Regional

Porteous proud to read freedom proclamation

Monday, August 14, 2017

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Mandeville , Manchester — On the morning of August 1, 1838 the British colonial governor of Jamaica Sir Lionel Smith stood before a large crowd in Spanish Town, St Catherine, which was then Jamaica's capital, and read a proclamation from Queen Victoria granting freedom to slaves on the island.

Historians say the formal granting of freedom to slaves came five years after the Emancipation Act was passed in the British Parliament.

For years, the custos of Manchester has carried on a tradition of reading that proclamation at the historic courthouse in Mandeville at midnight, as Jamaicans greet Emancipation Day, August 1.

The current custos of Manchester Sally Porteous has carried on the tradition over the five years since she took office, and it was no different two weeks ago.

When Jamaica Observer Central contacted her by telephone to discuss the annual exercise, Porteous said she was “very, very proud” to be called on to read the proclamation.

“I think it (proclamation of the emancipation of slaves) is a very, very special moment in our history and we should always pay due respect and mark it properly,” she said. Her only regret is that Emancipation Day is increasingly being tied in with Independence Day, which comes a week later on August 6, marking Jamaica's political independence from Britain on August 6, 1962.

“I don't like this word 'Emancipendence'. I think emancipation and independence are two very different and distinct things, which should be treated as such. As it is, we run the risk of people losing sight of the importance of each one,” she said.

The freedom proclamation reads as follows:

Whereas an act has been passed by the legislator of this our island of Jamaica for terminating the present system [of] the blessing and privileges of unrestricted freedom to all classes of its inhabitants and whereas it is incumbent on all inhabitants of this our island to testify their grateful sense of his divine favour we do therefore, by and with the advise of our privy council of this our said island, direct and appoint that Wednesday, the said first day of August next, be observed in all churches and chapels as a day of general thanksgiving to almighty god for these his mercies; and of humble intercession for his continued blessing and protection on this most important occasion. and we do hereby call upon persons of all classes within this our said island to observe this said first day of august next [with] the same reverence and respect which is observed and due to the Sabbath.

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