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Gone is the Ancient Glory

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Hart Reviews
Vasconcellos
Jamaica history
Sample Chapter

Sample: Chapter Five

"The Genteelest and handsomest town in the island"

Reorientations, 1780-1838
The 58 years after 1780 saw the transformation of the Jamaica of the plantocracy. The island's Governors, Council members and Assembley men all continued to hold forth in the splendid settings constructed in Spanish Town during the 1760s, but within a single lifespan a succession of social, economic and political changes buffeted their hierarchical world and challenged most of their society's basic assumptions[1]. Some major social developments occurred in the 1780s and '90s in the aftermath of the American War of Independence and later during the French Revolution. During the late 1820s and 1830s an unwilling Assembly passed decisive changes. Wider definitions of 'Jamaican' came to be recognized in Spanish Town's streets, a process that culminated on August 1, 1838 when the Governor read a proclamation from the portico of the King's House that left all the former slaves fully free.

These successive transitions left their imprint on Spanish town and this charter investigates the physical and cultural reshaping of the capital in the generations before emancipation. The island's political and legal affairs were housed there, and the town remained both a social hub and a regional market in its own right. Newcomers might assume that Kingston, with it's "immense trade" was "the Capital of Jamaica", but they soon recognized that although Spanish Town was "inferior in point of size". the older center remained "the seat of Government, and the place where the Courts of Jamaica are held". [2] The protracted completion of a grandiose monument to a naval victory and then the outbreak of another war provided new backdrops for the major public events in Spanish Town and set the stage for a generation worried by impending military threats. The Industrial Revolution in England also presented further opportunities for spending public funds on important new public works and monuments, including purchasing the remarkable Iron Bridge that still spans the river Cobre. However, the construction of the Baptist and Methodist chapels on the town's outer approaches showed some of the most significant social changes that transformed Jamaica over this period. These demonstrated wider cultural shifts from the plantocracy to 'free Jamaica', besides encouraging Jamaica's broader transformation from a profane to a God-fearing society. With the establishment of the chapels to rival the established Anglican places of worship an alternative urban geography developed that re-orientated towns peoples' social patterns. Exploring these developments highlights the sheer range of the social and intellectual reorientations during this period.

Reappraising the Town:
travelogues, cartoons & metropolitan views of Jamaican Society.

Far fewer new public buildings were commissioned in the town during the 25 years after 1780 than during the previous 30 years but, even if they might appear shabbier, descriptions of Spanish Town's streets began to reach far wider audiences. Published accounts of West Indian life became increasingly plentiful in Britain during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Over the next 30 years the circulation of these images helped shape English views of Jamaican society.

Further direct lines of communication between Britain and the West Indies were opened by the host of soldiers and sailors posted to Jamaica during the prolonged wars with France between 1789 and 1815. Despite massive casualty lists, Britain maintained a strong military presence in the West Indies [3]. Some of the survivors endorsed the planters' point of view after they returned home. For a generation a succession of distinguished veterans who had enjoyed lavish West Indian hospitality would be marshaled as witnesses for the defense of the slave holders' activities. Other visitors were more impressed by the growing differences between West Indian culture and English social norms. Between 1799-1801 the soldier-artist Abraham James served in the 67th Regiment while it was posted in Spanish Town. A set of cartoons by "FJ 67 Regt." published in London from 1802, which satirized Creole life in general and Spanish Town 'society' in particular, exemplified the latter attitude [4]. His image of "Seger smoking society in Jamaica!" probably depicts the town's Assembly Rooms, nominally a resort for genteel society. The white residents, male and female alike, are shown here smoking huge cigars (when this fashion as not established in 'polite' society in England) and lying back in chairs with their legs propped up against the wall. [4] For general boorishness the individuals depicted in this cartoon outdo images of even the crassest nouveau riches thrown up by the Industrial Revolution. A second plate (illustrated) depicted another Spanish Town scene: "A Grand Jamaican Ball!" or the Creolian hop a la Mustee; as exhibited in Spanish Town", and showed a ball in the Great Hall at the King's House with the dancers capering about to the music of an African-Jamaican band.[5].

The publication of Abraham Jones's cartoons of Jamaican life in London demonstrated a wide interest in West Indian scenes and highlighted the differences between the Creole lifestyles and English customs. They were published by a printer whose publications generally had a radical slant. The markets in England for these and other late-eighteenth and early nineteenth-century prints depicting Jamaica was much greater than in the early and mid-eighteenth century, when authors who described the East Indies had a hard time finding publishers. As a result the 'Englishness' of Anglo-Jamaican society, a key element in its own self definitions, became more open to metropolitan sneers and jeers. Just when the planters and their Assembly endeavored to defend their slave-based society and tried to persecute the Protestant missionaries who challenged it, English readers of these publications were ready to buy - and increasingly believe - missionaries' descriptions of planter cruelty.

The Rodney Temple:
celebrating Jamaica's avoiding a French & Spanish conquest.

As first little appeared to have changed in Jamaican society after the American War of Independence, though both the Island's merchants and planters soon complained against the British government's decision to close the West Indian colonies to trade with the United States [6]. The continuity with earlier practices was displayed in the island's major civilian architectural commission of the 1780s which celebrated the colony's survival as a British colony. This followed the mid-century tradition by continuing to embellish the Parade in Spanish Town. The massive 'Rodney Temple' provided a monument to a hard fought naval victory that left Jamaica unplundered. On 12 April 1782, Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney's fleet defeated the Count de Grasse's French fleet at the Battle of the Saints. In a dawn to dusk engagement in the Saints Channel between Dominica and Guadalupe, Rodney succeeded in breaking the French fleets line of battle and then bludgeoning seven French ships of the line into surrendering, leaving the 'remainder of their Fleet ... miserably shattered' [7]. Following on the heels of a long string of defeats in North America the British public 'with wonder heard the story,/ Of George's sway and Briton's Glory,/ Which fame can ne'er subdue' [8]. This unexpected naval triumph occurred six months after the British Army under Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, a defeat that marked the end of any hopes for a British victory over the rebellious colonists on the North American mainland. However, the immediate effect of the Battle of the Saints was to prevent Jamaica from falling into the hands of America's French and Spanish allies. While those of King George III's colonial subjects who remained under British rule celebrate any military successes to be found, this victory marked a particularly important turning point in Jamaica's history. The island remained English in contrast to all expectations in the months leading up to the battle.

