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Free villages were not free; they were all paid for by slaves

BY SHALMAN SCOTT

Sunday, August 19, 2018

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As we celebrated 'Emancipendence' this month of August, 2018 and many of us were involved with the 'rigging and the jigging', others remained contemplative and watchful of the quality and substance of the information flow in respect to the nation's diabolical experience with slavery.

Those of us who remain watchful have again seen and heard the trafficking of all sorts of 'Kakanboo' stories, and a few that particularly jumped out at me were suggestions that (a) the free villages promoted such enormous social peace and stability that there was no need for a police force (Jamaica Constabulary) until 1866.

It was the aftermath of the Morant Bay Rebellion, led by George William Gordon; Dr Robert Bruce of the parish of Vere; Sidney Lindo Levien, businessman and newspaper publisher of Montego Bay; and Paul Bogle of Stony Gut in the parish of St Thomas, among others, that crystallised the need for an integrated system of national policing in addition to the First and Second West India Regiment based at Fort Augusta.

The national security arrangements prior to the formation of the Jamaica Constabulary Force in 1866 included the following elements: (1) The Parish Militia which explains why today there are so many places named “Barracks” across the country — the home of each Parish Militia.

In Montego Bay, St James, part of the compound for the Parish Militia is now Barracks Road Primary School, and next door but originally occupying the same property is the Corinadli Primary School.

At the time of the Sam Sharpe Rebellion of 1831/32 and in response thereto, the militias in the five parishes were combined under the leadership of Major General William Grignon.

This became known as the St James and Combined Western Militia based at Barracks Road in Montego Bay, with the other part of the military outfit based at Haddo in the parish of Hanover. It is this military apparatus in western Jamaica, coupled with the Colonial Church Union — an equivalent of the Klu Klux Klan in the United States and led by the Reverend George W Bridges the Rector of the St Ann Parish Church — that, in response to the rebellion and with the help of the Maroons massacred the Sam Sharpe rebels and even many who were just mere suspects. In Lima near the town of Adelphi, St James, 200 slaves were rounded up in the square and murdered in cold blood.

Clinton V Black (not his real surname) registered the incident in the National Archival records as “the Infamy at Lima”! Not as the “Massacre at Lima” the worst of its kind in the history of the national struggles and conflicts. Further, seeing the word “Lima” without additional specificity in respect to location, a casual and superficial glance at the record could suggest to the reader the reference is not about Jamaica but “Lima, Peru!

So it is passed over without being read and fully noticed. (2) There exists also a paramilitary force in each parish called the Night Guard. Inspired by the existence of the vagrancy law which states inter alia: “Night offence akin to burglary …If you are caught walking on the streets, after 6:00 pm, with your face “blackened” you were a vagrant and would be picked up by members of the Night Guard Patrol.

In Montego Bay the “Cage” still standing in Sam Sharpe Square, the name given to the prison comprising of three chambers — a torturing house, a whipping post and a regular jail where passersby could mock and jeer its occupants.

The plan for the Montego Bay “Cage” (prison) was a carbon copy of a plan of a torturing house brought from the Island of Antigua. The instruments of torture were destroyed at the time of Jamaica's first celebration of Emancipation on the 1st of August 1838.

The Maroons were the policemen covering the hinterland arising from their treaty of 1739 with the plantocratic Government and part of which arrangement was for the Maroons to capture or kill every runaway slave seeking their freedom, just like the Maroons.

Fifty pounds per captured slave was paid over to the Maroons if the slave was brought in alive. If shot and killed, then a pair of matching ears would earn the money … the pair of ears being proof of death of the runaway. It is these various elements of an elaborate security apparatus prior to the birth of the Jamaica Constabulary Force that gave pivot and structure to the new force.

The Morant Bay Rebellion, 27 years after Emancipation, and its record of injustice spoke more to the growing tension and suspicion among former slaves and former slave owners. And the Jamaica Constabulary Force was formed to increase better coordination in what was nothing more than a police, para military state. This had nothing to do with the strides that our ancestors were making, bolstered by a new-found vision and pride that “every pot must sit on its own bottom”! Or so it seemed.

But the planters' backlash against the ex-slave population took other powerful acts of sabotage. In 1845 the British Government passed the Nergro Education Act throughout the empire to provide for public education for the children of the ex-slaves. Each colonial government was to vote through their House of Assembly, matching funds to launch an adequate elementary education programme in their territory.

