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June 27, 2014
Historical Notes

1862 RIOTS

Extract from correspondence sent to the Anti-Slavery Society about the 1862

Riots (January 1, 1863)

“It appears, that in September last, certain employers in the Windward district, determined on reducing the wages of the native labourers to 6 pence per diem, while the coolies were to be continued at 8 pence. To this the labourers objected, and refused to work unless they were to be paid during the current month, according to law, at the usual rate.{{more}}

The planters then threatened them with the usual alternative, and, the labourers continuing obstinate, the inspector and his body of police from Kingston (Kingstown) were soon in sight. On their approach the negro feature to imitate was developed, and similar scenes were enacted which had characterized the sailors of one of Her Majesty’s ships on a former occasion, and which were subsequently repeated, even by some gentlemen of standing in the community, in demolishing respectively the premises of editors and entirely destroying their printing-presses.

It was only through the interposition of an influential Weslyan Missionary that the people could be appeased, seeing they were nearly as much exasperated as the sailors and gentlemen on the occasion referred to, when the law was completely defied, and the liberty of the subject seriously invaded. So much for the force of example. I must observe that the reign of oppression which exists in small colonial communities is unknown to British philanthropy.

Several of these labourers , upon entering Kingstown a few days after the sad occurrences, were shot, because they had with them their cutlasses, which it is common for them to carry when at their work.

On this occasion they had given no signs of insubordination to justify in the least way a sacrifice of twenty lives. The opportunity, however, was thought by the murderers as then presenting the gratifying and long desire to shed negro blood; not to speak of the use of the lash in the so-called good old days and which is still considered a smart thing for a negro. I think great blame is attributable to the Lieutenant-Governor, Mr. Musgrave, for sending the police in the first instance, which is another proof, of the many, of his incompetency to govern. I might state that the West-Indian Islands are not regulated quite on the free system and the state of the local Governments calls for special inquiry”.