Slave Population and Economy in Jamaica, 1807-1834

By B. W. Higman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
MANUMISSIONS, RUNAWAYS AND CONVICTS

Although virtually unaffected by migration, the slave population of Jamaica between the abolition of the slave trade and emancipation was not strictly 'closed?'.1 It has been established, in the previous chapter, that white, free coloured and free black men made a significant contribution to the fertility of the slave population. But the population also experienced losses from causes other than mortality and migration. Slaves left the population when they reached the point of legal whiteness but there is no record of their numbers, which seem unlikely to have been significant. Between 1829 and 1832, however, 1,362 slaves were manumitted, 446 ran away and 124 were transported. Another 255 were removed from their masters, though remaining slaves, by being committed to the workhouse. This total of 1,932 slaves seems a minor loss when contrasted with the 26,700 deaths in the triennium, but the causes of these minor losses were fairly selective so that they had a significant impact on the structure of the population.

Colour, sex and birth-place as measures of the slave's status within the system gained concrete expression in the variable incidence of manumission. In the period 1829-32 only 41 per cent of the slaves manumitted were males (Table 39).2 In the previous triennium, 1826-29, only 32 per cent had been males.3 But the percentage of the slaves manumitted who were males increased steadily as they moved from blackness to whiteness. Of the black slaves manumitted from 1829 to 1832 only 38 per cent were males, but 47 per cent of the quadroons were males, and 55 per cent of the mustees. This pattern was related to the fact that the chances of manumission increased as the slaves approached whiteness. Compared to total births during the period 1829-32 (Table 28), only 3 per cent of the blacks were manumitted and 9 per cent of the samboes, but 23 per cent of the mulattoes and mustees, and 30 per cent of the quadroons. Thus there was a significant positive correlation between manumissions and births of colour at the parish level (r = .79) and with coloured deaths (r = .72).4 Yet, although it would appear that a slave's chances of manumission were greater if his father was white, at the parish level there was a negative correlation between manumissions and the percentage of slave coloured having white fathers (r = -.34). In Kingston and St. Catherine the black slaves manumitted were actually more numerous than the coloured, and the same held true for the males of Clarendon and St. Andrew, and the females of St. Elizabeth, St. David, St. Dorothy, Port Royal and St. George. A similar problem arises in looking at the African/

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Slave Population and Economy in Jamaica, 1807-1834
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Figures ix
  • List of Tables xi
  • Preface 1976 xv
  • Introduction 1995 xvii
  • Conventions, Abbreviations and Symbols xx
  • Chapter 1 - Slaves, Livestock, Machines 1
  • Part I - Economy 7
  • Chapter 2 Distribution of the Slave Labour Force 9
  • Chapter 3 - Agriculture 34
  • Chapter 4 Other Economic Activities 36
  • Part II - Population 43
  • Chapter 6 - Patterns of Survival 99
  • Chapter 7 - Colour, Family and Fertility 139
  • Chapter 8 - Manumissions, Runaways and Convicts 176
  • Part III - Demographic Change and Economic Decline 185
  • Chapter 9 - Organization of Slave Labour 187
  • Chapter 10 - Levels of Productivity 212
  • Chapter II - Overseer Day Done? 227
  • Appendixes 233
  • Notes 279
  • Bibliography 311
  • Index 324
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