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Chapter VI


As Moreau de Saint-Méry remarks: San Domingo was the first place in America where African slaves were introduced. It was proposed to use them in place of the Indians who were dying off in consequence of the hard work in the mines to which they were ill-adapted.[1]

At that period, there were two sets of Negro tribes, one group back of the Gold Coast, the other further to the east across the Volta River, both in the formative stage and as yet unknown to the white man. These two groups, to be known later as the Ashanti and the Dahomans, were in time to become not only rivals for the supremacy of West Africa, but were destined to establish in the West Indies two distinct spheres of influence, as antagonistic in slave circles as their own political ambitions were to be at home.[2]

Among the Ashanti tribes, there was a strong religious organization with well defined ritual, inspiring a coordination and spirit of nationalism that later drew from Lord Wolseley the encomium: "From the Ashantis I learned one important lesson, namely that any virile race can become paramount in its own region of the world, if it possesses the courage, the constancy of purpose, and the self-sacrifice to resolve that it will live under a stern system

[1. Moreau de Saint-Méry, Description de la Partie Française de Saint Dominigue, Vol. I, p. 24.

2. Note:--Commander Frederick E. Forbes, Dahomey and the Dahomans, London, 1851, Vol. II, p. 7 f., writes: "On the western and north-western side the stream of the Volta alone separates Dahomey from its great rival monarchy of Western Africa, the kingdom of Ashantee. Time alone can develop the consequences to Africa of such powerful and ambitious nations being divided by no more difficult boundary than the far from wide or impassable waters of the Volta. Already on that side the Attahpahms and Ahjabee have been defeated although not annexed to the rapidly increasing territory of Dahomey. If we turn to the East, we find the extensive provinces of Yoruhbah looked upon with cupidity, and marked out for devastation, slaver, and murder."]

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of Spartan military discipline enforced by one lord, master or king." 3

It was as a matter of fact, the exalted religious spirit that principally gave to the various tribal units the cohesive power that formed the Ashanti into a warlike people, and tended to crush down the antagonistic magic of the Obayifo.

Meanwhile at Sabee, the capital of the Kingdom of Whydah on the Slave Coast, well established Ophiolatry was extending its sway as a religious force of such proportions that the Dahomans themselves fell under its influence when once they had extended their domain to the sea through the conquest of Whydah.

It is clear, then, that in its inception, Voodoo, as the West Indian offshoot of the Ophiolatry of Sabee, must be considered technically as a form of religion. The serpent worship of its African prototype was ultimately addressed to the Supreme Being through the ancestral spirits supposedly indwelling in the sacred serpents. The same conditions undoubtedly marked the Haitian Voodoo when it was first established in its new field, but its ritual quickly suffered modifications through contacts with the other religious influences derived from every part of the dark continent through the influx of the heterogeneous masses of slaves that found their way to West Indian bondage.

Shortly before the outbreak of the Haitian Revolution, an offshoot of Voodoo developed into the more sanguinary Don Pédro rites, but Voodoo itself continued for a time, substantially unchanged. It was a secret religious function with its own peculiar dance unaccompanied by drums or other instruments.

Gradually it was found desirable to cloak the real Voodoo rites by holding in advance a public dance which was summoned and accompanied by the loud beating of the drums, presumably as an official excuse for the local authorities who secretly sanctioned all that was going on. This dance in turn developed into what came to be known as a Voodoo feast, since prolonged dancing without refreshments is scarcely compatible with the Negro temperament.

[3. H. Osman Newland, West Africa, London, 1922, p. 94.]

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Meanwhile the religious element in Voodoo became somewhat decadent and superstitious practices associated themselves with its ceremonies at times. The Voodoo feast, in consequence, was more and more accentuated. It was developing into a social function, and amusement rather than worship frequently became the real objective.

Today it is difficult to believe, that, except in rare cases, do we find Voodoo in Haiti, strictly speaking, an act of worship. At least in the public estimation almost everything is classified as Voodoo and the very drums that were originally debarred from Voodoo by necessity if not by choice have actually come to be known by the name of Voodoo drums. Magic and even witchcraft have entered into an unholy alliance with Voodoo and the Papaloi and Mamaloi have somewhat assumed the rôle of medium if not that of witch and necromancer.

We are even told that the serpent has now been eliminated from the ritual. This may be true. We would not like to question the reliability of such an authority as Dr. Price-Mars in the matter. However, if so, the change must have been effected within the past few years, as I know from reliable witnesses that the practice was still in vogue well after the opening of the present century. In any case it seems inconsistent to have our friend Dr. Price-Mars insisting on this disappearance of the serpent from present-day Voodoo, and yet demanding that it still be classified as a religion. Let us quote his very words: "It is inconceivable that the Dahoman traditions should disappear without leaving traces in the Haitian beliefs. There remain as survival a few touches. We remark that the fear noticed among our peasants of killing adders (a species of water boa, ungalia) is the most pronounced manifestation of this survival. If, therefore, we omit the cult of the adder on which rests the whole economy of colonial Voodoo, probably because it approaches more closely to its Dahoman connection, what remains then of the original belief? Nothing except the dance and ecstasy, both strengthened by sacrifices. May we not be permitted to point out that these three elements: the dance, the ecstasy and the sacrifice, formed or form the permanent parts

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of religious rites and that one finds them connected or separated in the most exalted religions."[4] But if you eliminate the serpent from the cult, it should no longer be called Voodoo. Can you play Hamlet without the title part? It should at least be known by some other term, more generic and including all Negro cults, as did fetishism a generation ago. We can admit that much of the emotional religious manifestations of the Haitians today is not Voodoo in the strict sense of the word, but with all due respect to Dr. Price-Mars, we are not entirely convinced that the serpent cult, substantially the same as practiced in the last century is not still secretly in vogue in Haiti. The transition seems too sudden. Possibly, too, there is just a little verbal quibble in the repeated assertions that the serpent is no longer worshipped. Our contention, too, is that it was never worshipped. It was merely venerated as a depository of some spiritual entity, not even itself divine, but only an intermediary to the Divine Being, who is ultimately and alone worshipped.[5]

Arthur C. Millapaugh who was the Financial Adviser-General Receiver of Haiti, 1927-1929, in depicting the condition of Haiti, in the eve of intervention in 1915, simply states: "In the interior the practice of Voodooism persisted but it was neither general nor open and tended to disappear."[6] But while he fails to define what he means by Voodooism, since his references are to Kilsey, St. John and Seabrook, we must conclude that he is taking it in its worst possible sense.

