Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2019 Issue

Dallas and the Maroons: God’s Will

A8f4ed8b-bad5-4534-96b5-564cd0e8c164

The Maroons were runaway slaves of the New World, who chose a life of hardship rather than of submission. In Jamaica, they fought against the colonists for decades, almost bringing the island to its ruins. But in 1739, the British offered them peace and freedom! Unfortunately, accordingly to the signed treaty, they turned slave hunters. Their terrible story was told in a book, published in 1803 by Robert Charles Dallas (1754-1824), The History of the Maroons (London, Longman and Rees).

 

As soon as 1656, Governor Sedgwick realized that the Spanish slaves, who had run in the hills when the English took the island in 1655, would become a "thorn in the side" of the colony: “Having no moral sense (...) and not understanding what the laws and customs of civil nations mean," he wrote, "we know not how to capitulate or treat with any of them.” Rejecting all bribes and compromises, they became known as the Maroons (from the Spanish ‘cimarrons’, savage), and made themselves formidable. “A small body of Negroes (they were 600 in 1739 and 1,400 in 1788),” Dallas writes, “defeated the choicest troops of one of the greatest nations in the world, kept an extensive country in alarm, and were at length brought to surrender, only by means of a subvention still more extraordinary than their own mode of warfare.”

 

Actually, they didn’t surrender—they simply accepted the truce offered by the English. In fact, although a confession of weakness, the truce of 1739 may be regarded as a victory for the Europeans. First, because it put an end to an exhausting and humiliating war; second, because the terms of the treaty turned the Maroons into runaway slave hunters—and they were quite good at it. “In the rebellion of 1766,” Dallas writes, “the Maroons brought in the head or person of every slave in rebellion, in the space of one month.”

 

Edward Long, a typical English planter who considered that God had placed the Negroes in the hands of slave masters for their own good, rejoices in The History of Jamaica (London, 1774): This contest, which while it lasted, seemed to portend nothing less than the ruin of the whole colony, became productive of quite contrary effect in the end; insomuch that we may date the flourishing state of it from the ratification of the treaty." R.C. Dallas, who was born in Jamaica and who married the daughter of a slave-owner, thought exactly the same—but he added a shade of hypocrisy to the offense. Although horrified at the consequences of the French Revolution, he was yet influenced by the "Philosophes des Lumières": “God forbid that I should support a position of which the object were to diminish the happiness of my fellow creatures!

 

But what if slavery was actually a positive opportunity for the Africans? Since “the colonists rescue these unfortunate blacks from a state of horrid and savage slavery (in Africa), to place them in a mild and civilized state of servitude,” then, “slavery may be made a blessing, if it be not already one.” Dallas might have deemed himself “an enemy of the very name of slavery”, he couldn’t reasonably go against God’s will, or, as he puts it, against “what He permits”. Of course, the raging abolitionist movement in Europe had forced the slave owners to adopt more humane practices, and the condition of slaves had actually improved at the turn of the 19th century. Nevertheless, God permits us to doubt Dallas when he claims that “in Jamaica, the evil of servitude to whatever height it may have formerly have arisen, is now assuaged by institute, and tamed by manners,” adding that “the general treatment of the negroes in this island is temperate and human.”

 

The History of the Maroons (London, 1803) is a gorgeous set of two in-8° volumes, that was never reprinted. It is also an unexpected work—the only contemporary one dedicated to the Maroons, a “vulgar” topic for most writers at the time. The first volume opens on a frontispiece, the unique known representation of the most famous Jamaican Maroon ever, Cudjoe. In 1690, he partook in the “first Maroon war”, a general uprising of slaves which didn’t reach as far as expected. Cudjoe was among those who sew asunder the skull of their master to drink his blood from it, before running to the hills of the Blue Mountains. On the engraving, he looks like a deformed dwarf: “Cudjoe was rather a short man, uncommonly stout, with very strong African features, and a peculiar wildness in his manners. He had a very large lump of flesh upon his back.

 

Dallas tries to remain impartial in his book, even clashing several times Bryan Edwards’ exaggerated descriptions of the Maroons’ fierceness (The History of the British Colonies in the West-Indies, 1793), claiming that “many of the horrors attributed to them are void of foundation.” He then adds: “No woman in child-bed, no infant at the breast, was ever put to death by a Maroon.” Yet, we cannot help but wonder: did Cudjoe really “threw himself on the ground” that very day, to “embrace the legs” of the British officer? “He seemed to have lost all his ferocity, and to have become humble, penitent and abject.” This is the only detailed description of this historical meeting—where did Dallas get all this detail, he doesn’t say—probably not from the Maroons. But although they may be partial, these extraordinary pages take us right under this “large cotton-tree” of the Maroons’ camp where the treaty was signed.

