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1776 Hanover slave uprising
On the 24th of July last his Excellency Sir Basil Keith, Governor of Jamaica published the following proclamation:
" Whereas a great number of negroes in the parish of Hanover have been and now are in a state of actual rebellion, we have thought fit for the service of this our island, and to prevent any further attempts by the slave of other parishes to join with those already concerned, that for the defence and security of this our said island, and for the immediate suppression of the said rebellion, martial law shall now be in force."
On the 25th July last his Excellency our Governor published another proclamation, on account of the rebellion of the negroes in the parish of Hanover, setting forth
"That as there is danger of the insurrection becoming general unless the greatest precautions and vigilance be used to prevent the same, and as the strength of the island in white people would be much diminished by the suffering the several ships and vessels in the merchants service to depart from the island in the present critical and dangerous juncture; and it appearing that the negroes have partly relied on carrying their mischievous designs into effect on the departure of the said ships for Great Britain, his Excellency has therefore ordered a general embargo to be laid on all ships and vessels within the several ports of Jamaica until the causes of apprehension be removed, and the internal peace and tranquility restored and established."
Last week Mr. C[hamber]s, observing his favourite Boy loading his Pistols with Black Sard [stone] was put upon the Watch, and at length discovered a Plot formed by the principal Creole Negroes upon his and four neighbouring Estates for rising the 19th instant It was deep laid, and pretty general. Six Ringleaders have been tried and were hanged on Saturday. Eighty odd more were in custody to be tried. The 52nd regiment consisting of seasoned Men, who had formed Connections here, were forced to embark for America to be replaced by Recruits who die like rotten Sheep. There being no Soldiers in Hanover, or Ships upon the Station, is supposed to have been the Cause of the Negroes rising at a Time when all were engaged on the sailing of the Fleet for England. The Inhabitants are all in Arms, and keep constant Guard.
What makes the newly discovered plot the more alarming is that Creoles having joined the Salt-water negroes which never happened before, so that we cannot tell if this conspiracy may not be general. It has been the deepest and best concerted plan for execution ever entered into before, and very few were let into their councils and secrets; but we ought to be very thankful to Providence for the timely and critical discovery, which happened as follows: Mr Chambers, of the parish of Hanover, was to be the first sacrifice to set the bloody and wicked instruments in motion: his head servant in the house, whom he looked on as a trusty and faithful one, had undertaken to murder his master, and as he afterwards confessed, was to shoot him with a pistol in the necessary, as it was his constant custom to go there every night before he retired to rest; but, luckily for him, he did not go there that night: that if the pistol had not effectually dispatched him, an axe was concealed by the door of the necessary to have compleated it. His not going there disconcerted the scheme, and in the morning, long before day, the servant went into his master's chamber to perpetrate the horrid deed; but, it is supposed, being struck with a panic, went out of the room. Some time after he came into the chamber again; his master then asked him what he wanted; he replied, his shoes to clean. Soon after he returned again, when his master asking the same question, he replied: his coat to brush. However, some little time after he came once more, and bustling about the room, his master thinking it odd behaviour, peeped from under the [mosquito] net, and imagined he saw something in the fellow's hand like a pistol; and instantly jumping out of bed, laid hold of him. The suddenness of this put the servant in a tremor, and he fell instantly on his knees and confessed the above. He then impeached the principals on the several estates, among whom they had fixed on a Creole, an Eboe, and a Coromantee for kings, and to whom, in case of accidents, they had appointed successors. If Mr. Chambers had been murdered, a signal was to have been given, and particular negroes were allotted and fixed to kill every white person on the estate at the signal, which was also to serve for the next estate; and it was to be taken up and repeated in every estate concerned, so that in the course of an hour every white person might have been murdered, if God had not struck the principal mover with fear. He declared the rebellion was owing to our defenceless state; they thought there never would be a fairer opportunity to set themselves free than the present.
brought by the John and Mary, Captain Jenkins arrived at Falmouth, from Jamaica. Cited in the Public Advertiser, 25 October 1776, General Evening Post, 24-26October 1776, and the London Chronicle, 24-26 October 1776.
Dear Brother, Our present situation is very deplorable. We have been now under arms ever since the beginning of August, on account of an insurrection of the negroes, who have been exceedingly troublesome for some time past, occasioned by the scarcity of provisions, our supplies from America being long cut off. We were in great hopes the execution of about thirty of their ringleaders would have quelled the sedition, but it has not had the desired effect, as they still continue very outrageous, and have laid waste many plantations. A party of the Royal Americans attacked a large body of them, killed 76, and took 86 prisoners, who are under close confinement. This we may thank some of your bloody-minded Ministers for. A ship arrived yesterday, saw a Spanish fleet a few days past of eleven sail, full of men, which alarms us greatly. I will write to you again by the first opportunity, as you must be anxious for our safety. I am, your loving brother, &c.
Sunday, a party of Maroons belonging to Trelawny Town, fell in with a number of runaway negroes in Hanover; three of whom they killed, and brought one in, much wounded. Tuesday, the same party went in pursuit of another large body; part of which were lately seen in the mountains; on the back of Colonel Grizell's estate. [The Militia was also under arms at the time]
3. [See also Duncan Campbell letter of 6th November 1776 to John Campbell of Saltspring who was then in Scotland]
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