Certainly the wholesale confiscation of "Voodoo" drums by the

[4. Dr. Price-Mars, Ainsi Parla l'Oncle, p. 120.

5. Note:--Dr. Price-Mars, however, goes too far when, in a lecture delivered before the Society of History and Geography in 1926, he allows his fervour and patriotism to carry him away and in an oratorical outburst asserts that Voodoo which he defines as an animistic religion is not "opposed to the religion of the one God, sovereign and supreme master of the Universe. "--Cfr. Une Étape de l'Évolution Haïtienne, p. 115. He states specifically, p. 130: "This animism which deifies the forces of Nature renders homage to the spiritual genii which they incarnate, this animism, in fact, which renders to deceased ancestors a cult of veneration and implores their favour and protection, is it a religion in opposition to the religion of the one God, sovereign and supreme Master of the Universe? No, certainly not." It is monotheistic, yes, and in that restricted sense his statement might stand, and possibly that is all that he really meant to signify.

6. Arthur C. Millapaugh, Haiti, under American Control 1915-1930, Boston, 1931, p. 20.]

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American Marines shows that the popular form of Voodoo was still very much in evidence. As regards the conditions at the time of writing in 1931, Millapaugh has nothing to say about Voodoo beyond a passing remark in a footnote wherein he ascribes to the Medical Service the principal factors in the combating of ages of superstition and voodooistic beliefs.[7] Possibly the fact that he is writing for the World Peace Foundation makes him avoid whatever might offend the self-respect of the Haitians to the detriment of general peace and harmony.

Concerning human sacrifice, "the goat without horns" and cannibalism, despite the loud protests of the friends of Haiti, it is hard to believe that the practice is entirely extinct. It would, of course, be a grave mistake to suppose that it is a regular practice or connived at by the present government authorities. Still it would be even more surprising if the sexual excitement of their various dances with the concomitant excessive use of stimulants, did not at times break down the nervous systems of individuals here and there, and induce a kind of paranoia with a recrudescence of all that is vilest and most degraded in fallen nature.

At all events, when such half-crazed outbreaks do occur, they are to be associated with the Don Pédro swinish rites where the ordinary victim is the pig, and where the human substitute would be more appropriately called not the "goat without horns" but the "long pig" as was done under similar circumstances in the distant islands of the Pacific.

As regards Obeah, we find at work a process directly opposite to that noticed in the case of Voodoo.

Obeah, no less than Myalism, as we have seen, derive their origin from the Ashanti. The latter was the old religious dance modified somewhat by circumstances and surroundings in Jamaica, but substantially the same as practiced in West Africa. The former, on the other hand was Ashanti witchcraft, essentially antagonistic to Myalism which made one of its chief objects the "digging up" of Obeah.

The Ashanti warlike and indomitable spirit was not crushed

[7. Ditto, p. 140, Note 27.]

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by slavery, and the old religious practice easily stirred them up to a point of rebellion. Hence from the earliest days of legislation in Jamaica, the tribal religious dance remained inactive as assemblies were strictly prohibited.

During the long years of slavery, then, Myalism might be regarded as dormant. There was no opportunity of its development or branching out. It was preserved secretly and cherished as the fondest tradition of the past. No doubt the hours of amusement allowed to the slaves on their own cultivations, preserved in some degree the Myalistic rites, disguised as one of the social dances that were countenanced by the planters.

The native African is essentially religious in his own way and as formal ceremonies were debarred he found an outlet by associating with Obeah an element of worship, if not of Accompong, at least of Sasabonsam or Obboney. If he could not venerate the Supreme Being through the minor deities and ancestral spirits, he might at least placate the evil one, and bespeak his influence for purpose of revenge or to coerce his master to grant him something that he sought.

We find Obeah thus really becoming a form of devil worship in the Christian sense, and when at length Myalism entered into an alliance with it for the overthrow of the white regime it naturally gained in the popular estimation of the slaves, since its archenemy Myalism had come to recognize its power. And yet this public esteem was not one of devotion but of unholy fear, which the Obeah man naturally played up to his own advantage.

With Emancipation, Myalism made haste to assert itself in an endeavour to regain its pristine ascendancy and made open war on Obeah, at the expense be it said of the general peace of the community. Its new-found independence led to excesses of every kind and in course of years it became as great an evil as Obeah itself. Its old priestly class was dead, for a generation none had come from Africa, and there had been no opportunity of establishing a succession in the craft or of passing along the ritual in practice. The traditions and nothing more could have remained, and it is questionable whether the new leaders had any legitimate claim to

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the exercise of the rôle that they assumed. It is simple, then, to see that the decay of Myalism as a religious force was inevitable. And it would certainly soon have been entirely eliminated had not its spirit and much of its traditional ritual found new scope in the kindred spirit of the emotional Revivalism of the Methodists and even more so among the so-called native Baptist congregations. But perhaps it is more conspicuous of all among the Bedwardites, so characterized by the peculiar hip-movement that is clearly African, and which shows itself not only in their dance but also in their religious processions, and gives a peculiar lilt to all their hymns.

Here, strictly speaking, Myalism disappears as a separate entity, and its very name is dying out except as a mysterious something that has endured in its opposition to the Obeah man who more and more assumes the dual rôle of Myalist by day and Obeah man by night, using the title as a safeguard from the law in the prosecution of his real aims in life. As a further consequence, Obeah is taking on more and more of a religious aspect and it is now, not entirely undeservedly, classified by many as devil worship.

My first experience with an Obeah man in Jamaica was as follows. Accompanied by a native of the district I was returning late one night to my residence high up in the mountains, when suddenly my companion who was leading the way shrank back and pointing a trembling finger through an opening of the coffee walk where we happened to be passing, whispered almost inaudibly: "Obi, Sah!"

It was a bright moonlight night, and a short distance off the path might be seen a filthy-looking bedraggled fellow plying his art of Obeah for weal or woe. I drew my reluctant companion behind a shrub to watch the process which is so seldom vouchsafed to the eye of a white man.