During the was the Jamaica Assembly had poured out cash to repair forts and to erect artillery batteries across the island in anticipation of a French invasion.[9] 'Drums beat all day', but in one contemporary's nervous appraisal, disease cut the garrison so that 'we have many Regiments on Paper but not 2,500 effective men', the doubts continued as the militia appeared 'disinclin'd to service' with 'as many men of American principles as loyalists amongst the principles as loyalists amongst the principal gentlemen' who provided the officers.[10] The regular General in charge of the island's defenses suggested some very radical measures to eke out the scanty garrison to resist the expected imminent attack. He proposed to 'double' the militia by freeing and arming large numbers of reliable slaves as skirmishers, then, should the enemy coma ashore, the settlers were to burn everything that could not be hauled away and try to hold out in the mountainous interior. [11] Perhaps the planter officers in the local militia units would have obeyed such drastic orders; perhaps these desperate tactics could have worked - but it seems unlikely. Fortunately, they never had to find out. Even after the Assembly received the information that if Jamaica was captured it would be handed over to Spanish rule, fulfilling all their worst nightmares. the Assembleymen still vetoed a proposal to recruit and free slave skirmishers as "too dangerous".[12] Meanwhile Spanish plans called for landing 20,000 men.[13] The French still had more troops. Short of a miracle or, perhaps, the outbreak of fever amongst the invaders, the soldiers and militiamen available in Jamaica could not have stopped the combined Franco-Spanish invasion once it got ashore. The French had already captured most of the British islands in the Eastern Caribbean.[14] Jamaica was next. As a contempary ballad put it; 'For to besiege Jamaica [Admiral de Grasse] his course he straight did steer'. Desperate defensive strategies, or the alternative of French of Spanish conquest and rule, would certainly have transformed the colony. After Admiral Rodney's remarkable triumph at the Battle of the Saints, Jamaica remained unconquered. The success then enabled the British negotiators at the Peace of Paris of 1783 to regain all the Eastern Caribbean islands captured by the French.

The exhilaration in Jamaica about the 'great eminent and brilliant day' of naval victory rose higher still, in part because Rodney anchored his triumphant fleet in Port Royal Habour. As the ballad proudly continued:

Now the lofty Ville de Paris is to Leis no more,
Behold she trims her lofty sails to deck Britannia's shore,
With three more of their lofty ships to bear her company. [15]

After two weeks of parties and patching up Rodney sailed for England, but ran into an early hurricane on his way home. Several of the prizes including de Grazze's flagship sank in the storm. The sightseers from across Jamaica who thronged Kingston to 'pay tribute due to the deliverers of our Country', and 'see La Ville de Paris and the other Glorious Trophies of that day's Victory', were the only civilians to observe the full extent of Rodney's achievement.[16]

Thankful Assemblymen, recognizing the Royal Navy's achievement and the colony's amazing luck in avoiding invasion, voted £1,000 to commission a statue of Admiral - soon Lord - Rodney from John Bacon, the leading monumental sculptor in England. [17] It was an extravagant gesture. When the statue arrived in Jamaica in 1790 it provoked a further political tussle between Kingston and Spanish Town over where it should stand. The Kingston delegation's proposal would have their town raise subscriptions to se the newly arrived statue on a plinth in the Parade in Kingston where it would be surrounded by a 'spacious basin' of water. A tied vote in the Assembly on which town should receive the statue was only resolved in Spanish Town's favor by the Speaker's single casting vote.[18] To provide a 'proper building' for the statue in Spanish Town the Assemblymen then voted to purchase the remaining private buildings on the north side of the Parade, filling in the square that already held the King's House and the Assembly. This cost £4,304. These public works proved expensive. The old Spanish-era King's Arms tavern and its commercial neighbors were finally demolished, Successive appropriations then paid for the erection of another block of public offices, using the Archives Building of the 1740s as a temple, though the new building was twice as long. A neoclassical arcade joined the two buildings together, This focused on the elaborate 'Temple' in the center to house Bacon's statue of Rodney.[19]

Spurred on by local rivalries the whole ambitious project continued, dispute on onset of further warfare. A standing commission of Assemblymen was appointed in 1790 to oversee the 'additional offices ... for the preservation of public records', while the masonry work on the 'Temple' was consigned to locally-based craftsmen.[20] The foundation stone was laid in 1790, just after the storming of the Bastille, when France and its West Indian colonies were already beginning the slide towards revolution. The statue of Lord Rodney was finally set up in 1792, in a ceremony that not only included a procession by the Governor, Council and Assemblymen but also the band of a newly raised regiment of Light Dragoons playing 'Rule Britannia'.[21] The building became one of the town's 'sights'. Five years later an otherwise grudging visitor commented that 'the portico and statue erected to the memory of Rodney are ... magnificent, and an honor to the island'. [22] The Assembly continued to find money to complete the project at a final cost of £8,200.[23] Public funds remained scarce on the island because of a whole series of natural disasters in the 1780s, a campaign against the Maroons in 1795-6, besides greatly expanded garrison and reduced revenues during the French Revolutionary wars. Finishing was a achievement.

The colony celebrated the Battle of the Saints as a miraculous defense of the status quo, but even Lord Rodney and the Royal Navy could not halt all the forces for change. In 1776 household slaves in the parish of Hanover on the island's north shore, who had overheard Jamaican planters discussing North American assertions of 'liberty' planned an uprising of their own.[24] Their scheme failed, but several of the first stones in what was to become a social avalanche leading to Abolition for Jamaica and the other West Indian island were nonetheless kicked over the edge during the American War of Independence and in its immediate aftermath.

The Arrival of the Protestant Evangelists after the American War of Independence

After the war exiled loyalist refugees settled in Jamaica. In the process some of King George III's loyal North American subjects introduced fresh ideas to the island. Britain's remaining scolonies all benefitted from an influx of loyalist refugees uprooted by the war. In some, Ontario and The Bahamas in particular, the newcomers reshaped the subsequent development of hithertoo marginal colonies. Their immediate impact was less obvious in Jamaicam but proved decisive all the same. Many of the incoming loyalists, white and black, came to Jamaica from the southern colonies of North America and, when they couldm the slaveholders among them brought their slaves along too. [25] These enslaved African Americans introduced African Jamaicans to the first echoes of the evangelical revivals that had swept through North America in the 1750s and 60s. Among the migrants from Savannah, Georgia, was one George Liele, a freed slave originally from Virginia. Liele took on a contract as an indentured labourer in Jamaica to raise the passage money so that he and his family could escape from Savannah when the British Armey evacuated the town. It took Liele two years to work off his contract after he arrived in Kingston. There he worked for the former British Military commander in Savannah, General Archibald Campbell who had become the acting governor of Jamaica. Before emigrating Liele had already served as the co-founder and pastor of the first black Baptist church in Georgia. In Kingston he began preaching before establishing a Bapitist congregation there, which he described as "Begun in America December 1777. In Jamaica, December 1783".[26] Liele proceeded to baptize his converts both on the shore in Kinston Habour and in Spanish Town's Rio Cobre. By 1792 a Jamaican sympathizer hoped that 'a way' was opening 'for another church in the capital, where the methodists could not obtain any ground'. In January 1793, Liele wrote optomistically to Baptists in England that he had 'purchased a piece of land in Spanish Town ... for a burying ground, with a house upon it which serves for a Meeting-house'. [27] In the event, the purchase was not yet completed and the high tide for this initiative soon ebbed. As a result, although in early April, Liele and his wife signed bonds to purchase a corner propertyin Spanish Town between two roads leading to the hospital and another road leading to the barracks, the Lieles were obliged to break the contract by May 1. [28] Other immigrant preacherswere active in this generation and the Baptists in Spanish Town later claimed that the 'gospel [was] first introduced into this parish by Mr Gibbs, a native of North America.' Little more is known of George Gibbs 'a man of colour ... from the southern states of North America' except that he carried on his evangelical labours 'with great diligence and zeal, in the midst of persecution and privation' baptizing his converts under cover of darkness over a wide area until his death in 1826 [29]. Liele's and Gibbs's efforts laid the foundations for many of the early nineteenth-century Baptist congregation's subsequent remarkable successes. [30]

