By Peter Dickson
The style of government, the legislature and other institutions would have been familiar to anyone newly arrived from Britain. In outline, a Governor, also Commander-in-Chief, stood proxy for the king and sat on the Council which was an appointed body; the House of Assembly had its own Speaker and membership of the house was by election in the various parishes; all legislation was subject to royal assent.
Parish officials, among whom were Vestry Clerk, Clerk of the Peace, Coroner, were responsible for local records and administration including tax collection, poor relief, the workhouse and roads. The parishes were larger than their English counterparts and each had an appointed Custos (Custos Rotulorum) who was, perhaps, equivalent to the Lord Lieutenant or High Sheriff of an English county.
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In addition to Statute Law enacted by the legislature, English Common Law was the norm for free people but slaves were subject to the Slave Laws. The Crown's principal law officer was the Attorney General; a Chief Justice headed a Supreme Court of other judges who also sat on Assize Courts around the island; Barristers pleaded cases in the higher courts, Attorneys practiced law in the lower courts and drew up legal agreements (the term "attorney-at-law" was used to distinguish them from "planting attorneys") and Justices of the Peace heard cases in Magistrates' Courts in the parishes.
Every man was bound by law to serve in the Militia and all males over the age of 16 who had been resident in the island for over one month were enlisted. Later in the 18th century, there were separate companies for Jews and free males sorted by colour and all commanded by white officers. All except commissioned officers served without pay. The non-commissioned officers were generally from the white population, but some were coloured people of good character.
View of plantation Rio Bueno.
By 1832 a majority of the proprietors of large estates lived in the British Isles. (Note225) The lesser landowners lived on their island estates. Many took an active and diligent part in community affairs and were probably the most respected people on the island; others were not so, living mostly on credit and often ending up in financial difficulties. The smaller proprietors were settlers who had either a small livestock pen or a coffee or pimento walk. Some had a few slaves, or would hire jobbing gangs, when necessary, during the agricultural year. The more ambitious and the more astute sometimes joined the ranks of large landowners.
Note 225: Richard B. Sheridan, Agricultural History, Volume XLV, No. 4, October 1971, pp. 285-296: in 1775, absentees owned 180 of the 755 sugar plantations on the island; in 1832, 540 out of 646 estates were owned by absentees and managed by estate attorneys.
Interior, Rio Bueno Church, Jamaica
f"Non-resident landowners hired an attorney (one who had a 'power of attorney') to manage their properties. The term did not imply ant legal expertise or training and the attorney might be a resident owner, a merchant, a lawyer, a doctor, or an old experienced overseer. An attorney sometimes had several properties under his sole care; the best known, the most successful and the wealthiest was Simon Taylor who managed or had a share in estates throughout the island.
The job of actually managing the plantation or work on the estates fell to the overseer, paid an annual salary. He lived in the "Great House" if it was unoccupied by the owner, otherwise he had his own quarters in a separate house. He was attended by domestic slaves and also had charge of the overall maintenance of the property.
Church at Rio Bueno, Jamaica
Under the overseer's control and direction were the bookkeepers (nothing to do with accounting) who directly controlled the labouring gangs in the field.
Jamaica traded with both Great Britain and with America - the colonies prior to 1775 and the United States after 1783. Merchants (the term covered a wide range of activities) received regular supplies of goods from abroad, priced according to demand and generally dealt in more than one commodity; some dealt mainly or solely in clothing or dried provisions for the use of plantation labourers and accepted only cash or produce at local market rates; this was seen as generally preferable to extending lengthy credit, especially to property owners whose land was heavily mortgaged.
At the many private and commercial wharves, either in large harbours or in small coves, a wharfinger was the owner or keeper who supervised the shipment, unloading and storage of goods. The rates of wharfage were set by law and reviewed regularly.
Wharf at Rio Bueno, Jamaica
Since 1762 the Jamaican Assembly had placed a limit on the maximum value of property (£2,000) which could be inherited by a "free person of colour". However, many exceptions were made through Private Acts which were passed by the Assembly; these required time, influence and money. The certain restrictions referred to in the following selections were generally legal and political limits on rights at law and on voting rights. The extract from the will of Jeremiah Pattinson merely illustrates that the value of his bequest did not exceed the prescribed limit at the time and that no private act was therefore needed.
[From Private Acts of the Assembly] N A: CO139/24
Kingston, 22nd February, 1783
[From Private Acts of the Assembly]
William Wright of Portland Esq. to settle his estate as he shall think fit notwithstanding the Act to prevent exorbitant grants and devises to negroes. It is for Mary Wright, Susannah Wright, Rosamund Wright, George Wright, William Wright, Richard Wright and Else Wright ...