The Obeah man had placed on the ground some sticks, feathers, eggshells and other objects that could not clearly be distinguished. A piece of string was placed on top of the little heap. He then retreated for a short distance and began a mumbling incantation

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which was accompanied by a rhythmic swaying of the body. With hands behind the back he next approached, crossing one leg over the other as he slowly advanced and drew near the incongruous ingredients of what was evidently intended for a fetish. With legs still stiffly crossed and swaying body he stooped and breathed upon and spat at it, and then gathered up the articles one by one, still mumbling some weird incantation as he placed the sticks together and crushed the eggshells and other ingredients within them and finally bound all together with the piece of string.

When the task was accomplished a cringing woman advanced from the shadow of a tree where her presence had not previously been noted. The Obeah man passed her the fetish charm and with fierce injunction charged her to hasten on her way without looking back or speaking to a living soul. She was especially warned to guard her fetish from every moisture. Should river or rain or dew, or even the perspiration of her own body chance to wet it, not only would all efficacy be lost but it would inevitably turn against herself. I could not follow all the words despite my knowledge of the language of the "bush," but I had been able to gather the general gist of the instructions which were almost in the form of an invocation or curse.[8]

Strictly speaking what I had been watching was not really the practice of Obeah but rather the making of a protective fetish or good luck charm, our friend was working in the rôle of Myal man and cared nothing if he was observed. Had he been really making Obi he would have been surer of his privacy and would have squatted on the ground surrounded by his paraphernalia and this would have been the scene with little variation:

Most of the ingredients to be used are concealed in a bag from which he draws them as he needs them. The special offering of his patron which must include a white fowl, two bottles of rum, and a silver offering are on the ground beside him. Before him is the inevitable empty bottle to receive the ingredients. The incantation opens with a prolonged mumbling which is supposed to be "an unknown tongue." This is accompanied by a swaying of the body.

[8. Note:--Compare this scene with that described by Rattray on page 127.]

{p. 217} Gradually ingredients are placed in the bottle, and a little rum is poured over them. The throat of the fowl is deftly slit and drops of blood are allowed to fall first on the silver offering, and then on the contents of the bottle to which is finally added a few feathers plucked from various parts of the fowl with a last libation of rum. During all this process the Obeah man has been drawing inspiration from frequent draughts of rum, reserving a substantial portion to be consumed later when he makes a meal off the flesh of the fowl.

When the bottle concoction has been completed and the last incantation has been said over it, the Obeah man entrusts it to his patron with minute instructions how it is to be buried on some path where the intended victim is sure to pass or as near his dwelling as possible.

In the days of slavery, the expert in Obeah was frequently distinguished by being physically or mentally defective or abnormal. So we find today that not a few of the pretenders to expertness in Obeah affect a disregard for cleanliness and hygiene, at strange variance with the Jamaican's characteristic love of bathing and neatness. If not actually disfigured, then, the Obeah man usually presents a disgusting and filthy appearance especially when actually making Obi. Again, he cannot as a rule meet your gaze, but shiftily moves his eyes around and nervously distorts his countenance, although on the other hand he will stare fixedly at the blazing tropical sun without blinking an eye. Possibly his very hang-dog look may be explained by injury to the optic nerve induced during his long preparation for his future avocation when as a little fellow he was forced to stand motionless by the hour with every muscle tense and set while he stared the sun out of countenance.

Another peculiarity of Jamaica Obeah should be noted here. Possibly through contact with missionaries at an early date in West Africa, Obeah in its various manifestations makes use of crosses to a great extent. In the making of a fetish, as we have seen, the Obeah man approaches his task, carefully crossing his legs at every step. So, too, while crouched over the bottle, in making

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real Obi, he is particular to keep his legs crossed under him. Many crosses are made during the ritual and sticks are crossed and re-crossed again and again. It is no uncommon thing to find a sickly child to whom the Obeah man has been called all marked up with crosses made with indigo or coloured clay. For "big obi" the wax drippings from altar candles and the refuse from the censer after benediction but especially the grains of unburnt incense, are particularly in demand. This last is probably explained by what follows.

The Obeah man has a wholesome fear of the priest and usually tries to avoid his presence. There is a conviction among them that the priest can exercise a more powerful influence than any Obeah man. This belief is expressed by the aphorism: "French obi, him strongest." The first priest to become well known through the Jamaica "bush" was a Frenchman, and the Catholic Church in consequence has come to be known familiarly as the French Church. Hence "French obi, him strongest" really means that the Catholic Church exercises the strongest Obeah. It is also accepted as a fact by the devotees of the Obeah cult that the priest can give evidence of this dominant power by "lighting a candle on them." This process is thus described: "Fadder take pin and Fadder take candle; and him stick der pin in der candle; and him light der candle on you. Der candle him burn, and him burn, and him burn. And you waste, and you waste, and you waste. And when der flame touch dat pin--you die." So that it is only necessary for a priest to make the playful remark to some black fellow in the "bush," "I think I'll have to light a candle on you," to bring him to his knees with: "O Fadder, don't."

The Ashanti Mmoatia, or little folks, are associated with the forest monster Sasabonsam and the Obayifo or witch in imparting power to the suman or fetish.[9] According to A. W. Cardinall they are "Preeminently mischief-workers, and are said to 'throw stones at one as one passes through the bush.'"[10] Captain Rattray calls them "fairies," and also tells us that in the Ashanti belief they are "Of three distinct varieties: black, red and white, and

[9. Note:--Cfr. Rattray, Religion and Art in Ashanti, p. 23.

10. Cardinall, In Ashanti and Beyond, p. 224.]

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they converse by means of whistling. The black fairies are more or less innocuous, but the white and the red mmoatia are up to all kinds of mischief."[11] For this latter group perhaps imps would be a more appropriate name than fairies. Be that as it may, the Jamaica duppies or ghosts are notorious for their stone-throwing propensities, and this poltergeist, as it is technically called, is associated in the popular mind with evil agencies.

In this connection it is interesting to note the testimony of no less an authority than Lord Olivier, a former Governor of Jamaica, who recently wrote to me: "The occasional outbursts of this 'poltergeist' phenomenon in Jamaica is remarkable. I investigated with some care the evidence as to one case which occurred when I was in Jamaica and there have been very full reports in the local Press of another recent occurrence which seems to have been carefully investigated without detecting any possibility of corporeal agency."

