Thursday, March 24, 2011

Report On The Maroons of Jamaica, 1865

A CURIOUS CHAPTER IN NEGRO HISTORY.; The Maroons of Jamaica-- Their Origin and their Present Position.

In the accounts published by the Jamaica newspapers of the late negro insurrection in that island, we find it stated that a people called the Maroons were called upon by the governor of the colony to assist in suppressing the outbreak, and that they rendered prompt and valuable aid to both the civil and military authorities in the disturbed district. The following is the proclamation that was issued to them by His Excellency the Governor at the commencement of the disturbances:

Maroons of Jamaica! We have great trust in you as loyal subjects of the Crown!

In times gone by you did the Crown good service!

Your services are again required! You may earn rewards and honor by your loyalty!

A brutal, murderous, and barbarous insurrection has broken out in St. Thomas in the East! Peaceable, unoffending men (who have ever been your friends) have been killed!

The Governor and the government call upon you to join our forces, and of yourselves separately, to do all that lies in your power to assist to put down this murderous outbreak.

Martial law has been proclaimed!

A reward of $2,000 will be paid to you or to any one, who will take PAUL BOGLE, a principal ringleader, and $500 for any ringleader in these outrages.

Seize and hand over to the nearest military station any of the rebellions people wherever you may find them, and for so doing, and for any information you may give to any of our magistrates, officers, soldiers, or other persons in authority, you will in due time be suitably rewarded.

Issued under the authority of His Excellency the Governor and Executive Committee.

God save the Queen.

It will be seen, from the opening sentences of this address, that the Maroons of Jamaica have a history, and as many people, after reading the recent news from that island, have expressed a curiosity to know who the Maroons are, we propose briefly to relate their history.

As to race, the Maroons are negroes -- pure blacks. As to habitat, several thousands of them are to be found in Jamaica, dwelling in mountain settlements or townships of their own, apart from the other portion of the black population. For a time a number of them found a home in the British Province of Nova Scotia, but were subsequently removed to Sierra Leone, where they have intermingled with the native African population. How these case to be separated from their brethren in Jamaica, first becoming dwellers in the wintry North, and afterward finding their way to "fatherland," will appear in the sequel.

In the year 1655, an English combined naval and military expedition, under the joint command of PENN and VENABLES, was sent out by CROMWELL for the conquest of the Island of St. Domingo; but having failed in that object, those commanders, unwilling to return to England without having something commensurate to the importance of their enterprise, turned their attention to the Island of Jamaica -- at that time belonging to Spain -- and soon made themselves masters of it. The Spanish inhabitants are said to have possessed before the attack of the English about 1,500 enslaved Africans, most of whom, on the surrender of their masters, retreated to the mountain fastnesses of the island, from whence they made frequent excursions to harass the English.

Maj.-Gen. SEDGWICK, one of the British officers, in a letter to Secretary THURLOE, (1656,) predicted that these blacks would prove a thorn in the sides of the English; adding, that they gave no quarter to his men, but destroyed them whenever they found an opportunity, scarcely a week passing without their wounding one or more of them; and as the soldiers became more confident and careless, the negroes grew more enterprising and bloody-minded. The General's prediction was verified by events, and the English soon found it necessary to employ a military force for the subjugation of these dangerous neighbors.
After years of irregular warfare, and of varying successes on both sides, the blacks at length found themselves so hard pressed by the English, that the main body of them, under the command of a negro named JUAN DE BOLAS, whose place of retreat in the Parish of Clarendon (Jamaica) still retains his name, solicited peace, and surrendered to the English on terms of pardon and freedom. A large party, however, remained in their retreats within the mountains, where they not only augmented their numbers by natural increase, but after the island became more thickly sown with plantations, they were frequently reinforced by fugitive slaves. These becoming more confident, made frequent raids on the interior plantations, and intimidated the whites from venturing to any considerable distance from the sea-coast.

This was the origin of the Maroons. According to Mr. LONG, the historian of Jamaica, the word maroon signifies, among the Spanish Americans, hog-hunter, the woods at that time abounding with the wild boar, and the pursuit of them constituting the chief employment of the fugitive negroes. But BRYAN EDWARDS, who wrote a history of the West Indies toward the end of the last century, says that, according to the Encyclopedie -- a French work -- the term is derived from the Spanish word simaram, which signifies a monkey, and was applied to the fugitive negroes because, like that animal, they retreated into the depths of the woods, coming out only to collect the fruits to be found in the immediate neighborhood of their retreats.

