The Demerara Slave Uprising and the Trial of Rev. John Smith- by Odeen Ishmael

Guyana Documentary History Series

British Parliamentary Debate on the

Trial of Rev. John Smith

Edited by Odeen Ishmael

Introduction: By Odeen Ishmael

The Demerara Slave Uprising and the trial of Rev. John Smith

From around the closing years of the eighteenth century some organisations were established in England to campaign for the abolition of slavery in the British colonies. These included the Baptist Missionary Society, the London Missionary Society, the Church Missionary Society, the Britisha nd Foreign Bible Society, the Methodist Society, and the Anti-Slavery Society formed in 1823.

The Anti-Slavery Society was very influential since among its members were the Quakers and important Members of Parliament including William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson and Fowell Buxton. In April 1823 Buxton presented a motion in the House of Commons calling for a gradual abolition of slavery in all British colonies, but it was defeated because the majority felt that the abolition of slavery would leave the planters without a labour force. Instead, measures to ameliorate the condition of slaves were adopted. These ordered that female slaves should not be whipped as punishment and drivers should not carry whips in the field.   

Lord Bathurst, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, immediately sent these new amelioration rules in a letter to all Governors of British colonies. In Berbice, Governor Henry Beard, as soon as he received the letter, sent it to Rev. John Wray to read it to the slaves. In Essequibo-Demerara on the other hand, Governor John Murray deliberately delayed its publicity. Even though he received the letter on 23 June 1823, he waited until 2 July to present it to the Court of Policy and urging the members, who were all slave owners, not to act on it immediately. It was not until 7 August the Court of Policy passed the required resolutions to adopt the amelioration rules.

[ Read complete e-Book here: Debate_Trial_of_Rev._John_Smith ]


Introduction  5

First Day of the Debate Pages 14 – 144

1. Speech by Henry Brougham 15

2. Speech by Wilmot Horton 58

3. Speech by Sir James Mackintosh 95

4. Report on Speech by James Scarlett 135

Second Day of the Debate Pages 145 – 273

5. Speech by Dr. Stephen Lushington 146

6. Report on Speech by Nicholas Tindal 181

7. Speech by John Williams 190

8. Report on Speech by Sir John Copley 207

9. Speech by William Wilberforce 217

10. Speech by George Canning 227           

11. Report on Speech by Thomas Denman 240

12. Report on Speech by Sir Joseph Yorke 247

13. Closing Speech by Henry Brougham 248

14. Votes in Support of the Motion 270

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