The phenomenon itself is ascribed by the peasantry to duppies or ghosts who despite their intangible nature are extraordinarily good shots to all appearances. True, it is a frequent means of frightening or annoying an enemy to cast stones from a distance so that they will fall on the roof of his house and make him think that the duppies are after him. On the other hand there are undeniable instances of persons being stoned and that, too, by no determinable agency. The stones for example, simply came out of the trees with truly remarkable accuracy and no one can be found either in the trees or on the line of fire.

A Jamaica missionary already quoted on Myalism and Obeah, graphically describes some of his own experiences and gives many instances that he has investigated where the stones thus thrown seem to violate all the laws of science. For example, "Some of the stones which came from the bushy declivity, after smashing through a window, turned at a right angle and broke the teacher's clock, glasses, etc., on a side-board."[12] A man running from the stone-thrower turns and fires a gun in the direction from which

[11. Rattray, 1. c., p. 25 f.

12. A. J. Emerick, Jamaica Duppies, Woodstock, 1916, p. 342.]

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the stones were coming, and as he does so another stone comes from the very opposite direction and hits him in the back of the neck.[13] "Some of them seem to come in the open door, turn around and fall at the teacher's feet."[14] A stone that has come flying into the house is marked by one of the occupants and thrown out again with the remark, "If him be a true duppy, him will throw this stone back," and back it came, "proving that the stone-thrower was a true duppy," in the common estimation.[15]

At times these duppies, imps, evil spirits, call them what you will, have other means of disturbing one's peace of mind.

On one occasion I was on the outskirts of a notorious Obeah district when a man, a non-Catholic, came to me and begged me to come and bless his house as his children were starving. "Why don't you give them something to eat?" was the obvious question. "Dem can't eat, Fadder," was the astonishing reply. "Someone put Obi on dem." He explained further that when they tried to eat, the food would fly up and hit them in the face, but that they could not get it into the mouth. Absolutely incredulous, I mounted my horse and followed him to his house. The entire village was assembled around the dwelling and a state of panicky hysteria had taken possession of all. While I did not actually witness the diabolic display myself, as I did not feel justified in provoking the evil one to an exhibition merely to satisfy my curiosity, all the men, women and children there present agreed in their testimony of what had happened. I blessed the house, but whether the blessing took or not, I cannot say, as I was shortly leaving Jamaica and never revisited the district.

To understand the rapid transition from Myalism to Revivalism in Jamaica, it is necessary to go into the question of the religious condition of the island in the closing days of slavery.

In his chapter on "Religion and Education" prior to 1782, Gardner writes: "It is no easy task to portray the religious history of the colony during the period now under review. With the

[13. Ditto, p. 342

14. Ditto, p. 343.

15. Ditto, p. 343.]

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exception of some letters written by the rector of Port Royal, immediately after the earthquake (preserved in GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE) there appears to be no document in existence which in any way illustrates the spiritual labours of the clergy. From Mr. Bridges, as a clergyman, we might have expected some account of the labours of his brethren; but though he devotes considerable space to the history of the established church, it is only so far as the emoluments and status of its clergy were concerned.

"Amidst the dearth of information, the letters of the Port Royal rector are of peculiar interest. Writing of the day of the earthquake, he says, 'On Wednesday, the 7th, I had been at prayers, which I did every day since I was rector of Port Royal, to keep up some show of religion amongst a most ungodly and debauched people.' This description of the general character of the population applies, it is to be feared, to the whole island, but it is questionable whether the incumbent of the doomed city was not almost singular in his zeal."[16]

Then after quoting further from the letter, Gardner adds: "For more than two generations we shall search in vain among the records of the colony for any further illustration of ministerial zeal and fidelity."[17]

Edward Long states: "The bishop of London claims this as a part of his diocese; but his jurisdiction is renounced and barred by the laws of the island, in every sense, except so far as relates or appertains to ecclesiastical regimen of the clergy; which imparts no higher power than that of granting orders, and giving pastoral admonitions."[18] On the following page he asserts: "The governor as supreme head of the provincial church, and in virtue of the royal instruments, is vested with a power of suspending a clergyman here, of lewd or disorderly life, ab officio, upon the petition of his parishioners; and I can remember one example of this sort. The governor inducts into the several rectories within the island and its dependencies, etc."[19] This power of patronage on

[16. Gardner, History of Jamaica, p. 192.

17. Ditto, p. 193.

18. Long, History of Jamaica, Vol. II, p. 235.

19. Ditto, p. 236.]

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the part of the governor naturally led to abuses as in the case of the Satirist "Peter Pindar" who was the last person one would expect to find gracing the pulpit of a church. And yet we read in Chambers's Cyclopedia of English Literature: "Dr. John Wolcot (1738-1819) was a coarse but lively satirist, who under the name of 'Peter Pindar,' published a variety of effusions on the topics and public men of his times, which were eagerly read and widely circulated. Many of them were in ridicule of the reigning sovereign, George III, who was a good subject for the poet; though the latter, as he himself acknowledged, was a bad subject to the king. . . . Wolcot was instructed in medicine, and 'walked the hospitals' in London, after which he proceeded to Jamaica with Sir William Trelawney, governor of the island, who had engaged him as his medical attendant. The social habits of the doctor rendered him a favourite in Jamaica; but his time being only partly employed by his professional avocations, he solicited and obtained from his patron the gift of a living in the church, which happened to be vacant. The bishop of London ordained the graceless neophyte and Wolcot entered upon his sacred duties. His congregation consisted mostly of Negroes, and Sunday being their principal holiday and market, the attendance at the church was very limited. Sometimes not a single person came, and Wolcot and his clerk--the latter being an excellent shot--used at such times, after waiting for ten minutes, to proceed to the sea-side, to enjoy the sport of shooting ring-tailed pigeons! The death of Sir William Trelawney cut off all further hopes of preferment, and every inducement to a longer residence in the island. Bidding adieu to Jamaica and the church, Wolcot accompanied Lady Trelawney to England, and established himself as a physician at Truro, in Cornwall."[20]

This prepares us for the startling testimony of Charles Leslie, written in 1840: "'Tis surprising that such worthless and abandoned men should be sent to such a place as this. The clergy here are of a character so vile, that I do not care to mention it; for except a few, they are generally the most finished of our debauchees.

