fascinating day and am very grateful to Ms Audene Brooks and her colleagues at the Jamaica National Heritage Trust for organising and making this trip possible. I am also thankful to Mr Watson, Mr Laurel Robinson and all of the residents who provided me with directions to, and knowledge on, the whereabouts and history of the plantation ruins and Dawkins family monuments. Thank you.

[1] Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1994)

[2] MS.181A, Accounts Current with Drake and Long, (volumes 1 and 2), (Kingston: National Library of Jamaica)

[3] MS.12436, Long. E., Long Papers (A List of Landholders in Jamaica, Together with the Quantity of Acres of Land Each One Possesses & the Quantity Supposed to be Occupied & Planted), (London: British Library, C.1750)

[4] B. W. Higman, Jamaica Surveyed: Plantation Maps and Plans of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, (Kingston: University of the West Indies Press, 2001), p.95-96

[5] Ibid, p.95

[6] Ibid, p.84-91

[7] 1B/11/, Accounts Produce or Crop Accounts, 1740-1928, (Spanish Town: Jamaica Archives); Hogsheads and puncheons are types of casks used for the transportation of consumable foods and liquid goods respectively.

[8] Ibid

[9] For more information see: Sidney W. Mintz. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History, (New York: Penguin Books, 1986), p.50-52

[10] B. W. Higman, Jamaica Surveyed, p.92

[11] M. St. John Parker, ‘James Dawkins (1722-1757)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)

[12] George Henry, ‘St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Chapelton’, The Jamaica Star Online, (Kingston: Jamaica Star, 2006); Christopher Serju, ‘How Clarendon’s First Capital Got Its Name’, The Gleaner, (Kingston: The Gleaner, 2012)

Global Migrations Conference in Edinburgh

By: Nick Draper

On Friday 4th and Saturday 5th July I was in Edinburgh at the Global Migrations of the Scottish People since c. 1600 conference, organised by the Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies, based at the University of Edinburgh.  The conference was timed to coincide with Homecoming 2014, a year-long programme of events aimed primarily at people overseas of Scottish descent that includes under its umbrella the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. In turn, Homecoming 2014 (the last such event was in 2009) coincides with the September referendum on independence for Scotland, so that the questions of Scottish nationalism and identity raised in the conference have particular resonance not only for Scotland but for the rest of the United Kingdom. The conference itself, sponsored by the Scottish Government and held at the National Museum of Scotland, presented a political balance in its opening by Gordon Brown and its welcome address from the Scottish Government by Humza Yousaf, Minister for External Affairs and International Development.

I gave a brief paper on the work of LBS and specifically the prominent place of Scottish slave-owners in the compensation records, as part of a panel on ‘Scotland and Black Slavery’ chaired by Phil Morgan of Johns Hopkins. My fellow-speakers were David Alston, whose meticulous work on Highlander Scots in Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice is available on the Slaves and Highlanders website, and Eric Graham, an associate of the LBS project, who spoke on Burns & the Sugar Plantocracy of Ayrshire, the title of his recently republished book detailing an intense regional nexus of slavery connections. The panel represented part of the effort underway to re-inscribe colonial slavery into the history of Scotland and its diaspora, an effort in parallel to our own work on Britain & Ireland as a whole and which seeks to complicate the dominant narrative of Scots as the historic objects of English colonisation.

I was not able to stay for the conference sessions on Sunday 6th, but in the time I was there I was struck by the impossibility of imagining at present an equivalent conference on Global Migrations of the English People, or indeed an English celebration equivalent to Homecoming 2014. English nationalism is not (yet) the object of academic enquiry, nor is it a respectable phenomenon in popular culture: but the effortless appropriation of British history by the English and the routine elision of the two could not survive the break-up of the United Kingdom, one result of which would surely be a need to discover a specific English history and English identity not as parochial and limited but as global and inclusive (difficult though that will be). I was also struck by an apparent gender division: based on the conference panels, the writing in Scotland of the history of the Scottish people appears to be a masculine preserve, whereas the new imperial history of Scotland is being undertaken by distinguished female academics in universities not in Scotland but in the former colonies themselves.


