Our Readers' Opinions
July 18, 2014
Historical Notes

Ashton Warner’s Account of Slavery and that of Daphne Crosbie

(Editor’s Note: “The work was edited by S Strickland and published in 1831. The editor stated that ‘the following little history (was) taken down from the narration of a young negro’ and, “in writing Ashton’s narrative, I have adhered strictly to the simple facts, adopting, wherever it could conveniently be done, his own language, which, for a person in his condition, is remarkably expressive and appropriate”){{more}}

“I was born in the island of St Vincent and baptized by the name of Ashton Warner, in the parish church by the Rev Mr Gildon. My father and mother, at the time of my birth, were slaves on Cane Grove estate, in Bucumar Valley, then the property of Mr Ottley.

…My mother made sausages and souse and I used to help her carry them to gentlemen’s houses for sale. This was light labour to her, for she had been a field slave, kept at hard work and driven to it by the whip. I am sure our best days were spent with my dear aunt; nor did she make us alone happy; all the money she could save went to purchase the freedom of slaves who had formerly been her companions in bondage at Cane Grove or to make their condition better…

What made me feel more deeply for the sad condition of the field slaves was the circumstance of having taken a wife from among them, after I had resided several years on Cane Grove estate…

I could not bear to see her work in the field. It is, as I have already said, a very sad and hard condition of slavery; and the more my wife suffered, the more I wished to be free and to make her so. When she was with child, she was flogged for not coming out early enough to work and afterwards, when far advanced in pregnancy, she was put into the stocks by the manager because she said she was unable to go to the field. My heart was

almost broken to see her so treated, but I could do nothing to help her; and it would have made matters worse if I had attempted to speak up for her…After our child was born she was repeatedly flogged for not coming sooner to the field though she had stopped merely to attend and suckle the baby. But they had no feeling for the mother or her child; they cared only for the work.

It is a dreadful thing to be a field slave; and it is scarcely less dreadful, if one’s heart is not quite heartened to have a wife or a husband or a child in that condition. On this account I was often grieved that I had taken poor Sally to be my wife; for it caused her more suffering as a mother, while her cruel treatment wrung my heart without my being able to move a finger or utter a word in her behalf…”

(Ashton eventually got to England where his story was recorded by Mr Strickland)

Ashton continued “…It is not from what I have suffered in my own body as a slave that I wish to publish this narrative, for I was better off than thousands of my poor countrymen; but I wished to relate not only my own case, but also all that I knew of slavery -all that I have heard with my own ears, and beheld with my own eyes – in the hope that it may help to make known the condition of the poor slaves to the English people, and stir them up to do away with slavery altogether.”

Ashton Warner did not live to have his case settled or to see the Emancipation Act passed. He developed imflammatory trouble, and died on 25th February 1831, in the London Hospital uttering some imperfect expressions about the ‘King of England’ and ‘freedom to the slaves’.

(From The Evolution of the Negro, vol.2 by N.E Cameron)