As mentioned in Part 1 and 2 of this series the African slaves came to Barbados in their 10's of thousands. Their journeyed here was a cruel one and the treatment they received once reaching the Island at times was no less cruel. By 1684 Slaves outnumbered those who rules over them by 4 to 1
In these conditions it is not surprising that the first slave uprising took place in Barbados in 1675. The uprising was organised by the slaves that came from the Coromantees tribe who were described as war like. The Ashanite planned to place 'Cuffy" one of their people as king of the Island. They planned to blow conch shells and set fire to the canes signalling the uprising. The slaves were to kill all their masters and take possession of the most beautiful women. The plan however was foiled when a slave woman shared the plan with her master Judge Hall and the governor was quickly alerted. The woman was later given her freedom but 17 people were executed, some being burnt alive and their bodies dragged through the streets as a warning to other conspirators...... This is perhaps the lowest and the bleakest points in the Barbados history.
Perhaps one of the first bright spots after that was that of the legacy of Christopher Codrington. Codrington died at the age of 42 in 1710 and had bequeathed his property of 800 acres and 00 slaves to the Society to the Propagation of the Gospel. Codringtons legacy was emphasised by Bishop William Fleetwood in 1711 who said " all were equally the workmanship of God they were empowered with the same faculties and intellectual powers, possessed the same bodies of flesh and blood and souls certainly immortal. He also encouraged planters to teach slaves the Christian was by living the example. Unfortunately most of the planters did not see the slaves as people with an immortal soul but property, a tool used in the economic machine age.
Though the Codrington movement may not have had the success they desired it was the first step to freedom.
First the society established the idea that a slave could be a Christian. Then as the years went by the more radical view that slavery was contrary to the spirit of Christianity was accepted. For their beliefs and teaching they incurred hostility from those planters who opposed by the idea. In effort to keep freedom at bay and the many missionaries were kept out of the Islands. Unfortunately even some of the clergy of the Anglican Church opposed the idea of freedom.
The slave trade itself was abolished in 1807 it would be another 31 years before slavery itself would be abolished in Barbados. William Wilberforce was known as the champion of the abolition of slavery in England and was seen as a Moses of sorts by the slaves. They would gather in groups around the island and listen to the debates taking place in the British parliament and believed Wilberforce would lead them to freedom.
The progress of the abolition movement was a growing concern for the planters. The planters had a number of problems at that time that greatly stressed them.
In 1651 Barbados was seen as the most flourishing Island in the British West Indies and enjoyed a decade known as the Golden Age. Following this great prosperity, came decline. Cultivated field were attacked by monkeys and racoons. The canes were gnawed by rats. To cope with rats the canes were set n fire but wind often took the fires out of the control of the planters.
The soil also showed signs of exhaustion and produced much less sugar. A strange type of caterpillar came on the scene like the locust of Egypt and devoured everything that came its way. In 1666 a fire destroyed Bridgetown and was followed by a drought and an epidemic that was not clearly identified, however the epidemic raged in the Island.
In 1675 the Island was hit by a hit by a most disastrous hurricane and few things survived. The sugar canes were flattened, windmills badly damages, the slaves dwelling housed destroyed and many vessels destroyed. The year following the hurricane, slaves were diverted from their regular task and put to rebuilding the island. This meant that there was no time to plant and care for the new crop and so there was no crop harvested in 1675 and 1676.
After the American Revaluation in 1775 Barbados was no longer allowed to trade with North America. This meant that items such as lumber, flour and corn doubled in price. Barbados was also hit by another sever Hurricane in 1783 and the damage was almost irreparable. Health conditions in the island also suffered as yellow fever and small pox killed thousands of people.Though expenses were increasing for the planters the price of sugar fell from 4 £ to 1£ per 100 pounds. Many planters who once enjoyed great wealth were now faced with comparative poverty.
Facing such obstacles made the planters even more hesitant to abolish slavery. In attempt to counter some of the arguments of the British abolitionist the planters in Barbados turned to the task of improving slave conditions. They provided them with increased rations of food and better supplies of clothing. The law that stated murdering a slave was punishable by a 15£ was also repealed and made such a murder a capital offence. This was a great breakthrough that was made against an act that was a disgrace to the code of laws.
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