Some Thoughts On My Favourite History Blogs

By: Rachel Lang

Last Tuesday I took four 17-year-old work experience students to Kenwood House in Hampstead, North London. Kenwood was the home of Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761–1804), the great-niece of the Chief Justice William Murray, Lord Mansfield (1709-1793); she was the daughter of his nephew Sir John Lindsay and an African woman enslaved in the West Indies named Maria Belle. Tomorrow, I’m taking the same students to see the film Belle, Hollywood’s take on the story of her life. I thought it would be interesting to compare the film with the history as it actually happened – but then I discovered Miranda Kaufmann’s blog on this very subject and realised it has been covered much better elsewhere. This got me thinking about a wide range of other blogs which I’ve also read with great enjoyment, so I thought I would share with you my favourite sites. This is a blog post about other blogs!

Miranda Kaufmann  is a historian of the African presence in Tudor and Stuart England. Her blog often describes her reaction to the portrayal of Black history in the mainstream media and in museums. For example, listening to an interview with Onyeka on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in December last year led to a post about ‘Egyptians’ in Tudor England. I like blogs which challenge other people’s points of view, so I especially enjoyed her post ‘Presenting the Black Past – How History Must Change the Media’.I also recommend the blog site ‘Black Africans in Renaissance Europe’ for discussions about the representation of Black people in medieval and early modern paintings and for the way this art is presented in galleries.

Many museums and archives have their own blogs and a large number of guest bloggers make these sites invaluable for the range and unpredictability of the subjects they cover. Perhaps one of the best and most readableis the blog of The National Archives in London. I particularly liked a post, ‘Calling All A Level History Teachers’, which gives an overview of the collections of documents available online covering major developments from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. This led me to take a look at the trial documents of Charles I, available on their Civil War website. One joy of reading blogs is that one topic leads you to another link and so on until you’ve found something fascinating which is far from your own specialised subject.

The National Archives and Records Administration in Washington hosts a blog site called Rediscovering Black History; most of these posts are about twentieth century America but there are also discussions of immigration and emancipation which are useful for historians of the Caribbean. Browsing this site I found a post ‘Federal Records Documenting Caribbean Immigrants: 1890-1930’  which led me to an article in Prologue magazine entitled Ancestors from the West Indies. Downloadable as a pdf, it gives invaluable information on American sources for West Indian immigration.

Nantes History MuseumThe Black Presence in Britain  has a great guest blog site. I recently read a post here on ‘Somali Seafarers in Wales’, which was not something I expected to be able to find out about. Their section on ‘Black People in Europe’ includes an article by Rovianne Matovu about the Slavery trail at Nantes Museum in North-western France.

Finally, I want to mention three blogs written by people researching their own family histories. If you are interested in eighteenth century connections between Britain and Jamaica then it’s worth exploring Anne Powers’ site ‘A Parcel of Ribbons’ in detail. Dorothy Kew’s site ‘My Jamaican Family’ includes an interesting series about her upbringing in Jamaica in the early to mid-twentieth century. And although it hasn’t been updated for a while, I did enjoy the series of blog posts on the ‘Finding Family’ website both for their historical details and the immediacy of the author’s reactions to her discoveries. Happy reading!

Three Men in a Canoe: Researching Caribbean Family History

Guest Blog by: Abigail Bernard[1]

My ancestors were enslaved on the Mount Pleasant Estate in Carriacou, Grenada. Whilst conducting research about them, I consulted three separate on-line resources that, when connected together, were able to give me an insight into the lives of three men who worked on the same estate.

The first resource I came across was The Third Report of the Commissioner of Inquiry into the Administration of Civil and Criminal Justice in the West Indies, dated 5 October 1826.[2] This was written by Sir Fortunatus Dwarris and presented to the House of Commons. Although the main report does not mention Grenada, the appendix includes a section on the island and deals with complaints by enslaved people to Grenada’s Guardians of Slaves.