Even with setbacks and disappointments the evangelical pulse began to reverberate through late eighteenth-century Jamaica. Late eighteenth-century English society was increasingly rechaped by preaching, and, given the openness of Anglo-Jamaican society to other metrapolitan fashions, it could hartly evade this dynamic new social trend. in 1789 when Thomas Coke, and English Methodist preacher who had already helped establish a network of Methodist societies in the Eastern Caribbean islands, visited Jamaica, his diary entries for this and three subsequent visits when he roamed the island are dotted with references to his having received hospitality from individuals who had attended Methodist meetings in England. [31] By the 1790s Jamaica's hard-drinking, irreligious European population increasingly appeared different to the God-fearing, evangelical groups established in England where a rising tide of lay piety - a tide which rose faster and faster after the onset of the French Revolution - reaffirmed the social virtues of 'Church and King' as focusses for loyalty. The older, secular definitions of what it meant to be 'English' that remained current in Anglo-Jamaican society became increasinly out-of-step with mainstream metropolitan values. [32]

The island was indeed nominally Christian before the arrival of the missionariesm but potential evangelists viewed Jamaica as being in dire need of religion. Slaves traditionally had Sundays free fro their master' and mistresses' work, while Christmas and Easter were the colony's main public holidays. Public revenues paid generous stipends to Anglican rectors, one per parish. These gentlemen were not necessarilly idle. In the 1770's and 80s the Reverend Dr John Lindsay, rector in Spanish Town between 1773 and 1789, wrote to Principal William Robertson of Edinburgh University about demography, published two ingenious articles disagreeing with Benjamin Franklin's theories on the origins of waterspouts, compiled an impressive collection of natural history drawings and even drafted an elaborate (if completely unworkable) scheme to grant freedom to selected 'worthy' slaves. [33] This scientific and public policy interestes were all emininently commendable and, as a fellow Anglican rector commented, projects to investigate the region's 'inexaustable fund for philosophical & botanic Researches; and the various opportinities for getting Money as well as Knowledge, [where] perfectly compatible in the West Indies with the Character of a Clergyman & the Duty of a Missionary' [34]. In Dr Lindsay's case his scholarly exertions did not impede his carrying out the duties of his office. By contrast, under some of his successors Sunday services might not take place for three or four weeks in succession when the rector was ill and communion was only administered three times a year. Sunday services might also be interrupted should the Governor and his household arrive late. [35]. Attendance at church remained low. Indeed, one long-term resident recalled that 'Sunday forenoonwas generally spent by the Merchant in his counting-house, and was a favourite day for writing his packet letters'. [36] Residents of Spanish Town did continue to meet at the parish church to hear organ recitals. In 1800 the vestry inserted a new, larger organ. [37] By then substantial churches stood in most of the islands towns and parishesm and the Anglican Church continued to oversee key rites of passage. Weddings and baptisms were private affairsm held at home, but funerals at the parish churches were well attended - and requent.

But did this amount to Chrisianity as pious Englishmen and Englishwomen increasingly came to understand it? Dr Lindsay might try to lay the blame for poor attendance on the bad examples given by recent Governors in not attending services, obvserving that 'Religion in Jamaica is In & Out of Fashion as Governors shall be pleased to lead the way', but few ministers from other denomininationswould rest satisfied with such a lame explanation for the lack of evangelical zeal among his fellow established clergy.[38] The criticism offered by an ex-Baptist missionary in the 1840s on the Anglican rector's activities may have overstated when he claimed that the slaves dismissed their services as 'White man's Obeah' before arguing that if anything the religious state of the white community was actuallly far worse than that of the slaves. [39] The basic verdict remained valid. The islands established clergy hardly exerted themselves in preaching to their free parishioners and even less to minister to the slaves.

It is difficult to generalize about the slaves' beliefs, as they drew on a range of West African religious traditions. [40] Slaves in Jamaica had dismally low reproduction rates throughout the eighteenth century, so a high preportion of them were 'salt water negroes', that is, individuals who had themselves been enslaved and transported from Africa to the Caribbean. [41] The rare Europeans who questioned individual slaves about their religious beliefs were likely to reeive evasive answers because, after Tacky's Rebellion in 1760, the Assembly mede the practice of African magin of 'obeah' a felony, punishable by death. [42] This put discussion of spirit possession off limits. Any queries about the slaves' 'notions of religion' were likely to produce bland comments invboking a 'good old man' above the clounds who 'would be kind to them who if they did not tief' - no doubt a prudent reply to offer, but not necessarily a full answer. [43] Otherwise the legal ban on obeah was not particularly effective in constraining the slaves' belief systems. Another missionary recalled that during the 1820s in a slave burial ground 'at no great distance from ... Spanish Town, there was scarecely a grave that did not exhibit from two to four drudely carced images'. Nor was this all; on some plantations slaves continued to place 'watchmen', described as 'pieces of wood-ants' nest, the roots of a particular grass, grave dirt, bunches of feathers, &c. either singly or together' by their provision grounds to detier thieves. [44] Thgis emphasis on what Victorian readers would dismiss as 'heathen' superstitions hardly obscures the resilience of independent reliegious traditions among the enslaved.

