Sat | May 30, 2020

Devon Dick | Brutish British and colluding Church was deadly

Published:Thursday | February 6, 2020 | 12:00 AM

Recently, I read The Laws of Jamaica 1741 Acts 132, 3 to Acts 133, 4 pages 194-196. It stated that “a reward of ten shillings is there given to the said Cudjo or Quaw, or to any Negro under their command for every runaway negro that shall be taken up and brought in by either of them . . . may be induced to kill all straggling or runaway Negroes that may fall in their way with the intention to receive the greater reward of ten pounds for them as rebellious rather than to bring them alive . . . which will occasion an effusion of blood”. This is brutish British at her ‘baddest’.

This is extrajudicial killing with legal support. The command is dead or alive but preferably dead as it relates to runaway enslaved persons. This is not just bad law, this is perverse law. This was legalised killing of negroes for money. And was there no one of conscience to strongly object to these outlandish acts?

But has the world learnt the lesson that extrajudicial killing is evil? No president, prime minister or monarch should have the right to be prosecutor, judge and jury over the life of another human being. No law should explicitly or implicitly allow for extrajudicial killings.

And what was the role of the Church in this barbarity? The act states that every Maroon shall receive for every enslaved person killed or brought in alive the sum of 40 shillings ‘to be paid by the church wardens of any parish of this island, to whom the ears of such rebellious negro shall be produced’. This is the Church colluding with principalities and powers. The evidence of the extrajudicial killing was to carry the dead person’s ear. This was gruesome, wicked and cold blooded. Was there no milk of human compassion; no respect for the dead, no respect for human dignity, no fear of God?

In the Anglican Church, a churchwarden is the person who has been elected by a congregation to help the priest with mainly administrative duties. By the way, if the churchwardens failed to carry out this responsibility, they were fined heavily.

It is regrettable that the Maroons who were beneficiaries of being runaways would deny the same right to fellow persons who ran away from slavery. However, as Professor Roy Augier said in addressing this issue at an Elsa Goveia lecture, it is a human tendency to deny fellow humans of the same right they enjoy. So some Jamaicans who emigrate to the UK and benefit from greener pastures do not want other Jamaicans to likewise benefit.

TREATMENT OF BLACK PEOPLE

But the worse human depravity is the way the British treated black people. This is a stain on British jurisprudence. This is a question sign over British civilisation. Do not forget that the leading British people of letters in the 19th century, such as Charles Dickens, Alfred Tennyson and Thomas Carlyle, supported the brutal Governor Edward Eyre over peaceful Pastor Paul Bogle. Barbarity was a hallmark of how Indians, Americans, and Irish were treated by the British.

The British people, by these laws, were enacting the divide and rule principle. This legacy is with us in that black on black homicides accounted for 1,326 Jamaicans.

White billionaire Tom Steyer, democratic presidential hopeful, supports reparations, claiming that it will help repair the damage. The legalised extrajudicial killing has done great damage with little respect for the lives of people of colour.

These laws make it clear that Britain, the Maroons and the Church need to confess; be contrite; repair the damage and commit to just laws based on equality of all.

Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of ‘The Cross and the Machete’, and ‘Rebellion to Riot’. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.