Map of Grenada

The report reveals that three enslaved men named Gregware, Antoine and Dan, of the Mount Pleasant Estate in Carriacou, stole a canoe and sailed to mainland Grenada in September 1821.  They presented themselves to the Governor complaining of ill treatment and not receiving enough food allowance. Dan McKellar, David Logan and James Wilson, Guardians of Carriacou, denied these allegations. In a letter dated 24 September 1821 they said “we declare that none of these slaves, or any other from that property came to us with any complaint whatever; if they had we would have done our duty.”[3]  They also stated “we have been acquainted with the slaves of Mr [Thomas] Tarleton’s estate for a number of years and know them to be the most turbulent set of slaves in the island.” [4]

Depositions from Francis Preston, Cooper and Overseer and George McNab, Head Overseer dated 22 September 1821 and Thomas Davis, Manager dated 26 September 1821 supported the Guardian’s argument that no ill treatment had taken place and that there was no lack of food provisions.[5]

Francis Preston stated that he “found Gregware deficient in duty and deserving of punishment” and “Antoine to be of a most turbulent disposition, and the ringleader of frequent disturbances.”  He explained that on account of Antoine being absent from work, “he received a punishment not exceeding twelve lashes.” [6]

The names of Antoine and Gregware sounded familiar to me. Upon reviewing the Slave Register of Grenada for 1821, I saw that their names were listed under the decrease table as being sent to Trinidad.[7]  Dan, the third escapee, remained on the Mount Pleasant estate as the Guardians stated “he had no complaint and was prevailed on by the other two to accompany them.”[8]  At the time of being banished to Trinidad, Antoine was recorded as being aged about 34 and Gregware was said to be 38.[9] The names of their family members they left behind are unknown.

Mount Pleasant Estate Decrease, Grenada Slave Register 1821

Further searches of Trinidad slave registers on were made to find out where they were sent. There were very good matches for them in the slave registers of 1822 and 1825, in two men named Antoine Logan and Gregware Todd at the estate of Alexander McMillan.[10] The ages recorded for these men in 1822 were younger than those found in the Grenada return of 1821; They were listed as being 28 and 32 years old respectively. Additionally, they were listed as being born on the island of St Vincent, not in Carriacou. This makes me wonder: How much was McMillan aware of their past?

Return of Alexander McMillan,Trinidad Slave Register 1822

The LBS database gives useful background information about claims associated with the estates of Sir Fortunatus Dwarris, Alexander McMillan, and Thomas Tarleton. Sir Fortunatus Dwarris, the author of the Third Report, owned enslaved people on the Golden Grove Estate in St. George, Jamaica.  He and Sarah Dwarris shared the compensation claim of £3,277 18s 3d for 175 enslaved people.3  Interestingly, two years after writing the Third Report, Sir Fortunatus wrote a pamphlet in which he argued for the improvement of the conditions of enslaved people and the gradual abolition of slavery.[11]

Two of the slave-owners, Thomas Tarleton of Carriacou and Alexander McMillan of Trinidad, were both deceased by the time claims were made in 1836 and 1838 for compensation of the enslaved people on their estates.  Mary McMillan of Scotland made a claim for the 31 enslaved people who were on Alexander McMillan’s estate at emancipation and who were valued at £1,785 3s 2d.  Meanwhile, Thomas Tarleton’s son, Rev. John Edward Tarleton received £6,526 2s 0d for the 256 enslaved people on the Mount Pleasant Estate.

My three times great grandfather, York Quashie, was one of those 256 people.  Looking at the 1821 slave register, I can see that he was 11 years old when Gregware and Antoine departed.[12]It has left me reflecting on how much this event would have affected him and his family.

I’d previously viewed the letter book from the Mount Pleasant Estate, but was unable to read the poor handwriting. Therefore, this was the first time I had read any primary resources about the estate where my family was enslaved.  With more records being made available on-line, the task of finding your family and learning about where, how and with whom they lived can become less arduous.  Having such records available electronically has opened up new avenues of further research for me.

[1] The LBS Team would like to thank Abigail for this guest blog. Abigail is a researcher who specializes in community heritage, oral and social history, genealogy and factual television research.

[2] The Third Report of the Commissioner of Inquiry into the Administration of Civil and Criminal Justice in the West Indies (1826) by Sir Fortunatus Dwarris

[3] Dwarris  p.282

[4] Dwarris  p.282

[5] Dwarris  p.281 & 282

[6] Dwarris  p.282

[7] Grenada Slave Return 1821: All except St. George, TNA T 71/276

[8] Dwarris  p.282

[9] TNA T 71/276

[10] Trinidad Slave Return 1822, T 71/510/529 and Trinidad Slave Return 1825, T 71/513/376

