Scope and Contents
London, 2 January 1827. Signed manuscript document tallying and describing the slaves of Garden Estate in Trinidad, being a register of slaves working this sugar plantation from 1813 to 1822, and listing 92 individuals by the English names assigned to them, their approximate age, their occupations, health, distinguishing tribal marks, and country of origin. Folio. 10 pages, on three string-tied double-leafs, laid watermark paper of Chartham Mills papermaker W. Weatherley made in 1824 and featuring a large fleur-de-lys emblem. Leafs measure approximately 48 x 33,5 cm. Docketed to verso. Each leaf signed in the original by Thomas Amyot, the Registrar of Colonial Slaves in Great Britain. Minor creasing, otherwise very good, original condition, a rare primary source document which survived the highly conflicted abolition period. In 1807 when the Abolition of Slave Trade Act came into force, the trade of slaves from Africa to the British colonies became illegal. In 1819 the Office for the Registry of Colonial Slaves was established in London in order to combat ongoing illicit transportation. British Colonial administrators began keeping registers of black slaves who had been so-called "lawfully enslaved." Copies of the slave registers, such as, and including the present document, were submitted to the office in order to prove compliance. Registration generally occurred once every three years, and continued through to 1834 when slavery was officially abolished. ". The Return. for the Plantation Garden in the Quarter called Arouca, a Sugar Plantation owned by Archibald Armstrong and John Wilson. " Spanning eleven years, this document provides an excellent record of 92 slaves serving on a Trinidad plantation which belonged to Grenada-born slave-owner and member of the Council of Grenada Archibald Armstrong. Each person listed was examined and their height was measured triennially for the returns. One female is noted for a "country mark on her face" and one man for having deformed fingers. Births on the estate are recorded, as acquisitions made in 1822 (purchased or imported), however, no deaths are recorded over this lengthy time frame. A scarce primary source, this slave register records the various posts of servitude, the majority of the so-called occupations on this sugar plantation estate in Trinidad simply described as labourers. Others include driver, carpenter, servant, weeding gang, cattle boy, mason, and carter. Most would have been in servitude for the entire eleven years, or longer. [The carter, or carterman, was in essence the star of the Trinidadian cane-field society, usually earning a good living during harvest season, as high as five shillings a day, and some even owning their own carts and beasts to pull them with. The driver, however, held a completely unrelated to the piloting of a vehicle, the term being an abbreviation of 'slave driver'. The driver was an overseer of other slaves, and often a violent oppressor with a whip.] Illustrating of the expansive reaches exploited by insatiably acquisitive human traffickers covetous of financial wealth and status, this slave register is somewhat unique as it reveals the place of origin for each of the African families displaced to the West Indies. Certainly a beneficial aid in ancestral research, the ethnonyms ascribed to the captive men, women and children refer more to regional ethnicity than a specific village. Most were probably bought at a central slave market. Origins of the slaves are identified as the Congo, Comorante (Koromanti in Ghana), the Mandingo people of West Africa, Moco (Nigeria/Cameroon people), Timini, Lapa, Bramba, Foulan (possibly Haoussa Foulan in Mail), Ibo (Igbo of Nigeria), Cofin, and Soso (also known as Susu, of Guinea and Sierra Leone). All categorized as Creoles, slaves on this plantation also came from Grenada and Trinidad, with a scant few obtained in Guadaloupe, Martinique and Saint Vincent in the Lesser Antilles Islands, and Dominica.