N A: CO139/37
Parish of St. James, 4th September, 1793
[From the will of Jeremiah Pattinson, Merchant]
I give, devise and bequeath to my housekeeper Eleanor Graham (a free Mulatto woman) my negroe Slave named Fanny with our infant child and future Increase To hold the said Eleanor Graham her Heirs and Assigns for ever ...
N A: PROB 11/
Kingston, 7th December, 1801
[From Private Acts of the Assembly]
John Douglas, Sholto Douglas, Archibald Douglas, Robert Douglas, Edmund Douglas, Catherine Douglas, and Elizabeth Douglas, free quadroons and the reputed children of Peter Douglas of the parish of St John in the county of Middlesex to the same rights and privileges under certain restrictions..
N A: CO/139/50
London, 12th September, 1810
[From PCC will of Duncan Campbell]
... to each of my three Mulatto reputed daughters by Esther belonging to the Retrieve Estate Old Works named Susannah Campbell, Jane Campbell and Ann Campbell £100 …my reputed Mulatto son William Campbell by the same mother £300 and the last named four Mulatto children I will shall be manumized …my old and faithful servant John Campbell £30 and his freedom.
N A: PROB 11/1515
A balance of accounts
The Adventure, out of Leith, its commander James Hamilton, slipped past the Apostle's Battery and into Kingston harbour, Jamaica, with a new consignment for Scots merchant, Hugh McLaghlan, in late June 1754:
Fine and coarse, yard-wide, 7-8th and 3-4ths checks,
Handkerchiefs of different sorts,
Sheeting and green Hollands,
Ready made shirts
Demi-pique and hunting saddles with furniture,
Men, women, boys and girls thread stocking, coarse and fine,
Green and white ready made thread breeches,
Women's lawn aprons,
Brown and white thread,
Lawns of different sorts,
Thread buttons, garters and ferreting,
Men and women's ruffles,
Hardware of different sorts,
Grutts, oatmeal and barley in kegs,
Men and women's shoes and pump
Women and girls callimanco shoes,
Calf and Morocco slippers.
Minard great house, Jamaica
Re The Maroons
The Maroons were descendants of earlier-freed or runaway Spanish slaves, some of whom had fought with the English against the Spaniards. In 1738, following the First Maroon War, terms were made with the government under which the Maroons were guaranteed full freedom and liberty and granted land. In return they agreed to help recapture runaway slaves and assist in military operations against local uprisings or foreign invasion. Two Superintendents of Maroon were appointed to live with them to maintain friendly contact. After a second Maroon War in 1795, those who had rebelled eventually arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Africa, via Nova Scotia.
Further to come from Peter Dickson by October 2006
I am also intending to add a section on Executors and witnesses to some of
the wills mentioned as there are some common threads running through them from
Neill Malcolm in 1764 to Dugald Campbell's George Johnson in 1842. It could
be expanded at a later date to include detail on the persons named (e.g. James
Martin was in partnership with **** Campbell and others in Lucea, Campbell,
Martin & Co. in 1817) and perhaps the legatees, if the inter-related genealogy,
which is sometimes complicated, doesn't obscure rather than enlighten. On executors
In addition to relatives who, quite naturally, feature most, other executors
and witnesses to wills often hint at the wider network of social and business
connections. Hugh Malcolm 1764
Executors: Dugald Malcolm, Neill Malcolm Witness: Alexander Ramsay [ship's captain, Duke of Portland] Thomas Chambers 1781 Executors: John Tharp, George Brissett Witnesses: John Tharp Snr., John Harding, Henry Randall Dugald Malcolm of Pell River 1785 Executors: Neill Malcolm (Donald Malcolm, George Malcolm) Witnesses: Dugald McLachlan, John Allen, William Sutherland Neill Malcolm 1802 Executors:
Dugald Malcolm [England], Richard Brissett, Edward Robinson, Richard Atkinson, John Allen, Simon Taylor, George Malcolm. Witnesses: Charles Birbeck Andree, Charles McCarthy Duncan Campbell of Morven 1810
Executors: John Campbell [brother], George Malcolm & his son John Malcolm, John Hog. Witnesses: Denis Thomas, James Campbell, Alexander McDougall. Donald Malcolm 1812 Executors: Neil Malcolm [nephew], Charles Painter, John Gordon and Charles Stirling of Messrs. Stirling & Gordon, Alexander Campbell of Ardlamont [nephew] Dr. Alexander Campbell, James Martin [Malcolm's clerk but then his business partner]. Witnesses: William Cleghorn, John Wills Sheate, Duncan Sinclair George Malcolm 1813 Executors: John Malcolm [son] George Hibbert, William Hibbert, Samuel Hibbert, Alexander Campbell, James Martin. Witnesses: James Irving, Neil Mclaren, Robert Lindsay Dugald Campbell of Saltspring 1818
Executors: John and Duncan Campbell [brothers], James Boyick, Robert Scarlett. Witness: William Bligh. Richard Dickson 1821 Executors: Sons Witnesses: William McKintosh, Thomas Miller, George Holbrook John Malcolm of Argyle 1832
Executors: Neil Malcolm & Neil Malcolm the younger [cousins] Samuel Hibbert, Richard Chambers, Henry Chambers, Edgar Corrie. Witnesses: Henry Chambers, F. J. W_lch (?), Percival Burton, William A. Dickson 1842 Executor: Henry Brockett Witnesses: George Johnson, John Dinham, Isaac Bing.