A further religious alternative is demonstrated in a small paper notebook passed on from 'a young Mandingo Negro' by a Baptist deaconto the Spanish Town congregation's first English minister in the early 1820s. It was misnuderstood to be a passage from the Koran. However, its recent translation demonstrates that it was a text in which an African-born teacher, Muhammad Kaba, a slave in the parish of Manchesterm well to the west of Spanish Town, summarized the tenets of his Muslim faith in his own West African language. [45] This document is a remarkable survival in its own right. Its composition hints at the potential continuation of Islamic belief among some African-born slaves. If the displaysin graveyards and 'watchmen' remained anonymous public statements; the successes of the individual enslaved Muslims who sustained their faith were private achievements unimaginable to most whites.

Over the next generationm Evangelism would transform these social and cultural beliefs. When Thomas Cokem the Methodist evangelist, preached in Spanish Town while en route from Montego Bay to Kingston in 1791, he borrowed a tavernkeeper's public room for his sermon. Rowdy whites heckled him. Coke's journal noted that he found attentive hearers all the same and was 'fully persuaded from the countenances and behaviour of the coloured people, that the Redeemer's kingdom might be enlarged by the preaching of the gospel in this place to them'. He therefore 'detirmined to move on the true gospel plan, "from the least to the greatest" ' leasing a house on the outskirts of the town to house a new Methodist society and appointing a leader for the group. [46] Coke then left the island. Dispite promising beginnings this early group broke up. English methodists remained hopeful about Jamaica's prospects as a mission field, so that in 1797, 'when the condition of Jamaica was such as to encourage the London Missionary Society, and Anglican dominated group, 'to take active steps towards a mision station on that island'. Coke protested, but recieved the answer that 'there was ample room in Jamaica for all workers who could be sent'. [47] This was certainly true, but, in the event neigher the London Society nor the Methodists sent out any ministers for a decade. However, when a further generation of European nonconformist missionaries did reopen chapels in Spanish Town in the early years of the nineteenth cenury, they would duplicate the basic choices made in the 1790s: they, too, proceeded to rent suburban houses for preaching and to direct their missions towards groups who chose to listen to them

1789-1815: the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and the Haitian Revolution put the Jamaican Assembley under seige

In the 1810s and 1820s, when a new generation of missionaries from England arrived to Jamaica and Spainish Town they found support among the local converts who remained from the evangelical efforts of the 1780s and 1790s. However, these new missionaries received a far cooler welcome from the colonial establishment. In the mid-1780s George Liele and his congregation had successfully petitioned hte Assembly for permission to 'worship Almighty God according to the tenets of the Bible' and received the Assemblymen's sanction. [48] Once the West Indian planters felt increasingly threatened during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, white Assemblymen backed away from repeating such encouraging gestures.

Other responses to the period's events had appeared more daunting. In Spanish Town 'A body of negroes ... who called themselves the Cat Club asseml [ed in 1791] to drink King Wilberforce' health out of a cat's skull by way of a cup, and swearing secrecy to each other'. [49] Whatever was going on at these meetings, which continued for several weeks, the participants were aware of the news from Europe. Such reports then reinforced slaveholder's fears. The Jamaican Assembleymen were already familiar with some potential assailants sasch as French invaders, Maroon risings, hurricanes and further bouts of yellow fever and threat of escaped slaves gathering in bands and attacking outlying settlements. [50] After 1790 all West Indian slaveholders feared Haitian-type revolutions too. There, island-born slaves rather than newly imported Africans provided many of the rising's leaders. In looking for scapegoatsm rather than admitting to the inherent brutalities of plantaion slavery, Jamaica's planters laid the blame on the French General Assembly for introducing offers of emancipation into the debates in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (Today's Haiti). [51] In such contexts white Jamaicans would find all the more frightening the reports from England of increasing parliamentary support for not just the reform and refulation of the slave trade, but for William Wilberforce's motions in the House of Commons in 1789 and 1792 calling for its abolition. As the Cat Club's toads showed, this news quickly spread to the island's slaves.

Fear would dictate the Jamaican Assembly's policies for the next 30 or 40 years. While the external challenges were daunting enough, internal threats soon added to the planter's nightmares. Waves of French refugees and their slaves arrived in Jamaica during the 1790s as the complicated political aind military situation unravelled in Saint-Dominingue, just upwind of Jamaica. [52] Some stayed, to the island's lasting advantage, but slaveowners in Jamaica worried that agitators concealed among all thoese newcomers could 'infect' their slaves with radical ideas. At least one would-be French agent arriving with the refugees did plan to stir up another Maroon rising, so these suspicions were not completely groundless. [53] Fear would erect vast superstructures on these foundations, especially when Jamaica's central place in British military efforts in the Caribbean led to Kingston Harbour holding a long row of prison ships crammed with prisoners of war. [54] In 1803, after the black triumph and French evacuation of Saint-Dominigue, the Governor of Jamaica reported that 'we have 7,000 French prisoners of war in Jamaica, including nearly 1,000 Officers of all Descriptions on their Parole on Shore'. [55] Assembleymen and their families frequently heard French spoken in Spanish Town as 'swarms' of captured officers paced its streets. [56] These sojourners would provide continuing grounds for apprehension, even before rumour rumour added to the brew: in July 1803 two 'foreigh negroes' were executed in Kingston for 'being concerned in a plot to fire the town', the fire being a signal that 'the negroes in teh country were to rise', or so the story went. [57] Oover the following Christmas holiday townspeople shared further 'unpleasant and alarming reports' of a prospective rising over the holiday from an alliance of domestic slaves, prisonsers on parole and ex-French POWs enrolled as British troops who were on duty in Spanish Town - all of which demonstrated to Jamaica's whites that noone else could be trusted. [58]

In such near-paranoid contexts any groups that encourages slaves (or anyone else) to meet, even if only to hear sermons and discuss the Scriptures, would be viewed by whites with deep suspicion. Some of the Baptist and Methodist groups established in teh 1780s had held together and were beginning to generate a cohort of local preachers. During the 1790s members of the Assembly and local justices of the peace increasingly saw these evangelistic efforts as hostile. By 1794 George Liele was obliged to swear that in a sermon on St Paul's Epistle to the Romans

he had not the least intention to offer or publish any words that had a Tendency to Stir up Sedition or raise any rebellious notions in the midst of the people of his own Colour or to give offence to the white Inhabitants of teh Island nor had [he] any evil intent, whatsoever in delivery such discourse nor was he at the time sensible that the words he made use of were liable to be Construed as incjurous to the peace and Quiet of the Inhabitants of this Island. [59]

The island's slaveholders were very nervous.