The Jamaican Government, comprised of planters and slave masters, voted against the proposal in the Negro Education Act. Mr Shirley, the member of the parish of Trelawny, is on record as he led the Jamaica plantocratic Government in its fight against public education, remarked: “The Negroes are now free and have more money than the planters, and therefore can finance the education of their children.” With that the Jamaica House of Assembly voted against public education for black people in Jamaica. The Church stepped up to fill the void of financing public education in Jamaica, following the failure of the Government to respond positively to a most crucial need. And this explains the deep entrenchment of the churches in education administration and strategies up to now.

Mr Shirley's portrait can be seen occupying a place of prominence inside of the Trelawny Municipal Council building up to this day. The debilitating ignorance of the past struck me again most forcefully when I was invited to that Chamber some years back as guest speaker at a function put on by the Trelawny branch of the Social Development Commission. I restrained myself from speaking about that matter. However, that restraint impressed upon me the impatient need to help to clean up our history, giving it external defensibility and credibility to withstand the test that the succeeding generation will pose to the quality of the knowledge we have bequeathed to them — which is not substantive.

Many at the highest level of the educational pyramid have become victims of Clinton Vane de Brosse (known as Clinton Vane Black), an Italian masquerading as having some ethnic connectivity to the target market (black people) by using the num de plume “Black” hoping to, though superficially, receive acceptability for his disgraceful work, both in writing history texts on Jamaica in which he omitted the Sam Sharpe Rebellion 1831/32 and having been appointed as chief archivist of the Anglophone Caribbean in 1955 in which post he turned his attention to wholescale “doctoring” of the historical record including that of Jamaica. The Italian surname DeBrosse is traceable to the Heraldic Order of feudal landlords, warlords, mercantilism oligarchs and members of the equestrian class.

DeBrosse, by virtue of their genetic make-up and cultural orientations, had no reasonableness in thought towards the negroes and their plight back then. It is to be noted that in 1975 when Michael Manley contemplated naming the Rt Excellent Samuel Sharpe as national hero the paucity of information within the archival records forced then Minister of Information Mr Arnold Bertram to harvest the talents of Professor Kamau Braithwaite, who was rushed off to London to research the facts surrounding that crucial rebellion which ended chattel slavery in Jamaica.

Too much of our history has been obscured, too much of our history to foster logical connectivity has been deliberately omitted, and too much has been twisted and redated. The reason for this state of affair in respect to the abundant Kakanaboo stories in our history was due to fear and shame by the then plantocratic ruling class.

Land purchase for slaves and subsequently by slaves had to be done through London land agents in England who were engaged by the Quakers and other members of the anti-slavery society, as many planters tried to prevent the former slaves from gaining their independence and economic freedom.

Provision ground or “provisioning” during slavery, an arrangement in which planters were willing to grant slaves provisioning plots because the planters themselves exacted a benefit from doing so … essentially 'outsourced ' the job of feeding the slaves to the slaves themselves. And they got well-fed slaves to ensure productivity of the sugar sector — a hefty tax contributor to the Exchequer. However, the issue became acute in the aftermath of Emancipation when planters sought to 'tie' former slaves, turned freed men, to the plantation to secure a reliable workforce.

Sharecropping (sharing revenue from the sale of crops with the planters) and provisioning provided money for the West Indian slaves through the Sunday market system. Later in 1823, through the Amelioration Act, an additional day (Saturday) was added. Through their own thrift and hard work the slaves were able to buy their own lands and become dejure property owners. And finally the Bill for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery in the British Overseas Possession was passed in the British Parliament on July 29, 1832, when Queen Victoria was a girl of only 13 years old and had absolutely nothing to do with that monumental act.

Queen Victoria was crowned in 1837 yet our ancestors were made to sing songs of thanks to her for giving them freedom. Additionally, Queen Victoria, a British monarch, and William Wilberforce, a British politician, had songs sung by our ancestors about their generosity and role in the abolition of English enslavement of black people.

The ancestors were never told about black emancipators such as Olaudah Ecqiano, Ignatius Sancho, Ottabah Cugoano et al … former slaves who became powerful gentlemen in the London merchant class and social circles — authors of several books, pamphlets and manuals and who, by their public works, educated Wilberforce, Granville Sharpe, Thomas Clarkson, Thomas Buxton and other members of the Anti-Slavery Society.

The black emancipators were listened to as they accompanied the white members of the Anti-Slavery Society on speaking tours. The Jamaican history must be cleaned up. The correct items of information on various aspects of our history can be found outside of Jamaica, only if we follow the trek of Professors Rex Nettleford, Kamau Braithwaite, Richard Hart and many others.

The time has long passed for our historical facts are to be safely saved and not be riddled with foolishness.

What a dilemma it has caused for the lies and half truths to be allowed to fester for such a long time. Time come.

Shalman Scott, a political historian and former councillor in the St James Parish Council, served as the first mayor when Montego Bay gained city status in 1981.

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