(Ends Part Four, the last section, of Kin and Creole Cousins, Jamaica by Peter Dickson)
Note 224: Jamaica Directory, 1920: the James family still owned Burnt Ground (cattle) and Haughton Hall (sugar). Dehaney had Cascade (cattle).
Follows e-mail from Brett Ashmeade-Hawkins on 1 October 2006
Dear Merchant Networks,
I recently came across your Merchants Networks site on the Internet and found it to be most interesting. For some years I have also been following the evolution of Dan Byrnes' website, the Blackheath Connection. I see that you are by now in contact with Peter Dickson, whose family once owned plantations in Jamaica, and that he is currently providing you with some recent photographs of historic sites in the Island.
I was just wondering if any of you have ever visited the old Saltspring Great House, near Green Island in Hanover, Jamaica, which once belonged to the Campbell family. It was rebuilt in 1781 by the Hon. John Campbell (who died 1782 in New London), Custos of Hanover, on the ruins of the previous fine 18th Century mansion which was destroyed by the great hurricane of 1780.
I knew the house as it had rebuilt in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when I was a child living in Montego Bay, Jamaica. My father was the Agent for Lloyd's of London in Jamaica and insured many of the old plantations on the Island, including Saltspring Estate, which had by then been renamed Winchester Estate. It was still a sugar plantation and was over 1,000 acres in size. It was then owned by a black Jamaican named Harry Dennis, which was unusual in the 1960s when most plantation owners in Jamaica were still white.
Harry Dennis and his family lived in the old 18th Century Winchester (Saltspring) Great House, which was a large three-storey Georgian house, built of stone and brick, complete with arched sash-windows and Adam-style mahogany panelling. The first floor of the house was a raised stone basement and a typical Jamaican-style double-staircase of stone led from the driveway up to a long, wrought-iron railed verandah on the second floor, where the Drawing Room and the Dining-Room and other principal rooms were situated. In the hallway inside the house, a lovely old mahogany staircase led up to several bedrooms on the third floor. There was also an iron staircase which led from the second-floor verandah up to the third-floor verandah. This had a wooden trap-door and at night it would be shut and locked and the watchman, an old black man whom I believe was named Ezra, would spend the night sleeping in a rocking chair with a shotgun across his knees, just in case any intruder was foolhardy enough to try and break through the trap door.
Lucea today, Jamaica (2006)
My father was often invited to have lunch at Winchester Great House and like most old-time Jamaica planters, Harry Dennis was very lavish with his hospitality. My father has many fond memories of him. Harry Dennis died in the late 1980s and his son now owns Winchester Estate. I don't know if the old Great House is still there. I still visit Jamaica once a year, but I haven't stopped in at Winchester Estate since 1987. In 2003 the Friends of the Georgian Society of Jamaica, an historic preservation group based in England, went on their third Georgian Tour of Jamaica and I told them about Winchester Great House and its connections with Capt. William Bligh. Douglas Blain went looking for the house, but got lost and couldn't find it. Perhaps it was destroyed by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988?
Please pass this e-mail on to Peter Dickson for me. Perhaps he may know if anyone might know if Winchester (Saltspring) Great House is still standing or might even have a photograph of it. If not, I am going down to Jamaica again in January, and I shall try and swing by Winchester Estate and see if the old Great House is still there. If it is, then I'll try and photograph it for you.
Brett Ashmeade-Hawkins via hotmail.com
Subject: Letters Campbell & Clerk From: "p.dickson"
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