Slaves and Missionaries: The Disintegration of Jamaican Slave Society, 1787-1834

By Mary Turner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
The Missionaries and the Slaves

THE MISSIONARIES WENT to Jamaica to improve life for the slaves within the parameters defined by the slave system, and on these terms they won the cooperation of a small liberal element among the slave owners. For the missionaries, as for their patrons, religious instruction for the slaves was entirely directed to the rescue of their souls from sin and preparation for life eternal. To achieve this end, however, the missionaries had to attack the slaves' established culture, to root out their religious ideas, to divorce them from the social traditions and moral assumptions of plantation life, to replace Anansi, the supreme ginal, with Christian the Pilgrim, who fought his was through life. In doing so they appealed to the intellectual and moral capacities that the slave system, in principle, denied its chattels and introduced them, in the mission churches, to new activities and organizational forms based on the assumption that all men were equal before God. Mission work among the slaves, in short, was an innovation with a disruptive potential.

Its political significance, moreover, was underlined by the planters, who remained throughout the period divided on the issue of mission work. Mission patrons gave priority to meeting the imperial government's requirements on religious toleration; their opponents were more concerned with the missionaries' connections with the antislavery movement. Missions enjoyed, at best, an uneasy tolerance that made attendance at the mission churches an activity which exposed the slaves to punishment.

In the last resort the missionaries' neutral stance on the slavery issue was no more than a declaration of intent: they did not intend their message to souls in bondage to be translated into a message to people in bondage; they undertook to point the path to salvation, not the road to liberation. But their work created reverberations among the slaves over

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Slaves and Missionaries: The Disintegration of Jamaican Slave Society, 1787-1834
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vi
  • Abbreviations vii
  • Chapter One - The Planters and the Missionaries 1
  • Notes 30
  • Chapter Two - The Jamaican Slaves 38
  • Notes 59
  • Chapter Three - The Missionaries and the Slaves 65
  • Notes 95
  • Chapter Four - The Humanitarian Challenge 102
  • Notes 126
  • Chapter Five - The Struggle for Religious Freedom 132
  • Notes 144
  • Chapter Six - The Baptist War 148
  • Notes 173
  • Chapter Seven - Emancipation Achieved 179
  • Notes 191
  • Conclusion 195
  • Notes 202
  • Bibliography 204
  • Index 215
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