Between Slavery and Freedom: Special Magistrate John Anderson's Journal of St. Vincent during the Apprenticeship

Between Slavery and Freedom: Special Magistrate John Anderson's Journal of St. Vincent during the Apprenticeship

Between Slavery and Freedom: Special Magistrate John Anderson's Journal of St. Vincent during the Apprenticeship

Between Slavery and Freedom: Special Magistrate John Anderson's Journal of St. Vincent during the Apprenticeship

Excerpt

Roderick McDonald's edition of the journal of John Anderson will be heartily welcomed by everyone interested in British Caribbean slavery, and more generally by everyone interested in the slave emancipation process throughout the Americas. Although this journal covers events for only twenty-eight months on the small sugar island of St. Vincent, it tells a story of major significance. Magistrate John Anderson, a Scottish lawyer, came to St. Vincent in 1836 during the brief but crucial limbo period when the black people on this island and on all of the other British Caribbean islands were no longer slaves but were not yet free. His journal gives us a richly detailed picture of irreconcilable forces in strenuous conflict during the mid 1830s, when the former slaves were trying to shape a new society for themselves, while their former masters were determined to preserve the old order as much as possible.

In both chronology and character, the abolition of slavery in the British Caribbean comes halfway between the abolition of slavery in the northern United States and the abolition of slavery in the southern United States. In the northern United States, where slavery was always marginal, Emancipation took place very gradually and without much drama between 1780 and 1810. In the southern United States, where slavery was fundamental, Emancipation took place very suddenly at the conclusion of a long and bloody civil war with the total defeat of the Confederacy in 1864-1865. In the British sugar islands the proportion of slaves was much higher than in the southern United States, and the small Caribbean planter class was far less self-reliant than the cotton planters in the southern United States. They needed economic and military protection by the home government, and had to accept orders from Westminster. Parliament mandated that slavery would be abolished in the British Caribbean over a period of six years - from 1834 to 1840 - and secured the reluctant compliance of the slave owners by paying . . .

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