In this highly charged political environment the Assemblymen passed bills imposing fiecer and fiecer penalties on any agitator, white or black, who would encourage rebellion among the slaves or assist the prisoners or war in the prison hulks. [60] These bills then added 'Sectarian' (non Anglican) ministers to their lists of dangerous persons [61]. This addition was plasible enough when looked at from the Assembly's own viewpoint. Despite repeated assertions by officials of the English Baptist and Methodist churches of their minister's apolitical stance, the preachers' efforts to evangelise the slaves did strike at the foundation of the island elite's rationalizations of slavery and of the society and economy that slavery sustained. In the long term evangelism would overturn the slaveholder's world as effeectively as any revolutionary agitators. The anti-preaching law aimed to stop 'the mough of every black and dissenting minister and prohibits the poor people from meeting together to worship God'. A leading English Baptist could briskly dismiss the Assembly-men as 'mostly infidels and profligates', but nonconformist congregations were still slow to organize responses in London to the hostile actions by Assemblies across the briish West Indies. [62]

Even though evangelical outrage only slowly focused on teh new West Indian laws, public opinion in Britain would not stomach the persecution of Protestant ministers. Responding to requests from existing Jamaican congregations first the English Baptists and later the English Methodists began to send missionaries to Jamaica. These missionaries had been preceeded by Moravian preachers and over the following 30 years would be joined by Presbyterians and Presbyterian Church of Scotland ministersm by Congregationallists and then by Anglicans, but, with the exception of the Anglican chaplaincy established in the 1830s, none of these mater missions established stations in Spanish Town. The missionaries faced a whole series of legal hurdles when they arrived in Jamaica but, brandishing English preaching licences embellished with official seals and with their denominations ready to lobby on their behalf in London, they had a better chance of overcoming the legal obstacles that proved all too effective in silencing most 'local' preachers. Even then, foot-dragging by Jamaican maginstrates remained an effective tactic in deterring evangeslism and a number of newly arrived missionaries died of fevers before securing the necessary local licence to commence preaching. [63] Missionaries found that negotiating official obstructionism remained an uphill struggle.

In practice the Assembly's 'Anti Sectarian' legal readings ran counter to the legal practice of tolerance to Protestant 'dissenters' (non Anglicans) current in England ince 1688. [64] When most of the persecuting laws and restrictive legal opinions produced by East Indian Assemblies and their lawyers reached England, they were vetoed or overturned. However the offending law would remain in force during the lengthy time it took for its text to be evaluated and then for the news of the royal dissalowance to arrive back in Jamaica and be formally published by the Governor. [65] Why, then, did successive royal Governors not use their own veto powers and refuse to approve such obnoxious laws? The war with France that pushed the Assemblymen towards paranoia and the same threats of invasion or local uprisings also constrained these Governors who, as we have seen depended on fudning from the planter-dominated Assemblies to pay for the garrisons of regular troops on the islands.

Local repercussions of the Revolutionary Wars:

redeploying the Garrison to Kingston

The Governor's first priority was to maintain British rule in Jamaica. The island militia provided the island's initial line of defence. All able-bodied free males were obliged to enlist in their local militia regiment. By 1802 the force totalled 8,000 men. Their drills were intended to console civilian onlookers and overawe watching slaves. A regular army officer's sketch from 1800 shows a motley bunch of irredeemably civilian militiamen outside the Kings House, though this cartoon understates the polish achieved by the island's free coloured and black militia whose personel had far less turn-over than the white companies.. [66]

The local militiamen might drill diligently, but to withstand an invasion or subdue an uprising they would still need reinforcement by regular troops. By 1800 the sasemblyu was already maintaining 30,000 infantry regulars and funding a regiment of light dragoons, while governors schemed to transfer the cavalry unit over to the British army and use those funds to push the infantry total up to 5,000. [67] As the dragoons proved strikingly unsuccessful during the second Maroon War they had few local defenders. [68] But after ten years of war the Assemblymen told themselves that Jamaicans were more heavily taxed than the English and were loath to renew existing military taxes, still less grant any new ones. [69] However 'diffuse' their calculations, the Assemblemen did have solid grounds for their complaints. [70] Even though the London price for sugar rose to unequalled hights, Jamaica still underwent prolonged economic harships, in part because the island remained cut off from trade with North America and had to import its food and lumber from more expensive European suppliers. Wartime commerce raiders threatened transatlanic exports raising insurance costs and the shrinking the credit available from English merchant houses. In such politically charged contexts negotiations over paying for the garrison gace the Assembly plenty of opportinities to tack anti-missionary clauses onto other bills and then bluff governors into signing them. Subsequent peacetime governors, who found thenselves financially stretched to maintain their households on their official stipend, became more conciliatory when the Assembly voted them supplementary salaries.

Conditions resulting from the French Revolutionary war gave the Assemblymen a strong hand in negotiating with governors, but it also forced the British Army to reconsider the relationship between Kingston and the island's capital, In practive the protracted wars with France led to Kingston's exclipsing Spanish Town's military functions. The immediate threats against which the regular garrison was to guard Jamaica against has shifted and this change transformed the role of troops in Spanish Town. The extensive barracks complex buildt in teh 1760's, '70s and '80s was designed to house soldiers who would take advantage of Spanish Town's excellent internal lines of communication to subdue slave uprisings on teh plantations. The aim was to prevent a repeat of Tacky's Rebellion in 1760 [71] Such facilities appeared far less useful after 1790 when the preliminary threats to the colonyu came from offshore, or else lay among the refugees and prisoners of war clustered in Kingston.

The garrison moved to Kingston in 1790 where a site was already available for their new barracks. In 1780 when the war with the rebellious American colonists and their French allies had reached a crisis point, the British government purchased Up Park Pen, 200 acres of land just outside Kinsgston. The deeds described it as the estate that Admiral Rodney had leased duiring his term of duty as naval commander in Jamaica, The Up Park property waas not bought as a naval commander's official residence because it was purchased seven years after the House of Assembly had acquired another estate just outside Kingston to house successive navel Commanders-in-Chief, which became known as the Admiral's Penn. [72] Meanwhile the garrison's British regulars remained in Spanish Town. During the 1780s the Assmebly rebuild the old barracks there after extensive damage in the hurricane of 1784. [73] In 1790 as the political situations in France and its colony of Saint-Domingue worsened and a war appeared imminent, barracks were laid out at the British War Office's property at Up Park Camp and the main Brisish regular garrison was transferred there. The Assembley offered no funds for this move. [74] Instead the Assembleymen tried to compensate for the garrison's relocation. It was at this juncture that the colony axquired a 'handsome pile of a building' on White Church Street as a fruther official complex in Spanish Town to house the barracks, stables and riding school for the Jamaica Light Dragoons, a cavalry regiment raised in 1791 as a gesture of loyalty by the colony.[75] In the short term the old infantry barracksin Spanish Town remained full because the number of soldiers stationed on the island rose and barrack space proved so scarce that between 1792 and 1799 the town's playhouse was used as a barracks, but for the British army the move to Kingston was permanent. Spanish Town became a peripheral posting.In 1790 the British Government also purchased a large house on Kingston;s Duke Street for the senior regular army officer, soon renamed Headquarters House. Other military properties in Spanish Townm such as the artillery yard whose freehold was held by the Office of Ordinancem were simply abandoned by 1792. [76] Henceforth not only would the island's senior miliary officers reside in Kingston but the King's artillery would be stored in Kingston in the new Ordinance Yard down by the harbour.

