[Eunice and Ron Shanahan, the source of most of this site’s “Letters from the Past,” comment that a letter Edward Warren wrote his brother three years after this one had most interest for the light it shed on postal service in the Caribbean. In contrast, this one sheds light on slavery and the difficulty of freeing slaves. Thomas Warren, the recipient of the letter, was a minister of a Methodist chapel in Plymouth, and the Methodists were early leaders of the long British antislavery campaigns.

Thomas had apparently inherited slaves upon his mother’s death, and he wanted his brother, who worked at the “Victualling Office” in Jamaica, to arrange to have them freed. Edward, the brother in Jamaica, reports that he as already freed a woman and her son “who are exclusively your property,” but (if I read this letter correctly) he refuses to free plantation workers, telling the Evangelical minister, that the “Legislature of the Island would not permit such a proceeding, as it would, no doubt, induce the remainder of the Negroes on the Penn to meeting, and perhaps lead eventually to a general insurrection.” Manumission is the act of a slave owner freeing his or her slaves, and therefore “manumissing Slaves,” which the writer mentions, is setting a slave free. — George P. Landow]

Mr Thomas Warren
Methodist Chapel

Victualling Office Jamaica 17th December 1812

My Dear Brother

The last Packet which has arrived here from England was the Lord Hobart on the 7th of November last and sailed again on the 30th of same month — by which vessel I had not the pleasure of hearing from you, owing no doubt by your travelling — nor did I write you by her, as I had then nothing particular to communicate. I heard from my Sister, and was very happy to be informed by her that you had paid her a visit at Brentwood, was quite well and pleased with the few Articles I sent you by Mr Harris, which I am happy have reached you in Safety. By the Speedy Packet which sailed from this on the 3rd November last, I wrote you very fully, to which letter I beg particularly to refer, but in case the Vessel should be taken I have to repeat here what I then observed to you respecting the Negroes belonging to our Mother's Estate in which you have [one this do?] — namely — that it was impolitic, indeed out of my power to take them specifically and then as your Attorney, [manumisse ?] those who may fall to your share. The Legislature of the Island would not permit such a proceeding, as it would, no doubt, induce the remainder of the Negroes on the Penn to meeting, and perhaps lead eventually to a general insurrection — it may be all well for the [Methodist] Conference to insist on your manumissing Slaves who are exclusively your property, (which I have already fully done, — say Georgiana, her child and Michael) but I cannot think, on a fair and just representation from you, that it would insist on your giving up your right to those on the Penn — they are attached to it, and an {underlined undivided} property — subject to the expenses attending the education and clothing of the [grand?] children — and to pay each of them £100 as they may respectively attain the age of 17 years. Pray take into consideration what I have observed on a subject which appears and no doubt gives you so much uneasiness - and let me hear very fully from you on the subject.

I have now, my dear Brother, to inform you of a most shocking and unfortunate accident which happened to your particular friend Mr McDonald on the night of the 29th of last month being Sunday — and the day previous to the sailing of the last Packet from this — on that day he was perfectly well — and you may imagine how I was shocked to hear the next day that he was no more — it appears that on Sunday night about 10 o'clock after taking supper he was leaning over Mr Daly's balcony — very high from the street — when he unfortunately fell over into the street — & suffered so much from the fall that he only lingered till the next morning when he expired — the pain he endured must have been great indeed — I understand he has made a will — left Mr Daly & Mr John Smith his Executors — left a few legacies & his wife £70 [Jamaican ?] — the [overplus ?] of the Estate to remain for the benefit of the Methodist institution — this I have heard but not from his executor therefore cannot vouch for its correctness.

I have now, my dear Brother, the pleasure to enclose you a small bill - [?]James McKinsie on the Commissioners of his Majesty's Navy at 10 days sight in your favor for £16.12/- Sterling which I hope may prove acceptable — I could not procure one sooner — and am sorry it is not of a larger amount. I must now beg leave to conclude (as I will write you fully by return of the expected Packet) — with very best wishes for the health & happiness of yourself & wife & little Boy.

I Remain
My dear Brother
yours affectionately

Edw B Warren.

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Last modified 13 July 2016