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1831 Rebellion

Correspondence between Jamaica and London

Jamaica, 6th January, 1832

[From Governor Belmore to Lord Goderich]

An extensive and destructive insurrection amongst the slaves in the Western Districts...has followed a season of unusual sickness and distress...had to proclaim martial law, to arrest the progress of so great a danger.

It was not until the 22nd ultimo that I received any accounts to excite alarm. The apprehensions which had appeared to disturb the public mind during the summer had already subsided. The planters complained of poverty and distress - the delegates sent forth an ambiguous declaration deprecating ..."the insidious attempts to undermine and render valueless what little remains of their property." But the brink of danger on which they stood formed no part of their deliberations.

[Jamaica. CO 137/181]

Jamaica, 2nd May, 1832

[From Governor Belmore to Lord Goderich]

It appears the late insurrection was not occasioned by any sudden grievance or immediate cause of discontent, that it had been long concerted and at different periods deferred.

It is also proved that those persons who have been employed in situations of the greatest confidence, and who are consequently exempted from all hard labour, have almost universally been found acting as chief leaders in the rebellion, and in their position motives no less strong than those which appear to have actuated them - a desire of affecting their freedom, and in some cases of possessing themselves of the property belonging to their masters - could have influenced them.

[Jamaica. CO 137/182]

Jamaica, 23rd May, 1832

[From F. B. Zincke to Governor Belmore]

The late events on the island [1831 revolt] particularly in the county of Cornwall, must convince every reflecting mind of the absolute necessity of making some important change in our present system. It is in vain and useless to insist on this or that abstract point of right in the slave as property. The question will not be left to the arbitrament of a long angry discussion between the Government and the planter. The slave himself has been taught that there is a third party, and that party himself. He knows his strength, and will assert his claim to freedom. Even at this moment, unawed by the late failure, he discusses the question with a fixed determination.

[Jamaica CO 137/191]

Jamaica, 24th August, 1832

[From Agent Burge to Lord Goderich]

Your Lordship will read I am certain with great regret the financial difficulties to which the island has been reduced in consequence of the late rebellion. Its expenditure has been increased whilst its means of defraying it are diminished, and such are the apprehensions of its insecurity that the capital which heretofore would have been readily advanced as a loan is either withdrawn from the island or retained by its possessors. Your Lordship will see how very inconsiderable a sum has been contributed by way of loan.

[Jamaica. CO 137/186]

Dublin, 22nd January, 1832

[Extracted from E. Batty to Lord Goderich]

The proprietor of an estate in Jamaica, which before 1817 or 1817 which produced clear from £2,000 to £2,500 a year...with the present 24 shillings per hundredweight duty, does not produce even an income of £100 per year.

Sale of 25 hogsheads of sugar



£440. 6.0

Expenses of sale and freight




The estate is one of the smaller class...average produce 170 hogsheads...total duty per year on sugar is £2,890, on rum half as much more. Whilst I thus pay £4,000 per annum and upwards to the revenue, I cannot get out of the estate £100 a year to live on.

Alternatives...to sell the estate and Negroes or ruin myself in the cultivation of it. If the latter, the revenue will lose £4,000 a year from myself alone, unless the rate of duties be considerably reduced.

[Jamaica. CO 137/187]

29th November, 1832

[Extracted from the Memorial of the Jamaica Delegates, Barrett and Hodgson, to the House of Lords.]

Our constituents suffer alike from financial and political oppression the extravagant and disproportionate revenue extorted from our agricultural products has already reduced to poverty our wealthiest families....

The rebellion was the inevitable consequence of a system which brought into contempt the authority of our own laws, and into hatred the Europeans under whose control the slaves were more immediately placed.

[Jamaica. CO137/186]


Goderich, Lord. Secretary of State for The Colonies

Belmore, Earl of. Governor of Jamaica, 1829-1832

Burge, William Esq. Government agent on the island

Batty, E. (Presumed relative of Fitzherbert Batty, plantation owner in St Mary.)

Zincke, F. B. proprietor of Content and Eardley estates, Hanover.

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