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Demerara rebellion of 1823

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**Historical Background and Context**:
– Demerara’s colonization by the Dutch and British threat
– Economy based on sugar cane plantations and enslaved labor
– Treatment of slaves before and after the rebellion
– Impact of missionary efforts and religious restrictions on slaves

**The Uprising and Its Participants**:
– Triggers and factors leading to the rebellion
– Number of enslaved individuals involved
– Leadership, planning, and organization of the uprising
– Events during the rebellion and the non-violent nature of the revolt
– Counter-insurgency operations and aftermath of the rebellion

**Legal Proceedings and Impact**:
– Trials, executions, and sentences imposed on rebels
– Impact on the abolitionist movement and public sentiment
– Legislation and ordinances passed in response to the rebellion
– Colonial response, resistance from plantation owners, and subsequent reforms
– Acts and amendments leading to the abolition of slavery in British colonies

**Key Figures and Plantation Owners**:
– Roles of individuals like Jack Gladstone, Quamina, and Rev. John Smith
– Treatment of slaves by plantation owners like Sir John Gladstone
– Documentation of slave conditions by John Smith and Gladstone’s defense
– Impact of Gladstone’s plantation ownership on productivity and workforce
– Observations on the treatment of slaves and management practices

**Scholarly Sources and Further Reading**:
– Publications and authors documenting the Demerara rebellion
– British newspapers’ coverage and public reaction to the events
– Association with key figures and events in the abolitionist movement
– Influence on subsequent legislation and reforms
– Significance of the rebellion in the broader history of slavery abolition

The Demerara rebellion of 1823 was an uprising involving between 9,000 and 12,000 enslaved people that took place in the British colony of Demerara-Essequibo in what is now Guyana. The exact number of how many took part in the uprising is a matter of debate. The rebellion, which began on 18 August 1823 and lasted for two days. Their goal was full emancipation. The uprising was triggered by a widespread but mistaken belief that Parliament had passed a law that abolished slavery and that this was being withheld by the colonial rulers. Instigated chiefly by Jack Gladstone, an enslaved man from the "Success" plantation, the rebellion also involved his father, Quamina, and other senior members of their church group. Its English pastor, John Smith, was implicated.

Demerara rebellion of 1823
Large group of slaves force the retreat of European soldiers. Includes canal, boat, drawbridge, dwellings, guns or muskets, flag, hogs, pigs, dogs, and bayonets.
Slaves force the retreat of European soldiers led by Lt Brady.
Date18–20 August 1823
Caused byPoor treatment, (mistaken) belief that Parliament had emancipated the slaves
MethodsLargely non-violent
Resulted inSuppression
Rebel slaves
Lead figures
9,000 - 15,000 enslaved men and women
Casualties and losses
200 to 500 killed in the revolt
27 executed
Minimal losses

The largely non-violent rebellion was brutally crushed by the colonists under governor John Murray. They killed many slaves: estimates of the toll from fighting range from 200 to 500 men and women. After the insurrection was put down, the government sentenced another 45 men to death, and 27 were executed. The executed slaves' bodies were displayed in public for months afterwards as a deterrent to others. Jack may have been deported to the island of Saint Lucia after the uprising. John Smith, who had been sentenced to death and was awaiting news of his appeal against a death sentence, died in jail.

News of Smith's death strengthened the abolitionist movement in Britain. In Georgetown, Guyana a main street was named after Quamina. In 2023 the National Portrait Gallery in London featured a picture of Jack Gladstone and the enslaved woman Amba in its exhibition in London.

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