Bloodshed: Demerara Rebellion Of 1823


The Demerara Rebellion of 1823 was a rebellion which involved more than 10,000 enslaved people in the colony of Demerara-Essequibo which is now part of Guyana on the coast of South America. The revolt took place on August 18th, 1823, and lasted two days. No particular incident lighted up the rebellion; the enslaved people simply grew tired of their masters and sought to resist them in any possible way they could.

Planning for this rebellion began on August 17th, 1823, at “Success Plantation”, one of the largest estates in the Demerara. Two leaders emerged during that planning period: Jack Gladstone, who was a cooper on “Success Plantation” , and his father, Quamina, who was a senior deacon at the church which was led by the English Protestant missionary, John Smith. Gladstone and others planned the rebellion, but Quamina objected to any bloodshed and suggested that instead, the enslaved should go on strike. Quamina and other leaders visited John Smith, informing him of his son Gladstone’s plans. Smith encouraged the enslaved people to remain peaceful, exercise patience, and wait for the new laws that would reduce their suffering. Quamina carried back Smith’s message to the plantations.

Quamina’s call to the slaves to remain peaceful fell on deaf ears. The slaves on “Success Plantation” revolted the next evening, August 18th, 1823, and attempted to seize all the firearms on the plantation. They locked up the whites during the night, and planned to release them when their demands are met. They did not see their revolt as a challenge to slavery itself but demanded better treatment for enslaved people in Demerara-Essequibo.

Demerara Rebellion Of 1823

Most of the enslaved people remained loyal to their masters. One of the enslaved house servant, Joseph Packwood, told his owner, John Simpson, about the planned rebellion before it began. Simpson, in turn, informed Governor John Murray, who rode out to confront the revolts with the militia.  The enslaved people demanded their rights, but Governor Murray ordered them to bring back their plantations. When they refused to return it, he declared martial law. Some returned to the plantations while others participated in the revolt.

Only few of whites were killed during the Demerara Rebellion. The rebels locked up their owners, managers, and overseers on 37 plantations, who did not move to Georgetown, their colonial capital, when the revolt began. Large numbers of Christian slaves refused the rebellion and helped to suppress those who started it. Other slaves confronted their owners and the military forces sent a Post navigation


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