Skip to main content

Insurrection In Dominica

Volume 76: debated on Tuesday 16 July 1844

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

, seeing the noble Lord the Secretary of the Colonies in his place, wished to ask him whether he had received any accounts from the Island of Dominica? He had been informed that martial law had been proclaimed in consequence of injudicious management on the part of the persons appointed to take the census of the population. One of his correspondents stated that more than 150 labourers had been arrested, tied together, and dragged to gaol, that three were killed, many more wounded, and in one case the head had been severed from the body, and raised on a high pole. Some of these disturbances arose in consequence of the authorities, who were taking the census of the island, not having taken proper precaution to inform the people of the nature and object of the census. They thought it had something to do with slavery. By a dispatch in 1839, Lord John Russell had exempted teachers in schools from serving in the militia. He wished to ask whether that dispatch remained in force, and whether under ordinary circumstances they were now liable to serve? Of course, on extraordinary occasions all who were capable of carrying arms ought to serve.

said, that on the 3rd of last month, according to accounts which he had received, disturbances broke out in the island of Dominica, in consequence of the very absurd misapprehension which prevailed amongst the negro population that the census about to be taken in that colony was an attempt towards restoring slavery. He believed the revolt was principally headed by some refugees from French and other colonies, and by some newly-arrived Africans. It was almost immediately put down. Parties continued to commit some disturbances and outrages for four or five days. It was thought proper by the local authorities, to proclaim martial law. By the last accounts which he had received it appeared that the disturbances were completely at an end, and he had no doubt that, on the following day, martial law would be removed. In acknowledging the receipt of these dispatches he had noticed, with one exception, the general good conduct of the militia. He alluded to the placing a head upon a pole, and had expressed his regret at such an occurrence having taken place. He did not believe there was any ground for the general charge of cruelty; on the contrary the women and children who were taken were immediately released, and the trial of the others would be proceeded with, not before an extraordinary tribunal, but in the ordinary course of the law. He had no doubt that by this time peace was entirely restored. With respect to the alleged exemption of the teachers of certain schools from serving in the militia, he had inquired whether there existed any dispatch of Lord John Russell's such as that alluded to, and he found that that noble Lord had, in 1839, sent out a dispatch, expressing his hope that some provision would be made for the exemption of those teachers from serving in the militia in the island of Jamaica, but that the dispatch had never been intended for or applied to any of the other West India Colonies. At the same time he might state that he had not heard of the schoolmasters in question in Dominica expressing any unwillingness to serve in the militia.

referred to a letter apparently written by one of these gentlemen, who stated that on his arrival in the island in 1839, he was informed that the teachers of the schools in question would be exempted from militia service. If there was any misunderstanding in the matter, he hoped that it would be cleared up.

Subject at an end.