Are the Maroons mentioned


Sunday, November 04, 2018

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OCCASIONALLY when I make reference to the Jamaican Maroons in my writings, there are a few respondents, some of whom parade as being of direct descendants to the Maroons and often, in an opaque manner, seem to suggest that I am against the Maroons.

What poppycock! Perhaps these people do not know me well enough. Why would I be against a group of people who fought against European enslavement to secure their “freedom”? If the story was that simple, I would be lacking in good judgement to be against or be unsympathetic to the struggles of the Maroons and other people around the globe who were victims of enslavement and subjugation by more powerful nations, tribes and races.

My outrage has always been about the manner in which the history of the Jamaican Maroons, oral and written, were casted for the consumption of the other negro groupings in the society. The peace treaty of 1739 with the Leeward Maroons and 1740-41 with the Windward Maroons both have clauses in which the Maroons, having secured their “freedom”, agreed to become policemen of the mountainous hinterland capturing runaway Negro slaves for a fee.

These Maroons also agreed with the colonial authorities to assist in crushing all slave rebellions and defend the country from any invasion. In return for these acts, the Maroons would be financially compensated by the ruling planter class — the slave owners.

This I find disturbing. But even more is the conspiracy by the Colonial Board of Education after 1845, and archivist Clinton V Black (not his real name) in the second half of the following century mislead the rest of the black population through the education system that the Maroons are our heroes when, to the contrary, they were our vicious oppressors and unmerciful murderers and capturers.

I frown against the lies and, even more, the disrespect that suggests strongly a belief that the children of “Quarshie Fool” would have no way of finding out the truth. In being lied to, not only about the Maroons but also a greater part of our history, the use of literary devices to glamorise and romanticise the pain and cruelity meted out to the rest of the negro population by the official agents of the salve masters — the Jamaican Maroons — were also brought heavily into play.

It has been a disgrace and I am fighting down those lies not the Maroons…) although they too have very little to be commended for or to be proud about as part of the Jamaican history. They have, and by the time readers come to the end of this article they will discover that the Maroons have reaped more than what they have sown, and like Clinton Black, the few Maroon apologists must know that the unfolding truths about our history, inclusive of the Maroons, in this the technological and information age cannot anymore be sequestered into the hands of a select few and be tucked away under a bushel safely hidden.

My dear mother once said to me when I was about 10 years old that, “... the truth does not need any help!” The clause in the two Maroon peace treaties of 1739 and 1741, respectively, required a maximum of four white overseers to live among the Maroons, but did not seem to ring alarm bells. Instead, it was ecstatically accepted by the Maroons how seriously they were appreciated by the white plantocratic government and its people. Perhaps the Maroons never saw that with all their unqualified cooporation with the slave system, the plantocracy did not really trust them and saw them as mere pawns in a game of optimising advantages by the white slave masters.

The unfolding of time underlines the extent of Maroon trickery by their British “partners” to the peace treaty. And the plot thickens as readers shall see. Under the 1739 and 1741 peace treaties with the British-controlled Government, the Maroons were given large swathe, of mountainous, poor-quality lands as an inhertance in perpetuity — the corollary of which was a gift of poverty in perpetuity. Even the rainfall in the Cockpit areas liberated phosphorous, calcium and other minerals from the limestone rocks which flowed down to fertilise the alluvium plains below owned by the British planters. The source of every river in Jamaica can be traced back to Maroon lands in the mountainous backbone across the country.

While the Maroons' large acreages of land were ideal to fight guerilla or bush warfare, when hostilities ceased and the economic race for sugar production and sale began, the Maroons discovered they could not compete; therefore, they became permanently and acutely marginalised.

Today the Maroons are languishing in a “lack of economic well-being” while clutching on to the thoughts of a valiant past for comfort and clinging close to virtually useless non-productive lands as evidentiary assurance of days long ago when the glory of freedom and independence seemed to have been within their grasp. At least, back then that is what the Maroons would have thought as the passage of time consolidated their defence mechanism of denial, in which they rigorously crushed, for a fee from the white planters, every attempt by non-Maroons in their fight also for their freedom.