 

The second folding map of the set describes the cockpits country, seat of the second Maroon war of 1795-96, in the parish of St James. This is the heart of Dallas’ book, the last war led by the Maroons—those from Trelawny Town, that is; led by the dreadful Johnson, just as nearby Haiti (then Saint-Domingue) was sinking into blood following the French Revolution. In Jamaica, the “temperate and human” colonists hardly slept at night, fearing their slaves might imitate the French’s. So when the dreaded Maroons went to war, it was bad news.

 

In doing so, they only reacted to the ill-treatment received by two of them in Montego Bay, and to the firing of John James, the superintendent of their settlement of Trelawny Town, whom they loved with a passion. A white man, he yet matched their physical abilities. “Barefoot, he equaled the speed of the hardiest Maroons over rocks and precipices, darting on with an agility peculiar to himself,” Dallas writes. “He was indefatigable in every pursuit to which the Maroons were accustomed, and nothing that he pursued escaped him.”

 

Dallas knew several officers involved in the second Maroon war, including Robertson, who drew the maps joined to his book. He had first-hand information, especially about the battle of the Guthrie’s defile, in the cockpits country, the stronghold of the Maroons. Once again, their knowledge of the country, and their guerilla tactics paid off. They ambushed the company of Colonel Fitch, killing many, including Lieutenant Tomlinson, “whose head was cut off, and afterwards seen suspended by the hair to the bough of a tree. It was imagined that he owed his death to the loss of his spectacles, by which he missed the route taken by his comrades.

 

The Maroons of Accompong Town, disagreeing with those of Trelawny, took arms against them alongside the English! Two of them, namely Captain Reid and Badnage, were thus with the English when they were attacked by some invisible Maroons, who fired at them from hiding. “Colonel Brissett, wounded, was seen staggering to the right, and probably fell dead among the bushes. Reid, the Accompong, gave a loud shriek and fell; Badnage (...) fell dead without a struggle or a groan.” Colonel Jackson then ran to Colonel Fitch, whom he found bleeding and “mortally wounded.” When the Maroons fired again, Fitch was hit by a “fatal ball, which penetrated (his) forehead just above the right eye, and he fell lifeless.”

 

The frontispiece of the second volume is also unique—it represents a Spanish chasseur with his dogs. At one point, it was indeed decided to call upon some chasseurs from Cuba to track the Maroons entrenched in the impenetrable defiles of the cockpits country. “The animal is the size of a very large hound, with ears erect, which are usually cropped at the points; the nose more pointed, but widening very much towards the after-part of the jaw. His coat, or skin, is much harder than that of most dogs and so must be the whole structure of the body, as the severe beatings he undergoes in training would kill any other species of dogs.” The idea of using dogs against men was horrible; and reminded the dark days of the conquest of America by the Spaniards, and their blood-thirsty hound dogs. But these dogs “will not kill the object they pursue unless resisted. On coming up with a fugitive, they bark at him till he stops, then they crouch near him, terrifying him with a ferocious growling if he stirs.” Eventually, seven weeks later, 40 chasseurs and 104 dogs arrived in Jamaica. Fortunately, the dogs were never used against the Maroons—let’s bear in mind that the English were “temperate and human” people—, who surrendered rapidly after they arrived, since allegedly terrified by them; so Dallas says. End of the History of the Maroons? Not quite.

 

The history of the Maroons is fascinating. Former runaways, they defeated the English for several decades before becoming their best allies in fighting runaways. When the last war broke, some Maroons turned against other Maroons! Refusing to give up their freedom, and identity, they were yet deeply attached to Jamaica—when, following the war, the Governor of Jamaica took a pretext to send them off to Halifax, Nova-Scotia, it was the worst punishment they could have expected. The Assembly of Jamaica did what it could to maintain the Maroons as long as possible in this cold weather. But at the end of the day, they demanded to be sent to a warmer country. They consequently went to Sierra Leone, Africa, where some English abolitionists had reintroduced former slaves, who had turned banditti. The Maroons soon forced them to beg for mercy! Going back to Africa is a dream for many nowadays Jamaicans, especially those who follow Marcus Garvey’s doctrine of repatriation. But in the early 19th century, many children of the exiled Maroons went back to Jamaica... to return to their roots!

 

Dallas is better known today for his Recollections of the Life of Lord Byron from the year 1808 to the end of 1814—they exchanged letters for a few years. Yet his History of the Maroons is a silent classic about Jamaica. It might have been better, had the author focused on his topic rather than giving a whether-too-long-or-too-short history of the island in his preface, and shared his thoughts on sugar-cane or slavery (and the way to convert the slaves to Christianity). Yet, by publishing it, he embodied a story that is still told today. The Maroons still exist in Jamaica, where they proudly perpetuate their culture.