[11] Sir Fortunatus Dwarries 1828 The West India Question Plainly Stated

[12] Grenada 1821: Carriacou Island: list of slaves, T 71/275 p.105

Researching Female Slave-owners at the Huntington Library

By: Hannah Young

Having been granted a W.M. Keck Foundation Fellowship, I am currently in the midst of a three month research trip to San Marino’s beautiful Huntington Library. Using material from the extensive Stowe Papers, the Library’s largest single collection, I hope to expand on work already undertaken on Jamaican slaveholder Anna Eliza Elletson Brydges, Duchess of Chandos and her daughter, Anna Eliza (Brydges) Grenville, Duchess of Buckingham and Chandos. [1]

Through examining diaries, correspondence and a range of family and legal papers I hope to be able to use the experience of these women to investigate the gendered nature of property-ownership and transmission and interrogate the significant, but circumscribed, role women played in the complicated webs of plantation-ownership and inheritance. Keen to adopt a holistic approach to the history of slavery and slave-ownership, I also hope locate the slave-ownership of the Anna Elizas within their wider familial experience, socially, culturally and politically. This will allow me to examine the extent to which slave-owning was integrated into a woman’s life and lifestyle, by exploring how exactly slave-ownership figured in the lives of those aristocratic women who engaged in it. Did it play a part in the construction of their wider identity and, if so, how?

Currently about a third of the way of my time here, (that’s according to my diary – I have no idea where that time has gone!) any initial thoughts are extremely rudimentary. However, the experience has certainly been fruitful and I have already discovered a great deal that provides food for thought. Looking, for example, at the personal correspondence of Anna Eliza (Brydges) Grenville, has been particularly illuminating. Born into the highest echelons of elite society, Anna Eliza had a network of friends and associates across the British Empire. What is especially interesting, however, is the manner in which her vision of empire is constructed. The West Indies as a colonial space is noticeably absent. Rather, empire is the site of naval supremacy and military success. Whilst the fear of disease and death underpins much of Anna Eliza’s  trans-imperial correspondence, it is also clear that empire was important to her as a place which offered the possibility of personal and national triumph. Perhaps unsurprisingly given her status as a Jamaican absentee, the brutal reality of West Indian slavery remains entirely missing from this triumphalist picture.

Noticeably, the first instance I have come across of Anna Eliza, mentioning her Jamaican estate comes in a discussion concerning Hope Plantation’s compensation claim. £6630 5S 6D was ultimately successfully claimed by George Neville Grenville, the uncle of her husband Richard Grenville, and John Campbell, a trustee of their marriage settlement, for 379 people enslaved on Hope, a property Anna Eliza had inherited from her mother.  ‘I am greatly disappointed at what you say respecting the appropriation of the Compensation Money for the Hope Estate’, she wrote to husband Richard Grenville in 1835. ‘I was fully aware that the Estate being in Settlement both Chandos’s [her son’s] Trustees & myself had a right to give in our Claims but I would not do that or even allude to it’ she angrily admonished, unimpressed with how the Duke had spent the compensation money. She had believed that ‘the best thing for all Parties’ would be to use the money ‘to clear off Mr Humphries entirely & regain the property.’[2] Here Anna Eliza was speaking of Middleton, a different Jamaican plantation that the Duke himself had independently purchased; she became quite irate when she became aware that this had not been the case.

This brief snapshot gives us a quick insight into the extremely complex, and inherently gendered, nature of property ownership in the early nineteenth century, particularly amongst the aristocracy. The common law principle of coverture may have been emblematic of women’s marginalisation within the British legal system, but the laws of equity ensured that women like Anna Eliza could access property.Indeed, Anna Eliza was quite aware that she had a right to claim for the enslaved people on Hope Estate, who were by law her property. That she made a conscious decision not to, however, suggests that notions of individual and familial ownership cannot always be entirely distinguished. For Anna Eliza, any personal interest was subsumed within a familial one; she acted as she believed was best not just for herself but for the whole. That she was unafraid to chastise her husband when she believed he was not acting in the best interests of the family also suggests that this attitude cannot simply be attributed to her position as a woman. It does, however, demonstrate that in the early nineteenth century the relationship between family, identity and property, including that in enslaved people, was a complex and contested one.

[1] Guide to British Historical Manuscripts in the Huntington Library. San Marion: Huntington Library and Art Gallery, 1982. p.145.

[2] Huntington Library STG Box 74/44, Anna Eliza to Richard Grenville, September 15th 1835.