The tactical arguments for transferring the garrison to Kinston were plausible enough, but once the troops arrived miliary death rates immediately soared. A civiliarn observer soon observed that 'a mortality at present prevails among the soldiers' wivesm which is newm as women do generally better than men - There is a cause for these Mortalities, yet unknown'. [77] The new miliary camp just outside Kingston, with its grid plan, houses for the troops and an aqueduct to supply water might indeed appear to newcomers 'the finest establishment to be seen in the colonies ... where a great expenditure has been most usefully appointed'm or else 'delightfully situated', but it was soon ascknowledged to be 'very unhealthy'. By the 1820s a visiting officer would be told that 'the water about the Camp is ecessively bad' and this 'together with the Camp's low situation, is thought to be the cause of the great mortality that takes place amongst the Soldiery.' Such explanations found no space for the 'moschettas' (mosquitos) that the same diarist described pestering him during his stay in Kingston. [78] Regiments posted in Spanish Town had certainly suffered from bouts of mosquito-borne yellow fever, but the overall death rates there remained far lower than those occuring in Up Park Camp. Acknowledging that a greater health problem existed in Kinston was not enough to bring the troops back to Spanish Town. Instead, the official response to growing death rates was to reassign the regular units to new barracks further from Kinsgston: first at Stony Hill in the hills above the Liguana plain and then at a series of coastal sites that the Assembly grated to the Governor. [79] These subsequent removeals and new buildings obliged governors to appeal to the Assembly for fresh funds, requests which then offered the Assemblyment further opportunities to push their own anti-missionary agendas.

It took half a century to resolve the army's problems with Kingston's fevers. A regimental commander who saw British garrisons posted in other portrs in the Easter Caribbean dwindle away summed up the problem: 'Commerce has already mournfully determined that situation be the best for towns which appears most convenient for shipping and trade, namely, close to the sea; -regardless of theheat and the loss of health which seem to be secondary considerations.' [80] In wartime the army was expected to defend those settlements. One ingenious proposal suggested 'an effective remedy' in 'the vast Resouces of our Empire in the East' claiming that importing troops from India to guard the West Indies, besides such recruits offering a 'speedy means of introducing Civilisation and free Industry into out Colonies'. [81] Even envisioning such a radical solution demonstrates the depth of the problem, although this scheme went no further. In 1841 an incoming garrison commander with experience in India, backed by a Governor who was a former acting Govenor General of Indiam transferred most of the European troops stationed in Jamaica upt to cantonments at Newcastlem 3,500 to 4,000 feet above sea level, which resembled the hill stations of Anglo-India. This proved an effective tactic because the troops were far less culnerable to infection-bearing Anopheles albimanus mosquitos there. [82] The base at Newcastle, which still houses the Jamaica Defence Forces, was 19 miles from Kinsgston on the road across the island to Buff Bay. At that time the British War Office also reassigned most of the Second Betallion of the West India Regiment, which had been housed in the Spanish Town Barracks to the barracks now vacated at Up Park Camp. A company remained but the 1841 transfer effectively concluded the process whereby Spanish Town lost one of its pimary eighteenth-century roles as a garrison centre first to Kingston in 1790 and then to Newcastle in 1841.

The answers to yellow fever lay well in the future. Meanwhile during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars preserving the troops' health in Jamaica remained a pressing problem. Enterprising governors resorted to recruiting among the miserable prisoners of war crammed into the hulks in Kingston Harbour, but besides the security risks, this expedient alone would not fill up the renks of soldiers thinned by disease and desertion. [83] The British Army then turned to recruiting Africans, first buying newly landed slaves as recruits from the Kingston slave merchants and later purchasing recruits in West Africa. This appeared a dangerous move though the colonists had always relied on slave trackers in campaighing against the Maroons. [84] Freed slaves were also enrolled in the former loyalist military units evacuated to the West Indies after the American War of Independence. In the 1790s Jamaica's free slave population included such individuals as Robert Carey, a blacksmith who was noted as 'American born' when hi registered his free status. He resided near Tacky's Bridge, the crossroads just north of Spanish Town. [85] None of these precedents soothed the white settlers when, in response to the Haitan crisis, the British Army expanded teh West India Regiment in the early 1790s, enrolling several new battalions of African soldiers who were still slaves. They provided effective military units that were not subject to the same death rates as the European regiments. [86] Jamaica's Assemblyment remained thoroughly nervous about these troops, so posting them near to Spanish Town provided Governors with a substantial bargaining chip when the Assembly tried to haggle. [87]

Hence, despite the Assembly's protests, the Second Battalion of the West India Regiment was transferred to Jamaica in 1801 after service in St Vincent, Trinidad and teh Danish islands. [88] Initially the soldiers were housed at Fort Augusta on Kingston Harbourm one of the most unhealthy postings on the islandm where they remained until 1809. On tehi return to Jamaica in 1816 after the end of the Napoleonic Wars companies of the Regiment were established in the old barracks in Spanish Townm where the regiment was based until 1841. Enslaved and free, the Regiment's soldiers proved a conspicuous presence in Spanish Town's streets, where a company remained to guard the King's House until 1866. [89] Governors and professional soldiers wished to retaine them while the planters remained fearful of the presence of this force of armed Africans in their midst.

Further public commissions: the Iron Bridge and the 1819 Court House

Even after the garrison's transfers, Spanish Town remained the second largest settlement on the island. By 1807 it contained 'between five and six hundred houses, and nearly five thousand inhabitants, including Negroes and free poeple of colour'. The totals were certainly dwarfed by Kingston, which had 'about' 8,500 'white inhabitants' besides 'of free people of colour, three thousand five hundred; and of slaves, about eighteen thousand; amounting, in all, to thirty thousand souls'. But Spanish Town still compared well with the island's other secondary townsm including Port Royal, which even with the naval dockyards was still 'reduced to three streets, and a few lanes, and contains about a hundred houses', or even the 'flourishingand opulent town' of Montego Bay, which had 'six hundred white inhabitants and consists of about two hundered and fifty houses, nearly fifty of which are capital stores of warehouses', or, indeed of the island's other late eighteenth century town, Falmouth, which 'held about two hundred and fifty houses'. [90] Spanish Town provided the seat of government, 'here, too, are the public offices; so that this town, though not a large one, from its containing the government and assembly houses, and various other public buildings, may be considered as the venteelest and handsomest town in the island'. [91]