Thibault Ehrengardt

 

 

- The History of the Maroons, by R.C. Dallas (London, 1803).

* 2 in-8° volumes, 2 folding maps, 2 frontispieces as called for in volume 2.

* Vol. 1: Title-page, cxiv pages, 359 pages, 1 frontispiece, 2 folding maps (the map of Jamaica / The seat of the Maroon war). Vol.2: Title-page, xi pages, 514 pages, 1 page (errata + catalogue). 1 frontispiece.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Princess Diana, group of 6 ALS to the editor of British Vogue, 1989-92. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Joseph Brant, Mohawk Chief, ALS, writing with news after pledging support to King George III against the American rebels, 1776. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Ulysses S. Grant, photograph dated & signed as President, portrait by Brady, 1875. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Alexander Graham Bell, ALS, accepting an invitation to tea during his only trip to Japan, 1898. $1,000 to $2,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Nikola Tesla, signature & date on his monogrammed correspondence card, 1935. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Richard Wagner, ALS, concerning his opera Rienzi, 1869. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, autograph note signed, requesting the address of Yvette Guilbert, 1895. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Claude Monet, ALS, to painter Harry Lachman, complaining that his vision has not improved, 1920s. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Friedrich Hölderlin, autograph manuscript, unsigned, 7 lines quoting Michael Denis's <i>Ossians und Sineds Lieder.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Guestbook for Lüchow's restaurant, over 400 signatures, including W.H. Auden, Grace Kelly & drawings by Charles Addams, NYC, 1950-56. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> George Washington, lottery ticket, signed, 1768. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 21:</b> Vaslav Nijinsky, postcard dated & signed, showing a drawing of him in <i>Schéhérazade,</i> 1916. $2,500 to $3,500.
  • <b>Chiswick Auctions: Books & Illustrated Art including Cartoons. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Silver Binding.- [Torah], German 13 Loth silver binding, hinged clasp, 12mo, Sulzbach, 1805. £2,500 to £3,500.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Picasso (Pablo). Minotaure vaincu, plate 89 from La Suite Vollard, etching, dated 29 May 1933, pencil, plate 190 x 265 mm, Paris, A. Vollard, 1939. £5,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Dali (Salvador) & Alighieri (Dante). <i>La Divina Commedia,</i> 6 vols, NUMBER 478 of 2,900 copies, 100 numbered colour lithograph plates by Salvador Dalì, folio, Verona, 1963-1964. £3,000 to £4,000.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Books & Illustrated Art including Cartoons. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Miniature Sepher Torah Nevi'im U'Kethuvim, prepared by Menachem M. Scholz, original cloth, housed within original gilt tooled metal case, with magnifying glass inset, 33x25 mm, Warsaw, c. 1880. £1,200 to £1,800.
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Scarfe (Gerald). ‘Men of Snow’ [Tony Blair, William Hague & 'Robin' Cook], original ink, watercolour & gouache drawing, signed, 600 x 435 mm, n.d. with 2 others (3). £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Francklyn (Gilbert), Paine (Thomas). <i>Rights of Man…</i>, FIRST EDITION [and] <i>Rights of Man. Part the Second…,</i> Printed for J. S. Jordan, 1791-92, [and 1 other]. £700 to £1,000
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Books & Illustrated Art including Cartoons. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Chagall (Marc). Le Jeu des Acrobates (Acrobats at Play), HORS COMMERCE PROOF, lithograph, from The Lithographs of Chagall, 320 x 240 mm, André Sauret, 1963. £1,800 to £2,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> [Harris (John)]. <i>The History of The Old Woman who had Three Sons Jerry, James, and John…,</i> 12mo, J. Harris, 1815. £200 to £300
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Royal Binding.- Staël-Holstein (Germaine de). <i>De la littèrature considerée dans ses rapports avec les institutions sociales…,</i> 2 vols, second edition, Crapelet, Paris, [1801]. £400 to £600
    <b>Chiswick Auctions: Books & Illustrated Art including Cartoons. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Ancient History.- La Baune (Jacques de). <i> Panegyrici Veteres,</i> Paris, 1676. [with] Wesseling (Petrus, ed.). <i> Vetera Romanorum itineraria…</i> £800 to £1,200
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Edward (Gibbon). <i> History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire…</i> Multiple editions and languages [English and French]. £300 to £400
    <b>Chiswick Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Curtis (William). <i> Flora Londinensis,</i> FIRST EDITION, 2 vols in 3. 119 hand-coloured plates of 454. £500 to £700
