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The alleged ground for passing this Edict in Jamaica, whatever the truth of the case might be, was certainly similar to that of the Edicts of Dioclesian. It was stated in the preamble, That the Slaves, by being permitted to assemble at these meetings to hear Christian instruction, were in danger of being “ perverted with fanatical no“ tions; and that opportunity was afforded thein “of concerting schemes of much public and pri

vate mischief.”


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On an application made by the different religious societies in England, whose Missionaries had been silenced, the Committee of the Privy Council for matters of Trade, examined the merits of the new Act; and, upon their Report, it was disallowed by his Majesty, and consequently ceased to have any force in Jamaica.

His Majesty, however, being desirous to promote every fair object which the Colonial Legislature could have in view, transmitted to them an amended draft of an Act, founded on the principle, that possibly the public safety might require the regulation of Missionary efforts. This Act was such, as the Governor might be empowered to give the Royal Assent to, if adopted by the Council and Assembly. But, upon its being presented to the Assembly, they indignant

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ly rejected it. They “ Resolved, That any at

tempt by that Board” (Lords of Trade and Plantations), “or any other, to direct or influence “the proceedings of this House in matters of “internal regulation, by any previous proposi“tion or decision on what is referred to, or under “ their consideration and deliberation, is an in" terference with the appropriate functions of " the House, which it is their bounden duty never to submit to."

If it had been doubtful before, whether the Act above-mentioned had been founded on a sincere apprehension of public evils, the proceeding of the Assembly must have decided the question. If they had been really apprehensive that the Slaves, by meeting in Christian assemblies, would have an opportunity of concerting “ schemes of public and private mischief,” they would not have rejected a preventive law, from a mere punctilio as to the mode of its introduction. But the Jamaica Assembly, since they could not have a law of their own making, would have no law at all.


The Churches of the Slaves had rest for nearly three years; but, in 1807, a second persecution (so named by the Missionaries) broke out with the violence of a hurricane. The ground of it was not alleged to be “ danger to the public peace.” It was of a quite different nature. An Ordinance was passed on the 15th June, 1807, by the Common Council of Kingston, “ for pre

venting the profanation of religious rites and “ false worshipping of God, under the pretence “ of teaching and preaching by illiterate persons. The preamble set forth, “That preaching, teach

ing, and expounding the Word of God,” ought not to be exercised " by uneducated, illiterate, " and ignorant persons, and false enthusiasts; that the practice of such pretended“ preaching “ and expounding the Holy Scriptures by such

persons, to large numbers of persons of Colour “ and Negroes of free condition, had increased to

an alarming degree; and during sạch pretended

preaching and pretended worshipping of God, “ divers indecent and unseemly noises, GESTICU

LATIONS, and behaviour, often are used and “ take place, to the great annoyance of the neigh

ec bours,” &c. It was therefore enacted, That if any person, under pretence of being a minister of religion or expounder of Scripture, should

presume to preach or teach, or offer up public prayer, or SING PSALMS, in any meeting or

assembly of Negroes,” who was not“ duly au“ thorised and qualified” for the same, he should be punished; if a White man, by fine and imprisonment. But if a Slave should, under such pretence, presume “ to preach, or offer up public

prayer, or sing PSALMs” (in doing which latter he would be in danger of the unseemly noises and gesticulations aforesaid *), he should be punished by “imprisonment for six months, or by whip

PING not exceeding thirty-nine stripes, or by both, as shall be in those cases respectively adjudged.”

It was further enacted, That no person should

use public worship earlier than the hour of six “ o'clock in the morning, or later than sun-set in " the evening.” Nothing could be more effectual for preventing the Slaves from receiving instruction six days out of seven; “ for before the sun rises " they are compelled to be at their labour; and “ they are not suffered to quit it till it sets t.”

* This parenthesis is not in the original law. † Coke's History of the West Indies, Vol. ïi. p. 17.

But still the Sunday remained.

In the month of November, of the same year, 1807, an Act was passed by the Legislature of the Island, prohibiting the Missionaries from teaching at all-even on Sunday. It consisted of two enactments, the second of which declared, “That

no Methodist Missionary, or other sectary, or s preacher, shall presume to instruct our Slaves,

or to receive them into their houses, chapels, or conventicles; under the penalty of 201. for

every Slave proved to have been there" (that is, 20,0001. for a congregation of 1000 Slaves), “ to “ be recovered in a summary manner, before any “ three justices of the peace; and, on refusal of

payment, to commit the offender to gaol until payment should be made.”

One of the principal Missionaries was thrown into Kingston gaol.

The others continued to preach to the Whites, and to the free People of Colour; but NO SLAVE WAS PERMITTED TO ENTER*.

Frequently, while men of free condition entered to “ hear preaching, the Slaves crowded about the doors, which * the Edict forbad them to enter, with looks of the most

expressive sorrow, and words of the most penetrating “ eloquence. • Massa, me no go to heaven now.'

• White man kecp black man from serving God.'

- Black man

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