Neither comparative statistics nor even individual 'genteel' and 'handsome' public buildings would necessarily impress people passing through Spanish Town's streets. In 1797, a visiting army doctor who had already seen French, Dutch, and English West Indian towns on Mortinique, Babados and Demerara (today's Guyana), was favourably impressed by the road out from Kingston, but 'instead of handsome streets and magnificent buildingsm the appearance of both was so humble, that even when we arrived in the centre of Spanish Town we imagined ourselves to be only in the suburbs'. A 'very indifferent and badly served breakfast' did nothing to console him. Looking over the town 'the gentle view of the place was strongly calculated to confirm the opinion we had formed upon entering it': because the town resembled the suburbs of 'a more splendid city. The narrow confined streets look dark and gloomy, and the older houses are small, irregular, and of mean appearance, consisting only of a single story'. In this instance, after a local colleage 'conducted us to a different part of the town and its environs, pointing out ... all that was particularly worthy of the attention of strangers', a hithertoo underwhelmed visitor was prepared to qualify his initial opinion slightly, acknowledging that 'although the general face of the metroplis be not prepossessing, handsomest improvements are met ith in various parts of it' while 'some of the houses, likewise, at the extremity of the town are spacious, and of modern structure'. [92] His first impressions remained dismissive. The proportions that wouls suit a splended urban centre were missingm even though Spanish Town did house some imporessive public buildings that could receive a grudging praise.

The war dragged on and the town's streets and thoroughfares had hardly improved 20 years later, in 1816, when another weary visitor noted in his journal that

'Spanish Town has no recommendations whatsoever; the houses are mostly built of wood: the streets are very irrecular and narrow; every alternate building in a ruinous state, and the whole place wears an air of gloom and meloncholy'.

Mathew 'Monk' Lewis, a prominent London author, friend of Byron and Shelly and othor of the early Romanic-era 'Gothic' best-seller The Monk had inherited a Jamaican plantation and compiled a journal during his visit to Jamaica with an eye to its subsequent publication. At his arrival in Spanish Town Lewis had just ridden in from Westmoreland and proved hard to please after such a long journey. [93] His summary omitted the most striking new construction undertaken in Spanish Town during the French wars: because Mr Lewis drove his carriage into town from the west, he would only traverse the impressive 1801 bridge as he left.

This bridge resulted from the need to imporve communications between Spanish Town and Kingston. Colonists persuaded the Assembly to arrange to import a prefabricated cast iron bridge in an attempt to resolve a persistent problem. The bridge was erected over the Rio Cobre just outside the town. It succeeded a long string of wood, brick, and stone bridges, which had all been washed away. The most recent recursor, planned in 1797, relied on a massively reinforced construction, with the foundations build around twenty-inch-square hardwood pilings, shod with iron and then encased in thick masonry buttresses, all standing between cutwaters that would extend upstream to break the forces of the current. The design would be as reinforced as contemporary technology allowed. With a contract for £26,000 two local masons committed themselves to complete this project. [94] If this ambitious structure was ever built it did not last for long. In 1801 a further £1,060 was expended on importing 87 tonnes of cast iron for a prefabricated bridge from England. In contrast to all its predecessors, the 41 piecesm wach two foot widem that compirsed this structure were able to cross the river in one 80 foot 'rainbow' or span thereby allowing it to avoid the floods that during the previous century had torn away piers for all earlier bridges across the Rio Cobre. [95]

In this purchase the Assembly drew on the most recent technology available in England to secure an elegant engineering answer to a hitherto unresolvable problem. Revenues produced by slave-grown sugar were applied towards purchasing a thoroughly modern industrial structure. An earlier prefacbricated iron bridge erected over England's Severn River gorge at Colebrookdale in Shropshire in 1777-81 struck contemporary viewers as one of the most impressive engineering triumphs of the early Industrial Revolution. [96] The Spanish Town iron bridge imported by the Jamaican Assembly was among the first (if not the very first) of this type shipped acrross the Atlantic and today it is the oldest example still standing in this hemisphere. The new bridge helped ease civilian traffic and, together with a set of cast iron railings imported from England and erected around the Parade in 1802, these very current purchases provided impressive urban status symbols for Spanish Town. However, the immediate utility of the iron bridge was to expedite communications. The Rio Cobre's seasonal floods would no longer interfere with the dispatch riders and aides to camp who calloped between Headquarters House in Kingston and King's House in Spanish Town.

The war years between 1780 and 1815 did not see any major buiding projects initiated in or around Spanish Town. Contemporaries certainly complained of the 'system of heavy taxation which prevailsm and continues to prevail to discourage and distress enterprise and industry', and few proposals for civic improvements got very far, however plasible they might appear. [97] Townspeople continued to tell themselves that 'it is intendedm toom that some considerable additions and improvements in public buildings are to take place'. [98] There were indeed a handful of public commissions that included the completion of the Rodney Temple, the cavalry units barracks and riding school, the proposed new stone bridge of the Rio Cobre in 1797 and then in 1801, its iron successor, along with those case iron railings in the Parade the next year. Otherwise the completion in 1796 of the Ashkenazi synagogue Mikvéh Yisroell (Hope of Isreal) on the west side of Spanish Town, ear to the marketm was among the very few civilian commissions of the war years. It followed the establishment of the Ashenazi synagogue in Kingston seven years before, in 1789. [99]

The schemes sketched for prosepective improvements remained far more ambitiousm During the 1790s, in an era when Brisish and American investers underote canal-building booms, Jamaican would-be civil engineers proposed a 'great inland navigation on the South Side', recommending an up-to-the-minute new canal to run from the mouth of the Bog Walk Gorge alonside the Rio CObre through St Catherine to Kingston Harbour. At a time when floods still closed the ford at Spanish Town and washed away any bridges, channelling thes abundant flow seemed feasible. Readers were assured that the landscape

"would seem to invite to the undertaking, being a light mould, and presenting a smooth surface, with an easy and inconsiderable fall throughout its corresonding course of six or seven miles".

Of course the canal's promoters then promised general benefits, feeding irrigation ditches along the way and, as a supplementary essay claimed, offering remarkable savings for planters who could use it to send their hogsheads of sugard down to the harbour. Even with the further advantages claimed for extending the canal further inland, by 'running an elevated canal on the margin of the road, or of traversing a new course in another direction', which would probably have required massive blasting to achieve, and apparently some preliminary lobbying of the Assembly, the project made no progress. [100] So despire the tempting claim that with "the success of this scheme a handsome interest is ensured to the gentlemen on the subscription list" the project died before it was even debated. [101] Investment capital remained scarce during wartime. Civilian projects would have to wait for hte end of the war in 1815, and that proved a very long wait.