[20. Chambers's Cyclopedia of English Literature, London, 1899, Vol. II, p. 24.]

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Messrs. Galpin, Johnston and May, are indeed men whose unblemished lives dignify the character they bear. They generally preach either in their own churches, or to a few in some private houses every Sunday; but for others, their church doors are seldom opened. "[21]

With such an account of the clergy, it is not surprising to find Stephen Fuller, the Agent for Jamaica at London, addressing the Earl of Shelburne as regards the pressing military needs of the island, painting the free Negroes and mulattoes in sombre colours. Thus he writes on April 2, 1782. "The free Negroes and mulattoes have been reckoned about 900 fencible men, out of which number not above 500 can be employed to any useful purpose; the greatest part of them being the most idle, debauched, distempered, profligate wretches upon earth. Besides this, there is an insuperable objection to their being armed, as they are not to be trusted in Corps composed of themselves, and the incorporating them with the whites will not be endured."[22] What, then, the religious and moral condition of the slaves themselves must have been, can well be surmised.

William Wilberforce, writing in 1823, states: "It cannot be denied, I repeat, that the slaves, more especially the great body of the field Negroes, are practically strangers to the multiplied blessings of the Christian Revelation. What a consideration this! A nation, which, besides the invaluable benefit of an unequalled degree of true civil liberty, has been favoured with an unprecedented measure of religious light, with its long train of attendant blessings, has been for two centuries detaining in a state of slavery, beyond example rigorous, and in some particulars, worse than Pagan darkness and depravity, hundreds of thousands of their fellow-creatures, originally torn from their native land by fraud and violence. Generation after generation have been pining away; and in this same condition of ignorance and degradation they still, for the most part, remain."[23]

[21. Leslie, New History of Jamaica, p. 303.

22. Cfr. Stephen Fuller, Original Letter Book, 1776-1784, Boston College Library, MS. No. 6002.

23. Wilberforce, Appeal etc., p. 19.]

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It was Wilberforce's Appeal that drew an answer from the Reverend George Wilson Bridges, Rector of the Parish of Manchester (1817-23) and later Rector of the Parish of St. Anns (1823-37) of whom Frank Cundall says, that he "as a rule displays more fertile imagination than Long without half his trustworthiness as a historian."[24] Cundall further observes in his regard: "In 1823 he published his Voice from Jamaica, written in defence of slave-owners, for which the Assembly two years later voted him 700 pounds."[25] This fact in itself renders Bridges' evidence of questionable value.

As regards the particular citation which we have given from Wilberforce, Bridges replies in part: "As to the 'pagan darkness' of the Negroes, though their progress certainly does not keep pace with our anxious wishes to see them in that state which would make it safe to confide ourselves to their estimation of a Christian oath, nor in that condition which would render it advantageous to themselves to be trusted with the liberty of self-control, yet the promises of Christianity are so far understood, and its preliminary rites so ardently desired by them, that during my residence in this parish, I have actually baptized 9,413 Negro slaves, many of them attend church; some have learned the Lord's prayer, and ten commandments, and a few have so far advanced, as to be now disseminating their little stock of religious knowledge on the estates to which they are attached. As I said before, I believe all my fellow-labourers here have been at least as assiduous as myself, and some more successful. I expect therefore that you, sitting by your own fireside, four thousand miles off, will not refuse credit to the unanswerable fact, advanced by one who is on the spot, an actor in the deeds he records, and who has certainly the better means of forming a correct judgment, on the point at issue."[26]

Here is a direct challenge, and it is taken up by a brother clergyman, also long resident in Jamaica. Reverend William James Gardner, Congregational Minister, who (11(2d in charge of

[24. Cundall, Historic Jamaica, London, 1915, p. 5.

25. Ditto, p. 372.

26. Bridges, Voice from Jamaica, p.26 f.]

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the North Street Church, Kingston, in 1874, reviewing the whole question, takes Mr. Bridges to task in no uncertain manner. Thus he writes: "The Rev. G. W. Bridges, the annalist, stated in 1823, that he had baptized 9,413 slaves during two years, and that many of them attended church. The proportion must indeed have been small, for the church he refers to (Mandeville) could not at that time have held a twentieth part of that number. Most of these slaves paid half-a-crown each as a baptismal fee. Mr. Bridges, in happy oblivion of what he had said of the money given to missionaries being the result of a cruel and heartless imposition on their superstition and ignorance, observes of the fees received, that 'this laudable desire of exchanging worldly goods for celestial rewards,' evinces 'a measure of faith words cannot express.' By the end of another year this zealous baptizer was able to report that 12,000 out of 17,000 slaves in the parish had received the holy ordinance, and he adds 'happily there are no sectarians,'"[27] This last remark probably explains the bitterness of Mr. Gardner himself. However, the general estimate given is supported by the Reverend R. Bicknell, a contemporary of Mr. Bridges and like him a Minister of the Established Church, who was stationed at Kingston and Port Royal during the period that Mr. Bridges was at Manchester. He says: "In the parish church of Clarendon I have often been, and never saw a hundred of all colours there, latterly a much less number, and once in particular, about ten or twelve only; though within five or six miles of the church there were several thousands of inhabitants. The churches of St. John's, St. Thomas's in the Vale, St. Dorothy's, St. George's, St. Mary's, Hanover and Vere, are but little better attended, some of them even worse, as I can testify from my own knowledge, and the assurance of creditable persons; the remaining churches I believe to be but little better, with the exceptions of those in the parishes of Kingston, St. Thomas in the East, St. Catherine, Port Royal, and St. Andrew."[28] Certainly if Mr.

[27. Gardner, History of Jamaica, p. 334.

28. R. Bicknell, The West Indies as they are; or a Real Picture of Slavery; but more particularly as it exists in the island of Jamaica, London, 1825, p. 74.]


Bridges had been really accomplishing anything out of the ordinary some mention of it would be expected here.

