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j udith philip knew a thing or two about slaves; slavery had been part of her life since birth. For most of her adult life she personally had owned well over two hundred people. By 1833 she was one of the most successful planters in Grenada and the matriarch of an extended family that possessed many acres and hundreds of slaves spread throughout the region.¹ Indeed,Judith Philip was one of the most successful slaveholders in the Caribbean.² Her largest plantation was 250 acres overlooking Tyrrel Bay on the outlying island of Carriacou, a place that she had inherited from her mother that she called “Grand Anse.” It was there that she and her managers oversaw her extensive businesses and where she built “the big house.” Her other estate,“Petite Anse,” was just ’round the coast, while the third, “Susannah,” was a cocoa plantation a little bit farther inland.³ The three plantations formed a neat triangle, and the slaves were used to being moved around,depending on the season and the need.⁴ On Carriacou Philip’s siblings also owned property and slaves. In separate but adjoining lots, they owned nearly all the land on the smaller island of Petite Martinique and sizable properties in Grenada’s capital, St. George’s. In addition, Judith’s elder brother J. B. Louis and her sister Susannah invested heavily in Trinidad,owning hundreds of acres there.⁵ Judith Philip’s family was one to be reckoned with. Across the three plantations Philip’s slaves toiled for their mistress producing cotton, coffee, cocoa, and provisions. As far as can be known, they were hard-working and rarely afforded any trouble. According to the slave registers, there were fewer deaths on her plantations than on those held by many of the other owners in the colony, and her slaves were less “marked by the whip.”⁶ While not necessarily a sign of good treatment, it was a sure sign of good management. Her slaves also enjoyed considerable freedoms. When their working day was done they could move about, tend to their By Labors and Fidelity judith philip and her family chapter three 58 ~ chapter three provision grounds, and visit friends. But in this Judith Philip was no exception . Like many in Grenada, the Philip family came from the French community, and they tended to live closer to their place of work and closer to their slaves.⁷ Judith Philip knew the ways and habits of slaves, where they came from, and who was friends with whom. Living as she did in the heart of her operation this knowledge was both unavoidable and necessary. So it must have come as a surprise when, in June 1834, one of her most trusted slaves, a thirty-year-old creole called Jose who had been in Philip’s employ for most of his life, was arrested and charged with malicious wounding.⁸ Well known and popular,Jose had certainly never been in any real trouble before. The incident happened on March 18 at around 7 pm when Jose went to visit his girlfriend on the nearby “Debels” plantation. As Jose approached his lover’s quarters,the light was fading but he could just make out the shape of another man standing in the doorway. He could also clearly hear the man’s raised voice, arguing with her. According to the transcript of his trial, Jose knew the angry man to be a thirty-eight-year-old slave called John Charles from the estate “Cocoa Nut Vale,” which bordered “Debels.” The two men had had words before, on many occasions.⁹ John Charles was challenging Jose’s woman over money. There was also a child that she had borne, who now resided on the mainland, and Charles could well have been the father. Enraged at the intrusion, Jose tried to defend his partner and confronted John Charles. Charles stood in the doorway of the hut and would not let Jose past. Both men squared off and loudly cursed, while others began to crowd around the fence that divided the different huts.Then the fracas began.Jose was first to act,unsheathing a sharpened metal bar that he had been using that day in the workshop.With both hands he struck Charles violently in the stomach and moved past the wounded man to defend the woman. At the trial, the wound Jose inflicted was described as being between “three and four fingers deep on the right side of the witnesses belly,” yet despite...


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