Visitors who did visit the parish church of St Jago (today's Cathedral) still came away impressed. Here the Assembly continued to commission leading London sculptors to execure some very impressive memorials to governors and their wives. Even Mr Lewis considered the church 'very handsome' commenting on 'the walls lined with fina mahogany, and ornamented with many monuments of white marble'. [102] Two of the largest were commissioned by the Assembly during the 1790s to commemorate a respected Governor, Lord Howard of Effingham (who died in office) and Anne Williamsonm the wife of his Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Arthur Williamson who died in Jamaica while her husband was endevouring to conquer Saint-Domingue (Haiti) for Britain. These marble shrines were both placed in the chancelm near the altar and close to the large pews reserved for the use of the governor and his household and for members of the Council and Assemblym should any of these worthies decide to attend a service. [103]

When peacetime sugar exports resumed after the end of the war, the Assembly commissioned a further block of public buildings on the south side of the Parade to house the law courts and complete the square. The commission went to james Delancy who had recently completed the Scots Kirk in Kingston. [104] A decade later a fairly generous description characterized the comlex as 'a handsome pile of recent erection, and appropriated to government purposes'. [105] To find space for this block the 1680s chapel, the 1770s guard house and the printing office that had stood on the south side of the Parade were all demolished. The initial scheme was ambitious even if the 1818-19 building proved less elaborate than the Assembly building, and even less so than the exuberant Rodney Temple directly across square. The Court House's protruding central tower held a large clock taken over from the demolished chapelm where the parish vestry had paid someone for winding 'the Town Clock'. [106] The builder was dogged with prohmens in comleting this structure within his £15,700 estimate. The town's antiquarians might be aware that teh south side of the square once held the Roman Catholic Abbot of Jamaica's 'White Church', but the building specifications did not take into account the likely presence of a graveyard beside the former church. Once he discovered this fact the contractor was obliged to construct far deeper foundations because the subsoil was disturbed. The additional outlay left no margin for a profit. Corners were cut, so the building never received the stone facing that was supposed to conceal its brick construction. The stone cornice that tops the front wall, which was intended to make it appear complete (and for which the contractor was never repaid) hardly salvaged the overall effect. [107] The scrimping on this prominent public building demonstrated that peace had not brought a return of pre-war prosperity.

The new Law Courts replaced the court rooms at one end of the Assembly building constructed in the 1760s. With a growing case load the judges received a purpose-built structure, with a number of offices located on the ground floor to house its administrators, while the floor above housed two large spaces for court rooms. A lock-up was built just behind the courthouse. Even though judges ceased to sit directly under hte eye of the Speaker to the Assembly, the majority of the magistratesm including those sitting on the island's Supreme Court remained leading planters. Indeed the Assembly worked hard to prevent ousiders taking the island's principal legal posts, doing their best to weigh the selection towards local candidtates. Hence, whatever the common law tradition in England might say or do, the interpretation offered by this bench of planter-judges of laws relating to slavery and to non-Anglican clergy remained shaped by the planters' opinions. Any English-trained lawyers, Attorneys General or Chief Justices would be out-coted by their fellow judges should their decisions run too far counter to existing understandings of Jamaica's 'English' law.

Dispite its construction problems, the Law Courts building was finally erected, completing the set of public buildings that still surround today's Emancipation Square. The King's House complex on the west side of the square also grew at this time. By the early 1840s a further building accross the road was linked to the main King's House complex by a bridge across the road. [108] Finally a two-story residence where the Duke of Manchester lived during his 19 years (1808-1827) as Governor was built farther down the street at the corner of Manchester Street. [109] The Kings House was increasinlgy a working space. Earlier governors had left the King's House to stay in rural pens of mountain retreats; this new building provided a domestic refuge farther down King Street. Together, thse immediately post-Napoleonic War building commissions reaffirmed Spanish Town's traditional functions as the colony's legal and administrative centre.

Missionaries return

At the end of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars the missionary societies, mainained by several English and Scottish denominations, sent preachers out to assist the beleagured evangelical congregations in Jamaica. The mission 'stations' that succeeded were those that managed to build local support groups, because to find audiences preachers entering a community needed to win the acceptance of established individuals, people whose example would encourage other residents to give a hearing to an outsider's contentious message. [110] Successful congregations then needed to recruit lay members ready and able to act as leaders, stewardsm exhorters, catechizers, Bible class leaders and even substitute preachers. The long-term objective was to establish a God-fearing community. Here the missions aimed to fulfill this goal by reshaping the members' lives along what the considered godly lines. Such endevours ran counter to the established secular culture of 'Vices of the very worst description such as Sabbath breaking, lying, drunkenness, slandering, profaneness, Adultary, Fornicationm and Polygamy prevail ... to a most deplorable extent'. [111] The ranking of tehse vices may surprise us, but not their number.

Over time both the Methodist and Baptist congregaions in Spanish Town did develop into remarkably successful communities: recruiting loyal members, raising funds to construct substantial new buildings and providing the hubs for circuits of local chapels. But although the town's ministers rode circuit to a number of chapels within a long half a day's ride, Spanish Town did not provide a primary centre for the networks of new stations that the missionary denominations established across the island. Both the Baptist Missionary Society, which began sending missionaries to Kingston in 1813 to assist the congregations established by Leile and his fellow poneers in the 1780s, and the Wesleyan Methodist Society, which resumed its efforts to support the existing Methodist society in Kingston in 1815, then developed missions in Spanish Town. In time these achieved high profiles. The potential of attracting the town's influential population was itself a good reason for proselytizing because, as one early Methodist missionary observed, 'if we could once establish a decent Chapel in' the town, 'this mission will ultimately flourish; whereas if we fail in this, we will be left to the Mercy of our good friends in this City [Kingston], whose tender mercies are betterly cruel'. The public presence of tehse chapels also proved important when Spanish Town was 'the Seat of Government, and the residence of the successful lawyers and Gentry of the Island' [112] Visitors from rural parishes, both enslaved and free, who came to attend the law terms or the Assembly might well encounter evangelical preaching there too. Several prominent converts, doners of further chapel sites of individuals willing to suffer martyredom for their beliefs, initially arrived as transient visitors.

When they arrived in Spanish Town both the Baptists and the Methodists returned to Thomas Coke's earlier plan of leasing properties on the edge of the town. These locations were partially chosen by default: the new Baptist minister intitially considered a house in tehy older section of the town 'opposite the church', but lower rents in the outskirts appealed to groups operating with shoestring budgets. [113]


[more of this chapter to be transcribed]