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Walt Whitman. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> First edition, first issue, SIGNED in block letters by Whitman. 1855. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Isaac Newton's copy of John Greave's <i>Pyramidographia,</i> London, 1646. $50,000 to $70,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Colonel John Mosby. Robert E. Lee's autograph letter to Samuel Cooper reporting on Mosby's exploits, with Cooper's autograph note ordering his appointment to Major.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Gyula Halasz Brassai. Large archive of autograph and typed letters, over 260, to his family including his wife Gilberte, 1947-1978. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 12:</b> Archive of drawings and letters from Harper Lee to Charles Carruth, including an inscribed first edition of <i>To Kill a Mockingbird.</i> $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> VESALIUS, ANDREAS. 1514-1564. <i>De humani corporis fabrica libri septem.</i> Basel: Johannes Oporinus, June 1543. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. 1578-1657. <i>De motu cordis & sanguinis in animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Leiden: Joannis Maire, 1639. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar 11:</b> BERENGARIO DA CARPI, GIACOMO. 1460-1530. <i>Isagogae breves perlucide ac uberrimae in Anatomiam humani corporis.</i> Bologna: Benedictus Hectoris, 15 July 1523. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> FRANKLIN, BENJAMIN. 1706-1790. <i>Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America…</i> London, 1769. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams NY, Mar 11:</b> BENIVIENI, ANTONIO. 1443-1502. <i>De abditis nonnullis ac mirandis morborum et sanationum causis.</i>Florence: Filippo Giunta, 1507. $8,000 to $12,000
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Greco (Gioachino). <i>Primo modo del gioco de Partito…</i> Manuscript, France, 1624 or 1625. A collection of partiti, or 'chess problems' by one of the most important figures in the history of chess. £20,000 to £30,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Herodotus. <i>Historiae,</i> translated into Latin by Lorenzo Valla and edited by Antonio Mancinelli. Venice, 1494. £15,000 to £20,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Darwin (Charles). Autograph Letter signed to his cousin Reginald Darwin, Down, Beckenham, Kent, 27th March 1879. £12,000 to £18,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Nicolay (Nicolas de). <i>The Navigations, peregrinations and voyages, made into Turkie,</i> first edition in English, Imprinted at London by Thomas Dawson, 1585. £10,000 to £15,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Saint-Exupéry (Antoine de). <i>The Little Prince,</i> number 66 of 525 copies signed by the author, 1943. £8,000 to £12,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Catlin (George, 1796-1872). Tuch-ee, A Celebrated War Chief of the Cherokees, watercolour, [circa 1834]. £6,000 to £8,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Genetics.- A collection of c.300 pamphlets on genetics comprising many of the major contributions from the first half of the 20th century. £5,000 to £7,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> India.- Rajasthan.- Kota School (probably late 18th c.). Elephant in a landscape with chains around his feet, brush and black ink with opaque pigments. £5,000 to £7,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Commelin (Caspar). <i>Horti medici Amstelaedamensis plantae rariores et exoticae,</i> first edition, 48 finely hand-coloured engraved plates, Leiden, F.Haringh, 1706. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper. March 28, 2019</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Plague-water and cookery & medical recipes.- Jackson (Mrs Sarah). Medical and cookery recipes, manuscript in several hands, title and 134pp., 1688-1755. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Vernet (<i>After</i> Joseph, 1714-1789). <i>[Vues des ports de France],</i> sixteen plates (of 18), etchings and engravings by Charles Nicolas Cochin fils and Jacques Philippe Le Bas, [c.1760-1780]. £4,000 to £6,000.
    <b>Forum Auctions, Mar 28:</b> Detmold (Edward Julius, 1883-1957). Parrots and Butterflies, watercolour. £2,500 to £3,500.
  • <b>Koller Auctions: Books & Autographs. March 26, 2019</b>
    <b>Koller Auctions, Mar 26:</b> Jacques Gamelin. <i>Nouveau recueil d'osteologie et de myologie, dessine d'apres nature...</i> 2 parts in 1 vol., large folio, 82 copper plates. CHF 12,000 to 18,000
    <b>Koller Auctions, Mar 26:</b> Melchior Pfintzing. <i>Die geverlicheiten und einsteils geschichten des loblichen streytparen...</i> 118 woodcut engravings, first edition. CHF 30,000 to 50,000
    <b>Koller Auctions, Mar 26:</b> Book of hours. Handwritten Latin text on vellum. With 17 large miniatures, Flanders, c.1460. CHF 70,000 to 90,000
    <b>Koller Auctions, Mar 26:</b> Maria Sibylla Merian. <i> Dissertatio de generatione et metamorphosibus insectorum Surinamensium,</i> 72 copper plates, Den Haag, 1726. CHF 60,000 to 90,000

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions