Centring the City in the Amelioration of Slavery in Trinidad, 1824-1834

By Fergus, Claudius | The Journal of Caribbean History, January 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Centring the City in the Amelioration of Slavery in Trinidad, 1824-1834


Fergus, Claudius, The Journal of Caribbean History


Introduction

Although scholars have studied aspects of urban slavery in the Caribbean, this subject remains marginal to the hegemonic plantation genre.1 Nonetheless, colonial towns, particularly the political capitals, are of considerable importance to a broader understanding of Caribbean slavery. If the plantation was the heart of the colony, then the capital (often identified simply as "town") was its brain. The capital legalized relations of power on slave plantations and buttressed the plantation authority structure through coercive state institutions. The most influential planters met in town to engage in political intercourse with the colonial authorities and, by extension, the Crown. In time, the town became a quasi-metropolis to which some planters retired, leaving their estates in the hands of managers and overseers.2

The town was also a meeting place for enslaved persons resident on the plantations. In this respect, Port of Spain was typical. Enslaved persons from all local administrative divisions congregated in the Sunday market in town to trade wares, provisions, news and gossip, or drifted off to the rum shops, the most popular recreational space for men. Many of them increasingly sought employment under self-hire. During the amelioration period, enslaved persons also frequently went to town to lodge complaints with the protector and guardian of slaves. Because of the many opportunities for earning one's freedom price, the town also attracted many runaways who often met former acquaintances there. In spite of severe punishments for persons harbouring them, the more robust and skilled runaways were almost always guaranteed shelter while performing labour that was always in short supply in the city.3 New freedmen and women also often migrated to Port of Spain to start a new life, rather than seek employment on estates where they were likely to suffer the same rigours of slave labour, including brutal punishments.

The city evolved its own peculiar forms of slavery in which the life of the enslaved persons approximated more to "a free agent than a piece of property".4 Enslaved persons were employed in most, if not all, of the skilled, semiskilled and purely manual occupations associated with city life. Invariably, they shared more personal, albeit tension-filled, relationships with their masters than enslaved persons in plantationbased occupations.5 They were builders of public roads, mansions for the rich, ornate churches and cathedrals, and government offices; at the waterfront, they were stevedores and watercraft specialists, among other occupations.6 They were also the principal respondents before the criminal courts and the largest population in the royal jail with its notorious treadmill and chain gangs.

This article attempts to demonstrate the central importance of Port of Spain, the capital town, to an understanding of amelioration, which was intended to reform plantation slavery. The article deals with the office of protector and guardian of slaves, as well as the criminal courts, as critical domains of contestation between the plantocracy and a new, legally empowered enslaved group, determined to exploit the amelioration laws to exact as much benefit as possible for themselves, including their personal emancipation. One of the major corollaries of slave agency during amelioration was the partial transformation of the plantation landscape from a domain of planter paternalism into an experimental field of industrial relations - a revolutionary development for colonial slavery. This interpretation departs radically from the popular, negative perspective of amelioration.7 In establishing continuity between nouveau manumitted, runaways and the group of older freed persons in Port of Spain, the article suggests that petit marronage became a vehicle for the broadening of social and economic contacts and opportunities within the town, and between it and the plantation. The article also represents such contacts as manifestations of cultural resistance to the hegemony of the plantation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Centring the City in the Amelioration of Slavery in Trinidad, 1824-1834
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.