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

By Mary Turner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
The Struggle for Religious Freedom

SLAVE CONVERTS WERE the readiest sacrifice to the antisectarianism of their managers. Yet as long as the missionaries depended on the protection of planter patrons, any references in letters home about the punishments inflicted on religious slaves had to be carefully filtered of names and dates and presented as exceptional. It is evident, however, that slave converts, under pressure from plantation managers, proved capable of far greater sacrifices for conscience's sake than were ever demanded by the magistrates from the missionaries. The slave martyrs joined a well- defined Christian tradition; in doing so, they extended the areas of conflict with their managers and claimed a new right, the right to save their souls. The missionaries, once their legal position was secured, assisted their converts in this struggle.

This development was facilitated by a new imperial policy that reflected the penetration of the Colonial Office itself by humanitarian influence. The Colonial Office in 1827, after four years of unsuccessful efforts to win support from colonial assemblies for the imperial government's amelioration program, in a desperate attempt to improve slave conditions, implemented a policy of investigating all complaints of cruelty and injustice to the slaves as were not "manifestly frivolous."1 The investigations were intended to make crown officeholders at every level in the colonial administrations take their duties to the slave population seriously, and extend to the representative colonies the services provided in crown colonies by specially appointed law officers called protectors of slaves.2

Investigations became a regular feature of imperial policy during the administration of two notably weak and indecisive colonial secretaries, Sir George Murray and Lord Goderich; they allowed West Indian affairs to fall into the hands of two permanent officials with strong humanitar-

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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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