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6 CONCLUSION British antislavery discourse on the major nineteenth-century slave revolts in the Caribbean colonies was, in a sense, a defensive one. By taking the initiative to rise in rebellion immediately after each wave of abolitionistsponsored programs, the slaves enabled proslavery advocates to make a strong case about the incendiary effect of antislavery activities on the servile population. Thus abolitionists were forced to counter the allegations of the planters. This counterdiscourse vacillated between blunt rejection of the allegations and acceptance of limited responsibility for the conduct of rebellious slaves. The abolitionists also took the opportunity in this defensive discourse to emphasize that their campaign was a noble humanitarian undertaking well worth the risk of servile warfare. Their defensive arguments proved that the mass protest action of the slaves engendered an extensive deliberation on slave revolts and that the antislavery leaders did not flinch in their commitment to the cause even when the rebellions reduced the strength of their support. British abolitionists’ commentary on slave rebellions, however, did not consist entirely of a self-defensive position. Antislavery activists did not seek merely to contradict the claim that they were instigating slave violence . They were particularly intent in proving that proslavery descriptions of nineteenth-century slave rebellions were outdated and inaccurate. Planters and their supporters had failed to appreciate or chose to overlook that the rebellions of the last years of slavery in the English Caribbean were devoid of the bloody terror with which they were wont to imagine the conduct of rebellious slaves. Abolitionist commentary focused on and presented an opposing perspective of the slaves’ rebellion. They refused to dwell on the economic devastation that planters violently denounced in St. Domingue in 1791, Barbados in 1816, and Jamaica in 1831–1832. Instead, the abolitionists exulted that not one piece of plantation property was destroyed in the Demerara rising in 1823. In shaping their analysis of what constituted a slave revolt, British abolitionists also 180 laid great emphasis on the fact that nineteenth-century slave rebels without exception demonstrated no intention whatever to take their masters’ lives. They did admit that a few whites lost their lives at the hands of rising slave populations but were keen to point out that cold-blooded murder formed no part of the rebels’ aims. The abolitionists’ scrutiny of the tactics and objectives of slave rebels captured the multidimensional features of these rebellions. The revolts represented action against unfair treatment. They were processes in labor bargaining. They were holy wars against an unholy regime. They were decisive actions against procrastinating colonial and metropolitan authorities . They were, above all, conscious political movements of an oppressed people staking personal claims for their freedom. Abolitionist depiction of British West Indian slave revolts in the nineteenth century demonstrated how the rising of the slaves led a band of conservative reformers to adopt some of the revolutionary concepts of the protest actions of working-class people. Abolitionists used the rebels’ forceful methods to demand first slavery reform and later abolition. As citizens, slaves too were entitled to inquire about and protest against poor working conditions without being denied their share of evenhanded British justice. Nineteenth-century slaves in the British West Indies caused abolitionists in metropolitan Britain to abandon some of the negative attitudes they had held toward the egalitarian ideologies that emerged in the age of the American and French revolutions. Abolitionists’ slave rebellion commentaries contradicted the common assumption that slave rebellions were nothing but counterproductive and violent reactions that ought to be brutally and swiftly suppressed. Abolitionist were largely sympathetic to the rebels and positively conceptualized and gave esteem to a process that was otherwise readily condemned and dismissed. It was remarkable that to a degree worthy of significant attention, British abolitionists justified the active resistance of slaves in the last phase of British West Indian slavery. Abolitionists managed the information on slave rebellions so as to make it useful to the cause. This was particularly apparent in their indictment of the suppression of slave revolts. Paradoxically, abolitionists rescued defeated slave rebels from being passive objects of a cruel and dehumanizing system and transformed them into agents or martyrs. The victimization of slaves in rebellion provided the abolitionists with the amCONCLUSION 181 munition they needed to present to the British people and Parliament a stinging denunciation of a corrupt and corrupting judicial regime desperately in need of change. The abolitionists demonstrated that the injury that slaves unleashed during rebellion was mild in comparison to the vindictive...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780807148907
Related ISBN
9780807131312
MARC Record
OCLC
781615085
Pages
216
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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