The Reverend John Riland, Curate of Yoxall, Staffordshire, somewhat facetiously styles Mr. Bridges' claims of 9,413 baptisms of slaves: "A direct illustration of Obeah practice under the forms of Christianity." And adds: "If we assume these 9,413 to have been also actually converted from Paganism to Christianity, or even to have been taught enough of the fundamental truths of the Gospel to understand the engagements into which they entered, we have here a miracle as great as was exhibited on the Day of Pentecost. And if they were not converted to Christianity, of if they did not understand the nature of the solemn vow and covenant they were called to make, what a mockery of religion, and what a prostitution of the sacred initiatory rite of baptism, is here made the subject of boast."[29]

But let us return to Mr. Bicknell whom we have recently quoted. We find him advertised as: "A member of the University of Cambridge, late Naval Chaplain at Port Royal, sometime Curate of that Parish, and previously of the City of Kingston, in the aforesaid island." His description of conditions among the slaves is not a pleasant one. Thus he declares: "It is not enough that most of the slaves must work in their grounds a part of that Holy day, but to add to the abomination, a market must be kept also on the Sunday, for the sale of provisions, vegetables, fruit, &c. It is the only market-day, fellow-countrymen, and fellow-Christians, which the poor Negroes and coloured slaves have, and instead of worshipping their God, they are either cultivating their portions of land to preserve life, or trudging like mules with heavy loads, five, ten, or even twenty miles, to sell the little surplus of their provision grounds, or to barter it for a little salt fish to season their poor meals: or what is much worse, to spend, very often, the value in new destructive rum, which intoxicates them, and drowns for a time, the reflection that they are despised and burdened slaves. I shall never forget the horror and disgust which I felt on going on shore, for the first time, in Kingston, in the

[29. John Riland, Memoir of a West India Planter, London, 1827, p. 186 f.]

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month of August, 1819; it was on a Sunday, and I had to pass by the Negro Market, where several thousands of human beings, of various nations and colours, but principally Negroes, instead of worshipping their Maker on this Holy day, were busily employed ill all kinds of traffic in the open streets."[30]

Again he tells us: "I have resided nearly five years in Jamaica, and have preached two or three sermons every Sunday; many other clergymen have also exerted themselves, but to very little purpose, as far as slaves are concerned, as those horrid and legalized scenes are just the same; for this Sunday market is a bait of Satan, to draw away the ignorant Negro; his temporal and pressing natural wants are set in opposition to his spiritual ones, and the former prevail to that degree, that most of the churches ill the island are nearly empty."[31]

He adds later: "I am aware that there is a law in Jamaica imposing a fine on proprietors or overseers for compelling the Negroes to do certain kinds of labour on the Sabbath; but it is notorious that this law is altogether a dead letter, and that in respect to their grounds, the Negroes not only go of their own accord to work there, as not having sufficient time allowed them otherwise; but if they are found inattentive, it is a custom to send one of the bookkeepers, on that Holy day, to see that all the slaves are at work, and to watch them a certain time, that there may not be a want of food. For putting the mill about (viz. for making sugar) on a Sunday, there is a fine of 50 pounds, one half of which, I believe goes to the informer; but though this is done in defiance of law in almost every, if not every parish in the island, I never heard of an information being laid for that. offence, as those planters who do not put their mills about, wink at it in others, and no clergyman or other religious person would venture, I think, to inform, as he would be sure to meet with insult, or some worse injury, for his conscientious interference."[32]

Mr. Bicknell's conclusion is: "Nearly the whole of the field

[30. Bicknell, l. c., Flyleaf.

31. Ditto, p. 67.

32. Ditto, p. 73.]

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Negroes (nine-tenths of the population) have not even the outward form of religion, and are just as great heathens as they were on the banks of the Gambia or Niger."[33]

The Reverend Peter Duncan, a Wesleyan-Methodist missionary, arrived in Jamaica early in 1821 and laboured there for over eleven years. In reference to Dr. Coke's visit to the island in 1789, he writes: "The island has been under British government for upwards of a century, yet scarcely anything had been done for the souls of the people. The habits of the whites had indeed become much more settled. They were friendly and hospitable in their intercourse with each other, and had improved in many of the external civilities of modern refinement, but the hallowed restraints of religion were as much unknown as ever. They were strangers to the enjoyments of the domestic circle, and throughout the whole country the standard of morals was deplorably low. It is true, emigrants from Great Britain were constantly arriving, but they left their profession of Christianity behind, and were soon assimilated to the corrupt mass by whom they were preceded. The ordinances of religion in many parts were rarely administered. There was a famine of the bread of life. There was indeed a church in almost every parish, but many of the benefices were generally vacant; and excepting on the occasion of funerals, the churches in the country parishes were seldom open for divine service, even upon the Lord's Day. Numbers of the clergy were living openly in concubinage and were otherwise unblushingly immoral; and it may be fairly questioned whether before 1789 that Sabbath ever dawned upon Jamaica, which witnessed five hundred

[33. Ditto, p. 71. Note:--The Home Government made futile efforts at times to check the growing abuses, if we may judge from a letter of the Duke of Halifax answering one from Stephen Fuller who had sought an extended leave of absence for the Rev. John Venn, at that time Rector of St. Catherine's, Jamaica, and dated April 17, 1764, wherein he states: "I shall be ready to move his Majesty to grant him that indulgence, upon being assured that Governor Lyttleton is satisfied of the necessity and approves of the curate who is to officiate in his stead. For I must acquaint you that, upon the complaints which have been made by the Bishop of London of the bad consequences arising from the general and frequent absence of the clergy from their livings in the West Indies, I have made it a rule never to procure any such indulgence, unless the application be so granted."--Cfr. Stephen Fuller, Original Letter Book, 1762-1771, Boston College Library, MS. No. 6001.]

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persons in all the places of worship put together out of a population of between four and five hundred thousand souls."[34]

The Reverend Claudius Buchanan while examining the "State of our Established Church in the West Indies, in regard to its efficiency as an instrument of instructing the people"[35] asserts: "In Jamaica there are twenty parishes. Supposing that there are also twenty Rectors (in some islands there are many pluralists) we shall then have twenty Clergymen in an island which is 150 miles long and 40 in a medium broad; which gives a district of 300 square miles for the labours of each Clergyman. The population of the island is stated by Mr. Edwards to amount to 30,000 whites, 10,000 free persons of colour and 210,894 slaves: which, when divided among twenty Clergymen, will give to each a cure of 12,554 souls. It will hardly be necessary to say more of the utter inadequacy of the public means of religious instruction in Jamaica. This island is a favourable specimen of the state of the Established Church in the old islands.