The Maroons proved troublesome and indomitrule foes to the English settlers. Forces were repeatedly sent out against them, but every attempt to subjugate them tailed. They continued to distress the island for upwards of forty years, during which time, says LONG, forty-four acts of Assembly were passed, and at least £240,000 expended for their suppression; and in 1730 they were grown so formidable, under a very able General named CUDJOE, that it was found necessary to strengthen the colony against them by two regiments of regular troops, which were afterward formed into independent companies, and employed, with other hired parties, for their reduction. All this failed. Resort was then had to the Mosquito Indians, who, it was thought, would be more than a match for the Maroons in bush-fighting. Two hundred of those people were accordingly imported into Jamaica, and employed against the dreaded enemy. But the Maroons baffled the Indians, and continued to bid defiance to the colonists, who, in their extremity, were compelled to advise Governor TRELAWNEY, in 1738, to propose overtures of peace to the chiefs. These overtures were accepted; articles of pacification were signed; and certain lands in the island, amounting in the whole to several thousand acres, were assigned to the Maroons in perpetuity. The preamble of the articles is curious and is worth transcribing here. It is as follows:
"In the name of God, amen. Whereas Capt. CUDJOE, Capt. ACCOMPONG, Capt. JOHNNY, Capt. CUFFEE, Capt. QUACO, (all African names, except Johnny,) and several other negroes, their dependents and adherents, have been in a state of war and hostility for several years past against our sovereign Lord the King and the inhabitants of this island; and whereas, peace and friendship among mankind, and the preventing the effusion of blood is agreeable to God, consonant to reason and desired by every good man; and whereas, His Majesty King GEORGE H., King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, of Jamaica Lord, Defender of the Faith, &c., has by his letters patent dated February the 24th, 1738, granted full power and authority to JOHN GUTHRIE and FRANCIS SADLER, Esquires, to negotiate and finally conclude a treaty of peace and friendship with the aforesaid Capt. CUDJOE, and the rest of the captains, adherents, and others his men, they mutually, sincerely, and amicably have agreed to the following articles," &c., &c.

According to this treaty the Maroons were to reside within certain boundaries, apart, from allother negroes.
Jamaican Maroon Map 1794

Peace having been thus established, the Maroons settled upon the lands which had been assigned them, and employed themselves in a sort of rude tillage, which was performed principally by the women, while the young men hunted the wild boar, whose flesh they prepared for market by a peculiar process of their own, in which no salt was used. They were employed also by the plantars in capturing slaves who had run away from the plantations, receiving so much per head for the fugitive negroes they took. For nearly sixty years they gave no further trouble to the colonists; but in 1795 they once more raised the standard of revolt. The cause of this outbreak, known in Jamaica history as the "Maroon war," was a trifling incident; but the conduct of the Maroons on the occasion shows the spirit of that people. It appears that one of their number at Trolawney Town had been convicted before the Magistrate on a charge of having stolen two pigs, and was sentenced to receive thirty-nine lashes. The flogging was given by the black overseer of the prison in which the negro slaves were confined for punishment; and that a Maroon should be treated like a slave -- flogged like a slave by a black overseer -- aroused the indignation of these people, who forthwith flew to arms to avenge their wounded honor.


Negotiation was tried by the whites, and failed. The aged men and the more moderate among the Maroons counseled prudence and forbearance, but the younger and more impetuous spurned this advice, and hostilities were commenced. Troops in considerable numbers were sent against them in their mountain settlements, but for months they succeeded in keeping the military at bay, cutting off several detachments of soldiers, both of the regulars and militia; while they occasionally sallied forth from their fastnesses, burning plantations and killing the white people living on them. At length, as a dernier ressort, the expedient was hit upon of employing Spanish bloodhounds to track them in the woods, and one hundred of these ferocious animals, accompanied by forty chasseurs, or hunters, were imported from the Island of Cuba for that purpose. No sooner did the Maroons hear of the arrival of these dogs than they expressed a willingness to come to terms, and soon after a treaty was concluded, the principal conditions being that the Maroons should ask pardon of the King on their knees -- that the Legislature of the colony should fix their residence in such part of the island as it might think proper -- and that the Maroons should deliver up all the fugitive slaves living among them.
Peace was thus restored; but on the plea that the Maroons had failed to comply with the last-named condition, the Legislature, instead of assigning them lands for a new settlement in some other part of Jamaica, adopted a resolution to transport the late belligerents in a body from the colony. Accordingly in June, 1796, six hundred of them were shipped off to Nova Scotia, where they settled; but after a few years, on the ground that they were found intractable and troublesome, they were deported to the black settlement of Sierra Leone.

The conduct of the Assembly in causing these people to be transported was considered by many at the time a gross breach of faith, and Gen. WALPOLE, who commanded the forces that had been employed in their subjugation, and concluded the treaty of peace with them, declined to receive a sword, for which the Assembly had voted the sum of five hundred guineas, as an acknowledgment of his valuable services. There were three other settlements of the Maroons in Jamaica, but these not having been drawn into hostilities, were allowed to remain; and it is to their descendants, who still live very much as their fathers lived in the last century, that Gov. EYRE issued his proclamation during the late troubles in that island. The services to which the Governor refers, as rendered by the Maroons to the Crown in times past are, we suppose, the share of military duty they bore during a rebellion of the slaves in the parish of St. Mary, Jamaica, in the year 1760, and the assistance they gave to the militia toward the suppression of the negro revolt of 1831-32, when the slaves in the western part of the island rose in insurrection.

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