New Amsterdam, Berbice [British Guiana]: 17 February 1832. Folio (ca. 30x18,5 cm). 2 pp., with an integral leaf of the related accounting. Addressed, sealed and with postal stamps on verso of the first leaf (including the Deal Ship Letter marking). Fold marks‚ minor hole on the margin after opening, affecting one word, otherwise a very good letter.
Historically interesting original letter dating back to the first years of the colony of British Guiana (formed by the merger of the colonies of Berbice and Essequibo-Demerara in 1831) and the last year before the famous Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 which made slavery illegal in most parts of British Empire, including the West Indies. Charles Kyte was a long-time resident of the Berbice colony, who had settled there as early as 1818 (The Morning Post, London, 21 Nov. 1818, p. 2). Kyte served as a Deputy Vendue Master of the Berbice Colony, often selling cotton and coffee-growing estates with the attached workforce and thus being directly involved in the local slave trade. The letter was addressed to the ex-governor of the Berbice Colony Henry Beard (ca. 1781 – Dec. 1832) who served there two terms (1821-1825 and 1826-1831) and apparently continued having a property in the colony after his return to London. Beard died in December 1832, several months after Kyte had penned him this letter.
Apart from a thorough report on Beard’s financial affairs, Kyte left an interesting commentary revealing the rebellious spirits amongst the Berbice slaves after the introduction of the “New Law” which liberalized work conditions on plantations. This “new law” was most likely, the consolidated slave ordinance, published by the government of British Guiana in January 1832. “It provided, as we have seen, for the still greater amelioration in the condition of the slaves, reducing the period of labour to nine hours; and for children under four years of age and pregnant women to six hours; it increased the allowances; and reduced the extent of punishment to fifteen lashes” (Dalton, H.G. The History of British Guiana: in 2 vols. Vol. 1. London, 1855, p. 387). Overall a historically interesting first-hand source on the history of slavery and its abolition in the colony of British Guiana.
“I have been obliged to visit the West Coast since I wrote you‚ the slaves [from?] Mr. Blair’s Estates and at Golden Grove having shewn very strong symptoms of insubordination‚ in consequence of the New Law‚ which coming to them without the intervention of the Colonial Government, has had[?] only the most mischievous effect; as they think it sets them beyond the authority of their Masters: they give three cheers for King William whenever the Flag is hoisted & the Horn blows for Breakfast & dinner‚ and are much disposed to make the extra leisure which the Law gives them as the reason for doing nothing‚ or the next thing to it. The Ginners want to insist upon ginning but 30 th. per day & the women in the lager [?] on Mr. Blair’s Estates absolutely refused to clean more Cotton than 15th per day instead of 40 as I insist upon‚ or‚ as they frequently have done & can easily do‚ 60th! I have been very firm & determined with both Gangs, and <…> has dismissed their complaints <…> I have a few days […?] bring them to their senses…”.
Price: $1,250.00 USD