"On the whole it may be safely affirmed, that no human zeal could be equal to a tenth part of the duties of the parochial Clergy, were the slaves practically regarded as belonging to their flock. But the truth is, that this unfortunate mass of the population has, with very few exceptions, never been so regarded, either by the Government or the Clergy."[36]

The Reverend Peter Samuel reached Jamaica in January, 1832, where he was to labour as a Methodist missionary for over eleven years. In his account of the development of his denomination in the island, he stresses among the obstacles encountered at the start: "The pernicious influence of Obeahism and African superstitions"[37] and adds: "The immense influence possessed and exercised by West Indian proprietors in the Parliament of the mother country, as well as in the Colonial Assembly, gave a respectability,

[31. Peter Duncan, A Narrative of the Wesleyan Mission to Jamaica, London, 1849 p. 7 f.

32. Claudius Buchanan, Colonial Ecclesiastical Establishment, London, 1812, p. 53.

33. Ditto, p. 60 f.

34. Peter Samuel, The Wesleyan-Methodist Missions in Jamaica and Honduras, Delineated, London, 1850, p. 9.]

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a consistency, an air of justice, and a degree of power sufficiently formidable to the apparently weak efforts of a few humble missionaries."[38]

We have indicated here the foundation of the bitterest religious controversy in the history of Jamaica. When Dr. Coke first visited the island in January 1789, he was deeply touched by the condition of religious abandonment that he found amongst the slaves. He was not slow on his return to England to send out the Reverend William Hammett in that same year to establish the Wesleyan Missionary Society in Jamaica.

The emotional element in Methodism immediately appealed to the kindred Myalistic spirit among the Negroes, and as they found in the assemblies which the newly-arrived missionaries were convoking in open defiance of the authorities and in face of the opposition of the planters, an opportunity of renewing much of their own Pagan rites in connection with the Christian service, they were not slow to take advantage of the general confusion of ideas, and forthwith the "digging up" of Obeah again became much in evidence. And the missionaries, good, well meaning souls, derived comfort and consolation among their hardships and persecutions, in what they must have regarded as promising manifestations of faith. They watched with delight the zeal to stamp out this African superstition, which seemed to them the Negro's real religion, and which they rightly interpreted as a form of devil worship. And yet they were unconsciously fostering and abetting a movement among the slaves that was for the most part as Pagan as the Obeah that they were "digging up."

Space will not permit our going into this controversy in detail. We can only touch on it as far as it has reference to our present study. The nucleus of the Wesleyan Mission in Jamaica was really formed of refugees from what is now the United States in consequence of the Revolutionary War, at least as regards the leading spirits. This in itself may have stirred up opposition.[39] On one occasion, Dr. Coke himself, while preaching in Kingston, was al-

[38. Ditto, p. 10.

39. Note:--Cfr. Duncan, Wesleyan Mission to Jamaica, p. 11.]

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most dragged from the hall by a party of whites who seriously threatened him with bodily harm.[40]

In November, 1790, the Grand jury of Kingston presented to the Court of Quarter-Sessions a complaint against the Methodist Meeting in that city as a nuisance, on the grounds that it is "injurious to the general peace and quiet of the inhabitants of this town."[41]

Buchanan tells us: "After the Methodist Missionaries had been about ten years in the Island of Jamaica; and had built a chapel at Kingston, which was attended by some whites, and by many people of colour and Negroes; the Colonial Legislature passed an Act, on the 17th December, 1802, by which they prohibited, and made penal, 'preaching or teaching in a meeting of Negroes, or people of colour, by a person not duly qualified.' There had hitherto been no law in Jamaica for Dissenters to qualify at all; and the Legislature thought fit to determine, that a person regularly and legally qualified in England, under the Toleration Act, was not duly qualified for Jamaica. In consequence of this law, two of the Missionaries were thrown into prison. The penalty for first offence was 'one month's imprisonment, and hard labour in the common workhouse.' The penalty for the second offence was, 'imprisonment and hard labour for six months,' or such further punishment 'not extending to life, as the Court should see fit to inflict.'--Such a law, in relation to a white man, had never been heard of before in Jamaica; for the laws there are highly respectful to the privileged order. If again, a black man should 'teach or preach in a meeting of Negroes, not being duly qualified,' he was 'to be sentenced to receive, for the second offence, a public flogging, not exceeding thirty-nine lashes.'

"By the operation of this law, the places of worship of other denominations of Christians besides the Methodists, were shut up. The preachers were silenced; and among the rest, a regularly ordained minister of the Church of Scotland. The missionaries, in the extremity of their sufferings, compared this legal opposition,

[40. Note:--Cfr. Duncan, l. c., p. 8 f.

41. Duncan, l. c., p. 16.]

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and its effects, to the persecution of Diocletian; only that the punishments were not, as the law expressed it, 'to extend to life.'

"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 Diocletian. 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 notions; and that opportunity was afforded them of concerting schemes of much public and private mischief.'

"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."[42]

While we cannot help admiring the energy and long-suffering manifested by the Methodist missionaries in their misguided zeal with the slaves, as we read their glowing reports of souls reclaimed, we must keep in mind the warning of Mr. Gardner: "With the exception of one or two denominations, copious accounts have been published by missionaries of the labours in which they have taken part in Jamaica. It may be asserted, without any violation of Christian charity, that the most glowing descriptions of the results which have followed such labours are the least trustworthy. Honest, well-meaning men have frequently described as fruit that which was only blossom; while vain, though pious men, too anxious for the praise of their fellow-creatures, and ambitious of the ephemeral fame of missionary chronicles or the applause of public meetings, have sometimes injured the cause they wished to serve by too highly-coloured descriptions of their success."[43]

In a Report of the committee of the whole house which had been appointed "to inquire into and take further into consideration the state of the island," presented to the House of Assembly

[42. Buchanan, Colonial Ecclesiastical Establishment, p. 76 ff.

43. Gardner, History of Jamaica, p. 340.]

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of Jamaica on Dec. 20, 1815, we find the words:[44] "The subject of religion, and the best method of introducing genuine Christianity in the mild and beneficent spirit of its founder, is of so great importance that the committee decline going deeper into it at present; but recommend that early in the next session a. committee may be appointed, for the special purpose of discussing and considering the most eligible manner of diffusing religious information amongst that class of society.

