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received by the House of Assembly, and the violent manner in which the substance of them was there debated, (or rather commented upon,) united with the contempt and menace with which they were rejected, tended very much also, to increase the false impression on the uninformed minds of the Slaves.
The natural consequences of exaggeration by the Alarmists, through the newspapers; and of determined opposition by the Members of Assembly, to all further amelioration of their hard condition, were, that the Slaves became discontented, and in two parishes, St. George's and St. Mary's, (the most barbarous and unenlightened in all Jamaica,) some symptoms of an intention of conspiracy appeared, and would very probably have broken out, on some of the estates, into open insurrection, had not the nightly meetings (or rather meeting, for I heard only of one, on Balcarras a sugar estate in St. George's) been discovered in good time.
In St. Mary's it is not pretended that there were any such meetings, and the whole affair was by many considered doubtful, as the information was given by a Negro lad against his father and others, and the evidence was by no means clear and satisfactory: that there was any thing like insurrection, in either parish, I deny, and the contrary may be very plainly seen by any one of common sense who will take the trouble to
read the trials. It might be observed, moreover, that this is not the first time that the Negroes on that estate, in St. George's (and on one or two adjoining properties, a part of them being from St. Domingo, and belonging to French refugees) have exhibited symptoms of insubordination. In Jamaica, they have certainly made the most of it, as they always do of these things, in all the sugar colonies, to deceive the English people, and to deter the British Parliament from interfering; for, except in the parishes above mentioned, (with St. James's also, where several Slaves were tried for being at a dance, and talking about what was intended for them by their friends in England,)* the Negroes were very quiet and shewed no disposition to rebel or even to conspire; and even in these, no overt act was committed, (unless the reported assemblage with sticks on one estate for one single night can be called so ;) there also the scanty and ill trained militia of the two parishes were quite sufficient to prevent insurrection, and to seize and bring to justice those few who had committed themselves by seditious language and other suspicious circumstances. So little fear was there of any danger to the lives and properties of his Majesty's white subjects, from the exaggerated representations of these fearful and timid personages * Note 18. See Appendix.
themselves, that the Commander-in-Chief of the King's troops did not think it worth while to send a single soldier to their assistance; though he was much on the alert, and had them in readiness at the nearest habitable barracks, in case of any absolute necessity of their being ordered out. He was unmercifully abused about it in some of the newspapers, whose sapient editors were terribly affrighted at the rumours, the (Ambiguas in vulgum voces,) which they themselves, and their magnanimous friends, had manufactured and spread abroad; but the quiet and untragical conclusion of this bloodless drama (unless to the poor blacks who suffered) pretty satisfactorily proves, that His Excellency, the General, had more penetration than they, and was in the right not to march his troops to death, in that dreadful and sickly climate, when it was not called for by strict necessity. Even the people of Kingston were taught to believe, at first, that a great part of the Slaves in St. George's were in open rebellion, till a clever and courageous little man, the editor of the Daily Advertiser in that city, rode up through the parish, (which he did without the least molestation, and without even a serjeant's guard,) and went to the town and gaol, reported to be full of rebels, where he found one or two poor creatures confined for petty offences; this he stated in his paper a day cr
two after, and the minds of most people were
In most parishes they kept guard during the Christmas holidays; but there was no necessity for the whole regiment being on duty, in any of them, and in some, a company only was daily mustered, in a convenient place; but in St. Andrew's, a large parish adjoining St. George's no guard was kept after the first two or three days.
In the city of Kingston, where there are eight or ten thousand Slaves, and a greater number of free blacks and free people of colour, there was a strong guard kept all the holidays, and fearful rumours were afloat, of the horrid and diabolical intentions of the Slaves. It was said that they were connected with those in St. George's, and that they were all to rise on a certain night, to set fire to the city in ten places, and murder all the white people as they should come out of their dwellings. The free blacks and people of colour were also suspected of being inclined to join them; but an accident happened, just before the commencement of the holidays, which completely satisfies my mind, (and will that of every impartial person) that all those fears were idle dreams, as far as regarded the Slaves, but very unjust and wicked as related to the free people of colour.—This accident was a fire that occurred within fifty yards my own residence; it broke out about ten
o'clock at night, and as I was about retiring to my bed-chamber, I heard the mournful exclamations of the mistress of the house, who was crying out Fire, fire! Soon after the drums beat, and the church bell struck out, giving the alarm; I ran up stairs, and, from a back gallery, could clearly perceive the fire, which was very alarming, and appeared close to us, there being but two houses and a lane, intervening between it and my lodgings.
Though I never gave full credit to the rumours of the horrid intentions of the Negroes, yet I was somewhat staggered, and hardly knew what to do, being the only white person in the house. I considered, however, that if the fire were not got under, in half an hour, it would reach us, and we should be burnt out or perish in the flames; so that if a conspiracy were taking place I might as well be murdered as burnt, and that, moreover, I should have some chance of my life by fighting for it; so I resolved to go out, and do my best as a loyal subject. Calling, therefore, a young man of colour, who slept in the house, and my own black servant (whom I thought I could depend upon), and arming myself, I cautiously ventured into the street, where I saw two or three persons armed, and proceeding to the conflagration: not seeing any opposition, I hastened there, and found very few whites in