The Maroons put down the Coromante Tacky Rebellion 1760 in the parish of St Mary. The shot and killed Tacky, beheaded him, pulled out his heart and entrails which they roasted in a ceremonial feast and ate.

They walked with Tacky's head from St Mary through various communities blowing the Abeng and the Fiffe all the way to Spanish Town to collect reward money from the British governor.

Of the 541 slaves murdered during the Sam Sharpe Rebellion of 1831/32, a significant number were killed by the Maroons. The killing of “Three Finger Jack” at Mount Lebanus Eastern Jamaica and Plato of the Moreland Mountains — western Jamaica; King “Ebo” in the 1815 slave rebellion in St Elizabeth; the capture of Paul Bogle in 1865. the putting down of the mutiny at Fort Augusta in 1808. A and in the 1795 Second Maroon War, the Accompong, Charles Town, Moore Town Crawford Town, Maroons murdered their fellow Maroons in Trelawny Town, Upper St James and crushed that rebellion.

To speak honestly and truthfully about our past social and political history, despite how ugly and embarrassing, creates the pathway, I believe, for cathartic healing. And the apologists for the Maroons' past misdeeds and cruelities must wise up to that fact instead of holding on to a bunch of stale tale and local legends about Maroon heroism, and how it helped the rest of the black non-Maroon population, those who know much better among Maroon sympathisers, if there are, should stop this nonsense that has gone on for close to over 150 years.

Instead, they should encourage the Maroons to publicly apologise to the rest of the Negro population so that we all can move on. A demonstration of honesty and sincerity regarding the Maroon story in Jamaica is it in my view, the best balm in Gilead, figuratively speaking.

The second incident and development in the Maroon-slave masters interaction to which the Maroons should ring alarm bells, is that in 1744, within five years of the signing of the 1739 peace treaty, the planters-dominated House of Assembly passed a law that it was illegal for Maroons to own other Negroes as slave. This was a slap in the face of the Maroons and a reality check to their place and space in the slave society, even with a signed treaty.

Fast-forward to the 20th century and ask the question: where does the Jamaican Maroons legally, economically, politically and socially stand? The latter three areas mentioned are too well known, so let us discuss where do the Maroons stand legally in the face of the two treaties signed in 1739 and 1741. In 1842, four years after the abolition of slavery in 1838, a law was passed providing that all Maroon lands be revested in Her Majesty (Queen Victoria) for the purpose of being allocated to individual Maroons who were entitled to only two acres each.

Still no alarm bells were heard by Maroons as they clutched the document of the peace treaty tighter. Prior to this, in 1832 the Government of Jamaica passed a law declaring all Maroons as “Free Subjects of Her Majesty Island”. Note how the law did not say “free subjects of Accompong Town, Trelawny Town, Moore Town, Crawford Town State; but “Her Majesty Island”.

Then in 1956 the issue of where Maroons stand legally was further illuminated in a case of R vs Mann O Rowe (ex-Secretary of State of Accompong or Maroon Chief) charged for possession of ganja on Maroon lands in which the Chief Justice of Jamaica denied any autonomy of Maroons according to Jamaican law.

The Chief Justice reasoned:”...Although the arrangement between the Government of Jamaica and the Maroons took the form of a treaty, that document was in reality “the articles of agreement in which was set out inter alia, the condition under which His Majesty granted his pardon to rebels.

Continuing, the Chief Justice asserts that “there is today no difference or distinction whatever in the rights and obligations as defined by the law of this island between persons residing in former Maroon settlements and those of any other British subject in Jamaica” — the 1962 Jamaican Constitution Order in Council passed by the United Kingdom Parliament whilst retaining her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State.

However, there is no reference in the Order of Council or the Constitution of Jamaica to the Maroons! The answer, therefore, to the topic of this piece is unequivocally 'No!' The implication of this is deeply dire to Maroon interests.

Clearly Maroon folklore, legends and emotional flight of fanciful stories will not suffice. We are a country of laws. In 1956 the legal relevance and validity of the two Maroon 'Treaties' of 1739 and 1741 were tested in law through the Supreme Court of Jamaica. The outcome was dismal for the Maroons.

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