"The Assembly has always been against communicating to them the dark and dangerous fanaticism of the Methodists, which, grafted on the African superstitions, and the general temperament of Negroes in a state of bondage, has produced, and must continue to produce, the most fatal consequences, equally inimical to their well being and comfort in this world, and to the practice of those virtues which we are led to believe ensure happiness in the next.

"But the representatives of the people have not displayed any of that aversion with which they have been charged, to encourage the propagation of Christianity in the form which they thought likely to be beneficial. . . .

"It shows further, however, that the representatives of the people have always been desirous to encourage the introduction of pastors, whose education gave security for the nature of the doctrines which they were to inculcate.

"They continue of that disposition, although equally satisfied, as in former times, that to communicate the lights of Christianity through Methodism would have consequences the most fatal to the temporal comforts of the slaves, and the safety of the community."

This Report was accepted unanimously, and on December 22, 1815, a resolution passed, also unanimously, to this effect: "That early in the next session, this house will take into consideration the state of religion amongst the slaves, and carefully investigate the

[44. Note:--Cfr. Further Proceedings of the Honourable House of Assembly of Jamaica, relative to a Bill introduced into the House of Commons for effectually preventing the unlawful importation of slaves and holding free persons in slavery in the British Colonies, London, 1816, p. 40f.]

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means of diffusing the light of genuine Christianity, divested of the dark and dangerous fanaticism of the Methodists, which has been attempted to be propagated, and which, grafted on the African superstitions, and working on the uninstructed minds and ardent temperament of the Negroes, has produced the most pernicious consequences to individuals, and is pregnant with imminent danger to the community."[45]

As already noted, neither side of the controversy even suspected the real root difficulty. The Methodist Missionaries felt that they were the victims of the rankest bigotry and cried aloud in protest. If they had only realized that they were offering themselves as martyrs to revivify and extend absolute Paganism with a veneer of Christianity in the resuscitated Myalism that was parading as Revivalism, they might have been less outspoken in their denunciation of the entire House of Assembly. If the planters, on the other hand, who honestly recognized in the unrest, caused by the activities of the Methodists, among the slaves, the significant forerunners of serious disorders, if they had only been able to really analyze the situation, and distinguish between the strong Myalistic tendencies and the Methodistic emotional susceptibilities, they might have been able to direct the latter influence into less dangerous channels and have opened the eyes of its proponents to what was actually afoot. But each side of the controversy was deaf to the arguments of the other, just as they were both blind to the real nature of the terrific forces for harm that were accumulating among the mass of the blacks.

When the dreaded uprising actually began in St. James Parish on the night of December 28, 1831, the feeling of bitterness on both sides was intense. The Reverend David Jonathan East, writing on the West Indies in the Centenary Volume of the Baptist Missionary Society,[46] admits that the insurrection "broke out in the very district in which missionary labours had been most successful," and adds at once: "It is not perhaps surprising that the

[45. Ditto, p. 42.

46. London, 1892, p. 191.]

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first thought of the planters was that missionaries were the authors of the rebellion."

Exaggerated as this view of the planters certainly was, it is no more extreme than the attitude of some of the missionaries themselves. Thus the Reverend Peter Duncan, who was a Methodist Minister in Jamaica at the very time of the slave-rebellion, fosters his own resentment, and writing eighteen years after the events, unhesitatingly insinuates, seemingly with absolutely no foundation in fact: "Time may yet show, whether, in some instances, the negroes were not directly instigated to violence for the purpose of casting odium upon the missionaries."[47] And in a note he explains: "This thought has been ridiculed, and it has been asked, whether it can be believed, that any man would instigate the negroes to destroy his own property: Perhaps not; but it never was pretended that the instigators of the negroes had property to destroy. The overseers, the parties alluded to, had no property. Such found it easier to kindle the fire than to put it out. It is not, however, suspected that many directly instigated the negroes to the work of destruction. "[48]

If both sides could only have understood the insidious workings of Myalism as we do today, how much different might have been the closing days of slavery in Jamaica. In place of the mutual antagonism, and bitter recriminations, they might have worked harmoniously together for the peace and prosperity of the entire community." The years of apprenticeship might then have witnessed

[47. Duncan, Wesleyan Mission to Jamaica, p. 223.

48. Ditto, p. 273, Note 1.

49. Note:--We might then have been spared this terrible arraignment: "The misdirected efforts and misguided counsel of certain Ministers of Religion, sadly so miscalled, if the Saviour's example and teaching is to be the standard, have led to their natural, their necessary, their inevitable result (amongst an ignorant, excitable, and uncivilized population)--rebellion, arson, murder. These are hard and harsh words, gentlemen, but they are true; and this is no time to indulge in selected sentences, or polished phraseology."--Speech of His Excellency, Edward John Eyre, Governor of Jamaica, before the Legislative Council, Tuesday, November 7, 1865, at the opening of the first session after the Morant Bay Rebellion.--Cfr. Augustus Constantine Sinclair, Parliamentary Debates of Jamaica, Spanish-Town, 1866, Vol. XIII, p. 3. And the Assembly in their answering Address to the Governor, on the following day, state: "We desire to express our entire concurrence in Your Excellency's statement that, {footnote p. 236} to the misapprehensions and misrepresentations of pseudo philanthropists in England and in this country. . . . and to the misdirected efforts and misguided zeal of certain miscalled ministers of religion, is to be attributed the present disorganization of the colony, resulting in rebellion, arson, and murder."--Cfr. l. c., p. 13.]

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a gradual enlightenment of the masses of former slaves, spiritually as well as intellectually. And with their freedom from bondage, they might naturally have acquired a disillusionment as regards Myalism and Obeah alike, In that case the recrudescence of Paganism that blighted the early days of reconstruction might never have occurred.

In any case, the fact remains that actually the forces of Myalism and Obeah today have degenerated into a common form of witchcraft not unfrequently associated with devil worship, and even those of the blacks who belittle its general influence, in practice show a wholesome fear of the powers of the Obeah man. And here we must leave the question for the present, reserving for a future volume a detailed study of Duppyism and kindred subjects.

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