The Hanover Revolt of 1776 AP-HIST 1050 Dave Cousins November 21, 2012 The Hanover Revolt of 1776 Two documents which discuss the slave revolt in seventeen seventy-six are titled as “The Jamaican Slave Insurrection” by Richard Sheridan and “Testing the Chains” by Michael Craton. Both these documents contain these historian’s perspectives about the seventeen seventy-six slave revolt. These documents both have similarities and differences and contribute aspects with the seventeen seventy-six slave revolt. Sheridan’s document is very detailed discussing the life of the maroons from before and after they signed the treaty.
Sheridan’s document also discusses the events that occurred before the slave revolt, what caused the slave revolt, American Revolution, and the plot of the slaves. Sheridan’s document goes into depth and presents many details on what he is trying to say. On the other hand, Craton’s document only discusses one major event which was about the plot of the slaves. With no evidential proof on what caused the slave revolt, these historian’s share with us there perspectives and gives us an idea on what some of the answers to our questions might be.
Before the slave revolt occurred in seventeen seventy-six, there were many other slave outbursts that occurred in the past. It was stated in Sheridan’s document that after years of getting ambushed and attacked, the whites sued the Maroons for peace. The Maroons and the whites eventually signed the first treaty which occurred on March seventeen thirty-nine. The rebellions began to get very frustrated with the maroons do to the fact that there have been no plans of attack since the treaty was signed. Although, in seventeen sixty, slaves from numerous plantations in the parish of St.
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Mary fought back. This attack was successful due to the fact that the slaves broke in a fort and acquired arms and gunpowder. This led to the action of the slaves going from plantation to plantation killing the whites and black recruits were increasing. With the understanding of what situations occurred before, during and after the slave revolt in seventeen seventy-six, it is questioned among us on what caused the revolt? Although there is not much evidential proof on exactly what caused it, but there are historian’s point of views such as Sheridan’s.
In his document, Sheridan mentions that hard labor and harsh punishment were cited as strong motives by several slaves who were examined by magistrates of Hanover parish (Sheridan, 299). In Sheridan’s document there are an example from both Orlando Patterson and Monica Schuler who confirm that, “most of the conspiracies and revolts in the period of this study began on estates belonging to absentee proprietors” (Sheridan, 299). Slaves were forced to work harder so that the white men would produce large profits and salaries for themselves. Sheridan states that these factors were the reason why the slave revolt slowly began.
The slaves were eventually getting fed up and tired of the treatment they were receiving from the whites. Most of the slave outbreaks throughout Jamaica within this period began on estates belonging to absentee proprietors (Sheridan, 299). Absenteeism resulted in gross mismanagement of estates by attorneys who forced the slave to work far beyond their strength, to produce large profits for principles, commissions and salaries for themselves (Sheridan, 292). Absenteeism is an example of how slaves were treated shamefully, because of food shortages and huger brought misery and dissatisfaction to these slaves.
Thus the harsh punishment and dissatisfaction mainly led the slaves to discomfort, which then led them to created rebellion. It is questioned throughout these documents as to why these slave outbreaks occurred and to what the real motive was behind plots. It is stated in Sheridan’s document that the slaves plan to attack the whites when they were most vulnerable. In this case it was said to be they were most defenseless during a Christmas Holiday. The slaves planned to take advantage of the white’s weakness; in this case they planned to patiently wait until the white men removed their military unit so an attack would be more effective.
The plot to raise an attack on the white people was discovered on Monday, July 15th. Both Sheridan and Craton state in their documents that July 15 was indeed the correct date for the discovery of the plot. Although, in the documents the stories that led to the discovery of the plot are both dissimilar. In Craton’s document he states that a domestic slave was found with his master’s pistol. While in Sheridan’s document he gets more into detail with it and explains that a slave boy was discovered to be holding a pistol while filling it with oil and cotton.
On the other hand, the after math of this situation is both similar on the documents. Stating that forty-eight ringleaders were arrested and imprisoned and that six of the most obviously guilty were executed within the next couple of days. In both documents Sheridan and Craton both mention the same slave. Although Craton spells the slaves name as “Pontiac” while Sheridan spells the slaves name as “Pontack”. The significance point about this slave is that in both documents it states that this man was a run away slave who was part of the “Blue Hole estate”. This led to the actions of getting captured and interrogated.
The white men interrogating Pontiac by pressuring him into giving out details about the rebellions. Instead of answering the question, he changed the subject and talked about the maroons and how Billy and Asherry were advising the slaves on what to do and that they were going to support them. This leads to the conclusion that even though there is not evident proof that all the maroons united with the slaves, there is evident proof which is written in both documents that Billy and Asherry did. Maroons were eventually replaced by slave rangers to chase down runaways after this incident.
Jamaican’s economy had an extraordinary growth from the Maroon treaties of 1739-40 to the outbreak of the American Revolution in seventeen seventy-five (Sheridan 293). Sheridan states the five parishes which are the Hanover, St. James, Trelawny, St. Elizabeth and Westmoreland. It was very understandable that the slaves out numbered the white men vastly. In seventeen seventy-four St. James had 12,557 slaves while there were only 478 whites. This can also be said in a ratio of 26:1. In the document of Craton it is stated that the ratio in the Hanover from black to whites was 25:1.
Similarities do occur in this situation as both documents notify the ratio which is not exact but very similar. With this being said, a major comparison also is identified within the two documents with the relative subject. In Sheridon’s document it is acknowledged that from the years 1763-1775, sugar plantations increased from 429 to 775. While in Craton’s document he states that there were 75 sugar plantations starting at the year of seventeen seventy-fifty. Revered John Lindsay D. D is a man who is mentioned in both Sheridan and Craton’s document.
He states linked conspiracy with revolutionary ideology (Sheridan, 300). This is stated by Revered John Lindsay D. D within a letter that he wrote. This letter can be found on page 175 of Craton’s document and on page 300 of Sheridan’s document. This letter by John Lindsay was written to a man named Dr. William Robertson, who was a famous historian. The letter informed William Robertson that while slave insurrections were not uncommon, the conspiracy of seventeen seventy-six was unique in its involvement of both the Creole and house slaves (Sheridan, 300).
John Lindsay then discusses in his letter how when the whites are sitting at the table, where there is a waiting man behind every person; the topic of American Rebellion has been disaffected amongst us (Sheridan, 300). Another example which is found in Sheridan’s document is from Stephan Fuller. Stephen suggested that the American Revolution may have been partly responsible for the slave revolt scare of seventeen seventy-six. In other words, after reading both documents it is clear to the readers that different historians discuss events and situations that are similar but yet different at the same time.
In this case for example, Sheridan spells the runaway slaves name as “Pontack” in his document, while Craton spells it as “Pontiac” in his document. This only proves that there are no evidential proof and true facts on the seventeen seventy-six slave revolt. Analyzing both documents, it is clear that the main question asked and still unknown is “what caused the slave revolt”. This question was not answered in Craton’s documents, with the assumption that he did not know what caused it. While Sheridan states in his documents that the main cause for the revolt in eventeen seventy-six was due to the fact the slaves were just fed up and tired of the treatment that they were receiving. Understanding Craton and Sheridan’s point of view in their documents, it is too quick to judge which information is false or which information is the most accurate when reading the detailed events and situations during the revolt. As a historian there is no certainty that what your saying is correct or a fact, but a point of view from gathering information would never hurt or interest one historian after another.
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