Event Title

Betrayal by Treaty?: Refuting the Notion of Maroon Betrayal in the Treaties of 1739

Mentor 1

Rebecca Shumway

Start Date

16-4-2021 12:00 AM

Description

In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Jamaica, during the late Spanish and early British periods, the Maroons were Africans who fled slavery and developed free settlements. While the self-liberated Maroons are praised for securing their own freedom, they are also remembered by some as collaborators with slavery and colonialism for signing treaties with the British. The Anglo-Maroon treaties of 1739 between the Jamaican Maroons and the British authority required the former to arrest runaways and to aid in the suppression of slave revolts. Did signing the treaties make the Maroons traitors to their countrymen? This paper, in closely examining the separate treaties concluded by Maroon leaders and envoys of the British crown in 1739, seeks to argue that the Maroons did not betray their countrymen by signing treaties with their British antagonists. I base this argument first on the fact that the Maroons were misled about the nature of the documents they signed and secondly on the fact that signing the treaties was an act of self-preservation that should not be perceived as a betrayal. This paper engages with primary source documents to exhibit how the British cheated the Maroons through deceptive clauses and dishonest explanations. Next, it considers how signing the treaties was the Maroons' only means to protect their freedom and maximize their chances of survival as a sovereign community. Finally, it ends by discussing how the notion that Maroons were traitors to the cause of Black liberation is based on anachronistic assumptions about racial solidarity. This paper aims to complicate the prevailing imagery that has tended to reduce the Jamaican Maroons to “traitors.” I also hope to demonstrate that care should be taken in our moral evaluations of the Maroons and other people from the past.

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Apr 16th, 12:00 AM

Betrayal by Treaty?: Refuting the Notion of Maroon Betrayal in the Treaties of 1739

In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Jamaica, during the late Spanish and early British periods, the Maroons were Africans who fled slavery and developed free settlements. While the self-liberated Maroons are praised for securing their own freedom, they are also remembered by some as collaborators with slavery and colonialism for signing treaties with the British. The Anglo-Maroon treaties of 1739 between the Jamaican Maroons and the British authority required the former to arrest runaways and to aid in the suppression of slave revolts. Did signing the treaties make the Maroons traitors to their countrymen? This paper, in closely examining the separate treaties concluded by Maroon leaders and envoys of the British crown in 1739, seeks to argue that the Maroons did not betray their countrymen by signing treaties with their British antagonists. I base this argument first on the fact that the Maroons were misled about the nature of the documents they signed and secondly on the fact that signing the treaties was an act of self-preservation that should not be perceived as a betrayal. This paper engages with primary source documents to exhibit how the British cheated the Maroons through deceptive clauses and dishonest explanations. Next, it considers how signing the treaties was the Maroons' only means to protect their freedom and maximize their chances of survival as a sovereign community. Finally, it ends by discussing how the notion that Maroons were traitors to the cause of Black liberation is based on anachronistic assumptions about racial solidarity. This paper aims to complicate the prevailing imagery that has tended to reduce the Jamaican Maroons to “traitors.” I also hope to demonstrate that care should be taken in our moral evaluations of the Maroons and other people from the past.